Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Tom Geisler, a reader who has recently returned from a visit to the Russian Federation. While in Moscow, Tom organized his own trip out to the Russian Air Force Museum at Monino. He’s been kind enough to permit me to post his letter. Here’s what Tom had to say about his visit to the museum:
I contacted you about visiting the Russian AF Museum at Monino a few weeks ago.
We actually went to the museum. The directions provided by your website were of indispensable help.
We were in Russia with a tour company called Overseas Adventure Travel. They tried their best to not have us go there by ourselves by first saying that we needed a driver/guide at 500 rubles/hour. That cost eventually went to 1,000 rubles/hour. Then they said we could not get in under any circumstances. They then tried to discourage us by saying the train was dirty and dangerous. It was not!
We rejected all of those scenarios and told them we would take the Metro and the train to the museum anyway.
We followed the directions from your website. We only had two minor problems. We missed a checkpoint and probably walked an extra 5 minutes when going to the museum. It took us twenty minutes total to get from the train station to the museum. And, in going back to our hotel, we found that we could not get back into the Metro Station building from which we had exited at the Yaroslavskii Station. The entrance is a set of steps going down on the street in front of the Station.
There was no problem getting into the grounds of the museum/academy. We noticed while walking to the museum that all of the gates to the academy were open and there were no guards. I think we could have walked right through the academy and no one would have cared. There were knots of cadets or officers standing around here and there smoking.
My partner speaks German and she was able to converse with some of the cadets in that language. We wanted to be reassured occasionally that we were still going in the right direction.
We arrived at the museum and a lady walking behind us showed us where the ticket office was. She worked there. We were there at 0900 when it opened and were the first ones there. The museum director who spoke English, greeted us and asked where we were form and when we said the USA, he put his arms around us and said, “Welcome my friends. Come in.” He asked whether we wanted a guide and when we said no, he said. “You came to just take pictures, fine.”
He then offered us a picture booklet with explaining the aircraft on display. A retired Colonel Victor Kazashvili had authored the booklet. He was there too so I bought the booklet ($10) and shook his hand and suggested he sign it. He did and inscribed: “To Thomas. Thank you for your love of aviation.” It was in Russian of course and I had to have it translated later. The Colonel was 81 years old and started flying the Yak 3 in WW-II and flew a succession of aircraft finishing with the MiG-17.
At that point the director asked in we needed the lavatory and when we said yes he said, “I take you.” It was in a different building. When we got there he said, “I wait you.” Afterward he walked to the museum gate with us where an old lady was taking tickets and selling souvenirs (the only ones available other than the booklet at the ticket office). The director wished us a good visit and bid us farewell.
Now could it have been more friendly that that?! Overall it was easy to there. An hour and twenty minutes by train from the Yaroslavskii Station. However, it is important that you have all the Metro Station and train station and other pertinent names in the Cyrillic spelling otherwise you will not recognize anything and will be completely confused.
There were a total of 108 actual aircraft on display. They say 185 but that must include models, etc.
No prior notice is required, the people are friendly and the museum is definitely a worthwhile visit.
As an aside, the tour company did get us into Star City where we inspected the facilities. We also had a half hour session with cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin who had been in space twice. The first time was a 180 day stint aboard MIR. He was scheduled to do one more mission to the International Space Station. It was revealing that he was able to stand there at Star City and say out loud without fear that all the astronauts and cosmonauts get along like brothers. It’s just the politicians that screwed things up. He suggested that they all ought to sent into space so they can look back at the fragile earth and begin to make the right decisions.
I was in the Strategic Air Command in the 1950s. At one point I was stationed with our B-52s at Brize-Norton RAF Station in England. We had a C-47 which we could fly to Western Europe and Denmark on weekends. But we were forbidden to go to Sweden, Norway or Finland due to the Cold War paranoia. If at that time someone had said I would be sitting in the Cosmonauts Cafeteria in Star City enjoying lunch, I would have had believed them to be insane.
We spent 4 days in Kiev, Ukraine, 4 days in Moscow, then took a 6 day, 1,000 mile cruise up the Volga and other rivers and lakes to spend 4 days in St. Petersburg. A marvelous trip.
PS. The Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow has about 20 aircraft and helicopters and lots of tanks, etc. on display.
Many thanks to Tom for the report on his trip to the Air Force Museum (as well as his visits to Star City and the Red Army Museum)!