Credit Crunch Causes Increased Crime In Bulgarian Villages.

The World recession has now reached Bulgaria and the problems associated with this not always fully realised, even in small tucked away villages in the Bulgarian countryside.


We had a big warning from friends in the village that there is a big crime wave right now and that we should really stay at the farmhouse full time if we want to ensure the house isn't broken into and pillaged. There have been many break ins locally with empty expatriate holiday homes, that stand out like a sore thumb with the rich picking that lay in wait. It's not only expatriate homes that area t risk, any empty home that these thieves find are at risk. This has always been the case in Bulgarian villages.

The threat of roaming gypsies that see opportunities of stealing from empty homes remains. The problem now is that it is not only gypsies that are the problem. With the worldwide recession hitting hard, many Bulgarians have lost their jobs both home and abroad. They are now desperate for money and turn to stealing to feed their families. The villages are excellent picking points as many of these 'forced criminals' now travel from village to village to prey on homes that beckon.

The homes that are at greatest risk of course are the expatiate holiday homes. These are not occupied for 90% on the time and they really to represent a major haul once broken into. In the villages security for these places are normally thin on the ground as it used to be a low risk area and it is only neighbours that act as an deterrent.

My neighbour has now spread the word in the that I am living there full time and occasionally pop into Yambol for business. I have been advised to keep an outdoor lights on at all times and get another dog to put in the yard. This will reduce the risk substantially.

Now I live in an road that goes nowhere, there is no passing traffic as such other than local villages on their way to the dumping grounds with their rubbish. My house is not visible from the main road and my renovations are such that it still looks like a typical Bulgarian home from the outside and the garden cultivated in typical Bulgarian fashion. Even if you pass my home, it still looks like Bulgarians that live there, this is a good insurance.

I know many expatriate houses that are so obviously done out in non-Bulgarian style that you would need to be an idiot not to realise that Bulgarians don't live there. Even if you were blind you would still know that this was not a Bulgarian home as there wouldn't be a barking dog as you approach.

So the bottom line is that crime is on the increase due to the world recession, even more so in the villages that are so vulnerable. Tougher security is needed to combat this, let's hope that the recession subsides and that the crime rate falls alongside this. Such a shame that another element of crime in Bulgaria villages that was almost non existent is on a changing platform.

Snow and Decisions Made At The Weekend

It was Friday 5:00 and the weekend had just begun, we were due to travel to Skalitsa for a weekend retreat after grafting for five solid days on the trot. Just as I left to pick up Galia from the factory, the snow started falling, well I say falling it was horizontal with the wind that blew it in. Falling snow isn't a problem, drifting snow is as we weighed up where we should risk the trip to Skalitsa at this point.

We got to a junction where we had to decide whether a left or a right turn was to be made, depending on what our destination was going to be. Galia being a Bulgarian women always expects the man to make the decisions. I in my previous life I found it very hard to make decisions, it was a fear of being torn to shreds with the blame if the decision is wrong. So faced with having to make a decision I suggested we stay in Yambol. Getting caught in snowdrifts is not my idea of winding down at the weekend and certainly Galia wouldn't take kindly to the cold sub zero temperatures. Galia didn't react to that decision so I assumed she didn't really want to stay in Yambol, so I change my mind and opted for the left turn for Skalitsa.

Like I said, the trouble with me making decisions is that I get the blame, getting shouted at and never made to forget my errors. This was always the case in the UK with both my previous English partners. (Yes, yes, I've been married twice before if you were wondering.) This thought hung over me throughout the journey that was now running the risk with the weather, which Galia had heard on the news was quite serious. As we sped out way and reached the outskirts of Yambol the snowfall and winds had picked up and the road now was cover with waves of drifting snow. Every so often there would be a gap in the hedgerows and a major wedge of snow was being forced through it. this was worrying, we could see ahead that the sky was darker and this would get worse as we knocked up each kilometre.

By the time we had got to the first village the road was totally covered with snow and it kept falling and drifting in many if not most parts int open flat countryside. Every so often a bus would come the other way speeding like a bat out of hell along these slippery roads. What possesses drivers like this to use such speed with passengers aboard is beyond me, Galia didn't seem surprised with this and she looked a bit nervous regarding this choice of destination now as we still have 20 kilometres to go and the weather was closing in even more.

I'd driven in snow packed roads here before in a Lada, the trouble is you don't know where the road is, there weren't any other vehicle tracks to guide you - We seemed to be the only vehicle on the road on a Friday at rush hour as the thought of that decision at the junction was beginning to feel like the wrong decision. I wasn't too worried about anything else other than the repercussions of a woman's tongue and scorn during the saga and even more the end of it.

