Dear Blog Followers…..

I am in the process of transferring my blog to a new host – it is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning (Jan. 10) at 5 a.m. My apologies if you experience much downtime, but hopefully that will not be the case – should be done within a day or two! I look forward to bringing you more stories and images from Life in Russia as well as sharing my travels through parts of Russia and other former-Soviet countries! Also, if you have not yet, please check out the new Facebook page I created (finally!). I try to post photos and other things “Russia” there daily, as well as to Google+.

Cheers!

Lindsay

an old building on ulitsa Shvetsova, in the "Soviet" area of Saint Petersburg between metro stops Narvskaya and Avtovo.

an old building on ulitsa Shvetsova, in the “Soviet” area of Saint Petersburg between metro stops Narvskaya and Avtovo.

Russian white nights.

Troitskiy bridge.

The Russian winter is cold, dark, depressing and sometimes just downright brutal. Having arrived to Saint Petersburg at the end of January, 2011, my first taste of life in Russia was one of freezing cold temperatures, wet slippery streets and sidewalks, falling “killer” icicles (and ice flying off the roof tops), short days and very little sunshine. It’s no wonder that people from Saint Petersburg break out their bathing suits at the first sight of spring and go sunbathing at the beach by Peter and Paul fortress – snow still on the ground or not.

But then comes the longer days in April and May, and eventually comes the white nights in June, and it’s as if winter really wasn’t such a big deal. One goes from wanting to sleep all the time in winter to not being able to sleep at all in summer – from 11 a.m. sunrise and 4 p.m. sunset in winter to a 4 a.m. sunrise and 1 a.m. “sunset” in summer, which is more like a period of twilight. I remember talking to my landlady’s daughter as the white nights were approaching and she said, during white nights there is no place she would rather be than Saint Petersburg. It really is a magical time – people seem to come out of the woodwork and be out and about until all hours of the night. And then in June is the celebration of “Алые Паруса” – or Scarlett Sails, as shown in this older post of mine.

This past summer, it was so wonderful to be back in Piter for the white nights – it was like being home. Granted, it did make sleep a bit difficult, but it was no matter of concern – just draw the curtains tight and pretend like it’s night!

These photos are from the white nights this past summer. It will give you an idea of how incredibly stellar Saint Petersburg is this time of year. Although I also love the Russian winter and being able to sleep 12 hours if I need, there really is nothing like the white nights. The city comes to life. See for yourself! And please note – I’m pretty sure all these photos were taken between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., just to give you an idea.

Nevskiy Prospekt.

Nevsky Prospekt.

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a boat on the Fontanka.

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this is not far from where I lived - brings back fond memories.

this is not far from where I lived – brings back fond memories.

an older man riding his bicycle.

an older man riding his bicycle.

an artist - all packed up.

an artist – all packed up.

the circus building.

a young woman riding her bicycle.

a young woman riding her bicycle.

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some people fishing along the Fontanka.

some people fishing along the Fontanka.

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Belinskogo ulitsa (street).

Belinskogo ulitsa (street).

young woman on a scooter.

young woman on a scooter.

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an old lada on Liteynyy Prospekt.

an old lada on Liteynyy Prospekt.

Nekrasova ulitsa - very close to where I lived.

Nekrasova ulitsa – very close to where I lived.

Lebyazhya Kanavka around 2 a.m.

Lebyazhya Kanavka around 2 a.m.

Troitskiy Moct (Bridge) is up!

Troitskiy Moct (Bridge) is up!

an artist painting by Troitskiy bridge.

a young man painting by Troitskiy bridge.

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Troitskiy bridge.

a boat passing through the Troitskiy bridge.

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Dvortsovaya (palace) embankment.

Dvortsovaya (palace) embankment.

 

how it all began…..

Sean and I with Luba and her brothers and extended family.

A lot of people ask me why I chose to study in Russia – “Are you part Russian?” I am often asked. Well, no. I don’t have an ounce of Russian blood in my body – at least, not that I know of. But I did have a small history with Russia – in fact, it was the first international trip I ever made, back in 1999. You see, my father first traveled to Russia in 1991 – he arrived in Moscow on August 18th, just in time for the coup which brought an end to the Soviet Union. My dad arrived in the Soviet Union and got to see it the iron curtain fall.

