We're trading our motorcycles for a hydrofoil today! It looks like Captain Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus!
We're doing some sightseeing today. We walk down to the harbour in Petrozavodsk and pick up tickets for the 1.5 hour hydrofoil ride across Lake Onega to Kizhi Island. There we are going to visit the Kizhi Open-Air Museum, also known as the Kizhi Museum of Wooden Architecture. It's a UNESCO site, so that means we *have* to go visit it. We're like thousands of miles away from Latin America but somehow we're still on the Gringo Trail!
On Kizhi Island, there are several wooden buildings that have been relocated and reassembled from all over Karelia. The main exhibit is called the Kizhi Pogost (enclosure), which is collection of three buildings (two churches and a bell tower), of which the most famous of the three that everyone comes to visit is the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Saviour.
Two of the churches in the Pogost. As we get closer, dark skies quickly begin to roll in
You know, we managed to lose the RideDOT.com rains in Finland, enjoying pretty clear weather for most of our time there. But now the rains seemed to have caught our scent again and before we know it, it starts coming down so hard that we're forced to take shelter in one of the other wooden houses just outside the Pogost.
This house is part of another exhibit called "The Russians of Zaonezhye". In this exhibit, there are several wooden houses that have been relocated from the eastern shores of Lake Onega. They date back to the late 1800s-early 1900s and are typical peasant houses that have been decorated inside to show what life was like in that period.
There was a tour group in the building led by a guide explaining what everything was. In Russian. Which neither of us understood, so everything I'm writing is from the Internet. There were actually a few different tour groups packed into this building because of the rain. From the way the Russian tourists were staring at me, I got the impression that everyone on the tour knew that we had brought the rains with us.
My camera is happy to find an indigenous Russian person!
Unfortunately these aren't real indigenous people. They work at the museum and are just dressed up to show the period clothing. That makes my camera sad.
We have something exactly like this in Toronto called Black Creek Pioneer Village. They've also collected buildings from all over South-West Ontario and from around the same period (1800s) as well and reassembled them all in one place. And they too have employed students to dress up in period costumes so you can take pictures with them.
Wow. We rode all the way to Russia just to visit Black Creek Pioneer Village...
The crosses on top of these churches are a bit different than the ones I'm used to seeing. They have three cross beams and the bottom one is angled. I found out that these are the crosses of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The top beam is symbolic of the plaque that bears Pontius Pilate's inscription, the middle beam is the part of the cross that the hands are nailed to, and the bottom angled beam is the foot support.
There was a guy ringing out the church bells of Archangel Michael Chapel
But the most famous bells are in the Bell Tower of Kizhi Pogost. It's right next to the Transfiguration Church and is the third building in the Kizhi Pogost exhibition
In the foreground is the Church of the Intercession, it has 8 onion-shaped domes while the Church of the Transfiguration has 22!
I'm so glad the weather cleared up. The wood on the domes made it seem like they were made of silver, glistening in the sunlight! The original church was supposedly built without a single nail. It's changed over time, but in 1950 it was restored to its original design. Unfortunately when we visited there were extensive renovations to the body of the church. It would have been nice to see it without all the scaffolding.
Hey, they lied! I see nails! This was a sample cutaway
showing how the overlapping tiling is arranged on the onion domes
I'm not sure these were real priests, but they sang some hymns acapella and they had beautiful voices.
I don't think they were real priests because they were selling their CD off to the side.
Tour group exiting one of the buildings, almost everyone visiting was Russian
We hiked around the island a little bit and saw how the rich Russians tourists arrive! Oh well, back to our hydrofoil...
This was a pretty cool place to visit and it was waaay better than Black Creek Pioneer Village! Getting to Russia was kind of stressful because we had to stay on a schedule through most of Scandinavia. But seeing stuff like this is starting to make it all worthwhile.