Taking it very slowly, and without using brakes which just caused us to skid, we managed to slide our way to Skalitsa, it was a roller coast of a ride, I loved every moment. It was easier than expected especially in view of the severe weather we encountered.

Snow and Decisions Made At The WeekendA bigger problem was the final 200 metres in the the village road that leads to the farmhouse. Another decision had to be made; try and get to the farmhouse garage or leave the car on the main road next to the bar/shop. Again, it was left for me to make the decision as it was made instantaneously and the brave Lada when head first in the drifted snow up the small hill to the farmhouse. It only just made it, but the big problem was yet o come, the actual crossing the verge which had a dip in it to get into the garage.

We had spoken to our neighbour who was outside gathering winter fuel just before attempting the final run. He informed us that the whole village had no electricity as the power lines had been blown over in the wind. He was actually amazed we were here as the whole of Bulgaria had come to a halt due to drifting snow and his intended guest this weekend had cancelled their trip.

He had caught up with us as just as we had given up any hope of having the car undercover in the garage overnight. It was entrenched in the middle of the road in half a metre of snow and going was going nowhere. But this is Bulgaria, this is a village and there is always help at hand in these locations. Our neighbour had caught up with us and was with his wife this time. We had three people now (Galia being the third) who could help push the Lada out of trouble and into the garage. The only stressed out person was me, I knew that it was near impossible to get the car in the garage an the efforts that were being made by these Bulgarians would be fruitless. The car only had to travel some 10 metres, but in snow that had drifted to nearly a metre against the garage door look like a mission impossible, and without electric with the dark of the night looming just half an hour away, the original decision looked even more or a wrong one. What penalty will I have to pay for making that choice.

To cut a long story short, the car eventually got in the garage, it took 30 to 40 minutes to achieve this as no one gave up except me. The car in was in the garage and suddenly the electricity came back on and lit up the darkness that was now surrounding us in this almost isolated spot. There was no no rush as we spent the next twenty minutes talking and catching up on the news locally.

We finally got indoors, the wood burner started up and not food prepared as the snow carried on outside. This was the best kind of evening you could ever have having finally got here. Was it the wrong decision after all? Only Sunday will tell us that as we have to get back to Yambol for work the next day. Did I get shouted at for making the wrong decisions? No, even though there were times when it was deemed wrong, Galia seems understands that making decisions is always a risk and sometimes wrong decisions are made. Why should she get angry with me and use that against me for the rest of my life? Why I put up with that in the UK I'll never know, perhaps I thought that was normal then.

Sorry 'Today' Bloggers - They Don't Like Bulgaria

Registration unavailable in your location.

A message to all you bloggers who either have today.com blogs. I'm sorry but I can't comment on your posts.

I have tried to make comments on many of your blogs, but Today.com will not allow me to register with them to do so. All I get is the message above in red. I have written to them and they confirm that Bulgaria is not catered for.If you wish to petition them to include Bulgaria as a country that can register and comment on the growing band of Today.com site, please feel free to do so. Even if you aren't a Today.com blogger you are probably registered as you have to do this to comment on this format of blogs.

They can be contacted here-> http://www.today.com/contact

Thank You

NEWS IN:
I have to give today.com credit, they were on the case straight away and I can now comment on today.com blogs. I still can't register because I live in Bulgaria, hopefully they can be put me on the map near in the future as I like the set up they have there.

Thanks to those who contacted today.com to register their concern - You got a result, I will be on comments to many of these blogs tomorrow.

Bulgarian Eurovision Winner - Another Monty Python Sketch

I don't normally watch Bulgarian television that much, but this particular Saturday evening something caught my eye. It was the Bulgarian qualification for their Eurovision Song Contest representation. Last year was a great year as the Bulgarian chose a traditional based song and they ended up in fifth place in the finals, an unprecedented success. This year, after watching the winning song, I fear they won't do so well.

There were twelve finalist represented, all very different styles all hoping to be picked from a tele-voting system. The winner will be going to Russia later in the year for the finals in Moscow.

Now I quite like the Eurovision Song contest, not of the music but for the entertainment and the total ridicule of the event. Tonight was not exception. Of all the songs that were performed there was none song that I knew would come in last place. What happened? It actually won! I just could not believe it.

The song called 'Illusion' doesn't really have any identity, the singer Krassimir Avramov who comes from Sliven can't sing! In this live performance, his falsetto voice was so out of tune that it was a full semitone away from the intended note. Wearing a chain mail suit, couple of stilt dancers performing by his side and an impromptu opera 'moment' which represetned shreaking more than singing, the performance is bizarre to say the least. I can honestly say it wasa relief when the performance ended.

