Russia: Church of Lazarus on Lake Onega, Kizhi Island

Russia: Church of Lazarus on Lake Onega, Kizhi Island

Despite the campaign to root out religion, the Communists couldn’t move themselves to destoy the two allwooden churches and the bell tower on Kizhi Island in Lake Onega, Europe’s second-Iargest lake. As you approach by hydrofoil, the churches’ combined 31 cupolas command otherwise flat vistas and far horizons. Seven years of constmetion and not one nail went into the island’s glory, the Church of the Transfiguration. Completed in 1714, when iron nails were prohibitively expensive, it is built of logs that were dovetailed and bound together by wooden pegs.

The builder, Nestor-imagined by guidebook writers as a brawny prototype of the superhero race the Soviet Union hoped to breed-is said to have used only an ax to hew pine logs and individually shape the 40,000 aspen shingles that compose the exterior of the domes. Each of its 22 cupolas is carved of special seales that keep water out. Unlike a saw cut, ax cuts seal in the resin, which increases the wood’s resilience. The church owes its survival in part to the cold, which keeps awaywood-eating beetles.

Because of a major screwup by conservationists in the 1980s, a metal frame that was meant to stop the church’s tilting caused deterioration of the wooden beams, which are now 12 percent rotted. Kizhi Pogost (an old Russian word for cemetery) was proclaimed a Wodd Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990, but there is still no coherent project for reparation, and the inside remains off-limits. Its neighbor, the newer Church of the Intercession of the Virgin (1764), is a shorter but sturdier version with nine cupolas. it houses an exhibit of local icons and of the peasant uprising against Catherine the Great. Youngest of the trio of buildings, the bell tower acts as a pivot between the two churches.

The entire island of Kizhi (four miles long by half a mile wide) lies 200 miles northeast of St. Petersburg in Kareha, a region of 60,000 lakes and mesmerizing northern scenery. More Finnish than Russian, the Karehans pressed on with their pagan rituals after being annexed by Russia in the fourteenth century, and Kizhi Pogost is an ancient pagan worship site.

In the 1960s, when the island became the Architectural and Ethnographic Museum Preserve, other wooden structures from the area were then brought to the island, including the fourteenth-century Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, peasant izbas (huts), a traditional bathhouse, -and nineteenth-century boyar houses (including a koshelbuilt by a boyar named Oshevnev; a koshel is a complex containing a house and a barn, reducing the need to wander far from the hearth when the temperature in Karelia dips to minus 50).

Touring, Lodging, and Dining

The season for visiting Lake Onega, at a latitude of 61.46° north, is May through September. Itus Tours, in St. Petersburg, has four- and five-night cruises. If traveling independently, base yourself in Petrozavodsk, which has frequent hydrofoil service to and from Kizhi.

Petrozavodsk (literally, “Peter’s Factory”) was founded in 1703 to serve as Peter the Great’s cannon foundry. The recently built Hotel Pietari has a sauna and 14 rooms, all of which have private baths.

At the three-story Hotel Severnaya you can contemplate the- concrete and metal fetishes of Soviet designers. Locals dine at Pedro Pizza, a cozy establishment on Ulitsa Gogolia that seats 45 and serves pizza and international cuisine. Light hungers can be sated at Taide Galley (Lenina 13), which serves sandwiches.

Reading Full Books on Kizhi Island

Full books on Kizhi are almost nonexistent in English, but there is a chapter in the coffeetable book Russian Houses, and an informative section about Russian architecture in Pelican’s The Art and Architecture of Russia, by George Heard Hamilton.

Two guidebooks stand out for historical background on Kizhi and up-to-date information on the logistics of getting there and back. Published by Lonely Planet in 1996, Russia, Ukraine & Belarus is among the most recent. An Explorer’s Guide to Russia, by Robert Greenall, includes a substantial readinglist.

All About Santorini Island in Greece

All About Santorini Island in Greece

Santorini, classically Thera, and officially Thira, is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast of Greece’s mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera.

It forms the southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands, with an area of approximately 73 km2 (28 sq mi) and a 2011 census population of 15,550. The municipality of Santorini includes the inhabited islands of Santorini and Therasia and the uninhabited islands of Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi, and Christiana. The total land area is 90.623 km2 (34.990 sq mi). Santorini is part of the Thira regional unit.

Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera. A giant central, rectangular lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4.3 mi), is surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high, steep cliffs on three sides. The main island slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia; the lagoon is connected to the sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest.

The depth of the caldera, at 400m, makes it impossible for any but the largest ships to anchor anywhere in the protected bay; there is also a fisherman’s harbour at Vlychada, on the southwestern coast. The island’s principal port is Athinias. The capital, Fira, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon. The volcanic rocks present from the prior eruptions feature olivine and have a small presence of hornblende.

It is the most active volcanic centre in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc, though what remains today is chiefly a water-filled caldera. The volcanic arc is approximately 500 km (310 mi) long and 20 to 40 km (12 to 25 mi) wide. The region first became volcanically active around 3–4 million years ago, though volcanism on Thera began around 2 million years ago with the extrusion of dacitic lavas from vents around the Akrotiri.

The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred some 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.