Bog Standards in Bulgaria

Bog standards in Bulgaria are quite a revealing subject. The toilet and sewerage systems are dated and seemingly have no real master plan from the town planners who deal with such matters. If it ain’t broke don’t fix is the policy here and who can blame them putting money ‘down the drain’ for something that works in essence.

What it really boils down to is each individual household to deal with such problems and repair and a municipal service to patch up other areas outside private and business household jurisdictions.

It is so noticeable that 1 in 4 houses we pass have tell tale sign of sewerage work being down or recently having been done. The remnants of sand/cement left behind or the mismatched cement repairs that replace uniform pavements are testimony to work having been done recently. It is no surprise then that Galia’s house next. It had been put off far too long purely on insufficient financial grounds.

Living just out of the centre of Yambol most of the time with Galia and her family, it has over time become apparent the same ideals of not fixing things until they cease to work. This applies to everything! The toilet and sewerage system are no exception.

While Galia and ~I were in England there was a major problem, raw sewerage was spilling up from the drains and flooding the yard. Something had to be done in our absence. Luckily we had left some emergency funds with Baba Mama to cover such events.

Who do you call to fix such a messy, smelly and unhygienic predicament? Well Dynarod doesn’t exist here and no Bulgarian would want to tackle such a job so it is the Gypsies who get all the work.

The message was that 25 lev was paid and the system was cleared using a Gypsy and a metal rod. Baba’s stress levels went down and we were relieved 2000 miles away that the problem had subsided. The Gypsies (two of them) were only there for ten minutes, who says they don’t get paid much Galia comments. Maybe taking advantage of an old woman more like while we were away!

We got back and nothing unusual was found in the toilet and connecting systems. There had always been a smell of human waste inside and outside of the house but you get used to that living there. It becomes normal but obtrusive and foul to non-Bulgarian visitors. But this is Bulgarian and we live within this the Bulgarian way, I accepted this as normal.

After a week or so the sewerage rose from the depths and flooded the yard again, Baba was up in arms with the thought that the 25 lev she paid was for nothing. We had to agree, the job of clearing the pipes wasn’t done all they did was get rid of the overflow but not cure the blockage.

We called the Gypsy back again and he again did the run with the metal rod but this time trying to run it further up the piping. He came to a dead end, the piping beyond two metre to running to the neighbours house was blocked solid. Nothing could shift it. Because Baba was on her own before this wasn’t ventured with the Gypsies, we were there now and questions were asked and seemingly answers now given.

The system was old in fact we worked out that the sewerage hadn’t been looked at, cleaned out or serviced since 1985 under the communist rule where things actually got done and the citizens in the town were looked after by the state! Nothing like this happens now under the banner of ‘freedom’!

It was a big job as we agreed to the Gypsy workers to get on and repair and replace whatever was needed. In the meantime it meant that until they had finished the job we couldn’t run any water and obviously had no toilet facilities until the final cementing had dried. This was at least two days worth of roughing it but we are all used to this, this is Bulgaria after all.

The Gypsies have no problem with working in such conditions. The leader of the duo, as I watched had his arm up to his shoulder in raw sewerage trying to source the pipe! No protective clothing, just a pair of sandals, short and a t-shirt, all of which was soiled from the work. The smell was enough to make you sick but they were un-swayed with the working conditions they found themselves in.

Having now waded in the crap barefooted to get to the drainage point, the still couldn’t get a way through the big clay pipes and had to resort to digging even deeper and smashing them up to remove them. Only then did we see that the clay pipes originally some 25 cm in diameter had been reduced to 2 cm due to the build up of human waste and residue. Effectively the crap had set to form a concrete type seal within the system over the last thirty years or so. The complete system had to be ripped out and replaced.

My services were required, as the Gypsy workers didn’t have any transport. So it was taxing them to find some cement and tools. We went to an area called Benkovski. It’s place well know as a Gypsy encampment and Gypsies rule there. It is basically a no go area for Bulgarians and police. I had travelled through the back streets there once before with some English friends, it scared the shit out of them with what they saw and the poverty before them. It is a threatening place to be in, almost exactly like being in an Indian town.

We got to his house and tools taken then we visited at least five different shops throughout Yambol to find some piping that was the right diameter. I had to fork out 15 lev for that, as I was the only one with money. Added to this more money was paid out for a bag of cement (6 lev). Back to the work place and they finished at 8:30 that evening and due here again in the morning. They wanted 120 leva to complete the job so I gave them half now and promised the other half on completion. Normal ways of doing things here and they got a lift home as part of the deal.

God are these men messy, they leave everything where they leave it as it is the job of the women to clean up behind the men. Even great chunks of concrete, solidified crap and bricks have to be gathered and disposed of by the females of Bulgaria. Baba and Galia think nothing of it and total acceptance of having to do this. If I try and help they tell me off!

End of day one and the routine of toilet going had to change. We couldn’t go in the street until dark in the evening, again this is normal! And we used a big paint tin for washing and watered the garden with it afterwards. – Well what do you expect here?

The following morning was more difficult as going for a wee was easy enough but the other end is slightly more difficult. How the women coped I don’t know but it was plastic bags in the bucket and out to the bin on wheels in the street for me. God know what the Gypsies that rummage the bins every hour will think when they find a opaque plastic bag tied up with a warm package inside!!

Part of the fees we paid was for sand and the hire of a horse and cart and low behold, 8:30 the next morning the clip clop sound of hoofs on Yambol cobblestones filled the air as we peered to see the horse and cart arrive laden with sand. The horse had a fowl astride only one week old. Again this was quite normal to see in Yambol but I took a picture in any case.

But other materials were needed this very morning with my Lada being called up to be the delivery vehicle. Three different shops and the home in Benkovski were driven two. Four bags of sand bought of one of his neighbours for 7 lev, divide that by four, it doesn’t go so I think that was a rip off but I was on Gypsy territory and felt threatened so paid. Next stop another neighbour deep in the heart of the Gypsy threshold. The tracks between the built up illegal housing was just dirt and stained with open sewerage, how did this Gypsy therefore know about sewerage systems with this in place here.

The amount of children, barefooted, children here are indescribable even more so when the school was open and filled with school aged children. They were like swarming ants running everywhere and parents shouting form the confines of their shacks. I stranger in their midst and the swarms took to me like iron filings to a magnet, a rare occasion of a white man in Gypsy territory meant interest abound. I waited for a delivery of bricks, not new but recycled - they still had old cement straddled around them. I spoke to some of the children but they were stunned into a silence pause, as my Bulgarian didn’t seem to be understood. This was due to their Roma language being spoken solely prior to schooling age.

Twenty-two second hand brick were placed in the car boot and the charge? 5 leva, again my suspicious mind told me that part of someone’s shack/house had been partly taken down for a quick profit!! Joking aside, bet I’m not too far off the mark either.

