Tag Archives: Russia

Show me the monastery!

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!

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Cemetery Man – Exploring Moscow’s Incredible Graveyards

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!

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.

Drunk Lives Matter: A visit to Sokolniki Park and my experiences as a victimised minority in Russia

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…

A Kiss on the Lipetsk

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!

It’s Hip to be Red Square

I might spend my days sleeping until 3pm and watching old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons in my undies, but my girlfriend is a valuable member of society and has a big-person job to go to, so today I was left to explore Moscow on my own. Not wanting to be a typical tourist, I headed for the one place that certainly wouldn’t be crawling with Chinese dudes clutching selfie sticks; the Kremlin.

See what I did there? I made a joke, so at least give me a pitty laugh. The Kremlin is packed with more Chinamen than a small penis competition Jackie Chan book signing, but despite that it’s still an incredible site to behold. Red Square is massive, and the cathedral thingy at the end (I don’t know what it’s called, look up a proper travel blog if you’re interested) is absolutely beautiful. The majority of Moscow might consist of Soviet-era apartment blocks, but the historic centre is glorious.

Hey, and unlike the Chinese, I didn’t stand around taking a billion selfies.

Before coming to Moscow, I definitely thought it would be a drab and dishevelled place to visit, with a homeless person in every gutter and the threat of a head-kicking around every corner, but it’s far nicer than that. It’s similar to places like Riga and Warsaw, of course (it’s basically within walking distance) and is a modern city that’s safe and easy to navigate. It’s also now almost completely free of the bubonic plague.

After sauntering away from the Red Square and into the nearby neighbourhood of Balchug, I found an incredibly strange park full of the wackiest statues this side of a malaria-fuelled fever dream. The most interesting statue in Bolotnaya Square Park is titled Children – Victims of Adult Voices and features an evil robot, a frogman, a big fat dude on a barrel, a drug-dispensing doctor, a dancing pig, a sexed-up granny, and several other intensely strange creatures. I think most artworks are as worthwhile as the sticky stuff in a teenager’s sock, but this one really spoke to me and was totally awesome. Three thumbs up.

By that point I was feeling tired and in desperate need of a drink, so I was stoked to see a train not far away, and gleefully climbed aboard. Alright, it seemed a bit old-fashioned, and the fact it had a slippery dip jutting out the front raised alarm bells, but I assumed the communists do things a bit differently and settled in for the ride back to the suburbs. Sadly, it turned out to be a kiddie ride, and I was soon chased out of the park by a group of angry locals who must’ve assumed I was a sex pest or something.

I was swaggering back past the kremlin on my way to the real train station when a long, shiny limousine pulled up next to me and bunch of burly blokes in black suits climbed out. I thought they might be the Men in Black and had a look around for that Willie Smith fella, and while I was doing that a wiry bloke with piercing blue eyes got out, looking me up and down. The dudes in the black suits reached for their guns as I approached the wiry fella, but he told them to relax.

“G’day brother, I’m from Australia, how are ya?” I asked, sticking out my hand.
“I am doing very well,” the main man said in a thick Russian accent, before shaking my hand with a grip that could crush a doorknob. “My name is Vladimir.”
“Oh, you’re Vladimir Kozlov, the former WWE wrestler!”
“No.”
“Dominican baseball legend Vladimir Guerrero?”
“No.”
“Long-dead concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz?”
“No.”
Everybody Loves Raymond star Vlad Garrett?”
“No, no, no!”
“Yeah, figures,” I replied, walking off into the icy evening. “I never meet anyone famous!”

BEER OF THE DAY: 387 OSOBAYA VARKA

Legend has it that this creamy lager is named after the number consumed by the average Russian every week. I only had one, but amongst the sea of other brews, it was the best, and perfect for colder climates. Like the perfect woman, it’s comforting, not too thick, and goes down easily. It’s a bit like dipping a Caramello Koala in your beer and theen drinking it, only it’s not as disgusting as that would be.

Russia: A Place For Penguins

Moscow isn’t known for its beautiful climate, but I was still ill-prepered for the arctic conditions that Russia welcomed me with. I knew things were going to be bad when my plane descended through clouds as thick as a Mount Druitt schoolkid, and my fears were confirmed when I stepped out of the airport to be met by a day colder than a snowman’s arsehole. Fortunately my lady friend Lena was there to warm me up with a cuddle and then race my back to her place.

With the temperature outside struggling to climb past four degrees, Lena introduced me to the way Russians keep warm on cold days. Get your mind out of the gutter, you pervert, I mean that she served me a bowl of delicious borscht (soup) and then we started knocking back shots of vodka at 9:30am. I’ve gotta say that if I ever move to Russia, it won’t take me a long time to adapt to their way of life.

Despite smashing shots for 15 hours, I still managed to get up the next morning, squeeze into my singlet, and head out into the metropolis for a run. It was so fucking cold I’m surprised my dick didn’t get frostbite, and the Moscovians who I ran past – each dressed in woollen hats, ski jacket and gloves – stared at me as if I was afucking idiot. Honestly, a three-legged alien could’ve beamed down and start fucking a dog, and the locals would’ve looked at it with less surprise than they showed me.

