I have visited Moscow several times before. I found it always pleasant, be it 26 degrees celcius during the summer or -18 degrees celcius at wintertime. During the summer, the sun shines from five in the morning and disappears only after ten in the evening. During the winter, the chill will freeze your balls like dried prunes but the wind is calm and friendly, almost cozy enough for a cold embrace.
My friends and I explored the city every single time, so I have seen them all—the Red Square where the Russia’s administration building is situated, the one and only St. Basil’s Cathedral (legend has it that Ivan IV of Russia blinded the architect to make sure that the church’s design would not be replicated anywhere else) and the exquisite restaurants along Artists’ Street that are built to make diners sit and eat until closing time.
This time around, I made a little side trip for an added adventure. I explored Moscow’s often overlooked treasure—the Circle Line, the most stunning subway in the whole world. I did it on my own because nobody really find a tour around the metro very appealing. First thing in the morning, I grabbed a map (fortunately written both in English and Cyrillic alphabets) and crossed my fingers that I would make it to the hotel in time for my flight.
I strongly discourage exploring Moscow if you do not speak Russian or if you are not accompanied by a Russian guide. All signs around the city are written in their native alphabets and the chance of finding an English speaker along the road is very slim. Finding your way by asking around is almost impossible (But still, it depends on your sense for thrill.). When I asked a gentleman for directions, he was very willing to help but he spoke Russian, German, Italian, Spanish and French but no English! I understand basic Spanish so I was good. Thank God! Otherwise I would have to master the art of sign language and do a little game of charade for my own sake. Russians do not care to learn English because they do not need to speak English. Urban legends going around is that Russians have reserved sympathy toward English-speaking tourists. But a beautiful face helps a lot as there is no scarcity in young boys who will be willing to lend a hand.
I started my trip from Prospekt Mira Station. It was 12 stations away to go back from where I started. As I expected, these masterpieces are as astounding as the very first time I laid my eyes on them. They blew me away like I have seen them only for the first time.
Let me show some photos of subways of major cities in the world for a comparison.
Subway in Paris from Rakesh Kalyankar’s website
Subway in new York from visitingdc.com
Subway in Tokyo from urbanrail.net
The Moscow Metro. The Circle Line is the one in the middle. It goes around the center of Moscow.
My Moscow map. My only hope of tracing my way back.
Cyrillic Alphabets only. Oh no!
I will start my journey in Prospekt Mira Station.
The escalator often goes as up to five storeys high.
Inside Prospekt Mira
The Moscow subway is the second busiest, next to Tokyo. It averages of transporting 9 million passengers daily.
Novoslobodskaya Station, the most famous of them all.
stained-glass panels by National Artists
The relief in the wall behind me means “Peace to the World.”
The countdown for pedestrian crossing started from 100 to 1. I was so tempted to go jaywalking!
Makeshift stores that sell anything from garage tools to flowers for loved ones.
Found my hotel.
Found an MIA friend too.
Domodedovo International Airport. I memorized the name by heart.
How to Find Directions in a Non-English Speaking Country.
1. Bring a Map.
2. Ask the concierge for the directions.
3. Learn the basic translations for left, right, 1…2…3…blocks away, bus, train, underground.
4. If you get lost, look confident, flash your friendliest smile, then take your pick from the crowd.
5. Try to look cute too. The world is kinder to the cute ones.