Trip to Kalevala.

Photographs from trip

Idea of that Christmas trip went from club “Russian North” (I am one of its members). We were going to go to Kalevala six together but from different causes we stayed only both. Yuri and I started to the winter Karelia from Leningrad’s railway Station in Moscow at 9 p.m. on 2 January.
    Train to Kem' town went about twenty-six hours and we occupied four-seats compartments together with our temporary neighborhoods. Because our carriage had state of higher comfort we had to add new food storage to our own. Also we were rid from pay for bed linen. Evening fast converted to night and we went to sleep. There was too hot at the compartment and our dream was heavy and long. Therefore we waked up late. Train was running to North and we chatted, read, looked through the window to the snowy forests and rare towns and villages. Train stopped often but stayed at the platforms mostly a couple of minutes. All day passed such way.
    Our train # 382 (Moscow – Murmansk) arrived Kem town at 11 p.m. Maxim from tourists’ company “VelT” met us at the station and showed way to bus. Then had come another four tourists and we started to Kalevala. But most part of tourist would come next train and yellow school bus stayed to wait for them. We went about 190 km along snowy road. Sometimes it was slippery and uneven and speed of our car at that places was not more than 40 k/h. We could see giant firs aside road when light from car headlights fell on them. Branches of firs pulled down from heavy layers of wet snow. We arrived Kalevala at 2 a.m. Little fluffy cat met us near doors of hotel. It made “custom inspection” of our luggage after short acquaintance with us. Then we went to reception where nice girl met us and showed us our apartments. We knew later that this Christmas tour gathered enough many people. There was even little tourist group from France.
Day light came there only at 11 a.m. and darkness came before 4 p.m. We were only in less than 200 km from Polar Circle. We had our breakfast at ground floor in restaurant where were set massive dark wooden tables with the same benches. There were several tables for four-five people and a couple of ones for big companies. Time for breakfast was from 10 to 12 a.m. Supper was from 8 to 10 p.m. and it was possible to sit there till midnight.
    Program of our rest began after breakfast at midday on 4th January. Our group of twenty-one people sat into school bus and it drove us to meet shaman. Way was not too long and soon took us to bridge across open river with black water, which flew amongst white snowy banks. Two animators (people who entertain others) met us there. They were Grandpa Moroz (Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurochka.  They greeted us and treated with Karelian Balsam (alcohol drink extracted on many herbs). Then Snegurochka divided our group on two ones and she taught us some team rituals for raise team spirit. Then we went through different competitions such as relay-race through the sticks, little ski race, threw snowballs into target, jumping above fire and searching wooden idol into deep snow. Our team lost and we came to shaman’s home after first group. There was conical marquee made from boards. There were benches covered with fells of reindeers along walls. Shaman’s place was opposite the door. In center of marquee stood fireplace with fire. There was dark and little smoky into marquee. We sat on the benches and shaman went round with tambourine made from reindeer’s skin. He knocked into tambourine above each visitor. Then we ate bear’s meat cooked very tasty, drank herbal tea with nice cowberry cake. Shaman gave little present to each and prediction to this year. My prediction was road.
Here we met reindeers – there were three stags, which were put into sledge. But when children sat into sledges reindeers were afraid and drove into fir. Then drover Sergey drove them several circles and when deer get tired driving was continued. Yuri and I didn’t drive then but all who did were delighted, especially children. Last deer trip was ended with sledge overturn and deer run away in unknown direction. Firstly Sergey run after them but then he take mobile phone and made a call. I think, he made a call to deer. (Smile) Reindeers were returned but short North day finished and we had to return to hotel by bus. Second group had their testing during way to shaman, at seems, in the deep dark.
    Next day we had a picnic in the forest. We started there at 11:30 a.m. Bus and four little ones drove all groups. After fifteen minutes we arrived to snowy shore of the frozen lake. There was big glade there. All were ready for entertainment. Music was heard from big loud-speakers, army field-kitchen smoked, tables and benches covered with deer fells stood in one of the corners. Skies stood into snowdrift, several snow-tractors waited for there. Sledge with two deer stood a little away. Third deer sought feed into deep snow.
