When I was in the midst of wondering just how many bottles of Windex it would take to clean all those windows in the Winter Palace, I actually took a second to glance outside one of them.
The sight briefly interrupted my blue-dyed, ammonia tinged musings.
There were a few dark clouds. As we are all well aware, the things that occur with dark clouds generally don’t bode well for coaster riding. I kept an eye on things, which wasn’t difficult to do in a place that contains 1945 windows. The sun and clouds duked it out the rest of the time we wandered through the Hermitage.
In a move that surprised no one, the clouds won literally the second we exited the main gate.
We sprinted to the nearest shelter we could find, which happened to be inside a fast food place specializing in Russian Mystery Items. Standing and huddled with several other sufficiently dampened pedestrians on the wet, dirty tiles in the doorway, I watched cars splash through puddles and wished the photos on the menu above the counter depicted foods I actually recognized so I could silence my growling tummy (I also wished the asshat who decided that location was a prime place to smoke would be struck down by lightning, but no such luck). I couldn’t help but wonder what those suckers in that two hour line outside the Hermitage were doing now.
Eventually the bulk of the storm passed. We set off for Divo Ostrov again for a round of daytime photos (unfortunately, no rides this time since they were only beginning to open following the rain and we had too tight of a schedule, anyway) and then began the trek to the last park of the trip, Gagarin Park.
So we exit the metro station and good, the park is right there. We see this little arrow map, which seems to imply that it’s just a short walk to the amusements, so good there, too. We had about an hour before we had to leave for the airport, so it was just as well to not have to walk too far.
Uhhh…well, I’m sure it’s right down here. It’s gotta be.
This park apparently used to be a brickyard before World War II. During the war and the siege of Leningrad, the site was used as a crematory. There was a lot of cremating going on. The siege of Leningrad was gruesome and pointless. Thousands were killed and many more were wounded. Many died of starvation. There was cannibalism. And for what?
“A solider will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” –Napoleon
So this is a thoroughly depressing history. Shouldn’t there be a credit around here to take my mind off of this?
No? Not yet?
Right, so it became a park after the war. At that point, the ground was so pockmarked from the years of constant bombardment that the holes were made into lakes connected by a series of canals like this one. There were a lot of lakes in this park. Lots of scenic lakes bordered by flowers and trees and on which a few boaters were enjoying the afternoon, making for a rather picturesque scene. But this beauty came at what price?
We have been walking for 20 minutes. Where is this park? Seriously, if we don’t find it soon, I might launch into an anti-war rant.
“Don’t do it or else you and I both know this trip report won’t get done.”
Deep breath. Deep breath. This is the Alley of Heroes, named after the line of busts depicting prominent WWII figures. I’m inclined to be sympathetic given what happened here because let’s face it, these people were up against a little bitch with a stupid looking mustache sitting on his pedestal ordering genocide, but during a war, nobody’s hands are bloodless. I’ve never understood that about war. It’s slaughtering thousands of people and forever wounding so many more emotionally under the guise of “valor” and “glory.” Killing a bunch of soldiers (or countless civilians, as was the case here), most of whom are innocent as regards the issue that prompted war in the first place, is the most destructive waste of time imaginable. Yet nationalistic fervor blinds both the instigators and those they send in to do their dirty work into believing that what they are doing is a service to their country. Few seem capable of distancing themselves from the propaganda that essentially romanticizes murder. I just don’t get it.
“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” –Voltaire
We will return to our regularly scheduled trip report in a moment. This is the “Megan is using this image to clear her head and yours of controversial political opinions because this is a roller coaster blog and thus a happy place so rainbows and puppies and Sir Stuffington and turtles and now let’s move on” photo.
Okay. So. That sign we saw upon exiting the subway? LIES. Okay, not really because never once did it specify an exact distance, but I just spent the last twenty minutes walking down a dirt path on a breezy day and now I have dirt in my eyes and in my throat, I am highly contemplative on the futility of an institution so many hold dear and I have to deal with a Russian airport in a couple of hours. This is distinctly suboptimal.
So let’s go whack some worms to feel better.
Gagarin Park is one of those parks that uses a system where you load a desired amount onto a card and scan it at the entrance to rides. I went to buy two rides for Gusenitsa. I pointed to the coaster, which was thankfully right across from the ticket booth so there was no ambiguity as to where I was pointing, and held up two fingers. The woman inside looked at me oddly and I again held up two fingers, pointed to Richard and myself and then pointed back to the coaster. She loaded the card, handed me back the change and I walked quickly to the entrance.
Then I repeated this process because she’d loaded only one ride onto the card.
With the card sorted, we tried again. You remember how in foreign language classes, there’s always a poster on the wall depicting an individual modeling different emotions via outrageously exaggerated facial expressions? The ride op at Gusenitsa demonstrated “Bewilderment.”
She smiled, half shaking her head and placed her hand, palm down, just past her waist. For a second I had a wild fear that we were about to be turned down but Richard didn’t skip a beat and smiled right back, saying “No, no it’s alright! We don’t mind!”
“Bewilderment” was met with “Hopeful.”
But she scanned the card. Hesitatingly, but she scanned it and then seemed to find great amusement over the situation. I actually don’t think she was trying to prevent us from riding so much as she was just confused that two grown adults seemed oblivious to the fact that this was a children’s attraction.
Poor girl didn’t know what she was in for. George and Tal were due to stop by later.
There was still a question to be answered upon exiting. RCDB had listed two credits here, the other appearing to be a Zyklon/Galaxi/something or other. Whatever it was, it was of modest size but we hadn’t seen it on approach to the park.
So we started the usual round of photos, a little more rapid fire than usual since our time was limited. If we found the coaster, great, but we figured it probably wasn’t there since a coaster of that size can’t really hide in a park this small.
I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of these rides seemed to have been built either in-house or by a manufacturer with whom I wasn’t familiar. The chairswings had that tall, old fashioned look…
Their Frisbee was just a small tub, completely devoid of OTSRs…
And the drop tower was rocking an umbrella hat and looking distinctively less humorous in it than I did when I had to wear one for my second grade show and sing catchy tunes about cumulus clouds and the dew point.
(No, I don’t have any photos of that.)
I know, I know. We could have all used a good laugh. Sorry.
There was even a dark ride. I was trying to decide if we had enough time to ride it when I heard Richard make a noise that indicated either amusement, bemusement, or satisfying flatulence. Holding my breath, I ran over to see what the deal was.
Oh, look! He found it.
That would be a wrap, then. Kacca booth, it’s been real.
We did venture down a dirt path that was behind the park to see if any more pieces of the coaster remained, but getting an answer to that would have necessitated venturing into an area that could have aroused suspicion, so we turned back.
As we began the trek back to the metro, I couldn’t help but notice how the breeze carried just the slightest tinge of crispness with it. It was a welcome coolness to the heat of Moscow, but it also reminded me a bit of autumn, which on the one hand was a bit depressing because this was July and if it was cool now, then clearly the Russian word for January is the same thing as the Russian word for “fuck you,” and on the other hand, acted like it does when school begins by snapping me out of vacation mode and into serious mode.
This would prove useful because our next destination (after McDonald’s, of course) was the Saint Petersburg airport. The shuttle bus that took us there shuddered so much at red lights that I became fairly certain that the reason why Russian roads always contain twelve or more lanes is to provide ample detour space around detaching pieces from vehicles such as that one.
It was a prelude of the fun to come.
There are at least five means of conveyance in this photograph that would be superior to flying out of LED.
(Yes, one of them is the stationary coin-op horse.)