Herdla Torpedo Battery – Defending Bergen in WWII and the Cold War

Despite overshadowed by the natural beauties of Norway, the heritage of the rich war history of this Country would really deserve a dedicated trip. Thanks to its geographical location, this Scandinavian Nation had a primary strategic role both in WWII and the Cold War.

Hitler’s Third Reich military forces conquered Norway early in WWII (Spring 1940), gaining an effective stronghold for launching sea and air patrolling missions over the Norwegian Sea and the northern Atlantic. The long coastline stretching from the Skagerrak strait up to North Cape was made impenetrable to enemy invasion, building anew a capillary network of fortifications – the Atlantic Wall. This masterpiece of military engineering was based on an extensive catalog of reinforced concrete standard elements (Regelbau in German), ranging from fortified casemates to radar towers, to observation and target range finding stations, to bunkerized gun batteries, etc. These elements were assembled in larger fortified compounds, placed in key strategic locations along the coast or in the narrow firths reaching to major ports and towns, like Bergen or Trondheim.

Typically run by the Kriegsmarine (Navy) or Luftwaffe (Air Force), these forts may comprise measuring stations, anti-shipping guns, anti-aircraft cannons, plus barracks, services, ammo storages, and even airfields in some cases. They were built not only in Norway, but having been originally planned by the Third Reich to protect the entire coast of conquered continental Europe, they were erected along the shoreline also from Denmark down to France.

As a matter of fact, many of the Norwegian fortresses of the Atlantic Wall rank today among the most massive and well-preserved of the entire line (see here for some highlights).

But the war history of Norway, and of its mighty military infrastructure, didn’t stop with the end of WWII. With the start of the Cold War, Norway became a NATO founding member, and once again of great strategic value. It found itself in close proximity to the USSR, and with a long coastline facing the sea corridor taking from the highly-militarized Murmansk and Kola Peninsula (see here) to the northern Atlantic.

Most of the Atlantic Wall forts, especially anti-shipping and anti-aircraft gun batteries, were obsolete by the 1950s, and were soon deactivated. Some were abandoned or, when retained by the Norwegian military, they were modified to cover new functions.

In a few cases, the original mission of the site by the Third Reich was retained by NATO forces in the Cold War. This is the case of the torpedo battery in Herdla.

The fortress of Herdla was a major strategic fort in the Atlantic Wall, allowing to keep a watch on the entry point to the inner waters leading to the large industrial and military port of Bergen. Thanks to the morphology of the area, featuring a rare spot of flat land nearby a steep and rocky cliff, an airfield was installed by the Third Reich besides a set of bunkers, effectively hidden in the rocks. A land-based torpedo battery, consisting of a range-finding and aiming station and torpedo-firing tubes, was part of the fort.

During the Cold War, it was decided that the torpedo battery could be still a valuable asset, and Herdla was retained by the Norwegian military – by comparison, the airfield, too short for the requirements of the jet-era, was not. Over the years, the torpedo battery was potentiated to keep up-to-date against the technological offensive capabilities of the Eastern Bloc, and to exploit the most modern identification and surveillance techniques.

The torpedo battery was part of a larger naval fort, which controlled also the barrier of sea mines implemented to stop a sea-based intrusion towards Bergen.

As a matter of fact, the area control functions and the offensive capability of Herdla were retained until the early-2000s, when the fortress was deactivated following the end of the Cold War and defense budget cuts.

Luckily however, the often neglected Cold War chapter of warfare history has in Herdla a valuable asset – an accurately preserved fortress regularly open for a visit. A modern visitor center welcomes the more curious travelers, leaving Bergen towards the remoteness of the coast. It retraces the WWII heritage of the Herdla site, thanks to an exhibition centered around an original Focke-Wulf FW190, recently salvaged from the bottom of the sea, and with a special history to tell. Then a visit to the battery, looking like it had just been left by the military staff, is a unique emotion for both the specialized war technology enthusiasts and the general public as well.