Relieved to get out of the Gypsy village it was off to get another sack of cement and have to pay another 6 lev from a conventional shop albeit Gypsy owners taking the money. We run straight back to the house and I get on with my writing and the Gypsy gets on with his work.

By 2:00 that lunchtime the job is complete, time for the remaining balance of 60 lev owed to be paid over. The total cost of repairs including materials and previous prodding was 160 lev. The place looked like a bomb had hit is as the women again took it upon themselves to clear all the mess left. 30 minutes later there was a clean swept yard with fresh laid cement sealing the new sewerage system.

And outside, a pavement only showing the sign that there was sand been mixed there at some point and another house that gives away work having been done on the sewerage system. How many other households have gone through the same process? More to the point, how many households still put off what needs to be done due to being unable to afford it? Without fund brought over from the UK the cost of this is two months pension from Baba. That just puts things into perspective.

Well, there were many showers and toilet flushes that next morning and the foul smell from the toilet and drainage points that I thought was normal, has totally disappeared. We can now have food and drink outside but is has cost money to get to this stage.

Sofia - A Typical Saturday Night

We have touched down on Bulgarian soil at 1:20 in the morning, the train to Yambol due to depart the station at 6:30. We’ll spend 5 hours drinking coffee in a café in the station said Galia as we made out way there.

Still before 2:00 on Sunday morning after a Saturday night in Sofia and the taxi dropped us off to a very still and clam train station. There were lights on in the distance as we rolled our noisy cases across the common broken concrete pavements to disturb the silence that lay before us.

We struggled to one station café and found five police officers sitting around drinking coffee only to find that this café was only open to the police and that no cafes were open until 6:00 that morning. We found ourselves out on the street for over 4 hours laden with luggage with a mixture of cab drivers touting fro business, roaming Gypsies and beggars and young male drunks still full of vodka and rakia from the previous Saturday night out.

We parked ourselves by the main glass entrance, within sight and earshot of the coffee-drinking police as insurance. It was a thought that these policemen and one policewoman were getting paid for drinking coffee all night as the minutes ticked away very slowly. Later I was to realise this was not the case.

Facing the taxi rank, every 10 or fifteen minutes a taxi would pull up get out of the vehicle and walk towards us and every time we knew what for. The question like a series of parrots came out, ‘Where are you going?’

The answer always was, ‘Yambol’ of course.

A figure was always given for the ride to Yambol, which varied from 300 BGL to 450 BGL depending on the cheekiness of the cab driver. The argument always being that we could be home by the time the train arrives. We would put to the driver the cost fo the train fare at 16 lv and ask them whether they would pay and extra 300 lv for a couple of hours wait? They usually walked away at that point in deep thought.

After the first few we were getting a bit fed up so we moved away from the cab rank and turned our backs on oncoming cab drivers. That seemed to do the trick.

When we first got there we were only a couple of metres from a gypsy sat on a small brick wall, he only had one leg and a crutch. He was watching us for hours and the thought was he was waiting for an opportunity to steal something. It was only later that we realised he was waiting to go to work and had no home to go to so that were he lives, sitting on the wall. We ended up talking to home and he was a nice as pie as we gave him some cigarettes to keep him going. First impressions eh?

Another figure turned up, we recognised him from before, he was on the same plane as us from Luton and had was due on the same train as us but going further on to Bourgas. Being Bulgarian we talked, how many times we talked to strangers was quite un believable unlike where we had just come from.

This chap had gone to the UK because he was told the streets are paved with gold. He didn’t have profession and went without any work permits or visa. His idea was that he would find work by word of mouth and have cash in hand. After three month and being based in Peterborough he had found a ‘cash in hand’ job where the manager was Egyptian. He was paid £100 a week for 50 hours six day a week in a factory. His digs were a 3m x 4m room with no facilities and shared kitchen and bathroom downstairs paying rent of £30 a week plus bills. Food was extra of course.

He was here now because all he had saved up for was his airfare back before the three months visa period had expired. His experience had been a reality check at the end of the day. The only money he had on him was a £10 note and we exchanged this for him at the exchange bureaus didn’t open until after 7:00, the train leaves 30 minutes before this.

An elderly but quite slim and fit man walked past us and I saw he had a baseball bat tucked away in his belt. He stopped and of course talked to us he had a story to tell and told it. A couple of hours ago there was a gunfight only 100 metres away in an underpass. A young armed drunk was eventually shot dead by the police after the shoot out. He went on to say that this was normal in the early hours of the morning. With the lack of work and money many young people try the armed hold up give us your money trick which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. This time it didn’t and he is dead. That for me is a good enough deterrent if not for others. Shoot and first ask questions later when it comes to finding someone with a gun was the Sofia was the police’s answer to crime. In any case for what other reason would someone want to be holding a gun in the early hours of the morning, there are no wolves here in Sofia city centre – He has a point!

I asked what he was doing with a baseball bat and whether he played Bulgarian Baseball, where the response was a chuckle saying that it was to defend himself against others with baseball bats. Funnily enough moments later I saw another young man walk past with another baseball bat in one hand and a woman in the other looking a bit nervous as firstly walked by the coffee-drinking policemen and then us. But they didn’t do anything, perhaps that is normal here then.

Next visitor was a drunk, he was around mid twenties, shaven head and looked more like a Russian than a Bulgarian due to his very pale complexion. Although not intimidating Galia and our friend who had been ripped of in England didn’t make any eye contact with him. I found this hard to do as I thought it might cause offence but this led to conversation. Galia’s suggestion that I didn’t know any Bulgarian was a good one as I pleaded ignorance as questions put to me. He got fed up with my ‘I don’t understand!’ replies to everything and gave up trying to talk to me in the end. He slumped down to the ground and sat the quietly for a few hours right next to us.

5:00 arrived and the café opened early as they saw some decent folk waiting outside, besides you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth with business hanging around. The drunk followed us in slumped down on a bench next to us along with our Bourgas bound and newly acquainted friend. We bough him a coffee and talked fot he next half hour. The drunk woke up and asked it I could move to let him go, I had blocked him in on the tight sitting position of the bench. He was quite shocked that I understood as I stood up to let him go. Luckily he was too pissed to realise I was taking the piss by not understanding earlier.

Toilet were non existent either on the station site or in the train station once we got in, it was too early for many as the yawning crowds began their work and journeys. Tickets, bought and a cold banitsa eaten It was old and cold but still better than anything I have eaten in the UK for six months!

We boarded the train that left dead on time and stress levels fell even further as we left the city. I hate cites generally and Sofia was no exception but I had notice there may be gang warfare, gunfight and drink and drug related crimes all due to material gain but its individualism stands out. It is not a carbon copy of the other Cities I have visited and is still distinctly Bulgarian in its manner and ways.

