Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Kizhi Island and Petrozavodsk

Kizhi Island is an island museum of wooden structures built largely during the early eighteenth century. Because of long periods of freezing cold during northern Russian winters, the wood is less prone to rot by mold and destruction by burrowing insects. So many of these buildings are still standing and still structurally sound. I saw examples of the same phenomenon in the wooden churches (Stavekirke) of the Norwegian countryside on a trip I took with my mother in 1976.
Ancient wooden church complex on Kizhi Island under repair
 On Kizhi Island, the population is very small, and the whole southern part of the island has been turned into a folk museum whose focal point is an extraordinary complex of churches and a bell tower built entirely of wood. The “summer church” (Church of the Transfiguration, 1714), with 22 wooden domes, or cupolas, is particularly striking from the outside, although we couldn’t go inside because it is under repair and renovation. 

The church complex on Kizhi Island, viewed form the farmhouse
We did go into the “winter church” (Church of the Intercession, 1764), which contained many icons, and we were allowed to take photos inside. A bell tower stood at one point of a triangle with the other two churches. The complex of the three buildings offered endless combinations of views and photographic variety, each more interesting or pleasing than the last, particularly with the constantly changing background of clouds—cirrus and cumulus—against an intensely blue sky.
Icons inside the Church of the Intercession

Extraordinary wooden cupolas of the Church of Transfiguration
As a part of the outdoor museum complex, there was a large, old farmhouse, transported to the site from elsewhere, and appointed as a typical pre-communist peasant farmhouse, with a windmill and several other buildings like granaries and animal sheds. Apparently, many farm animals were kept in the house, especially during winter.

Farm house museum, Kizhi Island

When we awoke this morning, we were docked at Petrozavodsk, on the western shore of Lake Onega. Both Kizhi and Petrozavodsk are located in the Republic of Karelia, the northernmost republic in European Russia. Many Karelians are Finns in origin and speak a Finno-Ugric language.
The city of Petrozavodsk was originally a foundry city, making heavy metal instruments of war (cannon, etc.) as well as rails and other heavy railway equipment. 
Cannon and cog wheel from old foundry in Petrozavodsk
The city was largely destroyed during “The Great Patriotic War” (WWII) and was rebuilt afterwards in the Soviet style. According to our guide, Natasha, the city has hardly changed since the collapse of the USSR. So it’s still a model of the life and architecture of Soviet times, except that now more food is available in the little local market.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Petrozavodsk

We visited a beautiful church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, where a baptism was being held. So I couldn't photograph the inside, which was exquisite. The color of the inside walls was the most beautiful light green-blue that I think I’ve ever seen. Someone called it “mint green,” but it was a richer color than that. It was absolutely luscious, peaceful, awesome/awe-inspiring. And the dome above was a contrasting dark blue. The icons were modest and there was not too much glitter in the church. I lit a candle for the girls, and I didn’t really want to leave the sanctuary when it was time to go.

Kvas for sale in the market

We visited other sites in the city, including a market, where we were able to purchase a few items. Another major site in the city is a central square where an eternal flame continues to burn for the defenders of Petrozavodsk during WWII. There, we saw a wedding party get out of a limousine, and the bride and groom put flowers beside the flame. She had on a pretty flimsy dress and must have been very cold! 

Wedding bouquets at the flame of eternal remembrance

A statue of Lenin towered over the main city square, cap in hand, leaning toward the future.
Lenin in the main square of Petrozavodsk

We're now sailing back southward on Lake Onega from Petrozavodsk toward the Svir River. The lake is a dark gray-blue, and clouds hanging over the north and east are ominous. Yet off to the west, the sky seems ordinary—calm, almost nonchalant. Today, in Petrozavodsk, the weather was fierce and cold—the cold of an unforgiving north countrywindy, intermittent rain. Our guide (since Kiev) is Natasha, whose home town is Petrozavodsk, and she served as our town guide today. Petrozavodsk is such a contrast to Kizhi Island, in the middle of Lake Onega, which we visited yesterday.
A rainbow beams between clouds and lake outside the window near where I’m sitting and writing. I took some photos with both cameras but don’t know how they’ll come out.
Rainbow over Lake Onega

This afternoon, we had an optional trip into town to see and hear a group called “Kantele” that played traditional Karelian instruments and sang and danced. They were a great pleasure to watch and listen to—lively music and energetic dancing. Also, three women played an instrument that looks like an autoharp, also called a kantele, that had a sweet, ringing sound—rather like a harp, but more crisp and high-pitched. One of the singers was tall, and her face reminded me of my mother when she was young.