The following report and photos is from a visit taken in Summer 2022.


As outlined in the overview, the Herdla site today is centered on two major highlights. One is the visitor center, with the preserved relic of a unique Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf FW190. The other is the former torpedo battery and Navy area command bunker, Norwegian facilities installed during the Cold War in bunkers dating to the Third Reich era.

Visitor center & Focke-Wulf FW190 exhibition

The relic of a Focke-Wulf FW190 A-3 German fighter from WWII is hosted in a dedicated room, where a scenic lighting makes this impressive exhibit literally shine.

This exemplar of the iconic Third Reich fighter, produced in some thousands examples, and now almost impossible to find especially in Europe, is ‘Gelbe 16’ (which can be translated in ‘Yellow 16’) of 12./JG5, and its history is deeply related to Herdla.

It took off on December 15th, 1943, from the airfield the Luftwaffe had established on the flat area now lying ahead of the visitor center, at the time a very active German airbase.

Following troubles with the engine, it ditched in the cold inner water near the island of Misje, some ten miles south of Herdla, the pilot being able to abandon the doomed aircraft, and being saved by local fishermen – and returned to the Luftwaffe, who had a Norwegian resistance prisoner released in acknowledgment.

The aircraft sank to the bottom of the sea, but its memory was not lost by some of the locals, who clearly remembered the events. The Focke-Wulf remained there for 63 years, but it was finally located and pinpointed by the Norwegian Navy, instigated by local interest, in 2005. After preparatory work – including exploration dives, to assess the condition and to set-up recovery operations – the fairly well-preserved wreck was lifted to the surface on November 1st, 2006, and loaded on a tug. Conservative restoration work then took place in Bergen.

Instrumentation and the machine guns were all recovered, together with many further fragments of equipment. Interestingly, evidence of repaint was found during conservation, retracing some previous assignments. Yet the history of this very exemplar remains difficult to write in its entirety.

Finally, following completion of conservation works, a new home for the aircraft was prepared in Herdla, where a hangar was built anew – and this is where you can see it today.

The aircraft is in an exceptional state of conservation, considering it spent 63 years in sea water. The fuselage, wings and tail are not significantly damaged, with just some paneling having disappeared on tail control surfaces, due to corrosion. The swastika on the vertical stabilizer is still perfectly evident, like other painted details.

The propeller blades are all bent downstream, as typical for an emergency landing carried out without the landing gear and the engine still running. The tail wheel is there with its original tire, the emblem of the German brand ‘Continental’, still in business today, being clearly noticeable.

The instrumentation from the pilot’s control panel has been put on display separately. Also a gyroscope has been found. Everything is only slightly damaged. Similarly, the two machine guns, dismounted prior to lifting the aircraft from the sea, are little damaged, and displayed with some ammo.

Complementing the exhibition are a few other pieces from other wrecks, as well as some quality scale models and dioramas portraying Herdla in the days of Third Reich tenancy.

Torpedo Battery

Access to the torpedo battery, which was built in WWII just above sea level, is from a gate on the land side. From outside, the bunkers in the fortress of Herdla appear especially well-deceived in the rocks of the cliff.

What is seen today inside, however, dates to the years of Norwegian tenancy. The facility was updated in several instances during the Cold War, the last in the 1990s. Immediately past the gate, you get access to a modern and neat mechanics shop, where a partly dismounted torpedo allows to have a suggestive look inside this marvelous weapon.

Interestingly, Norway inherited and went on operating a significant number of German G7a (TI) torpedoes. This was the standard torpedo employed by the Kriegsmarine since 1934, and with some modifications (‘TI’ standing for ‘first variant’, the later variants bearing other codes), for the full span of WWII.

