A Delicious Taste Of The Arctic life!

/////A Delicious Taste Of The Arctic life!

Living in the Arctic for me is the stuff of dreams but for some it is the fuel for nightmares. I guess it is all on perspective. Since I’m the one writing let’s just shift the focus to the former because Murmansk was by far was one of the best experience I have had in my life so far.

WHY DO PEOPLE SHY AWAY FROM MURMANSK?

Living In The Arctic

A touch of geography.

Many people are really afraid of heading up North for two reasons: It gets cold and most people don’t speak English. Those who do head up to Murmansk usually take a tour. That is what made our experience so unique. We did it on our own and we had our own series of successes and misadventures. None of which marred our stay in anyway. If I had to comment I would say that it added to the flavor of the whole experience but I will let you be the judge of that.

All too often when a Russian heard that we were going for a holiday to Murmansk they shuddered. Too cold was the answer. Not something we would do said most. Murmansk however is a paradox. My geography isn’t very strong but I soon learnt that the warm water brought in by the Gulf stream. That means that Murmansk is much warmer than other areas on the same latitude! This makes it the perfect place to visit the Arctic. That made it the perfect place for our living in the Arctic experience!!!

SO HOW DID WE MANAGE?

Living In The Arctic

When life is all about good food!

Most people would assume that getting a hotel would be the best bet. We aren’t most people so we rented out a small studio apartment. It had everything we needed. A kitchen, a washing machine, warm blankets and a bathroom. The downside is that we had to sleep on two different beds (one was the sofa) but it was very cozy.

The best part about everything was our ability to cook our own meals. That meant that we could spice it up. Grocery stores were plentiful and we found ourselves buying fresh salmon of the racks. A quick message to our Dutch friends ensured that we had our recipe right. I may be mistaken but I think that there is no place that can compete with how fresh the fish was there. Oh and don’t get me started on the delicious pelmeni!

THAT’S ALL WELL AND GOOD BUT YOU HAVE TO COMMUNICATE TO SURVIVE!

Yes you do have to communicate and with just a week in Russia my conversational skills were almost nonexistent. Shawn hadn’t picked up much either. That didn’t stop us. Living in the Arctic in Murmansk is probably very different from other places in the world. They say that the extreme cold makes people work together as a community because you can’t survive on your own.

Whatever the reason maybe we found the people very friendly. While very very few people in Murmansk spoke English everyone tried to talk to us. This meant that they would either talk very animatedly in Russian or they would talk really really slowly so we could understand. The common part was that they would keep repeating and gesticulating till you understood.

So keep Google translate handy. When you don’t know the language that is the best tool you can carry. A few phrases that you should learn that really help are:

Hello: Zdravstvuyte

How much: Skol’ko

Thank you: Spasibo

Sorry/Excuse me: Izvinite

Goodbye (formal): Dasvidaniya

Goodbye (informal): Poka

Yes: Da

No: Net

These are the few phrases and words that took us a long way when traveling through Murmansk. It definitely made living in the Arctic more comfortable. Bear in mind that the words don’t sound exactly the same when you read them as you would read English. I haven’t learned the Russian lettering either. Use Google to get the pronunciation right.

THE DOWNSIDE TO THE LINGUISTIC HURDLE

Getting up the hill sometimes needs an extra pull!

The downside to living n the Arctic in Russia was not being able to speak Russian. This meant that things got a bit expensive. That’s because you then need to take a tour guide who can translate for you. Now you don’t need a translator at all parts of the way. The Sami village yes but not for the Northern lights or for the ski slopes.

The main problem that we faced was our inability to rent a car. Let me rephrase that. We could rent a car if we wanted to but we had no experience driving on ice and snow. Knowing the technicalities isn’t always enough. We could put our lives and those of others at risk so we decided against. We wished that we could have but unfortunately it wasn’t an option.

This meant that we needed to get a chauffeur. In order to reduce your costs we would suggest mailing local our companies and asking them to combine your trip with a bigger group. It gets much easier and so much cheaper. At first we tried using a translator and we were the only two people in the care. We got fleeced! We however realized that much later but in hindsight we did have a good experience.

The way we look at it is that these mistakes help us learn. They also help us tell people that the potential for these mistakes exists.

LIVING IN THE ARCTIC MEANS THAT PLANS CAN GET CANCELED!

