Our time in Russia was rapidly coming to an end. Jim and I were both looking forward to getting home and ESPECIALLY looking forward to leaving Russia. It is a fascinating country with much beauty and interest, but the constant saber-rattling between the US and Russia throughout our trip was getting wearing. Plus, to be honest we were getting tired of the constant daylight. Murmansk, Russia's only ice-free European port, was to be our final stop.

Picture Narrative
Icebreaker Lenin

Our morning was spent visiting a couple of museums. Lenin was the first nuclear-powered icebreaker. These specialty ships were necessary to keep the ports open as much as possible, and the vast Arctic coast of Russia made it very difficult to supply conventional icebreakers. The development of nuclear energy was therefore a huge benefit to the country.

After it was retired it was turned into a museum.

Love Locks

We were a bit early and the museum wasn't yet open. While we waited I became fascinated by the numerous locks on the railing. They are love locks, which symbolize a couple's undying love as they throw away the key. Sweet, but most jurisdictions view them as litter and many have begun to remove them, which isn't the best public relations move. Almost all of the locks had dates, many had engraved names, some had names simply written on. Many of the locks were specially made with two hearts joined together.

Lenin museum - conference room

Once the museum opened we split into two groups for the tour. The officers' mess was quite elaborate with beautiful wooden appointments.

It was adjoined by a couple of rooms for relaxation -- one with a piano and one with a fireplace and game tables.

In addition to serving as a museum, the Lenin is also available for conferences.

Lenin - seamen's mess hall

The facilities for the ordinary seamen were not quite as lavish in the "workers' paradise." This is where our guide (standing) gave us most of the history of the ship.

Engine room

We were able to view a reproduction of the reactor room. All the nuclear material has been removed and everything was heavily shielded anyway.

There were at least two nuclear accidents on the ship, one of which required that the reactors be replaced. The damaged reactor and its fuel were dumped into the sea.

Lenin Icebreaker Bridge

The bridge was a favorite stop on the tour. How could they keep track of all those indicators and dials?

An icebreaker works by pushing its prow up onto ice until the ice gives under its weight. If needed it can shift its internal ballast from side-to-side to rock the ship. As a result it has a specially shaped and reinforced prow and a rounded bottom. This one was said to be a very uncomfortable ride on the open sea because of its tendency to roll. (I didn't even like thinking about it!)

View from Lenin' bridge

The view from the bridge.

The current top-of-the-line Russian icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory, has a sideline of taking tourists to the North Pole. Because of increased Arctic Ocean merchant travel due to global warming, however, it may return full-time to escort duties.

 

Typewriter

I was fascinated by this Cyrillic typewriter. Young people taking the tour have probably never seen a mechanical typewriter. But the really interesting thing is that the stickers decorating it are of cute Disney-eque animals. Really? No girlie pictures?

Russian TV interview

As we left the ship we encountered this television crew who wanted to interview a representative of the American tourists. Two of our number (they wanted a man and woman) volunteered. The questions were mostly of the "what do you think of Russia" variety. We didn't get to watch "News at Eleven" to see if the interviews were aired.

Murmansk Port

The civilian port of Murmansk, shown here from the deck of the Lenin, is being refurbished for the city's 100th anniversary. The city was founded in 1915. The last city, as it turns out, to be founded in the old Russian Empire.

Murmansk Coal Shipments

Nearby we could see ships being loaded with coal. The coal comes by rail from Siberia to be shipped from here. I think Russia may think global warming not a tragic thing if it opens up more ports to year-round sea traffic.

Museum of the Northern Fleet - Murmansk

The Museum of the Northern Fleet is housed in this down-at-heels building, which is also a concert venue.

Crowds

The exhibits were interesting, but the small rooms were claustrophobic, so I quickly bailed out and walked around the neighborhood.

Commanders of the Northern Fleet

I was amused by this display of the commanders of the northern fleet. The earliest one, upper left, who served from 1933 to 1935 had a very plain uniform. I can imagine him calling his associates "comrade." By 1948, upper right, "scrambled eggs" and medals began to appear.

Decorations were added slowly and by the lower right photo (2011) the leader was weighed down by gold braid, medals and other decorations. I wonder if the last tsar had so many indicators of rank.

Lunch on the Island Sky

After the museums we returned to the ship for a gala lunch on the Lido Deck. The staff had outdone themselves with clever carved fruits and other centerpieces.

We tried to eat lunch every day on the Lido Deck. For one thing, the view was better than in the dining room, which had only some small portholes for windows. For another it was buffet style, so you tended to eat less. It was not usually this elaborate!

Refueling

While we were at dock in Murmansk, this refueling barge came alongside. I was fascinated by its size and the seemingly endless pipes and hoses.

Since we had been more-or-less "at sea" since leaving Arkhangelsk almost two weeks earlier, I expect the ship needed a fill-up.

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