At the end of our trip on the Hurtigruten we spent a day in Kirkenes. On a city tour we visited a World War II bomb shelter in a mine at Andersgrotta in the city center. A half hour film about the war in this area is shown in English, German and Norwegian.
We also drove a very short distance to the larger mines at Bjornevatn. These are iron ore mines.
Nearly 2,000 people sought shelter in there mines for 2 months in the autumn of 1944, while Germans razed the town and the Russians fought their way forward to liberate it on October 26. Ten children were born in the mines during that time.
I can tell you, we were there in July and it was freezing!
Kirkenes isn't far from the Russian border. You can travel to the border itself fairly easily (but not across without a visa!), either via taxi or the Hurtigruten "border tour" excursion. We didn't do either of these, but we wandered to the top of the hill overlooking Kirkenes and took a gaze to the east. Russia is over there somewhere -- just over the second ridge... or is it the third? Well, the views are nice, anyway.
Despite the unstable conditions on the eastern side, the Russian-Norwegian border hasn?ft changed. When Finland became independent in 1919, it was allowed free access to the coast at the port of Petsamo. The port is located some 20 km from the border, to the east of Grense Jakobselv.
During the Cold War the border was strongly guarded, until the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to relatively normal border relations between Norway and Russia. The old roads have now been reopened and boat routes to Murmansk have been established.
Their advance was halted effectively, however, when the Russians stopped them a few miles from the border. The front remained there until autumn 1944, when the Soviet army attacked and entered Kirkenes on October 25. They then withdrew, passing administration over to the Norwegian authorities.
Finland lost Petsamo during the battles of the 1939/40 winter campaign, at which point Norway gained a 196 kom border with Russia. When Germany attacked Russia in June of 1941, the Austrian general, Dietl, advanced with its army of occupation from Kirkenes in Norway towards Murmansk.
Located in Svanvik 45 km from Kirkenes you will find the 96 høyden where you'll be able to see the city of Nikel.
The tower is an old military viewpoint an is located on 96 meters with a great view of the Passvik valley and the landscaped on the russian side of the border.
If you walk up the hill past the snow fences, you'll stumble across a concrete emplacement and some rusted barbed wire. It's a reminder that this area, while peaceful now, was once a war zone.