Sunday, July 19, 2015

How fun is life in the Dacha with good neighbours!

The IRS (in residence snake) at AS' dacha!
Don't say it ain't cool.
I'm not a great expert, but it looks like a common European adder/viper

There is an antidote for its venom, but it's available only for locals and not for visitors. So, we heard a local physician advised intake of vodka in case of being bitten.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Dmitrov. 65k inhabitants. 65km north of Moscow. 1941 was under Nazi occupation. Little nice Kremlin.
See in Wikipedia's photos that till not long ago, the domes were black and now they are again covered in gold.


Country side north of Moscow

July 7

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Going Turuleca in Russia

Monday, July 6th
Another rest day and J is having enough of restive vacations.

NB is enjoying the yard, running around with the dog and fighting over sticks.
NS took him to the neighbor to see the 'turulecas' (i.e. the hens and cock for those of you who know nothing about turulecas). He got two eggs as a gift and had them at dinner.

Everyone paid a lot of attention to the baby and NB worked on finding is place around. In general he behaved amazingly with the baby, even if not very gently (mind you he is a very little boyish boy….)

In the late morning we went to the forest with NaB to pick mushrooms and wild berries (zemlyanika). We found little mushrooms as expected after Sunday (when everyone go out to pick'em), but it was enough for an amazing mushrooms with cream plate made by NaB.
The berries were the most amazing part for DUE (me…). They have by far the best smell I've ever smelled. Pretty amazing for such little fellows!

The woods were obviously plagued with mosquitoes and the terrible creatures bite through your shirt… in general, we survived them b/c of the tons of mosquito repellents J put on us all. I had to use a hat - the monsters tried to bite me in the head!
While you keep moving it isn't terrible (the girls said that it can be much worst in other areas) - however, when you stop for picking berries and stay in the same place for more than a few seconds you become a target.
Philosophical take outs:
  1. When you enter the woods….mind the mosquitoes and not only the wolves
  2. The problem in the summer isn't always the temperature - geography makes a difference
  3. Always keep moving
  4. It's better to be a moving target than a stationary one
  5. If you are big you can still be bitten
  6. If you don't want the mosquitoes to bite you, you must keep moving even if you are bigger than them
  7. And so on….
Now, go tell that to big armies….

At the evening we took a stroll through  the nicer part of the village with NaB and baby, saw some old houses worth photographing and returned home, for chicken soup dinner and sleeping.

Btw, we are communicating with the world with modem netstick which is giving nice bandwidth (when there is no rain, b/c then the electricity immediately goes off in the whole village including cellular antennas).

When what makes you happy is a baby, a potato and a suitcase

Sunday - July 5
A rest day per se.

We stayed in the house, played in the yard and slept till late. NB set a hammock with grandpa, played a lot with the dog and ate a lot of berries from the garden. He picked vegetables from their small vegetables garden and for the first time (ever!) ate a potato. We were sure it is b/c the local potatoes are tastier than those at home, however grandma NS said that these are Israeli potatoes….

The great achievements of the day
  • We started thinking about where to go to around the village and after leaving the village
  • JB and NaB came from Moscow with the baby!
  • JB and NaB came from Moscow with our main suitcase!
Weather got a bit colder and there were two big showers during the day - during one of which grandpa got stuck in the produkti (grocery shop). He brought local strawberries for NB who enjoyed them a lot and very sweet kvas.

We finished the day with a bonfire at the backyard and given the light till 22:00 we didn't even pay attention how late it got. A quick shower (NB's feet were dark of mud), the regular drama around teeth brushing and off to bad!

We found that there is a nice historical city 30 something Km from here and aim at it tomorrow or the day later (Mon museum is closed and on Wed there is an inauguration with some local dances or something similar) - so we'll have to find what to do tomorrow and the day after.

Had an amazingly tasty (very sweet) homemade wine from Krasnodar's area (home of JB). The family says it's very similar to classic Russian (Kagor) wine. 

A Story About a Russian Spaniel and Sticks

Saturday, July 4th
Just now when writing this post, I realized that we missed the fact that it was the USA independency day.

This was a transit day.