Gene that appears to be the wing of a MiG-17. The underside of the left wing, I figure, as there are usually two vertical 'stall fences' on the top surface of the wing. They would have looked like narrow shelves in that arrangement, on the back side of the wing in that picture, at around knee and chest height. And the -17 has a more rounded wingtip than the -15, which is quite squared off.
We're heading south today, away from the hinterlands of Karelia towards more populated parts of Russia.
Stopping for a food break. We notice there's a truck on the other side of the road selling stuff
The sign on the truck reads: Buy Money Badges
Not sure what exactly he's selling, they look like trinkets and fruits and vegetables. But from what I know about people selling stuff from the back of a truck on the side of the road - most likely it's not entirely legal. We eat our food on the other side of the road while the driver eyes us warily. I sense he is ready to make a break for it if he suspects we are KGB.
While stuffing my mouth with a sandwich, I do an inspection of our bikes and then I see this: BMW Disease...
Oil is leaking out of my shaft drive. I hadn't noticed this through Norway because it was raining so much, but this stretch of dry weather we're having has allowed the oil to collect at the bottom of the hub so it's finally noticeable. Dammit! I just had the seals replaced 20K ago! It doesn't look serious enough that it requires immediate attention, so we'll forge ahead and try to get it looked at when we pass a BMW shop.
On the whole, my bike hasn't had that many problems given the age and the mileage it's done, but by far the weakest part of the motorcycle is the shaft drive. I've had so many problems, it's been quite costly and time-consuming.
Back on the road. More people selling food at the side of the road
Russia is currently going through a food crisis.
Most of the countries in the western world have imposed economic sanctions on Russia because of the invasion in Crimea, mostly against the finance, defense and energy sectors of the Russian economy. In retaliation, Russia responded with their own sanctions against these countries, refusing to buy food from them. Although this sounds a lot like shooting themselves in their own foot, I found out that Russia imports a lot of food from western countries and currently there are mountains of produce in Europe piling up and these sanctions are significantly impacting the economies of countries who trade with Russia. Norway exports a lot of fish and seafood to Russia, and Canada's pork industry is heavily reliant on them as well.
Russia is still able to provide basic sustenance for their citizens. The sanctions apply to meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, dairy and poultry, all stuff that Russia is able to provide once it ramps up its own produce industry once again, but in the meantime, the supplies are scarce in the grocery stores and the prices are climbing in response to the shortages.
To make matters worse, the government has decreed that any Western food imports already in the country will be destroyed. We just read in the newspaper yesterday that massive quantities of cheese have been bulldozed into the earth. So far, 550 *tonnes* of "illegal" food have been steamrolled, burned or buried. That is crazy!!!
Although Putin receives a lot of support and approval in his country, these latest acts of nose-thumbing towards the west have gone too far in the minds of many Russians, especially when there is still so much poverty in the country. And yet in other news, girls wearing t-shirts reading, "Eat Russian" are marauding through grocery stores and reporting illegal western foods still on the shelves to the police.
It is quite amazing to be in the middle of all of this while it's happening.
All this is fine, as long as the price of our beloved cырок stay low!
When we first entered Russia, Neda picked up this candy in the grocery store called cырок (syrok). We didn't know what it was, but when we bit into it, it was delicious! It's basically sweetened cheese curds covered in chocolate. The curds have the taste and consistency of cheesecake. You can get them in different flavours, also with jam as well, we love it! Every time we go grocery shopping now we pick up more syrok. Hopefully the ban on dairy will not affect the pricing on our beloved cырок!
As we get closer to St Petersburg, the second-most populated city in Russia, the traffic starts to get more dense. As the cars and trucks continue to clog the roadways, the drivers become much more reckless. Impatient drivers from oncoming traffic pull out into our lane, only to pass one or two cars at a time. They wait until the very last millisecond to duck back into their lane. There is a lot of swearing going on in our helmets as a couple of drivers don't even bother to tuck back into their own lane, forcing us onto the shoulder! ******!!!!
