A Travellerspoint blog

City Tour of Murmansk

Friday, 7 July 2017


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The sky was threatening as we approached our berth in Murmansk. We are in good company lying near the Russian Nuclear Powered Icebreaker. The 'Lenin' is now laid up and is now a popular tourist attraction.

There is some complexion with regard to Shore Excursions. We need to have our passports returned to us and then have a visual check by Russian Immigration officials. While it was quite painless, it did impose a significant delay. In good time we were ashore and heading for our guide and coach. The guide tried to pass on all possible information, sadly her English and her delivery were not up to the task.

Contrary to the published tour order our first, rather than last, stop was for pancakes, tea and coffee. Served in a grand hall of an upmarket hotel. Service was provided by young women in local folk costumes. A definite time-table in place and we're herded off to the mandatory Souvenir Shop.
In the short drive we gained the impression that this drab city suffered from chronic neglect and shoddy initial construction. The city was almost totally destroyed during WWII and most buildings were constructed in the immediate post-war period. Peeling concrete, crumbling masonry and layers of black mould added to the air of neglect. There was little colour and the huge housing blocks were a uniform concrete grey.

After the pancake stop we visited the Palace of Cultures where the official foundation stone was placed. Back on the coach and we're off to the Aloyosha Monument. This 40 metre high concrete depiction of a WWII Soviet Soldier stands on a high hill and is visible from all parts of Murmansk. It was erected to pay homage to the many Russian soldiers who died defending the city. The location was cold and bleak even offering a brief rain shower. The Monument is proudly maintained and wore a number of colourful wreaths recently placed at the anniversary of the battle.

Back on the coach and we're off to the gold-domed Orthodox Church. A typical example with an impressive collection of religious icons. We arrived along with four or five other coaches and there just wasn't the space inside. One point that was noted is that the base of the cross on top of the dome is in the shape of an anchor. The white structure and gold domes made an outstanding impression. Back to the ship where a hot cup of soup is provided while we wait in line. Russian Immigration !!

After lunch we went to the Cabaret Lounge for the Afternoon Movie. I was intrigued by the title "The Great Wall" which could have been a documentary. It wasn't. Instead we were treated to a fictional battle between the warriors on a huge wall of fanciful weaponry and a horde of deadly beasts whose origin was not totally clear. With great visual effects and lots of gruesome deaths there is one final battle where the defenders win over the beasts. Jenny couldn't handle it after just 10 minutes, I stayed to the end

There was bright sun as we left our berth and sailed out to the open sea. Lovely views from the buffet as we enjoyed our dinner tonight
Clocks go back an hour overnight, tomorrow we arrive in Honningsvag, Norway.

The satellite link is still unusable so I have no idea when I can post this.

Today's temperatures were a high of 11 °C and a low of 9 °C. Still in unbelievable 24 hour daylight.
Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 06:01 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

At Sea Bound for Murmansk

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Woke to a grey morning and we're still within sight of land but the mountain tops are blanketed in clouds. While there is 24 hours of light there's little sight of the sun. Later in the morning we sailed out into the open ocean and felt the effect of the wind and the swell. Not as bad as it has been in the past but enough to prove that we've moved away from the protection of the offshore islands.

Attended the Destination Lecture for Honningsvag and Nordkapp (North Cape). As always the weather conditions will determine just how the destination is appreciated. Keeping expectations low.

Spent the next hour learning the history of French aviation development up to the end of World War One. It was interesting that for most of that time the French out-performed the German and British development during the same period. The speaker's delivery of the thousands of details is overwhelming. Still, it kept me awake and given the ship's motion as I sat back in the Cabaret Lounge.

After lunch we found seats in the Cabaret Lounge for the Afternoon Movie. There was no way to judge what the show would be like or what the story would be about. "Fences", featuring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and Stephen Henderson turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster. The acting was remarkable and the story-line certainly maintained our attention. Excellent movie although at times sub-titles would have helped.
After dinner we returned to the Cabaret Lounge for the Comedy Showtime featuring George Casey an immaculately dress diminutive Irishman from the USA. The man is a riot from start to finish, all his material is "clean" and delivered with the occasional pause to let the punch-line sink in. In front of us was a German couple and the husband needed to explain many of them in German. Great show earning well deserved applause.
Tomorrow we arrive in Murmansk in Russia.

