24 best sights of Lake Onega – description and photos

Lake Onega

Lake Onega is a huge freshwater body of water in northwest Russia. On the European continent, it is surpassed in area only by the neighboring Lake Ladoga. Three-quarters of the vast water surface of Onega with its intricately rugged shoreline and islands goes to Karelia. The rest is in the Leningrad and Vologda regions. Travelers are drawn here by the ancient history of the region, the austere beauty of northern nature, the romance of summer white nights and the sparks of northern lights that streams across the sky in early winter.

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Video: Lake Onega

Highlights

The shoreline of Lake Onega is quite densely populated. The largest cities located on its shores – the capital of Karelia Petrozavodsk, industrial and administrative centers of the lakeside areas – Kondopoga and Medvezhjegorsk. Small villages and settlements are scattered along the coast, most of them are located in the south and west.

In recent decades, the Prionezhye has evolved from a remote “bear’s corner” into a popular tourist destination. The beauties of unspoiled Karelian nature, biosphere reserves, historical and cultural monuments, ancient monasteries – all these treasures of Onega attract more and more travelers here. Guests find here excellent opportunities for active recreation – kayaking and sailing, rafting on the rough tributaries of the lake. You can go on a cross-country vehicle on inaccessible places Onega coast, go hiking or give preference to fishing.

In the vicinity of Lake Onega built resorts, hotels and tourist centers, you can stay in cottages or in the private sector.

Sosnovets Island Petrozavodsk Bay

History of Lake Onega

Traces of the first settlements discovered on the shores of Lake Onega go back to the 4th millennium B.C. On the eastern shore have been discovered petroglyphs – rock paintings made by people who lived here 4-6 thousand years ago. For the first time the geologists of Derpt University who studied the local rocks in the middle of XIX century, noticed some petroglyphs scratched in the rocks. Today, the 20-kilometer stretch known 24 groups of drawings, a total of scientists have documented 1100 figures of people, animals, fish and birds. Among them are mysterious signs that defy deciphering.

A large complex of archaeological monuments was revealed during the construction of shipping channels near the settlement of Povenets, Medvezhjegorsk district.

Sculpture “Fishermen” on Onega embankment

In the old days the local people called the lake Onego. Under such melodious name it is mentioned many times in Scandinavian sagas, Finnish epic legends and old Novgorod chronicles. Linguists believe that the word “Onego” in the ancient indigenous languages of the Pioneer region meant “smoke” or something smoky, a hint of the eternal mists swirling over the lake.

The ancient Russians came to the banks of the Onega from Great Novgorod. Here they harvested fish and forest animals, furs and honey, resin and wood for building ships. Novgorod merchant ships sailed along Prionezhsky rivers to Ladoga, reached the Baltic and reached the shores of the White Sea.

At the beginning of the 18th century rich deposits of ore were discovered in the vicinity of Lake Onega. Peter I founded the town of Petrozavodsk, which grew around the iron foundries and smelters. Under Peter’s decree large-scale works on laying navigable canals began and 250 years later resulted in a grandiose waterway from the White Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Volga.

During the Great Patriotic War, many of the hydraulic structures in the vicinity of Lake Onega were destroyed. The road from the Baltic Sea to the southern regions of Russia was restored in the first postwar decades.

In towns and settlements of the Prionezhye region, industry rapidly developed, using minerals and inexhaustible forest resources of the region. Since the XXI century the economic balance of the lake region has been more and more shifted to the development of tourism industry, and the polluting industries have been curtailed.

The shore of the Onega Lake. Voznesenie Island

Geography and nature

Onega Lake was formed simultaneously with Ladoga Lake as a result of radical climatic changes in Northern Europe. The huge hollows were filled with melt water of an ancient glacier, which retreated far to the north about 12 thousand years ago. The shoreline of the reservoir, cut by many bays, bays and fjords, a total of 1280 km, and the water surface of Onega is 9,700 sq. km.

Map of Lake Onega

Southern and northern parts of Lake Onega, formed by glaciers in different geological times, sharply differ in the structure of the shores and the bottom. In the south, there is a vast lowland shoulder, the shores here are rocky and sandy, and the lowlands are swampy. The water hides the deepest places. The depth record known to local hydrologists is 132 meters.

