The mission to Moscow is over and I’m back in a country where I can walk down the street without being questioned by the cops or attacked by some vodka-guzzling nutter in an imitation Adidas tracksuit. Here are a whole bunch of reasons why you should visit this most unusual country (or, if you enjoy tropical beaches, blue skies and people who have a full compliment of teeth, reasons why you should stay away from Russia). Spasibo for reading, and if these rather dreary photos are getting you down, don’t worry! The Drunk and Jobless World Tour will continue on Australia’s Sunshine Coast – don’t forget your bikini!
Let’s face it, the Russians love to have a good fight. Whether it’s a war against the Western world or a backyard scrap between two boozed-up homeless blokes, these proud Slavic people are always getting stuck into someone. Moscow’s Central Armed Forces Museum serves as a tribute to their history of hurting people, and has one of the world’s largest collections of wartime memorabilia, so I loaded up a hip flask with vodka and headed out into the snow to check it out.
The main halls of the museum hold more than 700,000 relics dating back to the start of the 20th century, with all the usual war-related stuff such as machine guns, blood-splattered uniforms and miniturised battle scenes. There are also some truly incredible artifacts such as bullet-riddled tanks, captured Nazi flags and medals, and the shattered remains of Yank pilot Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane. Of course, I only found out what everything was after I got home and jumped on Wkipedia, because none of the signs are in English. Unless you’re an expert on Soviet history or can read Pусский, you’ll struggle to work out what anything is. But, much like having sex with a woman, it’s a lot of fun even if you don’t know what’s going on.
Among the awesome things I missed due to not knowing the lingo were a strip of tattooed human skin from a prisoner of the Maidenjak Concentration Camp, the victory banner the Soviets flew over Berlin to signal the end of the Second World War in Europe, and a ping pong set once owned by Adolf Hitler. Alright, maybe that last one’s not right (Hitler strikes me as more of a shuttlecock player), but there are plenty of items once owned by the so-called ‘Naughtiest Boy in Nuremberg’.
Despite being unable to read any of the signs or work out what anything was, one thing was made perfectly clear; the Soviet/Russian Army are the biggest bunch of badarses ever, they’ve smashed every country they’ve fought,and everyone else is a bit shit in comparison. Yes, it’s all a bit biased and patriotic, which is no surprise seeing as the Russians love their propaganda. It’s a facinating collection of trinkets, but don’t expect to find a balanced assessment of Russia’s wartime efforts.
The real stars of the show can be found outside the building, because around the back are dozens of tanks, missiles, anti-aircraft guns, planes and trains. It’s an awesome display of Soviet power and pride, and most of the vehicles are very well preserved – in fact, I’d be worried about littering or jumping on the metro without a ticket in case they govenment send one of the big, scary tanks after me.
It was fucking freezing and I was getting covered in more white stuff than a Japanese porn star, so I started drinking heavily from a bottle of vodka I had stored in my jacket. It was doing the trick, too, because I started to regain feeling in my fingers and my cold, frozen heart slowly started to beat again. The world looked a little brighter, the birds songs sounded a little sweeter, and I skipped gayly throughout the exhibits, finding beauty in their ferocity. Needing to have a slash, I ducked behind one of the gigantic missiles, dropped my pants and let fly with a stream of bright orange piss that sizzled in the frigid conditions.
As I was shaking my willy, I slipped on a patch of ice and bumped into the missile, sending it rocking on its foundations in the gloomy afternoon. Scared that it would topple over, I raced around the other side and pushed it back, but that only caused the missile to swing the other way. I hightailed it back around to the other side, miraculously managing to avoid going arse over tit on a patch of black ice, and shouldered the missile back again. This went on for a minute or two, with the rocket weedling back and forth just a little bit further each time. Not even Jesse Jane has worked so hard to erect a massive missile.
The doors of the museum burst open and a group of heavily-armed security guards scrambled out into the ice and snow, making a beeline for me and the rogue missile. Shouting incomprehensibly and spinning their arms around like windmills, they managed to get the WMD under control, before turning their attention to me. The furious Slavs gripped their weapons and grit their teeth, ready to add one more name to the long list of Russian conquests. I just shrugged, tucked my doodle back into my pants, and raised my flask to them. “If Vlad cracks the shits about this, let him know I’m from New Zealand,” I chuckled, and then swaggered out into the night.