Propulsion power for this torpedo was from a piston engine, fed by high-pressure vapor obtained by the combustion of Decaline with compressed air stored onboard, mixed in a heater (i.e. a combustion chamber) with fresh water, similarly stored in a tank. The resulting mixture fed a 4-cylinder radial piston engine, driving two counter-rotating propellers. The exhaust in the water produced a distinctive contrail of bubbles, and the presence of a high-frequency moving mechanism had the side-effect of a significant noise emission. The head of the cylinders can be clearly seen in the dismounted exemplar.

Guidance was provided by rudder steering controlled with the help of gyros, whereas depth was controlled via a mechanical depth sensor. The torpedo could stay close to the surface or keep an assigned depth. In WWII the torpedo had no homing device – i.e. it was ‘blind’, thus requiring carefully putting it on a target-intercept trajectory. It could however cover pre-determined trajectories of some sophistication. The set-point selection for guidance and the yaw regulation gyro assembly have been taken out of the torpedo, and can be checked out in detail.

The range could be selected before launching, and was traded off with speed. It could be between 5.500 and 13.200 yards, and the speed ranged between 44 kn and 30 kn correspondingly. The German origin of the torpedo on display is betrayed by the writings in German on some parts.

Leaving the workshop through a gate towards the inner part of the bunker, a roomy supply storage area can be found, with some interesting material including torpedo parts, as well as a torpedo launching cannon.

This item represents the primary way of launching torpedoes in the early Cold War from land-based batteries or ship decks. This was a technology inherited from WWII, when coastal batteries of the Atlantic Wall ejected torpedoes from slots in the bunker wall, shortly above the surface of the water, employing cannons similar to this one (which dates from the Cold War period), thanks to a burst of compressed air. This cheaper, but less ‘stealthy’ and accurate launching procedure, was replaced by underwater launching tubes only over the years of the Cold War, featuring an increase in the level of sophistication of warfare. Correspondingly, the slots in the side of the torpedo battery bunker facing the water were bricked up, and torpedo cannons were retained mostly for use from the deck of warships.

From the storage room you get access to the core area of the battery. This is through a decontamination lock, with gear for anti-contamination testing, including paper strips for checking contamination from poisonous gas.

The battery features two diesel generators for electric power, employed in case of disconnection from the regional grid.

Less usual – for a military facility – is the presence of two air compressors. Compressed air is relevant for torpedo operation, being employed for the launch burst from the torpedo tube, as well as for propulsion and gyros in the G7a torpedo. The air compressors in Herdla are made by Junkers, solid German technology from 1961!

A few bunkerized resting rooms for the staff manning the battery can be found in the same area, besides the power/compressed air supply room and the torpedo room. The resting rooms are minimal as usual, with suspended berths, and much personal military equipment on display – coats, blankets, medical kits, and more technical material.

Finally, the core of the battery is the torpedo room. This is much longer than wider, access is via the short side. In the Third Reich years, the launching slot was on the short side to the opposite end of the room, right above the water. Today, this slot has been bricked up, and there is no window at all.

The torpedoes are aligned on racks along the long sides of the room. The launching system is via two underwater tubes, which are accessed via obliquely mounted hatches, one to each side of the room at the level of the floor. The section of the racks closer to the entrance door is actually a pivoting slide. The slide could be pitched down, thus allowing the torpedo to slip through the hatch in the firing tube. The original launch control console can be found to the right of the access door – in a mint condition, it looks really like it had just been put in standby following a drill!

Over the years, the stockpile of G7a TI torpedoes was upgraded especially in terms of guidance. The major modification was the adoption of wired control. This is based on a thin electric cable unwinding as the torpedo proceeds along its trajectory, keeping it linked with the launching battery. This upgraded model is called G7a TI mod 1. Control via a steering joystick and trajectory monitoring system could provide manual guidance to the torpedo, thus sharply increasing the chance of target interception. This technology is still in use today. Wire tubes can be found on top of the rudder of torpedoes.

