Report: 97 Minutes in Barentsburg, Svalbard

Statue of Lenin in Barentsburg, Svalbard
Blather’s Dave journeyed to the Arctic outpost of Barentsburg last year. And he finally got off his arse to write about it.
I am staring at a forest, a painting of a forest. They close the door, then walk away.
The forest, or rather the painting of a forest, is in the Russian coal-mining town of Barentsburg, about 1200km from the North Pole, one of three inhabited settlements in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.
There are no trees in Svalbard. But there are pictures of trees, billboard size, to remind the miners of the forests back home.
My visit to Barentsburg was short, far too short. I only stayed 97 minutes. I am not proud of this. I arrived as a tourist, and didn’t want to leave. At least not soon.
I took no time to make new friends, gained no valuable insights into what it is like to live there. I didn’t hit the bar, like some of the other visitors, to sample the vodka. I didn’t even buy a Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev matryoshka doll.
I did see a metal sunflower, a homemade spaceship, an awful lot of kittiwakes and two men walking out of a painting of a forest.
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daev
Chief Bottle Washer at Blather

Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and “known troublemaker” Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as “possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River”, and “the nicest website circulating in Ireland”. Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.