Everybody likes looking at dead bodies – it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. Sure, you wouldn’t want to see a rotting corpse climbing out of a grave while you’re walking home late at night, or catch one rooting your missus, but it’s usually a lot of fun to have a squiz at someone who isn’t quite as alive as they used to be. Naturally, when I was in Moscow I took the chance to check out one of the world’s most famous (and best-preserved) dead dudes.
I was swaggering through Red Square, watching the bear fights and swigging from a two-litre bottle of vodka when a little bloke in a funny hat came over and gave me a toothless smile. “привет,” he said in an accent as thick as a bowl of borscht. “Do you know famous man Mr Lenin? His body just over there! You can see him!” I love The Beatles and John was always my favourite member of the so-called Cute Quartet, so I joined the line the like the fella pointed me towards and prepared to meet the remains of my hero.
“I want to hold your hand,” I sang to a chubby bloke wearing a furry cap, and instead of joining in with my impromptu Beatles tribute, he spat on the ground and called me a, “гомосексуальный.” Dunno what that means, but it didn’t sound like he was complimenting me on my outfit. “Let it be,” I whispered, but that didn’t calm him down. Thankfully the line started moving and the angry fella left me alone, and soon I made it to the security gates, which were manned by a group of angry individuals with machine guns.
“I’ll have a ticket to ride,” I crooned to one of the guards, and he responded by pushing me up against a wall and roughly patting me down. Honestly, the Russians just don’t understand that The Beatles are all about love and peace. After I was deemed to be of no risk to the Federation, I was pushed through the gate and started winding my way around the Kremlin, towards a big, square, pyramid-like mausoleum. I don’t remember John Lennon being an Egyptian, but that motherfucker was on so many drugs that he wouldn’t have known if he was an octopus.
The line moved quickly and I soon stepped into the gloomy mausoleum. I expected to find hippies dancing around and flowers everywhere, but instead there was just some grim-faced guards with big, shooty weapons. “Hey Jude,” I warbled, “where’s -” I was cut off by the guard telling me to shut the fuck up (or the Russian equivalent) and pointing me foward. I didn’t want to get shot to death (although that would be somewhat appropriate), and so just gave him a weak smile and walked on towards the cadaver.
Only it wasn’t John Lennon, it was some other dickhead. He was lying in a big perspex box in the middle of the dark room, and I spent about 20 seconds walking around him before I was ushered back into the drizzly afternoon. To be honest, it looked more like a wax figure than an actual preserved body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they just grabbed a mannequin from one of the local shops and tossed it in there. I mean, it’s not like anyone gets much of a chance to look at it. And that was it – a whole lot of warm up for a few seconds of action (much like my sex life).
I was confused about what I’d seen inside the mausoleum, and started ranting and raving about the switch-a-roo. A skinny dude wearing a Garfield jumper came over and explained that the crypt contained the body of communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, not pop singer John Lennon. Vlad was a bit of a knob and led Russia towards decades of communism, which left the people wallowing in poverty and misery. He was obviously pretty bloody up himself, too, because he wanted his body preserved for people to weep over after he carked it.
All in all, Lenin’s Mausoleum is worth checking out if you’re in town. It doesn’t cost anything, won’t take up much time, and the body is probably made out of plastic, so there’s little chance of it coming alive and chomping your brains out. And I’m not too upset about not seeing the preserved corpse of John Lennon, because tomorrow I’ll be checking out the remains of Ringo Starr-lin!
Europe is know for a lot of things; beautiful scenery, wonderful beer,deliciously unhealthy food and gorgeous women who don’t need a lot of convincing to take off their clothes in public. One thing Europe’s not known for is massive fuck-off buildings, with cities around here prefering to have lovely little opera houses and thousand-year-old huts rather than towers that stretch to the heavens. I can let that slide – after all, I’ve been to world-renowned towers such as Burj Khalifa, the Oriental Pearl Tower and (ahem) the Riga TV Tower. But it turns out Europe does have one abnormally huge structure – Moscow’s Ostankino Tower.
