Murmansk false dawn, in early afternoon.

Murmansk false dawn.

I was in Murmansk for the Winter Solstice.

The city is North of the Arctic Circle, so the sun never actually rises in mid-winter. I had been vaguely expecting that I would be encountering a 24 hour night, but no, the sky was actually a bright twilight from about noon to about 4:00pm, as the sun lurked just over the horizon. In mid afternoon, the rosy fingers of a false dawn even made an appearance to the South, before gently fading out again.

"Alyosha". Still guarding Murmansk.

“Alyosha”. Still guarding Murmansk.

Murmank hosts a fine resolute Lenin, the charming Museum of the Northern Fleet, and a strangely poignant 30 meter high concrete statue of a Soviet WWII soldier, nicknamed “Alyosha”, still resolutely watching the skies for German bombers.

I had arrived by train from St Petersburg and I took a local minibus over the border to Kirkenes in Norway. The Norwegian border officials asked various slightly strange questions (“Where is your Norwegian exit stamp!?”) and did a particularly thorough search of my pack. I only realized later that they had assumed I must be returning from a short trip from Norway into Murmansk and so they became very suspicious when I denied having any Norwegian exit stamp. Sigh. Normally entries to Western Europe on a UK passport are easy, so this caught me by surprise.