These are the crazy Russian drivers we had heard about. It was terrible. Last year, there were over 220,000 traffic accidents in the country, contributing to 28,000 deaths. Just go on YouTube and search for Crazy Russian Drivers. A large part of the problem is poor traffic enforcement. Lawlessness on the road is rampant when you know nobody is going to stop you from doing idiotic things.
But also vodka.
We're still riding without insurance, so this worries me quite a lot.
To make matters worse, an hour outside of the city, I noticed that my engine is losing power at high revs. Everything under 4,000 rpms is fine, but the minute I rev the engine above that, it loses power. ARGH!!! This is very concerning, it's the first serious issue I've had with the engine. What makes matters worse is that we're on a tight timeline through Russia. We can't afford to hunker down in a city and try to get it fixed here because of the looming expiration date on our visas.
This is stressing me out a bit and just hammers home the point that we are not psychologically prepared to continue overland across Central Asia with all of its strict entry and exit dates.
As long as I keep the revs down on the engine, everything seems fine. We limp my bike through the gauntlet of crazy Russian drivers without insurance into the heart of Saint Petersburg and try to find our hotel.
We made it to Saint Petersburg in one piece! Coincidentally, the building behind me is called
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood... We'll have to check it out later
We find our hotel and thankfully they are able to find us a parking spot in this crowded neighbourhood. I park my bike and christen the spot that it's resting on the Church on Spilled Drive Shaft Oil. I have to do some Googling to figure out how serious the engine problem is.
Saint Petersburg is basically a city built on over 40 islands. Connecting these islands are 342 bridges, which earns it its nickname: "The Venice of the North". Most of these islands are very close together, the bridges spanning over canals no wider than a four-lane road.
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is perhaps the most striking building in Saint Petersburg
Shop display in our neighbourhood, Nevsky Prospekt
A bit of the old still mingles with all the new
Saint Petersburg is such a beautiful place. It's the most westernized city in Russia and the architecture is so reminiscent of all the old European cities that we've visited in the last year and a half.
However, this wasn't the Russia that I was hoping to see. After the western media's Cold War indoctrination on the evils of the USSR, I wanted to see some of that Soviet culture in the buildings, the people and their stories. I so wanted to talk to an older Russian person, to ask them what it was like experiencing the Cold War from the other side of the Iron Curtain. What did they think of the western world? Did they fear and villainize us like we did them? These are the things I was most curious and fascinated about coming to Russia.
But Saint Petersburg is not going to satisfy my curiousity. It's basically Europe.
Members of the Russian army choir outside our hotel giving a concert. They were singing Adele's Skyfall... See what I mean?
So we decided to pay some money to visit the Russian Museum to see if we could get a glimpse of that period in history
The Russian Museum houses a vast collection of fine art throughout this country's history. I think there's a lot of over-representation of art from the 18th-19th century, lots of cossacks on horses. It seems to be the most celebrated and romantic period. However there was very little on the art of the Soviet era, from the 1920s through to the late 80s. It's not surprising, this was a difficult period for most Russians, marked by poverty, hunger and lower life expectancy.
There was a small wing dedicated to the Socialist Realism art of the Soviet Union
A lot of art historians think the Socialist Realism movement is boring. They call the art, "Girl Meets Tractor". I don't care what they say. Personally, I think this period of Soviet art is fascinating. I see so much struggle in the brush strokes portraying the common people caught in a larger political upswelling, the waves of an ideology that mattered none to the toils of putting food on the table.
The picture on the left, "Queue" by Alexei Sundukov in 1986 really hit home for Neda. From the style of the clothing that the women in line were wearing to the theme of the painting, it really reminded her of former Yugoslavia. It struck me that I didn't really need to find someone to talk to about the Soviet era. I was already traveling with one.
Actually not present-day Russia... I've discovered I'm a bit of a SovietPhile!
The adventures of Comrade Neda and Evgeny continue.