Valaam Monastery, Lake Ladoga, Karelia

The Valaam (Valamo) Monastery in the northern part of Lake Ladoga seems to have joined the “foreign tourists are welcomed” trend, made a nice site, suitably edited off any controvertial stuff, in entirely readable English, and announced its willingness to see you infidels within its holly walls in exchange for a fee.

It is on the Moscow to St. Petersburg to Murmansk axis, and those interested in a custom tour may want to talk to me. Summer, winter, or anything in-between, I’m game. The format is from semi-luxury to rough camping. Part of it, in Tver region, can include exploration of the Russian countryside on horseback or in a Gypsy wagon. The trip can even begin in Kiev, where Rus has started, and proceed through the country’s centers of crystallization: Vladimir, Suzdal, Moscow of course, Sergiev Posad, Novgorod the Great, Old Ladoga, Vologda etc. etc. Historically and culturally that would make a much more saturated trip than the famous Trans-Siberians.

Why should any serious explorer of Russia be interested in these aggressively decorated onion-domed buildings full of bearded men in black robes, stern babushkas, head-scarved young women with blank eyes, or neurotic young men? Because these are part of the country’s definition. Because that’s how it was in your world just a century ago. Think of it as a trip in time. That’s why I almost “push” the religious theme, and it saddens me how hung up you are on the Kremlin-Red-Square-Bolshoy-Novodevichi-Nevsky routine.

Re-written by Pasha
who dared to delete most of the standard
“wow that’s beautiful”
photos, and added, as usual, way too much
of his opinionated self

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