Saturday, May 14

A long overdue post about my trip to Petrozavodsk.

Firstly, I must apologise for my longer than usual hiatus from blogging! A mixture of busy-ness, tiredness and laziness are to blame, as always... I've had a rather busy couple of weeks, so I'm going to make a post solely about my trip to Petrozavodsk, before I update again on everything I've been up to in Petersburg.

On the evening of the 1st of May, my friend Katie and I took the sleeper train to Petrozavodsk for a three-day break. Though the train ride was pretty much problem-free, I'm confused as to why it takes so long... 8 hours to reach a city closer to Petersburg than Moscow?! Not that it mattered, anyway - the tickets were cheap and we wanted to escape Petersburg for a few days.

We'd been checking the weather forecast obsessively for Petrozavodsk for a few days, and every time we checked the predicted weather had changed for the worse. Not much could have prepared me for the sight out of the train window when I woke up, though:

Yes, that is snow, and yes, it is May. Russia never fails to surprise me! We had already been rather worried about our trip, as we hadn't booked a hotel and we weren't sure whether any of the tourist sights would actually be open this early in the year, so this weather really spelled disaster... 

When our train finally pulled up at the station in Petrozavodsk, it was 6.50am. We got off the train, and with no map and no real idea of where we were going, we decided one of the streets we could see looked a little more civilised than all the others, and went down it. We walked for about ten minutes, and just as we were starting to give up all hope, jump in a taxi and ask them to take us to a hotel, we stumbled across the hotel 'Severnaya'. We thought we may as well get out of the snow and try our luck there, so went inside. What we discovered was a nice, English-speaking receptionist, who sorted us out with a room and even let us check in early! Our prayers had been answered! We went up to our room and had a nap, intending to start the day again when we were a little more refreshed. Here's a photo of our cheap and cheerful hotel, which I would definitely recommend to anyone travelling to Petrozavodsk on a budget:

When we woke up later and started the day for the second time, we decided to go and explore the city. We were pleased to find that quite a lot of the snow from earlier on had melted already, but it was still very grey and miserable outside. Since we'd been planning to visit the island Кижи (Kizhi), the main sight in the area, we thought we should head down to the lakefront to check out boats... Approaching the lake, we saw that almost all of the ice had melted, so we were quite optimistic about a visit to Kizhi being possible. Upon reaching the shore, however, there were no signs of any people, let alone tourists, and we started to worry that we'd come too early. Despite there being not a lot to do in this part of town, we had a walk along the lakefront and took some photos of the lake and the numerous sculptures around. Here are a few of mine:

(Top Middle: What was left of the ice on Lake Onego; Top Left: A nice old cannon on the lakefront; Top Right: A sculpture with a constellation drilled through it - not bullet holes!; Middle: Me trying to look excited by a pole-y sculpture; Bottom Left: Said pole-y sculpture; Bottom Right: 'Wishing tree' sculpture - supposedly hears & grants your wishes; Bottom Middle: Fishermen sculpture)

After our walk on the lakefront, we realised we were really rather hungry, so went to try and find something cheap and easy to eat. This is easier said than done in Petrozavodsk, as they don't even have a McDonald's or Teremok (Russian fast food pancake chain)... We decided to try out the one fast food place we could find - Mak Dak. This turned out to be a rather big mistake, as their microwaved burgers, soggy chips and dodgy sauces left a lot to be desired. There were also more copyright violations than one would care to count (for example 'I'm Lovin' It' became 'I'm Liking It' and 'Happy Meal' became 'Funny Meal' - though spelt 'Fanny Meal' in Russian), so I fear poor old Mak Dak may not last too long. What a shame.

After lunch we checked out a different part of the city, passing several other sights of Petrozavodsk on our way to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. As you can see, the weather was still very grey and depressing, but started to improve a little during our walk there:

(Top Left: Statue of Lenin on Lenin Square; Top Right: Lots of little flags making up the colours of the Russian flag; Top Middle: Eternal flame on Lenin Square; Middle: Sculptures on the Doll Theatre; Bottom Left: Statue of Marx & Engels; Bottom Right: Statue of Kirov outside Petrozavodsk Theatre; Bottom Middle: Petrozavodsk Theatre)