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In the north, the lake cuts through the rocks of the Baltic Shield. The water body diverges into two extended bays called Big and Small Onego. Between the bays is the Zaonezhye Peninsula, a land of untouched forests and wild northern nature. To the east stretches Povenetsky Bay, where the White Sea-Baltic waterway begins, which allowed to connect the Volga and Baltic ships.

The lake has 1,650 islands, overgrown with ancient trees, and cut with picturesque bays. The largest of them are Bolshoi Lelikovsky, Klimetsky and Suisari. Many islands are rarely landed people, there, in a pristine nature, are completely unintimidated animals. There are islands, well known to tourists, such as the famous Kizhi. But few travelers have been to the island of South Oleniy, where there is a necropolis of the ancient inhabitants of Prionezhye.

Onega Lake has 50 large and small rivers flowing into it, carrying water from the many lakes around, as well as hundreds of streams. In total, there are up to 1150 tributaries, with spring floods their number increases briefly. The rivers have unusual names, coming from time immemorial, they sound like ancient Scandinavian runes – Andoma, Vodla, Suna, Vyterga.

The Svir River (224 km), which flows into Lake Ladoga, provides the only waterway. In the course of the violent Svir there were rocky rapids, precluding through navigation. In ancient times the dangerous places were bypassed by dragging the ships along the bank slopes. In old times one could float without problems only wood felled in the upper reaches. Nowadays, this river is a part of the Volgo-Balt waterway, a cascade of hydroelectric power plants is built here, and dangerous rapids are hidden by deep reservoirs. The design of dams includes locks, which allow the passage of cargo and passenger ships of the “river-sea” class.

Climate

The weather in the vicinity of Lake Onega is determined by a continental coastal climate. The cool Karelian summer in Prionezhje, when the daytime temperature does not drop below +10 °С, lasts from mid-June to early September. Cold air from the polar latitudes often brings sudden night frosts even in the first summer month. The effluents of the cold rivers and thick fogs, typical of these places, do not allow the lake water to get warm enough for swimming. Summer is very short-lived and warm only in July and August, when the air usually gets up to +18 . +Although the temperature maximum recorded by meteorologists was +33.9 ° C. It is worth noting that July and August are also the most “mosquito” time.

Winter in Prionezhye is fairly mild and not distinguished by severe frosts. In January and February it rarely gets colder than -15. -12 °С. However, in the records of weather stations there is information about the frosts below -30 ° C.

Lake Onega in winter

Protected areas

At the mouth of the Svir River, on the right bank, is the Nizhnesvirsky Reserve. Under its protection is 41,000 hectares, and part of the water area of the lake is also included in the protection zone. In this area, in the coastal thickets of the Onega feeding streams and rivers, beavers, gray geese, cranes, storks, waterfowl almost destroyed by hunters and poachers, have reappeared. And in total, Russian ecologists counted 256 bird species and 44 different animal species in the protected area in 2018.

Spotted mushroom in the Nizhnesvirsky reserve

On the northern shores of Lake Onega, a huge national park, Vodlozersky, with rich flora and fauna, was established by a decision of the Russian government in 1991. Its landscapes include about a hundred lakes. The protected area extends to 468,000 hectares, about one third of the park’s territory is located in the Republic of Karelia and the rest in the neighboring Arkhangelsk region. Systematic archaeological research has revealed traces of Mesolithic settlements here.

It is interesting that the area of forests included in the territory of the park exceeds the total area of all forest lands of foreign Europe. Specialists of the park in the early 90s have developed their own system of ecotourism and for the first time offered such “green trips” to the Russians. In 2001, UNESCO experts awarded this national park the prestigious status of a biosphere reserve.

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Attractions of Onega Lake

The main attraction of Lake Onega is a complex of monastery buildings on the island of Kizhi, where there are 89 stone and wooden buildings, erected in the period from the XV to the XIX century. Some of them are delivered from other islands. Thus, an old village smithy was brought from the island of Suisar, it joined the exposition of the open-air museum. Orthodox monasteries operate here, and the entire territory of the island is under the jurisdiction of the State Historical-Architectural and Ethnographic Reserve. Since 1990 the ensemble of wooden structures of Kizhi pogost of the XVIII-XIX centuries has been included in the list of world cultural heritage of UNESCO. Some of the objects of the museum are located on nearby islands, excursions are organized to them by boat.

