From Russia with Love

Norwegian SeaNorway has a long coastline with The Norwegian Sea, part of the North Atlantic Ocean at northwest, located between the North Sea (i.e. north of Scotland) and the Greenland Sea. It also adjoins the Iceland Sea to the west and the Barents Sea to the northeast.

To the east, a long boarder shared with good neighbours: Sweden, Finland and Russia (click picture to enlarge!).

Inspired of the positive response from my post; ‘Opening Global Seed Vault at Svalbard’ where I was in 2000, I will take you with on my trip to Russia in 1998 and 2002:

Both times I was at a meeting with The Norwegian Computer Society in Kirkenes (as far up north/east as you can get in Norway (69.40N, 30.05E), so a bus takes you into Murmansk Oblast in less than an hour. Of course Murmansk is geographically strategic placed for Russia regarding an ice free harbour with access to the Atlantic Ocean. Other than that it has significant natural resources, mainly minerals like coal and nickel. What’s even more important is that they now have found oil and gas resources in the Barents Sea (the Norwegian oil company StatoilHydro is invited to co-develop it). So soon you will have a more peaceful shipment from Russia to North America.

The impression you get from entering Murmansk, is a barren, bleak, almost moonlike shaped landscape, quite dirty. Let me show you a couple of pics from both ’98 and ’02 and the town Nickel (can you guess from the name what they do for a living there?):

1998 Nikel #2 2002 Nikel #1
Both pictures taken from the same spot: Left at winter time in ’98 – Right in summer ’02.


We ended up in Pechenga after three hours drive: The Pechenga area was indigenously inhabited by Samis. In 1533 it became part of Russia, in 1920 part of Finland and part of the Soviet Union from 1944. It’s an urban-type settlement with a population of about 3 000. If you are lucky to get there, you can make some bargains in skin products, liquor (vodka and champagne) as well as crystal:
2002 Pechenga #2 2002 Pechenga #1
A bottle of good champagne for 5$ and 6 crystal glasses for 20$.

The most memorable time was at the dinner in the hotel though: We started with a splendid dinner with Russian food and drinks – all kinds of bottles on the table:
Russia1998 Pechenga Dinner
1998 at Pechenga Hotell


They gave us the greatest performance with local dancer in national costumes accompanied by accordion musicians and we danced with them too:
Russia 1998 Pechenga Wedding #2 Russia 1998 Pechenga Wedding #4

We had noticed we weren’t alone in the hotel and soon we where mixed with a wedding party! To make it short: We had a blast! So don’t blame me for not giving you (or remembering) all the details:

Russia 1998 Pechenga Wedding #1

So I would say Norway has great neighbours along our long boarder line. It was a once (okay twice) in a life time experience and I hope you enjoy this report as much as I enjoyed going down the memory line to share the adventures from a Norwegian’s point of view. You may click on the pics to make it crystal clear :lol:

38 Comments

  1. Pingback: Alcohol Posts » From Russia with Love

  2. Pingback: From Russia with Love

  3. Pingback: winter

  4. hello renny! it’s been awhile. Looks like you’re having a lot of fun!

    RennyBA
    Great to see you again – I’m off to yours!

  5. traveling virtually from norway to russia
    hope to visit them both someday

    RennyBA
    Your more than welcome – I’ll gladly guide you!

  6. You’ve been finding your way to cultural excursions for a long time.

    Some spots there certainly do look like a minimalist landscape.

    RennyBA
    Thanks – hope you’ve enjoyed it too.
    The same spot pictures was something I saw when looking trough the pics last night.

  7. what a fascinating opportunity you had at the top of the world! it seems so remote and it just amazes me what you found there. in all ways. thanks for taking us along.

    RennyBA
    I felt like on the top too and wanted to put it on the map to show how close it is from Scandinavia!
    Glad to have you with :)

  8. RennyBA, who else can bring back memories to real life as you.
    I’m impressed.

    btw. lets make something special for readers during Easter;))

    RennyBA
    Thanks for the compliments buddy!
    Yea, lets come up with some real good ideas;))

  9. What I like best about your trips to Russia was that both times you brought back little presents. On your first trip you brought back my little hand made jewlery boxes (2) which are among my most treasured possessions. The second trip you brought back the most beautiful crystal white wine glasses, a set of crystal bowls, and a Babushka doll…something I always wanted and have collected others since. Just increasing your reputation as an awesome and thoughtful husband!!!

    RennyBA
    Thanks for reminding me dear – they are treasured by me too and a great way of sharing the memories with you!
    I’ll do my best dear and my love for you is endless.

  10. A good bottle of bubbly for $5!!?? Whoohoo! Send me a case!

    RennyBA
    Would have loved to, but the shipment cost a fortune :lol: You better come over and drink the last two bottles I have together with us!

