Quite literary, we did actually have to go over a river and through a small patch of woods to get to this Dacha. The river part is not too difficult to come upon, considering Astrakhan is in the middle of a delta. The hardest part, is that every stream or river has a different name, and the Russians seem to expect me to remember these things. “You went to the dacha? it was on a river? what river?” “uhhh. um. uh. a river that’s not the Volga?” “what about river so-and-so?!” “yeahhhh, that’s the one.” (insert smiley face that looks super confused)
During my time in Piter last year, I never really a had a good, real Russian dacha experience. Thus, when my colleague Valya invited to me to her dacha on Sunday I was very excited. Another one of our colleagues Lena picked me up; we stopped for juice and drove about a half hour outside the city. Valya’s dacha is huge and resembles a legitimate house. In fact, she said they recently remodeled it to suit a livable abode, as her parents live there almost year round. We first had tea and chatted a bit. Well they did most of the chatting and I just tried to take part when I could
Another colleague of ours, also Lena, arrived shortly after and we got ready to go boating. And by boating I mean the this cute little row-boat (see exhibit to the left) situated on a small river. Mind you, there are four of us girls, and it’s a row-boat. Well the smallest of all of us chicas, Lena, decides she’s going to row the boat – by herself. Our outbound trip consisted of Lena rowing, unknowingly turning us towards shore, while the other Lena would frequently ‘step-in’ to straighten us in the right direction. Meanwhile, Valya and I just sort of relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Needless to say, we were laughing quite a bit.
The goal of taking out the boat was to show me the Lotus flowers. I really knew nothing about them. I mean, you can say that, and I think of Radiohead’s newest single (which is also amazing!). But Astrakhanians take pride in what they have, and these flower are prized possession. My roommate has a few dried up ones on her kitchen table. I’m sure they symbolize something, but what that something is I have yet to find out. However, on the river Valya picked an unopened flower, and checked to see if there were seeds on the inside. Supposedly if you eat them, they are good for something that we couldn’t translate related to men. Yup; but there were no seeds.
We were the only boat on this small river; a calm sunny day; Lotus flowers on one side, and some tall river grass on the other. It was quite relaxing and very beautiful.
After moseying through the lotuses for a bit, and unsuccessfully tried to row to a mushroom field, we decided to head back. Besides, a grill out was awaiting us! The venture back felt like forever, mainly because we weren’t the greatest oar navigators… being women and such. Essentially, we sat about two feet from the dock for a half hour because we got stuck in the seaweed that surrounds the dock. Eventually Valya’s brother came to the rescue.
We then helped prepare the table for dinner, which consisted of two types of Sashliks, both chicken and beef, as well as grilled vegetables; a fresh vegetable salad; eggplant caviar, homemade by Valya’s grandma; fresh plums which I got the honor of picking off their plum-tree; and a variety of juices. Everything was super tasty and the products were so fresh, most of them grown there at Valya’s dacha.
Why have I been missing out on this wonderful dacha experience for so long?!