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2014 Aug by
The Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, along with their monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site easily reached from Kem, Karelia. (Kem is a stop on the Murmansk to St. Petersburg railway route.) A ferry leaves the pier at the nearby town of Rabocheostrovsk each morning at 8:00 a.m. to the islands and returns in the afternoon at 4:00 p.m. You can also stay overnight on the islands at one of several accommodations. |
2009 Jul by Jorge Sanchez
Archangelsk is today one of my most loved Russian Oblasts. The main reason is the Solovetsky Archipelago, a real wonder, a Patrimony of the Humankind by UNESCO.|
In the past I had crossed Archangelsk Oblast, stopping for half an hour in the railway station of Kotlas (in my way by train to Vorkuta, in the Republic of Komi) and, fooling myself, I had noted it as “visited” in MTP. What an shame and ignominy!
But in July 2009 I corrected and expiated this unpardonable error with a visit of five days to the Archangelsk Oblast. Three of them were devoted entirely to the Solovetsky Monastery in the main island of the archipelago (composed by six islands, known as Solovki), where I lived as a pilgrim, inside the monastery premises, sleeping in the dormitory, having breakfast, lunch and dinner with the pilgrims and monks, and participating in all the religious services, some of them lasting four and five hours. For your guidance, in the Orthodox Masses, faithful people do not sit down in a bench, like in the Catholic Churches, but stand up all the time….! So, sometimes (in fact very often!), I was tired to pray so long.
I reached the Solovetski islands first by train to Kem, and then I took a bus to the port and boarded a boat to the islands. Unfortunately, I did not know that there is a boat for pilgrims, practically for free, sailing at about 5 AM in the morning. In fact I arrived to Kem at about 3 AM and decided to stay for a while in the wooden benches of the waiting room, together with many pilgrims who spent two hours signing religious songs and rejoicing very much. Then at about 5 AM they left and I slept for a while, until 7 AM, when I drank a coffee, ate a bulochki, and afterwards took a bus to the port (it is very far away from Kem, in another village), arriving at about 8 AM. But at that time the daily Pilgrims Boat had left, and there were only commercial boats.
There is a Spanish proverb that says “A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda” (en English, more or less, means: “God helps those who wake up early). So, because I slept until 7 AM, I had to pay an expensive boat ticket.
The navigation took about two and a half hours.
The monastery was already seen from a few kilometres distance before arriving. It was simply WONDERFUL, one of the most beautiful monasteries that I have seen in my life (and I have seen hundreds of them). From the boat I counted eight solid towers and seven gates to enter the monastery, which looked like a Kremlin, or a fortress. I also distinguished the domes of the churches. The entire complex enclosing the monastery offered a visual image like a beautiful tale place with exquisite architecture.
When I disembarked, I rushed to the monastery to request being accepted as a pilgrim to the monk in charge of the visitors. I was allowed to stay there for three days, free of charge.
Outside the monastery there were several hotels for the tourists who arrived to Solovetski by plane, plus a hostel for students, but I preferred to sleep inside the monastery, and not in order to save money, but to breathe its holy atmosphere.
The Solovetski Monastery was founded in the XV century by monks from the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, in Vologda Oblast (monastery that I would visit in the town of Kirillov a week later).
There is a negative aspect (sacrilege) concerning Solovetsky archipelago. In the year 1921 Lenin inaugurated in those islands the first prison camp (Gulag) of the many hundreds of them that would follow (especially during Stalin times) in the coldest and most inhospitably places of the Soviet Union.
The Solovetsky Monastery has suffered because of the wars. One of the most fatidic was the one against the English (in the Crimean War context), when three ships of the British Royal Navy bombed without pity the monastery, during 9 hours divided in two days, destroying treasures and a unique architecture, not to count the monks casualties.
Inside the monastery there is a museum showing manuscripts and old religious relics. There is also a shop selling religious items for the visitors.
The atmosphere with the pilgrims in that monastery was very intimate and warm and made me feel at home. I made friendship with pilgrims coming from all parts of Russia and also from Ukraine, who spend most of their lives on pilgrimage, from monastery to monastery, from holy place to holy place, often on foot. Pilgrim is a high category of traveller. First is the one who makes business with the travels, so downgrading the noble activity of travel. Then comes the tourist, who travels for pleasure (although the individual tourist is very close to the traveller). Then the traveller, who travels to learn, to know why he is in this world and enjoys the treasures of our planet, made by men and made by the Nature. Then there is the Pilgrim. After the Pilgrim comes the noble Missionary, who travels far away to help poor people, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or Father Damian in Hawaii. And finally there is the superior category of traveller, the Nature Emigrant, who travels for necessity following Nature Laws. Such Emigrant leaves a place in search of survival. Our ancestors were such kind of superior travellers when many, but many thousands of years ago, they left the caves looking for better places to survive, until today. Because of the Nature Emigrants, Humanity did not disappear, and we, today, contemporary human beings, are living in our planet.
The pilgrim with whom I made more friendship was called Alexander Vashchenko. In the card that he gave me it was written: “Pilgrim – Photographer”. Alexander was born in Ukraine and had made many pilgrimages to the most remote monasteries of Russia, taking pictures that he sold for a living. He was lame, but in spite of that he walked in his pilgrimages, and during the religious services in Solovetski he always kept standing, during several hours, only helped by his stick.
