Never Talk To Strangers

August 1, 2008

Russian underground network known as the Metro is cheap, reliable and gets you places fast - a bit like Tesco’s own brand lager. It is also crowded, full of the most terrible smells and has the worst light possible - people look hundreds of years old. Soviet engineers were striving to create the most comfortable conditions for passengers and failed miserably, while self-indulgent architects responsible for the Metro luxury interior succeeded and many stations represent significant landmarks.

I know somebody who works for the London underground. He is a keen photographer too. When in St. Petersburg he was well impressed with the Metro. His natural instinct was to draw his camera and take few quick snaps of the inside. A man dressed in a dark uniform came to his side and gently tugged on his sleeve. They talked. At the time I was there trapped in a two-dimensional continuum of the world of used stationery, unable to talk and invisible but able to see and hear everything. The man in a dark uniform said: “You does not have rite to photography. It is illegal. You go to prison!” “Tell ‘im to #&£$-off!” I shouted but to no avail. You see, once they get you talking to them, they may produce all sorts of papers saying it is against the legislation to do whatever you were doing and jail is awaiting you unless you pay a reasonable fine. Which is likely to be all the cash you got on you. The trick is to stay ignorant, not to respond and walk away. But do it with style. It helps if you are physically stronger than your opponent.

Some factual things about the Metro in St. Petersburg:
Its alive between 5.30 in a morning and 12.30 a.m.
It has four lines. They run from the outskirts through the centre. There they all intersect at one of the main stations.
The means of paying are either tokens (good for one journey) or magnetic cards (valid for ten or more journeys). Both purchasable at the station. Once you have paid your fare you may stay on the Metro as long as you need or want. Once you get off, you need to pay again - a bit like in New York.

All signs are in Russian, so are all announcements. To navigate efficiently within the metro get yourself one of network maps displaying the Cyrillic and transliterated names to hand.
Some stations have open platforms and some have concourses with safety doors. These open when the train comes to the platform.
As the train approaches a stop, the name of the station, changes for another line (if any) and the name of the next station will be announced. However, if you don’t speak the language you’re not likely to catch on, its best to keep count of the stops or check against the wall map inside your train car.
Please note, there is an attendant in a form of stern “babushka” sitting in a booth at the bottom of each escalator. You better be on your best behavior mate, or she will yell at you!

That be it for now. Remember to stand clear of the doors.

Filed under: Russia - everyday life, St. Petersburg — Everyday Life
Tags: , , , , , , , — sasha @ 4:54 pm

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