As I'm sure most of you know, Russians love their dachas. For those who aren't in the know, the dacha is like a summer house where Russians go on the weekend for some R&R.
Like most real estate, dachas can range from super lux to rural homeless crack-den (you'll mostly be enjoying the latter).
While most Russians love their dacha visits, I can't say I'm the biggest fan in the world, maybe it's because I'm too much of a rouge city slicker, maybe it's because I like my toilets to be inside the house - we'll never know
far too much outside going on here
I understand the need to get away from the city, the hassle, the stress and the daily squeeze-grope that is the metro. Hell, when I do go to dacha town, I actually enjoy the fresh air and the excellent night sleep, but damn! Getting to a dacha comes with its own stress, clean air be damned!
First, if you drive, you have to do special planning to avoid the traffic, except this never works because everyone has the exact same idea. So every Friday night you get to spend a nice few hours crawling your way down to the summer house surrounded by disgruntled, shitty drivers.
As an extra bonus, if you need to go anywhere by car on a Friday evening, you also get stuck in the dacha exodus, along with the usual zero-lube traffic chaos.
The more savvy might decide to depart on Saturday morning to avoid the aforementioned traffic, which is great, except you have to get up especially early to drive a few hours to the countryside, for like a day and a half.
Let the relaxation begin!
Sure, there is the elektrichka option, but the elektrichka is like metro rush hour on Chelyabinsk-grade steroids Waves of sadness and hundreds of commuters packed in shitty train with ruthless wooden seats. The sole consolidation? You might be lucky enough to get a seat on those unforgiving wooden seats.
Once you arrive at the dacha, things aren't so bad and can actually be fun. You can chill out and do something Russian like mushroom picking or cooking up shashlik - I'm not keen on mushrooms, but I'm all about the shashlik - the dish of manliness.
Dachas also make a good party and bone spot for teens too.
After relaxing and spending what feels like five minutes in the countryside it's like BOOM! Time to go home again - another weekend gone and time bend over for a fresh soul-crushing week of taking it in the ass from an apparatchik boss who got the job because he is someone's friend or relative.
As for getting back to the city, you have the same choices as before: either a painful crawl back in traffic on Sunday evening, or, a sweet 5am start on Monday. I often hear colleagues in summer complaining how tired they are after getting up at 5 to come back from the dacha. While I kind of feel their pain, they sing the same song every week.
It's like saying, oh, I delivered yet another uppercut to my nuts today and now I'm in agony.
Welcome to the weekly uppercut
To benefit from that tranquil, relaxing dacha action, you first need to grind through hours of stress, to spend maybe a day and a half breathing in the country air, before getting catapulted back into the city.
I would maybe visit the dacha once a month, but every week got way to tiring for me - it was like there was huge pressure to go to the dacha every weekend. Since I grew up in the UK with a garden, I suppose I just got my fill of greenery and outside time growing up.
These days, I'll make a trip down to the Tula region every couple of months. I quite like it down there, but the drive, as I've tweeted before, brings me close to a rage crime every time. I feel like the main character from a little-known TV show called Stressed Eric that I used to watch.
Of course, if you're single and have Russian friends, the dacha party is usually a really good time. Food, booze and hooking up with ladies galore - it can get very Rome-esque down at the dacha and comes highly recommended.
Sadly, I was only ever at one such dacha extravaganza (I wrote about it a couple of years ago here and I didn't get into too much detail, but I was fun).
No, my wild dacha days are over. These days my dacha time is spent making sure the cat doesn't scratch out our chihuahua's adorable eyeballs.
I seriously advise any expat to try the dacha if they haven't before, just not every weekend!