Thursday, September 2, 2010

Part Four--Murmansk, Russia, and Hammerfest, Norway

Two ports we visited back to back offer an amazing contrast. Murmansk, the only Russian town we visited, was almost completely destroyed during WWII. So was Hammerfest, the Norwegian port we visited the next day. The Russian town was filled with bleak, run-down, gray concrete block apartment buildings. Hammerfest, on the other hand, was bright, clean, pristine, and colorful.

In both towns we visited cemeteries. In Murmansk our guide took us to a cemetery dedicated to the Allied soldiers who fought and died in the area. While there was a lovely memorial wall (reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC), the graves themselves, marked with stones set flat on the ground, were knee-high in weeds. In Hammerfest the cemetery was obviously just mowed, the gravestones (many ancient ones) had been re-set. The chapel next to this cemetery was the only building in Hammerfest not destroyed in the war.

Statue in Murmansk honoring fallen Russian soldiers in WWII

In Murmansk our guide took us by a gigantic statue that is dedicated to the fallen Russian soldiers--admittedly, very dramatic and impressive, if overpowering--and also a Russian Orthodox church. Contrasting with the traditional Russian church was a Lutheran church in Hammerfest, which had an unusual and quite contemporary triangular shape. This church was designed in 1961, but has had many different styles through the years. I was particularly struck by a series of paintings depicting the church as it looked through the years.

Also while in Hammerfest we went to an excellent museum called the Museum of Post-War Reconstruction. It recounts the residents’ struggle to rebuild their lives after the entire area had been burned to the ground as a part of a scorched-earth policy by the Nazi regime.

And now, a few pictures:

Apartment building in Hammerfest

Apartment building in Murmansk

Hammerfest cemetery

Overgrown cemetery in Murmansk
Hammerfest, Norway

Russian Orthodox Church in

Lutheran Church in Hammerfest


  1. This is a good way to recall and share your trip. Thanks.

  2. Wow! That Russian Orthodox Church is imposing. I like both cemeteries. The trimmed green grass in one, and the trees in the other. Thanks for sharing, Alice.

  3. Yes, the trees were lovely, but it was sad to me that the gravestones were obscured in the weeds. Bad enough that those allied soldiers died so far away from home and now, you can't even see their markers! I asked the guide why the cemetery wasn't better maintained, and she strugged and said, "No one to do it." Yet unemployment is high in her town! Why don't the city fathers hire those who need work to tidy up their public places--their so-called tourist "attractions"????

  4. Sobering visit. I agree with Nancy and Shuffield7. It makes me reflect on our visit to Russia and the remembrances of the war there. Hope you gave the town some good advice.