Besides the G7a, Herdla battery received the TP613 torpedo, a weapon developed in Sweden in the early 1980s from previous designs. Exemplars of this torpedo, still in use, are visible in the torpedo room. In terms of mechanics, the piston engine of this torpedo is powered by the reaction of alcohol and Hydrogen-peroxide. In terms of guidance, this torpedo features improved wired communication for guidance and power setting (i.e. changing torpedo speed during the run), as well as passive sonar homing. A dismounted section exposing the engine can be found on display.

The wire tube installation on top of the rudder is featured also on this model, and examples of the wire are on display.

The original guidance console, made by Decca, with a prominent joystick on it, is on display as well!

Training and proficiency checks are typically carried out without a warhead, but with an instructional head. Distinctively painted in shocking red, and with powerful lights in them – to show their position to simulated targets during training exercises, when needed – these are on display in a number. Since the torpedoes, just like missiles, are very expensive, a way of recovering them after instructional use has been envisioned, in the form of inflating bags coming out of the head, increasing the buoyancy of the emptied torpedo and forcing it to surface when reactants tanks are empty and power is off.

Offensive warheads can be exchanged with dummy ones for training, bolting them to the body of the torpedo, which remains totally unchanged. A warhead with a 600 lbs explosive load, triggered by a proximity pistol, was typically put on G7a torpedoes. The proximity pistol was made of four petals, which on contact with the target were bent towards a conductive metal ring around the nose cone of the torpedo, closing an electric circuit and triggering the explosion.

Leaving the torpedo room and the bunker is via the same way you came in.

Sea Mines & Area Control Center

But your visit is not over. As mentioned, the Herdla coastal battery hosts an area control center, with provision to manage target detection facilities and the minefields in the waters around Bergen.

This part was built in a facility strongly potentiated with tight doors, typical to the shockwave-proof military construction syllabus of the Cold War. A sequence of roomy vaults carved in the rock hides a number of containerized modules, together with an exhibition of sea mines and related apparatus.

Most notably, an L-type Mk 2 moored mine and a Mk 51 bottom mine are on display, with a understated control panel. The latter is actually a portable controller for triggering the mines. Already before WWII, sea mines were often put on the bottom of the sea in shallow waters, or moored in deeper waters, to control access inner waters, firths, ports, etc. The Germans made extensive use of this technique in Norway, and following WWII this strategy was inherited by Norway to protect its waters from (primarily) Soviet intrusion.

Despite contact mines were still popular in WWII, they have been surpassed and gradually replaced already in that age by proximity mines, based on noise and – especially – magnetic sensors. Today, proximity fuses activated by the magnetic field of ships or submarines passing nearby are standard technology. Onboard electronics allows to distinguish between the magnetic signature (i.e. fingerprint) of different ships, thus avoiding any issue for civilian or friendly traffic, and activating only against enemy shipping. Degaussing techniques – i.e. the ability of military ships to hide their signature – have forced to improve detection technology, which is today extremely sophisticated.

Furthermore, for the protection of ports and friendly waters, sea mines are typically controlled and triggered by hand, upon detection and localization of enemy shipping, by means of dedicated detection facilities on land or water. This improves precision and allows more flexible defensive-offensive tactics, since a human chain of command has control on the minefield, instead of a pre-determined computer program.

To trigger the mines, consoles like that on display are employed, where a trigger for each mine allows precise control over the minefield.

The first containerized control center hosts a similar, yet much more modern, dedicated console. Everything in this movable control center is very neat, and really looking like reactivation might take place in just moments! Of interest is also the situation map, covering the area around Herdla and the water inlet to Bergen.

A nearby container reveals berths and a small living area for stationing staff.

Yet another container hosts a complete situation room covering the area. Similar to the coastal battery in Stevnsfort, Denmark (see here), a careful eye was constantly overlooking the shipping in the area.

In the same container, a console for steering torpedoes, more modern than that previously seen in the torpedo battery, is on display.

All in all, Herdla is a one-of-a-kind destination, of primary interest for those interested in Cold War military history, enjoyable and easy to visit. Totally recommended for everybody with an interest in history, with much to see and learn for the kids as well.