The train slowly gathered up a little speed then slowed down again the next station was only a few kilometres away picking up mainly gypsies form the outskirts of the city. It was noticeable that the train was spotlessly clean without any vandalism or graffiti in any part of the carriage and we were travelling the third class carriage! No advertisement posters to be seen anywhere that was a major realisation for me and again the stress levels from within resumed its downward spiral with these significant observations of Bulgaria.

So we had some gypsies on board and I know the toilet was clean, as it hadn’t been used since our journey started, 6 hours of waiting we had to go and on the visit all the toilet consisted of was a hole in the carriage floor, you could see the ground whizzing past as you look down. Well if is simple and it works well it has to be Bulgarian!! Quite a lot of fun as well as you see things happen before you very eyes.

We had our tickets inspected twice on the 4½ hours journey. The ticket inspectors are very serious and never smile, they also come in pairs, man and a woman, presumably for security reasons. Everyone has to have a ticket whether first, second or third class with a seat number on and you have to sit in that seat.

Now the ticket inspectors may well be the reason for no graffiti or damage to the train from travellers as they scare the hell out of them by their no nonsense attitude. There was a young quite hard looking Bulgarian who placed himself on a seat had his ticket checked and punched then after the inspector had travelled further up the train, decided to move to the next empty seat. The inspectors had finished their rounds and walked back some 20 minutes later and instructed the poor chap to move back to his original allocated seat. You may call this a jobs worth situation but this I feel justified to gain the discipline, respect and unmovable rules that are set in place. No too dissimilar to the police who have respect mixed with fear. It made us feel so much safer on the train in Bulgaria than ever we felt in the UK.

Yambol arrived and the city of Sofia well behind us and the train journey so much more cheaper and pleasant than a taxi run!

Food from a Bulgarian Baba

I live with Baba now during the day. Galia is out to work early ‘till late and I am writing with Baba Mama doing her busy woman about the house trick everyday.

She is 84 and doesn’t stop going back and forth from chores in the kitchen to sweeping the yard, watering the garden, putting the washing out. She starts at 7:00 in the morning and doesn’t stop until bedtime.

There is a rest at around 1:00 – 2:00 where she gets her head down for a little snooze but that’s where it ends. Even when she is sitting down her hands are busy sewing, knitting or repairing something.

What Baba can’t understand is why I don’t slow down and eat and sleep every couple of hours. She doesn’t understand that a Bulgarian man is very different to a Englishman. I always remember going back nearly tow years ago when she saw me vacuuming the front room…… she was in tears as she had never seen anything like it in her 80 odd years in Bulgaria.

I know now that every time the clock goes past midday she pokes her head around the corner of the kitchen area where I work and tell me I’m hungry. To be fair I start work at 8:00 after having given Galia a lift to work so she knows that a fair morning work has been done at this point.

The first week this routine came into play I Baba didn’t get any sleep, she was too shy and humble to tell me that her sleeping sofa was being occupied by my posterior working on the laptop. Little did I know that I was in the way of her routine until Galia found out and told me one evening. Now I move into another room for the rest of the day to give her a well earned forty-winks but not before she has prepared me food and drink whether I want it or not.

Now Baba is a tried and tested cook and there isn’t anything she prepares that isn’t home cooked and natural. Base ingredients all from the market or from my own Skalitsa farm. She is a superb cook and I cannot ever remember not liking anything she has prepared.

There is a little wariness about how long the food it kept as Baba always used the big pot to make lots – it is a question of economic cooking energy wise. There has been food, meat at that, which has been standing around for 4 or 5 days. This used to worry me immensely at first – is it my own British standards that have brainwashed me into thinking that everything has be eaten with two days or you die fo food poisoning? Yes I think it is, a ploy by global food producers to make you buy more putting the fear of God into you if you didn’t! I digress….

Baba totters along to prepare the food and she now has come to accept that a microwave we bought for her last year has its uses. It took her almost a year to the day to come to terms and understand what she can and can’t put in it and that was from experience not instruction! Now she can’t get enough of it but all she has learnt is how to cook pop corn in it! The little bottle gas stove is still used religiously as before and used for the original cooking using the big pot.

Today for the third day running and the fifth meal we had chicken, bean and potato stew and never in a million years would I get bored with that. The bones as after ever each meal is given to Alex the dog, our neighbour’s doorbell.

Each day Baba lays the table and never a day goes by where raw garlic, fresh bread and green salad is positioned next to the main meal. The most delicious combination and compliment to any meal. Drink accompaniment is Ayran made from yoghurt made in Skalitsa from my neighbour’s fresh cow milk. Baba loves Ayran along with all three generations of family living here.

Spoilt? Yes but in this day and age of fast food how lucky am I to get traditional food derved up the most respectful and experienced cook. Something now she is handing down to me so long may it continue to live on.

Baba has such a variety of cooking skills and recipes that now after a while of Bulgarian routine the sleeping habit after lunchtime meals is beginning to have an affect on me. A lie down after her fantastic food is something that just seems so natural to do. Unlike before where no break and no food was taken, a habit picked up from England now finally beginning to be laid to rest.

Working Bulgarians?

Working Bulgarians in Bulgaria are subjected to very long hours indeed, not only long hours, many months without holiday entitlement and ridiculous rate of pay but all is not what it seems.

It has got to the point where because of the stress living and working in England we can back sooner much sooner without much finance and working here again is something we now have to do.

Having worked in Bulgaria before, and put the hours in basically for the most at a Bulgarian rate of pay the problem was that I worked like an Englishman and the pace of work was completely different from Bulgarians.

What I am getting at is the long hours up to 12 hours a day is quite normal for Bulgarian workers, the pace at which they works means that they tackle the problem of extended hours with slow, methodical work with many breaks. Working sometimes is just a case of them being there for most of the time.

I have lost count of the times I see workers in shops and markets just sitting there smoking, talking or sometimes not there at all. This is normal. The customers and shoppers are far outweighed by the sellers and shopkeepers therefore the demand for stressful busy time is nonexistent.

The minimum rate of pay per month in Bulgaria is 220 BGL every month. Just based on working a 8 hour/five day a week equates to 1.38 BGL (55p) an hour. Most however work in excess of 10 hours therefore over 6 days this brings the true hourly rate to 92 stotinki (37p) an hour. Bare in mind that also the majority of workers are paid the minimum wages and a black market where less than this is paid to casual workers.

Just a thought, a packet of cigarettes now cost on average around 2.40 lev and would take over 2 half hours working to earn. In the UK it would take just one hour based on their National minimum wage! So who says that cigarettes are cheap in Bulgaria? They are nearly three times the equivalent here for the working Bulgarians. I won’t go into how smoking pensioners get by…

The point I am trying to get over is that long working hours is something that is normal here and is only looked at with shock from foreigners comparing western Europe hours and pay. Because they are in the workplace for 10 hours or so the term work may not apply for that amount of time.

