Kurskaya is a very big metro station, where three metro lines cross with a major suburb trains hub. I was rushing through one of its multiple halls, pushed between endless chains of escalators when I heard the concert which you can now hear below. For a second the very centre of Moscow turned to be a market in a land far, far away, I could almost hear the hum of sellers and buyers, feel the smell of spices and see the desert surrounding that imaginary, middle-eastern town. Call me naive, but this is what that music made me think of. If anyone reading those words happens to know what instrument it actually is and where it comes from, I shall be eternally grateful if they share that information with me. For now, though, join me on a small excursion to that fairytale land, which I left as fast as I entered it, descending into the mundane abyss of yet another metro station.
Last Wednesday someone died in my presence. A man fell on the tracks right in front of an approaching train. I had my earphones in, I was looking the other way, I was wondering how late I would be for work. The whistling sound of the approaching train made its way through all the obstacles I placed for it, and so I started mentally preparing for the upcoming fight for a scrap of space in the train to fit myself and a book I was intending to read. It was about six in the afternoon, rush hour, crowds of people. Suddenly, the train which was supposed to slowly roll up the platform stopped in the middle of it. I slowly looked up from the phone. One of the metro conductors walked slowly past me, the other one was peeking out of his booth, with one leg already on the platform and the other still inside. A policeman appeared out of nowhere. I took the earphones out. – Meat – said the conductor on the platform – All that is left of him is meat, we need to call.
The platform started to fill with people, a couple of prying passers-by started peeking behind the edge of the platform. Someone who just a moment ago was a man suddenly turned into meat, and now also entertainment for the masses.
This is a sound postcard I recorded on Shchelkovskaya, to accompany the photographs you already had the chance to see. Enjoy.
My obsession with the Moscow metro does not seem to decrease with time – and I must say that it does not come as a surprise to me, since my life here is centred on the metro – the times when it opens and closes, the location of the stations, the intervals with which the trains depart. Moscow metro is an institution in itself, the most important means of transport, a major meeting point, a witness of history, a tourist attraction. When the metro is written or talked about, the focus is placed on the central stations – staple examples of stalinist baroque and carriers of last epoch’s propaganda, huge interchange hubs, filling up with crowds of people in the rush hours. The outlying, pragmatic stations come completely unnoticed – built much, much later, they sole function has always been to provide the districts of impersonal, gigantic blocks of flats with the essential connection with the world, not to emphasise the power of the empire. This is also where the mundane, everyday, ant-like life of the metropolis is staged, and just as the real Russia begins beyond the MKAD – real Moscow begins beyond the circle line.
The joys of paperwork.
I lost my migration card before Christmas. It’s a small, thin slip of paper the size of your passport which you receive when you enter the country and you’re supposed to give back when you’re leaving. Everybody is very serious about not losing it, but no-one really knows why, since these days the border control fills in the form for you and keeps an electronic copy. In any case, the office was in panic. I was in panic. Other teachers whom I told about my loss were in panic too. On the canvas of this happy occurence we started sharing our strange experiences with Russian beaurocracy. Everyone has had some, and not even one person in the room had any understaning of why their paperwork problems appeared and how they were solved in the end. Russian beaurocracy just exists for its own sake and nobody can follow its twisted logic.
In fact, I often get the impression that the entire city exists for its own sake, a living organism, the king of the space it occupies, kindly allowing some people to populate it. Other cities seem to be designed with the comfort of its inhabitants in mind: Edinburgh, Warsaw, even my little hometown in Poland. The space serves the population, not the other way around. The pavements. Pedestrian crossings. Parks. Street lamps. All of them made with their users in mind. And Moscow?
Moscow has sucked me in and doesn’t let me go. Recently I’ve been leaving the house at 7 am and coming back at 9 pm. I barely even noticed that the festive season has begun. I don’t write, but I keep my eyes open an take out the camera more frequently than it would seem. There’s a lot of work in progress that hopefully I will soon share with the Readers, and, for now, let me present you with yet another installment of The Metro Chronicles.
While waiting for the hero to properly enter I would like to present the Readers with yet another installment of the Metro Chronicles.
Sounds are of extreme importance in Russia. The country’s public space is populated with sounds that do no allow you to confuse it with any other place. Many spots look as if they could be located anywhere in the world, but they sound distinctively Russian (and not only because of the language). I would like the Readers to see Moscow as I see it and, paradoxically, I see Moscow through its sounds. Therefore, I will be sending the Readers a sound postcards every now and then.
As I have already mentioned before, the metro plays an absolutely crucial role in Moscow. Millions of people spend long hours there every day – and now I am one of them. Multiple rides constitute perfect circumstances in which to indulge in of my favourite hobbies – people watching. In this newly established series of articles I will share with the dearest readers whatever I happen to notice and deem worth sharing