In the evening of December 10th, more accurately at 22h50, I departed on a plane from Domodedovo airport in Moscow to reach Murmansk. The flight took about two hours, on a height from where I could sight the blanket of clouds covering a good part of the lands. Also, a few minutes before landing, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the most fascinating phenomena of nature, the northern lights. To describe my experience, I would say I saw an invisible pen tracing up in the sky with fluorescent green paint. One of my reasons for coming to this place was to see these lights and make pictures of it. I didn’t get to take the pictures once the weather was unfavourable. But I can’t be less than grateful for the opportunity that I had.
Visit Etap Hostel to have an experience visiting the Arctic
On my way to the hotel, after considering the weather condition, I thought that trip wouldn’t be anything to excite me. I would later learn that I was absolutely wrong.
I arrived in Murmansk downtown at about 2 am. I had a good sleep and got up at about 9 o’clock. I went out for my first walk in the city, to try and sense myself what life was like when the sun literally didn't show up for till that moment the sky was pitch dark. The little light that I got to see was like a dawn glow. The sky does get sort of bright, starting around 11am and fading into night again after 2pm. In my attempt to explore the town, I succeeded in sightseeing the flow of people on the way to their compromises. I saw their beautiful christmas decoration not far from the port area and also spotted the so famous northernmost McDonald’s restaurant on the planet.
I set my direction to reach one of the popular moments of the town, located not so far from where I was. After some time trying to figure out what way I should take, I realized the cold and the wind were becoming unbearable. The days I chose to visit this region were supposed to be unusually warm and in fact thermometers proved the forecast right. But the wind made it no better deal for me and so, I went back to the very central part where I entered a shopping mall, just for the sake of warming myself up.
I had also booked, prior to my arrival, my stay in Teriberka, the village at the limit of territory which I planned to explore the next day. By a chance of luck, the host made me a call exactly while I was inside the mall. He, and another guest from Turkey, were having a snack at McDonald’s, which was connected to the mall. I went to the spot to meet them and from there I joined in an expedition to different parts of the city.
The first attraction we headed to was the ice breaker ship Lenin. Built in 1957, the ice breaker was the first nuclear power ship ever constructed. Since 2009 Lenin has been anchored in Murmansk and is open to visitors as a museum.
Being inside that ship seemed to me like a travel back in time that allowed me to see a glorious side of soviet history. The ship contains obviously a massive engine structure that is made even more special for the fact it is an atomic ship. Not only was it marvellous in its impression of power but featured details of luxury, such as the conference room where many important people have been invited to meet with soviet officials.
My failure in visiting that first monument was soon forgotten for that was the destination after seeing the ship. It took less than a 15 minutes drive till our car drove up the hill leading to the place. We parked the car nearby and went on foot to meet the beautiful statue. The statue we’re talking about is the Memorial to Defenders, popularly called Alyosha. The statue consists of a soldier standing with a rifle hung over his shoulder. It stands on a plateau from where one can have a great sight of the shore contouring Kolsky Bay.
Later that day, after the night had settled, I packed my stuff in the hotel and started my way to Teriberka, the small village on the north shore. The host, whose name was Protas, drove us to the airport where the guest from Turkey got off. We kept on the way to the village. While on the road I got a feeling of satisfaction for the attractions I managed to see so far, mixed with the curiosity awakened by the sights along the way. Our route led us out onto the tundra. I was about to see wild nature.
We stopped the car a couple of times along the way hoping to see the aurora. Despite the unsuccess with that, I was positively eager to feel the strong wind blowing over the landscape. I took some interesting pictures featuring the faint dusk light spilled in some areas above the horizon. It was not the capture that most people coming to this part of the world are expecting to make, but it was a great experience for me. I am happy in understanding that nature isn’t something made to serve our likes.
After a two hours drive, we reached the village of Teriberka, with its few block buildings from USSR time standing more noticeably and several small wooden houses in the surroundings in darker areas. The hostel was pretty much a single flat which can only be accessed using the staircase. The walls are quite aged and the paint is peeling off. The hostel itself has only one room for its eight beds. The space is pretty basic, with furniture and a design of a typical soviet flat. You can hear the crack of the hardwood floor as you stride across. The only window of the room is a pretty big one with a fantastic view of the buildings of Teriberka and a hill behind partly covered in snow. That flat was maybe the most basic hostel I have ever stepped inside but, it provided an experience like no other hostel has ever done to me. Protas by the way is such a positive person, always willing to give plenty of information for any question I would give. I was the only guest, able therefore to feel as if I had rented the whole space for myself alone. The simplicity of those rooms, added to the view I had of the village, immersed me in an authentic arctic life experience.
