Saturday, September 22, 2007

Moscow Metro

Without its Metro, it is hard to imagine that Moscow would exist in its present form. Traffic clogs all the streets of this enormous city most of the day and into the evening. The Metro is usually the fastest way to get around, if not the most pleasant. It too is overcrowded, especially at rush hours, and is not for the claustrophobic. Still, it is cheap and extremely efficient, and some of the stations are really pretty, with Art Deco charm and Soviet art in the form of mosaics.

A card for ten rides costs 170 roubles, about $7. You put the card in front of a sensor on the turnstile and it tells you how many rides you have left. Be sure to consult the map on the wall before boarding the Metro, and preferably also carry a copy of the system with you. Within a couple of days I memorized the route between my hotel and the Kremlin, but I still needed to consult the map to go anywhere else.

The escalators descending to the platforms can be very long and steep, and they move very fast. Unless you are running up or down, stand to the right. You can watch the people on the other side coming up as you descend, and they all appear to be leaning forward. Being cautious, I worried a little about what would happen if someone fell or fainted while on or getting off the escalator. But guards equipped with cameras giving several views sit at the bottom of the long, long lines and can stop the escalators if there is a problem.

A bigger problem is crowding, both in getting onto the trains and once inside. I rode about seven stops from the Kremlin each day, and rarely did I get a seat. Sometimes I did feel nearly crushed by the mostly taller Russians, although riders were generally polite. Once, trying to get off to transfer to the popular Circle Line, I was pushed hard by a young man behind me.

Still, you see quite old people, some with canes, riding the Metro, or young parents with small children, who are too short to reach the bars to hold on in the Metro cars. The Metro is obviously a great achievement of Soviet engineering and a boon to locals and tourists alike, but be prepared for lots of fellow riders. Of course, the best solution is to stay downtown where you can walk to most of the places you want to go, but on a budget in Moscow that is simply out of the question unless you are willing to stay in a hostel or rent a furnished apartment for several weeks.


Blogger R Duane Willing said...

Hello Margaret
Thanks for a pleasant and fun read.It almost feels like being there. With some pre-trip reading in travel guides and local situated novels and literature, this blog could really help in saving some money. Mogen, St Denis

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