Introducing Malye Karely
Set in pretty rolling dales 25km southeast of Arkhangelsk’s centre, the delightful open-air Malye Karely Wooden Architecture Museum is Arkhangelsk’s foremost attraction. It features dozens of 16th- to 19th-century wooden buildings – churches, windmills, peasant houses and barns – relocated here from rural villages during the 1970s, and its authentic surrounds have been used as a film set on local and international productions. The museum is divided into four sectors, with buildings grouped according to their geographical origin. Allow at least two hours for sightseeing.
You enter the Kargolopsko-Onezhsky sector past a series of boxy windmills, inside the largest of which you can admire the complete interior workings. Cut across to the impressive 1669 Ascension Church (Вознесенская церковь) with its top-knot of wooden domes and forest-scented, icon-plastered interior. The 19th-century Tretyakov House displays curious furnishings of the era, while the quaint little Miracle Worker’s Chapel (Часовня Макария Унженского, Chasovnya Makariya Unzhenskogo) has retained intact its eight-panelled octagonal ceiling icons ('skies').
To reach the other sectors, take the path heading north from the bell tower by the Ascension Church, descend the steep steps, cross the river and walk up another flight of stairs; you'll have to return the same way.
The village-like Dvinskoy sector consists of a smattering of wealthy peasant houses. Notice the curious Rusinova house, former home of Old Believers, with a tiny chapel hidden in a back room. Unlike other Russian peasants, each family member had his or her own eating utensils – if a guest used some, they were then thrown out. The sector’s centrepiece is the splendid 1672 St George’s Church (Георгиевская церковь), displaying a small but valuable selection of remarkable wayside crosses, including one gigantic example that virtually fills the nave.
In both Pinezhsky sector and Mezensky sector, check out the chyornye izby (black cottages), so called because their lack of a chimney resulted in smoke-stained walls. Mezensky sector's 19th-century Elkino House has an exhibition on Pomor fishing and boat building and there's a great view over the river below.
Just 200m from the museum entrance is the holiday-hotel complex Turisticheskaya Derevnya Malye Karely, which consists of modern timber cottages and apartments. The excellent restaurant has an olde-Russia theme, serving anything from grilled meats and poached fish to vareniki.
Every 20 to 30 minutes, little bus 104 from Troitsky pr in central Arkhangelsk runs all the way to Malye Karely (R45, 45 minutes), while bus 108 runs directly from the railway station. Both terminate opposite the hotel complex.