A part of Eastern European hospitality may include a weekend trip to the dacha. If you choose to accept an invitation to a dacha from new friends, be aware that you will be experiencing a very special aspect of Eastern European Culture!
What Is a Dacha?:
A dacha is, literally, a summer cottage. Eastern Europeans from the city often flock to the countryside to their dachas, where they tend vegetable gardens, renew their closeness with nature, and escape the cramped quarters of their apartments. As many generations often live together, so will they all go to the dacha together.
How You Will Get There:
If the family owns a car, that is the preferred mode of transport, since it also allows the easy transfer of provisions. It is also possible that the dacha will be close enough to the city proper that a bus line will go there. In that case, prepare to carry supplies. Also common are electric trains, called electriki.
What You Will Do There:
As a guest, your main task will be to relax and enjoy. But your hosts will welcome your hand in the garden or in the kitchen, where canning often takes place. In the evenings, someone will probably break out a guitar and a bottle of liquor. You can also expect plenty to eat, a fire if its chilly, long, pleasant walks, or even a swim. At night, youll be able to see a sky free from light pollution and full of stars.
Some dachas have banyas, or saunas as we know them. Dachas may not have running water, so this is the main way in which you may wash during your stay. After sitting in the hot steam, it may be possible to jump into a nearby lake or pond. Every element of the banya is invigorating, so enjoy!
Dachas first became popular after WWII, when food shortages necessitated independent farming. Dachas also satisfied the need to be close to naturean element that is an integral part of the Eastern European psyche. At first, people built on the land that was most convenient for them, with no legal entitlement. Now, as rights are granted to people who have been using the same land for decades, the dachas have become a part of many family traditions.
If You Go To the Dacha:
You will have been welcomed into this family tradition, and no doubt you will be treated as family. Not only that, but youll learn somethingabout Eastern European country life, about hospitality, and probably a little about gardening, too!