Now that I am no longer having an aneurysm every second worrying about what’s going on in Boston, I finally got around to posting my general Russia photos on facebook, and I ended up with 128 of them, even being as selective as I could. So I decided to use the blog to go more in depth on a few different themes. For those of you who know me and can access my FB album, this will be an interesting supplement (there’s some overlap but not much), and for anyone who doesn’t know me, it will shed some light on Russia apart from the more typical touristy photos.
Theme #1: The Moscow metro. Which is incredible. According to Wikipedia, it is the fourth busiest metro after Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing, and it serves nearly 9 million people every day. That’s more than the population of New York City, riding the metro every day. And believe me, you can tell. Even though the trains come at a maximum of 2 minutes apart (there’s a timer on each platform that ticks the seconds since the last departure, and I think the highest I ever saw it get was like 2:16), the stations are always crowded, and Russians will always throw elbows and knees to get past you and into a waiting train. Or onto an escalator to exit the station. Or across the platform to wait on the other side. Really, Russians will just shove you aside for basically no reason at all. This made me very grateful for my familiarity with Bulgarian, which enabled me to read signs quickly and orient myself on the correct platforms and escalators, because the language inside the stations is exclusively Russian (in St Petersburg, signs are pretty uniformly written in Cyrillic and Latin letters). Bulgarian Cyrillic and Russian Cyrillic are a little different from each other, but they’re similar enough that I could always get the information that I needed. This went a long way toward making me feel more comfortable navigating the enormous city.
I should preface the rest of this post by saying that I took these pictures while on the Moscow Metro Tour offered by the Moscow Free Tour company. I visited most of these stations on my own at other points during my Moscow stay, but quite honestly, it probably would never have occurred to me to look at the ceiling in some of these stations–in fact, I had already gone through Belorusskaya Station on my way into Moscow initially because it’s where the Aeroexpress train arrives and not even realized there was anything on the ceiling. So I do owe the tour operators a thank you. Overall, I was happy with the tour, which was quite informative, but it is a little hectic (and sometimes inaudible) trying to follow a tour group in metro stations for all of the reasons listed above. Out of respect to the tour, though, I won’t write much information I learned from them, I’ll just mostly post pictures with a brief description.
The one fact I do want to mention is the fact that all the metro stations have built-in hermetic seals so that they can be used as evacuation sites in case of nuclear war. Once the tour guide pointed that out, I noticed it in all of the stations in Moscow and St Petersburg. I don’t have a picture of it, however.
Here are some of the interesting, picturesque Moscow metro stations:
Teatralnaya – Blurry, but sculptures of the muses and other performing arts-related figures
Ploshtad Revolutsii – Soviet propaganda sculptures along the platform
Kurskaya – Temple-like lobby; one of the only places in Moscow where you can still see Stalin’s name written. A statue of Stalin used to be in the alcove; now replaced by a surveillance camera (seriously!)
Komsomolskaya – Soviet mosaics on the ceiling. A lot of these used to have Stalin in them but were re-done to feature Lenin instead.
Novoslobodskaya – Art Nouveau stained glass on the platforms and a big, glittery Soviet mosaic
Belorusskaya – Images of Belorussian pastoral life on the ceiling
Mayakovskaya – More Soviet artwork on the ceiling
By the end of my trip, I was pretty overwhelmed by Moscow, including its metro–it’s sort of the same reaction I get when I’ve overstayed my time in New York–but still, their stations sure are cool.