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My Dacha Ultimate Experience



Krasnoyarsk, July 27th 2014

In archaic Russian, said Wikipedia, the word dacha means "something given". The first dachas in Russia began to appear during the reign of Peter the Great. Wow. However, from what I heard through Anatoliy, my guide from SibTourGuide, the dachas here, on this spot I'm going to explore on, don't date that far. True it is, though, many of the first owners are deceased. Anatoliy explained that the land for dachas were given to their employees by certain companies. The employee paid a very small money. So basically the piece of land was given, by the governor of Russia through the company. How nice!

At the beginning of Anatoliy's explanation about what a dacha serves as, I was like, "That's like the villas in the suburbs owned by residents from metropolitan cities in my country. The 'only' big difference is that in my country, the land is not given by our governor. The villas in my country are build around mountain areas where it is not sooo hot. Then those upper class society would come for a vacation or just a weekend, escaping -- a bit -- from our all-year-round summer. However, when I took a walk around the dachas' vicinity, I realized that the similarity is only 10%. So would your impression change when you read the article about "dacha" on Wikipedia. Much more did my impression changed when it came to the gardening thing.

Quoting from Wikipedia:
Many Russians prefer to grow vegetables themselves because of the widespread (especially among the older part of the population) belief in the excessive use of agrochemicals in the vegetables from the supermarkets and grocery stores, and the higher costs of the vegetables in stores and bazaars. Also, growing one's own food supplies is a long-lived Russian tradition practiced by many affluent Russians.

This is Anatoliy's dacha. Anatoliy is not the first owner and neither it is an inheritance from his parents. He had purchased this dacha for family purpose, actually. And then along the run, he found that his guests were interested. Hence it turned into a business asset as well. Of course it's interesting! Especially that part about fire-making. Poor me. I listened to Anatoliy with my greatest interest.

In winter, snow fills in everything and buries the fence. Yes, that fence, will disappear. That's the time when ski-lovers rejoice. They'll go skiing around, over the fence beneath them.

When snow covers the fence, the veranda would be covered for sure. "Then how would you take out your stock of firewood?"

"How? Just shovel the snow aside. No big deal." Anatoliy answered.

This is that firewood store-place. You can spot it out in the big picture above.

That's the fire furnace, made of bricks. When the furnace is on, the painted-white brick wall gets heated and thus heats the room up.

In the upper cabinet you put in firewood and paper material such as magazine, newspaper. During the burning process, the ash will fall into the lower cabinet.

When the firewood is about to burn out, this slid must be pulled out, so that air can flow through. Otherwise, the room would be filled by deadly gas. That's why it's important to pull the slid out before going to bed.

"Then why not just take out the slid?" I asked.

"The longer the slot is kept opened, the sooner the fire wood will burn out."

See that white panel? That's an electric heater. It functions the same as when the brick wall is heated.

No explanation needed, I suppose.

Yep. Micha, Anatoiy's father-in-law is preparing a feast for us.

Anatoliy caught me grabbing a slice of cheese. "You are hungry, aren't you?

"No. I'm not." I was.

Anatoliy is harvesting his long-untended strawberries. After his second child was born, he said, time didn't allow him to care for his dacha much. Nevertheless, his strawberries continued to grow on their own. "So now they are wild strawberries," I said.

"Yes, they have grown into wild strawberries."

The strawberries were smaller in size compared to the ones I savored in Japan and also the ones at my local supermarket. But... these were the sweetest strawberries I ever had. "Did you soak these into sugar water?" I wasn't joking. In my home country, we use to blend strawberries with sweetened condense milk. With these strawberries, to make the same kind of drink, you just need plain milk. Otherwise, your strawberry milk would too sweet.

Anatoliy took me for a walk.

Some dachas have been left abandoned. Some owners have passed away and their children aren't interested to look after or simply has no time.

"Why not?? Such a pity!" My mind just couldn't get it that one has a land and can just not think about it.

After the 1980s, dacha owners were required to register their land. For some, it turned into a complicated task. Being unregistered, the ownership of the land was uncertain. In such a condition, selling the land became an even more complicated matter. Hence, uncertainty led to abandonment.

However, matters can be sorted out if you can afford hiring a lawyer. Anatoliy was one of the lucky ones who could purchase a dacha -- and on a convenient spot which isn't far from the main road.

Along the way, I was busy spotting out which dacha looks abandoned and which looks well taken care of. And Anatoliy had to be patient with me, because I stopped at almost every dacha. To me, these wooden houses are cute. Especially the windows. Some are so Russian. I mean the ones that are asymmetry with a little window sash at one corner.

"Creative fench, eh?"

"Fence? Where?"

My eyes had been drawn to the house that I missed the fence right in front of me. Yeah, creative indeed. High security, low cost.

We walked along the taiga and giant vampire mosquitoes tagged along my side. "These are few to Siberian standard," Anatoliy confirmed. Yeah, they were few compared to what I had experienced just recently in Northwest China. But I am not sure whether few would still be few by nightfall. I am deeply in awe with those living in places like this. In winter they fight with ice and in summer they fight with insects, and yet they say "it's nothing", "it's no big deal". No wonder, people from countries of four seasons tend to be tougher than those from ... errr, the equator.

Anatoliy and I, talked about bears, too.

"Are there bears here?"

"Yes, there are. But don't worry. At this time of the year, they rarely get out. They are actually shy."