So, because of our poor disposition, Galia is now having and indeed wanting to work. Relatively speaking though she is better off than most other Bulgarian workers as I would not allow here to work through the 60 a week hour barrier with a minimum wage. Bearing in mind she done this before working in a shop and would have done it again without me there.

Myself, I was offered work driving long distances but Galia insisted that I don’t take it up as I was English and the hours and pay would not do me justice. She knows full well that my work-rate would 110% and not like a Bulgarian and I would totally exhausted myself doing it.

She is right of course!

A Bulgarian MOT

It was long overdue, in fact four months overdue and about time it was done. We had got away with it since we have been back in Bulgaria but getting away with it in this part of the world is normal. I’m talking about the Bulgarian equivalent of the MOT test and certificate.

It wasn’t that long ago that my C90 Honda moped I used in England went through the test, it failed because on of the tyres was fitted the wrong way round. I had to spend £40 on getting the bugger swapped around and then retested, what a con! No leeway, advice or help but purely a device for making more money out of people.

Back in Bulgaria such instances are unheard of. Yes, they have a resolution for documentation to the extreme but that’s where it ends. This will always be the case here not just from ex-communism infrastructure but from a new Europe who make it their business to complicate processes to ridiculous ends and mandatory paperwork and accountability for all implicated. Nothing is easy in this trend of red tape bureaucracy that causes many frustrations and systems grinding to a halt. In fact it is my opinion that much of this complication in paperwork is put there to put a general public off from entering into said transactions or services. I digress!

The problem with my Lada car is that all the lights don’t work from rats making it their home and gnawing all the electric wires and circuits the smithereens. Who in their right mind would even consider putting a vehicle through and MOT in view fo this? Well Galia’s view of this was to just not mention the fact. She was sure that all was going to be okay as it was last year when the tyres were bald.

We were off and arrived at the garage at lunchtime, inevitably the garage was shut, we were told to come back in a hour. A Bulgarian hour as said many time before isn’t an hour and we turned up two days later as advised!

We had all the documentation expect the full registration document, which was in Skalitsa. Even though we had all evidence there to prove the car was registered and in my business name, road tax and insurance all there. He remained adamant he couldn’t issue the MOT certificate without this document.

Luckily we were on our way to Skalitsa so we made out way there and returned in the pouring rain. The car was left outside as we entered the sheltered garage out of the downpour. The MOT guy (Ivan) asked me to put my car on the service pit in the garage as I drove the car over the metal lined serviced pit a sense of forbidding came over me. Was he to conduct a full test on the car? Had Bulgarian MOT procedures now come into line with other EU directives? Was Galia’s assumption that it would be okay become obliterated?

Once the car was parked and dripping into the pit Ivan began completing the tick list of items to be tested but without looking at the car. Within 5 minutes the 30 leva had been paid (it was 15 leva last year!) and the certificate had been sign sealed and delivered!

The next step was to stick the window certificate on the inside of my front window-screen only then did I realise why he wanted my car on the ramp in the garage…… He didn’t want to get wet when putting the sticker in my car!!

Why on earth did I doubt that anything would be any different this year in Bulgaria apart from cost? Last year Ivan didn’t even look at the car before signing the pass certificate, this year was exactly the same. So even without any lights working it passed but I do know that this may well be because it was a Lada and we spoke Bulgarian.

Only a yesterday I unavoidably had to speak to another Brit who had been living here for five years and complained that his car had to go through a meticulous test to get through his MOT and no end of trouble getting it through. There may be two points to why, his car wasn’t a lada and he didn’t speak a word of Bulgarian!

Another Bulgarian Door

Well its been quite a while since my new Bulgarian door had been fitted onto my Skalitsa Farmhouse but the project still wasn’t completed true to Bulgarian form. Mind you it wasn’t paid for at the time anyway

The month of May brings about much warmer, or even hot, weather and with this the flies have come to life. With this the problem is keeping them out of the house. The only way in is through the front door as all the windows have fly screen fitted – one of the great inventions of modern day living here.

It was the intention to have the fly screen fitted when the original door was put in but nobody got around to doing it. We now had time to get this organised, especially with paying guests now regularly staying and some due in the next few days.

So off we went to see Kosta, the manager of the Skalitsa based metalwork factory opposite the mayor’s house.

Kosta wasn’t there but we saw a worker and gave instructions for the door to be made up and fitted before out guests arrive. A slight worry came over me as he said, ’No Problem!’ as from much experience this comment usually is the signal for problems.

The next day the were two cars that pulled up outside my house, one driven by Kosta the other by one of his workers that had a fly screen tied tot his car roof. Within 10 minutes the door had been fitted and an explanation given to its workings.

The door had been secured on the existing new door but couldn’t close due to the handle protruding. With this only one door could be opened at any point. So when the front door is shut the fly screen has to be left open and when the fly screen is shut the front door has to be open. This was a design fault but being Bulgarian it still does the job of keeping flying insects out.

The job was done and Kosta the boss insisted that he didn’t’ want any money for the job as it was a gift. I couldn’t accept that and literarily forced a 20 lev note upon him.

As the front door had to remain open when the fly screen is shut the door had a problem not slamming against the wall if he wind catches it. To solve this Galia suggested a Bulgarian solution of sticking brillo pads to the wall! This idea although a strange sight seemingly would work so it was off to Maria’s shop to get a coupel of pan scrubbers.

With the items bought we used glue and stuck them to the wall and very proud we are of solving a problem Bulgarian style. What would our English guests think of it though?

So we have a working system in place and piece of mind that flies will not become an inherent problem in our farmhouse during this long summer. That is if we remember to shut it each time.

The Bulgarian Van

It was a big problem when we had to buy a sofa\bed system for additional guests staying at our farmhouse in Skalitsa. This was just for the reason that we couldn’t find any electric pump system for a blow up bed in Yambol.

The problem was that they wanted 35 lev to deliver the sofa to Skalitsa and Galia wasn’t having any of it. The system was just too big to put on the top of the Lada roof, although if I were a Gypsy it would have fitted quite easily and room for another one!

The idea of borrowing Galia's brothers van came up to save money of course. On approach her brother willingly said, 'No problem!' in true Bulgarian fashion, and we arranged to pick up the van a few days later when the sofa was ready for collection. The cost of gas would amount to 15 lev as her brother knew exactly how many kilometres to the litre it did.

So we arrived at Galia’s brother’s factory to pick up the van. I had not seen it before and when taken to it by one of the worker I was quite excited. There sitting parked in a field was an old tatty sky blue transit van. It must have been about 15 years and had character written all aver it. Big enough for a sofa for sure but I was looking forward to driving this typical old style Bulgarian work vehicle which in it’s past had friends such at Thomas the Tank Engine of it’s Bulgarian counterpart.