At 540.1 metres from roof to arsehole, it dominates the relatively diminutive Moscovan skyline, and has been the tallest structure in Europe for half a century. Alright, that’s like saying you’ve got the prettiest smile in Mt Druitt, but it’s worth noting. It’s also the 11th-tallest building in the world, and was the biggest in the world for eight years. Ostankino really is an impressive structure, with all the charm of a Soviet prison guard, and can be seen from right across the city. If you want to visit it, just line the big bastard up and follow the nearest street – it’s hard to miss.
Actually getting into the tower requires a bit of effort, because security is tighter than
that chick I banged in Cape Town a goldfish’s arsehole. Getting through the gates is like entering an airport – two sets of metal detectors, guards with guns, and a trip through a full-body scanner. I half expected to have another stamp in my passport by the end of it. Fortunately, I was deemed to be no threat to the Motherland, and was allowed up into the gleaming tower.
It takes just 58 seconds to ascend 337 metres to the top viewing platform, and once I made it up there I was treated to an incredible view over the capital. Moscow is a weird city – it’s incredibly compact, with a density 18 times greater than Sydney, but it’s also home to sprawling parks that make it look like an overgrown country town. Ostankino’s viewing platform looks out at dreary unit blocks, ultra-modern skyscrapers, putrid factories and gridlocked streets, which all look a bit grim from such a height.
I looked out over the Kremlim, where I may or may not have had a chat with Vladimir Putin. I peered across Sokolniki Park, where I was brutalised by Russian police. In the distance was the cemetery where I was almost imprisoned. Far beneath me was the iconic shape of the Cosmonaut Museum, where I discovered a UFO and had a chat with everyone’s favourite alien life form, ALF (and I still maintain that actually happened – if you feel the need to question it, maybe you should ask yourself why your life isn’t as interesting as mine).
Unfortunately, the peaceful mood was destroyed when a pervert turned up and started asking women if they ‘wanted to see his tower’. A few naive tourists said yes, and were treated to a flash of the sicko’s shrivelled penis, before he giggled like a child and ran away to tell his sordid tales elsewhere. I believe that viewing platforms should be a place of wonder and safety, so I walked over to the depraved lunatic and asked him if he wanted to see the tower from a different perspective. When he smiled and said yes, I knocked him on his arse and left him looking at the ceiling, then went back to admiring the view. Dozens of stunning Russian women called me a hero, but I don’t like that term. I’m just a simple dude who enjoys climbing towers.
Despite saving the day, I was chased out of the tower by a number of heavily-armed security guards, and barely made it back onto the frigid streets without having my head caved in by a billy club. But if that’s the price I have to pay for being a good bloke (the Russians’ words, not mine), then it’s one I’m willing to play. Visit the Ostankino Tower, enjoy the view, and be glad it’s now almost completely sicko-free. You’re welcome.
The Soviet Air Force earned a fearsome reputation during the 20th Century, with a combination of technical ingenuity, fearless pilots, and shear numbers leading the USSR to brutal airborne victories in a number of theatres of war. Aircraft such as the MiG-15 and Su-27 have achieved near-mythical status due to their dominance over the opposition, and many wartime pilots remain heroes in their homeland. The Soviet Union might be a thing of the past, but the ghosts of the past live on at the Central Air Force Museum.
The museum boasts one of the largest collections of aircraft in the world, and by far the biggest number of Soviet-era machines. There are nearly 200 fighter jets, bombers, choppers, cargo carriers and spaceships, including some incredibly rare prototypes, one-offs and curious contraptions. Despite boasting such an outrageous collection, the museum is very much off the beaten track, being located in a grim field in the depressing outer suburbs of Moscow, but I wasn’t going to let that put me off. I jumped on the train to make the 80-minute trip out to Monino, with visions of dog fights spinning through my mind.
The city of Monino itself looks like a place that time forgot, with decaying residential blocks, burnt-out cars, and all sorts of weirdos shambling around like zombies. Perhaps there was a nuclear meltdown there that I never read about, but I can’t understand why anyone would live in such a dreary place. I mean, there are only so many times you can go to the bloody air museum. It’s a confusing walk through town to find the planes, but follow the awesome directions found here and you should make it without falling into a sinkhole or being attacked by junkies.
