It was all a bit crazy going up to the Arctic Circle knowing full well that it was an out and back trip and that there wasn’t a hostel or even a reasonably priced hotel in sight! Still, when you get a bee in your bonnet….
It was snowing when I arrived and barely stopped the whole time I was there. A little girl skipped along from the train excited after being away… the first snow.
I arrived at night and slept with the curtains open in the hope that I might see the Northern Lights. As usual, different pages on the internet say different things and whether I really had any hope of seeing the amazing Aurora Borealis without heading out of town on some tour or hiring a car or being there at a totally different time of year, I may never know. But, as they say, you have to be in to win…. The next night I spent two hours standing out in the snow at the apparently prime hours of 12 to 2am – exillerating but also to no avail. One day!
The next morning, I layered every item of clothing I had under my thin rain coat, found my hat and gloves, and double socked it with plastic bags as a third layer under my running shoes. The shoe covers I had paid 1 rouble for at the Mosque in Kazan finally earned their keep!
Out I went into a seeming blizzard of snow. I was only here two days and had to get on with it.
It was exciting. I found the Church and Tower that Lonely Planet (LP) pointed out and my next mission was to find Alyosha the giant soldier statue commemorating those that lost their lives in World War II. Murmansk was a vital port for getting supplies in from the Allies to the rest of Russia during the war.
Alyosha was on a hill in the middle of a park behind a lake. I checked the map and established that there were two ways in. I took the one closest to me.
Visibility was poor and I was not sure exactly that I was on the right path but I followed what looked like a road and then a path and…. Every now and then the snowy curtain would clear and a hazy ghostly Alyosha would appear and then disappear in the distance.
After about half an hour or more, I started to feel less and less sure of the path and conscious that I was further and further from the road. I was “Talk“ing with myself again nineteen to the dozen!!
Visibility was getting worse and then I saw what looked like animal tracks in the snow. Possibly from snow-madness or dehydration, all sorts of scenarios began to run through my head of being lost in the snow and freezing to death, or being eaten by wild mountain cats, or …. A black bird flew out from behind some rocks ahead of me squawking.
That was all I needed, after a few trips back and forth over the same patch of snow trying to decide what to do, I headed back to the road, beating myself up the whole way (and indeed the rest of the day) for being a wimp and once again letting fear stop me from living the life I want!
I spent the afternoon in the Regional History Museum which seemed to give me the nod however with an exhibit of life-sized, possibly stuffed, examples of the regions wild animals including bears, wolves and the very wild cat I had seen in my imagination! I wondered perhaps if I had in fact done the wise thing!
The next morning, perhaps as a reward for my hours standing in the snow the night before, was amazing. Clear skies and with the snow and crisp cold everything was beautiful. I packed up and left my bag with the hostel before heading off to Alyosha again.
Oh my God! He was big and he was very very far away. It turned out that the track I had attempted to take was elsewhere described as a “path” through the grassy hills you can take “in summer”! The other way was a road!!
As I went the road way and looked back over those “grassy hills” I realised that I was absolutely “miles” from the blimen’ soldier and that he may well have been commemorating me if I had have continued!
Feeling a little vindicated, I spent the afternoon with a huge smile on my face, enjoying the views over town and having a photo taking frenzy, as the snow closed back in. I ended my visit to Murmansk with a tour of “Lenin”, the world’s first (and now decommissioned) nuclear powered icebreaker. A fascinating place.
There is a fine line between “brave” and “stupid”. 🙂