Kizhi Island

We began today with a late breakfast and a slow start. We were mostly filling in time as we crossed Lake Bodega and the crew had a number of activities organised that one typically does on a ship when there is no opportunity to go on an excursion. Most of the women got involved in making Russian dolls from scraps of fabric and then we painted ‘Matryoushka Dolls’. (Sometimes people cal these Babushka Dolls’, but that is incorrect because that is the Russian word for Grandmother). In between, we visited the bridge and had a talk by the Captain about the ship. We had actually met him on our first night of sailing as somehow, Jill and I received an invitation to the Captain’s table at dinner on our first night.

There is meant to be a competition tomorrow for the best painted doll, but we don’t think that ours are worth entering. We’ll just assume that Jill’s yellow doll to the right, in the picture below, is far superior to my humble effort.

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By mid afternoon, we had reached the place we were scheduled to visit at Kizhi, an island near the geometrical center of the Lake Onega.  It is a long and narrow island – about 6 km long, 1 km wide. Access to the island for local pople is provided from a nearby city by hydrofoil several times a day and by helicopter once a week in winter. Once, the island housed many people and was a rich farming area. However, after all the Russian conflicts over the last century, the population has now shrunk to its current tiny number of thirty people.

The major tourist attraction there is an open-air museum which started functioning on the island in 1951. It currently contains about 87 wooden constructions. The most famous of them is the Kizhi Pogost, which consists of two churches and a bell tower surrounded by a fence. The pogost was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1990. Since 1951, other historical buildings were moved to the island. They include chapels, windmills and more than 20 peasant houses. 

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The two Kizhi churches were built on stones, without a deep foundation. Their major basic structural unit is a round log of Scotts pine about 30 cm in diameter and 3 to 5 meters long. Many thousands of logs were brought for construction from the mainland which was a complex logistical task in that time. The logs were cut and shaped with axes and assembled without nails, using interlocking corner joinery — either round notch or dovetail.  Flat roofs were made of spruce planks and the domes are covered in aspen. It is currently under repair through a unique process of jacking up the top part of the structure and replacing rotted logs and timbers. This will take about two years – much shorter than the ten to fifteen yeas that it would take to completely rebuild the entire structure.

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The other major attraction in which we spent some time was a farmers house. We started on the downstairs kitchen in which the family family originally spent winter huddled around the stove where the weather in this area gets down too -13 C and the sea freezes to a depth of one metre. Downstairs, a lady was spinning wool, which could be done in winter with little light – mostly by feel. Upstairs was a summer living room in which another  lady was doing crochet work. This level also included a large work area and hay loft. The cattle lived underneath the building.

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We finished our day on the island by walking to the village at the northerly end of the island. It was much further than we thought and so we only made it as far as the local Fire Station where the team of eight men were practicing some of their emergency drills. We arrived back to the ship in plenty of time before the tine scheduled for its departure. Today has ben much cooler than our previous days. In Moscow, we had days of around 30C and recent days have been warm and in the high 20’s C. Today was only 14C and more comfortable for walking around, even though we needed a jacket.

Internet connection on this part of our trip has been very intermittent so this post will be uploaded sometime later when we pass by a larger town where there is a GSM connection. 

One comment

  1. Pamela Saunders · ·

    New projects to try with your girls Jill? Beautiful photos Bruce of women at work. Do these women still work like this every day for a living or are their crafts for the benefit of tourists only?