After Solovetsky I left for Arkhangelsk city, a very pleasant town with many tourist attractions that I visited on foot during a whole day.
. ........................ The city of Arkhangesk looked nice, I saw a monument to Mikhail Lomonosov and many signs related to him. The city owns its name to a monastery built during the XII century, called Archangel Michael Monastery, in the estuary of the Northern Dvina River. It is not a large town. It has about 400.000 inhabitants. I tried to get to Nenetsia, but there were no oads to get there, only planes, but the prices were high, that is why I did not travel there. I would not sleep there, since after 5 or 6 hours discovering the city I felt that I had seen the most interesting. Therefore in the evening I took a night train to Vologda to visit Ferapontov Monastery...................................................................... IN SPANISH: Es cierto el proverbio que afirma “A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda”. Había llegado a la estación de trenes de Kem hacia las 4 de la madrugada, junto a un grupo de peregrinos rusos. Subimos a la sala de espera y ellos se pusieron a cantar canciones religiosas, mientras que yo eché una cabezada. Antes del alba se levantaron y se fueron sin despertarme. Yo me di cuenta de su partida pero pensé que exageraban saliendo aún oscuro y determiné dormir una hora más, hasta el amanecer. Fue cuando abordé un minibús hasta el puerto de Rabocheostrovk. Al llegar, justo vi en la lontananza el único barco diario, propiedad del patriarca, que traslada a los peregrinos al monasterio de las Islas Solovetsky los de manera gratuita. No llegué a tiempo por unos 10 minutos. ¡Qué rabia me dio! Me tuve que quedar en ese puerto unas dos horas tomando cafés y bollos de nata, hasta que se reunieron otros peregrinos y junto a ellos embarqué en un barco grande, privado, de pago, hacia el archipiélago Solovetsky, compuesto por seis islas, siendo la principal Bolshoi Solovetsky, donde se localiza el famoso monasterio. La travesía duró dos horas y media. Al llegar me dirigí al monasterio y rogué ser aceptado como peregrino, cosa que conseguí y me mostraron mi cama en una gran sala comunal donde ya estaban instalados los peregrinos cantores. Las tres comidas estaban incluidas en la invitación, de manera gratuita, allí el dinero estaba considerado como una materia vil, aunque se aceptaban donaciones voluntarias por la estancia, dependiendo del presupuesto de cada peregrino. Además de ese dormitorio dentro del monasterio había hoteles y restaurantes en el pueblo, fuera del reciento amurallado del monasterio, y eran de pago, naturalmente, para los turistas ordinarios. Entre los peregrinos hice amistad con un ucraniano que era cojo. Él, Alexander, durante los tres días de mi estancia en Solovetsky me explicaría acerca de ese monasterio, donde él ya había estado varias veces, pues hacía muchos años que caminaba a pie por toda Rusia europea visitando todos los monasterios. Se financiaba tomando fotos de los monasterios y los monjes que vendía en su página güeb. Participé de todas las actividades del monasterio. Las misas eran larguísimas, de varias horas de duración, y nadie se sienta (en las iglesias ortodoxas no hay bancos de madera), sino que el fiel permanece en pie, incluso Alexander, a pesar de los esfuerzos que tenía que hacer manteniéndose de pie con ayuda de su bastón. Tanto la travesía en el barco con la visión del monasterio en la lontananza, como su visita interior y exterior era de una belleza sin par. Vi las campanas en el patio, las torres y la fortaleza que se asemejaba a un kremlin, los frescos . El monasterio fue fundado en el siglo XV por dos monjes venidos del monasterio Kirillo-Belozersky, en el oblast de Vologda, que visitaría varios días más tarde, tras Solovetsky. Hay un aspecto siniestro en ese monasterio y fue el haber sido utilizado, por orden del propio Lenin, como GULAG, el primero de la URSS (el año 1921), al que, desgraciadamente, seguirían varios centenares de ellos, produciendo la muerte por exceso de trabajo de muchos millones de presos, o zeks. El entonces GULAG de Solovetsky era uno de los más fríos e inhóspitos de todos los archipiélagos GULAG que se fueron creando por toda la URSS, sobre todo en Siberia. En ellos, la poca alimentación y los duros trabajos forzados, hacía que los zeks cayeran como pajaritos. También vio los impactos de centenares de bombas lanzados por tres barcos de la Royal Navy británica a mediados del siglo XIX, en el contexto de la Guerra de Crimea, matando a varios monjes y destruyendo muchos tesoros del monasterio. El cuarto día me despedí de mis amigos monjes y también de los peregrinos, sobre todo del bueno de Alexander, y proseguí el viaje con destino al monasterio de Kirillo-Belozersky, a seguir peregrinando por los monasterios de Rusia.
2008 Sep by Veikko Huhtala*
When you are traveling by train from Moscow to Syktyvkar in Komi Republic your train is stopping half an hour in Kotlas station in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Many people are gathered to the station selling almost everything. You can buy smoked fish, berries, mushrooms, beer, vodka, etc. They knows that in the train would be many thirsty and hungry passengers. If you are measuring Russian Oblasts by area, Arkhangelsk Oblast is largest of European side Oblasts. We stayed two days in Komi Republic before returned by same route to Moscow and we stopped in Kotlas another half an hour. In July 2009 when returning from Nenetsia back to Moscow our plane landed in Arkhangelsk for taking new passengers. It was interesting to see town from the plane when landing. |