That was just a test so on with the heart stopping story. I left Kirkenes is a mini bus with 5 Russians and 2 Norwegians bound for Mumansk. Within 20 minutes we were at the border and had passed the Norwegian control. The Passport Officer spent some 10 minutes scrutinising my passport including a lot of use of a very strong magnifying glass.However eventualy I was passed through and the Customs took no interest in me. That is more than can be said for our driver and the driver of another car. 4 hours later the other car , the 5 Russians ( in others cars passing through) and 1 Norwegian had gone leaving me , a Norwegian angler and our driver who was clearly in some serious trouble over some industrial electrical components.
Eventualy our driver arranged for a car to take us to Murmansk. The driver another Norwegian was going to a wedding . The drive was exciting dodging pot holes and on coming lorries I am VERY glad I abandoned the driving option.However our driver gave off an air of quiet calm.
We paseed through Nickel , not likely to win a Russia in bloom award. It is a combination of Rotherham, the Taff valley and Avon Mouth 40 years ago with high rise housing to match. Joseph Conrad said the heart of the holy Russian soul is resignation ( thanks Melissa) it will certainly be needed there.
Mumansk is little run down very like Kirkenes but on a much bigger scale,however I understand there are plans to drill for oil off shore ,if so both towns ( if not the environment ) will benefit.Frankly there is not a lot to do but I got used to using buses ( they have clippies !!) asking the way and generaly trying to blend in. Then came the buying of the ticket to St Petersburg. Russian lady train ticket sellers have a justifiable reputation for terrorising supplicants ,mine was world class but efficient. I amazed the on lookers with my speed of being dealt with especialy as I was speaking Russian though I am not sure the on lookers felt that . I still find it funny , if it was at home distirbing, that you need your passport/ I D to buy train tickets and board.
Then came the train, I was due to spend 27 hours on the sleeper and was travelling coupee which is a 4 person compartment with 2 upper and 2 lower bunks. The lower bunks go 1st I was verck ( upper) .My companions were Ludmilla and her grown up son Andreyev going to visit her grand children in Latvia and Sasha going to a new job in Siberia.We settled in with some little unease of sleeping with strangers but soon the compartment was quiet . The following day the ice slowly broke due more to Andreys' English than my ear challenging Russian .Of course the Babushka came through with the goods and for lunch we had roasted chicken, potatoes and salad. It made my contribution of fruit and chocolate look a little thin .We parted on very good terms at St Petersberg with Ludmilla and Sasha of to Riga and Sasha facing another day on the train to Moscow and several on another to Siberia.
The St Petersburg metro builds its ticket sellers at the same factory as the state railways I am still recovering from just buying 10 tokens . However it is all worth it when you get on with Stations like Palaces the trains clean and often.
The hotel is very different from the International Standard Poliarni in Murmansk . The Veste is clearly family run with a rather laid back approach , though somewhat more expensive , I assume that is due t it being St Petersburg and on Nevski Prospect.. The room is huge with cooking and facilities.