PROPERTY / Ideal homes: CHRISTINA DODWELL Explorer
Sunday 11 September 1994
LOCATION: My ideal home actually exists. It lies among the volcanoes of the Kronotsky
Preserve in Kamchatka, the peninsula at the far end of the Russian empire. The house is built on the side of a hill in a place called the Valley of Geysers. It belongs to Vitali, a bear-tracker I met on my expedition to Kamchatka two years ago. I fell in love with the place - partly because of its extraordinary position and partly because, with its big windows, there seems little division between indoors and out.
ESSENTIAL LOCAL AMENITIES: The remoteness of the place makes the idea of a milkman or a baker a fantasy, though an occasional helicopter does drop by.
CONSTRUCTION: The house is constructed of timbers from an abandoned coastal village. There is no electricity and it looks ramshackle, but it is highly practical for sub-zero temperatures. Covered in tarred felt, the roof is steeply pitched because the snow lies 2m deep for much of the year. The walls are packed with insulation and the windows double-glazed.
BEDROOMS: One, stocked with wolf-fur sleeping bags and blankets.
BATHROOMS: There is a long-drop loo, in an outhouse, and for washing there are geysers and hot springs. When I was there I found a bath-temperature waterfall in a nearby stream.
RECEPTION ROOMS: The living room has a large south-facing window and a fire burning in the hearth. Up a ladder is a library/study with a desk and big windows that catch the sun; it doubles as a second bedroom.
ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES: I'd have to have a cook - kitchens are not my forte.
DECORATIVE STYLE: Rustic. Antlers that have been cast off by reindeer and moose serve as hatstands/coatstands.
LUXURIES: I'd line the walls of the upstairs room with books, and install a stereo to play classical music.
OUTBUILDINGS: A tiny hut with no door houses the long-drop loo, which faces the endless empty landscape of the Kamchatka peninsula.
VIEW: Plumes of steam rising from the geysers, a geyserite platform coloured like a stained- glass window, and the peaks and volcanoes on the far horizons.
SIZE OF GARDEN: My garden stretches thousands of miles in every direction. If I travelled further down it, I'd eventually reach Japan. The best feature is that within five minutes' walk of the house is a fumarole patch with exotic nozzles and tall spouts of gnarled geyserite that gurgle and erupt in spectacular fashion.
NEIGHBOURS: The bears that laze in the sun on hillsides. They usually leave you alone, though Vitali's house was once broken into by a bear that ate all his provisions. Another time a bear smashed a window, thinking its reflection was a rival.
MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.
WHAT IT WOULD COST: After consulting the Russian Embassy, Ana Baillie of Intourist Travel established that a simple dacha in the countryside in the former Soviet Union costs approximately pounds 20,000 to pounds 27,500 to build. As Vitali has not paid for the land or the timber, she estimates the cost of this particular ideal home at well under pounds 7,000.
Christina Dodwell's latest book 'Beyond Siberia' is published in paperback by Hodder and Stoughton at pounds 6.99.
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