While Long Islanders loom closer and closer to what seems to be an inevitable Long Island Railroad Strike, (UPDATE 7.17.14 – STRIKE AVERTED) more tragically, The Moscow (as in Russia) Metro experienced a horrific derailment this week in one of its deepest metro stations, Park Pobedy (275 fee deep) making the rescue particularly difficult. According to reports, 150 people were injured, and there was at least one death. In a place where virtually no accidents occur (the last was over a decade ago) this accident was particularly shocking.
I wish the best for those effected by this tragedy – but its location reminded me of a major anomaly – that one of the starkest and rigidly controlled cities has one of the most spectacular subway systems in the world, with palatial interiors including mosaics, chandeliers, brass statues and marble benches. What began in 1935 with just 13 stations (how ironic) now boasts of over 188 stops and is one of the busiest train systems in the world. I had the good fortune to have visited Moscow during a trip to Russia, the Baltic States and Scandinavia a few years ago and got to see first hand some of these magnificent train stations.
We flew into Moscow from St Petersburg ( a magnificent city in its own right – and well worth its own post in the future) after being screened in an airport security booth that x-rays the entire body – similar to the full body scanner we have in the states – but in an apparent misinterpretation of language the Russian booths are labelled “Homo” (insert joke here). After a mind-blowing and somewhat intimidating visit to the Kremlin, Red Square and G.U.M. Department Store – everything as you’d expect it to be – we descended into the Moscow Metro – absolutely NOTHING like the NY subways. What were once war bunkers have been transformed into slick and beautiful unique stations with marble floors, brass statues of soldiers and workers, chandeliers, mosaics, paintings and other works of art. Of course if there is one place in the world that these treasures could exist unscathed in a subway system, it is Moscow. Although supposedly there have been many reforms in Russia, bringing greater “freedoms” to its inhabitants, the taint of the former (and in many way current) oppression of a policed state still remain. There are no garbage cans in the stations, yet not one speck of dirt or gum wrapper or cigarette butt dares to exist. Eerily, when a train pulls into a station, hordes of people stream out and onward to the escalators leading into the light, but nary a word is uttered – quite unnerving to see so many people and not hear one voice:
All this silence and pristineness added to the incredible beauty of the stations. The first we visited, Ploshchad Revolyvtsil is renowned for its many brass statues. The Muscovites are a very superstitious bunch and somewhere along the line a tradition of stroking these statues for good luck was born. We did watch as scores of riders stopped to rub a dog’s nose or a man’s knee. So many have repeated this custom that these spots on the statues are bright and shiny – as opposed to the more grimy, dark and oxidized untouched brass. Just to be safe, we also rubbed the dog’s nose as passed along into the train.
The Komsomofskaya Station was ablaze with light from many chandeliers – and I didn’t notice one bulb that was not lit (of course):
Park Pobedy (Victory Park) has a number of colorful murals. The first shown here depicts Kutuzov who is considered to be one of the best Russian generals during the reign of Catherine the Great. Under Kutuzov’s command, the Russian army stopped Napoleon’s Grande Armée at the Battle of Borodino and then counter-attacked, pushing the French out of Russia:
This second stunning mosaic mural also residing at Park Pobedy illustrates a scene from the War of 1812
Even newer station construction follows in this artistic tradition – look at the symmetrical splendor of this station (Admiralteyskaya) that was just completed in 2011 complete with requisite mosaic:
Moscow, and Russia in general, is full of these seemingly uncharacteristically poetic discoveries, and I hope to bring more of these to you in further posts.
Have a nice day!