We arrived at the East coast of the enormous Onega Lake and my mind was blown away. That was just exactly what I dreamt to find in the Russian North: harsh and wild land, so scarcely populated that it might almost be called ‘virgin’, left and forgotten, and still beautiful in its decline.
Before setting out on the road, I did a little research and found some amazing photo essays covering the remote northern places of Russia. Like this one portraying villages on the ancient water road used for fur export from the Russian North to Europe, the Middle East and Nothern Africa. But I was sure they are not that easy to find. The villages in central Russia and the suburbs of Moscow and Petersburg only have an abundance of new brick houses with satellite antennas on their slate roofs. Naturally, I reckoned one has to row a canoe up the northern rivers for weeks in order to find something similar.
What I didn´t expect was that I would be able to encounter the same kind of villages by one of the main road in Eastern Karelia – it really got me by surprise.
This village is Pyalma. In spite of the drizzling rain and dampness getting underneath our cloth we could not but pull out a camera and stroll down the village`s muddy streets or through the knee-high wet grass of the surrounding
Onega Lake is the end of the road…
However, there is a tiny hotel in this village you might stay at – this is another reason why we mention this village before the others. If our pictures made you fall in love with Karelian villages on the first sight, you may stay in Pyalma for a couple of days, plunge into the wilderness and fragile beauty of this part of the world.
Getting everything ready for this article, I searched for Pyalma on Google to tag it on the map. Even the correctly spelt word comes in last in the search results. Google asked me: “did you mean Palma de Mallorca?” I try to put together the images of both places – touristy Mediterranean Palma and the cold rainy Pyalma and the obvious discrepancy between them makes me smile. It feels like those are not just two different places but two different worlds.
But the real wilderness started after we passed the last big town Medvezhegorsk (translated as the bear mountain) it continues all the way up to the coast of the White Sea. We were driving for hours in the dissolving mists of the lakes and rivers and barely saw even a single village or person!
I’ve heard there are 2-weeks-long kayaking tours in that region and during these 2 weeks, you would not encounter a living soul. Now, this tour is on our bucket list – we will keep you up-to-date on how it went if we do it one day 🙂