Trip Start Aug 29, 2005
Trip End Dec 18, 2005

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Flag of Russia  ,
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

On our way to Murmansk, we passed through Nikel, an aptly town located right beside the Pechenga Nickel mine and smelter, where the majority of the residents work. it was certainly a sombering first impression of russia, as the sulfur dioxide emmisions from smelter have caused massive amounts of tree death in a 40,000 ha area surrounding the polluting plant, and has caused acidification and pollution of forests even in finland, norway and sweden.

we drove on in murmansk, which is the largest city on the kola peninsula, with a population of 300,000. during the height of the industrial growth of the USSR, the population was close to half a million, many of whom were forced during the gulag to move north to provide labour for the various industies of the north. if the ukraine was the USSR's breadbasket, the kola was it's industrial and military arm.

unlike cities in canada, murmask was built all at once, quickly and deliberately. gulag and all.

Russia is a land of paradoxes.we saw nuclear icebreakers, witnessed some "fireworks" near our hotel caused by broken powerlines blowing in the wind, drank beer and watched football in the red pub, complete with soviet propaganda posters and a big old che watching over us, saw many museums, drank a great deal of vodka (think busload of students and under $5 canadian for a litre), and i think that a member of the russian mafia might have tried to pick me up (huge scary scowling russian dude: you come with me to club i pay for you. me: um, no thank you. him: you COME TO CLUB WITH ME! me: can my (male) friend come too? him: no. me: run away!! - i think it was more a lack of charm than serious danger, but still...)

it was incredible and crazy. i would definitely go back.

being a vegetarian, we were warned, would be a challenge as the word doesn't seem to translate into russian. the locations where the 3 members of the vegetarian segregation table, as we were always placed in a specific often remote corner of the restaurant while everyone else chose their eating partners and location, received the best and most "vegetarian" food was in the least seemingly likely cafeterias. Considering that for the first few days, we were consistently presented with the version of vegetarianism that assumes protein is not required by our kind, that we don't have as large appetites as other people, and that acceptable fair is thus side dishes sans the meat or fish on others plates (some highlights included potatoes with a side of potatoes, and a small pile of identical plain rice pilaf, served as the main course, at two of the fanciest restaurants we ate at). But in the humble community cafeteria in Lovosera where the toilet had came sans sink, and the Kola nuclear power plant cafeteria where all the non-veggies received nuclear fish, we were spoiled with carrot and beat veggie pattie and stuffed peppers and grilled eggplant, respectively.

enjoy the photos, i have many more than i have time to post, but there are many more from others in my class at
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