That trip he made turned into more trips in later years. One family he met – in Seltso, Russia – had a little girl named Luba. She developed an interest in studying English, and so my father told her that when she was 15, if she wanted to come and live with our family in the States as an exchange student (so she coud help improve her English), we would be happy to have her live with us.

So, in 1999, Luba came to live with us and I traveled to Seltso (which is outside of Bryansk) in August, 1999 and stayed with her family for two weeks prior to her coming to live with my family in the US. At the time, I confess, I did not have much of an interest in Russian culture – in 1999, Russia was much poorer, having suffered a huge financial collapse in 1998. I was too accustomed to the modern conveniences of American life that at the time, I don’t think I could have seen myself living there in the future. Strangely enough, the things I didn’t get about Russia then, are the things I love now – the culture, the tough nature of the Russian people, the “backwardness” of daily life (which is only backward to a Westerner), the old Soviet era apartment buildings – these are all things I grew to understand more, appreciate and find interesting.

In 2010 when I was looking into Master’s Programs, I decided to see if there was a Russian Studies program IN Russia, as it made the most sense to me. That’s when I stumbled across the European University at Saint Petersburg and their programs for international students – it was a perfect fit for me and ended up being the course I chose.

So that’s how it all began. Which brings me to this past summer when I finally got to see Luba again, after almost 12 years, and was able to meet her new family for the first time. We made a stop in Bryansk on our way back to Saint Petersburg from Kiev.  Unfortunately, I do not have many photos from our trip to Bryansk and Seltso, as we were only visiting there for two days and were very busy throughout that time. But this will give everyone a tiny glimpse at our time with Luba and her family this past June. And hopefully we will see them again in the near future. Luba and her husband (Pasha) currently live in Bryansk, where Luba runs her own English language school. And she now has three beautiful children – she was pregnant with her third while we were there in June.

In the photos near the bottom, you will notice what was once a Young Pioneers Camp from the Soviet Union. Some of Luba’s family members (I believe it was family) bought the campground (in Bryansk Region) years ago and run a camp for youths there every summer. I found the campgrounds really interesting and the surrounding countryside was very beautiful.

Sean and I with Luba and her brothers and extended family.

Sean and I (in the middle) with Luba (on my left) and her siblings and extended family.

a young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery in Bryanks, Russia.

a young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery in Bryansk, Russia.

walking outside the Svensky Monastery; Bryansk.

walking outside the Svensky Monastery; Bryansk.

the exterior of the monastery.

the exterior of the monastery.

a building inside the monastery walls.

a building inside the monastery walls.

wish I had had my wide lens on for this one - whoops!

wish I had had my wide lens on for this one – whoops!

another young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery.

another young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery.

quintessential Russian window.

a quintessential Russian window.

Sean and I with Luba's family in Seltso, Russia.

Sean and I with Luba (far right) and her parents and some of her siblings; in Seltso, Russia.

in Seltso, Russia.

in Seltso, Russia.

Luba's parents' church in Seltso, Russia.

Luba’s parents’ church in Seltso, Russia.

the kitty, sitting outside the church in Seltso.

the kitty, sitting outside the church in Seltso – I love the way it’s looking at me :)

Seltso, Russia.

Luba’s parents’ neighborhood in Seltso, Russia.

the pond at the old Young Pioneers camp that Luba's family bought.

the pond at the old Young Pioneers Camp.

an old Soviet statue at the camp grounds.

an old Soviet statue at the camp grounds.

the camp.

at the camp grounds.

a stray dog with her puppy who lived at the camp grounds - they were both so adorable, I wanted to take them home with me.

a stray dog with her puppy who lived at the camp grounds – they were both so adorable, I wanted to take them home with me.

a statue from Soviet times of two children playing - at the camp grounds.

a statue from Soviet times of two children playing – at the camp grounds.

another old Soviet statue at the camp.

another old Soviet statue at the camp.

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an old mural painted on the wall of one of the buildings at the camp.

some gypsies we saw as we were leaving Seltso.

some gypsies we saw as we were leaving Seltso.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas to all! Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2011.

