02 November 2010


(Recap from Russia #3 - August 17)
After recovering from our debacle in the Khibini Mountains, we walked several blocks to Lenin Square to meet our bus. We arrived at 10:20 and our bus was supposed to swing by at 10:30. Of course this didn't happen, so Kristin waited there while I ran to the ticket agent a few blocks away.

In the usual soviet attitude, the ticket agent told me that the bus left at 9:30. Russia has the worst customer service I have ever experienced. It runs deep and 20 years of capitalism have not changed much. Anyways, the lady said I would have to pay more to get the 5:30pm bus. I asked about a train, and she said it left at 11:05 but she couldn't sell us tickets and we couldn't get to the station in time anyways.   

I ran back to Kristin, hailed a taxi, and we sped away to the train station. We arrived 10 minutes before the train, but there was only one ticket office and it was closed. The ticket agent was on a break. Naturally. So, we couldn't buy tickets for the only train leaving that day.

As the train arrived, I went to the head steward and asked if we could pay him as the ticket office was closed.

"You need to have a ticket."

"I know, but I just told you that the ticket office is closed. I can not buy a ticket. Can I pay you or someone else instead?"

"I don't sell tickets."

"Yes, but can I go on the train anyways and pay the ticket price?"

 He pointed us to wagon #11, the furthest wagon away from us, where wagon steward was standing at the door. That steward, of course, refused us, even though we told him that the head steward told us to come there. The wagon steward told us that we needed tickets. He could not sell tickets. We need to buy tickets at the ticket office.

I try to stay cool as we're having the same circular conversations. It won't help matters if I get upset, but at this point we have three minutes before the train leaves!

We ran back to the head steward and told him our fascinating conversation with the junior steward. The head steward then yelled across the train tracks, waving that we should be accepted. Once more, we ran back to wagon #11, where the junior steward said: "I do what he tells me."

Once inside, I inquired how much a ticket cost. We already lost 500 rubles on unused bus tickets. He told me that it is 400 rubles per person. Well, I only had 300. I told him that at the next train station, I would run to the ATM and give him the remaining 500 rubles that we owed him. 

When the train pulled into the final station, I looked for our steward but did not find him. We waited outside the wagon for ten minutes until there was no one left on the platform. There was nothing more we could do, so we walked down through a tunnel, emerging on Lenin Street. 

And that is how we arrived in Murmansk. 

The end of the line, or the beginning, depending on which way you're going. 
Designer duckies (rubber boots) with heels - only in Russia. We had a little time to explore town before we were to meet our couchsurfing host at . . .  Lenin Square.
Russia's first atomic-powered ice-breaker, one of only six in the world. Can you guess it's name? Lenin! We tried to take the tour for our one-year wedding anniversary, but we arrived at the wrong time.
Celebrating with Napoleon cake, spirit, and our new friend Tatiana. She was a wonderful host that we met through couchsurfing.org. 
The next day we returned to the nuclear ice breaker at the correct time. This is a (bad) picture of the actual nuclear reactor. There are two on the ship, each with four power generators.
This was the medical emergency room. I don't know what's scarier: the dangers of living on a nuclear ship, or laying down on this thing before being put under for surgery.

Fidel  Castro smoked a cigar at the table. The Russians seemed very proud of that fact.

There is no red phone because the soviets didn't need batman. 

Outside the ship, after the tour.

An actor and an army guy - our friends for the day while we toured the ship. 

Every town seems to have a fence, near water, that is littered with locks. Apparently, after a wedding, the bride and groom visit important sites in town and this is one of them. They leave a lock and throw away the key. The Russian word for "wife" also means "handcuff."

The statue of a WWII soldier, nicknamed Alyosha, stands 42 meters over the city.  The Germans invaded Murmansk, hoping to cut off the allies only port access to the Soviet Union. The Germans were unsuccessful.  

Murmansk is Russia's only ice-free port in the Arctic. The shipping industry is based on raw goods.
Murmansk in not the prettiest city in the world, but it's not bad for Russian standards. The weather was always bad - in August, we were alternating between our rain jackets and down parkas.  But there were no tourists, we got to tour an atomic ice-breaker, and we befriended one of the kindest Russians in the whole country. It was the furthest from the equator that we had ever traveled. It was also the furthest place from our next destination: The Caucasus Mountains.

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  1. your bus+taxi+train debacle sounds ridiculous, although i'm sure it wasn't very funny at the time! at least now you can treat us all to a laugh ;)