Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Yes, we made it to Solovetsky!
Despite things looking pretty gloomy on Saturday evening, with the hotels fully booked and a local man telling us that online boat reservations were an absolute must and Kaisa worrying about surprizing extra fees for foreigners, on Sunday morning we simply hopped in the taxis kindly arranged by our hosts, arrived at the port on time and boarded the 10 AM boat to Solovetsky. We even got seats inside the boat and were able to cozily take out the bread and nuts we had packed with us, nibble a bit and then do some serious napping.
Lina was furious at the taxi driver, who first charged us 200 rubles more than was previously agreed and then called someone - possibly the woman selling tickets at the pier - and announced that four foreigners were on their way. (Four, because the locals seem to completely disregard Lina's Finnish citizenship and consider her a Russian because of her fluency in the language.) But the rest of us were just excited to finally get to see the beautiful monastery, with its gruesome history as a gulag, concentration camp, for Russian intellectuals and artists.
Arriving two hours later on the main island we immediately realized that it was quite a lot bigger than we had expected, and the few hours we had on us would only be enough for a small tour. The magnificent fortress was surrounded by a village of wooden houses, and cows and goats were munching on the grass growing by the small roads. We bumped into a booth selling tasty pies and cinnamon buns made by the bakery of the monastery, and enjoyed them with a cup of coffee.
We lit up a few candles in front of the gold-decorated altar of the main church, and then split up to explore the surroundings of the fortress. It was clear that to really explore the islands we would've needed a guide as well as several days, but nonetheless this was an experience well worth the time and rubles (even considering the foreigner prices).
Talking on the boat back we all admitted to feeling a certain restlessness while on the island, and despite all the interesting sights had felt like we needed to get back on the bikes soon. A cycling trip has a mood of its own, and as the road pulls you in it's not easy to take your mind off it and concentrate on anything else than moving ahead.
Posted by Kaisa & Christoffer Leka at 11:41 AM