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Travel

Rare Photos Show North Korea's Little-Seen Metro System

Prepare for an "eerily silent" ride.

Apparently, Pizza Rat does not have cousins in the DPRK.

North Korea's famously mysterious metro system appears clean and organized in new rare photos and video from a foreign tourist group that was allowed to travel along the system's entire line of stops.

Until 2014, most visitors to the hermit kingdom were only allowed to travel between two particular stops on the Pyongyang Metro, a rule consistent with North Korea's extreme restrictions on where foreign visitors are allowed to go, as Gizmodo reports. But experienced traveler and blogger Elliott Davies was in a group that recently rode the entire system -- widely thought to be one of the deepest underground metros in the world -- and he documented the experience on his blog, Earth Nutshell.

The ride was unnervingly tranquil, Davies told HuffPost.

"The first thing I noticed was the cleanliness," he said. "Totally spotless, and no graffiti... It was eerily silent beside the revolutionary anthems that played out of the antique loudspeakers."

Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
Commuters ride an escalator at a metro stop. Because the system is built so deep under the city, "It’s an almost four-minute descent to reach the train platforms," Davies wrote on his blog. "And... the hallways are protected by thick steel blast doors."
Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
The Pyongyang Metro is impeccably spacious, which is strange because it's at least 100 meters underground. The glamorous Yonggwang Station is dimly lit, Davies reported, with massive murals and opulent chandeliers for decoration.
Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
The train platforms he visited were crowded but quiet, Davies told HuffPost. "And without smartphones it seemed unnerving, because people would either stare off into blank space or stare at me as the strange foreigner."
Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
Two commuters read state-published newspapers, which are on display in the stations.
Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
North Korea's train cars are leftovers from East Germany, BBC reports. Davies notes that each station's murals have a theme -- like agriculture -- and each station is named for a revolutionary ideal (such Glory, Red Star, or Victory).
Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
"There was a stark contrast between the huge ear-to-ear celebratory grins of the people depicted on the murals [in the station] and how people actually appeared," Davies told HuffPost. "I don’t think I spotted a smile in the entire metro system. But for the most part, I’d put that down to being cultural... and who enjoys riding the subway anyway?"
Elliott Davies/Earth Nutshell
Commuters enter the metro from above. "The streets of Pyongyang are spotless; I don’t think I saw a single piece of litter in the city," Davies wrote on his blog. And based on what we've seen, it looks like the underground stations follow suit.

You can see more photos from Davies' journey on his blog post "100 Photos Inside North Korea," or on his Facebook page.

Secret Photos Show The Real North Korea