  11. I’m with Teena! A $5 bottle of good champagne sounds like a great start to a great evening.

    RennyBA
    So you’ll have to come over and drink the two rest with us too then :)

  12. I like the two pictures taking at the same place but at different period and season. I like to learn you’ve got nice relation with your neightboors. You had the chance to be at this hotel in the same time that the weeding! I would want to experiment that too! Thanks for your visit Renny! and hope you have a great weekend too!

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it and yea, it was a blast!
    Thanks – have a good one too!

  13. a bottle of good champagne for $ 5-6? send me to Russia anytime spaseeba!

    RennyBA
    :lol: Okay, if its okay that I join you!

  14. Very interesting Renny….That place , Nickel, is extremely bleak…I think I would find it incredibly depressing. That place where you can buy the Crystal so cheaply is quite amazing and the Liquor store, too…But I am partial to beautiful China and Lovely Crystal. It looks like you had a fabulous time at “The Hotel”….Now that was a happening place….!
    Thanks Renny, this was great!

    RennyBA
    I know you like beautiful things Naomi and would love this.
    Your welcome – hope you’ll have a wonderful weekend in the hills :-)

  15. Nice story, Renny! I am planning to go to Murmansk this spring to develop a Seed Forum process over there as well. Will hold a meeting March 2 in Tromsø with, DnB NOR, Norinnova and other partners to plan the campaign. If you have any idea regarding local focal points that we could team up with, I would appreciate it. Keep up the good blogwork!

    RennyBA
    Thanks Odd – nice to see you here too!
    Seed Forum in Murmansk sounds interesting. I’ll send you a note with some ideas.

  16. That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing :-)

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it too :-)

  17. You are a true international troubadour, dear Renny! I love it.

    RennyBA
    :lol: Thanks Ginnie!

  18. I can clearly see that you enjoyed your time there!

    RennyBA
    We did – great fun!

  19. I loved all of the photos and the story behind it. I love seeing from the past and how things have changed. If I do stumble upon places that I have previously photographed on my trip, I will try doing the same.. And yes I hope to send you a report on my finding.. ;-) (by the way, how do you do that smile laugh???) I love it!

    Finally a vacation! :)

    RennyBA
    Thanks ET and please do the same when you are visiting Europe and your home land – looking forward to your reports!
    The laugh smiley: “:lol:” becomes :lol:
    Happy Vacation and a Safe Trip :)

  20. From Russia with love indeed….thank you for the walk down memory lane as I was in Russia back in 1995.

    Travelling from St. Petersburg to Finland…the guide exclaimed to us on board the bus once we crossed the border …”Welcome to Civilisation” so yes, it was gloomy in Russia back then…now I can’t wait to visit Russia again :D

    Thank you for the post Renny :D

    RennyBA
    Your welcome – I love to share you know! Great to know you’ve been in the aria too then – keep me posted if your going back!

  21. thanks for dropping by my blog.
    you have a interesting blog.
    I learn a lot about Norway from you.
    Have a nice day!

    RennyBA
    Good to see you Kikey – great to welcome new visitors!
    Thanks for your compliments – the best one I can get!
    Wishing you a good one too and welcome back any time!

  22. you look so young in your photos! i love your country. it’s near everywhere :)

    RennyBA
    Good to see you Tin-tin – thanks for the compliments :)

  23. Really Great Post. Seem like you have more fun and fun here. Cheer up

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it and had fun reading it too :)

  24. I’d love to go to Russia one day, esp St Petersburg.

  25. hi there.. tnx for dropping by my blog…. can we link exchange?? please drop me a message.. tnx..

  26. i hope i could go to russia too.. anyways.. care to link exchange???

  27. Hey! Good story! I like your blog and would love if you can make a link exchange with http://www.journeyetc.com/ . Please, I am only 16 and trying my best to become famous. :x

  28. I’m quite curious about Russia… I still remember learning about the USSR at school, and then the wall fell… and then the whole Eastern Europe changed. A lot. Quite a fascinating country, that a lot of us don’t understand.

    You’ve been everywhere Renny!

  29. I wanna go to Russia someday! Moscow and St. Petersburg!

    RennyBA
    That’s high on my travel list too – do we go together? :)

  30. Russia! I would love to visit the country! So mysterious and I’m sure there will be interesting stories to post about it.

  31. Hello Renny!

    Hahahaha… you were gatecrashing at the wedding! Joke, joke, joke…. but it seems like you really had a lot of fun!