Dear Blog Followers,

I would like to take a moment to wish you all a very Merry (and Happy) Christmas! Thank you all for taking the time to read my thoughts and experiences and to see my photos of Russia and other former Soviet countries! Please stay tuned for new posts (very soon) and in the coming weeks, I will be expanding the blog to bring new tales of Russia and former Soviet countries :) You all rock and I wish you the very best, this season and always!

Cheers!

Lindsay Comer

Merry Christmas to all! - Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2011.

Merry Christmas to all! Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2011.

the New Year tree in the center of Murmansk, Russia, just after Christmas; this photo was taken at 11:30 a.m.

Murmansk, just after Christmas, 2011; this photo was taken at 11:30 a.m.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia; snowing in Red Square, just after New Year, 2012.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia; snowing in Red Square, just after New Year, 2012.

a day at Peterhof.

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Considering I’ve never actually dedicated a post to Peterhof, and also considering there was a blog reader who asked me about it recently, I decided it was high time I do a brief write-up and photo gallery from a day at Peterhof.

This past June when I was back in Saint Petersburg for a visit, I decided to go back to Peterhof for a day. I had been there two years previously, but the weather had not been as nice as this past June and I wanted to go get some photos of the park.

The park at Peterhof is famous for it’s Grand Palace and many fountains. Seriously – this place has a lot of fountains and the park is quite extensive. One of the things I love about some of the large parks surrounding the palaces outside of Petersburg is that you can seemingly walk forever in them and have a relaxing day in nature. One of the perks of the park at Peterhof is that it’s right on the Baltic Sea. In summertime, the park comes to life with tourists and locals alike.

I decided to take the Elektrichka (local train) to Peterhof and walk from the train station into town. You can also get there via Marshrutka (which is like a shared taxi or mini-bus), but it takes a bit longer. The park has an upper garden and a lower garden. The upper garden is free of charge and really quite lovely and peaceful. The lower park (where everyone goes to see the fountains), requires paid entry and is well worth it. You can take a picnic and make an entire day of it.

I won’t go much into detail, as I have many photos highlighting how lovely the park is (and I was also camera spying on lots of people there!) But I do want to provide this website for further information about the park and how to get there, in case you happen to be visiting St. Petersburg. Also, there are a few small fast food joints on the premise, so if you don’t want to bother bringing a lunch, there are other options.

Sometime in the future, I want to go back to the park at Peterhof in winter and photograph everything there in the snow……..

a man waiting on a train platform (while on my way to Peterhof).

a man waiting on a train platform (while on my way to Peterhof).

train platform - Novyy Petergof (New Peterhof).

train platform – Novyy Petergof (New Peterhof).

a woman with her son - approaching the center of town, Peterhof.

a woman with her son – approaching the center of town, Peterhof.

Russian cyrillic spelling of "Country Chicken".

Russian cyrillic spelling of “Country Chicken”.

the center of town - Peterhof.

the center of town – Peterhof.

two women tending the flower beds in Peterhof park.

two women tending the flower beds in Peterhof park.

in the upper park - Peterhof.

in the upper park – Peterhof.

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the woman with her umbrella.

the woman with her umbrella.

the upper park, Peterhof.

the upper park, Peterhof.

a little boy happily playing with the ducks in the fountain pool.

a little boy happily playing with the ducks in the fountain pool.

a young woman with her children in the lower park.

a young woman with her children in the lower park.

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a mother and daughter getting a photo taken with the people in costume.

a mother and daughter getting a photo taken with the people in costume.

the Grand palace and many fountains.

the Grand palace and many fountains.

a little girl sitting near a fountain.

a little girl sitting near a fountain.

the statue of Eve.

the statue of Eve.

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The Marli Palace.

The Marli Palace.

a bride and his groom.

a bride and his groom.

the circle trees along the hillside - one of my favorite images at Peterhof.

the circle trees along the hillside – one of my favorite images at Peterhof.

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The Marli Palace.

The Marli Palace.

the pool in front of the Marli Palace.

the pool in front of the Marli Palace.

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stairway on the hill.

stairway on the hill.

I love this view of the trees on the hillside with the brick wall below.

I love this view of the trees on the hillside with the brick wall below.

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a little boy in his stroller.

a little boy in his stroller.

the Hermitage Pavilion.

the Hermitage Pavilion.