Kizhi Old building of the railway station in Medvezhjegorsk

The attention of travelers who come to Medvezhegorsk, attracts the old building of the railway station, erected in 1916. In the vicinity of the town you can explore the mysterious caves, waterfalls and rapid rapids on the Vichka River. On the mountain Lysukha remained powerful defensive structures, built during the Soviet-Finnish War.

The Sandarmoh tract is situated 12 km from Medvezhjegorsk. During the years of the Big Terror (1936-1937) hundreds of prisoners of Solovetsky NKVD camps were shot there. A modest memorial is erected here. In the chapel of St. George there are lists of the victims, whose names have been revealed.

In the village of Povenets you can visit the museum of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. Many exhibits tell about the tragic fate of the builders of this grandiose construction – tens of thousands of “unreliable” people who were repressed in the 30s of the last century.

Very picturesque is the historical town of Pudozh, entered in the list of the most ancient towns of Russia, because it is known according to chronicles from the XIV century. Patriarchal atmosphere is created by wooden manor houses in the main streets. In the Pudozh area you can find rock paintings of the ancient inhabitants of the Prionezhye, created about 6 thousand years ago.

Memorial in Sandarmoh Pudozh

In Kondopoga listen to the musical peals of 23 bronze bells suspended from an arched carillon. Until recently you could admire a rare monument of Russian wooden architecture – the Church of the Assumption, built on the shore of the lake in 1774. The temple’s hipped roof, topped with a bronze cross, was 42 meters high. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2018 there was a fire at the church and the fire destroyed the structure. Now local local historians are discussing the possibility of its restoration, because all the architectural details of the church have been recorded on numerous videos and photographs.

On the small island of Maly Kolgostrov belonging to the Vodlozersky National Park are preserved log structures of Ilyinsky pogost of XVIII-XIX centuries: a beautiful church, belfry and outbuildings. Now there is a monastery there. On Sundays, the monks serve the Divine Liturgy. These days there are especially many pilgrims and tourists who come here to listen to the sermon and hymns.

Near the village of Storozhno in Volkhov district there is a 76 m high tower of Storozhno lighthouse, built on a high rocky promontory at the beginning of the last century. Flashes of its bright beams can be seen by ships’ navigators at a distance of 22 nautical miles. A spiral staircase of 399 steep steps leads to the top of the tower. Among similar structures, this lighthouse is the second highest in Russia.

Interesting sights are located in Petrozavodsk.

Ilyinsky Pogost on the island of Maliy Kolgostrov Mayak in the village of Storozhno

Beaches

The locals joke that on the beaches of Lake Onega in July do not bathe, and in August no longer bathe. However, in summer you can see a lot of beach-goers on the shores of the lake. The shallow water is heated up to +18 ° C, is considered quite comfortable for swimming here.

Beach in Petrozavodsk

One of the best beaches in Petrozavodsk you will find on Onega embankment, opposite the Ferris wheel. It is clean and the sand is sprinkled there every year. However, there are no sun beds or changing rooms.

There is a good beach near the sanatorium “Beliye Klyuchi”. The beach Lososinnoye is 16 km from the city. The water is shallow near the shore and gets warm well. You can get there by bus or by cab.

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The secluded sandy beach with a flat bottom is situated near the village Matkachi in Prionezhsky district. You can easily find other places for swimming and picnics on the coast. Be sure to take mosquito repellent, the insects are especially active on sunny days.

Active Recreation

For experiences on Lake Onega go rafters, fans of horseback riding, climbers, mushroom hunters, and, of course, gambling fishermen.

Fishing on Lake Onega

You can join fishing tours in Petrozavodsk, where you will be taken to the islands or a quiet corner of the vast coast, providing you with gear and the necessary equipment. You can go fishing at the numerous tourist bases, built on the shores of the lake and on the islands. On the territory of the Vodlozersky national park you can find well organized service for the visiting fishermen.