We then had to walk through a rather lovely little park to reach the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It had several little bridges, all covered in wedding padlocks. If you didn't already know, it's tradition in Russia to put a padlock bearing the date and the names of the bride and groom on a bridge on your wedding day. It's quite sweet really, and seemingly leads to all sorts of creative padlock designs in order to stand out from all the others. Here are my pictures of the park, the cathedral and a cute little church we found nearby:

Realising we had really walked quite far and that the weather was getting worse again, we decided to get the trolleybus back to the city centre. Giving up on sightseeing, we decided to go and watch a film at the cinema. As Petrozavodsk isn't exactly a bustling metropolis, I was quite surprised that it had a cinema... This became slightly less surprising when it turned out that the cinema was in fact a nightclub as well, so the building served a dual purpose. There were a total of three films to choose from, so we chose the least manly one - Water for Elephants. Though we didn't understand entirely everything, it was still entertaining and better than I'd expected - Robert Pattinson wasn't too annoying. After the cinema we went to a restaurant called Kivach for dinner, as they served huge pizzas for under £4, and then retired back to our hotel.

On the next day - Tuesday - we decided to find out if we could actually go to Kizhi or not. It turned out the boats don't start running until at least mid-May, so we were just a bit too early to visit. This was pretty annoying, as Kizhi (a beautiful island covered in wooden churches and other buildings) is basically the main reason people visit Petrozavodsk, though I think I may still go back one day to visit it. We also enquired about visiting the nearby waterfall, which is inland, but it turned out that it would be really expensive for just the two of us to go, so we decided against it. We went for another lakefront walk and had lunch in a cafe called Deja Vu, where there were buttons on the table to call your waitress (why don't all cafes have this?!) and where the food was okay. We'd resigned ourselves to staying in the city by this point, and decided to visit the Karelian Museum of Local History after lunch.

The museum turned out to be rather large, and was quite good. We learnt a lot about the city's history, including during the reign of Peter the Great (the city's name means 'Peter's Factory'), when it was very industrial. I didn't take any pictures of the inside of the museum as there were several very observant old ladies watching our every move, but here is what it looks like from the outside:

After our morning walk and visit to the museum, the weather was awful yet again and we were tired, so we went back to the hotel to play some Scrabble and watch TV, like two old ladies. Later on, we had dinner in Petrozavodsk's only Mexican restaurant, Sanches, and had a drink in the German beer hall before calling it a night.

On Wednesday, our final day, we checked out at 12pm and had almost 11 hours to waste before our train back to Petersburg. Our first port of call was the Karelian Museum of Fine Art, though we stopped en route to see the facade of the old tractor factory, which turned out to be a bit of a let down - it really was just a building. The fine art museum itself was fairly good, and managed to keep us entertained for a couple of hours. From there we headed on down to the statue of Peter the Great by the shore, which we hadn't seen yet - it was much smaller than we'd expected and wasn't all that impressive really, but never mind. We ended up spending the rest of the day between cafes, shops and Kivach (cheap pizza restaurant) trying to waste time until our train. Here are my photos from our final day in Petrozavodsk:

(Top Top Middle: Petrozavodsk Tractor Factory facade; Top Middle: Karelian Museum of Fine Art; Middle Top: Me with the statue of Peter the Great; Middle Bottom: Petrozavodsk Train Station; Bottom Middle: Petrozavodsk State University) - Yes, I realise all the top, middle and bottom bits don't really make sense, but I'm sure you get the gist...

Finally 10.50pm arrived and we pulled away from Petrozavodsk on our train, rather relieved in the end to be heading back to Petersburg. Don't get me wrong, I had a lovely time in Petrozavodsk and we did manage to keep ourselves entertained, but in hindsight three days was a little too long in a small city where the two main attractions were out of reach! I'm sure in the summer the city is transformed completely, and hopefully one day I'll get to see that, but for now all of my memories of Petrozavodsk will be mainly grey and snowy...

Now I've finished my post about Petrozavodsk, I can move on to what I've been up to in Petersburg since... Watch this space, as in the next few days (possibly tomorrow) I'll be writing all about Victory Day, my city boat tour, visiting Rosa's dacha again, the Dostoevsky House-Museum and Kronstadt (see why I didn't want to make it all one huge post?!)...

Naomi :)


  1. Great blog. I'm very Interested in Russian cultues and literature, specially it's contemporary writers, unknown in Brazil. Surrou, I don't speak or read Russian, but maybe there are translations for English or French. Good luck in your journey. I invite you to my Fabio

  2. Nice Blog, waiting for some more updates:)