I am now back in Tromsø after spending the week-end in Murmansk, Russia, and I have to say that it has been four extremely interesting days visiting our neighbours in the east.
My image of Murmansk before I went, was that it would be a very grey, cold, and boring city. And yes, it is grey, but it is by no means as cold as I feared, and it is certainly not boring!
No one in Murmansk live in regular one-family houses. They all live in five to ten-storyes appartement-buildings, and these buildings all look grey and tired from the outside. This is because it is the municipality's responsibility to renovate them, but they never do. In this way, Murmansk looks like a very grey and tired city at first glance.
However, once you get to know the people, Murmansk comes alive. The reason I went there was a meeting in Save the Children, and because of this we got to meet and work with some of the children that are participating in one of the projects SC are starting in the city. Meeting and getting to know these children was really great, and it made the trip so much more special and interesting.
But there is no doubt that crossing the border between Norway and Russia means crossing one of the borders in the world where the social differences from one side to the other is the biggest. And the system is also very different. We got our passports checked three times on the three hour bustrip from Murmansk to the border, every time by a serious military guy with a gun. Some of the cities are very strictly military cities, where noone is allowed to stop, and in some cities one is not allowed to take pictures. In other cities you are allowed, like in Nikkel and Murmansk - and here are some examples