There are all kinds of fish typical for Karelia in Onega Lake, and there are about fifty of them. Sterlet, roach, catfish, pike, ide will be your desired catches. The trophy of honor is the weighty burbot. But there are also long-established “aliens” in the lake. Only few people know that back in the Soviet times, ichthyologists brought trout from Lake Sevan in Armenia. The omul from Lake Baikal also feels at home here.

In the third decade of July Onega sailing regatta is organized in the water area of the lake. In the multi-day competition cruising yachts cover up to 500 nautical miles. In 2018, 40 sailing boats participated in the competition. Yacht captains from anywhere in the country can join this open championship of Russia. In addition, within the Onega regatta there are youth rowing boat competitions, spectacular demonstration races are arranged along the Petrozavodsk embankment, watched by thousands of tourists and citizens. Regatta is accompanied by an entertaining coastal program, last year during the days of yachtsmen competitions the capital of Karelia hosted a music festival “Big gathering on Onego”.

Onega Sailing Regatta

Cuisine

Local cuisine can be enjoyed in the restaurants of Petrozavodsk, but the true gourmets, looking for the authentic taste of Karelia in authentic dishes, will find them in the lakeside villages, where descendants of indigenous peoples – Finns, Veps, Karelians live. Here, as hundreds of years ago, food is cooked in wood stoves, all dishes are made “with smoke”. And every housewife can find tasty cold home-cooked food and a barrel with berry morsel or bread kvass in the cellar.

Try, for example, an unusual Karelian winter soup made of dried fish fry. There is a recipe for an even more exotic Veps soup made of sour fish with pine buds. This dish is flavored with rye flour, chicken eggs are beaten into a bowl and milk is poured in. In summer, Karelian housewives make ukha from whitefish or other delicacies of the fresh catch. Local mushroom soups and baked turnips are very tasty. Instead of bread, you can have a rye pie filled with fish, barley groats, or mashed potatoes. For the main course you’ll be served pancakes of baked fish caviar with lingonberry sauce, and for the appetizer – salted milk mushrooms. The dessert will be berries, oatmeal kissel and hot herbal tea.

Where to stay

A good choice of hotels of all categories is offered to tourists in Petrozavodsk.

Guest house “Chelmuzhskaya homestead” in Medvezhjegorsk

Travelers who want to examine the rock paintings of the inhabitants of the Pioneer region of the Stone Age, stop in the hotels of Pudozh. Among them stands out the hotel “Onego”, the cost of living – from 1665 rubles per room per night. You can also stay in a two-bedroom deluxe room for 3,600 rubles. You can stay in the local motel “Uyt” for 1,800 rubles per day. The “Guest House on Transportnaya” offers a room for 1200 rubles.

In Medvezhegorsk, budget tourists should pay attention to the hotel “Onega”, the cost of living – from 900 rubles per room. More comfortable accommodation is offered by the hotel “Provance” – from 2500 rubles. In the picturesque surroundings of the town guests expect “Chelmuzhskaya homestead” with the cost of rooms from 9000 rubles per day.

On the shore of Lake Onega and on the islands there are many small tourist facilities, which offer comfortable log cabins, boat rent and equipment for fishing.

Travelers who prefer ecotourism, in the national park “Vodlozersky” waiting for 80 locations with guest houses, bathhouses, equipped kitchens and barbecues in the open air. Many of them have berths for boats, others are located in a picturesque forest. For outside cars the territory of the park is closed, but there is its own transport for excursions to remote corners of the reserve.

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Transportation

During the summer navigation from Petrozavodsk to the reserves are sent motor ships, to the islands tourists are taken by pleasure boats. The cost of a tour, for example, to the island of Kizhi – from 3450 rubles per person. Along the coast operate regular and sightseeing bus routes, to Kizhi island fly helicopters, and in the national park “Vodlozero” you can get on the ship “Comet” or by plane AN-2.

Excursion routes to various attractions of Onega Lake are also available in Kondopoga.

