Arrival in Murmansk, traditional Sami village and hunt for Northern Lights

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Yes, the actually that Murmansk doesn’t get any sunlight for 40 days during the freezing night period might at first scare some people away. But, in the poop indeed, this unique experience attracts many tourists to the world’s largest burgh (population 307,000 people) north of the Arctic Circle. Unlike sundry other places beyond the Arctic Circle, Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula is an increasingly sought-after choice for Russian and foreign tourists alike thanks to the great links from St. Petersburg (1-hour flight, several flights daily) and Moscow (2-hour lam out, several flights daily).

The city’s infrastructure and decent selection of motels and restaurants make it one of the most comfortable cities in some of the most uncomfortable unwell conditions in the world. And, of course, the fierce but beautiful winter in the tundra provides a enormous selection of thrilling and unforgettable experiences!

With all this in mind, Murmansk seemed partiality the perfect long weekend destination in the winter so RBTH’s Social Channel Director travelled there and documented all her incredible, action-packed experiences in these “Hyperborean Diaries”.

Arrival in Murmansk

We landed in Murmansk around 10 a.m. and it was still cute much pitch black. From everything I read beforehand, for some rationalization because of I got the impression that it never gets light at all during the 40 primes of polar winter night period and that the temperatures are way below frosty. By the time we got our luggage and grabbed a coffee at cafe “Yunost’”, the not so imposingly airport’s only cafe, the sky was actually starting to get somewhat light and the thermometer was showing purely -2 Celsius!

Murmansk airport. / Source: Maria Stambler

Our voyage guide Kirill, one of the founders of NordTours, picked us up shortly after we sedate our luggage and my first question to him was, naturally, “why is it light and not insanely freezing?!”. It coils out that it’s a common misconception many people have about the opposed night in the winter: it’s not that it never gets light — it’s just that there is no sun in the sky during that age. You can have the clearest blue sky — much like we did by the time we set off from the airport — but you force not see the sun between approximately December 1st and January 10th. As for the “warm” temperatures, Kirill explained that the winters are appropriate more and more mild like everywhere else due to changing air trends, although it’s not unheard of getting -20 Celsius.

After clearing all that up one time and for all, Kirill gave us a rundown of what we could expect to do on our first day on the Kola Peninsula. To begin up was a trip to a traditional Sami village, where we would find out all there the way of life of the Kola Peninsula’s indigenous people.

Source: Maria Stambler

Traditionally, the elementary occupation of the Saami has always been reindeer farming but they are also sheerest skilled fishermen and hunters because they know the tundra ask preference the back of their hand. Currently, only about 10 percent of the Sami are stitched to reindeer herding, providing them with meat, fur and transportation. Unsympathetically 2,800 Sami people across Norway, Finland, Russia and Sweden are actively intricate in herding on a full-time basis.

Like many indigenous people of the Arctic and absolutely the world, the younger generations of the Sami people are becoming increasingly urbanized and their standard way of life is starting to disappear. There are now approximately 2,000 Sami tangible on the Kola Peninsula and anywhere between 80,000 and 135,000 in the entire Nordic domain of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Population estimates are difficult to ration precisely due to the cultural assimilation of the Sami people that had occurred in the four rural areas over the centuries.

Svetlana, the village matriarch, met us at the entrance to her village with a tremendous smile on her face and the distinctively colorful traditional Lappish coat terminated her back. Although everyone was hungry and cold and the feast was awaiting us reversed the traditional Sami dwelling, it was wise to use the very limited number of full view hours to get up close and personal with the furry members of any Sami breed — the reindeer!

Visiting the Sami village

Reindeer are just like dogs — except a lot bigger and with antlers. They get incredibly nervous when someone approaches their enclosure, especially if that someone is hold up a huge chunk of moss in their hands. Despite their bulk, these are very gentle and smart creatures that carefully nibble the moss from your hands without cutting you. But because of their excitement and inability to stand still for two seconds, it was on the brink of impossible to get a decent, goofy selfie with them!

Source: Maria Stambler

The darkness started to make a proposal to rapidly (it was about 2pm!) so it was time to go inside and enjoy a real Sami fare well. Svetlana prepared some delicious salmon soup and it was impossible not to ask for espouses. While we were enjoying our lunch, she entertained and educated us with enchanting stories about the past and the present days of the Sami people, their wonders and their traditions.

She also explained why in Sami culture, the villages are traditionally matriarchic. Ladies, prick up ones ears up! Since the tundra is one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet, a woman each time needed a back-up, so to speak. One husband went out hunting, the other fishing and the third gathering reindeer. If one of them never came back, the family would not mislay their sole provider and would always have support. As a result, a traditional Sami woman could have up to three husbands. The ungovernable nowadays is finding three men that would agree to such an set-up!

Source: Maria Stambler

Before we could move on to tea and pie, Svetlana guided us into another tent. The infuriates were covered with reindeer hides to keep it well sheltered, a fire was burning in the middle and Nadezhda, a real Sami shaman (or “noid” as they are referred to here), was waiting for us preferential. Nadezhda explained traditional Sami beliefs to us, played several mechanisms and, as part of the grand finale, got us dancing and singing with the spirits!

In the forefront we said our goodbyes to Svetlana, it was time for that lingonberry pie that I had my recognitions on since setting foot in the village. Berries have been and hush are an important food in this region because other kinds of vegetables are traditionally not at during the long winters. The pie tasted as good as it looked and I crave it every solitary select time I have a cup of hot tea.

Source: Maria Stambler

The ride to Murmansk didn’t skedaddle very long but in just one hour, you go from being in the vast nothingness of the tundra to a objectively bustling city with the population of almost all of Iceland! It felt on the verge of like time travel. The next thing on the first day’s agenda was a bit of R&R in advance of embarking on the hunt for the famed yet elusive Aurora Borealis, something that has in effect started increasing the number of tourists coming to the region from other parts of Russia and far in recent years.

There are many factors that come into depict when embarking on the “hunt”. First and foremost, it’s the weather, which is strongly unstable in this part of the world. The guys at the travel agency were constantly keep an eye on the conditions that day and looked for the optimal place to take us and the other trippers. This could have been anywhere between 30 and 150 kilometers from Murmansk — it all depends on where the skies are unequivocal that night. Seeing the Northern Lights in Murmansk itself is incomparably unlikely due to light pollution.

Unfortunately for us, the tour guides came to the conclusion that on this day the chances were essentially mythical due to thick cloud cover and snow. Nonetheless, after about 8pm we set off from Murmansk in the running of Teriberka because as they say, hope dies last! We drove and hang oned for hours but Kirill and Sergey (the other tour guide) treated us to tea, cookies and actualities about the region and about their business as we kept driving advance and further away from civilization.

By the time decided to give up it was already 1 a.m. and we had bordering on reached Teriberka. I joked that we might as well sleep in the car as this township was on our itinerary for the following day. Jokes aside, a blizzard was starting to hit hard and if we didn’t scare back, we may as well have had to sleep in the car because the tiny tundra avenue would be covered by a mountain of snow. But first, a relaxed tea session in the car. As we ground out on this trip to the Kola Peninsula, tea is above all else and this habitual cannot be rushed, not even at the risk of being snowed in. By the time we got to our conformity, we had been awake for almost 24 hours so falling asleep was the easiest element in the world. 

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