Three weeks of unadulterated Russia. An awesome trip that gave me a lot of time to explore the intriguing country.
How am I on another trip already?
That’s a story for another post. For now, let’s stick to the Russia story. My story. Not the story that keeps breaking the news. (If you know what I mean)
My trip kicked off in Moscow, but as always, I was not going to roam around another big city. I am from one and they are all the same. All the major cities in Europe pretty much follow the same template. There is one city square, some churches, museums, and of course, the business centers. Whoever travels to see business centers?!
So, instead of Moscow, I made plans for Murmansk, a city situated far up north, north-west to be exact.
After a 2-hour flight from the bustling capital of Moscow, I was transported to this small city. It had the smallest airport that I have ever seen. It was just a series of small rooms and a parking lot. My driver was already waiting for me in the parking lot. If there’s one thing that I have learned from my many travel experiences, it is this – if you are going to a small city, hire a taxi for the whole trip. Otherwise, a 1:00 AM arrival will end up with you stranded at the airport. You are welcome.
The Azimut Hotel, where I was staying, was considerably far and the driver dropped me there at around 2:30 AM. I was exhausted and excited at the same time. I still had 5 hours before my taxi driver would return to pick me up.
And, why was I in Murmansk? To see the Northern Lights, silly.
Yes! I was on a hunt for the Northern Lights. I was also intrigued to see the city by the Kola Peninsula that does not receive any sunlight during the polar winter for 40 days straight. The indigenous people here are called the Saami. These are some badass people. They might look like quaint reindeer herding farmers, but the geography of this tundra region is branded in their brain, which makes them master hunters and fishermen. They know where to find food in this freezing cold. And I was going to meet them later at the Siberian Husky Farm.
Oh, it was great!
I went reindeer sledding, dog sledding, and even got to feast on a traditional Saami meal. There was hot salmon soup and delicious stewed reindeer which was absolutely perfect for the weather. And the buckwheat with cowberry pastries for dessert was a completely new experience. It was so sumptuous.
I also went to a Saami Settlement. Unfortunately, no one in the settlement spoke English and their Russian was broken too. So, I had to leave without getting a chance to interact with them.
But leaving the disappointment behind me, I was ready for nature’s ultimate magical show – The Northern Lights. My viewing point was in the snowy village of Kirvosk. Now, I was super excited because I had intel from one of my followers that the Northern Lights had made an appearance in Finland the previous night and I was basically looking at the same sky. Kirvosk too was another food fiesta for me. I can’t even remember what all I ate, but I do remember having a lot of mulled wine.
My last day in Murmansk was the highlight of my trip. I embarked on a 4-hour snow mobile tour, which was definitely one of the best things I have ever done in my life. It definitely makes it to the top 3 – alongside hiking the Lions Head in Cape Town and skydiving over the Swiss Alps. Imagine the mountains, in all their snowy glory, and not even one soul in sight. It is weirdly peaceful.
Did I mention the temperature? Well, it was -18 degrees farenheit. So, it was double the fun. Thank the lord that I was not there during the polar winters when the sun is on a 40-day vacation. The sun does rise, but only barely from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. It kind of sits in the middle of the sky in a midrise for the entire four hours creating this beyond picturesque backdrop.
I know at this point you’re wondering wait – "What happened to the Northern Lights? Did you see the lights?"
Well, no. I know! I was disappointed too, but I had contingency plans, which worked out just fine.