Today we went to our friend’s dacha in Sergiev Posad. The traffic wasn’t bad and we arrived surprisingly quickly. As we drove through the town and into the country, more and more dachas became visible. I was surprised because they resembled average houses that one can find in America, as opposed to flats which tend to dominate here. For some reason I had always thought that dachas were located in the middle of nowhere, that there were no other dachas around and the land was very private. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, there were what looked like little communities of dachas. They were clumped together and separated by fences.
Our friends’ dacha in particular shares a plot with two other dachas that also belong to their family and a banya. I was very surprised to see that it looked unfinished on the inside. There were boards visible everywhere, the floor was made of wood just nailed down and you could see the electrical wires running up and down the wall. The stairs to the second floor were simply a staircase with boards nailed on.
The plumbing as well was something new. I guess I had imagined that a dacha was just a small house, fully furnished. But here there is no running water and the toilet, for example, was a portable toilet which must be emptied. The kitchen sink, too, had a pail underneath to catch the water that went down the drain. Running water was brought in from outside and poured into the tank above the sink. Twisting a small tap brought out water which had been heated inside the tank. There was no sign of a stove, just two hotplates that sat side by side and were heated with electric.
As we began to prepare food, I soon saw what a hassle it could be to live in a dacha. I found it hard to believe that so many Russians find coming out to their dachas a relaxing experience. When I expressed my dismay, even my Russian friend said that you buy a dacha to kill yourself because of all the problems that come with it.
While preparing food, I found myself feeling a bit useless. The Russian women were taking care of everything because they knew just what to do. I offered my help as much as possible, but mostly felt inadequate. I didn’t know what ingredients went into the salads or even how to cut the vegetables. It seemed like there was some unwritten rule about how to slice cucumbers and tomatoes and all the Russians knew it but me. But I reassured myself that it was my first time so I watched and learned for next time.
Later I learned the rules of what to wear to the dacha. While there was electricity, there wasn’t a lot of heat. The weather is still cool and one room had portable heaters in it but the rest of the dacha was quite cold. Everyone else had been to a dacha before and came prepared for this. I was so cold, but our friends had a bunch of extra clothes on hand to remedy this problem.
In the evening we ate a wonderful dinner of shashlyk, salads, bread, fruits and vegetables. Then we watched a movie on a projector and sang karaoke. The amount of technological equipment there really contrasted with the rustic nature of the dacha and showed how both old and new Russia were coexisting together and how changes had been incorporated into dacha life.