Getting there & Visiting

Herdla fortress features an official visitor center with a large parking area, and amenities including a small restaurant and a shop. The official website is here. It can be reached about 27 miles north of central Bergen, roughly 45 minutes by car. The address is Herdla Museum, Herdla Fort, 5315 Herdla.

The torpedo battery and control bunker can be visited only on a guided tour. Visiting from abroad, we scheduled an appointment, and were shown around by the very knowledgeable guide Lars Ågren, a retired officer of the Royal Norwegian Navy. He joined the Navy in the late 1970s, in time to gain a substantial, hands-on Cold War experience during the final, high-tech part of that confrontation. He was promoted to tasks in the NATO headquarters in Belgium, later returning to Norway, and totaling more than 37 years in service. He is strongly involved in the management of the Herdla site. Chance is for you to embark on a visit with this guide, or other very competent guides who will satisfy the appetites of more committed war technicians and engineers, being capable of entertaining also the younger public as well.

A visit to the torpedo battery and control center may last about 1 hour. Seasonal changes to opening times may apply, as common in Northern Countries, therefore carefully check the website.

A Walk in Murmansk – A Soviet Industrial Port of Our Time

Murmansk is a port town in the northwestern corner of todays Russian Federation. It bolsters the biggest population among the centers north of the Arctic Circle in the world. It was founded in 1916, just months before the Revolution, and developed rapidly thanks to its strategic position for the needs both of the Navy and of maritime commerce. Actually this is the only Russian port on the Barents Sea which is not blocked by ice in winter, and it is in a region rich of substantial natural deposits, including nickel and coal. Furthermore, the coast in the vicinity of this town and along the Kola peninsula features countless coves and bays, providing an ideal setting for stationing a military fleet.

Probably the highest point in the history of Murmansk, which also contributed greatly in forming its current shape, was in the Great Patriotic War, i.e. WWII as they call it in Russia and the USSR until the Nineties. Murmansk was a key port on the supply line between the Western Allies and the USSR. A railroad linking Murmansk and St. Petersburg – some 900 miles south – existed since before its foundation. For this reason, and for the abundant raw materials in the region, the area was a dramatic theater of war, the German Wehrmacht relentlessly hitting there from both Norway and Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland. As a matter of fact, the resistance of the Soviets around Murmansk meant that the town was never conquered by Hitler’s forces, which where stopped just some tens of miles away to the west.

The damage and destruction brought by the war, acknowledged by the Soviet government with medals and the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union” awarded to Murmansk, meant that today the city has a mostly ‘modern’ appearance – in the Soviet sense. From the viewpoint of architecture, Murmansk has been rebuilt with industrial and military activities in mind, as most cities all around the USSR and differently from the most famous Moscow and Leningrad (today St. Petersburg). During the Cold War Murmansk developed into a huge port town and industrial center, with a population reaching almost half a million at some point. At the same time, military ports and shipyards multiplied in the region. The Soviet Northern Fleet has been stationed there since its foundation in the Thirties, and during the Cold War it was tasked with patrolling the Atlantic up to the northern coast of the USSR. The Northern Fleet was supplied with many iconic firsts for the USSR, including nuclear submarines and strategic nuclear missiles.

A trip to this industrial city is probably not in the list of many tourists, and even less from abroad. But for those looking for a full immersion in the atmosphere of an authentic Soviet town of the Cold War days, conveniently located not far from the Russian western border and still populated and very active, Murmansk has really much in store. Furthermore, if you care about the history of WWII and the Cold War, then this is definitely a place to go. The closed town of Polyarny, from where Marko Ramius sets off in Tom Clancy’s memorable fiction ‘The Hunt for Red October’, is just miles away from Murmansk.  If you would like to see something in this region which still retains much of its ‘CCCP aura’, unless you are from Russia Murmansk is one of the few towns in an extensive region which has been opened to foreign visitors – Polyarny, as well as Severomorsk, where the headquarters of the Northern Fleet are, and other military centers nearby unfortunately are not accessible to foreigners even today.

