What do you know about the Russian Arctic? Norilsk, the northernmost city with > 100,000 of permanent population, is a place where winter lasts 9 months. Interesting fact: here is located the northernmost theatre in the world. Here's my story from a recent trip to this city accompanied with must-see videos.
It is often said that traveling to distant wild places without Internet and modern comfort allow you to reboot your brain. In fact, staying for some days in the mountains or a faraway village, you feel all the mental junk dissolve. The wilderness make you more stable and sane. In Norilsk, there was a hotel, there was Internet. However, the reboot was just the same, and the impressions were unforgettable.
As a journalist, arrived to Norilsk and Dudinka to see the international Arctic Cup in curling and to interview Nikolay Utkin, the director of the Arctic Branch of Nornickel corporation about its environmental program. The metallurgic plants of "Nornickel" were notorious for heavy air and land pollution, making Norilsk one of the dirtiest cities in Russia. However, two years ago they launched a costly strategy to improve this situation and closed the most polluting enterprise in the Arctic, and that was the main subject of our meeting. Most other journalist my press pool belonged to the sport media and were focused on the curling tournament (the event was largely supported by "Nornickel" too).
These pieces of cobalt weigh 15 kg each.
To make it from Moscow to Norilsk (69°21′12″- 88°12′09″), you need to fly 4 hours to the north-east. There is a 4-hours difference between the cities. As it is currently polar day beyond the Arctic Circle, it's nearly impossible to see the difference between "night" and "daytime", as sun never goes down during this period. The landscapes look sad and desolate: almost no trees, no mountains (only some low hills). The river Yenisey was still covered with ice, and the beastly wind was throwing stingy snow in our faces. However, if you are lucky you can spot a polar fox or a polar owl, or even meet reindeers in town.
The Arctic is merciless to vegetarians. Rare are the places where people grow any plants; the imported fruits and vegetables are a kind of luxury (potatoes were my basic food all the way). Like most goods from the "Big Land", they are transported by the Northern Seaway. However, tundra boasts numerous kinds of northern berries: cranberry, cloudberry, blueberry which appear in the short summer, and I bought some blueberries for myself and some kinds of local dried fish for my parents (the most common local "souvenir", very expensive in Moscow ).
And here is Choom - the traditional dwelling of local tribes.
The most interesting part of my journey was a visit to Nadezhdinsky metallurgic plant which produces non-ferrous metals. In the video below, the sparks are not really sparks: these are drops of liquid hot metal. The protective clothes of the workers do not allow any harm, however, seeing people so close to this fiery flow was a bit scary.
And here it is poured into the moulds. A breathtaking sight worth to be described by Dante himself!
I was lucky to listen to the Shaman songs (though there are no more real Shamans in this region). A dancing Shaman is depicted on this painting by a local high-schooler Veniamin.
The Northern drum produces a very deep mellow tone. I really enjoyed the sound - it is so natural!
A master-class in Siberian cuisine. The guests learnt how to cook "stroganina" - frozen raw fish cut into long narrow slices. For centuries, eating raw fish was a way to avoid scurvy.
After this desolate landscape, I was especially glad to run through my forest on getting back home