Ural Steel â€“ Death Machines up Close and Personal
[Note: Read Part 1 here]
After a well rested 2-3 hours sleep I had breakfast and got onto the coach to the Kubinka tank museum. The drive there wasnâ€™t meant to be very long, just a few kilometres but then again this is Moscow and the traffic was murder thus turning it into a three hour drive.
On the way there I looked out for road signs in the hope that I might be able to understand some Russian but instead of road signs to Kubinka the Russians decided it would be a good idea to use tanks. Â IS-8 tanks if I recall correctly. Â I tell you itâ€™s eerie to see your tier 9 med (yeah yeah, heavy) used as a sign post! No the tank didnâ€™t have a sign on it; it was the sign and it was freaking awesome. Â So awesome in-fact that everyone else in the press bus either didnâ€™t notice or didnâ€™t care. Damned non-tankies.
As we disembarked from the coach at Kubinka we were instructed to stay still and wait for the tour guide. Â I of course ignored this and puttered off to go find some tanks and boy did I find some tanks. Â Now Kubinka isnâ€™t like most European museums and certainly not like Bovington!Â Itâ€™s about eight hangers of tanks, side by side, both sides. Â Everything from experimental amphibian vehicles to the Maus are in these hangers from every country and it was crazy. The way these tanks were on display really made you realise what these things were made for. Theyâ€™re not designed to be in a heated room with a good paint job and a plinth. Â No one minded if you touched the tanks here or if you ran your fingers over the rushed welding.Â The feeling you get from the cool steel and roughness of the machines is something totally different from the glorified feeling you get from the European style museums.
After what seemed like just a few moments it was lunch time, well, sort of. We were given some pickle and some… gruel? I wasnâ€™t able to identify it but it wasnâ€™t too bad at all and I quickly ate most of my plate. I had about two hours to get things done before we retreated back to the hotel so it was time for a few team interviews!
I grabbed Odem Motis [OM] and I asked them where they wanted to go. They pick the armoured train and we climb on board. Â I fumble about with my woefully unsuited equipment and regret my decision not to bring my big camera again and despair my assumption there would be a power supply and rooms for me to do interviews in. Non-the-less OM and I battle it out and have an fantastic interview [See below]
I decide that I wasnâ€™t going to do any more interviews here thus postpone the other interviews until later.Â I mingle with the teams and visit the toilets and oh god we visited the toilets.Â Someone tried to trick us to go into these toilets to see â€ślittle tanksâ€ť but we were not fooled as you could smell these things from 10 paces. Â Now, have you ever been at a convention and smelt a geek? You know the one, not the awesome cool ones like us who play tanks but the other smelly ones? Â Itâ€™s like that smell multiplied by about a hundred. Â After we recover from this chemical weapon attack weâ€™re told to hang about near the food-court as something totally not illegal and dangerous will be happening soon. Â Awesome. Â Unfortunately for the players they were ushered off the premises and we were left around the food court for some time.
I sit down to start sorting out my notes as Iâ€™m greeted by a press Iâ€™ve never seen before. Â I introduce myself dismissively as no other press knows anything about Tanks and Iâ€™m not in the mood for non-tank related chit chat. Â Iâ€™m quickly put on the back foot however as he asks follow-up questions about my casting that I should know but at this point being only a caster for two weeks, I didnâ€™t. Â I stumble around with my words trying to portray my actual standing until eventually I ask who he was. â€śBeeSâ€ť he says â€śfrom WorldofTanks.tvâ€ť. Â Oh… OH!
For those of you unaware of BeeS, he is a professional player and caster of World of Tanks that runs a site that streams World of Tanks. Â He has been a massive fan of WoT for longer than I have even known that it existed. Â He pokes holes in my knowledge in a playful manner and again I feel like an utter noob in his shadow.Â Great; no camera, no internet and again I feel the utter noob.
Things progress into a more normal conversation, BeeS is a really nice guy and so is his cameraman Dmitry. Â Dmitry couldnâ€™t speak English but could understand it just fine. Â The next few hours flew past in what felt like five minutes playing a combination of charades and guess what the Russian is trying to say, and if it isnâ€™t a game then it should be because it was so cool.
The surprise arrives; a T-34/85 with a totally sound driver that is going to have us climb on-board to drive around the field just behind the museum. Â This event was a very solid idea by Wargaming as the T-34/85 is one of the most iconic and arguably the most effective tank of World War II, and weâ€™re going to be some lucky bastards that get to ride on it. Aww yeah!
