View Olivia-Petra Coman's photos on Trover

Monday, 18 September 2017

Highlights of my 26-hour trip to Murmansk and the city itself



Reaching Murmansk was an older dream of mine. In the back of my mind. Constantly. Buzzing me to get there.
‘Why are you going to Murmansk?’ seemed to be the theme-question of our trip.
Well, I have always been in love with the extreme north.
The ‘Globe Trekker’ take on it had made me curious.
And I did watch ‘Leviathan’ earlier this year. /this was by far our most frequent reply to the question/

You should know one more thing about me. I don’t like trains.
On the other hand, I like challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone as often as I am given the chance. Consequently, I was the one proposing a trip north by train, from Skt. Petersburg all the way to Murmansk /and my first time on a sleeper/. If you wish, view it as a test for a far larger adventure by train that’s also been on my mind for ages – the Trans-Siberian. As I also get bored extremely fast, there are some things you can do in the limited space that the train provides you.
The start of our train adventure

Eat
Your snacks, your friends’ snacks, your new friends’ snacks.
If you want to splurge and your train provides the service, have breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the restaurant car. It will be a change of scene. Plus, you may even get yourself a bottle of free beer when you look Central Asian and customers mistake you for an employee /like it happened to Marcel/.
Late breakfast tea

Sleep
...although, in this case, we were up against the white nights and it proved to be difficult at times with all the light.
A sleeping mask may help. If you eat often, there will be the occasional nap after. You won’t be able to resist that.
Un petit dodo

Repeat steps 1 & 2
No additional comments required.

Window-gaze
It will be more difficult if you’re on an upper berth. Your head will hurt and you’ll rival giraffes in terms of long necks by the end of your trip.
However, it’s worth it. You’ll see the landscape change. The thick birch forests will be replaced by the conifer trees; the flat terrain and lakes of Karelia will be replaced by the snow-capped/-covered mountains and intense rapids of the far north.
Mighty Kola River

Read
Bring books, magazines, something to keep you entertained.
My Kindle was a lifesaver.
Dreaming of warmer destinations? Not really.

Stretch your legs
You will not only feel the need to walk along the aisle, but also get off the train, take a breath of fresh air every once in a while and watch the cute dogs on the platforms expecting treats.
Our car had the stations, plus the arrival and departure times displayed. And I must say that the train was very punctual! Also, if you manage to get along with the lady in charge of your car, you will be invited to change seats if there are passengers having already reached their final destination.
The colourful houses of Kola Town

Meet new people
There are all kinds of characters you stumble upon.
Our new friend, Nadia, sleeping on the lower berth, was very kind and shared important information on the life up north. We even spoke Italian with a lady having lived in Italy for many years and returning home. And there was one eclectic Russian woman currently living in the States and travelling with her son to see her relatives… we actually discovered that we were born on two consecutive December days (!). The Russian people I met were all very kind, warm, and helpful. It was my second time in Russia, but, boy, did I feel welcome! Kindness does go a long way and you will be thanked for tidying your bed and taking all the linen into a special room in the front of your car.
Nadia and I

Arriving to Murmansk at 10:15pm after one day+ on the (rail)road was a very sunny event. I was about to experience the polar summer on my own. People were waiting for their loved ones with balloons and flowers. The train station was animated, the streets were not.
It was eerie. Daylight even close to midnight?
The alleys were unpolished, the Soviet-style blocks of flats were ubiquitous, the giant rat hiding under the building that would host us for the following 3 nights made me queasy… I was beginning to understand the question on everybody’s lips, because it was one of the ugliest cities I had ever visited. Clearly, we were not there for architectural delights, but for the outdoors. And they were splendid.
Murmansk spotted from the train window
If, at first, very hungry, had dinner at one of the usual Murmansk cafés, a very shady place but with great food, as a matter of fact… and felt watched and disheartened by the stuffed animals on the premises – an elk to the front, a squirrel to my right side, and a reindeer to my left –, we realised by the time we took the plane to Moscow that luxury could be found in several restaurants and stores. In places that would not even allow you to enter with your coat on, that served Teriberka seaweed ice cream, or that charged ridiculous amounts for one pair of shoes.
Lunching at 'Terrasa'
A land of contrasts.
The greatest view of the fjord was probably from the Unknown Soldier’s statue, a spot where youngsters would ride their bikes and walk their dogs and the elderly would pay homage.  
Up north, up above the city

Murmansk’s surroundings were more than the bellevue of the port. The Arctic and Lapland, only a few hours away, made me give a very convincing reply to the almost-annoying question—‘I know why I came’.

No comments:

Post a Comment