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by far my favorite picture from Peterhof - the couple walking next to an iconic old Lada.

by far my favorite picture from Peterhof – the couple walking next to an iconic old Lada.

a couple embracing in the Baltic Sea.

a couple embracing in the Baltic Sea.

the little girl in her pink polka-dot dress and bonnet.

the little girl in her pink polka-dot dress and bonnet.

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all dolled up.

all dolled up.

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the Grand palace.

the Grand palace.

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more views of the Grand Palace.

more views of the Grand Palace.

newlyweds posing for a photo.

newlyweds posing for a photo.

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another statue and fountain.

another statue and fountain.

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among the dandelions.

among the dandelions.

peaceful Peterhof.

peaceful Peterhof.

fountain - in the middle of the maze.

fountain – in the middle of the maze.

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a little girl playing under a fountain.

a little girl playing under a fountain.

children playing near a fountain.

children playing near a fountain.

trying not to get wet!

trying not to get wet!

a little girl getting soaked playing near the water-squirting rose garden.

a little girl getting soaked playing near the water-squirting rose garden.

another palace (not sure of the name of this one).

another palace (not sure of the name of this one).

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The entrance to the lower gardens.

The entrance to the lower gardens.

the Church at the Grand Palace.

the Church at the Grand Palace.

the center of town, Peterhof.

the center of town, Peterhof.

the little elderly couple eating their ice cream cones on the train ride home :)

the little elderly couple eating their ice cream cones on the train ride home :)

more tales of train travel…..

Platz car bunks (third car)- on our train to Kiev.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly probably know by now that I am an avid fan of traveling by train when visiting Russia and other post-Soviet countries. I’m pretty comfortable on the train, as I traveled it a bit during the year I lived in Saint Petersburg, as well as my recent return visit and travels. I’ve been through the Baltic countries on the train, to the arctic circle and back (Murmansk), to Moscow, Kiev (Ukraine) and Bryansk, Russia. I’ve been kicked off a train in the middle of no-where Ukraine (politely) when I mistakenly purchased tickets that transited Belarus and I didn’t have a transit visa. I’ve experienced more stares at my American passport than I like to remember and had my ear talked off by people who want to know all about America and test my Russian. But then, these are some of my fondest memories and I’ve met some really kind and interesting people. This past trip was no exception.

Within one week’s time, I counted about 60 hours of bus and train travel that my husband and I endured traveling between Russian, Estonian and Ukrainian destinations and borders. And as usual, the train to and from Kiev lent some interesting observations. To get to Kiev from Saint Petersburg, you have to take a train to Moscow first and then go from there to Kiev (unless you want to spend the $150 on a transit visa and take a direct train through Belarus). The day prior to leaving for Moscow we had gone to Aseri, Estonia and back and did not get home until midnight, so we missed all the more affordable trains to Moscow for the following day and ended up on the Nevskiy Express – it was like luxury in comparison to what we were used to. Super fast, with air conditioning (very much welcomed!), comfortable seats, and a mini meal. We had a layover in Moscow before our train to Kiev and got on board sometime around 11 p.m. It was a 13 hour train ride to Kiev.

We opted to buy tickets for side car bunks, in the remaining seats (so we could actually get a top and bottom bunk with a table) and were located across two men who kept getting up to go smoke cigarettes together in the smoking compartment. I thought they were friends, but I later found out that they didn’t really know each other at all – seems they had just met on the train. As usual, our American passports drew some attention and the train car attendant made sure to give us extra consideration and made sure that we understood everything. Finally, we were able to get some sleep and woke early the next morning to the shuffling of bodies as passengers got off and new passengers got on. Sometime in the middle of the night, at one of our stops, I recall a seemingly “suspicious” person with a backpack being questioned – he was not on the train the morning when I woke up.

At one point, we had a long stop and all these money changers came on board – offering ruble to hryvnia exchange and Ukrainian mobile sim cards for sale. It was sometime in the morning when our neighbors awoke and started talking to us – one of the men was from the Ukraine and was on his way back home to visit friends (if my memory serves me correctly). The other man was originally from Uzbekistan, but lived in Moscow and was on his way to Kiev to get a car to import back into Russia and sell – that was his job. He talked to me for quite some time and was asking a lot of questions about what we did for work in America, why we were there, what different English words were for family members, etc. One thing that I found  interesting was that the Ukrainian man had been in the military and he was showing us pictures of he and his “comrades” in uniform – and he kept giving us things as a friendly gesture. First a bag of peanuts, then a pen (which we had needed to fill out our customs form), and then he gave us each an apple to eat. When I tried to offer him some snack as a nice gesture, he would refuse. It was really strange.

