I VIS­IT­ING MUR­MANSK

Be­yond the Arc­tic cir­cle.

Woman's Era - - Con­tents - By D.B.N. Murthy

t is rare that vis­i­tors to Rus­sia de­vi­ate from the pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions of Moscow and St Petersburg. Those who ven­ture be­yond may find a few places re­mote but in­ter­est­ing. That would give an op­por­tu­nity to see life in Rus­sia in the far-flung places of the coun­try. Mur­mansk, be­yond the Arc­tic Cir­cle, is one such place I chose to visit af­ter study­ing the map.

This city claims, rightly, to be the only one with the largest pop­u­la­tion of about three lakh peo­ple be­yond the Arc­tic Cir­cle. It lies on the Kola Bay, an in­let of Bar­ents Sea, two de­grees be­yond the Arc­tic Cir­cle, a dis­tance of about 269 kms. It is a year-round port as the warm ocean cur­rent of the Gulf Stream keeps it ice-free even dur­ing win­ter. It is con­nected with the rest of the coun­try by air, rail and road.

I ar­rived at Mur­mansk rail­way sta­tion in the evening from St Petersburg, a jour­ney time of about 26 hours through pine forests, vast un­cul­ti­vated lands, small towns and set­tle­ments and large wa­ter bod­ies. I had to bar­gain with the taxi driver to take me to the ho­tel which was nearby. It was too late to go out that evening and I rested af­ter a long train jour­ney. The next morn­ing af­ter break­fast the weather out­look was bad as it was rain­ing and cold. There was no way of go­ing out on my own in that weather. So I re­quested the ho­tel man­ager to fix a taxi for me that would take me to the places of in­ter­est for about three hours.

The taxi ar­rived driven by a tall pleas­ant man with lit­tle English but he was po­lite and good to show me around var­i­ous places. I took an um­brella for pro­tec­tion from the rain and wind. The streets were de­serted at that morn­ing hour and we reached the top of a small hill with a com­mand­ing view of the sea, har­bour and the sur­round­ings. It was too cold and windy to stay there for long. Aiyosha, a 35.5 m-tall con­crete statue is of a Rus­sian sol­dier, a war hero. At the lower part of the hill is a memo­rial for all those women who look for­ward to their men for a safe re­turn from the sea sail­ing or fish­ing trip. It shows a wo­man on a pedestal with out­stretched arms look­ing at the sea in search of sea­men who had gone out to sea for sail­ing and fish­ing.

We drove over the long bridge over the Kola Bay in murky weather. I could spot a few ships on the sea ei­ther ar­riv­ing or de­part­ing from Mur­mansk har­bour. We stopped briefly on the bridge for a bet­ter view of the sea and the sur­round­ings. A few small un­in­hab­ited is­lands are lo­cated in the sea against the back­drop of small hills. A haze had cov­ered the scene giv­ing it an aura of mys­tery. It

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