26 June 2014

A Russian Summer

Unexpected Seasons

Winters are long around St Petersburg but less severe than in parts of the United States.  Pushkin wrote about the beauty of autumn in our city area but the current climate is usually rainy, and cold.

We hope for good May weather, but spring is often cold and wet. This year both our village and St Petersburg had several hot May days, then raw weather two weeks before summer began on June 21.  June’s cold days and nights have been unusually severe, making for an even shorter growing season.

Larissa planted with an astrology gardening calendar around June 10.  Europeans talk of summer starting June 1, but this year we see no sign of continual warm weather until July.  What’s hopeful is that the nights are getting warmer, from lows of 1 to 5 C to 10 C and better.

An Unwanted Adventure

The Ostashkov to Peno road, on the way to Zaloze, is atrocious... one lane each way with no dividers and bad shoulders which people drive at dangerous speeds.  Our driver, Dima, wears racing gloves which provide a lugubrious contrast to his old Lada with broken  suspension. 

He seems always pressed for time.  In Russia, it’s customary that the man passenger sits up front, the woman in back.  I dreaded this ride but we could find no one else to take us.  

Halfway to Peno, we were racing in the rain, passing cars and trucks on curves, careening along patchy macadam. The car was shuddering over pot holes.   He ignored the first request to take it easy.  I’m known as a quiet foreigner, but then I screamed in two languages to slow down... and added what I thought of him.  It was hard to tell if he adjusted his driving, but he seemed to become afraid of me, as he kept glancing my way.

Our banya, Peno supermarkets, and mobile grocery stores...

The other day we lit the fire in our banya for the first time this summer.  Now at 71, my love of novelty and adventure are replaced with a wish for simple comfort.  We have a solar shower waiting a few hot days to make it ready, but for Larissa and most Russians, the banya with its many steps, is an essential part of their being.  Larissa noted that we had plenty of hot water, so she invited the people across the way to use the banya when we were finished.  Their grandson, a youngster, was delighted with the old fashioned structure and the splashing of water!

Peno, southeast of us, is changing.  Passenger trains no longer stop there.  But there is a commercial revolution... three supermarkets have opened since a year or so ago.  Larisa found lettuce for sale... the first time we have been able to buy it while on vacation in ten years!

On Tuesdays Lena arrives from Zabelino, the simple town next to us, where she runs the government grocery store.  She has an old truck autolavka from which she sells basic supplies, the best grey bread, and newspapers. We also have two privately owned autolavka stores...  Nadia on Wednesdays and Natasha on Saturdays, with a refrigerator that allows for the sale of a range of perishables, besides the usual canned foods and packaged products.    Now we are well fed, expecting better weather, and staying warm by our wood fired stove.  Stop by for salad and supper!

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