Ride the Legendary Moscow Metro

Ride the Legendary Moscow Metro!

Moscow metro…there is so much to tell! It is surrounded by astonishing facts, mysteries, and urban legends. Built in 1935, it’s the second most heavily used transit system in the world! Almost 9 million people use it every day!

During the earlier years, the metro was built mainly by Komsomol volunteers. Thanks to their determination, the project was a success. You see, Soviet Union missed both knowledge and experience in the field. Many foreign specialists said it would be impossible to accomplish the task. And yet-here it is.

Some of the stations are a work of art. When you get off the train, don’t be surprised if you see beautiful statues, mosaics and carvings.

Here is a short list of stations you should visit:

  • Kurskaya
  • Ploschad Revolutsii
  • Arbatskaya
  • Smolenskaya

I just love their grim, “Citizen Kane” kind of style. Reminds me of giant zeppelins, kitchen robots and rocket cars.

Oh, and I didn’t mention talking computers.

Many of the earlier built stations are deep. Very deep. That’s because comrade Stalin wanted them to be giant shelters in case the Bomb fell. In many places, especially in the passages, there are built-in steel sections. They actually cover blast doors that would quickly seal off the station in case of emergency.

Older stations are not the only ones suited for fallout survival. For example, in Savelovskaya station, there is a built-in decontamination camera right by the entrance! I doubt it works, but this relic is a gloomy reminder of the Communist times.

The Cold War myths and facts

It’s time for some urban legends. I won’t speak about obvious nonsense, such as ghosts and giant rats. But one mystery is worth mentioning. It’s the so called “Metro-2”. The myth says that Moscow metro contains a secret tunnel network. It connects the Kremlin, Ministry of Defense, bunkers, command posts and other strategic objects.

These tunnels run for tens of kilometers (and far out of Moscow!). They allow quick evacuation of Russian leadership. And they lie much deeper than usual metro. It seems hard to believe, but here is another fact. “Metro-2” is not the only secret object in Moscow. There is a whole underground city built by the military during the Cold War. It’s hard to estimate the amount of money invested in creating this colossal hideout.

A piece of advice

Some tips on using the Moscow metro.

1) Try to have a local guide by your side. Not all Muscovites speak English. If you have some problem – the guide will help you out.

2) Watch your belongings closely. Pickpockets are a pain, especially during peak times. Which brings us to…

3) Avoid rush hours. Try to use the metro between 12 and 2 PM. Otherwise you risk getting stuck in a crowd.

4) Learn your route well. Unfortunately,the signs are mostly in Russian. So make sure you know the number of stations you have to go, all of the passages, etc. See point 1 also.

5) Get ready for noise. The trains are loud, so prepare to tolerate some acoustic disturbance.

Moscow metro is a major cultural and historical landmark. It will greatly enrich your travel experience, so try to visit it.

