Kirkenes, Norway’s gateway to Northern Russia and the Barents region

This weekend I’ve had the most spectacular adventures in northern Norway and since my blog is about sharing from our history, culture, traditions and even habits, this fits the theme perfectly. I’ve taken tons of pics, am full of impressions and as promised in my last post: I’ll gladly share it with you.
The city Kirkenes lays in the municipality of Sør-Varanger and the county or province of Finnmark. Sør-Varanger has Norway’s only border to Russia, 196 KM (121 Miles). It also plays a central role in the work which is under way in the Euro-Barnet’s region. The current border was drawn in 1826 (click all pics to enlarge!):

The Russian boarder #1 The Russian boarder #2
Left: Russia on the other side of the river. Right: At the border station with my colleagues – notice both the Russian and the Norwegian flag.

The region was among the most severely bombed area during the World War II (second after Malta) and the most intense bombing took place in the summer 1944. The 26th of October same year, Sør-Varanger was, as the first part of Norway, liberated by the Soviet Union. No wonder there is a special connection among the people on each side of the boarder.

From being a one-sided industrial community built around the mining company Sydvaranger, the region is gradually developing more versatile economic activities including mechanical industry, services and eastern trading as keystone. A good example of this is shown by the signs throughout the city of Kirkenes, which is in both Norwegian and Russian:
Kirkens Street sign Krikenes Library
Left: Street name. Right: Library

From the end of the Second World War, Kirkenes was rebuilt into a nice, modern city counting about 3 000 inhabitants. Among special things to mention about Kirkenes, is at least their location: Latitude of 69°N, even 5° further north than Fairbanks, Alaska. Thanks to the golf stream it has a much milder climate: Average temperature: Jan -13C (8,6 F), July +14 C (57 F) and then don’t forget: The sun is shining all day and night from the 17th of May till the 21st of July.

Pictures often say more than words, so let me take you for a guided trip around in Kirkenes and Sør-Varanger:

Then of course, I have saved the most spectacular for last. When driving from the city to the airport we saw Reindeer. Another important natural element in the land of the midnight sun:
Kirkenes Raindeer #3 Kirkenes Raindeer #2
Of course at that time my Nikon cam ran out of battery, so I had to trust my Nokia mobile phone and it was taken from the inside the bus. Click all pics to enlarge!
Kirkenes Raindeer #1 Kirkenes Raindeer #4

This is the first report from my adventurous trip. There is more to come though: How about Ocean Rafting, King Crab fishing, Skinny Dipping in 5 C (41 F) and of course The Midnight Sun? So stay tuned then!

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  1. Looks like quite an adventure. I hope someday we can visit the north together. Must have been exciting to see reindeer just wandering free.

    It was and of course it would have been lovely to have you with my dear! Now home and you’ve heard the whole story – even the one about the skinny dipping :lol:

  2. I went to your awards page and I voted for you because you have the best travel blog ever! I love the pictures they are just great. Thanks for sharing this.
    Love and Blessings,

    Thanks for your Awards listed then – very much appreciated – thanks for your vote too – your such a great supporter!
    Glad you liked this post and the pics too!

  3. Beautiful pictures! This is a special place, I wanna visit some day.

    I understand “Bibliotek” :lol: (blibliothèque in France ;-))

    I knew you would like it and you know, your welcome any time!
    I knew your strong in languages and very observant too :-)

  4. Hi Renny. Oh that was an interesting post. I thought the city of Kirkenes was so pretty and I was very taken with the tourist shops! But then, I rather like shopping. That area has a very interesting and tragic history, doesn’t it? Some many horrible things happened during the War, but so many heroic things happened too.

    Anyway, I hope all is well in your world and that you are enjoying life in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

    Take care.

    Glad you liked it too Robyn – it holds a lot of strong historical experience
    Hope life is good down under too – take care.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post ! So interesting ! what a special place and when I think daylight for 24 h ! that would be something for me ! and then you also met Father Christmas reindeer !
    I also have a quite interesting post (it’s on Writer Cramps for today, and in Countries and Cities) There is a big celebration going on the whole year for the 50th anniversary of World Expo 58.

