Hunter-gatherer days: mussels, mushrooms, and two buckets of fucus

Inspired by Alexandra’s stories from the Chupa conference on the biological resources of the White Sea and especially its algae we went out to the littoral to collect said resources that presently appear to be on their way to becoming fashionable in the sense that there is a lot of talk about them being underutilized (see an article on the subject by Olga Maximova, an algologist from Moscow). more >>

A “middle of nowhere” hotel in the Arkhangelsk Region

On her way from Chupa my mate Alexandra was given a ride back to Kandalaksha by a Moscow couple who recently built a hotel in the village of Golubino, Pinega District, Arkhangelsk Region, and spoke of their project with such delight that it made me want to share the information on the Golubino Forest Hotel with the rest of the world. If you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of an old Russian North village, and yet stay there with comfort, that seems to be indeed it. The owner of the place speaks fluent English, and their site has an English version which is not quite complete at the moment but should give you an idea of the place.

Our traditional August trip to Kuzomen. Some impressions

A large puddle has appeared on the side road to Kuzomen. No way a regular passenger car could cross it.

Set up a camp. Used our jeep as a shield to protect our portable washroom from strong wind (around 20m/s, with gusts up to 25) that was in the forecast.

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..was dragged out to Luvenga Tundras today

My tough and somewhat cruel mate used the fact that today I had no teaching engagements at all – a rare case during the school year – to drag me out into the hills in the vicinity of Luvenga, ~10 miles east of Kandalaksha along the south shore, with the purpose of “contemplating natural beauty”.

I’d estimate we walked at least 10km up and down a wet, muddy and rocky trail and got to the height of 500+ meters. Now my legs are falling off.

I admit however the scenery was indeed on the beautiful side, and I’m ready to take you travellers to the hills in exchange for a modest financial contribution to keeping us afloat. The trip includes a picnic.

Of things practical/edible – even though we are sick of mushrooms at this time of the year – we’ve collected one perfect King bolete and several Weeping boletes. Lots of blueberries and some lingonberry in the hills even though there very few berries by the sea because of the summer drought.

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Today’s Honey agaric catch

The mushroom season is in full swing. Today we collected a bunch of honey agaric, and am not sure what to do with them as by this time I’m almost sick of eating mushrooms even though picking them remains fun. Probably we’ll marinate some of them, fry another part, and freeze the rest.

2017 year summary

This is me by the White Sea coast ~200 meters from our new dacha, where my mate regularly drags me out, after a forced walk at minus 20 degrees centigrade (minus 4 Fahrenheit)

An appropriate end of December exercise may be to sum up the results of this year, my fourth one in Kandalaksha.

Making a living remains the number one issue. On that front I’m pleased to note that, after three years here, I seem to have achieved a certain popularity as an English tutor, and have just as many clients – mostly from among the local kids – as I need, three or four one hour lessons on an average day, exactly as much as I can comfortably handle.

As far as providing services to travelers and those who have an interest in Russia but can’t be here, several projects completed in 2017 come to mind.

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“To book aurora borealis”

Got several inquiries from travelers wishing to come here to see the aurora borealis, aka northern lights. Here is my attempt to provide a comprehensive answer to the seekers of this phenomenon.

The most common question is “When do I need to travel to the Kola Pensula to see aurora borealis for sure”. First, forget the “for sure” part. The aurora is a probabilistic thing. Thus there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Generally speaking, aurora borealis can be observed at high latitudes any time there are dark nights. On the Kola Peninsula it is approximately from September to April.

A common misconception is that aurora borealis requires real cold winter weather. This photo was made in the Hibiny mountains on the 28th of September, and I’ve myself seen the aurora in the vicinity of Kandalaksha starting the end of August.

 

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The discovery of Olenitsa

On our way from Kuzomen we stopped by the village of Olenitsa some 50km west. Somehow this place managed to evade our attention in all these years. The village turned out to be a delight, as are most places along the south cost of the Kola Peninsula. Here are a few photos of this charming Olenitsa place:

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Succumbed to the temptation..

A finger bitten by a sharp-toothed baby seal

 

Today I’ve succumbed to the temptation to feed baby seals. These come ashore once every couple of years by the canal from the Niva cascade of hydroelectric stations opening into the Kandalaksha bay in the west end of the city. The rather fast water flow from the canal brings oxygen, which attracts herring, which, in turn, brings in adult seals with their babies. Adults catch their own fish. Babies come to the shore and get fed by people. One of classic Kandalaksha entertainments. We could not resist..

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Africanda, Polarnye Zori district

Yesterday, for no particular reason other than its curious name, we headed to a place called Africanda, about 10 miles north from Polarnye Zori. The story says that the name originated as a joke, when railroad station builders encountered a particularly hot, Africa-like, summer day. The village offers among the most spectacular local ruins. The town core however appears relatively civilized, full of small two-story houses surrounded by pine trees. Here are a few photos to convey to you the sense of the place:

 

 

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