Moscow metro, or Metropolitén, is known to be one of the most beautiful underground systems in the world, with the diverse and luxurious decorations of its oldest stations, modeled on architectural styles of classical temples of antiquity, gothic cathedrals, traditional Russian art, and much more. As Moscow grows, the metro is also expanding, but newer stations do not lack designer’s touch either: everything from minimalistic approach to futuristic imagination that will boggle your mind as you are taking a ride outside the city center.
Although the first plans of underground railway system were created back in the end of 19th century, the metro was officially built and opened only in 1935, in Stalinist era, and its architecture was not simply decorative, but ideological, aiming to show the power of communist government and the USSR both to its citizens and foreign guests.
Moscow metro is notable not only for its architecture, but also for the mass of urban legends that surround its construction and everyday life.
First of all, one of the most convenient things about Moscow subway is the circular line. The legend says that it was not on the original metro plan that was brought to Stalin, but as he was sipping tea (or coffee) from a large cup he placed it on top of the blueprints, and the cup left a brown ring on top of the metro lines, which engineers, upon consideration, found quite a smart addition.
Moscow subway is also rumored to be filled with extraordinary flora and fauna, and some school and university groups even travel on expeditions down there to study microbiology of the underground world. The railway tunnels are said to be inhabited with ginormous radioactive rats that glow in the dark and can maul a stranded railway worker or two. There are also quite real stray dogs that you can see inside the metro cars: do not worry, they are not aggressive, and actually quite independent, passing though turnstiles on their own (they never pay though) and commuting between the city center and green suburbs.
The biggest conspiracy surrounds the so-called Metro-2, a system of underground metro lines that lies beneath the official metro, around 50-100 meters below the ground. This system was commissioned by Stalin in case of war, and was later developed to serve as nuclear shelter and the way for the government to escape any sort of cataclysm that would wipe out the rest of the city. The four lines of Metro-2 supposedly originate under the Kremlin and go all the way to the main building of Moscow State University. Many students attempted to find hidden access to the university catacombs, but even if someone did they never returned to tell the story.
There are also some esoteric interpretations of the 12 points where radial lines cross the circular line, corresponding to the 12 zodiac signs, and a legend about the ghost train that stops at the various stations with its lights off and doors shut – but sometimes it opens the doors and tries to lure in unsuspecting commuters and drive them into nowhere.
Anyway, the Moscow metro is indeed a place full of wonders, and much cheaper than any other urban commute system in Europe. Photography is allowed without special permit, unless you are a professional photographer or videographer and planning to use tripod, flash, and spend considerable amount of time adjusting the settings. In this case, in order not to stand in the crowd’s way, you need to obtain a permission for photography at specific allocated time and off-peak hours.