Moscow Metro: Reader Report (2009)


Figure 1.--Here is a view insideca Metro car. Riders read, listen to MP3 players, sleep and sit quietly--all acceptable behaviours. Notice all the denim. It was once possible to identufy Russians in photographs by the way Russians dress. This is no longer possible. Russians now dress in the same Pan-European styles that began to become popular in the 1970s. Also notice the baseball cap.

Here is my experiences with the Metro upon arriving in Moscow. Metro is huge, in fact the busiest in the World. I am familiar with the Londin Underground, but Metro is much larger. I am now often mistaken for a Russian and a conversation can follow which leaves me wondering what was said. I am learning Russian, but am just at the intermediate stage. Sometimes I grasp the point. I first ventured into the Metro with friends. At first it was daunting. Now I am a frequent user.

Size

The Moscow Metro is the busiest in the world and daily carries the totals of London and the New York Systems put together. Trains come through about a minute apart and transport you swiftly at speeds of over 50 miles an hour to your destination.

First Experience

The Moscow Metro is a bewildering place when you first encounter it. It is something to be experienced. When I first travel on the London underground I might have felt the same way but I canít recall it being such an ordeal. The memory is a pleasant one. The difference was I was travelling alone on that occasion. Not so when I encountered the Moscow Metro. I was with my Tajik friend and her son made sure I did not get lost in the melee of travellers. He held my hand tightly as he followed his mum and guided me to the right platform. I marvelled at their ability to get from A to B. Little did I know that using the Metro was very easy to do! I did not know how easy it was until I travelled alone. That opportunity came suddenly in August last year. I was taken to the post office near the directorís home to collect all my packages and afterwards I had to make my own way back to Sosniy. A journey I managed with some trepidation.

Solo Venture

The next time I travelled on the Metro I had a very strange experience. I had arrived at Arbotskaya and I wanted to leave. I soon discovered the Russian word for exit. This was not much help considering the complex nature of this particular station with its many levels and different exits. The direction signs didnít help for they were only in Russian and unfamiliar words. I had no idea which way was the best way to leave. As I looked around I had a sensation of child whom I know well, holding my hand and this continued as long as I walked in a certain direction. If I changed the route the sensation went away. Turning and going in the Ďrightí direction made the feeling return. When I came out of the Metro I was by the Lenin Library and happily recognised where I was. I realised that I must have come that way with Munira and her son. It could be thought of a sixth sense experience and it was he who was guiding me through the station to a point in Moscow that I knew. For several weeks after I never found that way out of the station.

Tour

Now I am a frequent Metro traveller and hardly go astray on my Metro journeys. The Metro and the London underground map have one thing in common. They are plans of a transport system and are not maps. You can spend ages travelling on different lines to reach where you want to go only to find when you leave the underground that the stations are but a short distance apart. Let me take you on a Metro journey. We travel on the number 3 Dark Blue line. First an historical over view. There had been talk of an underground rail system for Moscow in 1902. Not much happened until after the 1917 Revolution. Things really got underway in the 1930ís. Stalin was the President then and he encouraged the building of the Metro. Two young engineers were in charge. One was Nikita Khrushchev and the other engineerís I canít remember. I have included a Metro plan so you can see the system. One feature sticks out a mile. This is the brown circular line. It resembles a stain from a coffee cup. It is said to be just that. The story goes that the engineers were briefing Stalin on the progress of the project. He was shown the plans. At the time he was drinking coffee. He put the cup on the plans. It left a stain and the engineers took this as a sign from Stalin to build a circle route and off course it became the brown line.

History: Construction

The building of the Metro would involve a large labour force. Indeed the red army was drafted in to help with the construction. Many other workers came from all the regions of the Soviet Union. The various youth organisations also took part in the construction of the Metro. School boys went from school to the Youth groups and then to the Metro where they played their part in its construction. I have enclosed a photograph showing school children working on the Metro. I think 30,000 children were the Metroís junior labour force. All this was voluntary work which the children did willingly. I think Baden Powel would have been quite envious of this feat. I suspect he would have liked his scouts to have been involved in infrastructure projects which would remain for ever. Instead they had to make do with building adventure playgrounds. There is no doubt that the Scouts had the talent to do this. Their World Jamborees were well organised. At these events they displayed many scouting activities and what they could build on a grand scale. Building a Metro would have been a great challenge but they never got the opportunity as did Russian youth organisations. In gratitude a metro station is named after them.

Metro Journeys

Journeying on the Metro is an adventure. It is hard to decide if you are journeying on a transport system or on a museum and art gallery ride because both these experiences are occur each time you ride the rails. To find a Metro look for the Big red W. On entering you have to watch out that the swing doors donít knock you for a 6. The first thing is to buy a ticket. It is useful to be able to ask in Russian. I often buy a ticket for 5 journeys. It is cheaper than single journeys. These are magnetic tickets and are read by a machine that lets you through the opening. If it changes its mind then instantly a metal bar shoots across the entrance. There is an attendant on hand to get you over this difficulty. The second thing with tickets is that you canít tell if your ticket is used up. The attendant told me about the wondrous machine you use to check if your ticket is valid. It works and to my amazement I found Iíd 3 tickets with 1 journey left on them.. Despite this reassurance the machine at the entrance accepted my ticket then the magic bar was activated and blocked my entrance. Seconds later I had got it sorted and I was on the plat form waiting for the Metro train. On the escalator you are taken deep down onto the platform. There are signs showing the colour code. I want the Dark Blue Line so I follow that sign and soon I am on the platform. There is a further board to read and this tells you the platform for your train. On the platform wall is a series of boards showing the stations along the route. The stations also list the other Metro lines accessed from it. This is easy to read. Should you not be sure where you are the first station is coloured red. This is the Metro station where you are at. Common mistakes are to go in the opposite direction to which you are travelling. Getting off at the wrong Metro and exiting at the wrong exit. You can accidently follow a crowd and end up on the wrong line at interchange stations.

Metro Car Ridess

I have enclosed a photograph showing the sort of activities to expect while travelling. Reading, listening to MP3 players, sleeping and sitting quietly are acceptable behaviours. Sometime a sleeping traveller can snore very loudly and this causes great amusements among the wakeful. In the carriages at each Station in Russian is an anouncement of the station the train is coming into. When it continues its journey there is a further announcement of the next stop. You have to listen hard but I have found the station name is the last thing the conductor says. On more modern trains there is an electronic board showing the route and a red indicator shows where you are.

Palatial Stations and Art

The fun bit comes when you spot art work specially designed for the Metro. Murals of people building the system, grand parades and wedding processions line the walls. My favourite Metro is the stop after Arbotskaya. At this station are statues which depict the 1917 Revolution! It is like a still photograph from a Hollywood film. Statues are in alcoves holding a 6 shooter and seem to be having a shoot-out. There are about 70 statues here about this aspect of Russian History.








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Created: 6:56 PM 2/27/2009
Last updated: 6:56 PM 2/27/2009