Moscow's Metro

Even if you don't plan on using the metro to get around Moscow, it's still worth taking a peek at this wonder of the urban world. The first line opened in 1935, and the earliest stations—in the city center and along the ring line—were built as public palaces. Many of the millions of commuters using the system each day bustle past chandeliers, sculptures, stained-glass windows, beautiful mosaics, and pink, white, and black marble. With its rich collection of decorative materials, the metro has often been called a museum; it's even been said that no geological museum in the world has such a peculiar stone library.

Mayakovskaya station, opened in 1938, may well be the jewel in the crown of the Moscow metro. The vaulted ceiling of the grand central hall has 33 mosaic panels, based on the theme "One Day of Soviet Skies," by Russian artist Alexander Deineka. Novoslobodskaya, opened in 1952, sparkles, thanks to its light-backed stained glass. Several other stations—such as Ploshchad Revolutsii, with its bronze figures from the socialist world order (farmers, soldiers, and such)—are tourist attractions in their own right.

In the past, Moscow's metro architects won international architecture awards for their designs. Designs of new stations, however, have departed from these grand old stations; they lack brass sculptures and intricate stained glass, for example. But with indirect lighting, exquisite marble, and an open, airy feeling, these new stations reflect modern life in a way that the monumental Soviet displays of past glories don't. Moscow's metro is one of the top three most heavily used metro systems in the world.

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