If you’ve got even the vaguest interest in things with wings, then the scramble through Shitsville is well worth it. The museum’s first hangar holds lovingly-restored original models of Soviet classics such as the Lavochkin La-7, the Yakoklev Yak-9 and the ancient Polikarpov R-5. Apparently thousands of enemy pilots died just trying to pronounce the names. They look like they could still roll out onto the runway and light up the sky, and it’s truly thrilling to be able to get so close to such legendary planes. Surprisingly, the signs that accompany each aircraft have plenty of information in English, so it’s easy to find out how much carnage each machine created.
The hangar is fascinating, but it’s the open field down the road that will leave any aviation or history buff needing to change their trousers. In a windswept corner of Monina lie more than 170 of the greatest planes to ever take to the skies, with everything from a 114 tonne Antonov An-22 to a tiny MiG-105 Spiral EPOS Spaceplane just sitting there waiting to be gawped at. Some are in fantastic condition, some are falling apart after years of exposure to the harsh Russian climate, but every single aircraft there has a story to tell. The effect of seeing so many legendary planes together is quite overwhelming.
Highlights for me included the massive Mil Mi-12 helicopter, which looms large over the entrance to the field; the Concorde-like Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic airliner, which looks like a prop from a 1980s sci-fi movie; and the Sukhoi T-4 high-speed bomber prototype, which is the only of its type (for good reason – it was rubbish and could barely stay in the sky). It would be possible to spend a whole day exploring the airfield, marvelling at retired legends and discovering lost curiosities, but it was about one degree and I was losing feeling in my photo-taking finger, so I headed into the colossal blue hangar at the back of the site, where more wonders were waiting for me.
One of the most incredible contraptions I saw there wasn’t a plane at all, but an astonishing space balloon. Back in 1962 two Russian fellas, E. Andreev and P. Dolgov, climbed into the ricketty old thing and floated to a height of 25,600m above the Earth. That sounds terrifying enough, but when they reached that height they opened the door and jumped out. E broke the world record for the heighest free fall, and I guess P did too – but there was a problem with the pressurisation of his suit and HIS HEAD EXPLODED.
The Central Air Force Museum is utterly fascinating and fun for the whole family. It feels like climbing into a time machine and journeying back to the days when tensions were high between the USA and the USSR, and the end of the world was only one rash decision away. I’m just glad that we’re good mates with the Russians these days, because that field alone held enough warbirds to blow the piss out of a medium-sized city.
The Russians are a religious bunch. Well, you’d be pretty open-minded to stories about mystical beings and reincarnated zombies if you spent 25 hours a day pissed off your head. For this reason, the Federation is home to some of the most exquisite churches this side of Samoa, and none of them are prettier than the Troitse-Sergiev Monastery, which is apparently the spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This collection of ornately-decorated, onion-shaped temples is situated in Sergiev Posad, a city of around 100,000 people just 75km north of Moscow. There are regular trains up there, but like everything else in Russia, buying a ticket and getting on the right rattler is far harder than it should be. After an hour spent wanderin around Yaroslavsky Station with a confused look on my face, I was lucky I didn’t end up on the fucking Trans-Siberian Express, sleeping on a pile of potatoes.
Once I actually made it onto the train, it was a pleasant ride through the countryside, and the experience was highly reminiscent of rolling through Sri Lanka. Sure, the scenery was different, and it was a little bit colder, but the third world is the third world. From the ancient carriage, to the disabled beggars, to the idiots singing crap songs in the hope of making some money, to the hawkers selling fruit and packets of chips and purses and romance novels, jumping on an inter-city train in Russia is definitely a step back in time.
But enough about trains – I know you’re eagerly awaiting my views on that sexy monastery! Well, it’s really nice. It’s very easy to reach from the station, being a leisirely 10 minute walk, and the buildings are incredibly impressive and in superb condition. The huge fortified walls and iron gates are a throwback to a more violent time when orcs and goblins roamed the frozen tundra of Russia, eating any Catholics they could find. I’m not making that up, I read it on Wikipedia.
