Think pine forest, glacier rocks and wooden cabins on a lake when you picture Yagodnoe (Google Maps), situated amidst a picturesque nature preserve in the Priozersky District of the Leningrad Oblast, eight kilometers from the Losevo railway station.

Founded in 1958 as a summer tent camp, it has since become a year-round venue complete with different types of housing – from wooden cabins to chalet-style houses –, sports facilities, meeting spaces, and a cafeteria. You can play outdoor sports, such as basketball and football, take a boat out on the lake, or visit a Russian banya.

Students at Yagodnoe. Credit: student.itmo.ru
Students at Yagodnoe. Credit: student.itmo.ru

For students, several smenas (“shifts”), meaning periods for which student groups can stay at the camp, are available every summer, including an English immersion session Ya.Speak. Updates are posted on the camp’s VK page. Students and staff can also apply (form in Russian) for quick getaways or organize a gathering for their own group or club by writing to yagodnoe@itmo.ru.

There's nothing quite like a dip in Lake Berestovoye on a summer day. Credit: student.itmo.ru
There's nothing quite like a dip in Lake Berestovoye on a summer day. Credit: student.itmo.ru

The most common and easiest way to get there by private transport. For organized events, the organizing teams usually rent buses. But if you want to head out there on your own using public transport, the suburban train station Losevo (Google Maps) is not too far – you can board it at the Finlyandsky railway station or the Devyatkino metro station, among other places. As of 2020, you can also reach Losevo by bus 960 from the Parnas metro station.

As the lake freezes over, students can enjoy skiing, ice skating, and other wintertime activities. Credit: Megabyte Media
As the lake freezes over, students can enjoy skiing, ice skating, and other wintertime activities. Credit: Megabyte Media

Yagodnoe is an integral part of the university's culture and history. There’s now a museum, created by students from the Yagodka and Anything to Make student clubs, that explores its history and features a six-square-meter model of the camp. Everyone who comes here can share their memories in a special Yagodnoe Book.

KronBars Games 2019/2020. Credit: vk.com/kronbars
KronBars Games 2019/2020. Credit: vk.com/kronbars

Since 2015, Yagodnoe has been bringing together eco-minded students from around the world to participate in EcoRaids, a volunteer initiative that fosters international friendships while cleaning up the environment.

ITMO University’s Buddy System regularly organizes events here that bring international students together and let them experience the beauty of the Russian nature while building life-long friendships. Manuela Pugliesi, an international exchange student at ITMO, shared this about her trip with the Buddies last fall:

“Not later than 11 o’clock, there was a bonfire lit by some of the buddies. To say the least, I was excited. There, I joked that I had never experienced being near a bonfire out of necessity, as it was a gelid weather in my point of view. This was another opportunity for us to interact and, of course, to literally warm up. I had the impression that it looked like those camping sites recurring in movies. In my mind, that was exactly the kind of inaccessible experience I had never imagined could actually occur, since I understood that, in cold places, camping could not be as close to those portrayed in the sometimes fanciful and overly made-up movie world. Yet, yes, I was there and it was happening! I was so glad to get to know that place, with that specific gentle and warm people that I had the joy to be accompanied by.”

If you're looking for a getaway in nature, and want to pick berries outside your door, apply to visit Yagodnoe now.

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