Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Metro Memories

I went to Moscow twice for a few weeks just over ten years ago in my early days as a Contractor. Russia had abandoned communism by then and was part of the C.I.S., jokingly referred to as the Commonwealth of Insolvent States. One of my lasting memories is the Metro system which I rode as often as the opportunity arose.

It is a very deep system and many of the stations are monumental, in a style known as "socialist realism". It wasn't very expensive (a couple of hundred Rubles of small change, the smallest note being 1000 Rubles at the time prior to the major currency revaluing in 1998).

Admission through the turnstiles was via token and it was a flat price across the system. The first thing that struck you was that the escalators were much faster than you are used to (if they were working, that is!) Until you got used to it, getting on and off could make you stumble.

Down on the platform, the signage was rather small and hard to read as the cyrillic lettering could get confusing. Many of the platforms had the start and finish of the line in large 3D on the far wall (e.g. Brixton <--> Walthamstow Central and Vica Versa) so you could work out which platform you wanted, but if both trains were on the platform, you were stuffed. The layout was somewhat similar to the London system (with the equivalent of a Circle line) and the interchanges were not too bad provided you knew the name of the line (the colour coding wasn't used as far as I recall). With a pocket map and a phonetic garbled mental pronounciation of the last couple of syllables I didn't get lost, but went the wrong way for a station or two at least once.

The trains were rather unremarkable but there was one thing I was forewarned about, namely the Mamoushkas- old biddies who would scold you if you weren't wrapped up well in the cold weather.


jmb said...

Interesting post.
Loved the photo of the monumental station.
I think the Mamoushkas sound rather sweet, but I'm sure the reality was not.

Shades said...

The photo is public domain from Wikipedia. Whilst there is a certain house style (Stalinesque?) all the ones I saw were different and some even had murals.

If you search for Trubnaya on Wikipedia you can see that the most recently made station still has style.

The Mamoushkas were rather ferocious!