Well, what a perfect day to visit the last item on our agenda - the Cosmonautics Museum a short way out of central Moscow. Today was in total contrast weatherwise with rain falling when we first woke up. Undaunted, we rugged up in our multi layers and made the necessar station changes on the metro to deliver us to this new museum.
What a fantastic and symbolic day to do it as today marks the 56th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin making the first flight by man into space. Yuri is the wunderkind of Russia and quite a poster pinup. We had seen posters celebrating the day with a cake on it as well and rocket ship candles. We actually saw invitation cards in the shop later where kids could have their birthday party at the museum.
The actual museum is underneath yes, you guessed it, the biggest obelisk in the world. It was actually a very impressive building shaped like a rocket blast off. As usual good old Lenin headed the space race depicted on the bas relief carvings around the base of the obelisk. Apparently Russia led the way in the space race between 1961 with Gargarin's flight to the first spacewalk in 1965. Thereafter was a blank wall as we just could not admit that the U S A beat them at something, i.e. the moon. Quite funny really. We actually saw a postcard which deoicted the space race with Russia getting the gong from the launching of Sputnik in 1957 to first live organisms in space, first man in space, first woman in space then the first walk in space. It's quite funny that according to Russian history this is where thè space race stops! If you don' t agree with it, just leave it out and ignore it. Overall though the museum and its exhibits were excellent and actually had the space suit worn by Michael Collins on the landing mission on the moon, although this was apparently an everday achievement.
Quite good display of scale model satellites and descent modules and in some incidences the real thing (so we were assured). They had a 1:1 scale rmodel of the actual descent module used for Yuri Gagarin which was basically a huge hollow cannon ball. All I can say is I don't think they expected him back. A very brave man who was selected as THE man from a group of 20 cosmonauts who were all trained for the mission.
A very interesting part of the display centered around the animal sent into space prior to man. Of course Laika is known as the first dog to go and was never intended to come back. It was apparently confirmed only in the 90s that she died of stress and overheating. There are the stuffed bodies of Belka and Strelka who were sent off into space with a number af lab rats, mice and plants and seeds. They actually came back and Strelka went on to have puppies with another dog in the program. One of these pups was given to JFK by Krushchev and he referred to it as his pupnik.
The dogs in the space program were all small mongrels from the streets as they had the toughness to survive against the odds and werent fussy about food, The displays indicate they were trained extensively to adapt to things like wearing o,xygen helmets, suits etc. How many dogs etc were used before Laika I would think is questionable. The Russians tend to mould history to suit we have gathered.
Had some lunch in the space cafe where you could also buy space food! We all settled for pizzas though. When they eventually came out both Eloise and mine were if nuclear heat, Vanessa's basically cold, the chips cold, our wedges a no show and our bottles of Sprite were actually cucumber flavoured which sounds yuck but was actually not bad. Vanessa called our waitress over to ask if she could microwave her cold pizza. 15 minutes pass and we decide the waitress had not understood and the pizza was never returning. Eloise went over to ask for the bill and next thing you know the pizza turns up just as nuclear as the other two. Oh dear,Russian service is sometimes non existent.
With a laugh and giggle it was time to resume our wander around the museum. Our observations on Russian kids to this point was that the boys are somewhat naughty and the girls precocious when little. Once they turn into teenagers they appear quite pushy and bad mannered by our standards. As we came to the end of the exhibits I was walking through an area which had a large square made up of floor lights. 3 noisy little boys about 6 or 7 were stepping on each of the lights around the square. As the first one approached me he reached out and tried to push me to the side to allow him to continue stepping on the lights. Bad move little Sergei, Vlad, Demetri - I was not moving for him and indicated for him to go around me. The look I got should have turned me to stone and we had a Mexican standoff over the light I was standing on. Being much bigger than him and speaking to him sternly in a foreign language and indicating to him to go around me, put him off his game along with his surprised buddies. There is a lot of pushing and shoving especially in metros and lines in general. I guess we are just used to waiting our turn but in a city of 16 million plus he who hesitates is lost.
Thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this museum but time to make our way back to the apartment and do a final pack. Had a call and message from Emirates that as Miscow traffic was so bad they wanted to pick us up earlier.
Bit of a panic by Vanessa because her case is very heavy so a lot of stuff went into my case with my 40 kg allowance. Another assistant of Kate the apartment turned up at 7.30 fo collect the key and then to meet our chauffeur for the ride to the airport. Certainly glad Emirates organised an earlier pickup as it took us just under 2 hours to get to the airport. Took over 40 minutes to get to Red Square, a 20 minute walk. Took us over an hour in total to get to then circle around Red Square to get onto the road to the airport. Saw many a frustrated car driver in front of us mount the footpath, drive some distance along it then get back onto the road.
Finally reached the airport and checked the girls in with me at business in the hope of getting their luggage through. It worked, unlike the xray machine as we entered the terminal. They left Eloise and Vanessa standing by the machine for big cases csaying not working. It was funny how the belt miraculously started working when the Emirates flight crew turned up.
Going through Immigration was a bit of a farce as well. I had been redirected to the diplomat and APEC line and we came to our 2 booths. The two ladies at the booth were so busy chatting about something in depth that they didn't even bother checking me against my passport and Vanessa only got a brief glimpse. We decided that Russia doesnt give a damn about who leaves their country. Finally through all the official stuff and only an hour before boarding girls decided it wasn't worth 75 euro to go into the business lounge with me. Once I got in there I had a couple of fries at food and decided I would give it a miss as well. I have not ever had condensed tomato soup called ketchup before. Made my way to the gate lounges to look in the stores but only after 15 minutes it was time to board our 11.45 pm flight to Dubai.
Flight was only 5 hours and we would be in Dubai around 5.30am local time.