Another church you can see in Kem is the Announciation Cathedral. It lies in total destruction. During the years of fight with church it was literally tormented, deprived of the belfry and dome, robbed and burnt down. That was the usual communist treat of anything that related to Orthodoxy. Moreover, here such attitude was felt even stronger: near the most horrorful concentration camp, people were scared to death, and this fear is still deep inside them, not allowing to turn their faces back to the beautiful culture of our country.
The church was initially built in the 17th century. After the revolution it was closed, partially destroyed, then turned into a night club, and later it served as a warehouse. Now it's given back to the church, and a group of enthusiasts are trying to restore it, and if it happens, it will be a miracle: there is no money, not enough specialists...
As I have mentioned at many pages, wooden architecture is something unique that you will find only in the Russian North-West. You can also see a lot of wooden stuff in Finland and Sweden, but it will be completely different. You can find wooden churches in all parts of the north-west region of Russia, and Kem is not an exlusion. They have a beautiful church dedicated to Assumption of Virgin Mary, which was re-opened in 1989 after decades of neglection (bear in mind that church was almost prohibited in the Soviet years). This church is a rebuilding of an older construction that was destroyed in fire (rebuilt in 1714 - still quite old).
Sad to say, churches in the North are slowly disappearing. The state does not have money to take care of them, most of them are located in remote villages which are of no economic importance any more, and there are no even proper roads to them. Old wooden churches are getting burnt or destroyed by winds and rains, one after another.
Many Russian enthusiasts (scientists, historians, photographers) are trying to save at least description and images of those valualble pieces of Russian culture. Their efforts are invaluable: it will help to convey pieces of our history to the future generations, at least in pictures.
For more info in English on the Russian north architecture, you can visit a site by William Craft Brumfield, who dedicated his life and activity to studying Russian wooden architecture and documental photography of it. His site is http://www.cultinfo.ru/brumfield/index_e.htm.
Karelia is a well-known tourism route, where people canoeing down the northern rivers that flow northbound, and some routes lead to the White sea via the Kem river.
I never tryed it myself, but those who did say it is real fun. There are so many mushrooms and berries, and fish, you can live on just on that. But northern rivers are full of rapids and waterfalls, which make the trip adventurous and risky.
In the picture you see just a fisherman boat, it is the place where the river Kem falls into the White sea.
As most of you are tourists from far away, you will come to Kem by train from St.Petersburg or Moscow (or Murmansk, but that's doubtful). A trip like this would take about 22-24 hours. The trains are sleeping compartments, and I personally find them rather comfortable and enjoyable. Just make sure you take a good train, so called "firmenny" (firm, 1st class) train.
From Kem you will take a boat to Solovki. You can get to the pier by bus or by taxi.
It is a northern city, very close to the Polar Circle. Sun sets at 12 o'clock, and rises at 3 in the morning. It never gets dark in summer (and I guess almost never gets light in winters, but I would never suggest you travel there in winter!)
Kem is part of Karelia (see more information on Karelia on my Petrozavodsk page), land of pomors (White Sea fishermen), located at the estuary of the River Kem, which enters the White Sea.
Fondest memory: Kem was mentioned in the cronicles since 1450 in connection with Solovetsky monastery. It played a great role as a fortress defending northern lands of Russia from the Swedes. The main occupations of the Kem citizens was fishing in the White Sea - cod fish is the most famous fish of this region. Later, ship building took the main place, also salt production and pearls were the main income articles.
Nowadays Kem is the city of railway workers, energy and timber production.