This is a beta-version of the route! COVID is still making travelling extremely hard and certainly not safer!
This route is a roundtrip between Ladoga (Laatokka)and Onega (Ääninen), the two largest lakes in Europe. Olonets (Aunus) region is said to be the most Karelian part of Karelia.
Map link (under construction)
You can start wherever seems rational or feels right. For some reason I ended up typing this as a counter clockwise tour from Olonets.
Old Karelian houses along the riversides near the city of Olonets are worth seeing. The city center is more sovietisque. Music festival of Olonets is a large annual event with folk musicians coming from Finland too.
Monastery of Aleksanteri Syväriläinen
is known as the monastery of Holy Trinity and it is one of the most important religious centers of the Olonets region.
Syväri river connects the lakes. There are of course bridges, but you can cross the river by boat at Syvärinniska, Lotinapelto and Kovkenitsy. The hydroelectric power plant is, among many other symbols of progress, built with forced labour. The monastery was used as the prison camp of workers during the build.
Lotinapelto and Kuujärvi
Lotinapelto (Lodeinoje Polje) was where Peter the Great built his ships. The Saint Petersburg-Murmansk train stops here. Kuujärvi (Mikhaylovskoye) route is the other option.
Boatride at Syväri
Best way to see the river would be by boat. If you can’t find a company that does these trips, ask the locals or someone running a home stay in the area (they are fairly well connected because that’s the way things work here). Bigger ferries star their touristique tour at St. Petersburg and do stop at Syväri river. What you are looking for is something smaller and more frequent to better fit your schedules. Or a callboat of sorts.
Situated near the shores of lake Onega. Soutjärvi has an ethnographic museum and Himjoki is said to be beutiful. Big wooden houses that show great craftmanship.
A big university city with services you might expect including railway and bus stations. Beach promenade, some older wooden houses and of course, a large statue of Vladimir Iljits (Lenin). Boats to Kizi Pogost and to the headland leave hear.
A Uneco world heritage site. Said to be the largest log house in the world. Taxi boat to the headland.
Headland of lake Onega
is a maze of smaller lakes. The road that goes through the villages has a roadnumber wich indicates it’s rideable. A smaller road follows a long and narrow lake making it possible to do a roundtrip here depending on your bike.
Essoila and region
Road from Petrozavodsk to Essoila is a reasonable alternative to the busy main road. If you feel comfortable cycling a bigger road with possibly heavy traffic, Prääsä should be a place of interest. E-105 isn’t the ideal choise, but most of the time there is a smaller road near by that goes through the villages.
The most beautiful and well preserved village in Karelia. It serves as an ethocraphic museum. Accommodation and a sauna available. Road there from Vitele via Suurimäki and Kinalahti is not the easiest to cycle. Follow a footpath down to the river from the old prison camp of Suurimäki and cross the bridge. Part of it has collapsed and the next section is unmaintained (obviously vice versa if you are coming from the north. I came from Vitele.). Magazin at Kinalahti and at Vedlozero. Vitele and Kinalahti are nice. Suurimäki (Bolshie Gori) has great views but no services what so ever.
Part from the Kinnermäki section the roads should be okay. Expect gravel sections.
Bigger towns would have hotels. Some Finnish travel agencys should be able to fix accomodations in home stays in old Karelian houses in advance. Primatours?
Olonets folk music fest and pradzniks at the villages. Updates post Corona!
These log houses have decorated facades and grandious looks due to the size of the building. Unlike western ones, they have all the separate functions of a rural house under same roof. One half is for animals, tools, carriages etc, other half is for preserving food, wich usually leaves a room with a fireplace and a chamber as livable space.
Food and water
Should be no problem finding a magazin (a small shop), stolovaja or a ”kafe”(both diners). Distances aren’t that long, but there might be surprises. Always carry some amount of food and water with you.
Good to Know
You need a visa to visit Russia. Read more interesting stuff here.
Longer stays (more than a week) require registration. Bigger hotels do it for you, otherwise you’ll have to pay a visit to the local officials.
Finns marched all the way to Syväri (from the north) and took over Petrozavodsk renaming it Äänislinna. Stalins canal was another front where Finnish troops got stuck in trench warfare. The old border was at Salmi, a village at lake Ladoga wich pretty much marked the easternmost part of pre war Finland. The current border is a result of the terms of peace dictated by Stalin after the Second World War.
Apparently Finland is the only nation ever to fully paid the war reparations in full. Co-operation of Finns and Germans during the war is truly worth studying. The easy way to explain it would be that small nations sometimes must play with the big boys but know when to switch sides. But theres no way around the fact that we worked with the Nazies.
Topics to dig deeper into
Soviet Union and the war would be the obvious ones. As would Karelian language and its local dielects. Tied to this is the fact that Karelia is a republic of old women. Demographic facts do tend to indicate the future.
Finnish fantasy was to invade the area and make it a part of Suur-Suomi. Syväri is the historical dividing line between the Slavic and Fenno-Ugrian cultures.