The Kizhi: open air museum

The Kizhi open air museum, which is situated in the republic of Karelia (north-west Russia), opened its new tourist season in May. Cruise liners delivered the first visitors to the island. This year they're being offered ecological excursions - a real opportunity to immerse themselves in living nature. One new service for tourists is the tour called "Nature in an abandoned village", which passes through the former village of Podelniki in the museum's conservation zone.
The tour is about 2 km overall and includes 11 viewing places. A marsh that's home to medicinal plants, a small forest of light, crooked-trunked pine trees, a mysterious dark coniferous fir grove, motley grass meadows with dry stone walls and tree-like juniper plants, rare tree species - black alders and white elms, the mysterious world of lichens - these are just some of the things to be seen along the path. Almost every viewing point includes information not just about nature but also about the fabled creatures - the wood goblins, meadow nymphs and marsh spirits which, according to the local peasants, populated the surrounding land.

The ecological walk, which has been developed by staff of the department for conserving and monitoring the natural heritage, together with students and teachers from Petrozavodsk University's ecological biology department, gives people the opportunity to get acquainted with the nature of this protected corner of the Kizhi skerries and to try to imagine the life that local peasants lived here over the last three centuries.

The former village of Podelniki, which existed for several centuries, will be the first stop for people travelling round the "Kizhi Necklace". Even at the beginning of the twentieth century this included seven homesteads, with 71 people living there. Like many settlements in Zaonezhye (the north-west part of Lake Onega, including the Zaonezhskiy peninsula and the Kizhi archipelago), the village of Podelniki had its own church. The Chapel of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa and Varlaam Khutynskiy undoubtedly remains to this today one of the most remarkable pearls of the Kizhi Necklace. A significant role in the creation of this fairytale image is played by the grove of ancient spruce trees, the little meadows of tree-like junipers alternating with small copses, and the area's hilly terrain. The people left the village at the end of the twentieth century, and since then nature has increasingly asserted its rights over this territory.

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