The jewel of Russia’s so-called Golden Ring of ancient towns, Sergiev Posad and the temple it’s built around were founded in the 1340s. Over the next few hundred years, the site was extended and snazzed up, with much of the expansion commissioned by Ivan the Terrible. He can’t be too bad a bloke if he built something like this. If you’re interested in the fascinating history of this incredible place, I’m sure you can find it elsewhere. Now, back to the dick jokes.
Russians of the religious persuasion travel thousands of kilometres to visit this holy place, and I saw plenty of them praying and crossing themselves and carrying on. They take the place seriously, and not even the hundreds of Chinese tourists could break the enchanting mood. There were also heaps of funny little dudes with odd beards, odder hats, and flowing black dresses. They swanned around like they owned the place, chanting and waving their hands around.
I was thirsty and in need of a beer, so I walked down some stairs towards what I assumed was a bar, but when I got down there I heard some very unusual praying coming from a dark corner. I crept in closer, hoping to see a religious miracle in progress, but was instead treated to what can only be described as the immaculate erection. One of the monks was wanking his dick off in the corner, and even when he saw me he just gave me a wave and kept going. I guess that’s why they call it a seminary!
There are more than 13 million people in Moscow, and sooner or later every single one of them is going to cark it. Of course, with the amount of vodka the Russians guzzle, they’ll leave a bunch of well-preserved corpses, but all those bodies have to go somewhere. Not surprisingly, you can’t swing a lynx (they’re native to Russia – I’m an expert on this place now) without hitting a cemetary around here, and they’re absolutely fascinating.
I don’t even know the name of the necropolis I visited, but it was as strange as it was large. Thousands of intricately-carved tombs stretched out for kilometres in every direction, while the forest dumped neon-yellow leaves all over the tombstones. I’ve been to a lot of graveyards over the years (I guess you could say I’m dead keen on them), but this was by far the creepiest I’ve ever seen. The contrast between the well-maintained and highly decorated graves and the ghoulish plantlife was unsettling, as was the near-perfect silence even in the middle of the city, and things only got worse when I realised I was lost amongst the maze-like architecture. It truly was a nightmare come true.
After 15 minutes of trudging in circles, I was in tears and contemplating a night spent curled up in a tomb in order to survive the harsh Moscovan conditions, but then I just sort of found the exit and went home to smash a few beers and watch professional wrestling. It ended up being a pretty good night!
The 1960s were known for two things; spunky hippies who did heaps of drugs and fucked everyone in sight, and the epic space race between the USA and the USSR. The spunky hippies are now saggy grandmothers, but at least the history of Societ space travel has been well preserved, thanks to Moscow’s Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. It’s a fascinating throwback to a time when anything seemed possible and everyone was staring towards the heavens.
The museum is housed within the base of the Monument to the Conquerers of Space, which is an incredibly impressive structure that rises 107 metres into the bleak Moscovan sky. It was built in 1964, back when the Soviets actually were leading the world in extraterrestrial exploration – y’know, before the Yanks landed on the moon and won the battle once and for all (well, until the people of Nieue claim their rightful place as Kings of Space by landing on Mars).
It’s cheap as chips to enter the museum – about $4 Australian – but for some reason they charge double if you want to take photos. I didn’t pay it and took my camera in anyway – Drunken Aussies 1, Russian government 0. The first thing I saw when I waltzed through the front door was a couple of stuffed dogs, who turned out to be the first canines to survive a trip into space. Where I come from, stuffing a dog means something quite different, but it was nice to meet a couple of dudes who could not only lick their own arseholes, but have achieved more in life than I ever will.
The museum isn’t massive, but there are some cool things to check out, such as the space suit worn by Michael Collins during the Apollo 11 mission, and an intricately-recreated model of the International Space Station. There are also scale models of a whole bunch of rockets, satellites and moon rovers, which are all awesome to check out. All up there are more than 85,000 items to look at, which makes the museum sound huge, but it wasn’t as big as I thought it would be (a sentiment many girls have after a night with me).