We continued to talk to these two men until we made our way into Kiev. And at one point, I was pulled aside by the attendant and asked another dozen questions – he basically wanted me to butter him up and write him a really nice message in the guest book, to show what a good job he was doing (and he was – one of the best attendants we’ve had). Unfortunately, I had left my dictionary behind – without it, my Russian writing & spelling would have been terrible (need to practice more!) So, I helped him dictate a message, which he wrote himself and I signed :)

When we reached Kiev, I’m afraid I offended the man from Uzbekistan when I refused us sharing a taxi with him, but I tried to explain to him that we needed to go purchase train tickets immediately before the train to Bryansk two days later sold out! And, as usual, purchasing train tickets means standing in a long line of people constantly trying to “hop” in front of you and get a better spot. So we parted ways and went about our business.

Two days later, after a long day of traveling to and from Chernobyl, we boarded a train to Bryansk, Russia early in the afternoon. The day was hot and the train was without air conditioning (bez konditsionera). Again, our foreign citizenship became a matter of entertainment for our bunk neighbors on board and the game of 20 questions began all over again – we shared our bunk with a Ukrainian man and his wife. She was Russian and they were traveling to Moscow, where she was from. This time, I ended up with a small container of spreadable cheese with walnuts as a gift from our bunk-mates :) And he gave me their phone number and said that if we were ever in Kiev again that we should call them and they would show us around the city.

When we were almost to Bryansk, crossing the Ukrainian/Russian border, another interesting thing took place. For those of you who are not aware, human trafficking is a big problem in this region of the world. When the border crossing guards came on board, a female guard picked up on a Ukrainian man somewhere in our car who was traveling with three young girls – I was trying to listen in on her conversation with another male guard on the train. She was questioning why he was traveling with three young girls and she seemed a bit nervous and concerned, not sure what should be done. Our train ended up being delayed for an hour at that crossing, as the guards checked various documentation, and we arrived in Bryansk late. I don’t know what they decided to do with the man and the three young girls (although I feel like they were taken off the train), but I was very proud of the female guard for noticing something so suspicious and trying to bring attention to it.

One of the things that really struck me again on these two particular train journeys, was how friendly Russian and Ukrainian people are to foreigners and what a genuine interest they have in learning about our culture and engaging in conversation. I confess, for me sometimes it is exhausting (with the constant translation and my lack of extensive vocabulary), but we always meet such interesting people and I am able to get a glimpse into their lives and see how they live. And you can see that life is very stressful. The past twenty-plus years has been a rough transition for many people in post-Soviet countries. If you ride the train often enough, you will get to see the many colors and characters of the population. People out on the platform selling anything and everything, little old babushkas carrying their livelihood on the train with them from one vending location to another. But I’m always amazed at the generosity and kind attitude towards us as foreigners. And I very much look forward to being back there again and riding the train – hopefully next time will be across Siberia!

I’m afraid I didn’t take as many photographs as I would have liked (and many of the ones I took are blurry as a result of the train/bus windows and movement, but…..) – I was so exhausted from all the travel that I kind of just forgot to take more photos. But, here is a tiny glimpse from the windows of the train and bus on our travels to Kiev, Chernobyl, Bryansk and Moscow.

countryside home somewhere along the train travels.

countryside home somewhere along the train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow.

woman selling her pastries at a long train stop on the way to Kiev (I believe it was either Bryansk or Suzemka).

woman selling her berries at a long train stop on the way to Kiev (I believe it was either Bryansk or Suzemka).

a woman selling stuffed animals at the long train stop (again, Bryansk or Suzemka).

a woman selling stuffed animals at the long train stop (again, Bryansk or Suzemka).

the woman selling her stuffed animals to two young men at the long train stop.

the woman selling her stuffed animals to two young men at the long train stop.

Platz car bunks (third car)- on our train to Kiev.

