418 kilometers north-east from Petersburg there is a city called Petrozavodsk (where You can easily become godfather – but it is a topic for another story). From Petrozavodsk You should take a 220 km ride to reach Podmozero (just right there) wonderfully placed on Lake Onega shore.

This is the place for those who are searching for Russia not infected with urban development. I reached Podmozero 3 years ago together with Agata, Wiktor and Kozioł thanks to Irina – our host from Petrozavodsk. Time in this small village is running calmly. Apart from scandal we produced, we also succeed to gain some interest of inhabitants because of unusuall team – there were 4 Poles and 2 Japanese girls who came to Russia to learn language and somehow get with us to Podmozero.

Attractions that are definately worth mentioning are:

Banya. Visit in russian banya is one of those experiences, which I remember as most pleasant. And You have to know that – suprisingly for some – I had quite a lot of pleasant expereinces in Russia (and I expect more). Banya is like sauna that is far more better than ordinary sauna.  Especially banya in Podmozero is such place. Imagine 150 years old wooden building, standing in the same place where brave karelian constructor decided to built it. Inside there are two rooms – main, where You sit and feel good, and small corridor. This type of banya is called “black banya” – as the source of heat is stove without chimney – so You experience not only heat and humidity but also a pleasant smoke from karelian trees. How to use black banya:

– firstly You sit in main room and put some water on hot stones

– then run as fast as You can to nearest river (which is about 10 meters from banya)

– next step is laying in the river – it is important to find good position so water can flow over each part of Your body

– last step before re-entering banya is whipping with birch-tree. What is important – this part should be performed INSIDE. We felt lack of space inside so we went outside which was – as it came out – a moral scandal, first Podmozero’s Banyagate. All the parts of ritual are ofcourse performed without clothes, it is permitted to run naked, lay in the river, but whipping – this is too much. Good to remember when You happen to use banya.

Process should be done few times. After visit in banya You feel as after expensive wellness (I’ve never been, but for sure it cannot be better).

There is no photo of banya, but as a real documentalist I made a sketch.


Russian play. Unlike some of You can think it is not drinking vodka only. Well – we almost didn’t drink vodka that evening. We played traditional (or maybe ancient?) games: “Bear” and “Pillow”. Pillow is quite similar to polish “Handkerchief” – if You don’t know any of this, just imagine that the central point of both is kissing in the centre of circle and there is a lot singing, dancing, shouting, walking. We were not used to this, but managed to take part. For Japanese girls it was harder – they experienced cultural shock.


Lighting samovar. It was not as easy as we thought. Firstly the proud men tried. At the beginning they were insolently  throwing inside burning wood. When it came out this will not work they, they admited their lack of experience and begin to use small sticks. This was not sucessfull as well. Somovar was lighten by undoubted expert in this matter – local old lady, who for sure lighted thousands of such constructions, and her smile was still happiest one even she didn’t have many teeth left.


Discussions. When plays ended we discovered everything about Russia. That money from cultural budget goes to favourite Putin’s director. That there is no chance to bring democracy into Russia. That even far away selfgovernment is controlled by Moscow and there is no chance for bottom-up citizen initiative. That noone wants revolution here – there were too many revolutions. And that You can buy house with land in Podmozero for 5000 roubles (about 150 dollars). Only the internet is not available.


(photos: Michał Kozłowski, Bardzo Fajna Wyprawa, Rosja – Estonia 2010)

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