Sunday, May 12, 2013

Murmansk

Murmansk - the largest city in the Artic circle.
The furthest north trolley buses in the world!

That's where I've been these past few days.


Once again, Couchsurfing was my means of experiencing this city. My gracious host, Narmina, and her flatmate, Ruslan, welcomed me into their home for three nights. For three days I got to go to bed and wake up to a towering view of the entire town that never went dark as moved closer and closer to the never-ending days.

Murmansk is in pretty good shape and had a lot to offer.


One evening, I was setting off on a walk to visit this enormous tall statue on a hill when I got a bit distracted. I came across a lake and, conveninently, across the lake there were amusement park rides. I started to hike along a path around the semi-frozen lake and music became apparent – Russian voices singing passionately (and likely partially inspired by vodka).


When I arrived, I saw food tents scattered around the grounds and all were selling pretty much the same thing – barbecued meat. I'm awful at identifying meat so I can't exactly tell you what it was. I can tell you, though, that it wasn't moose, bear, or goat. I decided to buy a few pieces. They weighed out three chunks (sounds delicious, right?) and I paid for what I got. That's one thing I like about this country is that they weigh just about everything you buy and you pay by the weight.

The man grilling the meat caught on quickly that i was a foreigner and asked, immediately, the same question I had been asked about 8 times that day. “Aus Norwegia?” (“From Norway?”) “Nyet. Amerikanski.” And, like all before him, his face lit up.

He asked where I was coming from and I told him I had started in Alaska (this entire conversation was done with about three words, as most of my conversations go). “You're alone? Just you.” “Adna,” (“One”), I said. He wanted to know what I was doing in Murmansk. I gave him the simplest answer possible, “tourism.” As I've heard from a few, apparently, not many Americans come to Murmansk for tourism - “few and far between.”

I didn't know how to describe to him that Moscow was crowded and angry and lovely and then I ended up in Vologda which was awesome but desired even smaller and ended up in that small town and then I got a car ride offer with my third host's flatmate's Swiss coworker who offered to Kandalaksha (which is also not on the tourist path). So I just told him that I was drawn to Murmansk for tourist reasons.


After I got my food, I was ushered inside the tent and encouraged to sit down at a table at front. He kept checking on me – it was kind of sweet. The music was loud and I can safely assume he was singing Russian classics because everyone in the tent knew the words. A babushka gave me a look like, “Why aren't you singing?” so I smiled at her.

I guess the manager let the musicians know I was American because I heard, “Hi” and “American song.” Then one of them proceeded to sing me two songs in English. I was amused and delighted for the experience and took a few photographs I promised to male him later.

A younger man came over and also asked for the photographs. Three times in our short conversation, he used the phrase, “For real,” and I learned he had lived in New York City.

I was given a free cup of tea (which otherwise would have been 20 rubels, $0.66) which warmed me up as the evening started to get a bit chilly (not uncomfortably so).

With a full stomach, I started the trek back to the apartment. I took backstreets, up muddy slopes, between the garages, and through a park. All around I saw people with barbecues going as the nation celebrated Victory Day. They are really proud of keeping the German army away from Russia.

I got home and felt at ease. Good day. Good day. That's what a few hours of wandering can do for ya.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, I'd love to visit Murmansk and Arctic Russia, where's your next stop?

    ReplyDelete

Your words make me grin.

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