After making it back to Lena’s place and warming up by, well, let’s just say eating soup so as to keep it PG for the kiddies, we headed out to Rainbow Park to hold hands and chase ducks. In a city packed with crumbling Soviet-era towers and crowded motorways, it’s a welcome oasis. Loyal readers of D&J would be aware that I’ve got a history of stripping off, but I though Lena’s already-dwindling level of respect for me would dwindle if she was to see me nude up in freezing conditions, so I kept my gear on the whole time. I guess this is growing up.

Russian parks are brilliant, and apart from the lovely landscaping and impressive selection of local and international plants and flowers, are packed with all sorts of excercise equipment. There was even a full-sized boxing ring – apparently the locals assemble there on saturdays to sort out their grievances. Husbands punch on with wives, employees throw fists at bosses, pensioners lay the smackdown on paperboys who keep chucking the Moscow Times in the bush rather than on the doorstep. If I prove to be annoying, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lena drags me back there on the weekend so she can kick me in the nuts in front of a bloodthirsty crowd.

BEER OF THE DAY – SOME STUFF I GOT IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE FROM THE CORNER SHOP

Like most places in Europe, Russia has a fantastic selection of beers at dirt cheap prices. While the cans and bottles of local and imported piss are great, there’s a better option. Most corner shops have beer taps, so it’s possible to purchase freshly-poured draught beer in 1.5 litre bottles. Drinking from a brown plastic bottle in a park makes you feel like a filthy wino, but the quaity of the brew ensures you won’t wake up the next morning feeling like a group of skinheads have been stomping on your face. Highly recommended!

Mission to Moscow

Most people leave Bali with a couple of Bintang singlets and a suitcase full of pirated DVDs, but I managed to leave The Island of the Gods with a Russian girlfriend and a plane ticket to Moscow. And so, against all my expectations, the next leg of the Drunk & Jobless Word Tour will take place in the frozen tundra of the northern hemisphere. Don’t worry, I won’t get frostbite, because Lena’s assured me that her bed is nice and warm, and that’s where I plan to spend a fair whack of my time. There’ll still be plenty of drunken shenanigans and outrageous adventures, so stick around.

The Russian Federation is an unusual land where vodka encompasses 80% of a balanced diet, bears walk the streets eating anyone they can find, and the most popular form of entertainment involves kicking homeless people. Alright, there’s a chance that none of that is true, so I spent the 22-hour flight from Sydney watching some educational documentaries on Russia, and was pleased to discover that the Russkis aren’t too different from normal people.

ROCKY IV

This award-winning film documents the epic boxing match between American champion Rocky Balboa and his towering Russian opponent, Ivan Drago. At first, the Russian seemed like a bit of a dickhead – he takes heaps of steroids and punches a blackfella until he dies – but he redeems himself in the end by having sex with Rocky in the middle of the boxing ring. I hope I don’t have to have sex with any giant Russian men, butI will if it helps international relations and brings about world peace.

RAMBO III

At some point Rocky stopped being a boxer and instead became an unstoppable killing machine, and that’s what this movie is about. There’s not a lot of story, but Rambo kills about a million evil Russian dudes, which is really cool. Although, if I want to fit into Russian society, I probably should’ve been going for the bad guys while watching this. I also learnt that the entire Russian army can be destroyed by a single shirtless bloke with a headband and a bow-and-arrow.

POLICE ACADEMY 7: MISSION TO MOSCOW

Russians aren’t know for their sense of humour, so maybe the government banned the filmmakers from putting anything funny in this awful sequel. I think the Russian characters showed admirable restraint by not slaughtering the bumbling fools in the first five minutes, which expanded my respect for them as a people. Honestly, I’d rather slide a pencil up my wee-hole and then let a dribbling retard write an essay with it than watch this crap again.

RUSH HOUR

I misread the title and thought it was called Russian Hour, and so was baffled when the movie was all about a blackfella and a Chinaman. I kept waiting for them to put on those furry hats and start smashing cinderblocks with their bare hands, but it never happened.

BACK IN THE USSR

This isn’t a movie or a documentary, it’s a song by Pom hippies The Beatles. They basically keep singing, ‘Back in the USSR!’ over and over again, and it gets old pretty quickly, so I’m not surprised that Russians have an intense hatred of westerners. This other song they have about octopuses is fucking ace, though, but I don’t think there are many octopuses in Moscow, so it’s irrelevant.

GREMLINS

I figured that, since this movie was named after that big, pointy cathedral building thing in Moscow, it would offer some interesting insights into Russian culture. Nope! It was all about little green monsters and Corey Feldman, which meant that it was very entertaining, but ultimately had had fuck all to do with the gremlin. It wasn’t even set in Russia! False advertising, I’d ask for my money back but The Pirate Bay don’t give refunds.

SOVIET SLUTS #69

This was by far the best documentary on Russia that I watched on the plane. If it’s anything to go by, I’ll be getting my dick sucked by half-a-dozen big-titted Slavic goddesses within minutes of stepping foot in the Federation. Then again, I only got to watch it for about 30 seconds before the woman next to me complained about my ‘enthusiastic’ reaction to the hardcore action on my laptop, so I don’t know how it ended up (and on a side note, the Vladimir Putin-lookin’ fella in it was surprisingly accepting of lesbian relationships, so perhaps Russia is becoming a more inclusive place).