Five things you must know when going to Karelia
As says a popular Russian song: “Karelia will remain in my dreams forever”. What should you know when traveling to Karelia?
Welcome to Enjoy Russian School’s blog! Today’s post is a bit special because it was written by the Russian Podcast creator, traveler and just a great personality Tatiana Klimova. “In June 2018 I went from Paris to Petrozavodsk… by train. I spent three weeks in Karelia visiting its islands, tasting Karelian food, interviewing people. Total time spent on trains: 180 hours.” What are the things everyone should know before heading to Karelia? Let’s ask Tatiana!
1. Are you learning Russian? Good news, Russian language in Karelia is the same as in Moscow or Vladivostok
Of course, there are always some regional words, but the difference is nothing compared to, say, London accent versus Manchester accent. In the Northern countryside people might pronounce all their “o” instead of “a”, but in cities, you’ll have the same Russian as everywhere else.
2. You are going to Karelia in summer? Take some warm clothes, just to be sure
The heating in the apartment blocs is automatically switched off in May-June, even if the weather is chilly. The city decides when to switch the heating on or off. That’s why Russians open their windows in winter, it might be -30°C outside and +25°C inside. I was in Karelia in the middle of June, 10°C outside, very cool in the apartment. Hotels, though, tend to heat their rooms quite well. The climate in Karelia is getting warmer, but it’s still a bit humid, so wrap up warm.
3. If you are traveling by car, make sure to bring some extra fuel in your car
Gaz stations can be very rare in Karelian countryside. Be sure to also have an extra tire, countryside roads in Karelia can be very damaged. When I asked a taxi driver for his fee to drive me from Kem to Belomorsk (115km), he recommended the train. Going from Belomorsk to Zalavruga to see the prehistorical petroglyphs was pretty scary. My driver spent half of the way on the left side. Why? To avoid the holes.
4. Book your boat tickets in advance, but ask the locals about the taxi phone number
If you are planning to visit Karelian islands Kizhi, Valaam and Solovki (technically Arkhangelsk region), try to book tickets in advance. If your language school organizes the trip, you can be sure to have a seat on one of the boats. However, in high season passengers have to fight for their seats, agencies always going first, then individual visitors. I went to Solovki in June and the boats were already full. Imagine what happens in August. On the opposite, it’s better to get a taxi phone number once you’ve arrived. Airbnb hosts, hotels, even restaurants always have a good driver they can recommend.
5. Karelia is famous for its magnificent nature, and nature is unpredictable
Make sure to buy some local sprays against ticks and mosquitoes. Russian forests aren’t European national parks. It’s easy to get lost, and sometimes there are even bears. Try to follow a professional guide who knows what to do in case of emergency. I’d like to thank my wonderful guide Svetlana Sharapenko who showed me Karelian forest and its churches. Karelian lakes look more like seas. The weather there can change suddenly. I was very lucky to be able to visit all the three islands I had planned, but it’s important to have a plan B in case your trip is canceled. Don’t get upset, visit a museum, have a nice Karelian meal or practice Russian with welcoming Karelian people.
If you want to know more about my trip to Karelia, follow my Youtube Channel. To watch all the videos with subtitles, check this link.
Enjoy your trip to Karelia!