The following day, the day of the real exploration of Teriberka, I got up on my feet around 10am, joined the host for a breakfast with eggs and porridge. Shortly past 11am, we were out, on our way to the wilderness of Teriberka. We drove to an area where the land was plainly vast, with mountains in the distance. To one side, I could see a frozen lake. To the other, the shore to the Barents Sea. Protas parked his car near the start of the way that crosses the plain. We then kept on that path running firstly, and later at a normal walking pace.
I was then walking over the tundra. My sight reached at its limit only deserted mountains, covered by snow. The sky was just a single white wash, with few areas contrasted by darker clouds. I spent the next few hours walking over such places, feeling such an awe, and tempted every ten seconds to take one more picture. Sometimes I would simply stop on a spot, pull off my hood and just let the silence overwhelm me. It was shocking to see such a vast, untouched nature, massive and at the same time, so still.
The exploration of the uninhabited areas took quite some time. We, at the end of the walk, stopped by a beautiful bay. There were, besides us, not more than three tourists, on the other side of the rocky shore of the bay. For some personal superstition, I went down to the limit of the water to touch it so to say, now I know the Barents sea.
After a few more minutes walking across deserted land, we got in the car to drive towards the old village of Teriberka, a part of the location where many of the houses have been simply abandoned, including a school which we entered inside to check.
Seeing an eerie and creepy place like that could not be a better experience than in such a remote part of the world. Just like a Chernobyl scene, I saw, in drawings and inscriptions, dead memories on the walls of that school. I now wonder if anyone who actually studied in that school, in this very moment, lingers in these memories.
At last, to end the exploration, we headed to an area where I visited the famous giant swing of Teriberka, located along a sand beach where are established many guest houses and also a restaurant. Nearby, at about the middle of the sand beach, a rusty old boat stands on the ground, slightly leaned, receiving tourists everyday for endless pictures and selfies. On the way back to the hostel, for less than ten minutes, we stopped on a spot by the road. I went out to photograph the sunk boats of the ships’ cemetery. A bunch of broken wooden boats sits on the bottom of the bay, circling a broad pier, swallowed by the darkness of the night. The only lights to be shed on them are the passing by cars’.
What a trip. So short, but deep in meaning, at least for me. It was a journey to an extreme face of nature. A visit to the forgotten past of a people. A little while in an environment reminding humans of their faint influence over reality.
This trip was made special by many factors and, a great one of them, was the fun time I could spend with Protas. I learned interesting facts about his life as someone who has lived and seen many parts of the world and knows so well the Arctic. In exchange, I provided him with a great time playing some Brazilian songs in his speaker. He is such a fan of it that he actually took the speaker with him in our expedition.
While still in Murmansk, I shared the excitement of the exploration with the Turkish guest, who was also impressed to see the amazing ship and the monument. We were both filming with our cameras, making the vlogging time a pretty extroverted one.
I had some moments of fear on this trip also. Because I have already travelled to places where there’s plenty of snow everywhere, I understand that sometimes it can be quite despairing to walk long distances. You may have to struggle with the snow that reaches over your ankles, your hands and feet freeze to complete numbness due to the cold and you search unpleasantly for an indoor space where you can warm up yourself. Besides, in these distant villages, you also find more dogs. Because we look and act like strangers, the first reaction of defense of these creatures towards us is to look attentively at you, growl and bark. You realize then that, if they decide to attack you, you can’t run easily nor fight. All you want is to just get out of the cold because you realize you’re more vulnerable in this environment.
There is therefore a side of uneasiness in every adventure. You are subject to risks, great ones sometimes. But let the account of the positive impressions be evidence that the reward is worth the danger. To be able to tell yourself that you saw a specific point on this earth and that you lived your personal experiences with its environment is probably one of the reasons why we exist.
Visit the hostel's Instagram profile in case you wanna do this same route -