We woke up, had breakfast we the family and enjoyed some quality time with SB the baby. JB gave us a short lift to the metro station on his way to work (yes….more Moscow traffic) and from there we got to the Elektrichka suburban train station.
  1. The train station was renovated and air conditioned
  2. Police people were nice and helped people who had problems with their tickets
  3. There was free Wifi
  4. We found ice cream
  5. 0.5L of Kozel tap beer (9ILS/$2.4)
  1. We had a lot of time to wait (not anyone's fault)
  2. There was nowhere to change money
  3. The near playground was private and had a guard assuring that only people related to the block use it. NB was upset

The train was rather new and with air conditioning everywhere - except for the cabin we picked…. So, after 15 minutes of ride we changed cabin and had to share our seats with other people….how terrible :-)
Notes to self:
  1. Never sit on the sunny side. It nulls the effect of the air-condition
  2. These trains don't have toilets…. Not good when you have a 2 hours ride with a 3 yrs old or other type of bladder sensitive humans
Even though NB didn't sleep for a moment, he managed the ride quite well, got his second ice cream today and played a lot with grandpa and the old lady that sat with them.

The got off the train in a train stop. It's a stop and not a station, because it's really a stop and nothing else. A quick phone call and a non-marked taxi picked us and took us to the dacha.
The house is a 1920's wood house that the family is slowly remodeling with a lot of self-made work and which will be amazing when finished. The yard is already amazing with berries of two types, various vegetables to pick and eat (cucumbers, green onion, parsley, courgettes), and it has its own 10 meters deep well. Heat, how water and cooking are gas based and water relies on electricity as it is being pumped from the well. The house was sold after its owners passed away and their daugher married a Norwaigean, which seems to be a trend mainly in northern parts of Russia (No, we are not going to get into political-correctness troubles trying to draw relative lines between Russian and Norwegian women even though we could have had attribute these opionions to local 3rd parties).

The village itself was built at the beginning of the 20 century around a dammed river which created a lake after which it is named: Zaprudnya (derived from the name of a lake made of a damed river).

A good word about the weather - it's been amazing. 23c or so during the day and 18c-19c at night.

NB was ecstatic to finally meet his soulmate - Sansanech, the 9yrs old family's Russian Spaniel. Emotion seems to be mutual. Over the next two days the two were engaged in a run and run interaction, fighting over sticks. Both of them like to accumulate sticks and are very strongly attached to theirs. The boy doesn't understand why the god is eating the sticks, and the dog doesn't understand why the boys accumulates/holds sticks without giving them to him. There were some incidents of a child shouting at a dog and a dog jumping on a boy trying to get a stick. All in all it seems both sides are enjoying the relationship as they are coming back for more. 

We arrived to the village around 14:00 and after a noon nap walked down to the lake were NB and grandpa played and papa gave a ride over the lake on his back to an 'I'm very tired' type of boy …. I'm sure there were some reports on a new type of bald monster in the lake. The rise of a new legend!

On our way back we met the 'nice drunk-man' type (as it is known locally). They were sitting on the shore, at their 60's/70's and loudly discussing whether NB was a boy or a girl. They were very glad when J shouted at them back 'Malchik, malchik!'

We saw lots of classic wooden houses with wood decorations around the front facing windows. Neat!
The village looks peaceful even if not perfectly being taken care of.

We had a pilmeny mainly dinner and off to sleep. Too much traveling for two days…

Da, Moshna! (or how did we manage to get on vacations)

Friday - July 3rd
The morning started with a short verification call to Transaero TLV office
"Hebrew or English"
"Iivriit efshar" (I guess it's the liiteral translation of 'Ivrit Moshna')
"Our tickets say we can take 20Kg of luggage each. What's the maximum per luggage piece?"
"Haaa…with us there is no maximum weight per single piece. You can divide the way you want want the sum of your allowances"
"Thank you. Another question if I may - we have a new passport and the number on the ticket is of the old passport."
"Where are you going ? To Moscow only?"
"So, there is no problem. The number is not important"
"Thank you"
End of call. I guess she intended to say 'have a nice flight'.

