Yes, the Dacha & Horses project is still alive. You can stay in a nearly deserted village of Dubrovki near Staritsa, in the rolling hills of the Upper Volga, ride gentle home-made horses, explore caves, visit Staritsa, Bernovo, or other nearby towns, raft, observe collective farms that remained largely unchanged since the Soviet days, or just immerse yourself into lazy dacha atmosphere.
The rate is still 1500 roubels ($50) per day for accommodation [Sept. 2015: 2000roubles/day, or $40], basic food, and often unlimited horse riding. Access to horses depends on the number of people present, and during working days, especially off season (see www.staritsa.info >> Winter is the Soul of Russia) you may be the only guest, in which case all three animals and the undivided attention of Dima are yours.
The setup and service are basic. Running hot water, although usually available, in not guaranteed. Russian countryside largely consists of mud, manure, flies, burdock, and annoying drunks, with an occasional inclusion of an unhappy western tourist. Please pause for a moment before signing in to contemplate that for $50 is it impossible to consistently deliver more that $50. The concept was geared to local of very average income level, students, families with kids, and my favourite type, confirmed certified card-carrying losers. Only authenticity enthusiasts please. No resource wasters who exchange 50 e-mails to show up for one night and even then demand a discount (“but we didn’t ride hooorses”) please.
No, I’m no longer actively involved there myself. Dima took over and is doing a great job keeping the place going almost as originally intended. “Almost” means that the naive notion of recreating a classic Russian estate have been scrapped. Ours is an example of how aspirations of early 90s transformed to pragmatism of the Putin-forever era. Now Uncle Pasha’s Dacha is but a small rural retreat, and the founder itself is living off the rest of his days doing odd jobs and loafing around. Proceed to www.unclepasha.com to see how he can still be of service to humanity in exchange for a few kopecks. Sic transit etc.
Yes, I can still assist in planning your trip and communicating with Dima, whose English remains limited. If in Moscow I can take you to Staritsa in an old truck but be warned that an increasing number of people refuse a ride on seeing it. The trip can include small towns on the way. These may be Klin (associated with Tchaikovski), Tver, Krasnogorsk (military history museums), New Jerusalem (a monument to the church schism and imperial ambitions), Volokolamsk, Zubtsov and Rzhev (WW2) etc. We can even make a detour and go through Sergiev Posad, then that monastery near Volokolamsk, founded by Joseph Volotsky(?), a famous fighter for the purity of faith (read “a jerk who enjoyed imprisoning his opponents, applying strappado, cutting out their tongues, and burning them”) who did build one of the most pleasant to look at monasteries. My small town stuff is migrating to www.staritsa.info. Offers of “alternative” trips and my other attempts to sell myself as guide, driver, fixer, or whatever are there too. Please note Misery Tourist (c) and Winter is the Soul of Russia (c). For a while I was hoping these proposal will make me famous and allow to pay off damn credit cards. Now I accept that at best they attract a weirdo of my ilk once a year at most. Progressing through life is a humbling experience.
Continuing with this site in not a high priority in my books, and I’ll leave it in midstream except for an occasional look to be sure it is up, registration is valid, plugins are updated, and spam deleted. But no, I will not be looking at it daily as I do with project that are my direct responsibility. Thus this prominently featured summary to help a first-time visitor make sense out of this mess of pages. Still, I encourage you to explore this incomplete site or its equally deficient previous version, or the Russian original, new and especially old.
Dima: email@example.com, +7 920 155 7003. Speaking to him in English is nearly useless but he will understand text messages. Unless the situation is urgent e-mail him with a copy to me.
Pasha: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, +7 921 155 5432. Pasha is me. I’m online way more than I want to so you are likely to get a fast and possibly meaningful response except I may not know if Dima can receive you at this given moment. Giving him a quick call on your behalf is no problem though.