    Glad you enjoyed it too Gattina and now you know where Father Christmas originally comes from!
    Your post was really great too – glad I’ve seen it once and posted about it!

  6. Thanks for the tour and the pictures, Renny. I notice that everyone has their jackets and parkas on even though it’s the middle of June, then you say you went skinny dipping?! I’ll bet you nearly froze your beard off, LOL! ;-)

    Sunday is Father’s Day here in the States, so I want to wish you a very Happy Father’s Day, my friend. :-)

    Love and hugs,

    Your welcome Diane – it was around 5C – no such as bad weather, only bad cloths you know – you learn fast how to dress well up there!
    Thanks for your greetings – Fathers Day is in September over here (I think).

  7. Great photos, Renny, and it sounds like you had a fascinating time. It’s interesting to see an Italian restaurant that far North! I have to say it sounds a bit too chilly for me :-)

    Fascinating is only the first letter of our adventures experience. – I thought the Italian bar was interesting too.
    Chilly is no problem if you know how to dress the right way :-)

  8. the adventure begins. your nokia is really reliable.

    happy fathers’ day renny :)

    Yea; this was just a teaser – my nokia never let med down – thanks for the greetings :)

  9. I just knew that somewhere the Reindeer had to summer during their off season. (LOL) Santa is good to send them there!
    Loved the pictures and the written account, Renny. As always you paint a vivid picture!

  10. I’m not aware that Russia is so near to Norway….. both countries are so far from mine. hehe….

    If you have seen my country, you would understand why I’m always amazed at wide open space and big fields and Nature. I wish we could have land as much as your country.

    I can’t wait to hear about your skinny dipping! *wide-eye*

    Happy Father’s Day!!

  11. Lovely pics, especially from the hilltop and those of the reindeer crossing. Interesting history too. I love historical nuggets, especially since I no very little about North Europe (other than for the Vikings).

  12. Mmmm, it looks similar to our Norrland, the north of Sweden. I’m glad that Rudolf the reindeer has a holiday in a nice place ;-)

    So, you survived the adventure and the skinnydipping! *giggles* Wow, how cold wasn’t that. Brrrr.

  13. I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience the midnight sun or winter without light. I suppose it’s something you get used to. It must be amazing. :D

  14. Nice to discover Kirkenes! The slideshow gives an idea about the town! Sad to learn the 2 WW was present in this place too. I”d like really to live a similar seminar! and of course I stay tuned to see you fishing and during sea activities!

  15. How fun. I didn’t realize the history between the two countries. I learn something new every day. Have fun and I’ll await the next installment of your travels. Have a great day. :)

  16. WOW! What an amazing adventure!! How long did it take you to drive to Kirkenes from Oslo? It must have taken days! Or did you fly?

  17. Hi Renny,
    glad to see you painting this beautiful picture of my hometown! You are welcome back anytime, it was a pleasure having you all here.

  18. Thanks for sharing the pics and the adventure, Renny! Did I read skinny dipping? Hehehe, must have been coooold! I wish I could see a reindeer, too. Oh, and an elk as well. :p

  19. wow, i had no idea kirkenes region had endured such heavy bombing. wow, so it is milder that fairbanks but still it stays fairly cool even when the sun shines 24 hours a day. what a fascinating place.

  20. You definitely are the Norway spokesperson. I loosely wrote about you in my InWeDay post.
    Every day I read your post the more and more I move a visit to Norway to the front of my list.
    It seems like Canadians would really feel comfortable there.

  21. When we always seem to learn that Norway is so far apart from Russia after being separated by countries like Sweden and Finland in between, it’s amazing to know of a way to enter Russia, and that’s in the Arctic Circle! Cool!

  22. Hello Renny!

    So the residents in Kirkenes speak Russian too! You know, people living in some parts of Italy bordering Swiss German speaking part of Switzerland speak Swiss German, and those living in some parts of France bordering Swiss German speaking part of Switzerland also speak Swiss German. Isn’t that great?

    Anyway, have a nice week!

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