Murmansk welcomed us with all her Arctic fury! Yes! That’s Shawn walking in front of me at the beginning of the snow storm before we realized that we had to run for cover. Slip slide and scramble may be more accurate though!

Murmansk has a very volatile weather situation. The temperature rises and drops quickly so always ensure that you have enough of warm clothes on if you are staying out for long. Along with the temperature fluctuations comes the wind and the snow.

One of our biggest regrets was our inability to visit Teriberka. We had heard so much about it and were especially curious about its frozen waterfall. The first time we tried we were told that the road was closed because of the snow storm the previous day. Oh well at least I got to see what a snow storm was.

New learning! Walking down the hill on an icy path with high wind speeds and loads of falling snow is not a good idea. Then again we needed food and no snow nor ice nor hail was going to keep us on hungry stomachs!

We had another opportunity on the 15th of February when we were told that the roads were cleared and open. So we packed our gear and headed out to the meet up point only to be told that it had started to snow again! In the end we did not get to see Teriberka and I probably would head back to Murmansk something later in life to finish up all that I missed.

The aurora borealis is a large part of why we decide to take on the challenge of living in the Arctic for 5 days. This too is highly dependent on the weather. While our guide said that temperature fluctuations are necessary to see the aurora borealis, I can tell you that clouds are never welcome!

TRANSPORT THROUGH THE CITY

Living In The Arctic

Not all cars look like this!

Honestly speaking there is a lot of different kinds of transport that is available throughout the city. There are electric buses that head to different parts of town and there is even an app called Yandex that functions there. I think this would work well in the city. We were on the outskirts and perched on a hill so it was a little hard to get a cab.

Be forewarned that when it snows or when its peak hours cabs are hard to get so plan in advance when you want to get back to the airport or the train station.

LESSON LEARNED: NEVER WANDER OFF THE PATH!

Living in the Arctic quickly teaches you that the snow is deeper than it seems. Paths are made for reasons and it is wise to keep to them. We however were unsuspecting naive travelers who were wandering down the side of a hill. It was park and no we did not see Shawn’s elusive bear. We did however lose the trail. Honestly I don’t think there really was one! It wasn’t long before we found ourselves almost waist deep in snow.

Scrambling around on all fours got us out of the deep and we spotted a few locals on their way into town. Needless to say we followed them quickly footstep by footstep. It’s amazing how fast you can get to civilization if you know where you are going. Lining in the Arctic does have its cautionary tales as you can see!

IS LIVING IN THE ARCTIC WORTH IT?

Living In The Arctic

Sometimes you just need to let go of all your cares!

Well I guess this is a really personal question. I loved it! It was peaceful. It was remote and yet had all the amenities that I wanted. Internet speeds were fast…Good food, nice people and plenty of activities to fill our time. At first we were worried that we had too many days in Murmansk. As we left we were sad because 5 days were just not enough.

Yes! It can get cold. It can snow a lot. Then again it is the Arctic. What did you expect? We love experiences of all kinds. You will never know if you like it unless you try it. Me? I’m in love! Definitely a place I would make my way back to!

2018-08-11T13:02:37+00:00 February 22nd, 2017|Asia, Destinations, Murmansk, Russia|50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Priyadarshini Rajendran February 24, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Awesome, Murmansk sounds very interesting to me. Would keep yes and no in mind 😀 other words seem too complicated, would just keep this post as reference though 🙂 Nice write-up!

    • Penny February 25, 2017 at 12:55 am - Reply

      I’m glad you liked it!

  2. Isobel Lee February 25, 2017 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Wow what an amazing adventure! You include some really useful tips in this post too!

    • Penny February 25, 2017 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Thanks Isobel!

  3. Ellis February 25, 2017 at 4:44 am - Reply

    It’s so nice to read a post about Murmansk. Years ago its been on my radar. I saw there was a train going there. The most northern tip of easily accesible Russia and northern lights. I tought I was the only crazy person wanting to go there. Till now I unfortunately did not make it. But its great to read about your adventures there.

    • Penny February 25, 2017 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Definitely worth keeping on your radar. Do check out the flights from Moscow too. It was cheaper than the train when we went for some reason.

  4. Lynn February 25, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    This is SO COOL!! I never would have considered Murmansk as a ‘destination’ before, but now I’m definitely warming up to the idea! It just sounds like such an incredible experience, you guys are officially my new adventure role models ha ha!

