Walking the first astronaut’s route

Walking the first astronaut’s route

To visit Bryansk today from Moscow, you need to come to the Kyiv Railway Station in the capital, go to the platform sheltered with a comfortable domed roof and take a rather comfortable double-decker train that normally takes you to Bryansk in just 4 hours and for a thousand and a few roubles. On the way to Bryansk, there are two short stops in Sukhinichi and Kaluga, a few minutes each.

Why is it a worth your while to go to Bryansk? First of all, in order to remind yourself that every Russian city has its own pedestrian ‘Arbat’ street, a place where paving stones or tiles are slowly worn down under the pressure of the tourists’ feet, and the windows of the preserved old houses reflect the history.

Bryansk is no exception, there is the Gagarin Trail, Gagarin boulevard, stretching like a two-kilometre arrow from the Alexei Tolstoy Park to the Desna River Embankment.

The first astronaut (called ‘cosmonaut’ in Russia) of our small, but so beautiful planet, really walked along this street called then the Sovetskaya Street, and even earlier, its name was the Rozhdestvenskaya (Christmas) Mountain (there was a stone Church of the Nativity built in 1823 and destroyed during the Soviet days).

Let’s take a walk along this street together with Yuri Gagarin! In 1966, he walked along the entire boulevard from the Dynamo Stadium to the Embankment together with the residents of Bryansk.

And during a walk, we get to know that after the monument found its place at the beginning of the boulevard, attentive and educated citizens of Bryansk found 4 (!) mistakes in the names on the monument to those people who made space accessible to mankind. To be honest, this is surprising, because every person who pretends to be educated should know the names of all those famous people by heart, they are Mikhail Lomonosov, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Sergei Korolyov, Mstislav Keldysh, Valentin Glushko, Leonardo da Vinci, and Nicolaus Copernicus.

Fortunately, the mistakes were corrected!


The oldest building on the Gagarin Boulevard is a classic residential building of 1896. Traditionally, a shop was located on the ground stone floor, and the family of its owner lived on the first floor. By the way, there are still as many as 8 apartments in this house where ordinary citizens of the city live, and this residential building is the oldest one not only on the Gagarin Boulevard, but in Bryansk.

The Gagarin Boulevard divides Lenin Avenue into two parts, and the traditional Lenin Square is in front of it, which has not changed its name in many cities of our country. Of course, there is also a monument to the leader of the world proletariat and two stelae with the city’s awards. The city was awarded the first Order of the October Revolution in 1979 “for the success in economic and cultural construction and for the merits to the Fatherland in the revolutionary movement, as well as for courage and steadfastness of the city’s workers during the Great Patriotic War and for the active participation of the city’s residents in the guerrilla warfare.” And the second order, the Red Banner of Labour, was awarded in 1985 for the successes achieved by the working people in economic, cultural construction and to celebrate the 1000th anniversary since the foundation of the city.

However, Lenin Square is famous not only due to the Soviet theme - there is a 2-metre-high owl on the lawn looking at the Soviet monumentalism and bending its head with a wise grin, as it seems.

Gagarin Boulevard that goes after Lenin Square, in fact, has a very cozy, calm and quiet provincial flavour, slowly descending to the Desna Embankment and there are old houses on the both sides of the Boulevard.


And the first interesting place on our way is Karl Marx Square earlier called Red Square, as in Moscow. The small square is surrounded by restored historical buildings, and in the warm season, fountain in the middle of the square makes the air fresher.

The building of the Bryansk Regional Library named after F. I. Tyutchev is among the interesting houses on the square with the former women’s gymnasium (built in 1907) opposite it. A little further, there is the building of the Bryansk Regional Duma and the Wine ‘Castle’ built in 1899 through 1901. This is the wine warehouse of the Bryansk Distillery (now BryanskSpirtProm LLC) built in the Russian industrial style. Unfortunately, when the building was renovated in 2017-2018, it was not possible to fully restore its original appearance, but the Wine ‘Castle’ still remains the real architectural attraction of the city.


Standing on the Gagarin Boulevard with the ‘Castle’ to the left, and the Duma building to the right, you can see, in fact, the most iconic part of Gagarin Boulevard, popularly called the Potemkin Stairs, as in Odessa. It has 145 granite steps separated by flat areas and quite smoothly going to the Desna River, unlike the staircase in Nizhny Novgorod, for example. And at night, this tourist attraction seems to be even more amazing than during the day as it is illuminated by beautiful antique-style lanterns.

There are a lot of old houses on Gagarin Boulevard, not all of them are in good condition, but they are being restored, which is good. At the same time, it seemed interesting and unusual that there are no cafes on this boulevard, although it is a city’s tourist attraction. To be fair, it is not easy to set up a gastronomic place of interest in the steep part where the Potemkin Stairs are located, but it can be built in the upper part, as long as to Lenin Avenue. But unfortunately, we saw no cafes!

Nevertheless, Bryansk can be rightly considered not only a cozy, but also a cultural city, even the litter bins at the end of the Gagarin Boulevard closer to the Desna Embankment look like figurines walking their little iron dogs in the rain. And overlooking the river, the tourists can see a copy of the Eiffel Tower illuminated with bright lights at night. It is almost like the real one, only 10 times smaller.