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Weekend trip to Solovki

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Gorgeous nature of Russian North blends with horrifying pages of the Soviet years and writes  its own story on Solovetsky Islands.
Solovetsky monastery
Solovetsky monastery
The first Christian monks Savatiy and German arrived at the island in search of solitude  in the 15th century.  The fortified walls and  the first stone churches were constructed  in the 16th century under the surveillance of Philipp Kolychev, father superior of the monastery who later became the metropolitan of Russia.   He introduced a lot of novelties on the island which can be seen even nowadays. Over the centuries the monastery was flourishing and many Russian tsars and emperors paid their visit. But everything changed in Soviet days when Solotesky islands became the testing ground for numerous labour camps of GULAG which  later spread across the territory of the Soviet Union. The island was chosen for its perfect location. Far from the mainland and known for  severe conditions it was hard to escape from the islands. However, there were such attempts and a few ones were successful. Once all the resources  were used in late 1930s the camp was turned into prison and at the beginning of WWII the cadet naval school was organized on this spot.

 When the Gulag was liquidated it took years to revive life on the island. Nowadays the monastery is a pilgrimage site and under protection of UNESCO.
Like in old days people come here in search of silence, peace and beauty of the North.

This tour is for those who do not have much time but would like to touch the ground  of Russian North.

Itinerary:

21.24 night train from St. Petersburg

Rabocheostrovsk. Film setting for the film ¨Island¨ by Pavel Lungin
Rabocheostrovsk. Film setting for the film ¨Island¨ by Pavel Lungin
Day1

10.45 am Arrival at Kem train station

Transfer to Rabocheostrovsk Port (15-20 min drive). The driver will be meeting you  with a sign¨Bridge to Moscow¨.  You might have breakfast/ lunch in a local cafe or have  short walk ( on your own ) to the film set used for the movie "Island" by Pavel Lungin.

12.30 boat departure for Bolshoi Solovetski island
Boarding  starts at 12.00

2.30 pm Transfer to the hotel (15 min)

4pm-7 pm Tour of the monastery which strikes with its fortification walls made of huge stones.

Dinner at the hotel (Included)

Zaitsky Island
Zaitsky Island
Optional tour:  Zaitsky island
On the tour you will arrive at the first stone harbour of the 16th century, try to reveal the secrets of prehistoric stone labyrinths, see the church of Andrew the First-Called built by ship carpenters by the order of Peter the Great. Tour duration: about 2,5 h

View from the monastery
View from the monastery
Day 2
Breakfast at the hotel
Solovki driving tour.
On this driving tour you will be taken to the north of the island, Sekirnaya Hill, the highest point of the island where a 19th century church of Ascension is located. It is unique as it was built as a lighthouse which is still operational. You will enjoy the panoramic view of the island, waters of the White Sea and Savatiy Hermitage. In the times of Gulag Sekirnaya Hill was the punishment cell where prisoners were tortured and executed. This tragic story can not be but told.
 Later you will have a stop at  Botanical garden where monks of the monastery used to grow watermelons and grapes in severe climate of the island located 60 km from the Arctic circle. Even in the times of Solovetsky Camp of Special Purpose referred as SLON these gardens were in use and prominent botanists worked here.
 Stop at Philipov's fish traps- man-made dam which separates the sea bay to keep fish such as herring and cod fresh.
Tour duration: 4 hours
 
Sekornaya Hill. The Chruch  of Ascension
Sekornaya Hill. The Chruch of Ascension
This tour can be extended to 6 hours to cover more sights of the Island: Savtyev Hermitage, bathhouses and a dam.
Lunch is not included. You can go to the monastery canteen for lunch to feel like a pilgrim. Food is rather simple there but very tasty  and cheap.

3.20 pm transfer from the hotel to the port

4 pm departure to Rabocheostrovsk

6pm upon arrival transfer to the train station.

21.24 night train to St. Petersburg
Arrival at St. Petersburg train station ( Ladozhskaya) at 10.45 next day

Sunset view of Solovetsky monastery
Sunset view of Solovetsky monastery

Tour season: June- August
This tour is better to book in advance since there are not so many hotels/home stays on the island, boat tickets and train tickets are sold out rather quickly.

Any optional tours are also better to plan in advance to make sure English- speaking tour is available.


Included:
  • train tickets from  St. Petersburg to Kem and back (compartment for 4 people)
  • transfers from Kem train station to the port and back
  • boat tickets from Rabocheostrovsk to Solovetsky island and back
  • transfer to the hotel and back
  •  1 night stay at the hotel with breakfast
  • 1 dinner at the hotel
  • all tours ( walking, boat, driving) are with a private English-speaking guide according to the program
  •  transportation according to the programm

 Excluded:
  • meals which are not indicated in the programm
  • optional tours
  • personal expenses

 

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