My Enthusiastic Big Brother has recently discovered the word ‘selfie’.
What it’s for, apparently, is shouting out while grabbing your friends and relations in a headlock, making triumphant horn shapes with your fingers and mugging madly in the direction of… what?
No, I don’t know either.
Mama says he might be missing a vital element to the concept there, but is oddly reluctant to tell us what it is.
She does hint though. One of her clues is that this is relevant because the Museum of Illusions in Moscow’s VDNH complex offers you the opportunity to have your picture taken in a variety of unlikely poses.
Now, Mama wouldn’t say that the Museum of Illusions, which houses a number of different attractions under this umbrella name, really warrants the title ‘museum’. Because it has no educational value whatsoever. Says Mama. Because it is designed to be fun! Say us kids. And so we immediately chose as our first stopping off point, the Butterfly Garden.
Well, small room, actually, with a number of rather battered looking butterflies determinedly clinging to the walls. But also, tiny song birds flitting about, tarantulas and other creepy crawlies to shiver over, a somewhat angry cockatoo and giant lizards you could hold.
Mama thought we were well in at this point, as one of my favourite things in the whole world in the UK was going to the pet shops to stare at the bearded dragons, but because it was a Thursday, the sky was blue, Mama was wearing jeans and I’d had pancakes for breakfast (or something – I forget), I took right agin’ the whole Butterfly Garden experience. Thus I followed Mama and my Enthusiastic Big Brother about loudly complaining as he proudly displayed his new reptilian accessories and gave impromptu animal fact lectures to any visitor who stood still long enough.
Which they were quite obliging about, because mostly what they were doing was staring smolderingly into a camera lens while trying not to get their ear bitten off by the cockatoo on their shoulder.
Eventually, my persistence won out and we decided to go and see what the Museum of Illusions section was all about.
More photography, apparently. Not an explanatory placard in sight. See? Mama told you.
Basically, there are a lot of out of shape pictures painted at odd angles on the walls. You are supposed to go and stand in front of them while somebody takes your picture.
It was weird and, frankly, VERY BORING.
I mean, I like having my picture taken as much as the next five year old, but there is a limit, when almost none of the scenarios feature horses, princesses, or pink and there isn’t any dressing up involved.
Particularly as most of the illusions weren’t, Mama discovered quickly, designed with people my or even my Increasingly Less Enthusiastic Big Brother’s size in mind. So instead of sitting on the dragon, we’d be perched in the middle of her tummy. Or snatching wildly at the wand hovering a foot above our heads.
Or failing miserably to be nearly crushed by the advancing robots. Or make it onto the giant’s dinnerplate entirely.
Mind you, this briefly cheered up my By Now A Bit Less Enthusiastic Big Brother as he got to wield the expensive camera while Mama cavorted about happily. But none of that helps you, dear reader, when she isn’t going to put any of them on the Internet.
And then we tried the town which had been stood on its head. Now Mama would have said that we felt much the same way about this area as we did about the Museum of Illusions section. This is because there were a lot of posing opportunities for tall people which were probably hysterical when they downloaded their memory stick, but not much to actually do if you are my height aside from look at things inexplicably stuck to the ceiling.
Except the open bank vault. Lots of little bits of green paper there to throw about. Unfortunately, given the existence of a number of other families intent on getting their quota of happy snaps in, Mama let us spend less time there that we would have liked.
However, the reason this review is getting written some considerable time after I wandered around the whole entertainment complex whining about how much I wanted to leave and go and do something more interesting, is that only the other day I reminded Mama how funny that Upside Down Town was, and begged her to take us back.
Why this caused her to become speechless and stare at me like a constipated fish I do not know. If you can’t be capricious when you are five, when can you be?
Possibly what we had needed was a snack break. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cafe on site. But since this is VDNH there will at least be retro ice cream, boiled sweetcorn and soft drink carts within ten metres of the entrance.
As it was, Mama headed for the exit immediately after enduring my apparently fake display of crossness around this exhibit. She didn’t even attempt the plate smashing area, the maze of mirrors, the exploration of the human body or the house of horror. She did keep the tickets though, so clearly it is time to dig them out again. Because you can pay for each of the areas separately, or you can buy an inclusive ticket for a reasonable discount which allows you to pick five of the twelve available. You will want to do this. Some of the experiences are more substantial than others, but most of them are not going to occupy you for all that long. If you do find yourself sucked into an extended photography session, then you can bring your ticket back any time to knock off the other areas.
Basically if you are in the mood, and if you are of a sensible height, and if you feel your Instagram feed has gotten a little dull lately, the Museum of Illusions is for you. And in case you should find yourself well away from the fabulousness of VDNH and closer to the centre, there’s a whole set of similar experiences there on the Arbat! And in Ekaterinaburg! And St Petersburg! And Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk and Barcelona!
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Address: VDNH, Prospekt Mira 119, Pavilion No. 55.
Opening: 10am to 7pm weekdays and 10am to 8pm weekends and holidays.
Admission: 350 roubles (less than you think, more than before Brexit) for one attraction, 1000 roubles (very reasonable indeed, but a shame about that dropping pound, eh?) for five. No limit on when you can come back and use your tickets, so no need to rush round.
By public transport: Get off at VDNH (orange line) and then walk the length of the ex-Soviet exhibition space to the giant space rocket towards the back. The Museum is next to the all new History Museum and opposite the Polytechnic Museum and round the corner from Moskvarium.
By car: I don’t care.