    • Penny February 25, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

      Hahaha… Thanks Lynn. We are just novices as far as adventurers are concerned but we keep trying to push our limits a little at a time!

  5. Anisa February 25, 2017 at 10:13 am - Reply

    It does really look beautiful but the thing that worries me is the cold! I grew up in Texas. I guess I just need to get the proper gear?

    • Penny February 26, 2017 at 2:04 am - Reply

      I’m from India and the cold worried me too. Proper gear I found isn’t just important. It is critical! Spend a little extra but it will keep you warm and happy.

  6. Anna February 25, 2017 at 11:26 am - Reply

    What I like about this article is that it sounds like big fun . Keep on being adventurous ..!!

  7. Anita February 25, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    It looks like a very special trip. I admire you doing this not knowing Russian. I hope you enjoyed your adventure a lot. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Felicia February 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    Wow that sounds like an amazing adventure! Love the positivity in this post 🙂

  9. Dariel February 25, 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    What an epic destination and adventure! I tried to learn some Russian online before going to Russia, which helped a little but when I was on the receiving end of a conversation, you can imagine the blank look on my face lol!

    • Penny February 26, 2017 at 2:22 am - Reply

      After a few weeks in Russia you start getting the hang of it.

  10. Katie at Study Hard Travel Smart February 26, 2017 at 3:21 am - Reply

    This sounds like such a cool experience! I love visiting smaller places that aren’t visited so often by tourists, and this sounds like it could be at the top of that list!

    • Penny February 26, 2017 at 6:27 am - Reply

      Destinations that are off the beaten path are normally the best!

  11. Tais February 26, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

    The Arctic is very fascinating, and I would like to have an experience like this. I guess if you have the proper gear to face the cold it will be fine, right? 😀

    • Penny February 26, 2017 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      I think one should never compromise on gear Tais. If you are warm then you are happy. If you are freezing your toes off then you will be miserable.

  12. Cory February 26, 2017 at 10:31 am - Reply

    You had me at the food, because as long as there is good food, I’m there hehe. My husband doesn’t really like the cold, but I love the snow, so I reckon I might convince him to check it out.. fingers crossed!!!
    Your adventure sounds epic!

    • Penny February 26, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cory. Food has also been a big deciding factor for us as a couple too! After Siberia my husband was too keen on going to the Arctic but in retrospect I think he enjoyed i almost as much as I did.

  13. Abbi @ Spin the Windrose February 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    I would love to go to the Arctic! How amazing. I much prefer doing it myself than taking a tour, too. Looks like you had a great time.

  14. Crazy Travelista February 26, 2017 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Wow i dont know if i could deal with handling that much snow on a daily basis hehe. But it definitely looks like a winter wonderland. Im hitting up Lapland, Finland next week, so might be a milder version of this. Cant wait!!! 🙂

    • Penny February 26, 2017 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Finland sounds really interesting. Murmansk is supposed to be the highest city in the Arctic. It is pretty interesting and different. I loved the whole experience. I’m sure you will get a taste of it in Lapland next week. All the best!

  15. Stella the Travelerette February 26, 2017 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I want to do this! I really want to see every part of the world, and how can I say that I have done that if I don’t see the Arctic. I’m glad to know to brush up on my Russian before I go. I can read the alphabet but I don’t speak much. I also like the tip about trying to share a chauffeur with others. I’m a solo traveler and I cannot drive, so I would need to do that. I would especially like to eat that fresh salmon!

  16. Sandra February 27, 2017 at 2:11 am - Reply

    Well, that’s a cool experience (pun intended!). I’m not a fan of extreme temperatures but good for you that you made it. And independently! Which is even more amazing!

  17. Katie @ The Katie Show Blog February 27, 2017 at 8:52 am - Reply

    I love your inspiring attitude and openness to making the most of your time despite the little challenges. I recently visited the very north of Norway and stayed in the middle of nowhere out in the woods to watch the northern lights and it was so different to anything I have been used to but I loved it so much!

  18. Jamie February 27, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Girl I feel this linguistic struggle! I’ve been living in Italy for about two years now and still struggle… ha! I love that you made the best of the situation. Keep rockin’ and doin’ your thing! xx

    • Penny February 28, 2017 at 4:26 am - Reply

      Thanks Jamie 🙂

  19. Ivana March 1, 2017 at 12:55 am - Reply

    This is such a cool post! It’s not something you read about often. I sometimes hear fascinating stories from Canadians living up north. Most seem to love it up there! I’m not sure how long I’d survive…

    • Penny March 1, 2017 at 3:51 am - Reply

      It is amazing in the North. I wondered how I would survive too but I did! I guess you have to try if you really want to know.