Firstly we had to see how it worked and looking at the rear doors there had fitted on it was not the original lock but a front door handle and locking system with a yale key to open and shut it. The locking system to these doors was a little piece of wire holding the handle down so it didn’t get bumped up and fly open during transit. Inside were empty oil canisters covered over with old flattened cardboard boxes creating a safe cushioned base for the sofa.

The driving area was a maze of DIY inventions added to keep the systems working. There wasn’t a key to start it as it had been hotwired and converted onto a push button to start the engine and a flick switch to turn the engine off. The clutch was shin level off the floor and you had to raise your whole leg to get on top of it to disengage the clutch. The floor was not there in places and the road/ground could be seen in places.

The gears were on the right of the steering wheel and each time a gear change was made a major grating noise was made not too dissimilar from nails on a blackboard but 40 decibels louder. The light switches were homemade and screwed on the dashboard with another odd bit of plastic to raised it away from the main instruments.

Going further into the instrument panel speedometer didn’t work the mileometer or kilometre if that’s what you call it didn’t work nor did the tripometer. The fuel indicator was at 0 therefore I can only assume this didn’t work either. Judging the temperature of the oil was impossible, as this didn’t work either. And there just to the left on the window screen was an up to date MOT sticker!!

Well being a Bulgarian van with all unnecessary instruments working the most essential piece of equipment was working perfectly – The Radio! It was finely tuned to radio Vasolina and blared out Bulgarian popfolk music as we moved off.

Apart from the noise of the gear changes still not quite drowned out by Bulgarian radio the van worked perfectly and got us to and from where we wanted to and at a cost of 15lv we paid for the gas. Half price of the delivery service we were first offered. But what price can you put of the experience?

Where is Maria?

During the journey of life things happen, experiences unfold and in the light of these experiences many thing just seems so cruel and unfair. Today was one of those instances.

From the first time I came to live in Skalitsa, one family have always been there to just a degree it feels that I have become part of their family. Sasho, the man of the house has been adopted celebratory ‘brother’ for two years now and quite often we are in each others’ houses to the early hours I the morning. All the things I have learnt about village life and country living, has been given to me by Sasho and Rosa his school-teaching wife. I have lost count how many times we have been helped out by this family.

Two years ago Rosa father passed away and this was a very sad occasion but acceptable as he had a good life and was of the age were many Bulgarian males do pass over to the other side. I saw him the day before he died and this sight has stuck with me ever since. The sight of someone who you know will not be in this world for much longer just brings to the front what is important in this life and how humble it makes you thinking that the problems you have matter.

Part of the family live in Ovchi Kladinets the nearest neighbouring village from Skalitsa. Maria, Sasho’s sister and her husband Mitko live there. From the very first day I met Maria (and I have written an account of this) there was a deep affection and total joy in her being around. Everyone has the same opinion of her – she is the kindest, generous and more sincere person that you could ever meet.

Many times we have visited her in Ovchi Kladinets and treated like close family. There has never been a time that we have left without a boot full of garden produce and a big slobby kiss goodbye.

Maria is as big as her personality, loud, brash, unassuming, speaking her mind at all times. She has a very open based sense of humour, which crosses many subject boundaries and she has no scruples about anything. Without Maria this world would be a much poorer place and never at any point did anyone ever conceive that she wouldn’t be here. This is where the totally inconsideration of fairness in this world strikes.

On our return to Skalitsa, Rosa brought the shocking news that Maria was very ill and didn’t have any chance of recovery. We couldn’t believe that this woman, the life and soul of Bulgaria and the same age as me could ever have got this way.

We offered to take Sasho and Rosa to the village as they didn’t have any transport although we did dither as Maria would get out of her death bed to cater for us and we didn’t want to stress here further. But we decided to go as we may not see her ever again.

On arrival we went in and I just didn’t know that that was Maria sitting on the bed. It looked nothing like her. She had lost so much weight that she was unrecognisable. Her bubbly forceful talking tone had diminished into a whimper as we greeted her. Everyone was in tears as the full impact of her illness became a reality before our very eyes.

The next hour or so was painful for everyone, as we knew that this is probably the last time we see her. I won’t go into detail about her illness, as it is complex and not something that should be broadcast.

We left with this picture in our heads of a woman who had been in our hearts and head for so long transformed into a woman just clinging on to life. How cruel can life be?

This again makes us feel so guilty about anything and everything we complain about, how insignificant these problems are compared to what we see before us. Why is it that the good people of this earth are destine to leave it early and the evil remain? If there is a God why does he play cruel games all the time?

Lada Tyres!

There had been a worrying time from day one of buying my Lada. The steering was faulty and from the feel of it a major cost to fix.

Every time a turn was made there was a big bump and the steering wheel just bumped and over-steered. This happened in both left and right directions but the main thing here was that the car still went left and right but suddenly! Added to this the steering was very stiff and Popeye styled workouts were had whenever the driving was made. It was especially hard in Yambol town where much steering and three point turns were needed.

Throughout the two years of owning the car this was something I put up and to me was part and parcel of the Lada drive. I even had other Bulgarian assessing the problem and the sharp intake of breath at the thought of the cost of repair always seemed to the assessed outcome. So it was left, as long as the car could steer that was the prime objective.

The last year or so both front types constantly leaked air. Every few day it was a trip to a garage to pump them up again. Getting he repaired was something that was always put off as it cost money. The tyres had good tread and they worked, the air in the garages was free so it carried on. This is how it is in Bulgaria, any way to save money, it is works and is a little inconvenient to keep it working and doesn’t cost anything that’s how it is.

Finally it was time to get the tyres seen to, initially with a view of repairing the existing tyres as we had a little spare cash to see to this brought over from working in England. We estimated that this should only cost a maximum of 20 lv for both, but I knew at least one of the tyres were beyond repair looking at the bulges on the tyre wall. This had been the state of the tyres from day one but again it still rolled on regardless and got us places.

We looked at the cost of tyres many times and that just the though of the cost put us off from doing anything about it, until Galia spotted some very cheap tyres in a supermarket 70 lv each.

So one day we decided to check these out and looked at the tyre sizes we needed for the Lada. To do this we checked the existing tyres sizes on the car and they were found to be 185 (whatever that meant). The equivalent size was found in the supermarket each amounting to 75 lv. Before committing to buy them we thought we would check out whether they could be repaired.

A particular garage opposite the fire station was pointed out and recommended to us by Galia’s son, so on recommendation we checked it out. Dimtar, the owner was fixing a child’s motorbike he had imported from England as he attended to our requests to check out what we should do with the two front tyres.

