Today our guide Irina joins us to explain the tradition of escaping to a Russian Dacha – and how you too can experience a Russian summer cottage.
At summer’s peak, many Russians don’t venture far. The reason is dachas, their country houses. August brings the harvest for their small garden plots, but a dacha is much more than just an economic benefit: it embodies a culture dating back to Communist times.
Are you curious to visit the Russian countryside and meet friendly locals? I invite you to visit a real dacha, get to know the locals, see the picturesque landscape, try traditional Russian food and enjoy life the way Russian people do. This tour usually takes a full day, but its duration can be adjusted to the time you have.
Cars filled with people, pets, old clothes, refrigerators, mattresses and whatever could be useful when away from civilization: a trip to the dacha looks more like mass evacuation, a flight from the city. And that’s what it is. People are fleeing from tedious urban routines to a place where they can feel genuinely free for at least a couple of days.
The dacha is a unique phenomenon in the life of anyone who lives in the boundless expanses of the Russian Federation. A small plot – just 0.15 acres – with a few currant bushes, apple trees and a vegetable patch, a little wooden house with no telephone or running water and a discreetly located outhouse. I’d love to how you mine.
How we’ll get there:
I believe that it'll be fun to experience the Russian suburban train (electrichka), which is very popular in our country. Electrichka is inexpensive and it might even be faster than a car as it doesn't depend on the traffic. Travelling by commuter train you'll be able to see ordinary people and possibly talk with them. Sometimes trains offer you such "free entertainment” as listening to numerous vendors and musicians. But local trains might be crowded at certain times of the day so in some cases we'd recommend you to go with us by car.
What we’ll do:
During the tour of the Russian countryside we'll bring you to a local market and show you a village church. On a hot summer day it might be fun to go swimming in the lake and in early autumn you can go mushroom hunting which is a popular hobby in our country. You'll be offered a typical Russian meal and if you’d like, you can learn to cook some traditional Russian dishes that we save for when we are at the dacha.
Learning how to prepare a Russian lunch:
The dacha is also home to a culinary ritual known as shashlik (shish kebab) – a Georgian dish that has metamorphosed into a specialty at dachas throughout the former USSR. Because shashlik tastes best in a group, it’s an excuse to invite friends. Making shashlik is so absorbing that it’s all you talk about.
First you choose the right meat, then the right recipe for the marinade. The fire has to be started and allowed to burn down until it’s almost out, but still smouldering. If you catch it at that moment, then the meat will roast evenly and not burn.
Meanwhile, the fire keeps threatening to go out, compelling family and guests to furiously fan it with pieces of cardboard. You’ll be so involved, you won’t even notice when it’s time to go back to the city.
Thank you for sharing these stories about time at the dacha, Irina! If any travelers are interested in learning more about a visit to Irina’s Dacha in the Russian countryside, you can read more about the tour here: Russian Dacha Tour.