A Swiss in Petersburg – enjoying the hospitality at the datscha

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The gate opens, and I am in a small paradise

On weekends, I am now a regular guest at the small and cosy datscha of Larissa, tucked away in the forest. The garden is taken care of by mum. There are hydrangea and lillies, and there are herbs, salad, red currant, black currant, strawberries, cucumbers and more.  A great Karma to own this paradise, and this is also the name of the cat.

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This village is also a skiing resort

Larissa loves skiing, and many of her friends are alpine skiers (горнолыжники). Skiing here, where I can see no mountains? I can hardly believe this. But Larissa’s favorite photo shows her as an excellent carver. It must have been possible to acquire these skills here somewhere. And, true, there is a valley nearby with ski lifts that are open until May. Alexander has founded the golden valley  and managed it for many years. Now his daughter has taken over.

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Cosy evenings with excellent Russian food 

Larissa and her mum make sure that I can enjoy all the specialties that Russian cooking offers, be it сырники (hot cheese), пироги (pies with blueberries or mushrooms), marinated  mushrooms, вареники (dumplings with blueberries) and more. I particularly liked the blueberry dumplings, and on my plate there was one without blueberries… “this will bring you luck”, Larissa says. This empty вареника is called  пустышка (it is “empty” or пустая). Later I hear that sometimes there was not enough filling for all the dumplings, and this is why the Russians invented the empty dumplings that bring luck –  a nice idea!

One evening, Larissa prepared a lovely шашлик (Schaschlik) barbecued in the garden, while it was pouring with rain. With this Schaschlik, we shared a tasty, dense Zinfandel from California (The Prisoner 2011) that reminded me of dried plums. A Russian-American marriage that I enjoyed much.

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Стихи or poems, a Russian tradition

One evening, Larissa and her mum surprise me with Russian poems. I am just always surprised, how many poems Russians can cite by heart, without having to stop and think. I already admired my Russian teacher and friend Anna that had grown up in former Leningrad, when she shared poems with friends at her parties. And here the same, Larissa and her mum do not stop… this is a short example – it is more a fun poem, but there were many, many longer poems starting with Puschkin and ending with modern poetists.

чижик пыжик
где ты был
на фонтанке вод(к)у пил
выпил рюмку, выпил две
закружилось в голове.
Fluffy siskin (in German: Zeisig)
where have you been.
At the Fontanka you drank water (or wodka),
you drank one glass, you drank two,
everything now turns in your head.
(This siskin is actually a tiny statue that brings luck to those that throw a coin at it).
Yes, thank you, Larissa and Tamara, for your hospitality, and I hope that I can soon give back this hospitality in Switzerland.

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