InnoBarentslab’s business camp in Murmansk was in May 19-23. The visit included meets with business teacher/tutors and entrepreneurs in Murmansk. The city is unbelievably photogenic and the one and only memory card I had with me was starting to look frighteningly full towards the end of the trip.
I had never been to Russia before, and having Russian blood in the family I knew I’d always visit someday, but the chance came along sooner than I thought!
Our route plan took us through the Raja-Jooseppi border station in unusually warm weather for May. The first strip of 100km or so of sand road seemed like an expected welcome into Murmanskaja Oblast, but the road quickly improved to match the weather.
After several hours of driving through beautiful forrested areas (btw, be prepared to go in the woods if you need to pee on this stretch, for gas stations are non-existent), we passed the dumbfounding sight of Monchegorsk, one of the most polluted places in the world. The view around this city is so eerie with trees standing dead in the muskeg and a weirdly thick smog hanging over the city.
Our first day in Murmansk we went sightseeing and perhaps the most memorable visit of the day was to the city’s favorite concrete soldier nicknamed; “Aljosha”. The astoundingly tall statue was placed on the outskirts of Murmansk city to comemmorate the soldiers who fought in WWII.
Aljosha looks over the sea and surrounding fjells just by the harbour with a great view and impressive soundtrack of clonking metal below.
A quick visit to a small Orthodox church gave me a glimpse to the lesser known world of iconography and musty incense, men in black robes and big beards.
Business Networking in Russia
For the business camp we had organized meetings and go-sees with our contacts at Murmansk international Institute of Business Education (MIBO) and with entrepreneurs in our own fields of interest.
I got to visit ARTishock creative crafts studio, where 4 women, Including Victoria Nimofeeva showed me their work and studio providing creative workshops (masterclasses) for children and grown-ups. Their work is in short amazing and their studio has been up and running for 3 years now. Since there are several workshops and crafters in Rovaniemi it would be interesting to set up something together sometime! Some sort of system of workshop exchanges between Rovaniemi and Murmansk would be cool.
ARTishock will also be presented at Barents Business Festival.¨http://barentsbusinessfestival.blogspot.fi/2014/04/3-handcrafts-studio-artishock.html
Fashion Designer Alexandra Gapanovich
Duffel miniskirts, lace and traditional Russian flower shawls! Oh yeah! at Studio Gapanovich tucked away at a central block in Murmansk I got to visit my first haute couture fashion studio where one woman stands behind collections of fine handmade jewellery and one-of-a-kind dresses straight off the runway. Also presented at Barents Business Festival.
Mr. Pink House
Another blast of color in Murmansk was Mr. Pink youth house of arts, media, film and home of closer to 100 projects by local youth. the house operates with a basis of no politics and no discimination and total openness, surely a key to its success.
This spring of support and inspiration is a real gem hidden in the suburbs of Murmansk, a MUST to visit.
Our business camp in Murmansk was really intensive and a privileged peek into Russian culture which one would not normally get if travelling as an average tourist or businessman.
That said, there is potential for tourism in Murmansk too, the city’s weird attraction is in its old buildings, numerous Lenin tributes, abundance of inexpensive sushi restaurants, colorful graffiti, trolleybuses, bus stop grocery shops and faraway nature.
Traveling as a group gave the opportunity to go where you wouldn’t normally go, to visit people wouldn’t otherwise meet and hear stories you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Northern Russia is no big scary monster behind shut borders but a place of really corky talents and ideas screaming to be shared with the rest of the world.
As a newcomer in the city I saw a lot of beauty despite the perhaps grey image the city may possess. I thought these two photos represent how russians see their city in a rather different light than I did.
The first pic is a tray of photo thumbnails I took on the locally organized sightseeing trip. The secont pic is equally my tray of photo thumbnailsI took when I followed one colorful detail to the next in the city’s streets and filled memory card after another.
There exists all kinds of interesting and independent entrepreneurship in Murmansk and potential for co-operation across the borders. This trip was a first step, Tornio Business Festival is the second and then who knows!!