This spring we made some new friends with a boy in Natalia's grade. They invited us to visit their dacha and it was charming! Here are some of the cottages in their village. I LOVE old traditional Russian windows... The carved frames look like elaborate lace...
Here are the kids after a day of running around outside. Behind them is a little cottage that has a Russian banya (sauna) inside it; it's GREAT! The first time I went there, it was just three of us adult girlfriends and no kids; we had such a nice time cooking ourselves and then cooling off!
A definite highlight of going to visit them at their dacha is seeing my friend's mom and dad; they are so interesting and kind. Babushka is passionate about her garden, growing almost everything we ate. Her kompot (a concentrated drink made from fruit, in this case cherries) was the best I've ever had. Natalia enjoyed helping her out, and gathering scraps to feed the rabbits.
Dedushka (Grandpa) was not to be outdone by his lovely wife... He regaled us with... No, not programs on an old Soviet television set... But with HONEY and tales of beekeeping—and a tour of the bees he keeps inside repurposed items! Just check this out!
Isn' that NEAT??!
I also teach the little boy's older brother, and he told me how watching his grandpa's bees "on TV" is more interesting than an actual program any day!
We didn't just see a smorgasbord of old Soviet televisions... Grandpa also uses old refrigerators and freezers for his hives! He drills air holes in them and the bees stay comfortable in them all winter! Who would have known?!
Here's a more traditional spot for a hive. I had NO idea how fascinating beekeeping is until I met him. The honey was also INCREDIBLE. Knowing it was sweetened by the flowers around us made it taste even better.
One of the things we ate was "okroshka," a cold soup made of "little pieces" of boiled potato, radishes, green onion, boiled eggs, and sometimes cucumber and sausages and dill. You then add kvas (an actually delicious drink made from mildly fermented dark bread) as broth—or kefir, a yogurt-like tangy drink. Frankly, you either like okroshka or you don't. When made with top-notch ingredients, it's actually delicious, especially on a very hot day.
Natalia ended up staying there on her own for three days later in the month. She had the best time being on her own and getting a little break from us in Moscow... She helped Grandma in the garden, tended the rabbits, played with her friend, entertained my friend's granddaughter (Natalia's classmate has a much older sister, too), and learned to ride a bike... She was in NO rush to come home when Katya and I went to fetch her.
We brought her the girls' old play tea set and she loved it :-) What an adorable and sweet baby!
Dachas are super and such an integral part of Russian culture, but I don't know how Russians cope with the massive traffic you have to battle to get to—and home from them. Our friends' place is about an hour and a half outside of Moscow, but it has taken me up to 4 hours to make trip. Once you're there, you are SO glad to be outside of the city, and yet... I don't think I could pull it off on a regular basis. Weekends are also when we get stuff done around the house and run some errands...