Going to the country

elektrichka-in-snowy-countrySmothered by the cold mucus of Petersburg’s wet winter weather, we retreated to the country for the weekend.  There we found the real Russian winter.

We rented a dacha near Myulepelto, a small town far enough north of Petersburg to have a Finnish name.  From the elektrichka stop, we bounced through another 30 kilometers of snowed-in country lanes in a taxi van to reach our dacha, “The Golden Pheasant.”

Having discovered real Russian winter, we of course needed to experience the Russian answer to its unforgiving cold — the banya.  Imagine a sauna, only hotter, hot enough to fry an egg on its wooden benches, and wetter, too, thanks to the generous helpings of water ladled on to draw ever more heat from its growling stove.

When the steam and heat have finally reduced you to a blabbering, boneless bag of slowly vibrating internal organs, they carry in the bundles of birch branches and beat your senseless skin.  Then it’s back out into the snow to cool down …

We spent a great weekend at the dacha, the only moment of real stress coming on Sunday, when the blizzard outside made it unclear whether we would make it back to civilization.  Considering our dwindling stock of Russian hot dog-style sausages, such a turn of events could have put us through that other famous element of the Russian winter: starvation.  Luckily, our taxi arrived on time and somehow clawed its way back out of the land of snow …

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