Arriving in Murmansk, I stay at Dmitry's place for the night. He's a good cook and we enjoyed eating, talking about international food, travel, etc. Very good company for the evening.
He has to work the next morning, while I get some more sleep. Guess I was a little bit too tired of all the hiking, so I sleep way too long. We eat lunch together before we said goodbye.
His cool car outside the flat.
It feels like I accomplished something with reaching Murmansk. It is my little Magadan trip. Across this foreign country on sometimes bad roads, battling the challenges that are thrown at me. Or something like that.
While riding around town, I spot a familiar bus. An old swiss "PTT Postauto", all in the original shiney yellow. Cool.
Riding around Murmansk, I am looking for the huge Alyosha statue. Every city (it doesn't even have to be big or important) has some kind of momument/war memorial and of course the big city sign.
It bears the cool name Защитникам Советского Заполярья в годы Великой Отечественной войны
- or Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War
It was built in 1974 to honour Soviet soldiers, sailors and airmen fighting in World War 2 ("Great Patriotic War" in russian) and an eternal fire is burning at his feet since 1975.
This pretty impressive statue is 35.5m (116 ft) high and seems even bigger at its elevated position overlooking the city.
Great views over Murmansk from here.
But I am looking forward to Norway now. Being in Russia on my own has been hard work. The further north I got, the people got less and less cooperative about communcation. Getting food and gas was hard and fighting to communicate my needs while keeping an eye on the bike and the bystanders was stressful at times.
The road between Murmansk and Kirkenes is a lot different. A twisty road over vast hills.
A last iconic shot at a roadside memorial. A few minutes before this memorial, there was a huge military base with tanks riding around in the mud, armed guys on several watchtowers and all surrounded by ridiculous amounts of barbed wire. Crazy stuff.
Nobody bothered to remove hammer and sickle.
A military checkpoint in the middle of nowhere. Short look at my passport and off I go. No one else on the road.
This town called Nikel is a sad thing in this beautiful landscape. The contrast between the beautiful lakes in the background and the ugly as fuck mining cites are intense.
Short quote from Wikipedia
The town is linked to the Norilsk Nickel plant nearby where many of its citizens are employed and which causes grave environmental and health concerns for the population. The nickel smelter which has been an eyesore in Norway–Russia relations for decades due to its extreme pollution levels, usually deposits its sulfur dioxide fumes to the south of the town where the countryside is a brown moonscape of bald hills, barren of plant life for kilometers around. In the summertime, the toxic fumes which for the rest of the year rarely blow northwards towards the town, occasionally do just that, making breathing difficult and even burning holes in people's umbrellas.
A storm is brewing over my head, but I am faster than the rain.
I decide to do some filming and mount the Gopro. Bad idea. After only a minute of riding, I am at another checkpoint. I stop the camera as fast as I can but decide not to stop and dismount it, as I am already within eyeshot.
"Excuse me, what is this?" is the first question. I explain it is a camera and that I was filming the landscape. "Not good", he says, but goes on to instruct me about what's next while I dismount the cam.
The border is 20km down this road and I am not allowed to stop, make pictures or look around. I should ride at constant speed to the border. He grabs his radio and I only hear "Suzuki" and probably the time. In the forest along the road, there are watchtowers just reaching over the trees. They seem to take this serious.
And there's still the real border left to cross. I am the only one at the border, it's a nice monday afternoon. I have to fill out another form about me exiting Russia. No big deal, it's the same as from when I got in. The lady stamps both my passport and the form - this seems like a cakewalk. Even the guy who should be searching my stuff just wants to see my documents and asks me the standard questions about drugs, weapons, medicine, money, etc.
I forgot my folder with all the documents (expect passport and form) inside. I apologise and retrieve it. Big mistake.
He seems to be angered about this and wants to have a look at my documents. Ferry tickets, a map of Norway, the commercial Karelia and Murmansk maps, some copies of my official documents and - Gulp! - evil self printed maps of Russia!
His face turns dark as he scrolls through the 20 page heap of the maps. He picks one of the pages seemingly random and gives the rest of them back to me. It's the page showing parts around Petrozavodsk with Kivach waterfall marked on it.
Not good. He shouts at me and asks what this is. "A map!" is my answer. He points to the circle around the waterfall and asks me "WHAT IS THAT?" - "Kivach waterfall, a tourist thing." He walks away a few feet and mumbles something into his radio.
Big boss shows up, even more annoyed than the first guy. Same question-answer-game again. When I learned something when speaking to authorities, it's this: only speak when spoken to! They debate about me in russian while I just stand there smiling like an idiot (deja vu, anyone?).
Finally, they ask me about where I got this map and their facial muscles relax a bit when I say "yandex.ru Maps" (russian version of Google Maps).
I couldn't last my pokerface any longer when I put on the helmet. A short ride to the duty free shop, where I buy lots and lots of cigarettes for about the 10th of the price in Switzerland (or about the 20th of Norway's!).
While the duty free shop clerk has to go to the back of the store to get change for my 1000 Rub bill (about 30$), I snap a highly illegal border picture as my trophy for all this hassle.
The norwegian border is a totally different story. I am greeted with a smile and the smile turns to a laugh when I hand over my swiss passport. "Willkommen in Norwegen". He knows a bit german and asks me about my trip. A farewell later, and I'm back in Europe. Not in the European Union, but in one of the few other rebell european countries not joining the EU.
That's all for now, folks. Wanted to get a bit further today, but remembering all the details and arranging the pictures took more time than I thought.