Platz car bunks (third class) – on our train to Kiev.

two female vendors talking on the platform (Bryansk or Suzemka)

two female vendors talking on the platform (Bryansk or Suzemka)

the zemlyaniki (small wild strawberries) I purchased from a woman vendor for my breakfast.

the zemlyaniki (small wild strawberries) I purchased from a woman vendor for my breakfast.

a woman sleeping on our train.

a woman sleeping on our train.

along the bus ride to Chernobyl.

along the bus ride to Chernobyl.

along the bus ride to Chernobyl.

along the bus ride to Chernobyl.

vendors on the side of the road; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

vendors on the side of the road; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

vendors on the side of the road; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

vendors on the side of the road; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

On the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

Children riding their bicycles; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

babushka walking on the sidewalk; on the bus ride home from Chernobyl.

A babushka walking on the sidewalk; on the bus ride home from Chernobyl.

more vendors on the side of the road; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

more vendors on the side of the road; on the bus on the way home from Chernobyl.

block style housing; on the bus - approaching Kiev city limits.

block style housing; on the bus – approaching Kiev city limits.

on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

woman with her bicycle; on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

woman with her bicycle; on the train from Kiev to Bryansk.

on the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

on the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

on the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

on the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

on the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

on the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

purchasing our little dacha in Aseri, Estonia…..

The welcome sign for Aseri.

About a year ago, my husband and I began discussing purchasing a home in Estonia….. it seemed like a nice compromise for us both, as I expressed an interest in living in Russia in the future, and he preferred the more “Western” countries. Estonia is very close to the Russian border – a little over two hours from Saint Petersburg – but has more Western amenities. We began researching the process and rules for purchasing a home in Estonia while searching through adorable little dachas on Estonian real estate websites, many of which were a fraction of the cost of a home in the States. The process for purchasing is quite simple if you are paying cash, more complicated if you want to get a mortgage (which requires residency). So we decided we would work on saving the cash to be able to purchase a home in the future….. but then my husband found our affordable little dacha in a small, predominantly Russian, community in Aseri, Estonia, located on the Baltic Sea. When we planned our trip to Saint Petersburg for this past June, we decided we should go and take a look at a couple of the homes we were interested in and see what might come of it. Well….. it ended up that we bought a tiny little dacha on a lovely little piece of property, but 500 meters walk from the sea.

Here is how everything took place…..

My husband found a few homes on this website and we emailed the realtor. Surprisingly, Julia responded to my email immediately (we did not have such luck with all the other realtors I had emailed in the past). We made arrangements for a date while we were in Saint Petersburg to come see the homes and Julia was so helpful! She provided us with bus schedule links, accommodation recommendations and picked us up at the bus stop in Aseri so she could drive us to the homes. We ended up taking the bus from Saint Petersburg to Jõhvi very early in the morning, and transferring from there to a bus to Aseri. We each had our minds made up on the drive to Aseri that we wanted to buy a property – the views along the drive were so beautiful, we were already attached.

on the way to Aseri, Estonia.

on the way to Aseri, Estonia.

on the bus to Aseri, Estonia.

on the bus to Aseri, Estonia.

on the bus to Aseri, Estonia.

on the bus to Aseri, Estonia.

For those of you not familiar with the dacha, during Soviet times, it was usually a second and/or summer home where people from the city could find respite during the summer months. In Russia, many families still own dachas (or have friends who own dachas, whom they may visit) and spend many weekends (or months) there during the long days of summer. They often keep a garden at the dacha and enjoy country living, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Estonia, having been part of the Soviet Union for almost 50 years, also has little dacha properties scattered across the landscape. In Aseri, much of the population is actually Russian and many properties there are rapidly being purchased by people from Saint Petersburg.

The family that owned the dacha we purchased were Russian. They were not often at the dacha and had allowed a nearby neighbor (who I now refer to as our babushka) to plant her garden on the property. As a result, we chose this dacha because the grounds were well kept and were much more appealing to look at. The women who had planted her garden there proudly showed me all her hard work and explained to me that she had planted cucumbers, potatoes, garlic, spring onions, tomatoes, peppers and there were also cherry, pear and apple trees on the property. The other property we looked at, though in a more attractive area, had not the same garden appeal of the one we chose – and it was more expensive. Below are photos of the property we purchased, and the interior of the other one we looked at. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the interior of our house because I was so tired from all the bus travel when we got there, that photographing the interior slipped my mind, until seeing house number two. But they have similar interiors (please continue scrolling down for the rest of the article).