The main transport hub on Lake Onega is the city of Petrozavodsk. Here there is an airport, railway and bus station, and passenger river port. On how to get to Petrozavodsk from Moscow and St. Petersburg in detail, read here.

Attractions of Onega Lake

The most popular attractions on Lake Onega are the mysterious petroglyphs, the open-air architectural museum on Kizhi Island, and the Chelmuzhskaya Spit, Andom Mountain, towns and ancient churches, scattered on the Onega coast.

A few facts about Lake Onega

Sights of Onega Lake

Lake Onega was formed after the retreat of the last glaciers. The large tectonic basin of the lake was formed in the preglacial period. After the retreat of the glacier, a large last glacial lake was formed.

  • The ancient Russian name of Onega Lake is Onego, affectionately known as Father Onego.
  • Onego is called a fresh sea; its water contains a minimum of minerals and is Europe’s second-largest fresh water reservoir;
  • The area of Lake Onega is 9,700 square kilometers;
  • It is the 19th largest lake in the world and the 4th largest in Russia and the 2nd largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga;
  • The greatest depth is 127 m in the northern part of the lake, 50-60 m in the middle part, the depth decreases to 20-30 m in the southern part;
  • The lake is 12 thousand years old.
  • There are 1.5 thousand islands in the lake.
  • The Onego Lake has over 1 000 rivers and streams, the Svir, which flows out of the lake, and connects it with the Ladoga Lake.
  • Lake Onega is located in Karelia (80%) as well as in Vologda and Leningrad regions.

Map

Attractions of Onega Lake

To see the sights of Lake Onega, it is better to use water transport. It is from the water you can see all the beauty of Onego in full – wooded shores, cliffs and endless waters of the lake.

Petroglyphs

Onega petroglyphs

Onega petroglyphs

Petroglyphs (images carved on rocks or boulders), located in the Pudozhsky district of Karelia – this is a popular sightseeing of Lake Onega. In total there are more than 1100 figures, most of them are concentrated on Peri Nos, Besov Nos and Kladovets capes.

The most famous Onega petroglyphs are on Cape Devil’s Nose – the so-called triad: devil, catfish/nalim and otter/lizard.

Chelmuzhskaya Spit

Chelmuzhskaya spit

Chelmuzhskaya Spit

Chelmuzhskaya Spit is a specially protected nature area. It is a sandy promontory, stretched for 13 kilometers, covered with pine trees. It is 200-500 meters wide. The spit was formed as a result of the melting of the glacier. The place is beautiful and quiet, in good weather you can sunbathe and swim here.

The Church of the Epiphany in Chelmuzhi

Church of the Epiphany in the village of Chelmuzhi

Chelmuzhi Spit stretches along the coast near the old fishing village of Chelmuzhi, from which the strait separates it. In the village there is the oldest tent wooden church of Peter and Paul, more popularly called Epiphany. It was built in 1605, is located on the shore of Lake Onega, near it there is a cemetery.

Kizhi

Kizhi

One of the most famous attractions on Lake Onega is Kizhi Pogost, or Kizhi – UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in Karelia on the island of Kizhi and is an archaeological museum in the open air. The best examples of wooden architecture of Russians, Karelians and Veps are collected here as part of the State Historical-Architectural and Ethnographic Museum-Reserve “Kizhi”.

The Church of Transfiguration of the Lord Kizhi

The museum collection includes more than 80 buildings, which are divided into sectors: Russian Zaonezhye, Kizhi necklace, Veps, Kondopoga, Pudozhsky, Pryazhinsky Karels, Northern Karels, as well as villages Vasilievo, Yamka. In Petrozavodsk, several historical buildings also belong to the museum complex.

Kizhi

Kizhi – UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Russian Zaonezhye sites are UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord;
  • Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin;
  • The Bell Tower;
  • Fence.
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The inhabitants of the eastern part of Onego called the land on the opposite – the western shore of the lake Zaonezhie. Nowadays Zaonezhie is called Zaonezhsky peninsula and Kizhi skerries.

Andomskaya mountain

Andom Mountain

Andom Mountain or Andom Mountain is located in the Vologda region and is a geological natural monument. It was formed in glacial times, the height is about 50 meters above the level of Lake Onega. Andom-mountain is a geological cross-section, where sandstones, clays, sands and marls have formed numerous fanciful strips of most varied shades Under the influence of the glacier they have formed into bizarre patterns.

