By Lucy Nicholson
London has the world’s oldest underground rail system; Tokyo’s metro has employees to push people into packed trains; New York’s subway is an ethnic melting pot. Hidden beneath the streets of Moscow is something completely different. To step onto the Moscow metro is to step back in time and immerse yourself in a museum rich in architecture and history.
Opened in 1935, it is an extravagant gallery of Communist design, full of Soviet artworks, Art Deco styling, statues, chandeliers, marble columns and ceiling mosaics.
Built under Stalin by some of the best Soviet artists and architects, the metro transports 7-9 million people a day, more than London and New York combined. It costs 30 Rubles, around $1, for a single ride. We were given metro passes with our credentials when we arrived to cover the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. On the first day, I caught the metro back to our hotel with a group of Reuters photographers, when we missed the last media bus.
We were wowed by the architecture, and continued to travel this way to photograph it, and the people riding it: couples kissing, drunks taking late trains home, average commuters doing their best to avoid eye contact.
The trains were incredibly noisy, and it was difficult to hold a conversation while in a carriage. But they were also incredibly prompt. If we missed a train, rarely did we have to wait more than a minute for another to arrive. It was best to rush onto a train when it first pulled into the station, to avoid the moment when the driver closes the doors on stragglers. I only made this mistake once, the heavy doors bouncing off my forearms, before aggressively snapping shut.