"Many buildings in St. Petersburg were built from Karelian stone: the Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, St. Isaac's Cathedral."
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
The Republic of Karelia has become one of the popular travel destinations in all of Russia. When one cast eyes upon its beauty, it becomes apparent why.
The following clip taken from a Russian news network with transcript below explores some of the wonders of this majestic place.
And for those who prefer to relax in Russia, it's worth visiting Ruskeala, a picturesque marble canyon in the Republic of Karelia. According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, in Russia, Ruskeala occupies the first place in the list of the best places for recreation outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. What else does Karelia have? And why do thousands of pilgrims strive to visit Valaam?
Denis Davydov will tell us about the beauty and being away from the bustle of life, and about the beauty and majesty of Karelia.
Valaam is a place of strength and faith. The Holy Island has been speaking with God for more than a 1,000 years. The cloister experienced wars, and desolation in the years of religious persecution. In the 90s monks began to return to Valaam. Now again, as has been for centuries before, the spiritual center of the Orthodox Church.
Monks of Valaam:
"There is no praying on a schedule, when you are baking you are praying, just like a baker bakes bread."
"Here, there's no desire to reach a certain level in society, it's absolutely irrelevant in a monastic life. And there isn't a single person, who after visiting Valaam, hasn't been changed in some way."
There's only a reference to worldly "courage," and a variety of cucumbers in the monastery greenhouse. There are more than a hundred monks and they have their own farmstead. Fresh milk, and delicious cheese, made according to old recipes.
There's also a trout farm in Valaam. Each enclosure has from 3.5 to 6 thousand fish. In the winter they are fed once a day. Each fish weighs 2 kg, and is ready to be cooked and served.
From late autumn until spring, the island is cut off from the outside world, and this is the best time for monks, an opportunity to be alone with yourself, because in the midst of the tourist season there are crowds of pilgrims and tourists. Last summer Valaam received 300,000 visitors. A hotel is now being restored for the visitors.
Brother Efrem, Monastery's Administrator:
"On the base of the hotel... It won't be just a hotel, we're also making a spiritual center there. There are also museums, and painting and icon making schools."
Karelia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia. Last year 760,000 people visited the republic.
The closer the New Year holidays get, the fewer vacant places remain in the local hotels. People come here from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and abroad. In addition to the European neighbors, there are frequent visitors from Asia, and even Australia. It's not just the moderate prices that are attracting the visitors.
Viktoria Vokhmina, Hotel Director:
"The untouched Karelian nature. This is a chance to experience it in comfort. We are surrounded by a forest, on a shore of Lake Ladoga."
Tarulinna, a cozy corner on the Karelian peninsula, translation from Finnish means fairy-tale like. Fluffy fir trees stretch towards Ladoga. The forest seems to invite you to breathe, to wander or you can also race all over the snow.
The UK newspaper, The Guardian, awarded Karelia 1st place in the top ten Russian regions, attractive for tourists. The top of the article is adorned with a Ruskeala canyon photo.
Ruskeala canyon is not only a monument of nature, but also of mining. Marble was mined here since the 17th century. Many buildings in St. Petersburg were built from Karelian stone: the Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, St. Isaac's Cathedral. About 300,000 tons of marble were mined in the canyon during its history. It hasn't been used for that in a long time, now, amazing photos are being made here.
A man in a boat:
"The tourists come here almost every day. During the summer, you need to sign up a few days in advance, you can't just walk in."
The underground lake is 70 meters deep, and it's man-made. When the marble mining stopped, the mine was flooded. Now it's one of the favorite diving places in the Russian north-west.
The Sortavala furniture-ski factory has been making hockey sticks and skis for the whole Soviet Union for decades. But in the 90s, the flagship enterprise fell into decline, and the whole city followed.
The youth center opened in the city 2.5 years ago. A modern equivalent of the Palace of Pioneers. And a large number of educational programs that are absolutely free: foreign languages, design, painting, and a cinema club.
"One week I came here right after school, and left when it was closing. Almost all the young people in the city go here."
Every week 3,000 children go to the "Serdobol" center, as Sortavala was called in tsarist Russia. Now it's probably the most popular building, with a youth cafe and free Wi-Fi. A fashionable place for the city's youth.
Nina Vokhmyanina, Director:
"The lads turn from bullies into children who write poetry, for example. And those who came here only for the Wi-Fi, are now starting to paint. This is so wonderful."
Officially, Serdobol is open for preschool and schoolchildren. But it's so interesting that even the adults are looking in. The locals as well as invited experts teach children. Moscow mentors, directors, linguists, and coaches come to master classes.
"I finished my homework, and I studied my favorite English language, I'm very happy."
The center is built and is maintained by private donations, an attempt to save the rural youth. It's no secret that they leave to big cities for opportunities. In Karelia, it's Petrozavodsk. The center of the Republic is expanding and being built up.
Boris Zhadonovskiy, Acting CEO:
"The railroad divides the city into two parts, on one side is the center, and on the other side is a large residential district. People who could have gotten home in 5 minutes, had to go a long way around, in traffic."
By the end of the year an additional bridge will be opened, which will off-load the roads. Micro-districts are growing because the Republic started a program for resettlement from old housing. The problem wasn't solved for years, the former leader even received a reprimand from the President. The new leader is doing everything to solve the issue by the end of next year.
Artur Parfenchikov, Head of the Republic:
"We found a solution to the problem that was revealed this March: we had 24,000 square meters of emergency housing that didn't make it into this program at all. We prepared a plan, including a financial one, to build and assign these 24,000 square meters of housing next year."
Construction on the shores of Lake Onega began in the 18th century, simultaneously with St. Petersburg. The northern capital and Petrozavodsk are the same age.
Petrozavodsk is associated with Peter the Great. At the beginning of the 18th century Russia is at war with Sweden. The army needs guns, and ammunition in huge quantities, but it's far and expensive to deliver them from the Urals to the Baltic. The Tsar ordered to look for iron ore near St. Petersburg. The valuable material is found in Karelia. An arms factory is built, and around it, the city of Petrozavodsk forms.
These events went down in history as the Northern War. It lasted 21 years and Russian won. We won thanks to the Petrozavodsk cannons.
Alexei Tereshkin, Museum Employee:
"Russia really defeated Sweden, and became an empire, and joined the European powers, and after this nothing was decided without Russia's involvement."
To this day Karelia is one of the industrial centers. There are 11 industrial towns. Metallurgical and woodworking enterprises. A pulp and paper mill was Segezha's city-forming enterprise since 1939. Locals remember well how before, everyone was trying not to open the windows at home.
Olga Sergeeva, Segezhskiy Tsbk:
"I've worked in the factory since 1981."
-In the 80's, did it stink even from the entrance of the apartment building?
Olga Sergeeva, Segezhskiy Tsbk:
-"Yes, of course it did, now it's a lot better. We have 13 air filters at the factory that significantly decrease air pollution."
The factory employs more than 2,000 people. This year the company launched a paper-making machine, the most modern in the world. Their products are top in the market, and are delivered to 60 countries. World-famous brands make bags from Karelian paper.
Kamil Zakirov, President of Segezha Group:
"It comes from the northern forest natural resources, fir and pine, which give the strongest and best quality material."
An important detail: the company isn't just doing timber processing, but also reforestation, which is confirmed by international certificates.
The Karelian Father Frost sings about Petrozavodsk, how everyone is going to their northern city. The words from a national song during the New Year holidays are more relevant than ever.
A long weekend is a great reason to discover a region of amazing beauty.
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