Guide “Kandalakshsky area – the gateway of the Kola Land”

kandalaksha_putevoditel Information about the transport and tourist routes, fishing rules, settlements Kandalakshsky district. Mode of the border crossing “Salla” and the other.

Lots of really useful information but it is in Russian only. However, the author of the guide is our good friend and we will work with her on English-language edition of the guidebook.

Trans-Siberian and Lake Baikal expert Jack Sheremetoff

Here is another character worth knowing if you are interested in doing the Trans-Siberian, with a big and active stop at Lake Baikal. Presenting Jack Sheremetoff. He’s been at it at least since 1995, when I met him. A rare example of survival in this environment that has uncomfortably much in common with a meat grinder. I haven’t spoken with Jack for years but judging from his Baikaler Hostel site he managed to preserve energy and good cheer.

It is not cold and dead. Against a popular misconception about the White Sea.

By Alexandra –

Contrary to common opinion, the White Sea (which can be considered a bay of the Barents Sea)is not cold and dead. I’d like to present my colleague and namesake Alexander, whose job and passion is to photograph White Sea creatures. He spends a lot of time in the Moscow Sate U. research station near Poyakonda, right on the arctic circle.


This White Sea jellyfish photo by Alexander Semonov won recent “Wild Nature of Russia” contest by the National Geographic (Russia) magazine


This worm made it to Nature Magazine

Here is an article about him by  in Time – Science and Space – Wildlife, January 15, 2013 >>

More pictures of Alexander Semenov on his website (English)and in his blog (Russian).

Unfortunately, perhaps one of the country’s and the world’s greatest underwater photography experts profoundly lacks interest in organizing diving tours in exchange for contemptible $$. If you happen to be real hot about immersing yourself into this see with a camera, tell me, and I’ll put you in touch with people in or around Kandalaksha. Write to or leave a comment below. Or, better, do both because at least 5% of e-mails seems to get lost in transit.




Good-by asphalt. The “road” is there till the next storm. Better have a good sense of direction. And a compass. Not sure if GPS will work there – so much out of this world the place seems.

Why travel to Kuzomen’

Sami descendants, wild horses (!), ghosts that the local **educated** priest says are real, northern sand desert…

Where to stay in Kuzomen’

Rely on local’s hospitality. Housing conditions will be sub-standard, unlike in the nearby Varzuga where the locals mysteriously live much better. Hire me with a jeep and trailer. Camping in the summer.


Desert, gloom, and decay

Kuzomen people

Wild horses

I’m playing with the idea of going there in winter, bribing horses with oats so that by spring, when they are hungry and weak, they are firm in the erroneous conviction I’m the good guy. Once they are tame I’ll show my true nature by enslaving a couple. If they survived in these conditions they are indestructible and I want a low-maintenance horse. Also on the pictures they are the ugliest animals I’ve seen and I sort of fall for anti-esthetics.

Kuzomen’ in winter


Julia from Ruskeala

Julia from Ruskeala

  Why travel there

Julia’s farm is an example of newly fashionable rural or eco type tourist place. Less than 300km north from Saint-Petersburg, stone mountains, an area full of ghosts from the past, from Vikings who took over Russia in… to the 1939-1940 war the wounds of which remain fresh as it take a long time for things to turn into dust in the north.


Accommodation in your own tend on her property is 300 roubles ($10) per person. Accommodation in the house 500 roubles ($17) per person. Meals are included in either case. Banya a bit extra.

Children from free (toddlers, babies) to half price (average) to full price (children from hell).

Call Julia at +7-921-623-5624. If you speak slowly and distinctly you’ll be able to communicate in English.

Please understand that accommodation and especially facilities are “Russian rural” standard.

The photo is from my own humble rural accommodation and horse riding establishment. I confess that part of the reason I visited Julia’s homestead and other similar establishments is to see how competitors are doing and just how they manage to offer 500 rouble deals while I hardly break even at 1500 ($50). This is part of the answer. Another part is of course horses that in our case are available (weather conditions permitting), together with assistance if needed.

This land inherited a lot from higher civilization that was here before Russians took over in 1940. One attraction of Julia’s farm is a well made out of cyclopean stones. How this well was made in solid stone remains a mystery.


On the maps look for Sortavala, on the north tip of the Ladoga lake. From there proceed towards Ruskeala. Just before Ruskeala turn left at the “Moloko” (“Milk”) sign. If in doubt try to find someone local and as about “Khutor u Vodopadov” (“Farm by Water Falls”).

Click here to see a bigger sketch that includes Lake Onega, Petrovavodsk, Medvezh’yegorsk, the Kizhi Island..

If travelling from Saint-Petersburg by train, ….

An Izh Jupiter-2 motorcycle from mid-70s. A reliable and easy to maintain machine, rare but cheap. Parts still available. I would be thinking of getting one if someone else was prepared to look after it.

If travelling from Saint-Petersburg by car, follow the road by the Ladoga lake (“Priozerskaya”), go past Sartavala and take the road to Vartsilya. At the 18th kilometer of the road look for a turn left marked with the “Moloko” (“Milk”) sign. Follow that road. In 5 min. you are there.

The sign says “Moloko” (“Milk”). Julia indeed sells goat milk and also pork from “happy organic pigs” that indeed spend their life enjoying the process and then get shot. The sign also invites to partake in cliff climbing and rafting, and advertises to the banya.

Another sign by Julia’s driveway. The arrow to her place says “Khotim pokoya” – “(We) want (to) rest”.

If travelling from Saint-Petersburg by train, leave from Ladozhsky Train Station. Train No. 350 Saint-Petersburg to Kostomuksha. The train runs on odd days only! Time in transit six hours. Leaves at 6:16pm, arrives in Kaalovo about 1am. Take taxi from Kaalamo.

The waterfalls. Acres and acres where you can put up a tent or just walk.

What’s left of an electric station that was here before the invasion.


Julia is within easy access to the Island of Valaam [link] and to the Ruskeala Park [link]. Ruskeala Park offers diving in old flooded catacombs left from granite mining. More info on the Ruskeala Park and on the Valaam (Balaam) island soon.

Consider a trip down an old dirt road through Suoyarvi and Justozero to Medvezh’yegorsk. Ruins of buildings you will encounter wherever you go in this deserted territory show how this area flourished before the war. Now it is one empty space with lots of graves (including Finnish military graves) and pieces of military iron protruding through thin layer of soil over rock. One of the saddest places I’ve seen in Russia, possibly comparable to the road from Demyansk to Staraya Russa in the Novgorod region.

The Ghost Road >>