Julia from Ruskeala, west Karelia

julia_ruskeala

Even two years ago Pasha was still willing to explore what’s around. I’ve just dug up this 2011 story of his visit to Ruskeala (west Karelia), to Julia’s farm, one of the centers of fashionable rural tourism.

Julia’s farm is an example of newly fashionable rural or eco type tourist place. Less than 300km north from Saint-Petersburg, stone mountains, an area full of ghosts from the past, from Vikings who took over Russia in around 900-1000AD to the 1939-1940 war and then 1941-1944 was the wounds of which remain fresh as it take a long time for things to turn into dust in the north.

Accommodation in your own tend on her property is 300 roubles ($10) per person. Accommodation in the house 500 roubles ($17) per person. Meals are included in either case. Banya a bit extra.

Children from free (toddlers, babies) to half price (average) to full price (children from hell).Call Julia at +7-921-623-5624. If you speak slowly and distinctly you’ll be able to communicate in English.

Please understand that accommodation and especially facilities are “Russian rural” standard.

I confess that part of the reason I visited Julia’s homestead and other similar establishments is to see how competitors are doing and just how they manage to offer 500 rouble deals while I hardly break even at 1500 ($50). This is part of the answer.

This land inherited a lot from higher civilization that was here before Russians took over in 1944. One attraction of Julia’s farm is a well made out of cyclopean stones. How this well was made in solid stone remains a mystery.

On the maps look for Sortavala, on the north tip of the Ladoga lake. From there proceed towards Ruskeala. Just before Ruskeala turn left at the “Moloko” (“Milk”) sign. If in doubt try to find someone local and as about “Khutor u Vodopadov” (“Farm by Water Falls”). Click here to see a bigger sketch. Easy access from St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Pryazha, and Medvezhyegorsk.

If travelling from Saint-Petersburg by car, follow the road by the Ladoga lake (“Priozerskaya”), go past Sartavala and take the road to Vartsilya. At the 18th kilometer of the road look for a turn left marked with the “Moloko” (“Milk”) sign. Follow that road. In 5 min. you are there.

The sign says “Moloko” (“Milk”). Julia indeed sells goat milk and also pork from “happy organic pigs” that indeed spend their life enjoying the process and then get shot. The sign also invites to partake in cliff climbing and rafting, and advertises banya.

Another sign by Julia’s driveway. The arrow to her place says “Khotim pokoya” – “(We) want (to) rest”.

If travelling from Saint-Petersburg by train, leave from Ladozhsky Train Station. Train No. 350 Saint-Petersburg to Kostomuksha. The train runs on odd days only! Time in transit six hours. Leaves at 6:16pm, arrives in Kaalovo about 1am. Take taxi from Kaalamo.

What’s left of an electric station that was here before the Risskies took over

The waterfalls. Acres and acres where you can put up a tent or just walk.

Julia is within easy access to the Island of Valaam and to the Ruskeala Park. One of Ruskeala Park’s attractions is diving in old flooded catacombs left from granite mining. More info on the Ruskeala Park and on the Valaam island soon.

The Ghost Road

Consider a trip down an old dirt road through Suoyarvi and Justozero to Medvezh’yegorsk. Ruins of buildings you will encounter wherever you go in this deserted territory show how this area flourished before the war. Now it is one empty space with lots of graves (including Finnish military graves) and pieces of iron protruding through thin layer of soil over rock. One of the saddest places I’ve seen in Russia. I’ve found a similar road between Demyansk and Staraya Russa in the Novgorod region but that’s a story from the 90s.

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