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!
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.
I grew up with a deep love of horror movies. Return of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Day of the Dead were always spinning around the family VCR, and I couldn’t get enough of anything involving zombies, ghosts, or demented serial killers.
But above them all, one movie stands out; Lamberto Bava’s 1985 fright classic Demoni. As well as being a true masterpiece of European cinema (horror or otherwise), I’ll always remember it because it was the first R-rated movie I ever watched. I like to tease my mum and say she let me watch it when I was five, but I was probably closer to 10, and I adored it. And what’s not to love? There are grotesque transformations, hookers getting eaten alive, drug abuse, nudity, a sass-mouthed black pimp, an awesome scene with a bloke riding around on a motorbike decapitating zombies with a sword, and a soundtrack featuring Mötley Crüe, Saxon, Rick Springfield and Billy fuckin’ Idol.
That film kicked off my love affair with the film’s producer and writer Dario Argento (I could’ve phrased that better so, just to be sure, I didn’t have sex with Dario when I was 10 – I just really liked his movies). A true auter, Dario has created some of the moodiest and most original horror flicks of all time, such as Deep Red, Tenebre and the legendary Suspiria.
When I found myself in Rome a year or so ago, there was one place that I really, really wanted to go to. It wasn’t the Coliseum (although it was brilliant) and it wasn’t the toilet after one too many Peronis (although that was brilliant, too). It was Profondo Rosso, the Dario Argento museum, and it turned out to be one of the best things I saw during my journey across Europe.
Located in an unassuming building in a quiet street as short stroll north-east of the Vatican City, Profondo Rosso (named after Dario’s 1975 film) has two parts; as you walk in, there’s a shop full of monster costumes, books, action figures, magic tricks, gags, masks, old movies on both VHS and DVD, and all sorts of other bits and pieces of variable quality. It’s a fun place for horror fans to check out, but the true magic is in the basement.
After paying 5 Euros to a handsome bald man, I descended a tight staircase and made my way into what can only be called a series of ancient catacombs, which were probably built thousands of years ago for reasons I don’t understand. Not only was I stepping back in time, I was walking into a nightmarish world of deformed creatures and grueling terror. A visit the Dario Argento museum is truly to journey into the mind of a madman.
The museum feels more like a dungeon, with a lonely and strangely-lit corridor leading off into the darkness, with caged vaults looming from either side. As I stepped tentatively into this bizarre world, a creepy voice echoed throughout the chamber, providing details (in English!) about the atrocities that were to come.
While the creepy, synth-heavy music of Goblin echoed through the claustrophobic tunnels, I came face-to-face with some of the gruesome critters from Dario’s movies. The deformed child from Phenomena, a sacrificed body from The Church, a disemboweled corpse from Two Evil Eyes. They weren’t moving, but the place was so eerie and they were so lifelike (well, if re-animated corpses can be lifelike) that I didn’t want to turn my back on them.
My paranoia was fueled further by the fact I was heavily hungover after a big night out. My mushy brain had me jumping at shadows, and I was fanging for a beer to settle my nerves.
And then, in a dank corner, I saw it. One of the props from Demoni – a possessed woman with wild hair and razor-sharp teeth, reaching out to devour me (sounds like my ex-girlfriend). It had been 20 years since I’d first seen her, while sitting on a lounge 17,000km away, and it was strange to be looking straight into her unseeing eyes. After a while, time seemed meaningless and I truly felt that I was in another world – one where death lurks around every corner.
I must’ve been down there for a while, because the handsome man inched his way down the stairs and called out to me. Maybe he thought I was wanking down there… but maybe, just maybe, he thought something blank of eye and sharp of tooth had dragged me off to a sad corner.
It finally came time for me to return to the real world, and as I climbed back up the twisted staircase, it was as if I was emerging from a dream. A terrifying dream, there’s no doubt about that, but one I’m glad I experienced. The Dario Argento museum is one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited. The memory of watching Demoni for the first time with stay with me forever, and so will my memories of this wicked museum.
And if you ever do go there, make sure you tell the handsome bloke behind the counter that I wasn’t wanking. I swear I wasn’t!