MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
Four Moscow guides tell how they prepare for excursions, what they talk about with sightseers and which districts of Moscow they like the most.
Moscow is not only a modern metropolis, but also a city with a very rich history. You can walk around the streets of the capital for hours. The best thing is in the company of a professional guide who can tell you a lot of interesting things about the Moscow past, about old houses and about the people who once lived in them.
On World Tour Guide Day Denis Romodin, Philip Smirnov, Andrey Klyuev and Larisa Skrypnik told mos.ru about their profession, its difficulties and the joy it brings.
Denis Romodin: “It’s nice that I’m changing something in people’s minds”
Architectural local historian, senior researcher at the Museum of Moscow
Denis Romodin began to conduct tours back in the 1990s: he introduced Muscovites and city guests to interesting places outside the Garden Ring. I chose those where the spirit of old Moscow was preserved: Sokolniki, Lyublino. Today, most often, he leads excursion groups around the Oktyabrsky Field, Sokol, the Petrovsky Park area, Kuntsevo, Cheryomushki. The biggest reward, he says, is the gratitude of the sightseers.
The know-how developed by him over the years of work is never to conduct the same excursions. Absolutely identical routes are allowed a couple of times a year – no more. The Muscovite tries to constantly update his knowledge of the places where Denis takes tourists, their history and architecture.
“Moscow is very big, it is impossible to know everything about the whole capital,” he emphasizes. “But knowing its structure makes it possible to quickly prepare if the need arises. This, by the way, helps a lot when I go somewhere as a tourist. My friends and acquaintances who travel with me often get the impression that I have already been to this place, although I am there, like them, for the first time.
For novice guides, Denis Romodin advises first of all to love the place they are talking about. He communicates with them regularly – as a teacher at the guide school of the educational project “Moscow through the eyes of an engineer.” As a senior researcher at the Museum of Moscow, Denis will be involved in his new project “Moskvagid”focused on the training of guides. This is a full-fledged training course, upon completion of which a diploma of advanced training is issued, which makes it possible to go to the All-Russian certification.
Philip Smirnov: “There are no circumstances that will force me to refuse to conduct an excursion”
Editor-in-chief of the Moscow Heritage magazine, head of the Gilyarovsky Center, a branch of the Museum of Moscow, TV and radio host
At school, Philip Smirnov studied French in depth, and also attended courses for guides-translators. After that, he went to practice at the Intourist and Sputnik hotels. He liked to tell foreigners about the traditions, history and culture of his country. Then Philip Smirnov became engaged in written translations, comparative literary criticism of Russia and France. In the 1990s, he returned to tours for foreigners and worked in the media.
He became interested in the history of Moscow while working on the layout of one of the local history magazines. Starting to go on assignments with an editorial photographer, I noticed that passers-by were keenly interested in the objects of shooting.
At first it seemed to him that the excursions would certainly be extremely popular, and the groups would be large. But after having to conduct a tour for one person, Philip Smirnov realized that reality does not always meet expectations. But the Muscovite was not disappointed. “I am all-weather – there are no circumstances, except for illness and the most severe force majeure, that will force me to refuse to conduct an excursion,” he says.
Over the years in this profession, Philip Smirnov has developed rules for himself, following which you can make the tour interesting not only for the participants, but also for yourself. Among these rules is a ban on the monotonous pronunciation of a memorized text. People want a lively, active dialogue, unusual comparisons, parallels with reality.
Among his favorite places, Philip Smirnov singles out the area of Chistye Prudy, Tverskie-Yamsky streets, the space between Khitrovskaya Square and Kursky railway station, Vorontsovo Pole street – he even wrote a book about the latter in 2014. At the end of the tour, Philip Smirnov invariably utters the phrase that has become his crowning phrase: “If we now walk around this part of the city for the second time, I will not repeat myself in the story, because in these two and a half hours we have discussed only five percent of the plots that are here we can meet.”
Andrey Klyuev: “Establishing mutual understanding with the group is a special skill”
Guide, Muscovite expert, head of the City Tour Bureau of the Museum of Moscow
Andrey Klyuev was fond of the history and architecture of Moscow for many years: he read books, went on excursions and exhibitions. At the same time, I never thought that I myself would be in the role of a guide. A hydrologist by education, he then worked in the engineering field. An advertisement for courses for guides that accidentally caught my eye changed his life by 180 degrees.
The first professional tour he gave was a walk around the former Krasny Oktyabr confectionery factory. He talked about a red brick building with whimsical architectural details, preserved historical interiors, as well as about sweets in Russia, their advertisements from the beginning of the 20th century. “The excitement was not just strong – the cold and trembling in the hands did not let go on the way from home to the meeting point with the tourists. Two minutes later, everything was over, responsibility did not allow to be distracted by excitement, ”recalls Andrey Klyuev.
Having started working, he quickly said goodbye not only to excitement, but also to stereotypes.
Today, Andrei has several favorite excursion topics: the history of transport, scientific institutions, and Soviet architecture (especially the avant-garde of the 1920s). He also loves to show his alma mater – the campus of the Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov on Sparrow Hills. A separate topic is water and hydraulic structures. These are stories about how the city lived and developed on the banks of rivers, fought floods, and acquired water supply. Tour guests will learn everything about bridges, embankments, dams, locks, river trams, and architectural ensembles on the coast.
The appearance of each new topic is preceded by a long and painstaking work with catalogs of libraries and museum collections, surfing the Internet, consulting with specialists, studying books, photographs, maps, documents. And then the most interesting thing: all the information found must be turned into a solid story with a good introduction, plot, climax and spectacular finale.
Establishing interaction and mutual understanding with a group is a special skill for a guide, Andrey Klyuev believes. There are many tricks for this and there is not a single exact recipe. You can ask questions, offer to think about something together, joke. The guide must be sure to monitor the comfort of the group, for example, choose the next point for the story in a place protected from wind, sun or rain. It is also important that during the walk all participants are on the same wavelength.
“In the summer of 2018, I led a tour right during the World Cup football match, there was a Russia-Spain game. And although the guide is not supposed to be distracted by extraneous events and news, we, together with the sightseers, checked the account every 10 minutes, ”recalls Andrey Klyuev.
Larisa Skrypnik: “After the tour, people look around differently”
Historian, history teacher, writer, senior researcher at the Museum of Moscow
Larisa Skrypnik dreamed of becoming a guide since her early school years. However, there was no wide network of educational institutions that would train guides then, and parents were skeptical about this idea. As a result, the choice fell on the history department of the Moscow Pedagogical State University.
Today, Larisa Skrypnik has a wide range of historical and architectural excursions, as she participates in many projects and programs of the Museum of Moscow. She loves to talk about buildings built in the Art Nouveau style, about the history of Moscow streets.
“After such walks, our sightseers say that they begin to look around in a completely different way, perceive the city differently. It seems to me that my task is to make people living in Moscow love it and understand what a wonderful place they live in, ”she notes.
Larisa Skrypnik is convinced that one cannot get bored at this job, there can be many options for excursions along one street. It all depends on which object the guide will focus on this time. The course of the walk also depends on how the participants react, what questions they ask.
The most important thing for a guide, in her opinion, is to have a broad outlook, since even a thematic tour involves references to different directions, personalities, and historical periods. And of course, competent, correct speech, goodwill and openness are important.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.