  32. Pingback: How To Plan Your Wedding On A Positive Note. | 7Wins.eu

  33. Pingback: Catholic Orthotics Easter Celebration in Zapoljarnyj Russia

  34. once again the true hospitality :) again partying :)

    you had a great deal of bargain there – i wonder how the prices are this time around. my friend in moscow said it is unbelieavably expensive there!

  35. Excellent site,Thanks for this great post – I will be sure to check out your blog more often.Just subscriped to your RSS feed.. http://onlineshopdeutschland.wordpress.com/

  36. Good day, sun shines!
    There have were times of troubles when I felt unhappy missing knowledge about opportunities of getting high yields on investments. I was a dump and downright pessimistic person.
    I have never imagined that there weren’t any need in big initial investment.
    Nowadays, I’m happy and lucky , I begin take up real money.
    It’s all about how to select a correct partner who uses your funds in a right way – that is incorporate it in real deals, and shares the profit with me.

    You may ask, if there are such firms? I’m obliged to answer the truth, YES, there are. Please be informed of one of them:
    http://www.theblogmoney.com

  37. We had left Atlanta in the evening and after a change of plane in Paris we arrived in Norway the following afternoon. We stayed in Oslo that night then early the next morning we boarded a plane on Norwegian airlines and arrived in Kirkenes before lunch. When we left Oslo it was raining and there were heavy dark clouds but as we approached Kirkenes I could see the ground below. It looked very barren with many lakes and no towns. From the air it reminded me of Newfoundland and its unspoiled wilderness. I took some pictures from the aircraft.

    Click on pictures to enlarge, then click again on each to bigify

    These were taken from the aircraft with my little Olympus Stylus on the “Behind Glass” setting.

    Kirkenes is quite a long way from Oslo, about 875 miles. Oslo is closer to Zurich, Switzerland (873 miles) than to this city in the north of Norway. Kirkenes is located in Norwegian Lapland – in the county of Finnmark which is the largest county in Norway. It is larger than Denmark (or about twice the size of Vermont) but has a population of only about 75,000 people.

    Postcard of the Sør-Varanger area around Kirkenes

    Kirkenes was initially populated by the Sami people, indigenous people of the area (it is derogatory to call them “Lapps” we were told.) I had booked a room in the center of town, at the Barents Frokost Hotell. A 14-room bed and breakfast whose clients are mostly Russians – the TV channels were both in Norwegian and Russian.

    Our room was on the second floor, last one of the left

    The hotel was centrally located – in front of the main square where a Russian market takes place once a month. I had not realized that there was a day tour to Russia which included a day-visa, to the port of Murmansk. We could have come a day earlier if we had known about it.

    The German Marines and Air Force had a base in Kirkenes with 30,000 men during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. They were stationed there because of the proximity of Kirkenes to the Soviet port of Murmansk (which was not under Nazi control.) Soviet planes bombed Kirkenes day and night with more than 1000 air raid alarms and more than 320 aerial bombings. In October 1944 Kirkenes was liberated but the retreating Nazi forces burnt it to the ground. As a result, Kirnenes was, after Malta, the most bombed place during the Second World War. In the middle of the square is the War Mother’s Monument which commemorates women’s efforts during the war.

    There is also a pretty fountain and a profusion of violets around it.

    Russian fishermen come to sell their catch in Kirkenes as prices are much better here than in their ports to the east. Signs in the streets are both in Norwegian and Russian.

    Across the square is the large Arctic Hotel where excursions can be booked.

    We checked but were too late to go on the “king crab safari.”

    The river boat trip on the Pasvik River was also completely booked.

    The river boat goes down the river which borders Norway and Russia.

    But the “husky hike with local lunch” was available after 2 pm (a late lunch then I guess.) We booked this trip and I shall talk about it in my next post. We then walked to the small harbour and watched fishing vessels, both Norwegian and Russian.

    Some Russian fishing trawlers tied to the dock looked like they were antiques and left there to rust. No one was around them; they look deserted and very old.

    A guy in a Jeep picked us up to go and visit the husky kennel and when we came back to downtown Kirkenes we walked to the edge of the bay. Even though we were way past the Arctic Circle it was quite nice and I did not need a jacket.

    It had been a lovely day, but we were still jet lagged. We went back to our little hotel facing the old church (Lutheran, built in 1862, but there are two Eastern Orthodox churches close by, too) and had a choice of watching TV in Norwegian or Russian…

    In winter Kirkenes must be very pretty although from November 21 to January 21 they are in winter darkness (the midnight sun shines from May 17 to July 21.) Many activities are offered in winter like dog-sled trips, ice fishing, snowmobile tours, cross-country skiing and a snow hotel. Since I live in the Deep South this arctic environment in winter might be pretty hard on my system…

    Here is a postcard of Kirkenes in winter.

Leave a Reply to Toni

Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *