Tag Archives: museums

Estadio Centenario: Pretty cool, even though it smells like soccer

Back in 2001, Aussie soccer fans were left in tears when the Socceroos were bundled out of the World Cup qualifications after a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo. I laughed my dick off because soccer is a game for teenage girls and the physically handicapped, and Aussie soccer fans are the sort of ponytailed wankers who deserve to be tipped into bins, so when in Montevideo I just had to visit the scene of the hilarity.

The Estadio Centenario was built in 1930 for that year’s World Cup, and doesn’t look like it’s been renovated since then. The stadium is old fashioned, run down… and utterly fantastic. Despite being an oval, every one of the 60,000 seats has a great view and is right on top of the action. There are no corporate boxes, the seating is basic, there’s no roof, I couldn’t find any toilets and the Wifi is rubbish, but it has more character than any billion-dollar modern stadium. The atmosphere would be awesome during a big game (as long as you ignore the soccering happening on the pitch).

The razor wire and security moats that separate the various sections of the stadium give some indication of how wild things get during matches, but when I was there on a Monday arvo, the crowd was reminiscent of a Central Coast Mariners game. There were about six other people in the stands and a dozen or so bored-looking birds hunting about on the grass, and the only flares I saw were being worn by a fat bloke with an afro.

In the bowls of the stadium is the Museo del Futbol, which is full of photos of soccer players and World Cup trophies and other stuff I couldn’t give a shit about. I guess if soccerballing is your thing, you’d love it. Apparently the two World Cups Uruguay have earned are housed there, but fucked if I could work out which ones they were amongst the memorabilia, so here’s a trophy that may or may not be one of them.

As I wandered through the displays wearing my Kangaroos jersey, a couple of the workers started taunting me about how rubbish the Socceroos are and lisping “One-nil! One nil! Harry Kewell suck so bad! Juan Aloisi has faeces on his boots!”

“Boys, you need to settle down,” I said, pointing at the badge on my chest. “I don’t waste time watching limp-wristed tossers pretending to be hurt and biting each other’s dicks. I follow rugby league and the Australian Kangaroos, and we haven’t won just two World Cups, we’ve won 14 of the bastards.”

They were curious about what I meant, so I turned on the nearest Commodore Amiga and pointed them towards a few rugby league videos on YouTube. The fellas started hootin’ and hollerin’, slapping each other high fives and pretending to tackle each other. As I looked at some more displays, the crowd around the computer grew, and I chuckled as one little fella wondered out loud, “Why have we been wasting our time with soccer all these years?”

Pretty soon every computer in the museum was blasting out YouTube clips of the NRL’s biggest hits, the 1989 grand final, or Tina Turner’s old Simply the Best ad for the Winfield Cup. One bloke was getting pretty worked up over a compilation video of Nathan Hindmarsh losing his shorts. Another was using the 1928 Olympic trophy as an ash tray and trying to replicate ‘the bubbler’ as he watched some of Todd Carney’s career highlights. As I left I saw one of the fellas pulling down a photo of Diego Forlan and putting up a photo of Johnathan Thurston that he’d hastily printed off his Amstrad computer, saying, “Uruguay is a rugby league country now.” Expect the Montevideo Mud Crabs to join the NRL any minute now!

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Skeletons of the Soviet Air Force

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.

Out of this World: The Moscow Cosmonaut Museum and how I chose love over the opportunity to be crowned King of the Universe

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.