Tamara Sheward comes eye to eye with Russia’s greatest love machine – Rasputin. Or at least, his preserved penis.

A visit to a sexual health clinic ranks about as highly as “get mugged” or “swim in sewage” on the average travel to-do list. But Russia is not an average destination: contradiction capital of the world, this is the country where ice-swimming is considered a cure-all (but summer drafts are deemed deadly), and a Big Mac can be more coveted than caviar.

And so it is that in St Petersburg – renowned for opulent palaces, gilded cathedrals and the sumptuous Hermitage – a functioning STD surgery is home to one of history’s most peculiar relics: the preserved penis of Grigori “Mad Monk” Rasputin.

Established as a means of “relaxing” self-conscious patients, the grandly-titled Museum of Erotica is not much more than a waiting-room collection of juvenile – but snicker-worthy – novelties: boob mugs, dildos ahoy and a disconcerting painting of anthropomorphoid carrots in a steamy clinch. But for history lovers (or just those interested in the history of lovin’), the main attraction is worth the awkward shuffle past the fidgeting clientele.

While not quite as eye-catching as, say, St Petersburg’s collection of Faberge eggs, Rasputin’s jampotted family jewels nevertheless command attention. Standing (or these days, bobbing) at an impressive 30cm, this embalmed extremity was “Russia’s greatest love machine”, according to Boney M… not to mention the blue (and hot-) blooded ladies of Russia’s imperial court.

It’s not an especially cute curio – much debate has raged as to whether Rasputin’s magic wand might actually be a pickled sea cucumber – but if you like your sightseeing straight-up, Grigori’s giant is an unmissable hunk of history.

The Museum of Erotica is located at 47/11 ul. Furshtatskaya, St Petersburg (Metro stop Chernyshevskaya).

Full of ecstasy and fire? Take an online tour of other raunchy repositories of note:

* Phallalogical Museum, Iceland: phallus.is

* History of Contraception Museum, USA: case.edu/affil/skuyhistcontraception

* Sex Machines Museum, Czech Republic: sexmachinesmuseum.com

* Museum of Menstruation, USA: mum.org

* Museum of Sex, USA: museumofsex.com

* Chinese Sex Culture Sex Museum, China: www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/CSM/index.htm

Photo courtesy of Way to Russia and St. Petersburg, Museum of Erotica

About Tamara Sheward

In between travelling to exotic places around the world, Tamara Sheward has worked as a toy spider salesperson, a Guinness packer, a Quizmaster and an occasional journalist. She is the author of Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in South-East Asia, the co-author of 101 Sudoku for Kids, and the author of The Little Aussie Alphabet Book and The Little Aussie Numbers Book.