The Metro, Moscow

Trip Start Mar 13, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Sunday, April 29, 2007

One thing you quickly figure out in Moscow is that almost any car here is potentially a taxi. If you look like a tourist or are around a place tourists frequent, cars will stop the drivers yelling "Taksi?"  Inevitiably, these cars are all beat up old Ladas, never one of the many nice Western brands that cruise Moscow streets, and usually have nothing to indicate they're anything more than an average Ivan trying to make a few extra roubles.

But why take a taxi through Moscow's horrendous traffic when you can travel around in a work of art for about 50 cents. Moscow's Metro is one of the world's most extensive and supposedly in the top three in total usage.  The Metro stations were built mostly in the Stalin years and extremely deep so they could also be used as air raid shelters.  But what the stations are most famous for is their art and design, all done in marble and decorated in stucco, reliefs, mosaics, stained glass, and chandeliers.  The artistic themes vary from somewhat station to station but mostly center around Russian history and the happy life of the Soviet people.  A couple have military themes, one a cosmonaut theme, another based entirely on the figures and events of the Revolution, the one at Kiev Station depicting Ukrainian contributions to the Soviet world and that at Belarus Station the life of Belarussian peasantry, etc.  One evening I figured I'd do a little artistic tour of the allegedly more interesting stations.  The crazy guy taking pictures of the walls and ceilings of the Metro stations was the subject of quite a few perplexed stares, but I did notice one woman who was watching me then walk the length of the station looking at all the murals she probably had passed a thousand times before and never taken notice of.

My last Metro trip of the night was back to a very northerly part of Moscow beyond the TV Tower and across from the Botanical Gardens where our hotel is located, surrounded by lots of Khruscheby (Khruschev-era projects/slums).  Saturday night on the Moscow Metro resembles the New York City Subway after the Saint Patrick's Day parade, with groups of buddies passing the vodka bottles around to each other and solo passed-out riders in the seats.  I wasn't in the mood to make any new Russian friends on the way home, so I figured I'd try to look inconspicuous and would hopefully be ignored.  In order to look Russian I picked up an empty beer bottle standing on the floor and planned to carry it the rest of the way home.

I made it out of the Metro fine but then (still holding my empty beer bottle) ran into three jovial young drunks outside the station who really wanted me to be their friend.  Maybe they just wanted cigarettes, or a few roubles to buy more booze with since they seemed to be out; I don't know.  Once I escaped from them, though, I figured it would be best to stick my arm out into the street and hop into the first Lada that stopped and asked "Taksi?" instead of attempting the long walk back to the hotel at 11:00 at night.
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