- Posted by: Elena Killiakova
- Category: Matryoshka’s diary
How do Russians spend the summer holidays?
Welcome to the new edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. This week we will tell you about the Russian summer (holiday) house – dacha.
What is a dacha?
Dachas are usually located in the countryside, often in picturesque areas, near a lake or river. While for many Russian families, dacha is a place to unwind and have a great time, for some other people a dacha is their little farm where they grow different vegetables, fruit, and berries which will then feed the whole family in winter.
My memories of going to a dacha as a child.
My family did not have a traditional dacha but we had a wooden house on the outskirts of the city where we had a little “ogorod” (a vegetable garden), banya, and a dog that “kept an eye” on the house when we were not there. Since it was so close to our main residence, in summer we would spend weekends there and would occasionally go there during the week after my parents finished work. I would play with the puppies (we seemed to always have a bunch of cute puppies there!) while my parents looked after the garden. As I got older, I would help my parents to look after the garden, but for me it was a place where I could play and run around.
What do Russian people grow there?
It really depends on how big your plot of land is and how hard you are prepared to work. It is not in our culture to hire someone (like a gardener) to do work for you at your dacha (unless you are a celebrity of something!), so if you are not prepared to do any work (actually a lot of work), you would more likely just grow some greens (salad leaves and herbs), some basic veggies (tomato, cucumbers, and capsicums), and some berries (strawberries, black current, and cherries) if the climate allows.
For retirees it is very common to have big plots of land where they grow pumpkin, potato, and other veggies that require lots of attention and that are hard work. It is not uncommon to also have some chickens there, too. It really varies depending on where your summer house is located and if you can get your neighbours to keep an eye on your house while you are away.
Dacha: a place to have fun
Dacha is a popular spot for socialising with your friends and family. It is very common to have a BBQ (shashlik), relax after a busy day in banya, or go mushroom picking! If you are lucky to have a lake or a river nearby, you can go for a swim or go fishing!
How popular are dachas among the younger the generation?
From my experience, not so much. The younger generation will use every opportunity to travel overseas instead of working hard at a dacha. However, if you have the means to afford a proper house in the suburban area and are prepared to commute for work to the city, it is not uncommon to have a small vegetable garden or a few fruit trees.
Do people live there 365 days a year?
Usually dachas are not suitable for living in a cold climate. They are usually built using materials that can’t keep you warm in winter (think about negative 30 or even lower!) so dacha is a very “seasonal hobby”. Depending on the climate and where in Russia your dacha is located, you would probably be there from May until October.
Pickling and more
Yes, we love pickling in Russia! This is our everything. Think about marinated hand-picked mushrooms, pickles (cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage are probably the most popular). Some people would also smoke or sun dry fish to be consumed later in the year. Hand-made jams and freshly squeezed juices are also popular.
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