June 28, 2010

Today was the stop I have been most looking forard to, and it did not disappoint.  Kizhi is a state historical open-air museum (a UNESCO World Heritage site) on an island in the middle of Lake Onega, and is the farthest north that our travels will take us.

"The collection of the Open-Air “Kizhi” Museum includes 89 monuments of wooden architecture: old chapels and houses, windmills and granaries, threshing barns and racks for drying crops…The gem of this collection is the 22 domed Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior, 37 meters height. The Church of the Intercession of Holy Mary and the Bell-Tower located nearby emphasize the harmony and magnificence of the main Church."

The prize of the collection, however, is the Church of the Transfiguration. I stood on the deck of the ship this morning, watching the island come into view, my eyes fixed on the spires of the church.

We got off the ship and gathered in our usual groups, prepared to make the 3 km walk around the island. 

As we got to the entrance to the museum, the ever-present, always pleasant Dieter, who is the restaurant manager, was there to see us off.

The church is spectacular.  One of those edifices which is photographable from every angle.

It was completed in 1714, during the reign of Peter the Great and supposedly built by one man, using no nails (wooden nails were not "invented" until later), who is said to have tossed his axe into the lake when it was finished, saying that there was never a church like this and never would be again.  Whether the story is apocryphal or not, I think it's fairly safe to say the statement was true!

There are 22 domes, the most of any church in Russia, all created out of hundreds of aspen shingles.

Beyond the church is a collection of wooden buildings, all brought there to preserve the culture of the native people.  Like Mandrogy, there are craftsmen engaged in the traditional activities of the Karelia people, but unlike Mandrogy (a) they are pleasant!, and (b) it seems more "scholarly" than touristy.  Yes, there are shops, but only by the boat dock and those are tiny and don't take plastic.  It seems that the people here, perhaps like I imagine colonial Williamsburg to be, are here to preserve a culture primarily.

We went inside a small church

and heard a brief hymn sung by three singers, one of whom reminded me of our old friend Ed Andrews (Now Father Alexander, O.P.)

I was glad I had brought the Flash Video so I was able to record it.

We visited a typical home and heard how the people lived. 

I liked the part about how the youngest and the old people slept on top of the oven shown above, to keep them warm in the winter.  Always take good care of your old people!

We watched this woman crocheting the most intricate "snake-like" designs using teeny, teeny little glass beads.  Char bought one of her necklaces at one of the shops, but I didn't have time to check them out.

We continued on around the island to other wooden structures.  I liked the way the fence was laid out.

Out in the field we watched a mother seagull with her babies, and some in our group were dive bombed by angry terns, who were obviously trying to protect their own nests, hidden somewhere out in the field.

The wild flowers were beautiful.

Mike and Char have really lost their touch, I'm happy to say.  Our tour guide said that it poured rain all day yesterday, but today is was clear and sunny, with only a pleasant breeze.  We could not have asked for a more perfect day, weather-wise.

We made the trip back to the dock, completing our 360 circle around the Church of the Transfiguration, and back onto the ship just in time.

I was happy that I was NOT one of the last back.

But despite our schedule, we didn't leave right away.  It was announced that there was an "emergency medical disembarkation."  One older woman had to be taken off, with her daughter-in-law, for some sort of medical emergency.  They rushed a stretcher to the ship.

I didn't find out until later who the patient was.  I was too busy trying to get a picture of this great dog.  I am very much missing our dogs right now.

Tonight we are apparently having a Russian dinner.  Not sure what that means, but I will find out soon and will report tomorrow.  I missed most of the afternoon activities (a couple of lectures and a tour of the captain's bridge) because I hadn't slept well the night before and took a long nap--and then took advantage of having internet connection to write this entry.

Today has been a GREAT day.  If I never leave the ship again on this trip, it would have been worth it to come to Kihzi.



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