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Published: July 11th 2013
My attention was first drawn (or rather not so) to Priozersk in 2011 when I went on a boat tour to Lake Ladoga. Priozersk is a starting point for water expeditions and also excursions to Konevets and Valaam Islands (I hope to visit them soon). The train station, on the left, faces the lake, while on the right stands the town itself. It is not easy to get lost there, but the way to the fortress is not short. The small town has at least one deserving sight for a person deeply interested in history of Russian North-West – Korela Fortress. It took me long to arrange the trip (simply finding a free day), though it’s so close by (145 kilometers). I went together with Vasily, a friend of mine, who came to Petersburg for a five-day visit. We used to walk the city in the evenings, and my suggestion of a visit to Priozersk was approved; I also suggested Vyborg, which was rejected (we both have been there in 2009 and 2011 respectively).
I studied the online information about Korela Fortress (prices and work days) beforehand. The elektrichka to Priozersk cost 570 roubles both ways and a
‘bonus’ of 6.30 hours of hard sitting. From Priozersk train platform, one can almost literally dive into the lake, but I’m not sure that swimming is allowed there. Several steps away stands the boat station (my first desire was to quickly see the fortress and rent a boat for a couple of hours, but I voted against it ultimately, because we were short of time).
Though we saw the fortress from the train window, Vasily had to ascertain the road by asking a passer-by. We soon came to a church of rather common appearance and architecture, nothing too particular (Rozhdestva Khristova – of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, built in 1847), standing on one side of a square, and a Lenin among flowers looking at the church across the square.
In the square’s immediate vicinity was Kakisalmi Lutheran Kircha built in 1930 – a stone structure with the nearby grave of the residents perished in the war. From there, we found our way to Korela Fortress. It dates back to as early as the twelfth century (its Swedish name is Keksholm). “Until the 16th century, the fortress belonged to the
Novgorod, then to Muscovy. Novgorodians built the current stone bastions and towers in 1364 after a fire had destroyed the original wooden fortress in 1360. During a Swedish-Novgorodian war in 1314, a small Karelian force re-captured their fortress from the representatives of Novgorod. They invited Swedes to keep it against Novgorod; however, the Novgorodians reconquered the fortress”.
There were many tents put up in the forest and the area near the fortress – people in national clothes were getting ready for the Russian Fortress X festival to take place during the weekend (two following days, we would be unable to attend the performances and contests and visit the fair to buy wooden souvenirs, kvas and medovukha, objets d’art and the like).
The fortress is small and has only a tower and several buildings accommodating a museum and exhibitions (we saw an exhibition of paintings by artists living in the area). Then we went inside the Circular Tower, where Emelyan Pugachev’s (a notable figure in Russian history, leading a folk’s uprising) first wife and children, as well as the second wife, were imprisoned. The fortress dungeons were also booked for Wilhelm Kuchelbeker, a poet, and
some other Decembrists such as Vadkovsky, Baryatinsky (I have read Kuchelbeker’s poems long ago, but know nothing of the two Decembrists).
Inside the Circular tower there is also an interesting exhibit – gates decorated with Swedes’ shields, and also an underpass which was later filled up.
The fortress walls are covered with earthen mounds, grass and flowers. From there we enjoyed the view of the river; one can jump down if one cares little for life.
We returned to the tower because we saw a staircase leading there, and managed to capture a group guide’s narration of their purpose. Unfortunately, after the group’s visit the second floor was closed so we did not look at it properly. We also saw an armoured fighting vehicle and another military vehicle monumented near the river bank. After the fortress we went to the shop and café, and soon were choo-chooing back to the metropolis.
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