He took them both off and it was quite obvious these couldn’t be repaired with the state of both of the inside walls. It was no wonder they were loosing air as the rubber was fractured in numerous places and at least three of four nails embedded in the tread. Added to all this they were the wrong sized tyres for a Lada. His recommendation was two new tyres both correctly sized for the vehicle. Was this a Bulgaria classic trick for us to be hoodwinked into buying two new tyres?

We had now breathed a sigh of relief in one hand but held out breath in view of how much he was to charge. Another sigh of relief was made when the cost was 64 lv for each tyre fitted, balanced and ready to roll. We agreed and they were set up within 20 minutes.

What a good deal we got in view of the supermarket prices being asked for without fitting or balancing. And what a close shave it was with is going to buy the wrong sized tyres from there.

The biggest joy and relief after all this was after all this time with the wrong sized tyres on the car and the stress on steering the problem has completely disappeared. It really does feel like driving a Roll Royska compared to before!

Bulgarian Rats and Ladas in Winter

Winter, Bulgaria, short, sharp and should be well prepared for if you have a car here. Now I have a Lada and very proud of it I am, even though I hate cars. But this is a car with character even though there are elements of embarrassment to many who I tell. Not to me you understand but to many Brits who turn their nose up at owning such a vehicle.

The Lada was meticulously prepared for winter in my farmhouse garage. The battery was taken out and put on a trickle charge via a DIY solar charger designed for AA rechargeable batteries stuck on the kitchen windowsill. Wasn’t quite sure whether it was going to work though but worth a try. In fact the idea is so Bulgarian I was glowing with pride with idea being my own.

The car was packed with blankets underneath the bonnet, over the front radiator grill and on top of the bonnet to insulate against the severe cold that was bound to come. It was as snug as a bug in a rug as they say.

The car was jacked up so the front wheels were raised off the ground in order for the tyres to be laid up to rest. The front tyres both have slow punctures (normal in Bulgaria) so this would insure they are not crushed when totally void of air after a few days. The back wheels were blocked and the hand brake off to avoid stretching the handbrake cable.

The fuel tank was run judged to be almost empty and the gas completed used up as the preparations for winter for my Lada almost complete. It was very reassuring that all this was completed, I was to be away throughout the winter months.

Arriving back at the end of winter the car was seen exactly as it was left. The blankets and sheets were removed in the now warmer weather to reveal the engine after hibernation. The two front tyres totally void of air were pumped up and the car let down onto the concrete garage floor. The battery placed in, connected and with the little petrol that was left in the tank the car sprung to life after about five turns of the engine. The trickle charging system for the battery that was improvised and in place throughout winter worked perfectly. The car was a goer, and within 20 minutes of being tucked away all snug, the car was ready for action.

It was only three weeks later when taking the car out during night that I discovered that the lights didn’t work!

Now here is a warning, because I covered the engine with blankets and sheet during winter, this was nesting material for rats and mice. The next morning I took a closer look at the electrical system. Much of the plastic casing of the relay systems, etc. have been eaten and the wiring stripped of plastic. A fair few of the wires have been gnawed and severed from rat teeth. It is no wonder the lighting didn’t work.

Strangely enough the car would have had no problem with vermin if the bedding material hadn’t been placed underneath the bonnet. This just invited a perfect place for rat and mice nests. Next year this won’t of happen again solely due to me being here all the time this time round. But this is a good tip to remember to other hibernating their cars in garages here.

Don’t make the beds up for mice and rats under the bonnet as it won’t only be lights out before bedtime for the vermin but for your car in the spring.

Gergyovden

Well it's the 6th of May and and eagerly awaited population in Bulgaria was finally rewarded with their patience. It is another name day in Bulgaria and a pretty big one, the name is George. Incidentally it is also Army Day to coincide with this day of celebration. It is unofficially the day summer starts and is celebrated by farmers throughout the land with a specially baked Gergyovden bread.

All people that have a name mildly similar to the name George is included in the name day celebrations but of course all friends and family get in on the act of celebrating on their behalves. So Galia has her name day set today, a special day for her and a present was bought the day before. She wanted a chip fryer and she got one. No jewellery, fancy fashion or otherwise was wanted. What a practical Bulgarian she is and a very happy one I'm so glad I've got her for so many reasons, not least the love I have for her.

We had also purchased the lamb after surveying many shops. This of course is the traditional food of this particular name day. But little was we to know that we didn't get to eat it...... Mainly because a guest arrives a lunchtime.

It was Georgio, Galia's cousin, who of course was celebrating with his allocated name. He had a friend in the wonderful Yambol Park who own a restaurant/bar and he had reserved an area sitting out in the park for all his friends and family. We had formally been invited and we had tot be there within the hour. No worries though a Bulgarian hour can last anything up to 6 hours and in some cases lasts forever! This means we had time enough to get ready.

We were very excited as we remember last years' celebration laid on by Doctor Georgo and although we didn't make it due to work commitments we saw how much fun was had by the pictures, including live accordion music and game with a live, loaded handgun - that's another story though.

Galia and I got ready in our best outfits and bough a gift of perfume and chocolates for Georgio, again traditional gifts with moderate costs are traditional. We walked in glorious sunshine to the Park, (called Diana Park after the Greek Goddess of Hunting).

We saw the cluster of buildings in the centre of the park, part of which used to be for wedding functions etc. but had been run down since 1990. Georgio we could seen in the distance already had a few friends around and the rakia had already been started. Could he last the distance?

We sat down again with glorious weather in the middle of this beautiful park and every so often more friends and family turned up. Shopska salad, green salad, nuts, were a never ending supply from the restuarant and we could smell the barbeque which consisted of kufta (herbed mince balls). Then the lamb, which fell off the bone came into play after a few hours.

All this time we were talking and listening to heavy metal music, Georgio and Toma (the restaurant owner) were a big fans of this music. The whole of the park was filled with Iron Maiden, Metalika and Alice Cooper, the latter they played from my request once they found out I was a big fan.

The strange thing about this get together was that I felt as if I was part of the family, my Bulgarian now up to quite a bit in conversation terms. No longer did I have to become isolated from a point of lack of Bulgarian communication skills. Oddly enough everyone wanted to speak English to me but I didn't feel right about this and explained why. Anyone who knows me know why as well.

The guests still came flooding in and the children paying around were so refreshing and didn't need any attention from parents. They were more than content to play such simple games in the park like hide and seek, running races and just playing around with a simple stick they found in the woods. There wasn't any need for anything for them to be stimulated by other than playing with themselves. The whole day and evening was stress free and content children added to this immensely. God I'm so glad I here in Bulgaria and away from disrespectful, spoilt and untamed Brit kids.

