Karelia: Around Ruskeala and Ladoga Lake
Русская версия Three weeks ago we rented a car in Saint-Petersburg to go to Karelia for three days – to celebrate Victor’s PhD. The best celebration for us is travelling and seeing as much as possible. In Karelia, we visited Ladoga Lake and less popular Onega Lake. Here come our impressions from the first part: the trip around Ladoga Lake and Ruskeala – the sights for which most of the tourists come to Karelia.
We rented the car from the representatives of Thrifty (+78124380848,firstname.lastname@example.org), whom we highly recommend, being fully satisfied with their service. From Saint-Petersburg ring road we soon got to the highway towards Karelia.
Entering Karelia, we immediately noticed how similar its landscapes are to the Finnish ones. By the way, the few good roads in Karelia and still not straight: going up and down, to the left and to the right. The locals say that the roads were constructed “by the drunk Finn”.
The first big town on our way – Sortavala also resembled Turku, mixed with the Soviet architecture though. Indeed, Sortavala is the only town in Karelia, where the old layout has been preserved. Almost the whole town center is of historical value.
Still, we are much more interested in the natural values, which is why we drove further to Ruskeala. This is the map of Ruskeala sights, only in Russian though.
Entering Ruskeala, you will come across its first natural sight – Ahvenkoski waterfall (N61.91588, E30.625295).
Compared to other Karelian waterfalls, this one is nothing special, but its usualness is supposed to be compensated by the infrastructure around. It is free to visit the waterfall, but the territory around it is taken care of and cleaned, in addition, you may buy souvenirs, berries, mushrooms, visit the tiny historical museum and even a toilet.
Not far from Ahvenkoski, there is a waterfall called Ryymäkoski (N61°54’32”, E30°37’15”) situated near the hydropower plant. There is a fence all around, and a short forest path leads to the place from which you can view the waterfall.
In Ruskeala, we advice to rather concentrate on visiting the mountain marble canyon (N61.944264, E30.581387) and a ruined marble factory situated nearby. The abandoned canyon was turned into an interesting tourist object in 2005 by few enthusiasts. For 150 rubles (100 – for students) you may walk around it along the tourist paths; paying more, you may take a boat, a guide, or try oneself in the extreme sports.
The territory of the current park was Swedish till 1721. The Swedes mined marble here in small quantities. After the Great Northern War, when the territory became Russian, the industrial marble mining started here in 1760s. The marble of Ruskeala was used for the decoration of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Michael’s Castle, Minor Marble Palace, and Kazan Cathedral – all in Saint-Petersburg.
If you follow the map given at the ticket counter, you may see the main sights of the park. Among them, there is the only pit preserved out of free used for the marble mining. Its gallery was used in the XX century as a bomb-shelter.
After exploring the pit, we noticed a suspicious path turning away from the tourist route deep into the forest. Even though we did not finish with the park sights, we decided to turn. This was a right decision: in five minutes we saw an abondoned marble factory.
The trespass is of course forbidden, but there is nobody to look after that. That is why, it is possible to walk – better in a larger company though. The factory is the whole complex of different buildings with a varying degree of accessibility and attractiveness. We felt like real stalkers, as it was our first time at an abandoned factory! The only trouble was this constant feeling that there must be the dog which would suddenly jump out – this never happened though.
The factory is great for making horror movies and unusual wedding photo shoots 🙂
The GPS-coordinates of the path leading to the factory: N61.94884, E30.58024. It seems that you may also come here by car and then get to the park for free by the same path.
After visiting the factory, we returned to the canyon: according to the map, there was still something to see, for instance, a hole (N61°56’55”, E30°34’40”). In winter, in is possible to skate here paying extra.
Italian mine is also nearby.
We spent the night at Ruskeala camping (N61.920064, E30.568765), having paid 500 rubles for the tent place, some firewood and hot water. We did not like two other campings Tsar gory (61.937425, 30.592173) and Jolki (N61°54’38.1″, E30°36’26.5″) due to their location.
In the morning, we departed to our last point of interest at Ruskeala – White Bridges Waterfall (Jukankoski, N61°45’12”, E31°24’37”), the tallest waterfall in South Karelia (19 meters). Driving there took some time due to the low quality of the road.
At Ladoga Lake, one may also visit the island of Valaam and the monastery there. We thought that the island must be similar to Sviyazhsk island near Kazan with its multiple monasteries and churches; also, high transport and entrance fees (you can get there only by water – return ticket starting from 2000 rubles per person) and too many tourists prevented us from going there. Having fulfilled our plan for sightseeing around Ladoga Lake, we decided rather to visit Onega Lake as well as the so-called Svyatozero necklace – the villages around Svyatozero where a lot of old houses and churches had been preserved.