By: Maxine Maters
On the far north of Lake Ladoga lies Valaam Island, home to one of the holiest of Russian Orthodox monasteries. A rich collection of churches, sketes and shrines dating from the 14th century dot the island in primeval conifer forest. It is very beautiful.
We found snug anchorage in one of the many fjiordlike bays and collapsed into bed with the sound of carillon bells ringing all round us. Pilgrims flock and Meteor hydrofoils arrive several times daily bringing the devout to worship. We are the only sailing boat.
Unlike so many monastic sites this one was never a gulag. Because of its strategic position Valaam has seen much military action over the last 600 years and its history is complex – Swedes, Finns, Russians and Nazis have taken turns at ownership but custodianship has finally returned to the 600 Orthodox monks.
With bad weather forecast we scurried 30 miles back to the mainland and were tucked into our berth at Priozorsk when the northerly front arrived with driving rain and icy blasts. Maxine is leaving Blue Dove here for a month’s R&R and I will take my leave of this lovely little vessel.