Jedeme pod zemí: discovering the Prague Metro

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August 1st 2009
Published: August 1st 2009
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Prague MetroPrague MetroPrague Metro

Image licensed under CC-BY by User:Zirland on Wikimedia Commons
So, yesterday morning I logged onto the forum of the Tube Challenge community - a clique of Londoners (and, oddly, Scandinavians) who's holy grail is the official Guinness World Record for visiting - that is, arriving to and/or departing from by train - each of the 270 stations on the London Underground network in the shortest time possible. The challenge is a rather hardcore pursuit which I've attempted numerous times a few years back, including a few times for charity. Despite what you might think it does NOT involve just sitting on trains all day; after the insane amount of planning you need to do, it involves basically spending at least 18 hours running up and down escalators, over passageways, and through the streets of strange suburbs of the city you've never heard of before, while spending a lot of your day in a network of sooty, claustrophobe-neutralizing tunnels, dashing out onto platforms all the time to take pictures of roundels, collecting mundane details like train numbers for Guinness's verification process, and fretting over whether the carriage you're in is going to be lined up with the exits at your next interchange.

Someone on this forum had asked whether anyone
Metro trainMetro trainMetro train

Interior of Line B
had ever attempted a 'Prague Metro' challenge, as he planned to give it a try during his visit here in August and wondered if anyone had a time for him to beat. Surprisingly, no one did, but since I had nothing to do and I knew that it would only be an afternoon's work, since the Prague Metro is considerably smaller than the London Underground, I decided I would give it a test run to see how long it would take with one of the few available sensible routes. Easy as pie, really, as the metro system is not extensive to the whole city like in London or Paris - most of the public transportation in this city is based around trams, so to make a really hardcore challenge here, trying to do every tram stop might make an interesting all-dayer.

The Prague Metro has 3 lines, A B and C, and 57 stations. Each line has one interchange station each with the other two:

Line A (Green) West - East: Dejvická - Můstek (B) - Muzeum (C) - Depo Hostivař
Line B (Yellow) West - East: Zličín - Můstek (A) - Florenc (C) - Černý Most

WTF award
C (Red) North - South: Letňany - Florenc (B) - Muzeum (A) - Háje

I started my route in Zličín - the two termini which are most out of the way thus making the only sensible start/finish points for trying to get the fastest time are Zličín and Háje, and the latter is miles away from me over the other side of the river while the former was a simple tram and bus away. So, as we pulled out of Zličín the clock began. It was a really interesting day out as there were a lot of weird and wonderful stations on the Prague metro, highlights in chronological order were:

1. The west end of Line B between Zličín and Nové Butovice all basically runs through this massive overground tunnel passing through a huge housing estate. I imagine it must look like the most surreal thing ever from the outside, and heaven knows why they bothered with the tunnel.. I sometimes think whoever planned and designed the suburbs of Prague must have been on drugs and/or watching too many weird sci-fi films.

2. Luziny station at the west end of Line B wins the "wtf" award. The

Space age award
platform decor consists of trees housed in vaguely tree-shaped glass domes which really looks like something out of a weird sci-fi film.

3. Everything north of Holešovice on line C was built between 2004 and 2008, ultra modern flashy futurism stylee a bit like some of the stations on the Jubilee Line extension in London (Canary Wharf, Southwark). However, this still doesn't hide the fact that they're all just in huge decaying old housing estates - I had to change onto a bus at Prosek station in order to switch to the east end of line B, and it literally looked like a space station in its surroundings - paneláks and a huge Billa store.

4. After polishing off the east end of line B I took tram no. 19 from Palmovka to Zelivského (east end of line A) which despite being not on the metro was definitely a highlight, as it took you over this enormous bridge flying over the back end of Zizkov, giving you spectacular views of the newly built, weird looking train lines leading from the corridor into Prague hlavní nádrazí and over the city skyline too.

5. The eastern terminus of line
Depo HostivařDepo HostivařDepo Hostivař

Best station award
A, Depo Hostivař was my favourite station, as it's literally in the depot! As you approach it on the only piece of track on the entire system not covered by a tunnel, you can see the vast building and how it lodges itself into one of two sheds converted into platforms at the west side of it.

Then, there are the things tourists will tell you about, like the stations in the centre on line A (Naměstí Miru, Můstek, Staroměstská, Malostranská) which are all pretty well known and remembered for their trippy wall patterns. And not to forget the ubiquitous "Ukončete prosíme vystup a nastup, dveře se zavirají" - the slightly harder to remember Czech equivalent to "MIND THE GAP", which says "please finish alighting and boarding, the doors are closing".

Oh and as for my new record (hah), I arrived into Háje 2 hours, 56 minutes and 26 seconds after leaving Zličín.


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