The satellite link is still unusable so I have no idea when I can post this.

Today's temperatures were a high of 9 °C and a low of 7 °C. No sunrise and no sunset, we are still in unbelievable 24 hour daylight. Nothing to aim the camera at.

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 05:58 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Day in Tromso, Norway

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


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Our luck still holds. Cold and overcast but little wind and no rain so far. Our berth is within a city block of the city. After breakfast we ventured ashore and wandered around the town. We're not looking for anything specific but picked up a 10-pack of Coke for Jenny at a supermarket. We also found a souvenir shop where they had an impressive range of Trolls, we bought one, carefully wrapped by the charming attendant.

Returned to the ship and had a light lunch before joining our group on the pier for today's Shore Excursion. The coach leaves the pier an a convoluted route with many roads under repair after the recent winter. An unusual feature is that electrical heating is installed under the surface to assist snow removal. Our first stop is the Polar Museum a rather unimposing wooden building on the water's edge. The displays are magnificent and are set up in various rooms. With lifelike manikins and stuffed animals the various scenes are realistically recreated. The uneven wooden floor and rustic stairs all add to the impressive atmosphere.

Once back on the coach we head for the base station of the cable car. The ride up the mountain was quick and well organised. The view from the mountain down to the city was incredible. Fortunately the weather was clear enough to capture some spectacular images. Back down the mountain and the coach takes us to the most recognisable building in the city. Dubbed the Arctic Cathedral, it is in fact a parish church as there is no bishop in residence. This amazing building is constructed from eleven concrete arches with the Eastern end consisting of a massive stained glass wall. The Western end houses the gleaming pipe organ.

Back on the coach our guide offers us an extended city tour as we are well ahead of schedule. The ride takes us over the 1200 metre bridge and then into a section of the tunnels that total some 12 Km. The unique feature is that there are 'round abouts' to cater for the intersection of the five different exits. We drive past the hospital that services much of Northern Norway including the oil rigs. The hospital is the largest single employer in the city. An interesting fact is that all sections of the hospital are connected by tunnels.

We finally head back to the ship passing through the university campus where 16,000 students, both local and foreign, study topics focused on the Polar Region and the seas. All through this trip there were glimpses of the fjord and the ever-present snow capped mountains. Back to the pier and it is almost time for dinner as we board the ship. We were up on Deck 9 when the ship slipped her lines and we made our way out to sea for our next port.

Tomorrow is a day at sea as we travel to Murmansk in Russia. Clocks are put forward another hour as we sail in a NorthEast direction.
The satellite link is still problematic so I have no idea when I can post this.

Today's temperatures were a high of 8 °C and a low of 5 °C. No sunrise and no sunset, we are still in unbelievable 24 hour daylight.
Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 05:55 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Bound For Tromso

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The rain has arrived, the wind has increased and the sea is causing the ship to rock and roll. The one constant is the sunlight, the light is what you'd expect on an overcast day and it doesn't matter if it is 23:00 or 07:00 by the clock.

There's no better way to spend a sea day than to curl up and catch up on lost rest. With there being no night-time signal to go to bed we're finding that we are going to bed much later than we normally would. Meal-times are totally flexible too so we tend to be totally disoriented. Between bursts of sunshine there are squalls of rain and the ship continues to rock about.

Attended a Destination Lecture by one of the officers who provided some insight to what we may expect when we go ashore in Murmansk, Russia. We are restricted to a ship's Shore Excursion as we don't have a Russian Visa which is a prerequisite for independent travel. He pointed out a number of notable attractions but I can't tell if we will be anywhere near them or if photography is permitted. Apparently there are some restricted areas.

After lunch we went to the afternoon movie. Jenny lasted all of 10 minutes but I persisted and stayed to the end of "John Wick - Chapter 2". The extra time spent did nothing to enlighten me as to the story behind the incredible violence, murder and mayhem. Perhaps it would have made sense if I'd seen Chapter 1

After dinner in the buffet we went to the Cabaret Lounge where we were thoroughly entertained by the energetic Stevie B who performed cover versions of many rock and roll greats. His tribute to Buddy Holly had a section of the audience up on their feet jiving like teenagers.
The satellite link is still problematic so I have no idea when I can post this.

