I already told you what my very first ride on the metro was like. I ended up getting to be quite the pro at using the metro simply because I did it so often, far more often than Jeremy did. He was stuck in an office in the embassy all day every day, while my jobs required me to travel all over the city. So I got to know the metro system very well. You might even say I knew it as well as the back of my hand (really). It got to the point where I could plot the fastest route with the minimum amount of the most convenient transfers without even looking at a map.
Then, within the station itself, I could often predict which car on the train we'd need to be in to be deposited near the right exit/transfer hall at our destination station. This was especially true for routes I traveled often. And of course I wasn't the only one. It seemed to be a routine for many of the metro passengers. You'd see a group of people huddled at one seemingly random spot on the platform, and then realize they knew which car would get them to where they needed to go the fastest. It was just common sense.
|Buskers in a metro station transfer hall beneath Red Square.|
|More buskers in the tunnel leading to Ulitsa 1905 Goda station.|
The trains themselves would come screeching into the station with a huge gust of stale underground tunnel air every few minutes. It was so nice to never have to wait long for a ride. During busy times, it was sometimes a struggle to fit in the car. Even though the crowds were uncomfortable, I confess it was nice not to have to worry about holding on to the bars for balance while standing during the ride. During rush hour, the mass of people kept you upright no matter what. When it wasn't so busy, it was a show of macho to ride the train, standing, while not holding on to anything. I got pretty good at it by the end of our time there, but there were always those awkward unexpected lurches and stops that could send you flying across the car and ruin any macho cred you had built up with your fellow passengers. (Also, I think I learned the most Russian swear words from that situation, because a lot of people would curse as they fell. Especially the old ladies. Who other kindhearted passengers would sometimes make a move to catch.)
If you were lucky enough to get a seat, and you had brought some reading material along with you (and of course you did, because this is Russia and that's just what you do), you could be sure that the people sitting next to you and possibly standing in front of you would read over your shoulder. That's why I took to reading only Russian-language material on the metro (my favorites were Itogi magazine - like Newsweek - and the Russian version of Reader's Digest) so I didn't mark myself as an obvious and clueless foreigner.
Besides being convenient, efficient, and ubiquitous, the Moscow Metro was also cheap. A single ride purchased as such cost a mere five rubles (about 15 cents). If you bought more rides at a time, the price went down to about three rubles (about 10 cents). Jeremy and I usually bought what was called Yediniy Billyet - monthly passes for all forms of public transportation (pictured above). Would you believe me if I told you it only cost ten dollars? I could hardly believe it myself. But the transportation ministry got wise eventually and raised the price to a startling 500 rubles in October 2002. There was much griping about that but I guess it had to be done.
|Outside the Krasnopresnenskaya Metro with a friend. Note the impromptu carnival behind us.|
Don't you think that's wise?