Taking the metro here in Moscow takes some getting used to if you are not from a big city or if you are not used to using the metro or ‘underground’ as we Brits like to call it. As a country mouse, I found taking the metro here difficult to do and it took me at least a year to get the hang of it only using the metro on an occasional basis.
We all know Moscow is a mega city, like a bee hive that has run out of space and so the metro gets very crowded during rush hour. There is almost a continuous flow of bodies onto and off the platforms and a continuous flow of sweaty bodies on and off the trains. The seasons make a difference to your metro experience. In the summer the metro is cool and a welcome break from the city heat and smoke. Some trains have air-conditioning, while most of the trains are old and you will cook in the summer however, the trains are bright and larger than the British London Underground. In the winter, the metro is warm and a welcome break from the ice and snow. Many of the stations are beautiful to look at and offer a glimpse of the past and the Utopian Socialist work ideal. The metro is like a glorified path to ‘work for all’ rather than a journey to the hum drum working week. The Moscow metro is fairly cheap and very reliable. I think it is better than the British London underground.
Before you even get to the metro, plan your journey and study the map carefully, it will help if you can at least read the Russian alphabet and read the metro stations. As you enter the metro, your first challenge is to make it through the heavy doors without getting a broken nose. This is because they swing shut almost as if the metro does not want you to enter it but the reality is that the metro creates a kind of vacuum seal due to the constant piston action of trains pushing air through all the tunnels and the doors are heavy (sorry to sound like a geeky train spotter). Once inside, you must then buy a ticket. You can buy
tickets by single journeys or by many journeys, They come in one, ten, twenty or sixty rides. At this time of writing, sixty Moscow passes/tickets will cost you about 1,250 rubles. The women behind the ticket desk wear blue overalls and look like office cleaners, a smile is not included in the ticket price. Before you take the metro, you can ask a friend to write the station you want to go to in Latin on a piece of paper, then just say the station to the ticket women making a the gesture of both ways with your hands (a return ticket) or just hold up your fingers to say how many rides you want. At the barrier, to enter the bowels of the metro labyrinth, swipe your ticket on the yellow dot and it will deduct one ride from your ticket total and let you inside Stalin’s magical fairground ride.
Head to the escalators that plummet deep down into the abyss and to the platforms below. Stand on the right of the escalator steps as mad people who are either late or who wish to get fit without paying a gym membership, push past you going down or up to shave two minutes of their journey time! I always stand in the middle on the steps just to annoy people and to see if the woman in her glass box is still awake awake as she peacefully dozes in front of her CCTV. There is something about the low mechanical thud of the escalators that is almost hypnotic to sleep. At the bottom, make your way past the old sleeping woman who sits in her glass box. Her job is to check the escalator and make occasional important announcements just to prove to people that she is not sleeping or dead.