Unfortunately, most of the information boards are in Russian only, so unless you can decipher that it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at most of the time. It’s possible to explore the museum with a guide, and they also have headphones available at the front desk, neither of which I took advantage of, so I can’t really complain about being confused about what was going on.
It was this confusion that led me down a dark corridor on a quest for the toilet, then down a set of decrepid steps the plunged deep into the Earth. With my bladder full of cheap Russian booze, I kept moving further into the belly of the museum, ignoring signs that probably told me not to go any further. After walking for what seemed like hours, I came to a door that was slightly ajar, with brilliant blue light spilling out into the rotting hallway. It looked like a dunny to me, so I poked my head through and was amazed by what was inside. A gigantic, disk-shaped craft was parked in the middle of an immense warehouse, and standing underneath it was a groupf of small green men wearing shiny silver suits. Don’t believe me? Just check out this totally legit photo I snapped.
As I stared in slack-jawed wonder, a hatch on the craft opened and three beings climbed out. I squinted against the bright light, and was amazed to realise that I recognised the figures. The first was overweight and wearing a sequined jumpsuit with a cape. Mystery solved, Elvis never did die. The second was even shorter than the little green men, and blacker than an ex-wife’s heart. When he wobbled his head and said, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, aliens”, I realised who he was; Gary Coleman. The third had three legs, a funny little beard and a bit of cardboard in his hands. He strutted over to me, held his hand out, and said, “I’m Jake the Peg, and this is my extra leg”. He then invited one of the younger aliens to sit on one of his three knees and then sang a song whilst thrusting his cardboard around. It was all very strange. I know there have been rumours about Elvis being abducted by aliens for years, and Gary Coleman disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but it made little sense that Rolph Harris would be there. He’s a sex pest, not an alien.
I was getting ready to leave when one more being climbed out of the spaceship. He was about four foot tall and covered in fur, and I immediately knew who he was. ALF! No, not Alf Stewart, but the lovable Alien Life Form himself! I ran over and cuddled the little fella, and we kissed a bit, and his mouth tasted like he’d been eating pussy. He gave me a smile and made me an offer. “You look like a nice guy. Join us on a voyage to the stars. You will live forever as king, and learn the secrets and mysteries of the universe.”
“I’d love to,” I said, reluctantly, “but I’ve got a Russian girlfriend at home who will break my arms if I’m late for dinner. But next time I bump into you, I promise I’ll go off and become a space king or whatever it is you want me to do. Add me on Facebook.” And then I swaggered off into the Moscovan night.
All I wanted was to spend a sunny Autumn day exploring one of Russia’s most famous and beautiful parks. What I ended up with was a heavy dose of victimisation, racial profiling and police prejudice that should have social activists in an uproar. This is the harrowing story of my adventures through Moscow as one of the most marginalised people on Earth; an intoxicated Australian.
With Lena working again (which is just as well, because I’m sure as shit not bringing in the bacon), I rugged up and headed out towards the legendary Sokolniki Park, which lies a few kilometres north-east of the CBD. The park is a major place of recreation and relaxation for Moscovites, with beer gardens, restaurants, skating rinks, aviaries, gardens and seemingly-endless paths to wander along. It sounded like a great place to spend an afternoon, but getting there would be a true test of my determination, as I would face challenges that few would be able to handle.
I was minding my own business on the metro between Lubyanka and Sokolniki, looking cool and listening to some of my favourite wrestling theme songs on my phone, when a bloke with a shaved head and a scowl on his face pushed his way through the crowd and stood in front of me. I thought he might’ve been a fan of songs about punching people and invited him to groove along to the music, but he wasn’t a fan of the dulcet tones of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. He was a policeman, and I’ll never forget the words he said to me. They still send a shiver down my spine. Those words were, “Show me passport.”
And just like that, I had been stripped of my humanity. I was no longer a person, I was no longer a dreamer, I was no longer a walking poet with a heart of gold. In three words I had been reduced to nothing more than the colour of my skin. I mean sure, I just pulled out my passport and the cop left straight away, but I’d still been robbed of my dignity. At that point I could completely empathise with how black people feel when this sort of thing happens to them. Of course, black people can fall back on their natural sporting, dancing and rapping abilities, their enviable physical resemblance to Wesley Snipes, and their baseball bat-sized penises, so I guess I’m the real victim here. Some call me a hero, but I don’t like labels.