  20. Kachina March 1, 2017 at 4:09 am - Reply

    This looks like such a fun experience! I’d love to visit the Arctic Circle one day!

  21. Angela March 1, 2017 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Amazing experience. Hope to visit arctic someday

  22. Ricarda Christina Hollweg March 1, 2017 at 5:29 am - Reply

    This is a very interesting read. I feel both attracted and repelled by the Russian arctic area. I love the idea of a vast remoteness and adventure but am not sure, how I could handle the cold. I recently saw a TV documentation about a train ride through thick snow over there. After these two reports I’m really thinking about a visit.

  23. Danijela WorldGlimpses March 1, 2017 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Sound like fun! Like the idea of getting a studio instead of hotel room, I would probably do the same. And you are so right when it comes to learning few words in foreign language, it’s always helpful. Nice post and a great place to see such amount of snow! 😀

  24. Kiara March 1, 2017 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Wow! This looks amazing!!! I’ve never heard of anyone who has lived here and much less, been there for so long! This is a great post and I’d really love to use it as a guide for my future travels (hopefully) to the Arctic!

    -Kiara

  25. Jennifer March 1, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    WOW, what a (cold) adventure 😀 And how do you even pronounce “Zdravstvuyte”???? Love your writing style, I could feel how passionate you’re about the Arctic. Thanks for sharing all kinds of valuable info on transport and wifi as well 🙂

    • Penny March 1, 2017 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jennifer. Yeah! I loved the thrill that the Arctic gave me. I think it was the adrenaline that kept me warm!

  26. Petra March 1, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Wow sounds like an amazing adventure. I’m so envious now. Glad you liked it that much that you will go back. I’m definitely keeping your advice in mind for my future travels.

  27. Rosie Fluskey March 2, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    I couldn’t live in the arctic! I’m a bit of a misery when I’m cold. Looks like you had a great time though. Did you ever see the northern lights? We went hunting for them in Iceland and didn’t manage it.

    • Penny March 2, 2017 at 4:31 am - Reply

      We were lucky enough to see a bit of the lights. Not the whole blast and fury of them. The weather got the better of us unfortunately.

  28. Caroline @ The Travelling Sloth March 4, 2017 at 6:44 am - Reply

    You guys are so badass for doing this! I personally wouldn’t have thought about visiting Murmansk. I’ve got family living in the Arctic Circle (in Norway) but I have never visited them in winter, only in summer – I should probably reconsider and get a taste of Arctic living in winter! A great tip about keeping Google translate handy, I always imagined Russian being a little tricky to pick up!

    • Penny March 12, 2017 at 1:17 am - Reply

      If you have family in the Arctic you definitely should try it. I love the Arctic so much that if I was in your shoes I would probably go every year!

  29. Liza October 17, 2017 at 3:10 am - Reply

    I’m glad you liked Murmansk! And it’s crazy that you went there! Well done! I’ve never been there, but I’ve got a couple of friends who are from there 🙂

    • Penny October 19, 2017 at 2:09 am - Reply

      Murmansk was one of the most amazing places that I have visited. I think it will always have a special place on my list. I wish I could go back and spend a whole month there.

  30. Manon November 4, 2017 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Hi ! I’m in Russia now and planning a trip to Murmansk soon. Your experience in the sami village looks amazing. Do you have any contact to book an excursion there ? Or any other advice?

    In advance thank you

    • Penny November 6, 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      I don’t have a contact per se in Murmansk but the guy I used for my Northern lights tour was good and not too expensive. Try and go as part of a group it makes it easier otherwise they charge a hefty fee for transport and for translations.

      • Manon November 12, 2017 at 1:21 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the advice! I ll look for a group tour !

  31. Vishal Dixit August 2, 2018 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Woah.. I was lost in this article.. Could imagine how much fun you had… I have commented on your post on quora.. I really want to talk to you. I am travelling Russia this winters. Have several FAQs. Pls tell me how to contact u.
    Thanks in advance,
    Vishal Dixit

    • Penny August 2, 2018 at 7:01 am - Reply

      Hi Vishal. The easiest way to get in touch with me would be through GlobeTroves Facebook page.

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