By Lyubov Tsarevskaya
Tourists traveling along Lake Ladoga soon find themselves ensnared by the severe charm of the beautiful northern land, with its picturesque landscapes, rich fishing, solitary bastions of Old Ladoga, Priozersk and Piotrkrepost, the chatter of migrating birds in the swampy reeds of the Svirj estuary and the warm sand on the banks of Olonetsk sanddunes.
Lake Ladoga (the historical name is Navo) — is the largest fresh-water lake in Europe. The river Neva, which flows into the Bay of Finland of the Baltic Sea, takes off from here. The city of St.Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) — the second-largest in importance city of Russia — stands on the banks of the Neva.
The size of half of Switzerland, Ladoga Lake spreads across a vast territory of Karelia and the Leningrad region. On the open part of the lake you cannot see the shoreline, while strong winds frequently turn it into a fearful elemental force, even more dangerous than some seas. In some parts of the lake it reaches down to a depth of over 200 meters.
The shoreline of the lake is rocky, pitted with deep narrow bays, which are like smaller replicas of the Norwegian fjords. High granite cliffs, covered with woodland, tower above the water to a height of dozens of meters. Since olden times Ladoga granite was used in construction work in St.Petersburg. For example, it was used to build the famous Atlantes figures flanking the facade of the Hermitage museum, the foundations of the St.Isaac Cathedral, the Palace Bridge over the Neva.
There are a great many islands on Lake Ladoga, around 660. In the middle part of the Lake there are two archipelagos — Valaam and Mantsinsari. Valaam archipelago numbers around 50 isles, the principal one being Valaam.
Approaching the Isle you are accosted with riotous, unruly nature, which, if you look closely, has a severe, inspired beauty. Bluffs, springing as if from the bowels of the earth, are like huge majestic giants, standing guard on the frontier.
The ragged sheer cliffs are covered in dense greenery, bays that are walled in by granite rock, where the still waters doze undisturbed, crystal-pure like a mirror, while a terrible storm might be raging out in the open lake. Perched up high on a tall granite cliff, like a trivial weight on the shoulders of a huge giant, is the massive Valaam Spassko-Transfiguration Monastery. It was founded in the 14th century and was distinguished for its rigid canons. The cliff used to be covered in white moss. The monks cleared it; out of the cracks there grew lime trees, maples and elms; ivy weaves its way along the cliff, while under it an orchard blossoms, with the trees murmuring above it in lofty splendor. What a magnificent tableau!
On numerous isles monastery hermitages are clustered, intended for solitary prayer.
In the years of the Second World War Lake Ladoga was the sole connecting link between besieged Leningrad and the rest of the country. During navigation ships transported vital food products to the city, as well as military hardware, while people were evacuated back to the mainland. In winter an automobile route was laid across the ice, called "Road of Life".
Navigation begins on Lake Ladoga in May and the sea traffic is quite heavy. Barges, tugs, tourist boats sail from St.Petersburg to Petrozavodsk and Kizhi, the White Sea, the Solovetsk Isles, and to the Volga — along the Volga-Baltic canal.
Source:The Voice of Russia