Today's temperatures were a high of 8 °C and a low of 2 °C. No sunrise and no sunset, we are still in unbelievable 24 hour daylight.

The increased temperatures due to our heading South to Tromso.

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 05:53 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day in Longyearbyen

Monday, 3 July 2017


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Crazy experience, woke up about midnight and stepped out onto the balcony and captured some images of the snow-covered mountains in the distance. Bright daylight at midnight !!

Six hours later we were in closer to the land and the snow-covered mountains are in closer. We've never seen so much snow. We get dressed and head up for breakfast while the ship manoeuvres into the wharf. With all the layers we've put on there's no escaping the icy wind.

There was quite a crowd in the Cabaret Lounge waiting to start their Shore Excursion. There was an announcement that a series of tours had been cancelled due to "Weather Conditions". This didn't effect us and I was surprised that there were not many who got upset. I believe the majority of the passengers are seasoned cruisers and are fully aware of the fickle ways of nature.

We proceeded ashore and were met by a trio of 'Guides' who directed us to three 6-seat vans where we piled in and drove out of town. On the way out we were asked to read and sign an indemnity form. We've agreed that accidents may happen. Some 15 Km out of town we arrive at the camp where the 60 or more dogs set up an overwhelming din as they welcomed us. There are 18 of us and four guides and over the din of the dogs we're told to get dressed in a one-piece insulated waterproof pants, jacket and hood. That took a while as we found the correct size and the matching boots.

Back outside we are introduced to the 'sled' - a 4 wheel buggy with brakes and handlebars for steering. The buggy seats 3, two passengers and a driver. The driver stands and is expected to steer the buggy and apply the brakes to control the dogs. We are to be accommodated in seven buggies but there are just three available guides. They need four volunteers to act as drivers. Disregarding the Army's rule to NEVER volunteer I found that I was to be one of the drivers.

To the accompaniment of the barking dogs who are more than a little excited the guides bring out a pair of dogs and hitch them to the cable that's attached to the buggy. This process is repeated until there are 8 dogs attached to each of the 7 buggies, The dogs are going crazy, snapping, barking and jumping over each other. During this activity the buggy has been anchored to a solid post. When all 56 dogs have been hitched to their buggies one of the guides removes the anchors and the only thing holding the dogs is the driver applying the brakes. With a guide in the lead we take off. The power of those eight dogs in the team was somewhat unexpected and we were soon belting down the road at over 15 Km Per Hour.

With the wind behind at about the same speed the cold was not too bad. The dogs constantly pulled to the right and I was fighting that to keep us on the roadway. After some time we pulled up to provide water for the dogs. The fourth guide had positioned drums of water along the road and each buggy carried two plastic buckets. This watering of the dogs was necessary because on the dog's scale these were summer temperatures. Turning the team for the return trip was not straightforward. One of the guides had to drag the lead dogs back onto the road as they tried to cut the corner over some rough ground.

Heading back to camp was straight into the Arctic blast of the wind. With both hands on the steering I couldn't adjust my hat and hood and my ears were tingling from the cold. All in all it was a unique experience in every sense of the word. I had no previous appreciation of the power of these dogs and was impressed with the ease with which they dragged three adults and the buggy along a rough dirt road. Jenny took over the job of photographer for the duration and made an excellent job of it under adverse conditions.

Back at the camp we stripped off the supplied gear and we were transported back to the ship. We asked to be dropped off in town deciding to catch the shuttle back to the ship. Jenny found a jacket in a local shop for her collection. We wandered around in the bright sun but couldn't imagine how people lived here through almost six months of total darkness. Back aboard we managed to thaw back to normal temperature. As we left the port we were fare-welled by a quick flurry of snow, so happy we were back on board.

The satellite link is still problematic so I have no idea when I can post this.

Today's temperatures were a high of 1 °C and a low of -3 °C. No sunrise and no sunset, we are in 24 hour daylight.

Tomorrow we'll be at sea as we head for Tromso.

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 05:50 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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