For many it seems absurd to even place the words ‘Russia’ and ‘summer’ in the same sentence. The scary-Russian-winter-lasting-all-year-long stereotype still persists in the Western world. However, this is so not true. I often encounter people that look at me as if I was a complete nutcase when I try to explain to them that it does, indeed, get hotter than 30 Celsius in Russian summers….. And even if it didn’t, who said there was something wrong with a stable 25 degrees? This is of course, not taking into account the tragic summer of 2010, when Russia faced drought, unusual heat, and raging fires.
In reality, summer is the short and sweet release from the interminable cocoon of Russia’s winters. It is the perfect time for trading wool coats and heavy boots for bathing suits and sandals, displaying the Russian soul hidden beneath all those layers of clothes. This is when city people start heading to the very well known dachas, or summer houses, which becomes the ideal opportunity to connect with nature and each other, since escaping busy city life and over-heated asphalt is the dream of any Muscovite. Likewise, the dacha becomes the number one topic amongst people as the dacha season approaches in May. Starting from May, the expectations become only more intense. Russians are so eager to exchange their apartments for a small house with a yard. Once at the dacha, it wouldn’t be long before the Muscovite indulges the “inner peasant” living within him. Working in the garden, planting vegetables, and burning weeds, are just some of the activities both men and women partake in. Some take up permanent residence in summer, others visit from the city on weekends, while those who live near their dachas go on a daily basis.
When I visited Russia after many years of absence, I paid a small visit to a typical dacha-village. The whole thing looked like a 50’s movie set. The small, colorful wooden houses located nearby an epic forest, pond, or simply a prairie, seemed to me as something taken out of a novel, a movie.
I immediately started picturing myself different scenarios that could possibly take place in such a place. I imagined slipping into a 50’s polka dot short summer dress, pampering my lips with a touch of red, grabbing a basket, and heading to woods to collect wild berries. I may have stumbled upon a young country man and submerged myself into the indecency and passion of a forbidden summer love. Such scenarios came to my mind, because the environment smells of adventure, mystery, and childhood dreams. Dachas is where children play hide and seek, discover the deep woods, play scavenger hunt, make new friends, act silly, steal strawberries from their neighbor’s garden, and sneak into abandoned houses. Or at least, so it seems to me. Other than that, there are the typical feasts, close friends, vodka, and an abundance of food.