Grandeur of by-gone era, buried 74m underground.
Greetings blog fans. Today’s Moscovian adventure took us under the city, once again into the city’s Metro system, to check out the frescos, stained glass and fading grandeur of the Moscow Metro. This metropolitan subway system opened in 1935 with a single 11km line and 13 stations; today it has 188 stations, 12 lines, covers more than 300km and is 74m underground at its deepest point. With 9 million daily users, the Moscow Metro is the world’s third most heavily used rapid transit system, after Tokyo and Seoul. So we’ve now officially used the world’s 3 busiest metro systems!
The Moscow Metro has been described as one of the USSR’s most extravagant architectural projects. Stalin ordered the Metro’s artists and architects to design a structure that embodied svet (translation = “radiance” or “brilliance”), and which would encourage Russian citizens to look up, admiring the station’s art. With their mixture of architectural styles, iconography, sculptures and artwork, the stations are considered one of modern Moscow’s great tourist attractions. We happily spent a couple of hours going from station to station, looking at depictions of the mighty Soviet Republic and its achievements.
1. Komsomolskaya Metro Station. The imposing Baroque celling, painting in yellow is decorated with eight mosaic panels of smalt and precious stones. The theme of the panels represent the Russian fight for freedom and independence throughout history.
2. Novoslobodskaya Metro Station. Best known for its 32 stained glass panels, which are surrounded by elaborate brass borders and illuminated from within. The overall theme of this station is “Peace Throughout the World.”
3. Mayakovskaya Metro Station. This station represents a Soviet future as envisioned by the poet Mayakovsky. There are a total of 34 ceiling mosaics by Alexander Deyneka all designed to show this bright future; the idea being that passengers could look up and see the bright Soviet future right above.
4. Shosse Entuziastov Station. The design theme of the station is the struggle for freedom during Russia’s history. Sculptures and pictures relating to revolutionary subjects adorn the walls.
5. Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station. Near Red Square, this station pays homage to all the Russians who took part in the 1917 revolution. There are numerous bronze statues of grim-faced revolutionaries, many with their knees rubbed to a lustrous shine as Moscovites believe this will bring them luck.
6. Partizanskaya Metro Station. This is our “local” station and is dedicated to the Soviets who fought against the Nazis in World War II. The grand sculpture at the top of the stairs is called “Partisans” and bears the inscription “To partisans and partisan glory!”
The Metro tour was our only excursion today as we had to check out of the Izmailovo Hotel Gamma-Delta and prepare for our biggest adventure yet: an overnight train from massive metropolis of Moscow to the tiny town of Pskov (population 200,000). We were a little daunted by the thought of spending a night on a RUSSIAN train, but so far, so good. We DID invest in upgrading to a first class, private 2-berth carriage, so at least we have a door on our carriage we can lock, and we have some privacy. The “standard” bunks in third class are just open with nowhere to store your stuff securely, which we were not comfortable with at all; this way at least we can sleep securely.
Note: You may have noticed from the photo above that Shane has acquired a new haircut. He left me to go searching for food and came back with that haircut. Apparently he asked for a “short back and sides”. Guess his Russian still needs some work…, or maybe that’s what a “short back and sides” looks like in Russia??
Pskov is right up in the North-West of Russia, virtually on the Estonian border; it will take our train 15 hours to cover the 743kms – that’s REALLY slow going! We left Moscow Central Station at 4:00pm and will get to Pskov at 7:00am tomorrow morning. This ain’t no Japanese shinkansen, that’s for sure, but the pace gives us lots of time to see the countryside rolling past our window. It didn’t take too long for the apartment blocks of Moscow to give way to forest and fields, and with daylight persisting until well past 10:00pm, we’ve had hours to sit and watch the scenery go past. The forest here is really dense, and so much of the ground we are moving past is swampy; makes you realise that even though there is a lot of untamed wilderness in Russia, it would take immense resources and effort to tame it and make it habitable – especially since most of it is under snow 9 months of the year.
It will be interesting waking up tomorrow morning and seeing some of rural and “wild” Russia, because, as much as Moscow is part of Russia, it’s also a big city and is not necessarily reflective of what the rest of this massive country has to offer. We’re hoping that seeing Pskov will at least give us the chance to gain some small insight into what the rest of Russia is like. So spokoynoy nochi (translation = good night) from somewhere out in the Russian wilderness and we’ll tell you all about Pskov tomorrow!