The welcome sign for Aseri.

The welcome sign for Aseri.

Our dacha and the babuska (standing to the left).

Our dacha and the babuska (standing to the left).

the garden at our dacha.

the garden at our dacha.

the garden at our dacha.

the garden at our dacha.

the greenhouse behind the dacha.

the greenhouse behind our dacha.

the fruit trees on our property.

the fruit trees on our property.

the gate entrance to our dacha property.

the gate entrance to our property.

the kitchen/interior of the other dacha we looked at, but did not purchase.

the kitchen/interior of the other dacha we looked at, but did not purchase.

the kitchen/interior of the other dacha we looked at, but did not purchase.

the interior window of the other dacha we looked at, but did not purchase.

the kitchen/interior of the other dacha we looked at, but did not purchase.

the interior sleeping area of the other dacha we looked at, but did not purchase.

When we decided we wanted to go ahead and purchase the above dacha (the first one), the process was quite simple. I sent our passport scans to the realtor, who then had the paperwork prepared – it took about 7 business days and we were assigned a date to come back to Johvi, Estonia and go through the notarization process.  Julia had hired an English translator to prepare a copy of the paperwork for us in English and translate the Estonian/Russian legal process. We then handed them the correct amount of Euro, in cash (which we had withdrawn/exchanged from a  variety of ATM’s and money exchanges in different Russian cities during the week of travel prior), and signed the documents. Our deed was delivered to us electronically a few weeks later.

The hardest thing about the whole process was actually the bus travel and border crossings between Narva, Estonia and Ivangorod, Russia (which seemingly took forever). Otherwise, it was quite simple. During the process, we were asked if the woman who had planted her garden on the property could continue to do so, since we would not often be there. Of course we said yes – her work had been a large part of the appeal of the property! In fact, I’m hoping that when we spend time there next spring/summer (which is our current plan) that I can improve my Russian in speaking with her, and maybe learn a thing or two about gardening (I seem to have a black thumb…..) My husband also plans to build another larger house on the property in the future, but that will be a whole other process, which will hopefully begin in 2014.

So that’s pretty much how we ended up buying our little dacha. It was striking in the end when we were getting copies of the keys made and we were talking to the woman who sold us the property (along with her brother) – she told me that they had played there as children….. and yet, they chose to sell it for such a small price (in our minds, considering what empty land costs in many places here in the US), that I was trying to imagine why they needed the money that much that they were willing to give up a place so seemingly dear to their hearts…..

Now it will be our summer home and I very much look forward to spending time there in the future and hopefully, learning how to assimilate with the locals. I also hope to be able to write some interesting articles about life/culture in Aseri, Estonia the future. For the time being, please enjoy a glimpse at the lands of Ida-Viru county, on the border of Russia and running along the Baltic Sea.

a windmill farm in Ida-Viru.

a windmill farm in Ida-Viru.

cows grazing in a field; Ida-Viru county.

cows grazing in a field; Ida-Viru county.

An apt. building in Johvi, Estonia.

An apt. building in Jõhvi, Estonia.

the countryside in Ida-Viru county.

the countryside in Ida-Viru county.

Narva, Estonia.

Narva, Estonia.

In Narva, Estonia.

In Narva, Estonia.

the Baltic Sea - 500 meters walk from our dacha in Aseri.

the Baltic Sea – 500 meters walk from our dacha in Aseri.

the clay mine in Aseri, Estonia.

the clay mine in Aseri, Estonia.

the reflection of a little girl, riding on the bus to Aseri (she was sitting in front of me).

the reflection of a little girl, riding on the bus to Aseri (she was sitting in front of me).

at a bus stop on the way to Aseri.

at a bus stop on the way to Aseri.

at the bus station in Jõhvi, Estonia.

at the bus station in Jõhvi, Estonia.

the outdoor market in Jõhvi, Estonia.

the outdoor market in Jõhvi, Estonia.

in Jõhvi.

in Jõhvi.

Jõhvi, Estonia.

Jõhvi, Estonia.

this is either in Jõhvi, or another town between Jõhvi and Aseri.

this is either in Jõhvi, or another town between Jõhvi and Aseri.

a countryside home in Ida-Viru.

a countryside home in Ida-Viru.