Speaking with many people I met the head coach of the International Bulgarian basketball Coach. He was telling me how Bulgarian basket ball is on the up and that Yambol basketball is the best in the country. He also was saying that it was becoming harder each year from lack of funding at school. This of course means less talent cultured at an early age and less talent in the pipeline for the future. He had be the coach for some twenty years having worked his way up through the ranks. We spoke about many other things related to sport and basketball, he has a strong opinion that golf, snooker and other sports that don't involve aerobic activities aren't sport at all! He has a point.

The toilets in the main building had a reputation, non on site with the restaurant/bar as all this was really was a souped up shed! The reputation was realised by Galia as she tested the water. From thereon it was toilet natural as we were surrounded by lush greenery, trees and bushes, perfect for relief in natural privacy. The Tundhza was only 20 metres away from our seat and many men found this a good point of relief with blocks of apartments opposite staring them in the face holding no fear of indecency. (A picture of the mens' toilets is given here)

So many friendly people, it is overwhelming that this now is part and parcel of how life is here and Galia and me are also very much part of the makeup. Food drink and music and song were now going through into the night as the lights came on.

Rakia by the litre and real Russian vodka were the staple drinking diet. Every few minute a big 'Heidi!' followed by 'Nastravey!' Occasional a few Bulgarian singing came out based around the name of George even so often followed by the 'Nastravey' and so it went on.....

Finally the crowded long table got shorter and midnight approached but not before many laughs and talking with a bit of dancing toward the end materialised. (The two name day celebraties Georgio and Galia give a good example here.) We knew we'd been to a party and lost count of the numbers of rakias we had. Even so nobody got out of hand, there was no bad words or bad feelings all was concord throughout. Again the respect everyone has for everyone else is quite astounding.

We finally got home and just looked at each other knowing that coming back home to Bulgaria was the best move we had made and we just don't want to ever leave again.

My Skalitsa Farmhouse for rent - An Advertisement

Farmhouse for Rent in Skalitsa Village - SE Bulgaria (Now with Internet connection)

About Skalitsa Village

The village of Skalitsa is located in Southeast Bulgaria. Its nearest towns are Yambol and Elhovo, Radnovo all around 30 minutes drive from the village.

Yambol and Elhovo towns are thriving and continue to be rejuvenated by popularity and investment from many foreigners and Bulgarians. Radnovo is untouched by foreigners and is a relatively unknown but very attractive town.Skalitsa is one of the larger and more important villages in the area and is an up and coming attraction with available investment from Europe into the infrastructure and facilities there.

There has been a major clean up and fresh look in the village with the school having been renovated and money other public building having been given a face-lift. There is also brand new theatre/concert hall that opened in the village centre last year that attracts artists and performers nationally and from around the world.

It has everything you need in the village including two garages, post office, a doctor and dentist surgery, two veterinaries, a chemist, a variety of grocery/food stores, a clothing/linen/shoe shop and a beautiful orthodox church, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007.

During the summer months, (and there are many of them) there is local produce sold from stalls in the village centre park - yes it has a big public park in the village centre as well.

It also has a unisex hairdressing shop and many bars scattered around in and around the village where you can get refreshments, snacks and most cater for basic food provisions.

Skalitsa also has its own bakery, window double-glazing factory, metalwork factory, wood-processing factory and around the village many new vineyards have been planted from private investment.

Bus and taxi services run regularly from the village centre to all satellite villages and major towns such as Radnovo, Yambol, Elhovo and both Nova and Stara Zagora.

It is not widely known but Skalitsa is famed for its healing stones, which are geographically positioned at a point where two magnetic fields cross. There is only one other place on earth where this happens! Research has been made on the site along with media attention, all present evidence of the stones having healing properties for arthritis, rheumatism and various other related and unrelated ailments.

There have been two sets of film makers in the village last year, one film crew from Hollywood USA, choosing Skalitsa for its magnificent setting on a raised rock base within the Thracian Plain. Skalitsa actually mean little rock. This was chosen over other Balken countries including Croatia, Romania and Former Republic of Czechoslovakia, the Skalitsian scenery could not be compared with!

The Farmhouse Location

The farmhouse is located high up on the edge of the village a pleasant ten-minute walk to the village centre and about the same to the healing stones. There is Ivan and Maria who own the bar/general grocery store which sells everything you would need which is only some 300 metres from the farmhouse. Of course the main towns of Yambol, Elhovo and Radnovo are only 30 minutes drive have big supermarkets where you can stock up with provisions if you wish.

Halfway up the side of a quiet tarmac road away from the main road, (which is quiet as well) you will find it nestling naturally. It has purposely been made to blend in complete harmony with character of other farmhouses that are scattered around the village.

The views form the farmhouse grounds are extensive over the countryside and from the garden and most days you can have stunning views of the hills and even the mountains in the north.

The Accommodation

The Grounds

As you enter the farmhouse along the white concrete path you will be entering a garden purposely retaining very much the Bulgarian style with the farmyard and cart tucked away under the outhouses shelter. Looking beyond the garden through the vineyard trellis with uninterrupted view of the undulating Bulgarian countryside.

It is full of practical but beautiful plants and shrubs and of course the wine and rakia producing vines that cover the main area above you. Underneath the vines is the patio area, well protected from the direct heat of the strong Bulgarian summer sun and a perfect place to relax with a cool refreshing drink accompanied by the wonderful nature surrounding you.

Inside the Farmhouse

Once you enter the farmhouse this is where the Bulgarian style mixes and compliments with the western European comforts and modern lifestyle. The renovation was made to a high standard with kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom now providing a very comfortable living with double glazed units throughout. Throughout the farmhouse it still keeps very much to Bulgarian traditional style is decoration and taste. In a nutshell, everything is to modern western standards but with Bulgarian character written all over it.

The Hall

This carpeted internal entrance for the house is a separate room leading to the other three rooms. Fitted with a Skalitsa made white aluminium door netted fly screen door, this provided draught free winters and ventilation options during the hot spring, summer and autumn months. It has a clothing rack for hanging outdoor clothing and ample space for outdoor shoes to be kept. Also there is a cabinet, drawer and some shelving for storing keys, purses, hand luggage, etc.

The Kitchen

The kitchen has all white goods provided, fridge, freezer, washing machine, modern electric oven and grill, gas hob, extractor hood above and a microwave oven. The kitchen is big enough to cater as a dining area with a dining table and four chairs to fitting comfortably. All crockery and kitchen accessories are provided.

The Bathroom

The modern bathroom suite is a brand new extension of the farmhouse. It is a fully tiled with a large bath and fixed wall shower unit with shower curtain surround. There is a wide bathroom ceramic basin and low flush toilet with a convector heater if needed. A wall cabinet with mirror doors is fixed above the basin.