As always, our vacation started with an exhausting week of tedious tasks that we had to finish before leaving and on top of that new tasks that kept popping as if someone was enjoying watching us running like rats in a lab's labyrinth.
After two consecutive nights with little sleep, we hopped into the taxi on our way to the airport.

The GetTaxi driver was chatty and once he heard we are flying to Russia he was quick to share with us his experiences from his Moscovite snobbish novorich family. It was a funny ride. +1 to GetTaxi and our driver. We also found out that if we order a GetTaxi ride before we take off back to Israel it's ok**. 

The security screening went swiftly and we approached the check-in counter after little queuing. NB insisted on holding his passport, which provoked the check-in lady to order J to take it from him 'because he will destroy it'…. - A Soviet touch some would say.
Later she got soft and preached us about how good it is to teach children different languages, tried to speak Spanish to NB not before declaring - "I'm Russian!" (well… actually no my dear. You are an Israeli who knows Russian from its parents…and manners god knows where from)
She liked us very much and the check-in went smooth too. Lucky us.

By that time, we already knew that the flight was being delayed by one hour, which meant we had more than three hours to enjoy at the airport. NB was (again) excited from the fountain, from the moving walking rails and was in general running all over the place. D tried to do the impossible and buy a music CD, but it was impossible - the 'sale' price was $18….WTF1: Didn't these people hear about digital music delivery?  iTunes anyone?  WTF2: Who pays them and how do they maintain their business?

Dead tired and with a child that needs to get his noon nap we found out that the main treat of the lounge in the airport is that it is significantly quieter than the main hall on a July Friday noon. An important observation about the lounge: they don't have hot cocoa - nor they have any games for children...  So, we had a blast convincing NB that the luggage carrying cars are sooooo exciting.

We finished that part of our day, with a quick boarding to the flight.
As we were waiting to board - a Hebrew speaking stewardess was hysterically shouting  with a teacher intonation "Mr. X and Mr Y, this is the last time we are calling you to board Alitalia flight no…. - the flight is going to take off without you and everyone are waiting for you"
We felt pretty happy not to have to meet that lady….

The seats on the plane were re-organized (more rows were added), so NB got lucky and got a view of the wings.
The space for the legs was the greatest we have ever seen in an economy class flight ever. Kudos to Transaero. Service was good, we got drinks several times, food arrived quickly  and NB slept half of the time. Rest of the time he found a buddy one row behind us and played who best roars like a lion.
In the little spare time we answered questions like "Como va el avion?" "With engines under the wings" "and how does engine work…" and so forth. I'm sure you got the idea.

We started getting the enjoyable part of the Russian experience when people let us skip the queue so that NB gets to the toilet. Another toilet related note: when you see people queuing for the toilet in TLV's airport lounge - don't wait with them, just try to open all the toilet doors - it's seems some people tend to queue even in front of empty toilets…

For the boys reading this post - the aircraft was a shiny new 737-800, that took off impressively quickly and also landed with a very short runway. It also cut a 1:50 hours delay to 0:50 by speeding up the flight.

We landed in an airport we never visited before. Vnukovo airport is renovated and all the operation was very efficient. Stuff and border police were nice and by the time we arrive  to the luggage picking area our suitcases were already there. Nice!

The family picked us up for a short ride on the rush hour of Moscow (rush hour is from 8:00am to 22:00) and it took us about a hour to get home. We got a glimpse on the cutest new baby. Later we had a great Russian Sushi*** meal (Nubi was the happiest on earth to have Kasha\buckwheat) and plummeted asleep.

That was our first yellow day in Russia 2015. Spakoyney Nochi.

* There are WiFi networks everywhere in Moscow. And by far, there are more open networks than in West Europe (even if it means there is only one open WiFi…). In the Metro there is free WiFi courtesy of the Metro company if you just mind to share with them your country of origin and phone number.
** Regulations say  you cannot order a pickup from Ben Gurion airport from a company other than the one working with the airport. There was a big fight about it with GetTaxi and it seems they've found a way to circumvent it.
*** Russian Sushi has some variations and combinations not seen at home. Very thick rolls with lots of cream cheese and smoked/baked fishes