Waking up to the sound of torrential rain beating off the hotel room window was far from what we had hoped to waken up to first thing in the morning. We decided to delay our start by an hour and a half in the hope that the rain would subside. Well, not only did it subside, it disappeared and we had great weather for the rest of the day.
An hour and a half on the freeway had us out of St. Petersburg without any traffic and it was not long before we had the largest city of the tour behind us and we were winding along a beautiful twisty road on the banks of the largest lake in Europe, Lake Ladoga. Other than a short section of gravel the road was in great condition, the scenery was pretty and the weather was great – what more could one ask for in a days ride.
We arrived at a beautiful little gem of a lodge just outside the town of Sortavala – after turning down a small farm road, this was the last thing one would expect to find. The original manor house was built in 1892 and they are currently working on the restoration thereof however the small, quaint lodges within the property are really pretty and of course being on the lake and surrounded by forests makes for an ideal location.
An early afternoon arrival meant that we had time to take a boat trip to a nearby monastery. 40 minutes in a speed boat and we saw the top of the monastery appearing in the distance.
The monastery is on Valaam Island, the largest island on Lake Ladoga. It is unclear when exactly the monetary was founded but it is estimated to have been between the 10th and 15th century. We enjoyed a wonderful two hour guided tour around the monastery and the island. The tour itself was great, the monastery is beautiful but the all male choir that sang for us was absolutely incredible. The five Monks that made up the choir had voices the put every hair up on the back of my neck – it was amazing.
A quick boat trip back to the hotel followed by a wonderful dinner was the prefect way to end a great day.
The weather forecast delayed our departure for an hour. Just that brief wait changed what could have been a wet slog into a beautiful day of riding. We traveled into the Republic of Karelia, sometime referred to as the “lung of Europe” because of it’s dense forests and numerous lakes and rivers. Lake Ladoga is the largest lake in Europe – 207km north to south and 136km east to west.
In the afternoon we took a 40 minute boat ride to a Greek Orthodox monastery, Valaam. It is believed to have been founded in the 11C by two Greek missionaries. In it’s hey day it had as many as 1000 monks and novices. Today there are a little over 100. They have both a monastic and professional choir. We had the privilege of spending 15 minutes with the professional group. Beautiful.
Beautiful scenery in the Republic of Karelia.
Great roads and sweeping turns added to the riding fun.
David Roberts is a happy camper today.
Claus and Svetlana decided to make some memorable videos. We all played to the camera.
Our vessel to Valaam Island and the Greek Orthodox Valaam Monastery founded in the 11thC by two Greek monks.
All the smart people were riding inside.
The island monastery is host to almost 100,000 during the summer months. The island has 3 hotels although one was damaged by fire last year so some visitors stay on a ship (the one with a star on it’s bos) docked in the little harbor. Our boat is that little blue one.
There a several small chapels in the harbor.
Our group opted for a quick snack before our tour.
Svetlana arranged for one of the monks to give us a tour of the monastery. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the main church – made up of the lower winter church and the upper summer church. While we were there we observed a few minutes of a service taking place in the summer church. The winter church was restored to the much plainer, less ornate, lower ceiling, Greek standard. The summer church was in the Russian Orthodox style.
Entry to the main monastery grounds.
Domes of the main church.
We had the pleasure of a short concert by their professional choir in a smaller church.
Ceiling mural in the smaller church.
The monks made and to this day make a lot of what they need on the archipelago of islands that constitute the monastic grounds. They made the bricks in this shop wall in 1905. These are 3 times harder than any other brick.
The monks also raise American Rainbow trout. This monk is selling smoked fish. Claus bought some to share on the return boat trip.
John hoped to fly his drone over the church. At first our guide said it was okay, but upon checking with higher authorities, the request was declined.
Another small chapel.
Home port for tonight. This area was used a summer resort for the aristocracy 100 years ago.