The north shore of Lake Ladoga contains many fascinating sights that have been around since Peter the Great moved his capital to the shores of the nearby Baltic Sea.
One of the most beautiful of these places, located just beyond the archipelago monastery of Valaam, was a small village settled in the 18th century on the left bank of the Svir River. Today, this restored settlement is called Upper Mandrogi (Verkhny Mandrogi). A perfectly medieval town, visiting here will sweep you into a fairy tale.
Prior to World War II, this was a quintessential Karellian mill town, a fishing settlement hardly touched by time. The war left it a burnt ruin, but after the Soviet Union fell, a group of Russian investors bought the land and invited the best of the region’s woodworkers to use their creativity and traditional skills to restore Upper Mandrogi to its former glory. Between 1996 and 1999, its traditional buildings were restored, and by 2001, the results captured the national imagination enough that even Russian President Vladimir Putin honored the fairy tale location with an official visit.
Today, the usual visitor to Upper Mandrogi are cruise ship passengers that pass through here on their tour route through the upper Volga River and connecting canals. This itinerary is one of the most popular Russian waterway routes, one that takes travelers between St. Petersburg and Moscow. As a result, the cobbled streets and intricate gingerbread-like traditional woodwork are regularly visited by international tourists, many of whom spend a day getting to know the complex of museums located here, each featuring a different aspect of Russian folk life.
One of the more popular museums in Upper Mandrogi is the Museum of Russian Vodka. The building contains a collection of 2,800 different varieties of vodka from all across the Russian Federation, with displays educating the guest on the varying ways in which this spirit is produced. Joining this popular attraction are craft workshops where painting and wood carving, weaving, lacework, and pottery are demonstrated. There is even a petting zoo that contains local plants and animals, and a quail farm that features fresh quail eggs.
Ships passing into and out of Upper Mandrogi will enjoy the views of the Valaam islands. First settled by Novgorod settlers in the 12th century, these islands, centered on an important monastery, were captured by the Swedes during the height of Russia’s war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Peter the Great restored Russian control to the area, encouraging the construction of villages like Upper Mandrogi. By the early 19th century, after Tsar Alexander I restored local autonomy to Karelia, the traditional architectural traditions developed.
For details on cruise options passing through Upper Mandrogi, or other ways of reaching this special location, contact one of our travel specialists today.