Stations and Scots
Can you imagine catching the London Underground to get out at individual stations to look at the décor? Interestingly, I found a blog that recommended visiting Gants Hill on the London Central Line. Please – do not bother, it’s not that great! Not when you compare those in St Petersburg.
We had a half-day left in St Petersburg before catching a train to Moscow. Not wanting to waste a morning, we decided to explore the Metro. Up until now, we'd been walking around the city.
We strolled to the nearest train station, paid 45 rubles each and hopped on a train to Avtovo. This is on Metro 1, the first Leningrad Metro line opened in 1955. Wow, and this is a metro station? It’s more like a palace with grand marble columns, some decorated with beautiful ornamental glass, neoclassical white panelled ceilings with candelabras, more in keeping with an opulent dining room. Even the ventilation grills are a design feature. At the end of the platform is a large mosaic commemorating the Leningrad 900 day siege during WWII.
Back one-stop, we jumped off at Kirovskiy Zavod, named after a nearby factory. This platform had a different feel, more industrial; the grey marble columns had cast aluminium reliefs showing the development of the socialist industry. At one end was a large bust of Lenin, looking rather stern.
Our next station was Narvskaya; this had beautiful carvings celebrating people and their professions, including doctors, farmers, soldiers, artists and mothers with their children.
Last but not least, we quickly looked at Pushkinskaya, named after the poet Pushkin. Each white marble pillar had a black lamp in front decorated with gilded shields and spears with a crystal bowl uplighter, very grand. And there was not one billboard in view on any station.
While sitting on the train, we planned the rest of the morning and realised that we had enough time to walk to St Isaac Cathedral. We crossed three canals with a peak of the blue domes of Trinity Cathedral on our left.
At last, we saw St Isaac Cathedral’s colossal dome and four smaller ones all plated with pure gold. This austere neoclassical cathedral was turned into a museum in 1931 with religious symbols removed by the communist government. The domes were painted grey during WWII so that the Nazi planes could not spot it so easily. It must have been a tremendous job removing the paint afterwards.
We needed to return to our accommodation, pick up our bags, collect our necessary registration, proof to the authorities that we are here and get to the mainline station for our four hours journey to Moscow.
As we sat down in our comfy seats, six burly Scots arrived dressed in their heritage tartan and looking the worse for wear. They had come to Russia to watch Scotland v Russia football game.
Gus sat opposite us and chatted, while others went to the bar for more alcohol, and from the sound of it, a lot of singing. He must have been about my age as he used to be a punk. We swapped notes of various bands we’d seen, resulting in Tim and I reminiscing about going to the Great Alternative Music Festival a couple of years back, seeing The Buzzcocks, The Damned, Dreadzone and The Stranglers amongst others.
Gus had us in stitches when he recalled going to his first Scottish football game abroad in Spain. He and some mates missed the bus to Malaga (I wonder why) so hailed a taxi. On the journey, who should they see but Rod Stewart? They stopped the cab, got chatting, and the Scottish pop star, also mad about football, cancelled their taxi and drove them to the game in his limousine. Gus was supposed to meet him afterwards, but too drunk. Two of his mates met Rod and ended up at a party with him and also actor Sean Connery.
So much for me doing some writing on the train. Hey ho, the 4 hours journey flew by. Sadly, we heard this morning that Scotland lost 4 – 0 to Russia last night. There’s going to be some sore heads in Moscow today.