Having rode through the wilderness from the western border with Finland, when I found civilisation, it was like arriving in post apocalyptic Russia. Cloudy, raining, awful road conditions, old cars, ruined buildings, complete disrepair…
The petrol was cheap though, 33p / litre!
I arrived in the town of Kandalaksha, nestled between the wilderness of NW Russian region of Murmansk and the White Sea, north of the Artic Circle. Whilst the roads, buildings and most outside areas didn’t look like they had been repaired or painted since the fall of the Soviet Union, the interiors were clean, modern and well kept. It took a while to comprehend the city, dilapidated exteriors and modern interiors. I liked it. Whilst nobody spoke English, they were friendly, engaged with me and helped me out, the food was good, lots of potatoes and meat.
I wasn’t sure what would be inside the tatty and run-down hotel I found, I was pleased to discover a modern hotel. However, after checking in I went to my room and thought I had checked into a brothel!
I woke the next morning to a wet day, my boots were still wet so I put the obligatory plastic bags inside, wrapped up warm and headed south. As I rode away from the hotel, constantly manoeuvring to avoid the pot holes, again I observed the dilapidated town. Then I saw one of my favourite styles of statue, a soviet man and woman, the man holding an astronaut CCCP helmet. My favourite statue is in Moscow, the tall and imposing soviet statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space! It stopped raining as soon as I left the town and as I avoided the deep puddles in the road, stray dogs ran out into the road, barking and snarling, giving me the impression they didn’t want me to leave Kandalaksha with a positive memory.