Andom Mountain

Cities on Lake Onega

On Lake Onega, there are the following cities: the capital of Karelia – Petrozavodsk, the Karelian towns of Kondopoga and Medvezhjegorsk.

Petrozavodsk

Onega embankment

Onega embankment

Petrozavodsk is the main center of civilization in the Republic of Karelia. Like St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Peter I. The most beautiful place in the city is Onega embankment, dressed in granite and stretches for 1.5 kilometers.

Lenin Square Petrozavodsk

Lenin Square (Round Square), Petrozavodsk

The Central Lenin Square, former Round Square is a historical building of the end of XVIII century, creating an architectural ensemble of the city. From the area beams diverge three streets: Karl Marx Prospect, Zavodskaya and Peterburgskaya Streets. Karl Marx Prospect, the oldest street of the city, leads to Onega embankment.

Once on Lenin Square was a monument to Peter I, but it was replaced by an 11-meter monument to Lenin. Peter I is now in Peter’s garden, next to the quay.

Station Petrozavodsk

Railway station building, Petrozavodsk

A symbol of Petrozavodsk – the building of the railway station with a spire, built in the mid-1950s, designed by architect V. Tsipulin

Kondopoga

Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kondopoga

Burnt-out Assumption Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kondopoga

Kondopoga is the second largest city in Karelia after Petrozavodsk, founded in 1563. The main symbol and landmark of Kondopoga – Assumption Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1774), burned to the ground in August 2018. The unique cultural monument and the best example of Russian wooden architecture was set on fire by a 15-year-old teenager. The church was in a picturesque location on the shore of Lake Onega.

Currently, money is being collected for the restoration of the temple.

Kondopoga Carillon

Carillon at the Ice Palace in Kondopoga

In Kondopoga you can see and listen to the carillon, there are two of them in the city. Carillon with 23 bells near the Ice Palace and 18 bells carillon in Proletarskaya street were installed in 2001, made in the Netherlands.

Medvezhegorsk

Medvezhya Gora station

Medvezhegorsk station.

The town of Medvezhegorsk is located on the northwest tip of the Big Bay of Povenets Bay on Lake Onega. It was founded in 1916 during the construction of the railway station Bear Mountain. The building of the station with a hipped roof and a spire, built in 1916 by the architect Gabe R.F., is still there.

Medvezhegorsk

The building of Belomorkanal Department of NKVD and a monument to Kirov S.M.

In 1931 Medvezhegorsk was the capital of the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. Here was built the building of the Administration of the White Sea Canal NKVD of the USSR.

Medvezhegorsk fortress

Medvezhegorsk fortress

In December 1941 Finnish troops came to Medvezhegorsk. By order of Karl Mannerheim a strong fortification line of 40 kilometers long was built in the town and its outskirts: the castle K Arkumäki (from Finnish: Bear-mountain). It was called Mannerheim’s second line.

Lysukha Mountain fortress

Fortification of the Lysukha Mountain

Mount Lysukha in Medvezhjegorsk is the most famous place of the powerful fortification of the Finnish army. It is of great interest to fans of military history. In the rocks are preserved tunnel barracks, observation posts, and artillery firing points.

Sandarmoh

Sandarmoh

12 kilometers from Medvezhjegorsk is the Sandarmoh tract, the site of the mass execution of the White Sea-Baltic prisoners, the Solovetsky stage, and the inhabitants of Karelia.

Sandarmoh

The shootings took place secretly during the period of the Big Terror (1937-1938). Only in 1995 an expedition of the international society “Memorial” under the leadership of the historian and local historian Yuri Dmitriev discovered the first execution pits. All in all they turned out to be 236. At present 6241 names of the people killed here have been established. The exact figure of the killed is not known for sure – about 7.5 thousand people.

Nowadays a memorial cemetery Sandarmoh is created here and a chapel was built. People of different nationalities from all over the world come to the graves to pay tribute to their relatives. Which were found largely thanks to Yuri Dmitriev.

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