Riding the Underground Rails

Alexander Nevsky Square metro station
During the last three weeks, we were attending Russian language class 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. We left home, at 9:00 along with the commuting crowd, and made our way to the metro station ten minutes from our flat.

We're used to traveling by the metro from our year in Prague, but there are some distinct differences with the St. Petersburg system.

The metro system here is much cleaner - absolutely no graffiti anywhere - and fancier. Many of the metro stops were built in the 1950s to show off the splendor and power of the Soviet Union.

Outside Alexander Nevsky station
In the picture above, the walls of the Alexander Nevsky  station are covered in gold plating to mimic the armor of Alexander Nevsky as he rode to victory over the German and Swedish invaders in the 1200s. You can see other pictures of metro stations if you click on this link St Petersburg Metro. It's illegal to take pictures today in the underground stations, so you'll have to check out the link and scroll down to see more.

Mayakovskaya station
The stations themselves vary from very modern to Victorian splendor. The more modern looking ones, farther out from the city center, were built later in the 20th Century.

The biggest difference between St. Pete's metro and Prague's metro system is the length of the escalators that carry passengers down to the train platforms. I thought that Prague had long escalators, but they're nothing compared to the ones here. The escalators here are marked every 4 meters (around 13 feet) by a light with a number on it. The highest number we've seen on any escalator so far is 31 which is 400 feet - longer than a football field. It takes about 3 minutes to go up or down one of these escalators (I've timed it on my watch.) Some young people, too impatient to stand and wait, run down the escalator to the platform below.

The nice thing is that the trains run every three minutes or so, especially during rush hour, so you never have to wait long for the next train. During commute time, there are two escalators going up and two escalators going down with people jammed top to bottom - that's a lot of people.

At the bottom of every escalator is a booth where a guard (we've only seen women so far) sits and monitors the video screens of the escalators. I'd hate to have that boring job. We can sometimes hear her speaking to someone riding the escalator but, of course, can't understand what she's saying. Yesterday, we witnessed a good reason to have those monitors. A woman tripped while getting on the escalator and fell down. It immediately stopped moving until the guard made sure she was okay.

Then there's the train ride... Those commuting mornings could be interesting. The trains only have a few seats in them - to be saved for older folks, disabled (their words not mine), or mothers with children. When those are filled, people stand - holding onto something so they don't fall over. On some mornings, the train was filled with people crammed shoulder to shoulder. I would think surely no more people could possibly squeeze into this car when we pulled into a station, but ten more people would push their way in whether I wanted them to or not. The heat that built up was unbelievable sometimes. Often the odor of Russian men, standing in our personal space, was very unpleasant. They do have showers here, but...

I am so glad that we're finished with the commuting for now. We'll be taking tutoring classes in the evenings from now on. Whew!


  1. I've seen photos of Russian subways. Do you see scenes like those pictured here: http://www.zeepod.io/what-you-should-know-before-traveling-to-russia-public-transport/
    Very fancy.


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