Saturday, 23 July 2011


Friday 22nd July 2011

When I got up, the ship had already left Lake Onega and was sailing downstream on the Svir River. Near Podporozhye we entered the Upper Svir Lock adjacent to the Verkhne-Svirskaya Hydro-electric plant opened in 1951.

Verkhne-Svirskaya Hydro-electric plant.

Having negotiated this lock, we continued downstream. On our right, near Uslanka, we saw a massive stockyard with around twelve overhead cranes serving the various bays. As we passed, I counted only one bay being used for logs and one or two bays with coal. It must have been a very different sight in its heyday.

Large stockyard with Overhead Travelling Cranes.

Once more, the forests closed in on both sides of the river, pierced by the occasional small village. The landing stage of Mandrogy came up on our left. Four river cruise ships were berthed, two by two. There were some large wooden buildings, including one still under construction. A few people were boating or swimming in the river. A 'typical Russian Village' was re-created there in 1996, with hotels, restaurants, museums and craft workshops. Mandrogy forms a calling-point for the cruise boats, but we sailed past. Soon, the hydro-electric power station at the Lower Svir Lock came into view but we altered course to port to bring us alongside a large barge which had been modified for use as a landing stage. It appeared that we were to enjoy our own 'retail opportunities' before passing through the lock. The area between the river and a public road had been quite nicely prepared with a series of cafes and souvenir stalls. I'm told the gifts were of good quality and fairly reasonably prices but I'm afraid I react fairly badly to these contrived experiences and I quickly headed out of the 'craft village' for the public road.

The road to the left seemed to head inland so I turned right along a residential road parallel to the river bank, walking in the direction of the Lock and Power Station. The village of Sivirstroy has a population of around 1,000 and seemed to be a reasonably prosperous place. A fairly grand villa was under construction on the river side of the road. I passed the war memorial which was festooned with wreathes and came to a small picnic area looking towards the power station. A couple of small boats were presumably used by amateur fishermen.

A picnic area on the river bank at Sivirstory.

At the end of the village, a track lead off to the Power Station and what looked like the boiler room for a district heating system. A solitary lady was waiting at a bus shelter. Beyond, there was a vista of trees. I turned onto another residential road, running roughly parallel to the road I'd just taken. I passed two unidentified public buildings, the church and an infant school (quite deserted - Summer Holidays? I wondered). There were a few people about but it was very peaceful and the tree-lined road with neat brick and stucco houses, each with its own garden looked very pleasant.


I passed what must have been a civilian air raid shelter. One of the doors was standing open but I didn't summon up the coutage to explore further. By this time, I was close to my starting point so I made a brief foray on the road heading inland. A picturesque lake lay on my left with a broad sandy beach, with lots of Russians enjoyed the sunny weather. On my right, partly hidden by trees, a small medical centre and a rather nondescript 5-story block of apartments. There were bus lay-bys on both sides of the road and then trees, as far as I could see.

On the way back to the ship, I passed an impressive statue to S.M. Kirov. Once again, I had to write down the Cyrillic characters and ask one of the shipboard guides to 'Latinise' it to 'Kirov'. She claimed not to know of the subject of the statue, but the dates on the statue suggest it commemorates Sergei Kirov, who rose to high rank but was assasinated in 1934. Like all Russian history, the tale is convoluted and bloody - see 'The Kirov Murder'.

I came back to the riverbank just upstream of the ship, where I found a few dwelling in a more traditional style, then I returned to the ship. At 4.0 p.m. we slipped our moorings and entered the Lower Svir Lock. This was the last lock on our journey. As we passed through the lock, I had closer views of the adjacent Nizhne-Svirskaya hydro-electric station which was completed in 1934. These Stalin-era engineering achievements are impressive, but it's sobering to remember that most (all?) were completed using forced labour.

We passed Lodeynoe Pole, with a passenger ferry at the landing stage and numerous apartment blocks and run-down engineering works. The peace was shattered for about ten minutes by a young man on a jet-ski who 'buzzed' our ship, showing off in a way common to young men the world over.

Later in the evening, we entered Lake Ladoga (which is Europe's biggest lake). During the night, we crossed Lake Ladoga and entered the Neva River which would take us to St. Petersburg.

My pictures around Sivirstroy are here.

My pictures taken from Sivirstroy to Lake Lagoda are here.