“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu
Saturday, 27 November 2010
The Moscow Metro
I'm not a train buff. Honestly. Sure I'm doing most of my traveling by train on this trip and I have the upmost respect for rail as a form of transport, but I'm not some anorak nerd who recites locomotive production numbers and all that stuff. I can tell the difference between an electric and a diesel train, and I can tell if it is new or old, but I don't care too much beyond that. If I score a comfy bed with good cabin mates then I'm happy and that's all I need to know about a train, with bonus points if the ride is quiet and smooth with friendly staff.
But then there's the Moscow Metro. This is something very special, and really has nothing to do with the trains themselves. It's all about the stations and the network.
Here's a subway network that carries more people each day than London and New York combined, with a dozen lines and something ridiculous like 150 stations. And not just any stations. These are the most ornate, opulent, beautiful, metro stations in the world.
And efficient? You better believe it. Trains run on every line through every station every 2 minutes. The trains always seem to be busy, with standing room only almost always, but never packed.
The trains themselves are getting on a bit, and the crazy Russian drivers hammer along the rickety tracks like they're driving a roller coaster, but none of that detracts from this being the single most efficient transport system I've ever encountered. By a long way.
Oh, and the price? About $1 a trip. It doesn't matter where you get on and off, just a single fare to get you through the initial station gate and you're free to go wherever. Change trains, lines, stop at as many stations and take as many photos as you like of the stations (just don't get caught photographing the guards, they don't like having their faces in photos).
You can quite easily spend a whole afternoon touring the Metro for the price of a single ticket. In fact I did. The only difficult thing was working out a route that would take me past some of the best looking stations.