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AROUND MOSCOW  - summer 2000

Moscow region, June-August, 2000

    On a summer weekend Moscow looks deserted. City residents leave Moscow since Friday afternoon, by cars, buses, local trains. This outwards movement is universal, while the transportation and destinations of course depend on the wealth. The richest relax on their way out of Moscow on the back seats of luxury cars; the moderately successful now or before drive their cars and only the model and the year of build can tell how fresh and strong has been the luck.
Rails lead out of Moscow
Others, hardly the majority anymore, take the crowded trains. Destinations for the millions of people have all the same confusing name, dacha. But the meaning of the word is seriously different depending on who use it.

For some, a dacha is a tiny shack in the middle of small vegetable garden where every square inch is used to produce something eatable and storable for the coming fall and winter. For others, it is a huge cottage surrounded by lawns, flowerbeds, and other masterpieces of landscape architects...

Entrance to the dacha
For most Muscovites it is a relatively small, of two or three rooms, house sitting on a patch of land of six sotok (approximately 0.15 acres) - this size was an official standard for "garden land" allowed for a dweller of a Soviet city or town to rent from the Soviet State, the ultimate land owner. Even now the popular newspaper for dacha owners is called "Six Sotok", this area associated for the masses with a dacha patch of land.

This story is the third one about dachas in my Moscow Live sequel. The first one was published here in 1995, and explains what dacha is, why is it so important for Russians, what is often confusing about dacha for a foreigner. If you compare the first photo in that posting and the one on the left in the current story, you won't find much difference. Five years is not a very long time for a relatively mature dacha. Some trees and bushes may become taller and thicker, but that's it.

If you are interested in more basic explanations of entire dacha concept, please refer to that my first story here.

The next one was published two years later, in 1997. There are more pictures and some explanations of what happens to traditional dacha in the new Russia.

   This time I am too lazy (after having just finished a huge piece about summer in the city published here a few days ago) to explain or discuss concepts, ideas, or fundamental trends. Here is just a photo album of my bike trips this summer of 2000 to the dacha and around.
Tiger lily at the dacha Flokses Carnation Red currant is ripe


Wow, their name I do not know ;-) Even in Russian
Anothr view at the dacha house

   Of course, as always, dacha means flowers and berries. Tiger lilies or red currant, or lots of other plants that I did not take the photo of this summer. Walking or driving through dacha villages one can see that over recent years they are getting more pretty. Partly, it's commercial: dacha owners who grow plants for sale, have learned that growing popular flowers may be very cost effective. On the other hand, some relatively well paid dacha owners do not consider their vegetable garden at the dacha as the major food supply - and instead of growing edible plants start having fun - making lawns, growing flowers, decorating their land instead of just milking it.

As always in my stories here, you can zoom in on any picture. Just click on an image and a larger and better quality photo will open. Many of the photos are worth looking at in postcard size.
Marina is fixing her bike
Me in the fields

For me, dacha remains a good starting point for weekend bike trips. I do not like to work on land, and agriculture has never been my idea of spending spare time. So, I prefer to ride the bike on trails and roads around the dacha, sometimes alone, sometimes in good company. Marina, our daughter, obviously also likes bikes ride - and even likes to take care of her own bike.

Biking is getting more and more popular among Muscovites. Along with expensive bike shops, large bike markets in the open air appeared in many locations all over the city. Several years ago people in the train and on a highway shoulder were looking surprised when saw me on a bike with "unusually" thick tires. Now all sorts of genuine mountain bikes and their less expensive clones fill the trails and roads around Moscow - and Moscow streets and parks as well. Of course we have a long way to go before we reach the concentration of bikes typical for Beijing or Amsterdam. But the progress is fast and direction is right.

wild strawberry in the forest Wild meadow daisy Old sand mines now offer beautiful slopes A village church

Last year I posted here on Moscow Life a story about A107, my favorite road for biking. It offers clean forests, low car traffic and very few trucks, plus the opportunity to visit some weird remnants of former military bases (pictures of them you will see if follow the link a few lines above). This year I was exploring A107 again and small roads around it too. Restored churches or fragrant meadows hide behind curves of the winding asphalt ribbons, and every view is spectacular - memory cards of my camera are usually full when I get back home.

A107 on Saturday afternoon A church half-restored Russian meadow - it smells of paradise


Sunflowers and we
Uexpected view
   But sometimes the scenery that opens is really unexpected. Corn or cabbage or potatoes are traditional for the fields around Moscow. But sunflowers? Not impossible but very rare. It was a nice surprise to see a large and bright field of them not too far from the dacha. Marina's was definitely looking like one of the flowers - now I know where do they find colors for this teenage fashion.

   Summer is almost over, life is getting on a city track. Stay tuned - I will try to catch up and post a few more stories here before the year ends.

Andrey - asebrant@online.ru

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