It takes 1 day and 10 hours to get to Murmansk from Moscow by train. The journey is long but it gets very interesting with all the people hopping on and off along the way. Murmansk is the port city in the far northwest part of Russia situated over 2° north of the Arctic Circle and 150 km from Norway.
I have decided to go there over the winter holidays to experience real arctic winter and visit the furthest Russian settlement over there – Teriberka located on the Barents sea coast. It takes 4 hours by car to get there from Murmansk if you are lucky. There is only one road connecting both places and if it’s snowing hard, the chances to get buried literally in the middle of a white cold desert are very high. I found a local man from the settlement who agreed to give me a ride from Murmansk and be my guide. We started journey at 6 am as the light day starts around 11 am and finishes around 4 pm there.
My guide told me what I need to take with me in case we would be stuck in the middle of the tundra and after a short prayer we started our journey. Half an hour after leaving Murmansk it’s easy to notice how nature changes as we get closer to the coast. Trees become shorter and shorter turning into dwarfish bushes, stone hills turn into endless plains and white space. The human eye is no longer able to distinguish the sky and the ground. We drove according to the local navigation system – it’s a 7 to 10 meters long metal red sticks sticking out on the sides of the road every 500 meters. Those should indicate you if you are still on the road. I asked for a short stop just to make sure that what was seeing was real. I got off the car, made several steps next to the road and felt complete weightlessness. Snow swirled in all directions, the color of the sky and ground formed an endless dome in which the time itself froze.
Three hours after we reached Teriberka – a settlement with several 5 story high houses, a restaurant, a shop, a post office and the cemetery of old abandoned ships. But the most beautiful part is the beach with the mighty waves of Barents Sea and petrels circling above it. Stunning. Still. Literally, it felt like I had reached the end of the Earth. It was – 26 but the temperature was not a problem, the problem was the wind and precipitation that changes every ten minutes. Humidity is high and at some point even special winter clothing is not helping. My guide offered me tea and after a short break indoors we took a snowmobile to explore the area. We crossed a frozen lake and moved uphill to take a look over the whole bay.
Interestingly, one beach of the settlement has sand, another is dotted with round boulders called dragon eggs. Here and there one can see whale bones washed shore. In spite of the chilly weather I have met the warmest people there, open, helpful, and cheerful. Still it was hard to imagine how they manage to live there and be happy. And as I was watching the last glare of light and leaving the settlement behind, I thought about the nature of happiness and stillness of mind that this unforgettable journey gave me.
Saida Ibrahimava (Murmansk, Russia)