This post shows a possible itinerary touching some Soviet- or war-themed highlights in town. At the end of the chapter you can find information about reaching Murmansk, which itself may turn an interesting part of the trip. Photographs were taken in August 2017.


The Google map below shows the itinerary I followed during my visit. All sights pinpointed on the map are mentioned or portrayed in the post. I covered the whole itinerary with a long walk, resulting in a very requiring 24 miles which I walked in one day. Despite the great photo opportunities you can get walking around alone, this distance can be definitely too much for the majority of visitors, so you may choose to hire a taxi or move with public transport for at least a part of the itinerary. Or you may decide to explore the town in one and a half or two days instead of just one.


Ploschad Pyat’uglov

The central square of Murmansk – ‘Five Corners Square’ in English – is where the two oldest hotels are, the ‘Azimuth’ and the ‘Meridian’. If you are staying at the Meridian – a good level executive hotel  – you can enjoy a good view of the Azimuth, a typical modern Soviet building, a section of the port and the northern districts of Murmansk. Your view will reach to one of the most famous Soviet monuments in Russia – Alyosha, the gigantic statue of a Soviet soldier.

On the façade of the building to the left of the Meridian you can see a sculpture of some Soviet decorations attributed to Murmansk. Not far cross the road is a similarly themed obelisk.

To the southeast of the square, Tsentralnyy Park is a nice park frequented by Russian families with children. On the southeastern side of the park are a statue of Kirov – a friend of Stalin, who killed him at some point, as he often used to do with friends – and a couple of neoclassic Soviet public palaces with Soviet-themed decoration.

To the northwest of the Ploschad there is another smaller park with monuments and fountains, and the Regional Art Museum of Murmansk in one of the corners (website here). The latter is a nice little art museum, where works of many regional artists from the 19th century and well into the Soviet era can be found.

Among the elements helping to remember you are in the 21st century and not any more in the Soviet Union, there is a McDonald’s – possibly the northernmost in the world – and some banks around the square.

Prospekt Lenina

One of the two traffic arteries in Murmansk, describing a large arch crossing the central district. Moving south from Ploschad Pyat’uglov, you can walk down the full length of this boulevard. In the most central district, closer to the square, you will find many buildings with typical Soviet facades. Soon after leaving the square, on the eastern side there is a statue of Lenin, creating a nice scenery with the wings of the stately building behind it.

One of the most notable buildings along the boulevard apparently belongs to the heir of the KGB, and still retains a monument with the sword and shield close to the entrance. The façade is adorned with prominent hammer and sickle symbols.

On the eastern side of the boulevard another interesting sight is the Monument to the Border Guards of the Arctic. This is placed in a small, well-kept and quiet park. Close by, a theater can be recognized by the frieze on the front – this was undergoing renovation at the time of my visit, and nothing more could be seen.

Moving further south, the road turns markedly to the southeast, and correspondingly the quality of the buildings starts to decrease sharply, with some exceptions, including some bulky modern buildings. One of them is really imposing, fenced and guarded. It may be a tribunal or a military command of some sort, given the level of security. As the road starts to climb uphill, a monument connected to WWII is clearly noticeable, with and anti-tank cannon prominently standing on a pillar. From that place, it is possible to spot some Soviet decoration on lower profile residential buildings.

In this part the panorama changes rapidly, with wild vegetation and poor housing coexisting side by side. Some buildings look as they are just waiting to collapse, and you think they are abandoned until you see two well dressed clerks coming out of a decrepit door. Hammer and sickles can be found on the façade or to the side of every other building.

Somewhat unceremoniously, Prospekt Lenina comes to an end forming a sharp angle with Prospekt Kirova.

Prospekt Kirova and Ulitsa Shmidta

Turning northwest on Prospekt Kirova the road starts to descend. Here you can find a significant number of Soviet style apartment buildings. Looking carefully, you can see that the construction of the buildings is modular and the style is very repetitive – there are only about five or six variations in the basic module.

