I was really excited to hear that the journey is by minibus and not regular large boring bus. What an adventure! how intimate! how lovely! Given the state of some roads around here I was curious how the main connection between Murmansk and Norway will look, but it was super smooth and well taken care of, leaving the journey only to appreciating the snow-covered windswept landscape and listening to the Russian co-passangers chatting their way through the 4 hour long drive. The longest time we spent at the borders, first there are road patrols controlling the passports twice and then at the actual borders the lengthy and diligent process of passport-visa-checking begins. If you arrive in one car, you have to queue behind the driver, and stay in one line. The silent low-forheaded oficir took around fifteen minutes staring into my documents after which he had to call his colleague to decide whether I am not too dangerous to be let free. I was not! and after trying some of my by now insignificantly improved Russian I could go and join the rest of the car group. From the borders it is only 15km to Kirkenes and it is really striking how large the contrast is just some hundreds of meters over the borders, the look and state of the houses and roads, the immediate clean scandinavian-ness and order.
In Kirkenes, Franziska, the administrative director of Pikene på Broen already waited for me and showed me to their residency flat, where I could stay overnight. after settling in I set off for a short walk to Pikene på Broen's office space and got introduced to Ingrid, one of the co-curators, and Inger, an artist and current advisor of the space who was behind the initial foundation of Pikene. Other members were missing, including Cornelius, whom I had already met in Stockholm through Intercult's network, and Luba, the director, whom Franziska invited me to pick up at the local airport with her. The airport is some twenty minutes drive and charmingly small, everyone lnow everyone and the attendants even remember the frequent flyers' names.
Luba appeared as a distinctive character with shiny blue hat and what looked like a very comfortable, if vegetarian non-friendly, seal skin pair of boots. She seemed energized by her ski trip and only after a brief chat with the two of them I started to wonder how come everyone here in the north is so incredibly nice.