Why is the best dacha someone else’s dacha?

Legion Media
Russians are big fans of spending weekends and holidays at their country houses, but they can have a rest only if they’re guests. Otherwise, they have to work a lot.

May cleanings

Ordinary dachas are country summerhouses without heating, and so during the winter they’re shuttered. With the first warm days, usually in May, Russians escape en masse to the countryside to “open the dacha season.”

Perhaps you’re imagining a cozy BBQ party with cocktails and outside activities? Wrong! Russians often spend the entire weekend, or the long May holidays, cleaning the house that has accumulated months of dust over the winter, as well as sweeping out dead flies that usually lived unusually long lives in the wooden houses, but died by spring.

Toiling in the fields

When the house is ready to receive guests, and even babushka doesn't see anything wrong, it's time for gardening!

Of course, modern Russians are not so obsessed with planting vegetables - that was needed by past generations when they couldn't get fresh produce anywhere else. Today, when grocery shops are full of goods most Russian moms are planting flowers.

But if you think that you’ll be able to get away from this work, don't be in a hurry to relax! You’ll have to help carry buckets of soil or water, and pick out the weeds.

BBQ is not as easy as you think

What does grilling mean for Russians? Much preparation! You need to buy meat and choose the best piece to avoid being cheated at the store. Then cut it into pieces and marinate. Learn how to do it properly here.

Next, start a fire in the mangal and tend to it. When hot enough, put the meat on skewers or directly on the grate. Cook but take care that it doesn't burn, all to the constant refrain of your guests, “When will it be ready?”

After that, clean the dishes and grill. Be ready, usually there’s no hot water at the dacha. Better to come with plastic plates!

You sure you want to rest?

Once you finished cleaning up, had your cocktail or cold beer, and taken out a deck chair, you’ll probably only have five minutes to rest. Most likely your relatives will ask you to help clean up last year’s leaves, burn waste or repair something. (Why does everything break at the dacha?) There’s always much to do, and even if they don’t ask you to help, you’ll feel guilty laying about when everyone else is working.

“Would you like to gather berries?” If you hear mom ask this, be certain it's not a question! Rather, this is a call for action. And if you don't want to gather the berries, then you’ll certainly hear, “Why am I planting everything if you don't need it?” Really, why?

When you’re a guest

Imagine that you’re the one relaxing and sunbathing, but this is possible only if you’re the guest. Your friend’s mother will bring you cocktails while her son labors in the fields. You’ll be the one saying, “How long must I wait for shashlyk? The boiled potatoes are getting cold!” And finally you’ll return to the city with a bag full of fresh produce, and make the office envious when you warm up homemade shashlyk in the microwave on Monday for lunch.

Read more: A history of Russian dachas: From Anton Chekhov to the present

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