As the street turns north changing name into Ulitsa Shmidta you have on the southern corner a building connected with the Navy, possibly an academy, with some strange instrumentation on the roof. Cross the street there is a small park, with a modern church, clearly built after the end of the Soviet period.

From around this point it is possible to get some good pictures of a still working power plant, which is located basically in a block of this district, not far from the city center and surrounded by apartments. The proximity of the chimneys to the apartment buildings is typical to Soviet towns, much harder to find in the west, unless you’re running out of money building your town when playing SimCity. Furthermore, the power plant in Murmansk is really huge and the funnels really monstrous!

Proceeding north on Ulitsa Shmidta, on the eastern side it is possible to spot many Soviet facades, where on the western side you may have problems getting a view of the railway and the port down below, due to the vegetation strip obstructing the view. At some point on the eastern side you will find a military building, recognizable by the red stars on the gates – the same model of gates and stars you can find in many abandoned military sites all over the former Eastern Bloc.

A block south of the last bend to the northeast where Ulitsa Shmidta changes its name into Ulitsa Kominterna, it is possible to find a small nice park with a monument to the Soviet Navy, just ahead of a stately building which may have been a former military headquarter.

The monument is modern in design, and perhaps made after the end of the Soviet Union, yet looking very exotic if you are from the western side of the Iron Curtain.

Railway Station

Possibly one of the oldest buildings in Murmansk, and surely one of the most iconic thanks to the pinnacle with the red star on top, is the railway station. The façade and entrance are on Ulitsa Kominterna, but the building is built on multiple levels, for it is on the rim of a small coast. The passenger railway is at the bottom of the coast, and very close to the building. An old steam locomotive with a big red star is placed on one of the passenger platforms.

On the northern side of the station building it is possible to get access to a footbridge, passing over the passenger terminal and the huge cargo terminal. The latter offers a really impressive show, with countless coal trucks unwinding along endless railways. The railway basically ends in Murmansk, and the port is specialized with taking coal from the trains and putting it on the ships – plenty of dedicated cranes are always active in this transfer work. The railway yard is always very busy.

In the evening you can watch the assembly of the empty convoys, being set up for their travel back to inland Russia. This is a pretty violent and noisy show, as they usually form a train by kicking a car on a railway track against the rest of the convoy waiting at the other end. When the car hits the convoy a very loud bang is produced, which can be heard from a great distance everywhere in town.

Given the number of convoys and cars, this unusual concert goes on for quite a while every evening.

Port of Murmansk and Icebreaker Lenin

Descending from the far end of the footbridge towards the sea you reach the platform of the port of Murmansk with a short walk. You can walk only a small part of the port area, including two piers. The famous icebreaker Lenin (website here), the first nuclear-propelled non-military vessel in the world, is permanently moored here and can be visited as a tourist attraction – in theory.

[NOTE: Obviously the dates of my trip had been chosen accounting for the opening times of this museum ship, one of the most relevant sites in town. I was very unlucky, experiencing the harsh treatment Russia still reserves to tourists this day – in spite of a published timetable of the tours available online, even though in Russian only, I found a printed paper in Russian on the entrance to the pier, basically telling ‘no tours for today and tomorrow’, full stop. Unfortunately, you can experience similar issues even in cities with a touristic vocation like St. Petersburg, so this happening in the remote Murmansk was not unbelievable. Yet considering I visited from quite afar, tuned my trip specifically for this attraction standing to the available information and came during the peak season, this shows a very low-level preparedness for tourism and especially a generally bad attitude towards foreign visitors, both parts of an unwanted heritage of the Soviet times. You’d better go ready to similar problems when traveling to Russia.]

Anyway the icebreaker can be admired also from the pier. The size is really stunning, especially if compared to the older and glorious Krassin, which can be found in St. Petersburg (see this post). Along the Lenin, on another pier a modern icebreaker can be seen. Murmansk is also a well-known starting point for arctic cruises.