After my brush with the law, I did finally make it to Sokolniki Park, and it’s quite lovely. The main part, which is a two-minute stroll from the metro station, is usually packed with people walking around, or dancing to the music that’s blared non-stop over the PA system, or rollerblading around as if it’s still 1994. It’s a genuinely nice place to find in the middle of a busy city, and the park only gets nicer as you delve further into it. Lovingly-maintained gardens open up amongst the bush, and paths wind amongst ancient trees and past bubbling streams. Further in, the park is overrun by dense forest, which looks stunning as the leaves turn to gold and amber.
I was admiring a tree when I felt a tap on the shoulder, and turned around to see another stern-faced policeman was standing there. “Show me passport,” he demanded, further demeaning me and appropriating my sesnse of self-worth. I enabled his bigotry by showing him my passport, and it felt like I was handing over a piece of my soul as I did so. The policeman soon fled the scene of the hate crime, leaving me to pick up the shattered remnants of my psyche amongst the glorious landscape of Sokolniki Park.
After wearily staggering back to the station, I climbed onto a packed Russian train and did my best to hide my tears from the staring throngs. Nobody reached out to help me. Nobody cared. Dear reader, you probably think that I’m made from granite, with the heart of a lion, but the fact is that I’m only human. I broke down and wept, but then felt a warn hand wipe away my tears. “Spasibo,” I stammered.” “Show me passport,” a voice said. The weight of social injustice almost crushed me.
On the walk home, I planned out this blog entry. I imagined the uproar from my fans when they read it. I imagined protests. I imagined violence in the streets. I imagined people kneeling during the national anthem in an act of solidarity. Despite everything I’d been through – more than any man should experience in a lifetime, let alone an afternoon – I had a spring in my step. Things would change, and I would be a victim no longer.
I burst through the door’s of Lena’s place, and immediately started ranting about the nightmare I had survived, and the revolution that was to come. No longer would Australians be discriminated against. No longer would we be forced to carry passports like dog tags, just to visit the park. She took one look at me, told me to grow the fuck up, and forced me to do push-ups to prove my masculinity. Bloody hell, I need a safe space…
After a week spent hanging out with my beautiful Russian girlfriend Lena in Moscow, she decided to not send me to the gulag and instead introduce me to her family. It’s a good sign for the relationship, seeing as my last girlfriend forced me to pretend I was her gay cousin when we bumped into a uni friend of hers at the shops. I was deeply offended, of course, but ultimately pulled it off so well that I scored the cute check-out guy’s phone number (and, just quietly, that wasn’t the only thing that got pulled off that day).
Her family live in the city of Lipetsk (or Липецк to the locals), which is around 450km from the capital – a short stroll by Russian standards. The major industries, according to Wikipedia, are something called ferrous metallurgy, selling Russian brides to fat Poms, and producing imitation Bon Jovi t-shirts.
Like most other places in Russia, the ghosts of the USSR are everywhere, with drab housing estates and war memorials scattered around. But this is obviously a prosperous city, with masses of new development that looks really nice. Match that with the swathes of dense forest that wind in and around Lipetsk, and it’s not a bad place. The sun even peeked out for a minute or two, which was cause for celebration!
Nobody wants to look at photos of me awquardly trying to make a good impression with Lena’s family despite not speaking a word of Russian (actually, a lot of people would find that funny as fuck, because they’re cruel), so here are some photos taken in and around the lovely city of Lipetsk. Whilst it’s not one of the world’s top tourist destinations (I’d describe it as Russia’s version of Newcastle) there’s plenty to see, and the public transport makes it easy to get around.
MARVEL at the healthy pre-breakfast Russian servo-dog I smashed into my gob at 5:30am. GASP as Lena syphons water from an ancient well (but enough about our sex life). OOH AND AHH at the pretty colours of the autumn leaves. GAPE at Lipetsk’s world-famous statue of Dolph Lundgren. SHUDDER at photos of the Russian wilderness, where I did my best to keep Lena between me and any predators. As the Russkis say, bon appetit!