Top Ten Travel Tips

Top Ten Travel Tips

Have you ever experienced a serious disaster whilst on holiday? If not, it’s merely a matter of time. It has been said there are two kinds of travellers, those that have experienced a problem holiday and those that are still going to.
Tasked with identifying the top ten travel tips immediately got my mind going but an idea soon took shape. Why not use the experiences of the professionals, ask them to identify the more common causes of problems when travelling. Unbeknown to me this certainly dropped the cat amongst the pigeons, largely because limiting this to only ten became a problem, thank you so much to all those who were a part of the panel.
One of the most common problems and a unanimous choice of the panel were problems surrounding logistical arrangements. Largely related to reservations; dates and ticketing, these can be problematic despite the ease and simplicity of the internet. It is imperative when planning any holiday to any destination that all bookings are made well in advance, followed up either by e-mail or telephone a few days before your departure and still in time to rectify problems if discovered. After this has been done, prevent further problems by ensuring you have proof in the form of copies of any relevant document or reference number, this could be a receipt confirmation of a deposit paid or any item depending on your personal arrangements. This is one of those suggestions where prevention is definitely far better than cure.
Our second tip is all encompassing and covers the packing of essential items. Obviously these items might vary according to your personal plans but would perhaps include items such as passports and ID documents; applicable drivers licences; money – credit cards, wallets and other financial needs; mobile phones and camera’s, (get with it, preferably digital) are essential items nowadays, together with supporting items such as chargers and memory cards. On my personal list are always sunglasses, activity equipment, a few books, a pack of cards, a multi-purpose pocket knife and other smaller items or games which always come in handy.
How are we doing so far, the bottom line is that with tip numbers one and two you can go almost anywhere in the world and if you have forgotten anything else you can purchase them en route.
Tip number three is so absolutely boring you might well stop reading at this point but it remains one of the most common causes of holidays being cancelled. Before you leave home ensure that all domestic matters are resolved and tucked in to bed. These will again vary but will certainly surround adequate locking up and security issues; paying all accounts, in particular municipal services; cancelling any deliveries; ensuring access is available to a trusted friend or relative in the event of a fire or emergency; ensuring pets are adequately cared for and that someone responsible is able to contact you in the case of emergency during your holiday. Yes…boring….but oh so often the cause of having to either come back early or returning to face a smelly deep freeze or worse.
The basics are covered and now we can move onto the fun part, tip number four surrounds choosing the right holiday for your needs and enjoyment. To haul three children under ten years old to a game reserve for ten days will stretch your patience and theirs, you might enjoy spending half an hour looking at a bird or waiting for an Elephant to come to a waterhole while sipping a Chardonnay, they certainly wouldn’t. If you have had a really stressful year and are going on holiday for a time out, a few days in London followed by a few in Rome and a low cost flight via Moscow to save a few cents would mean lots of flights; too many airports and complicated transit arrangements. Our panel suggests taking a few extra minutes to analyse the real needs of all travelling partners before selecting your holiday destination.
You have analysed your own needs and decided on let’s say a scuba diving holiday as an example. Tip number five stays with destination choice and is all about research. That’s easy I hear you saying, once you’ve decided what type of holiday you want. However, you could also end up on a scuba diving holiday in monsoon season, perhaps to a great destination at most times of the year but in the month you have chosen, it’s infested with mosquito’s and a temperature of 45 degrees, is that what you wanted.
Perhaps you might be looking for a quiet and romantic getaway and choose a week in a Spanish seaside village only to find out it clashes with a local political election and the local school holidays. Time researching local conditions is well spent, beware particularly of special offers or discounts, these are usually offered for a reason and often due to seasonality or other sub-optimal characteristics of the destination at the time the offer applies. This same principle applies to discounted flights and packages, it’s important to be fully aware of which items and costs are included and not included in the price.
How far have we gone so far, in summary we have the logistics and essential equipment under control, chosen a stunning destination to ensure our needs are covered and we have selected the dates to suit the destination characteristics.
Tip number six is about the modern day wonder of the travellers’ world. You guessed it, the internet. This modern tool enables you to ensure you are fully au fait with all and any information you might need. From disco’s to dive centres, museums to mausoleums, cathedrals to camping grounds, the information is easily available to you from the comfort of your home; office or failing which, an internet caf?. Referring back to our Spanish village, if you want to know the history, what to see and do while you’re there, the internet provides this service. Even once you’re there, if you want to send pics and news to someone at home, the internet has really made this simple. I read recently that in excess of 70% of all travel arrangements are now made on-line, wow, that is an awesome number and it is no doubt climbing, not without reason.
A list of top ten tips would definitely be incomplete without a reference to the importance of adequate packing. Notice we say adequate as it does vary according to destination and travel method. A car trip to Port Alfred with a trailer and roof rack is a far different scenario than a flight to London. Tip number seven is to pack early; to pack correctly and most of all to pack according to a well prepared list. One often makes the mistake of packing too much, leaving little room for error and no space to include a few souvenirs or that tee-shirt that looked so good in the market. On a personal note our family has a rule, what you pack you carry; this has a fantastic effect of ensuring no one packs without a plan.
The boring battle of the budget. We all have dream destinations we hope to get to one day; this is unfortunately not a reality for most of us. Tip number eight is to ensure you remain within your personal limits of expenditure. Interest rates are high and could get higher; credit offered by banks can be easily obtained by utilising the credit card options so often available. You don’t want to spend the year after your holiday stressed out about how you’re going to pay it back during the rest of the year. Plan adequately before and during your holiday. Whilst it’s certainly fun to spoil yourselves during a holiday, we suggest you allocate a daily allowance to each person and to the whole group; this will certainly help control costs, particularly in an international destination when one is not fully conversant, it can come back and bite quite hard.
The members of our panel are all seasoned travellers, local and overseas. In conversation we certainly learned that all had on occasion bumped their heads or made often silly mistakes. Our unanimous tip number nine is to enjoy South Africa. As residents of this beautiful country we are all absolutely blessed to live within a reasonable distance from either a beach; lake; mountain;
game reserve or whatever it might be that appeals to your family. Too often we feel the need to travel far and wide when it’s all on our doorstep. We might travel to an exotic dive destination but haven’t yet experienced Aliwal Shoal; sit on a Mauritian Beach when our coast offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, perhaps even camping in France when you’ve never been to the Drakensberg or Clarens.
It might be a clich? but we really do have it all in one country. We certainly hope that our leaders will take every action to ensure that it stays that way. We in turn need to appreciate it and invest in local tourism and the job creation it offers. Our panel felt that we need to market ourselves as a destination a little better than we do, encouraging local travellers that Cairo is perhaps not always better than Cape Town. Local is lekker, it has its place alongside braaivleis, biltong, sunny skies and all the rest.
This might be our last tip of the ten we were confined to but it is the simplest and most important – have fun! You’ve worked hard, you deserve your holiday, please don’t forget to enjoy it. In most cases when on holiday, one is surrounded by those your love the most, those dearest and closest.
What an absolute blessing to be able to spend quality time in a holiday destination with those you love.