To see Kizhi and to really understand the place, it is necessary to wake up before sunrise, take a boat from the shore and drift off, trying not to disturb the dawn waters, into the mist... The mist will be all around; you will not even see your own oars, and only a gentle, listless wave will bring back to mind the shoreless lake, which in no time at all will awaken and softly begin to murmur close to the island in white, foamy surf. Then you have to rest on your oars and wait. The sun is up already, but you still cannot see it - the only thing that tells you morning has arrived is the mist, which has now become thin and limpid and is just a narrow strip above the level of the water.
High in the sky, the first morning clouds appear. Everything becomes brighter and more distinct, and there above your head a smiling bank of pink is already filling the sky. The mist drops even closer to the water, and then a delicate, warm tongue of gold flame rises to meet the morning glow. The tongue quivers, disappears, then again burns bright, and next to it, just a little way below, new flames appear. And we see that these are not candles, nor flames, but in fact the amazingly warm, soft gleam of carved cupolas...
You can sail away from the island many times in the morning; you can wait till the mist disperses - and on each occasion the pink light on the cupolas of Kizhi will be different, - always changing, never twice the same. You will remember the steeples of Roman Catholic churches at dawn, the golden cupolas of different churches and temples you have seen, but only here, on the small island on Lake Onega, will you really come to appreciate the light of the early morning sun, warm and full of life.
Whenever the inhabitants of the somber forest region came to the Kizhi pogost on secular or any other business, they too saw this light. Here they probably also dropped oars, bailed out, with a light scoop made of birch bark, the water that had accumulated in the boat, then put on clean shirts and waited patiently for the mist, the cupolas of the churches and the sloping roofs of the wooden buildings flaming and glimmering in the sun. ...Then the shrouds of dawn all but disappear completely, the last traces of mist hover just above the surface of the water, and next to the cupolas of the Church of the Transfiguration the tall bell-tower of the Kizhi pogost and the somber Church of the Intercession together greet the sun.
Now it's possible to return to the island, leave the boat, and wait for the real morning to arrive. A strange feeling takes hold of you. It seems as though you are back in some bygone age. It seems that after the mists and he cold morning dew, you will be met by the warmth of the heated peasant cottage, the friendly bubbling of a samovar, and the steaming kalitki straight form the saucepan...
And even if there are no kalitki, or samovar, if you just sit on a bench under the window of a house, you will still feel you have encountered and been carried away on the wings of bygone days.
These bygone days have handed down to you a heavy, broad bench, a window overlooking the lake, the deep oven of a Russian stove, elaborate wooden carving beneath the eaves, skillfully constructed wooden chapels, and the tall cupolas, faced with lemekni, of the Kizhi churches. They have also bequeathed the gold of the iconostases, the peace, tranciousness and homeliness of the rural cottages.
It is only later, when the hot sun of the northern summer rises over Kizhi and you sit down in the shade of a fence, that you discover to your surprise that the tiny church of St. Lazarus with the carved cupolas on the ridge of the roof was transferred to the island quite recently, and that it was brought here from the Murom monastery on the other side of Lake Onega... The austere chapel, like an aged nun, at the extreme corner of the island, came from the village of Kavgora near Kondopoga, and her neighbor with the two-tier roof and the tent-like, fanciful patterned bell-tower, was brought from the village of Lelikozero. And even the house into which you have just stepped was moved to the island at a time when Kizhi was no longer Kizhi pogost.
Only the Church of the Transfiguration and the Church of the Intercession are native to Kizhi. The houses, the churches and chapels form such a perfect unity on the island that it is difficult to believe they were all constructed by different masters and transferred there from various places, - especially when you recall the morning mist, the warm pink light, which gently, almost imperceptibly, spreads over the island, moving from one cupola to another, and from the churches to the chapels and houses. And it is due to these old masters that on the remote lakes, along forest paths, and here on Kizhi itself, there exist to this day such amazingly beautiful masterpieces of art.
The pogost was erected, or hewn as they say, with an axle and nothing more. Perhaps on this very spot on just such a hot summer's day, stood the simple, modest man who created the Church of the Transfiguration. Here he lowered his axle for the last time and raised his eyes to the carved cupolas, gazing long and in amazement at the aspen lemekhi glistening like silver...
There is a legend that says the master then became lost in thought, looked at his hand holding the axle, and suddenly, with a great swing, of the arm, hurled the thing into the lake. He was unable and unwilling to admit that this very same axle might perhaps create such beauty elsewhere. Did he construct more churches and chapels, cottages and hunting cabins on the boundless lands of the north? Or, after Kizhi, did he give up his customary work and leave for some distant monastery on the shore of a silent lake? Who can tell? ...The sun sinks beyond Kizhi, - the sun of the peacefully northern summer, and light, crimson-coloured clouds drift over the island. Now is the time to get back into your boat, carefully push off, and sail in the direction of the disappearing sun. And then you must turn round and take a good look at the island, at the northern shore, in order to see the soft light of dusk spreading higher and higher above the ancient wooden buildings, which are gradually losing their crimson hue, turning purple, then violet, and finally ash-coloured, like the coals of a smoldering camp-fire.
Now the sails of the windmill are already invisible and the Church of St. Lazarus is lost in the twilight. The windows in the house of Oshevnev have ceased to gleam in the setting sun, the austere cone of the chapel from Kavgora has disappeared from view, and only the very highest cupolas of the churches and the lofty angular roof of the bell-tower continue to glimmer, lighted up by the crimson flame in the distance. Then this also fades away, and there remains, above the surface of the lake, the enigmatic silhouette of these matchless creations of Russian masters.