To the North
See Ana’s beautiful photography and video editing work here to get an idea of what Murmansk looks and feels like:
Back in September, 2016, driven by the idea to see the great light spectacle – the Aurora Borealis – my husband and I undertook an exciting, two weeks long journey to the North, reaching Nordkapp in Norway, the northernmost point of Europe. We then returned back to Moscow, driving through the Baltic countries. On our 6,000 km route we had 5 main ‘targets’ – Murmansk, Nordkapp, Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga. The following are impressions from our first stopover in the largest city in the world located above the Arctic Circle – Murmansk.
After long hours of almost uninterrupted drive from Moscow, we reached Murmansk, located at the end of a deep bay off the Barents Sea. The time we spent in this northwestern Russian city was not too long, only a couple of days to rest and recharge, sleep in a proper bed and then move on to Nordkapp.
The typical Soviet-era architecture and the industrial ‘flavour’ of the city was not something that ‘swept us off our feet’, but as we started discovering more about the city, its charm started slowly shining through. Murmansk is a relatively young and lively city, founded back in the year of 1916, and was in fact celebrating its 100th birthday at time of our visit. With only 300,000 inhabitants, Murmansk is just a baby according to Russian standards, but still the largest city in the Arctic.
During the short time we had there, we managed to visit some of the most interesting places in town. One of the first things we went to see was the sea port, one of the largest ice-free ports in Russia, and saw the Lenin nuclear icebreaker. The city’s interior bears clear signs of its history and present role as an important naval base and commercial port. According to Wikipedia, in World War II (known to Russians as the Great Patriotic War), Murmansk served as a port for the arctic convoys, and after the war became the Soviet Union’s most important submarine base.
Walking through a huge and beautiful park, we found our way to Alyosha – the monument to the ‘Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War’. This is a 35.5 metres tall statue of a soldier in a greatcoat with a rifle slung over his shoulder. From this spot we could see the whole city and the port, and it was great! The buildings looked like matchboxes, positioned throughout the city with almost surgical precision, and the huge ships in the port looked as if they were only toys.
Surrounding nature and the views from the hill overlooking the city and the bay are simply beautiful. I can imagine Arctic scenery being a perfect playground for summer adventures, during months of never ending days, and offering a magical winter atmosphere under the Northern lights during the months of darkness. Our plan was to see the great ‘light show’ somewhere else, much deeper in the North, so we said our goodbyes to this city of heroes and moved on to Nordkapp.