Moscow Metro, Moscow
Whatever you've read or heard about Moscow's magnificent Metro probably doesn't do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself. For most cities the main tourist sites are those above ground but here in Moscow you can spend hours, or even days, quite happily visiting the Metro stations, of which there are, to date, 195 (and still being added to).
Apart from a brief period between the late 1950's and the mid 1970's, when Khrushchev was in charge, every Metro station was built with its own individual theme - usually in-keeping with its location.
When construction began in the 1930's, at the instigation of Josef Stalin, his overview required that it reflected the triumphs of Socialism and that the stations should embody "svet" (radiance or brilliance) and "svetloe budushchee" (a radiant future).
No expense was spared and the range of materials and artistic styles employed give lie to the misconception that Soviet art and architecture was dour and brutalist.
Stations such as Ploschad Revolyutsii embody the Communist spirit with its 76 life-size bronze sculptures of everyday revolutionary heroes and post-revolutionary hopes. Komsomolskaya with its white marble walls, ornate chandeliers and gold-leafed bas-reliefs depicting the Communist Youth members involved in its building is almost palatial. Sretenskii Bul'var, one of the modern stations which opened in December 2007, is like walking into a modern art gallery with its spot-lit metalled panels by Ivan Lubennikov.
Other features to be found are the stained glass "windows" of Novoslobodskaya, the mosaicked ceilings of Mayakovskaya and the militaristic panels of Taganskaya, to list but a few.
Perhaps this isn't everyone's idea of a "Thing to Do" and certainly searching out some of the stations takes a bit research. However if you want a simple, and relatively quick, tour the thing to do is to take the Circle Line with its twelve stations. All you need do is take the train to each station, get out and have a look around, take a few photos and then catch the next train from the platform you arrived on.
You can start with any station and either go clockwise or anti-clockwise. You'll know you are travelling in one direction if the station announcements in the train are made with the same sex voice as your previous leg - going clockwise it is a male voice and anti-clockwise, female.
Starting from Novoslobodskaya, which is at the "top" of the Circle line, here's a concise clock-wise summary of what to expect:
Novoslobodskaya - Opened January 1952 and best known for its stained-glass panels by Pavel Korin. Connects to line 9 at Mendeleevskaya.
Prospekt Mira - Opened January 1952 themed around "Agriculture in the USSR" and decorated with marble and gold bas-reliefs by G I Motovilov. Connects to line 8 at the other Prospekt Mira station.
Komsomolskaya - Opened January 1952 and dedicated to the theme of "Victory" with mosaics of Generals and scenes from the Great Patriotic War, based on sketches by P D Korina. Connects to line 1 at the original, 1935, Komsomolskaya which was dedicated to the Communist Youth movement who were involved in its construction.
Kurskaya - Opened January 1950 and instead of ornate artwork it uses lighting to emphasise its theme of "Dawn of the Nation". Connects to line 3 at the 1938-built Kurskaya and to the modern line 10 at Chkalovskaya. It also serves the Kurskaya Railway Station.
Taganskaya - Opened January 1950 this station features gold panels of Soviet soldiers and the "Hero Cities" of the Great Patriotic War. Connects to line 7 at the utilitarian 1960's Taganskaya and to line 8 at Marksistskaya.
Paveletskaya - Opened January 1950 with a "Collective Agriculture" theme the bronze chandeliers are this stations most ornate feature. Connects to line 2 at the 1943-built Paveletskaya staion and is the city terminus for the Aeroexpress train to Domodedovo Airport.
Dobryninskaya - Opened in January 1950 the zig-zag lighting arrangement is the first thing to catch your attention and then the set of 12 panels by E.A.Yanson-Manizer depicting "Labour". Connects to line 9 at Serpukhovskaya.
Oktyabrskaya - Opened in January 1950 this was built in a neoclassical style to represent both the triumphs over Napoleon in 1812 and over Nazi Germany in 1945. Its gated triumphal arch, with its blue-lit room is intended to symbolise peace. Connects to line 8 at the functional, 1962, Oktyabrskaya.
Park Kultury - Opened in January 1950 this was named after the nearby Gorky Park - the park of leisure and culture. The 26 bas-reliefs in the station hall by I A Rabinovich celebrate Soviet youth. Connects to line 1 at the Greek-inspired 1935 Park Kultury station.
Kievskaya - Opened in March 1954 the theme here is of "Unity", specifically that of Russia and Ukraine, and features detailed mosaics by A V Mizin. Connects to line 3 at the 1953 station of the same name and to the Filyovskaya line (4).
Krasnopresnenskaya - Opened in March 1954 the 14 brass bas-reliefs, by various artists, depict scenes from the 1905 and 1917 Russian revolutions with appropriately red-marbled walls. Connects to line 7 at Barrikadnaya.
Belorusskaya - Opened in January 1952 and as the name suggests is a tribute to Belarus. Of particular interest is the tiled flooring which is patterned after a Belarusian quilt and the mosaicked ceiling panels depicting everyday life. Connects to line 2 at the 1938-built Belorusskaya and also serves the Belorussky Railway Station.
So you can get all this for 40 roubles (or less if using a multi-ride ticket) and in the unlikely event you do get bored halfway through you can always just stay on the train and you'll be back where you started within 10 minutes.