An old pagan ritual site, Kizhi - one of at least 1600 islands in Lake Onega - made a natural 'parish' for 12th-century Russian colonists. None of the early churches remain, but the churches built in this remote spot in the 18th century make Kizhi a not-to-be-missed pilgrimage site for anyone touched by the magic of old Russian archi- tecture. Since the 1950s other wooden buildings have been gathered from around Lake Onega to make the 6km-long island the centrepiece of the Kizhi Museum-Reserve(8142-519 825, in Petrozavodsk 8142-767 091; kizhi.karelia.ru; Russians/others R55/418; 8am-8pm Jun-Aug, 9am-4pm Sep-mid-Oct & 15-31 May, 10am-3pm mid- Oct-mid-May). With an ISIC card you may secure a discount on the steep admission price.
The big highlight is the fairy-tale Transfiguration Church, built in 1714. With its chorus of 23 domes plus gables and ingenious decorations to keep water off the walls, it is the gem of Russian wooden architecture. Next door is the nine-domed Church of the Intercession (1764) with a rich collection of 16th- to 18th-century icons. Between the two churches stands an 1862 belltower. These three buildings constitute the World Heritage- listed Kizhsky pogost (Kizhi Enclosure).
In summer, music students regularly play the bells of the Chapel of the Archangel Michael and leave a hat for your donations outside - an unusual form of busking! The little Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, constructed in the 14th century at Murom monastery, may be the oldest wooden building in Russia.
Most visitors content themselves with a look round the southern part of the island (south of the main pier), which takes a couple of hours, and the fresh air and views on a sunny day are reason enough to come here (but beware of poisonous snakes in the remoter parts). If you give yourself more time, there's more to see in and around Yamka and Vasilyevo villages in the middle of the island.
This is a day trip only; there's no accommodation on Kizhi. A few small cafés and souvenir shops near the pier open from 8am to 8pm from about June to August.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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