Checking in at the Russian border

After our harrowing trip the previous day when we almost ran out of fuel in the extremely isolated and lonely road to Kirkenes, the final leg was much more pleasurable and the scenery gentler and less dramatic.

The weather and the scenery were both gentler the closer we got to Kirkenes

Kirkenes is a small town in far northeastern Norway, close to the Finnish and Russian borders and has a rich and dramatic history.

Such different scenery to our trip from Karasjok

Most of its inhabitants are Norwegian with a minority of them being Sami. There are also a small proportion of Russian immigrants and of course, being so close to Russia (seven kilometres) quite a number of Russian tourists visit each year which explains why many signs and names are in Russian.

All the signs (including road signs) were in Russian as well as Norwegian

It’s also the final port for the small cruise ships that travel 2,000 kilometres carrying supplies and travellers from around the world between Bergen and Kirkenes.

A cruise ship was in when we were In Kirkenes

We spent a very interesting morning in the Border Museum where we learnt that tiny and remote Kirkenes was one of the most bombed towns in Europe during World War II. In 1940 it was occupied by the Germans and subsequently subjected to more than 1,000 air raid alarms and 320 air attacks – mostly at the hands of the Russian forces.

An aeroplane on display in the Borderland Museum

On 25 October 1944 the occupying German forces were pushed out and they fled the area destroying most of the remaining infrastructure in their wake. Only 13 houses survived the war.

More recently Kirkenes has been the border crossing point for Syrian refugees, with 5,500 people crossing the border on bicycles in 2015, taking advantage of a loophole in border rules.

Some of the discarded bikes used by Syrian refugees to cross the border from Russia in 2015

While Russia didn’t allow people to cross on foot, Norway didn’t let in car passengers without documents, however, bicycles were permitted at both ends.

This ended in 2016 when a physical barrier was built at the border making it impossible to ride or walk through the barrier.

The road to Russia

We also learnt at the museum that Kirkenes is a staggering 14,867 kilometres from Melbourne, Australia in contrast to 4,412 kilometres to Cairo 1,088 to St Petersburg and 2,255 kilometres to the North Pole.

The border crossing

We couldn’t leave Kirkenes before visiting the border crossing between Norway and Russia and as it was only a short drive we were there in no time. It felt like quite an amazing milestone to be there.

Me at the Norwegian border crossing with Russia

Leaving the Russian border and heading for the Finnish border only 37 kilometres away, we couldn’t help but notice that the road surface was of very high quality and the tunnel was really the flashiest we had seen throughout our Norwegian travels. Maybe it was Norway’s way of showing off to visiting Russians coming over the border?

The tunnel near the border crossing was a cut above any other tunnel in the rest of Norway

The road surface was also far superior compared to roads further in to Norway.

As we farewelled Kirkenes we saw a beautiful family of elk on the roadside- a fitting and lasting memory of this fascinating place.

A family of elk grazing by the roadside
A beautiful salmon fishing spot close to the Finnish border

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Checking in at the Russian border”

  1. Fascinating Dot. Hope you are both doing well. We are full steam ahead with our Reno and should move by end of Feb even though our add on bedroom en-suite, laundry and carport will be built only after we move. The plumbing and concrete slab will happen in the next 2 weeks.
    Sending hugs 🤗

    Like

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