I shared my past summer experience at the national parks in Hokkaido, Japan. Anatoliy carried the same idea as what I had read on signboards over there. Do not feed the wild bears with human food, because once they have gotten a taste of it, they will be prompted after man for more. When you give human food to a bear, you are actually risking someone's life.

"And when a bear has attacked a man, that bear has to be put down."

"Because the bear would be craving for more of human flesh?"

"Yes. His food chain has been broken."

"The thing is," I kept on rumbling. "We don't speak bear language and vice versa. The bear saw a man. He thought maybe this man has some noodle like the other man. So the bear came close. The man got shocked. He attacked the bear in self-defense. The bear felt threatened. He attacked back whereas he wasn't at all after the man himself in the first place. Once I watched on Animal Planet or National Geographic, I don't remember. A bear broke into someone's house in the middle of the night. The bear opened the refrigerator, took out some food, shut the refrigerator back, and politely went out."

"Oh there's a story like that, too, here!" cried Anatoliy. "You know a sauna?"

"Yes, I do."

"So there was this couple who left a pan of soup boiled on the stove. Meanwhile they went into their sauna. Suddenly, from the sauna they saw a bear approaching their kitchen. The bear picked up the pan, drank the soup, and quietly walked away."

"Did the bear leave some for the headmaster?"

"No, the bear didn't."

"The couple should have cried out from their sauna, 'Hey, buddy, leave some out for us, would you?' "

"No one would want to eat from a pan touched by a bear," responded Anatoliy to my joke.

"Why not??"

"Because a bear is full of bacteria (or parasite, I forgot). That's why when you eat bear meat, you have to prepare it immediately after the kill and cook it thoroughly."

"Oh, I didn't know that!"

"And that's why nobody wants to share a meal with a bear."

"But they do in children's story books."


"Sonja! Someone's coming out!" Anatoliy cried behind me.

Instantly I held down my camera out of trauma. Trauma from few places in C Country.

A woman came out. A conversation started, between Anatoliy and the woman. I heard the word "tourist".

"It's alright." Anatoliy turned to me.

"I may take pictures?"

"Yes. Go ahead."

"May I take a picture of her?"


"Oh! Strawberries!"

"No. Those are raspberries," Anatoliy corrected.

The woman stepped into her garden, plugged the good raspberries, and forwarded them to me.

"That's for you," Anatoliy interpreted.

Standing by her fence, my heart leaped. "For me??"

On each first bite of the fruit, it had a soda minty taste. But only on first bite. While chewing it tasted sweet and... too soon finished. When I returned to my hometown, I made a deep examination on the raspberries at my favorite juice vendor. I looked on the label "raspberry", looked again into the box, looked back on the label... why do these raspberries look, and taste, entirely different than the ones I had in Krasnoyarsk??

Let me quote again from Wikipedia:
The most common dacha fruits in cool temperate regions of Russia are apple, blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry, raspberry and strawberry (sometimes also sour cherry, downy cherry, plum, pear, sea-buckthorn, Actinidia kolomikta, black chokeberry, serviceberry, sweetberry honeysuckle, blackberry and grape, but many of them are either rare or not hardy enough and require winter protection). Popular vegetables and herbs are potato, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin, tomato, carrot, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, turnip, onion, garlic, dill, parsley, rhubarb and sorrel.

"Sonja, that's a sauna, like the one I talked about."

"Oh I see."

"She invites us to come in." Anatoliy interpreted again.

"Do I have to give her some money for this?" I whispered to Anatoliy as we walked cross her yard.

"Why should you pay? This is not included in the itinerary."

It didn't really answer my question, but whatsoever, the point is that I don't need to spend any extra money.

Standing by the door of the sauna, Anatoliy gave me a brief explanation of how the sauna works.

Done with the sauna, I proceeded with her beautiful garden. Click, click.

And another click, click.

As you might guess, these are y favorite of all. Because of the shape, and the color.

Before we left, I asked Anatoliy whether she would mind to have a picture with me. Again, she shrug up her shoulder like when I asked if I may take pictures of her sauna. Does she mean "da" or "net"? I think it meant "Why not?" But this time she seemed feeling awkward about herself. She took her spectacles off, and on the contrary, she was like, "Are you sure you want to have a picture with meee??"

Although it was just such a short visit, it would be for me, a memory of Russia I'll cherish forever. It's something that no travel agency can provide. It's something that I can say, "I have been to Russia."

We continued our way back to Anatoliy's dacha. Anatoliy told me that Micha had text messaged him: Lunch is ready.

And yet, I still stopped at every dacha for a click. "This one is cool," I told Anatoliy. "Red house on blue and white sky, just like the Russian flag." (In reality the sky was much bluer than this photo.)

Anatoliy laughed. Maybe he was trying to remember what dream did he had last night. Mimpi apa gue semalem ketemu turis kayak gini. On next post I will show you a set of my photos of the wild flowers. Said Anatoliy to me, "Watching you taking pictures of those flowers makes me realize that they are actually beautiful. I never noticed that."

When we finally arrived, the grill had been long standing idle. Actually I had wanted to take pictures of Micha doing our barbeque. But oh well, in life you cannot always have everything you want, can you?

Bon appetit, Sonja!! Blini! Turkey! It was my first time to taste turkey meat.

Spasibo, Micha!! Spasibo, Anatoliy!! You guys, too, I will never forget.

Anatoliy took a rest on a hammock which he said he had prepared for me. I continued taking pictures of the wild flowers on his untended garden and on his neighbor's.

Posted by automidori 20:32 Archived in Russia Tagged food nature flower russia bear dacha taiga krasnoyarsk blini sibtourguide

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