Saturday, 8 October 2011

Episode 13: If you go down to the woods out for the devil

So there we were, a teapot of Englishmen (yes, that is the collective name) waiting in the cold of the university trolleybus stop. The elusive number "4" marshrutka ( a kind of mini-van taxi with a set route) was to take us to the start of our woodland ramble in a village on the city limits. They are supposed to come once every 5-10 minutes, but the wait was agony in the shrill breeze and not a single number 4 was showing up. So, like the bloody foreigners we are, we did the natural thing and broke out into a flash mob, dancing to the Russian pop-music that was blaring out of the neighbouring kiosk. Judging by the odd looks we got, the locals didn't really get our sense of humour and our Russian friends are far too cool to have joined in so did an admirable job of ignoring our flailing limbs and swinging hips until we finally got aboard.

Onega and distant Petrozavodsk  from "the Devil's Chair" side

Ode to a Lada
Today was absolutely lovely! As I pondered in my last update, we are certainly in a Russian "Golden Autumn" as despite frequent outbursts (surely 'downbursts'?) of drizzle, almost on a daily basis, the sun never fails to find a way of piercing the clouds and making Karelia look so pretty. On the knowledge that this would be another good weekend weather-wise, we decided to head out on a woodland ramble to "the Devil's Chair" a local, Petrozavodsk beauty spot on the opposite shore of Lake Onega...

Finally on the number 4 marshrutka we experienced a properly bumpy ride which was made all the more comical and hair-raising ride because the tallest one of us was forced to double over and squat by the half open door for the first five minutes of journey due to a lack of seats and a capitalist driver. We soon ended up on a country road approaching a pretty old church near some wooden buildings. This part of town is a kind of mini village which seems to be populated half by permanent residents and half by dachas (Russian holiday homes) of various sizes and builds. Crusty men  prodded smokey barbecues in their front yards, dogs barked excitedly over picket fences, children rode bicycles through muddy puddles and women chopped firewood as we walked down the mud tracks towards the woods. We picked up the trail to "the Devil's Chair" just as the sun came out. The smell of the wood stoves and cooking meat hung in the air and everything felt like the end of a long and beautiful summer. The whole dacha ideology began to make more sense.

A pier in the village and a couple of dachas
We found "the Devil's Chair" without a hitch. It's a kind of cliff with a stunning view of the lake and you can make out the entire urban, sprawl of Petrozavodsk on the opposite bank. The so
 called "chair" is a kind of natural "throne" eroded into this cliff face although it certainly doesn't look comfortable and I'd recommend beezlebub a decent chiropractor after an extended sit in that...

Legend has it that two fishermen saw the devil here  one night when out in the woods. Either that or they had drunk slightly too much "Karelian Balsam" (a local Jaegermeister-style herb spirit) and run into a bear. On this topic we successfully created a self-styled "Jaeger-bomb" out of a liberal share of it mixed with the Russian energy drink ominously called "BURN." Of course, we have ceremonially dubbed the new drink the "Karelia-bomb" although we doubt it'll catch on in the UK without a severe relaxing of import/export laws. Shame.

To be honest, i'm not sure if "Lonely Planet" know about this place. This is a lovely and beautiful part of Russia. Certainly if you ever get the chance to visit Petro this is well worth your time. Pack warm clothes, some ok-ish boots (the trail is muddy), but other than that all you need is a camera, some great friends, some emergency Pushkin and a picnic to get close to the beautiful Karelian soil! A quality Saturday all round! More soon x

The woodland trail
Onega from atop the Devil's Chair
The beauty of Northern Russia


  1. Rob, why don't you write anything? All interesting things in Russia were ended? =(

  2. Rebel - Russia will never stop being interesting :) I hope I won't either! The new post is here: