This article is part of the series “2018-02: A trip to Murmansk”.
Day 24 of my winter journey 2018
After two days of visiting Murmansk we were prepared for our trip back. The bus arrived shortly after 7 o’clock local time (5 o’clock CET) and we started our trip home.
We left town and crossed the Kola Bay. It was still dark.
Then I fell asleep. I woke up shortly before our rest at the small shop, that seems to be located in the middle of nowhere.
Meanwhile it was as bright as day. We followed the E105 that would bring us first to the Russian-Norwegian border and then back to Kirkenes. Some images taken from the bus:
Finally we came to the border. We had to leave the bus with all our luggage. I bought huge winter rubber boots in Murmansk and some books and was curious what I would have to do at the customs, but since I stood in the queue “nothing to declare” no one cared.
Next station: showing the passports. Chris, Ørjan and Annika had already went through, now it was my turn. I gave the passport to the border official, trying not to smile – no one seems to smile when communicating to strangers. The man looked at my passport for several minutes, typed things into the computer, looked at the passport again, stood up and left. He came back with a woman discussing something in Russian. The woman left again, the man continued working. Again he left, again he came back with the woman. I didn’t understand a single word and started wondering what the problem could be, I guess it was computer problems. It took round 15 minutes until I got my passport back with some Russian words, probably an apology or an explanation about what went wrong.
I climbed into the bus and we were driven to the Norwegian customs. What a difference! The handling was not only much faster, but much more friendly. The Norwegian border officials smiled, made some friendly small talk and hardly a minute later we were through the customs and again in the Schengen Area where you can move between countries without needing a visa.
Some very brief observations from Murmansk:
- The difference between poor and rich, cared and ruined is quite visible
- People won’t smile at you, especially the officials and salespersons
- The food in the restaurants we visited was extraordinary good
- Many people don’t speak any English. Exceptions found in our hotels and restaurants
- I felt like 4 year old when I tried to decipher the Cyrillic letters.
- I didn’t feel welcome every second, but safe all the time
Travelling to Murmansk was a very interesting experience and I would love to see more of Russia. Next time I would like to use internet services as e.g. couchsurfing to get into contact with the locals. I guess I would get another view of Russia.