The Bedroom

The comfortable carpeted bedroom has one double king-sized bed with headboard and bedside drawer. The view from the window gives a glorious sight of the vines, garden and uninterrupted views of the wonderful Bulgarian countryside beyond. It is fully furnished with dressing table with full mirror and quality wooden wardrobe imported from France. Also there is an electric convector heater if needed.

The Living Room

The luxurious and homely living room is cosy furnished with good quality imported furniture. There is a new wooden floor and ceiling with a traditional Bulgarian patterned carpet. Placed within are two\sofas, which will accommodate six guests. One sofa converts into a comfortable double bed. You will find a high quality Sony music system with CD, cassette and radio facilities. A colour television is also provided for terrestrial viewing.

As part of the fittings there is also a freestanding traditional wood-burning stove with a well-stocked supply of local wood in the garage retaining the Bulgarian atmosphere. On the bookcases you will find a good variety of books, music cassettes and CDs that are also there for you to enjoy.

Extras

*Food and daily supplies of all provision from shoes to bread provided can be bought from the local shop only 300 metres away.

*Milk, (from cow or goat or sheep) eggs and sirine (traditional white Bulgarian cheese) can be bought from neighbours at below shop prices.

*Electric water and bottled gas for heating/cooking are provided for in the price for guests staying less than 28 days.

*All bedding and towels are provided

*A weekly laundry and cleaning service is provided id required |(a fee of €15 is charged for this)

*There is a regular garden maintenance from the owners and food from the garden is offered free form the extensive grounds during the growing season.

Why Rent here?

This renovated farmhouse gives the best of both worlds, tranquillity of Bulgarian village life with as all the comforts of a home from home. Whether for holiday, a base for house hunting or a place to stay whilst your property is being renovated this is an ideal place to stay at a fraction of the cost of hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Not sure whether Bulgaria or village country life is for you? Use the farmhouse to test the water with Bulgarian village life without total initial commitment - there are special rates for extended stays over 28 days!

Look at out Competitive rates Daily rates:

€20 leva per night all seasons
Weekly rates
March, April, May, June - €125
July, August, September - €140
October, November - €112
December, January, February - €100

For extended stays of 28 consecutive days or more the following rates apply:

€400 for each 28 days all year round (€100 per week) Guests staying for 28 days or more will have to cover nominal electric, bottled gas and water bills.


Testimonals

August 2007

Dear Martin and Galiya,

We just had to say how much we enjoyed out stay at your house. This was the first time in Bulgaria and everyone was so helpful and friendly we really didn't want to go back.

Just a few points, a fly screen or curtain should be installed on the front door like you have done to the windows, it was a problem with them getting in the house. Also you might consider getting English television in the farmhouse, we did miss that.

That aside, thank you so much for letting us use your Bulgarian home we envy you living there. Might see you again next year after we get married.

Rik and Maggie

___________________________________________________________________

October 2007

Hi Mart and Gal,

Bulgaria for the first time for us and it was a horrendous time in Sofiya being hassled by taxi people. thank God for Christu you taxi friend who you booked for us. He was our gardian angel before he arrived we weren't too sure wether this country was for us! By the time we got to scalitza and you greeted us we had calmed down and the rakia you presetned to us was quite a tonic. For the week or so we were there we didn't want to go home and we are now seriously looking for a house for us in the area. Stefan loved the animals there, he doesnt stop tlaking about them a week after getting back to yorkshire. Galia is lovely and her bulgarian ways was an added bonus for us when we needed her. nothing was to much trouble. We hope to return and see both of you again but hopefully with out own dream home and we can give you our rakia. Give our love to Maria, Ivan Sasho and Rosa for being such warm neighbours, we had put on weight since being there.

love dave linda and stefan

____________________________________________________________

September 2007

Mart and Galia,

just a quick massive thank you for being such warm and generous hosts. We adore you house and our 4 days there really wasn't enough for us. We would dearly like more time there next year rather than opting for the coast, that was a mistake we wont make again. We have fallen in love with Skalitza in that short time there.

Will be in touch through email

Phil and Sam (Sam is now expecting! Will update you later)

__________________________________________________________-

April 2008

Joe and I would love to thank you so much for making our holiday so special. Our previous trip as you know wasn't for us and you have restored our faith in Bulgaria with your hospitality and understanding of much that we didn't know about in Bulgaria. We have been educated by both you and Galia.

May well see you again in the autumn if you can fit us in

Many Thanks again

Love

Joe and Rose

Fishing For Food At Roza

Well having got up early on an overcast day to start working there was a phone call. It was Galia's son Anton asking whether we want to go fishing for food. Now I had been with him before river fishing but this was a bit different. The fishing season doesn't start until 15th May for river fishing and it is only private reservior fishing that was open us and that was what was on offer.

The clouds threatens rain but that didn't put us off as 2:00 approached Anton turned up on his push bike with four rods and a rucksack ripped to smitherines, but it still just held fishing contents. All this was, in typical Bulgarian style, strapped to the frame of his bike causing him to ride bow legged!! (Picture of Anton shown)

Galia was to go as well and we steamed off tot he fishing tackle shop for some worms and maggots. 10 minutes talking to the owner getting the best tips for fishing was made as Antan and I purchased the bait. We were off again - but even after all this talk to the expert of fishing we didnt' know where the reservior was! We travelled 10 km and caught sight of the reservior but because of the rain the track leading to it was too muddy to risk a lada getting stuck. We opted for the Roza reservior and hastened as the cloud of rain still threatened.

We arrive only to find that again the track tot he fishing area was only accessable by tractors and 4x4s. We walked a kilometer and found the owner who gave the nod for us to fish. Then it was back another kilometer for the equipment and Galia who was waiting in the car. Then another kilometer to start fishing after paying the 2 leva fee! This entitites you to a full day of fishing and to keep all the fish you catch. (Roza reservoir shown here)

Before we had even got our breath back Galia had caught a fish as we had set her up first. From thereon it was a fish every few minutes from us all! What a brilliant afternoon as the rain held of and the sun broke through toward the end of our stint of food gathering.

The fish once caught were just laid live on the sandy shore of the lake, it was cool enough for them to keep for a few hours in the open. Might seem cruel to many but that is how it is here. We had over 5 kg of fish, not large but in gross numbers and a feast to take home.

While we were fishing, talking and having a 'whale' of a time we observed a 4x4 getting stuck in the mud and at least 8 Bulgarians that had gathered tryign to bounce the car out of the dip it had dug itself into. We knew from the first moment that the tractor of the other side of the reservior was to be called upon. But being Bulgarian they spent two hours talking about it before actually to the neccasary. As we left at about 8:30 just before sunset, we saw the tractor making it's way to the stricken 4x4.

The fish were taken and placed into a bucket of water then left overnight outside for them to be de scaled and prepared the following morning of George name day day.

linkwithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

My Blog Roll of Honour