Before the ride starts BeeS and Dmitry try to teach me some Russian but Iâ€™m a stiff upper-lip Englishman and cannot seem to form any of the sounds the Russian words need. â€śListenâ€ť he says and speaks some more Russian. Â My following attempts to copy are so poor that a crowd formed around us just to catch a front row seat to this amazing entertainment.
Once I was done being a show monkey we climb aboard the tank and hold on for dear life because if you fall off a tank youâ€™re done for. This is a machine of death weâ€™re talking about here and to expect anything less would be foolish. The driver takes it easy to prevent this from happening and we do a circuit of the museum. The terrain was pretty damn rough and you could feel every motion, I can only imagine what it would be like to have been a tankie working in this beast day-in and day-out.Â As we pass a group of children playing on some of the display tanks, I give a salute and try to look as cool as I could. The trouble was I looked like a poor imitation of Jesus that was long overdue a haircut and shave and no matter how I posed I wouldnâ€™t look any cooler than Duane Dibbley but I was riding on top of a real tank so I felt as cool as Samuel L. Jackson giving a speech about righteousness and furious anger. Â Unfortunately the T-34/85 came to a halt and I had to jump off.
I was approached by Arthur who had arranged the ride â€śhow was it?â€ť he inquired.
â€śOf course awesome butâ€ť, I said â€śsurely that thing could go faster?â€ť
â€śAh wellâ€ť he responds with an uncomfortable shrug of his shoulders â€śitâ€™s for your safety; we donâ€™t want any of you falling off!â€ťÂ I laugh heartily at this and exclaim that weâ€™re riding on a machine designed purely to kill and would somebody be enough of a tool not to hold on for their dear life? Well, people said that thereâ€™s no health and safety in Russia, I guess they were wrong!
We retire to the briefing hall where alcohol and food has been laid out aplenty and we tuck in. I try this cocktail that tastes mostly of mint whilst BeeS, Dmitry and I discuss tactics for what seemed like a minute but was apparently a lot longer. Â We get outside and see the two Italian reporters Francesco and Andrea looking up at military jets and have a quick chuckle about bosses who wanted their reporters to take photos and videos of Russian military bases and vehicles without thinking that it might be frowned upon by the Russians, just a tiny, weenie, little bit.
The coach ride back was like a night out in a pub. Â I met many people on that coach ride, many of which I can remember their faces vividly but not names. Â Shortly after the coach departed the museum almost every other guy on the coach pulled out a bottle. Â Wine, whiskey and spirits were now on tap for this ride. Â Time flew and stories were shared, many laughs were had and BeeS invited me back to his and I accepted; apparently he had internet that worked! Â Yes, I thought, at last I could get some work done and experience Russia outside of the hotel. Â Things are looking up but the bottles were getting empty and bladders were getting full…
The coach arrived at the hotel with my bladder hurting; I was so desperate for the toilet I ran out first into the hotel and onto the elevator. Â Of course my room was on the 7th floor but I burst into my room without making a mess and got to the toilet. Â The relief was bliss.
I got back downstairs and looked for BeeS. Â I couldnâ€™t find him anywhere and the lobby was pretty empty. Â I guess he mistook my running to the toilet as me running away! Â The lobby and bar were mostly empty but this was expected for the night before the tournament. Â I assumed many of the players and teams would be getting an early night but there were still a few there, namely the Banned Angels or -G- from America. These guys were really cool and I decided to set up my laptop and camera for an awesome interview. Â With the problems sorted from the practice with Odem Mortis and a power socket nearby we setup and have a jolly good chat (technical issues has thus far prevented me from putting this up).
We share a few drinks and hang out until they decide they need to retire to their rooms. Â On the way to my room however I notice Brendan and the driver of the T-34/85 on the decking outside so I decide to go say hello. Â The conversation and company were so good that many hours passed before I decide to retire to my room and fall face first onto my bed; immediately unconscious.
What have we learnt so far? Â That I know nothing about tanks compared to real tank experts, that I am a noob, that Iâ€™ve got the wrong equipment with me to do what I wanted, I canâ€™t speak Russian and Russian toilets really smell. Â Well, at least I was learning and the experience is one I wouldnâ€™t give up for the world.
That was day 2.