Welcome to my blog

This is it! I've given up work -retired from the rat race and am about to start on a 10 year adventure, doing all those things I've been meaning to do but never had the time to do them. I've offloaded my responsibilities and it is now my time. So follow my adventures and see whether I actually manage anything!

Friday, 19 July 2019

Day 5: Karelia

Packed our cases in the trailer and we were off.
The scenery was forests and lakes with Lupins growing wild by the side of the road. They were mainly purple but other colours as well.

Our destination for the day was Petrozavodsk but we were making a couple of stops on the way. The first one was at Ruskeala marble quarry. The marble was used for buildings in St Petersburg such as St Isaac's cathedral and St Michael's Castle. the quarry is now flooded.

We had a guided tour and then had time to explore on our own.

In another part of the quarry we were shown the most recently hewn rocks.

I was surprised how warm the marble felt.

Back down at water level Sara invited me to join herself, John and Peggy in a rowing boat to look at the quarry from the water. As John was happy to do the rowing I was delighted to join them.

It was a delightful way to see the rocks.

Above our heads was a zip line. I didn't bother to have a go as it was a very short ride. I preferred the peace of being in a boat with the sound of the water lapping against its sides.

Sara couldn't resist having a go with the oars but soon gave up as we neared other boats.

Time to return to the bus and be on our way to our next destination, a typical Karelian village.

Karelia and the Finnish-Russian borderland 
The republic of Karelia is a region in northwest Russia bordering Finland. In 1917 Finland declared independence and in the peace settlement Finland ended up ceding a large part of Karelia to the Soviet Union.
This is a map of the tour.

The village of Kinerma is a living example of a typical settlement in Karelia. Once a thriving village where the residents worked on a large cooperative farm during the Soviet era. After the break up of the Russian federation in the early 90s, the cooperatives closed and with the loss of work people moved away from the village. Only two of the wooden houses are occupied throughout the year with others being used in the Summer only. We visited the one family still there trying to keep their heritage alive by actively farming, preserving and maintaining the traditional rural way of life.
They welcome visitors and have extended their house to incorporate a dining room.
We were served a  traditional meal  of Borsch, soup made from beetroot and other vegetables. Then a salad made from salad vegetables and barley. Both were delicious.

The meal ended with a cup of tea and cake.
After  lunch we were given a tour of the village by the son of the family. Our guide translated for us.

The pride of the village is the 250 yr old chapel, Our Lady of Smolensk.

They have recently built a Museum with help from the Finns which will house a number of artefacts from the village.

Now it was time for a cookery lesson. We were going to learn how to make traditional Karelian pies.
The flour was made from barley as wheat doesn't grow in this climate.

We were given very small pieces of the pastry to roll out as thinly as possible.

We then had to shape the pastry ready for a filling of.....?


They were then baked in the oven. We finished off our afternoon there with a cup of tea and a Karelian pie which strangely enough was quite tasty but one was enough!

We then had a two hour drive to Petrozavodsk. The hotel was modern and overlooked a huge expanse of water, Lake Onega.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Day 4: Faberge Museum

After breakfast I finished packing and left my case at reception. I had arranged to meet up with a few members of the group for lunch before we left St Petersburg. That gave me a couple of hours to visit the Faberge Museum. Housed in the recently restored Shuvalov Palace, the exhibition features 9 rare Faberge eggs from the 50 that were  presented as Easter gifts by the last two Russian Tzars to their mothers and wives. They are from the Russian Billionaire, Victor Veksekberg's extensive collection of Russian art. He paid $100 million dollars for them from the American newspaper magnate Malcolm Forbes in 2004. Entrance to the blue room where the eggs are displayed was via this sumptuous entrance hall and staircase.

The blue room with its blue silk and silver patterned walls, gilded moulding and marble fireplace makes the perfect setting for these precious Faberge eggs.

 This is the Hen Egg, the first egg in the Emperor series. It was a gift from Alexander III to his wife, Empress Maria Fedorovna for Easter 1885. Each egg had a surprise inside.

The Order of St George egg. Gift from the Emperor Nicholas II to his mother dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, for Easter 1916

Bay Tree Egg (with key). Gift from the Emperor Nicholas II to his mother, dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna for Easter of 1911

The House of Faberge, founded in 1842 in St Petersburg, manufactured a wide range of items, from unique pieces made by order of the Russian Royal family, European monarchs and Eastern rulers, to mass produced goods such as jewellery, silver utensils and gemstone carving utensils. The peak of the creative work of Carl Faberge who headed the business in 1872 is considered to be the Easter eggs with surprises inside, made to the order of the last Romanovs - the Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II. It took a year's worth of work to make each egg.

Egg Clock of the Duchess Marlborough 1902

Resurrection Egg with its surprise.

 Coronation Egg. Gift from Emperor Nicholas II to his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna for Easter of 1897.
 Copy of the carriage made by G. Stein
Coronation tobacco box c.1896

Not sure of this egg's name.

Rose Bud Egg. Gift from Emperor Nicholas II to his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna for Easter 1895.

Heart shaped frame with three miniatures. The egg from which this surprise came has been lost. It was a gift from Nicholas II to his mother, dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Easter 1897

Lilies-of -the-Valley Egg. Gift from the Emperor Nicholas II to his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna for Easter 1898.

The Hen Egg: Gift from A.F. Kelch to his wife V.P. Kelch for Easter of 1898

Cockerel Egg Clock: Gift from Nicholas II to his mother the dowager Empress Mari Feodorovna for the Easter of 1900

Fifteenth Anniversary Egg. Gift from Emperor Nicholas II to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna 1911

Also in the museum were many other things like these tobacco boxes, mainly from the House of Faberge.

 Presentation tobacco box with portrait of  Emperor Nicholas II

 Cigarette cases and tobacco boxes.

 Frame with portrait of Queen Mary of England.

Elephant's head cane handle

The House of Faberge made small pieces of artistic jewellery which served no practical purposes other than being expensive souvenirs.

 This gold and enamel armchair shaped bonbonniere is also from the House of Faberge. It is tiny so not sure where the bonbons were kept!

 Belt buckles made from gold, silver, diamonds, pearls,  gilding and enamelling.

They even made desktop bell pushes.

Although not a large museum I spent a long time there gazing at these masterpieces of Russian art work. I rushed back to meet the others for lunch. There were six of us altogether but we were all served our food at different times with two of the group having to wait an hour for their food.  We were soon to realise that when we went for a meal as a group we never actually ate together as the food was just served when each dish was ready. I have never come across this before. It took so long for us all to be served that we were nearly late back which is unacceptable when travelling in a group. However, we were fine and collected our luggage in time to get the minibus to our next destination of Sortavala  which was 200km north. I had thoroughly enjoyed my stay in St Petersburg and felt that this was probably going to be the highlight of the trip.

The drive was not great as it took 6 hours with lots of traffic and construction work delaying us.
Knowing we were going to be late our guide pre ordered food for us but that didn't seem to make any difference as once again we were served individually with some waiting an hour longer than others for their meal.
The hotel overlooks a large lake. They had live music on inside and outside the restaurant. The singers were less than 30 m from one another and seemed to be competing with each other. It was much cooler here than St Petersburg and much lighter. It was 11pm when I took these photos of the lake.