A Means of Transit and a Lasting Refuge

From Time's Magpie: A Walk in Prague by Myla Goldberg:

"Communism’s most enduring legacy lies underground. Prague’s metro is composed of three lines that roughly bisect each other at Prague’s center to form a sprawling, six-pronged subterranean constellation. The Communist conception of human nature may have been improvident but the Soviets were masters of subway construction. More than ten years after the dissolution of the Soviet regime, Prague’s metro is much grubbier than it once was but as efficient as ever, providing its citizenry both a means of transit and a lasting refuge in case of nuclear apocalypse.

The vertiginous depth of Prague’s subway tunnels is certainly due in part to the river they are required to pass beneath, but the ever-practical Soviets very likely intended the Cold War-era metro stations to double as fallout shelters. The stations are cavernous, their floors marble, their walls covered with brightly colored metallic tiles, each tile dimpled like a giant, space-age ashtray. The perfectly round bore of the massive subway tunnels calls to mind drilling machines lifted from the most speculative of da Vinci’s notebooks or the pages of a Jules Verne novel.
These profoundly subterranean stations are reached via epic, steeply angled escalators that plunge 150 feet underground. To minimize this distance, the escalators run at cartoonishly high speeds, making it easy to envision eyeballs or noses or hair being left behind as the escalator whisks away. To anyone accustomed to the steady plod of the American escalator, Prague’s version feels thrillingly unsafe: the heart accelerates at each embarkation and the phrase “to ride an escalator” reverts to its original, early twentieth-century meaning when mechanized stairs were reason enough to visit the downtown department store. Despite the escalators’ demonic speed it still takes an awfully long time to reach or leave the surface, but to walk rather than stand is strictly for Sherpas. There is time for lengthy plot descriptions of complex novels on these escalators; there is time for intense philosophical debate. It is easy to imagine love affairs beginning and ending in the time it takes to ride from top to bottom. It is not uncommon to see someone sitting on an escalator step as they ride, elbow resting on knee, hand cradling chin, asleep."