    Our animators offered different games to us, such as race into sacks, football (but it was besom instead ball), fight of horsewomen (they sat on the men’s shoulders) and tried to drop another pair with soft sack, and another games of such kind. But Yuri and I didn’t take part in the games. I didn’t fell myself well and Yuri wanted to watch reindeers and make photographs of them and another photographs of winter forest. We had a walk along white paths, which were formed by skiers or snow-tractors in the forest.  By the way, snow-tractors are used in Kalevala on level with cars. You can watch how they drive along Kalevala streets. When we came into forest we had dipped into snow-white silent. Only our steps disturbed that silent. Firs lowered their brunches down from weight of snow on them and thin birches or aspens bended into arcs from that weight. We were sad that there was not sunshine in that day. However, sun didn’t glad us during all our stay in Kalevala. Sometimes light snow felt from gray sky.
    Games ended when we returned to glade and got time for different rides. I had a little ski walk and also Yuri and I ride in the sledge. It was splendidly! But reindeers “had gone on strike” just after we got off from sledge. May be we was too heavy for them. Next passengers could enjoy with ride only after Sergey changed one of the reindeers with reserved one.
    Then we had a dinner. It consisted from fish soup and fried fresh fish with fried potatoes, some vegetables salads and snacks. Some people drink alcohol. There were dances, games and ride on snow-tractors after dinner. Snow-tractors rode on ice surface of lake. Great effect was when snow-tractor appeared from behind of cape with bright headlight. And reindeers got tired and laid near sledge on the ice. Then dark came and we began to return to hotel. The French left first and we took the bus soon. Another day in Kalevala ended.
   At the evening Yuri and I visited Finnish dry bath. It was situated just near our apartments. We spent there about three hours and had a very nice time. Temperature into little sweating room was higher than 100 C and we added some scented liquids into water for steam (Yuri bought them at hotel reception). Also we added there a few of Crimean Balsam I bought in Crimea. I hope I had lost some excessive weight there.
Next day we had excursion along Kalevala and visit to museum of regional. We also went to lakeshore near hotel. That morning dark-gray cloud hung above far opposite bank. It seems as dense fog thought if it fells or doesn’t fell to ice surface. That cloud hung there each day we were at Kalevala.
    There were only sixteen people in the school bus when we started to excursion with woman – guide. Amazingly, how much interesting she could tell about small settlement in the severe North forests.  We had seen park, which was built in 30th straightly on the place of cemetery, and pine under which epos “Kalevala” was written in XIX century. We visited room in the old North wooden house and imagined how people lived there many-many years ago. Also we visited three churches of different confessions – Lutheran, Greek Orthodox and Church of Fifty’s. All those churches were built and are keeping from Finnish sponsors.
    After that we visited museum, which located on the first floor of local little supermarket – two-storeyed bricks’ building. There were black-white photographs made in XIX century and school pioneer (boyscout) wear from century XX and old spinning-wheels and skies and fishing nets and bear fell and wild boar’s head and also red flag for winner in socialist competition. But our guide said sadly that in 90th when museum hadn’t money – most part of old things were sold by their owners. We couldn’t learn more in museum because another excursion came to museum. There were soldiers from Kalevala border guard.
    Evening program consisted from visit to Greek Orthodox Church during Christmas evening service and after service banquet “meeting of Greek Orthodox Christmas” had place. But because we could buy back railway tickets only on 7th January we had to leave Kalevala just before beginning of banquet. We had to be in time at Kem’. Road to Kem’ was very slippery because rain fell day before our departure. Though there were five passengers with luggage into little bus driver put additional weight into rear part of car. Sometimes car skidded and our driver drove very carefully and didn’t hurry all time. Therefore we were in time at Kem’ but not into deep snow near road. Fellows from “VelT” gave us “dry rations”, which included dishes from banquet and couple of bottles – Champaign and vodka. So, we were very grateful to driver and another employees of “VelT”. We saw little white hare and dark fox crossing our way during our journey to Kem’. We arrived in Kem’ about 4:30 a.m.
    Soon we entrained and said: “Good bye, Karelia! We’ll be back!” We arrived Moscow at 7 a.m. on 8 January. Yuri and I said good-bye to each other and decided to return to Kalevala this year.