Friday, 3pm: I am at work and desperately thinking about a present to bring on our dacha adventure, finally I decide on homemade pies from a café next to my work. Like everywhere in the world, it is absolutely nice to bring something to eat or drink and not just mooch off your hosts.
6:30pm: With a little delay Lena, our host picks us up. Traffic is heavy and we are running late while Lena’s husband, who is already preparing shashlik at the dacha, keeps calling us to find out when we would arrive. I am slowly dozing off and only wake up as we are already outside the city. Outside the windows, left and right, the first dachas are already in sight.
Around 8pm: We finally arrive and approach the picturesque little dacha settlement next to a river. Another 15 minutes later we approach our friends’ little property. I really like this dacha! We get a quick tour. There is a wooden cabin-style building with an attic with a couch, our designated sleeping place. The other building consists of many little rooms. Two of them are the kitchen. Sink, toilet (yes a flush toilet!!) and shower are in a rather long but very narrow room, separated only by a plastic canvas cover from the foyer. A small staircase goes up to a tiny room with an open fireplace and TV – great to enjoy in the colder month of the year. Some mosquitoes are sitting next to the toilet, waiting for their first victims. Not a single potato plant is to be found in the garden, but I noticed some black currant bushes and fruit trees alongside the building. In the neighboring garden, a middle-aged lady is caring for her perfectly arranged flower beet.
9:30 pm: The pork shashlik starts to smell delicious and the first bottle of vodka is opened to celebrate the end of the work week. We are still waiting for another couple, our friends K. and T., who obviously got stuck in traffic. The air here is simply wonderful and my lungs finally breathe fresh air.
11:00pm: Everybody is finally gathered around a little plastic table, eating shashlik wrapped in lavash (a very thin wrap, kind of like a burrito) to avoid cutlery. Consider: the less cutlery and tableware you use, the less you actually have to wash, a valuable tip for dacha life, since many have just one sink for your personal hygiene and the kitchen dishes. The second bottle of vodka is opened and the guys plan their morning program – fishing.
Saturday, 1am: While falling asleep I hear the guys finishing their drinks in the garden and taking care of the rest of the shashlik.
10 am: Sunlight falls through the attic windows. The view is great, fields on the one side, forest and neighboring dachas on the other. My boyfriend is still asleep (obviously the fishing was collectively cancelled). After taking a quick shower (with warm water, which is not guaranteed while at the dacha, and to be honest, I think I am the only one who kept my normal hygiene shower habits during the dacha visit) our hosts prepare breakfast. A big Russian Samovar (teapot) provides hot water for tea (black tea with hand-picked berries from the garden). Lena serves omelets with pieces of yesterday’s shashlik. The guys didn’t finish it yesterday and it was now put to good use. V. meanwhile takes care of our wellbeing by pouring champagne for the girls, beer for the guys served in admirable beer mugs. The fact that we start the day with champagne and beer does not really disturb me: In Austria we would call the morning beer: “Reparaturseiterl” (the anti-hangover-morning beer) and the Champagne breakfast (usually a very rich brunch, with a touch of luxury, represented by a glass of champagne or sparkling wine). After breakfast it’s time to go to refill our drinking water at a nearby spring.
11:30 am: The guys start their project, which was clearing out some wooden boards which were to be cut and restacked. Meanwhile we girls dress in our bikinis to enjoy the nice weather in the garden.
12:00 pm: I pass the storage under the stairs, going up to get a book, seeing the guys taking a break, of course with the obligatory beer mug to refocus and refresh themselves. 12:15 and 12:30 shows about the same picture.
Around 1:30pm another friend (S.) arrives to join the workforce, equipped with bags of food and dried fish (a good snack that goes very well with beer). Half an hour later, the socializing is fully ongoing and the guys share dried fish and beer. (Note: dacha work is not supposed to be extra-efficient slavery, helping your friends with work around the dacha should be targeted on having fun while getting things done.)
3pm, the storage is empty and the wooden boards pile up in the garden damaging a flower bed, to the annoyance of Lena. The guys get the table saw ready only to find out a little later that it is not working. Resignation over the big pile of wood and having sweated for nothing makes the guys leave the garden. “Where do you go?” I ask. “We are going to find some Uzbek to finish the work.”
3:40pm, the guys are back from their quest to find help and found a worker to take care of the woodpile for 1,000 rubles, lump sum. I kind of wonder where they found somebody so quickly, willing to do this work, tomorrow morning, but as I learned, Russia is the country of opportunities, where demand meets supply (or woodpile meets worker with chainsaw). We finally make it to the river, arriving there V. hands each of us a can of beer, we toast (and that is important because toasting is social, whereas drinking without toasting is alcoholism). Kids and teenagers are enjoying the riverside and a car next to us with open doors plays techno-music on full volume. We take a swim in the cold water, take some photos and finish our beers. Despite the empty cans, some bottles and paper littering the grass around us the atmosphere is nice and the water clean. On the way back we stop at the little general store of the dacha settlement and our host stocks up on beer and dried fish, which we consume while walking back to their dacha.
6pm: The girls prepare Okroshka (Russian summer soup with vegetables, potatoes and sausage, all chopped, with Kvas). The majority of the guys enjoy their next beer on the veranda while S. is supporting the girls in the kitchen with red wine and brie cheese.
Later that night: More shashlik, this time grilled fish. Since S. is divorced, T. discusses plans to introduce him to one of her friends. Three of us decide to take a nap. The rest take a walk, stopping by the river to take a refreshing night swim. The water is nice and appears warmer than during the day and finally the techno-music car is gone.
Sunday 10:00am, Lena is preparing breakfast again - sirniky (curd pies) and blini. Accompanied by the penetrating noise of the chainsaw and the gasoline smell of its fuel tank we enjoy our breakfast in the garden. The worker the guys paid for did actually show up and works now very efficiently cutting wooden boards.
11am-2pm, collective work: We girls are cleaning the cars and the guys are repairing minor things around the house and garden, cutting the grass with an old fashioned scythe. Inviting as many friends as possible is in general a good opportunity to get things done and friends usually like to help in exchange for delicious catering.
3pm, time for another quick swim before the last meal is prepared. This time, shashlik from chicken wings with raw vegetable to nibble on: spring onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, parsley and fresh garlic (yes, cloves of garlic to take little bites from with the chicken wings – tastes great!)
6pm, after a short nap and shower we pack our things to return to Moscow. Luckily after only a short traffic jam we avoid further ones coming into Moscow. (This is pure luck and usually the situation is different!)
Covered by itchy mosquito-bites and a noticeable sunburn (while the others napped in the house, I fell asleep in the garden with full sun exposure) we return to Moscow. Monday morning at work I feel simply proud. Due to my profound sunburn it is totally visible to everyone – I participated in dacha life! I am on the way to becoming a true Muscovite!
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