Firstly, we went to our landlady (Roza)'s dacha. All Russians have some interesting obsession with living in the countryside, but also like the convenience of the city. This means almost every middle-aged person has both a city flat and a dacha, which they often build themselves from scratch or in kit form. I first discovered this strange country house phenomenon last year when I was in Russia and visited a dacha, which was extremely confusing since my knowledge of Russian was limited at best. I'm not sure if it's just a Russian tradition or what, perhaps other countries also partake in the two-houses-no-matter-how-poor-you-are craze. I dread to think how much petrol is used by Russians just going to their dachas (usually done several times a week, and they can be up to an hour or so from the city), but I expect it's a lot. This is Russia, though, and they seem to still believe their resources are limitless. Roza's dacha has been built from scratch by her husband, Vanya, who is a bit of a Jack of all trades... It has so far taken them ten years, and it seems likely at this rate that they'll still be adding to it in another ten years. It's definitely still a 'work in progress', and they actually live in a small wagon when they're there. I admire their determination in building their dream house, but it does seem a little excessive.
So we left for the dacha on Wednesday morning, after Roza had told us the traffic would be better during the week so skiving school was a good plan. A 40-minute-ish drive later and we arrived at their 'village'... The first thing that struck me (and Maddy, too) was how strange all the houses looked. They really looked like they'd popped straight out of the computer game 'The Sims' - all very strange designs, many covered in plastic fascias as though they were bought flat-pack in Ikea or something. I loved it, and decided I'd enjoy building the life-size plastic wendyhouse of my dreams if I had the chance. After stopping off at the local supermarket to buy some privisions, including a big yummy cake, Roza drove us to her house. It was in a great location, right near the coast with a nice view of the Gulf of Finland (though it was extremely misty on the day so we couldn't see very far), and I was impressed :) We sat and had tea and cake in the wagon, along with Roza's pet terrapin, who I inadvertently scared with my camera flash, before looking around the half-built dacha then going for a walk around the village. Roza is extremely similar to me in a couple of ways. The first way is our shared love of shopping (she calls me шопаголик 2 - shopaholic 2, her being number one), and the second is the fact we're both rather nosy. Wandering round the village examining everyone's houses was lovely, and Roza's commentary was entertaining - "This is a very old house - take a picture!", "A very rich old lady lives here, all on her own!", "Look at this stream, this is where the poo goes into the sea... The Finnish people don't like it," were some typical examples.
A good time was had by all, and we headed back to the city in the afternoon after a nice day of fresh air in the country. Here are some pictures to accompany my dacha story:
(Top Left: Roza's dacha; Top Right: The quality toilet facilities on offer at said dacha; Bottom: A very misty view out to the Gulf of Finland.)
The next notable event of recent days was going out on Friday night. Everyone decided to go on a huge school night out to Club Griboedov, which was handy as I can see it from my bedroom window, it's extraordinarily close, though before Friday I'd never actually been there. We started with drinks in Fidel, where I had a couple of 'cocktail Natasha's, my usual drink in Fidel. I'm not 100% sure what's in them, but they definitely contain a lot of vodka and some grenadine, and they're pretty tasty. We met a couple of German tourists in the bar and chatted to them, and they joined us for the evening. They were pretty fun guys, and had just arrived in Petersburg for the first time ever that day, so we were keen to show them a good time. We moved on to Barbara for one drink, then ran for the last metro to the club. We literally did run, by the way, which was hilarious and embarrassing, but we made it on to the last train of the night with 4 minutes to spare. The club wasn't bad, it's housed in a nuclear bomb shelter which is underground, but has an upstairs terrace and glass-walled bar. It was actually the coolest place I've been to since I got here, though it was a little pricey. I treated myself to a 'white Russian' cocktail even though it was a bit expensive, as it was the first time I'd actually seen one for sale in Russia, and it's my favourite cocktail back home... I had a good night all in all, and there were many drunken foreigners knocking about the club, so much so that I can't even remember overhearing any conversations in Russian - only English. I was yet again hungover on Saturday, even though I've quit the horrible pikey cocktails-in-cans, opting for the more traditional drink of vodka. My body couldn't even handle that! I am a rubbish drinker.
I didn't do a lot over the weekend, only a big shop in Auchan (still my favourite supermarket) and watched a few films. I watched 'Stalker', a Russian classic by Andrei Tarkovsky, though I think it needs another watch as it made little to no sense. Then again, I think that was supposed to be the point. Hmm. Yesterday I went to Mega (huge shopping mall) once again, with my friends Pippa and George, though managed to refrain from buying anything. I do need to go back later in the week to buy myself some new jeans, though, as my current pairs are getting very worn out. Bah. We found something extremely cool at Mega - a huge матрёшка (Russian doll) made of Lego, and here is a picture of me next to it:
Anyway, I apologise as always for the lengthy blog post... I don't even know who reads this anymore! It's sort of like a diary, though, it'll be nice to read over it again myself when I've forgotten bits of my year abroad!