I love historic subway systems.
I like zooming through the complicated mazes to get to the right platform, studying the map to know where I’m going, finding old, preserved, historic subway tile designs, and seeing where I’ll emerge to when I come back up above ground.
Of the 10 oldest subway systems in the world, I’ve ridden 7 of them, including the oldest in the U.S. (Boston, 1897), the oldest on the European continent (Budapest, 1896), and the oldest in the world (London, 1863).
Recently, when I was in Budapest, I rode the Millennium Underground Railway line, which is the world’s second oldest underground system. It seemed like I was stepping back in time with the beautiful woodwork and tiled walls, and I felt like I was missing a fancy early 1900s dress and hat.
The one unsettling thing about riding this line was the right side of the car came within an inch or two of a bright concrete wall, and I could see it during my entire journey. I wondered what type of escape route there would be if we had to exit the car. I think I prefer darker tunnels where I can’t see how small the tunnel is around me.
The London Underground is by far my favorite (or should I say, favourite?) system to navigate. Not only does it take you everywhere with its complex design, but how fun are names like Piccadilly, Jubilee, or Bakerloo? It’s so delightful to hear the stations and lines called out whilst riding.
I think my travel companions are a bit nervous when traveling with me (or following behind me) through tunnels in extensive systems, like in London. I don’t know why I think I need to rush, but I find myself zigzagging underground, making quick turns to the right platform (or so my companions hope…).
I’m careful to remember that there have been tragedies in these spaces, but I’m also amazed at their histories and by their ability to survive and adapt to modern times.
Well, they have almost adapted. Some still need air conditioning and other modern conveniences and facilities. So, in the meantime, I will continue to play the role of historical traveler when riding around underground.
I might need to get a fancy hat, though.