By Jack Alscher and Darcy McDonald
Welcome to the Modern History Tour Blog! This post covers from departure in Sydney to end of Day 1 in Moscow.
At 6 o'clock we arrived at Sydney for the start of our tour. After a hurried farewell, us 45 checked in, and some boys after checking were excited to find that they had been given seats on the Upper Deck of the A380. We whizzed through immigration, blasted through security, and were given an hour of free time to spend before our flight. Some boys made last minute purchases, Mr Verco got started on the Massage Chair, and most made the journey to McDonalds. Shoutout to Mathias Cornman, who some of us saw as we walked to the gate.
We boarded quickly, and quickly found our seats scattered all over the plane. After the longest safety video in living memory, we took off to Doha. 14.5 hours and 2 meals later, we arrived to the middle of the desert. A quick connection later, we all safely made it onto the plane to Moscow - it was interesting to note our route: to avoid all the embargoes/hotspots all over the Middle East, we banked right over Iran, and made north over Uzbekistan and Russia. This paved way to some fantastic photo opportunities of valleys and mountains, and (along with the amount of coffee consumed) helped keep many of the boys awake.
Landing in Moscow, the first point of call was getting through arrivals. After many emails from Mr Ruddock over the last few weeks, we were prepared for how to get through customs, but the impassive, straight faces of the officers who used the same tone of voice for everything they said did take us all by surprise. Nonetheless, with baggage in hand, we arrived safely.
The cameras began clicking wildly at every angle as soon as we left the airport, taking pictures of the car park, as well as the different cars and chaos of the airport. Following meeting with Alexander, our guide, we joined the crawl of traffic into the city, with Alexander pointing out various points of interest and telling us stories of the origins of Moscow, and its progressive development over the years.
Our stop for today was the Central Arms Museum, a 'must see' according to our guide. However, nothing prepared us for the scale of the museum, covering in incredible detail and (Russian?) depth all of the major conflicts that Russia had competed in, ranging from the Napoleonic wars back in the 18th century to the modern day Syrian conflict. Whilst Mr Ruddock and a few of us discussed the fact that some of the battles were presented from a very nationalistic viewpoint, and therefore didn't provide an accurate assessment of the reality of many of Russia's failed operations, what made this museum really special were some of the incredible artefacts rrecovered from the 'battlefield', such as the real US U2 recon plane captained by Gary Powers that the Soviet Union shot down in the 1950's. This event sparked one of the most difficult diplomatic crisis the world has ever seen, and which was the imputes for Steven Spielberg's incredible Cold War spy film "Bridge of Spies." This was an artefact I never thought existed, and judging from the reactions of many of us, many thought didn't exist.
For Darcy and I, two things stood out the most. The main hallway of the museum held a huge monument of the Battle of Berlin, where there were masses upon masses of crosses, prepared for the likely deaths of millions during that final push. Something about the number of the crosses I found simply both impressive and horrific: impressive, because of the importance of such a victory, horrific, because of the huge numbers of soldiers that died during this assault.
However, perhaps the most thought provoking exhibit was at the end of the museum, where you could walk around many of the Russian equipment used during their campaigns: ranging from trains used by Trotsky and others during the Russian Civil War, as well as artillery, planes and tanks. Simply witnessing the sheer size of all of the weaponry used made me think not only of the futility of war, but of the huge economical consequences of engaging in warfare.
Arriving at the hotel late in the afternoon, we checked in, had an early dinner, and many played cards before collapsing in bed. Others "checked out" the gym, before deciding the need for an early morning "sesh" tomorrow morning.
Regardless, a huge thanks to all the teachers who got us here safely! Marcus Pham and Harry Quinn will be back tomorrow.