A monument remembering the Great Patriotic War closes the square ahead of the piers on one side. Cross the bay from this point it is possible to spot another war monument, including a jet aircraft and a cannon.

Kursk Monument and Church of the Savior on Waters

Going back to Ploschad Pyat’uglov and restarting northeast along Prospekt Lenina after some walk and more interesting buildings, including the local government of Murmansk adorned with all the decorations earned by this town for the effort during WWII and the Regional Museum (website here) – which unfortunately was closed on the day of my visit -, you reach Ulitsa Papanina. Taking it to the northwest you soon cross Ulitsa Chelyuskintsev.

Again, here the quality of the housing and parks decreases sharply. Ulitsa Chelyuskintsev climbs aggressively uphill. After a distance the main road takes slightly to the left, and a building resembling a beacon can be seen further uphill, reachable with a flight of stairs. This beacon is a monument to the seamen lost at sea, and it includes a chapel which is closed most of the time irrespective of the published opening times.

Just behind the beacon there is a monument to the ill-fated nuclear submarine K-141 Kursk, a new strategic ship of the Northern Fleet launched in post-Soviet times, which in the year 2000 sank following two accidental explosions, killing all on board. Thanks to the shallow waters where this accident happened, it was later possible to recover the wreck. Part of the turret was taken away and transformed into the monument you see, which is actually a piece of the original vessel.

Proceeding further uphill, it is possible to reach the small nice Orthodox church of the Savior on Waters, which is operated regularly and is probably the most central temple in Murmansk.

Leninskiy Okrug and Museum of the Northern Fleet

To the back of the temple it is possible to reach again Ulitsa Chelyuskintsev. Keeping the Museum of the Northern Fleet as a destination, located close to the northern border of Murmansk, you can walk some miles crossing the district called Leninskiy Okrug, which is a very populated residential area of the ‘working class’. Here you can see by yourself the very low-level of the housing, roads, walkways and services of this industrial town, where most of the population is living today. This standard of living appears to be in striking contrast with what you see in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and you can imagine how the neighborhood must have looked like when all cars around where Soviet made and there were no services like banks and cell phones retailers giving a modern touch to the scene.

The building hosting the Museum of the Northern Fleet is no exception – it looks like an abandoned building from the outside. The entrance hall is purely Soviet style, too large and very grim. An old lady stands knitting in one corner, watching a TV show. She will instruct you about the ticket price – very low, only cash accepted – and the way to go. The building must have been a former clubhouse for officers or retired staff.

The museum (information here) covers the history of the Navy at least until the creation of the Northern Fleet. There are about ten small rooms, packed with tons of memorabilia items, documents, flags, parts of ships, photographs, paintings, portraits, uniforms, medals, models, maps, weapons and so on. Notwithstanding the old-style exhibition and the plenty of information mainly on the facts of WWII and the Cold War period, the museum is fairly up to date, mentioning also post-Soviet history and the current status of the fleet. It is noteworthy that most of the descriptions are in Russian only, so you should go with some knowledge of the topic if you don’t know the language.

Some Soviet memorials and the portraits of all commanders of the fleet from its foundation to the present day can be found on the stairs.

Monument to the Waiting Woman

Setting the course back to downtown Murmansk, it is possible to reach the monument to the Waiting Woman, dedicated to the women of the seamen, with a multi-miles walk from the Museum of the Northern Fleet, again crossing Leninskiy Okrug.

The monument is an example of Russian ingenuity, yet somehow evocative. The place where the small sculpture is located is a vantage point from where it is possible to have a look to the northernmost part of the port of Murmansk, invisible from the town center. Much precise information about the home port of the vessels of the current Northern Fleet is not easy to get, anyway in the pictures you can see the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the only Russian aircraft carrier, recently deployed to the Black Sea and now returned to the bay of Murmansk – somewhat mimetic, carefully look at the pictures below.