This is why I like watching Eurovision, it is surreal and rates alongside a sketch from Monty Python! Needless to say, it will do very well in the finals in Moscow!

I have pasted a video clip of the song here having seen this version it is ten times better than the live performance I witnessed and no dancers on stilts. Just image his voice out of tune and you'll get closer to the picture I saw.

Be warned there is some nudity comtained here - but in the famous words of Kenny Everitt - "All done in the best possible taste!"





More news about this Bulgarian Eurovision entry as protests were made in Sofia by musicians who know what is and what isn't good music. Check out the story -> http://bulgarianscrapbook.blogspot.com/2009/02/protests-against-bulgaria-eurovision.html

Living or Surviving in Bulgaria?

I mentioned on a previous post that it is not a case of living here but surviving here. For many who come here to retire they have a income from either a pension, inheritance or a nest egg they have saved to live on. These expatriates are mainly here to retire and take the backwaters of Bulgaria. Trips to the Coast, the mountains, sightseeing, restaurants and many other things to keep them amused and entertained. There are other countries that can provide a much better retirement location that Bulgaria and I still contest that the main reason expatriate retirees are here is because it is cheap.

It was my original dream to move to France, I loved the diverse countryside,the culture and the language. Everything was geared toward a move there, then the cost of living went sky high, property prices untouchable with a dream now that had faded into oblivion. A depressed Englishman with a dream of living on a small holding completely shattered. I didn't want much, just a small living area and a bit of land to do my own thing. No cars, televisions, microwaves or anything that the modern world makes you think you need. A simple life where you work for you food, not a financial world, but a bartering world. It can still be down to a degree in Europe, the question was for how long?

Bulgaria was there, it seemed just what I was looking for. Then the affordability of Bulgaria came in to play. Affordability is one thing, maintaining to pay for living a life there is another. You can survive will a little money, but you can't with none. Without any pension, nest egg or inheritance, this was the last chance I had. Staying in the UK wasn't an option and although it going to be difficult in Bulgaria it was something I felt compelled to do rather than carrying on in a downward spiral - You could call it desperation I suppose.

Galia works for her brother who owns and manages a boiler manufacturing company. On the site they not only have a new massive factory, but around a big area of land, part of which is farmed by the workers and the crops are rewards for their labours. Now I have been offered work there in the past as another cog in the wheel of boiler manufacturing, but Galia didn't want me to as she felt that this isn't the kind of work that I would enjoy. Besides that that assume that the pay would be an insult to an Englishman. She works there full-time from 7:30 to beyond 5:00 and the odd Saturday and receives less that £150 a month. She is a manager and gets paid more than the workers there who work the same hours. We manage on this wage and Baba's pension; I earn next to nothing and living off other people's income and this is very difficult for me to accept. There is little or no work for me now in the factory as the financial crisis has meant that employees have had to be laid off.

Today, we are just about surviving, as long as our health is fine we should make it. As it stands we will be working all our lives to survive. Having said that, that's exactly what we would be doing the UK and probably end up in an early grave for our efforts.

Would I return to the UK to work for a short spell again for more funds? There is only one reason I would go back to the UK, but that's my secret.

Correct Footwear For Shopping in Bulgaria

It was a swift run in the Lada down to the factory this evening to pick up Galia. This is now a daily routine and has been for the last two months.


Quite often I have to hang around and wait well beyond the five o’clock finish time. There is no rush ever to clock out dead on time. Many of the workers there just hang around chatting for another thirty minutes before most of them travelling home on rattling bicycles of all shapes and sizes.

Today, Galia only kept me waiting for twenty minutes, this is normal beside I love walking around the factory grounds, which is basically a farm with all the animals and crops growing alongside the industrial side of things. "We are going to Katiya's house!” Galia announced. She never says please, it's not rude, just their ways. Although from my end is does feel quite aggressive no matter how many times it is explained that 'please' isn't normally added after a request for something.

The reason we were going to Katiya's house was to pick her up and go to the Gypsy camp where there was a wallpaper shop that was cheaper than the town centre prices. Katiya was redecorating one of here apartment rooms and Galia offered to take her there. It's quite often we find ourselves in the Gypsy areas as the shops there are in fact much cheaper, no tourists in this neck of the woods! In fact I quite like it there, if feels much more authentic Bulgaria and everything that goes on there is done for the local community. No Global based companies here.

Katiya’s home was arrived at and we fond here son was still asleep there so we had to wait a further ten minutes for him to be woken before setting of. We all went in the apartment together, as Katiya wanted Galia and I to be there when he woke as a surprise. Radoslav is his name. He is only six and he loves going for rides in my Lada, we do it quite often, he has a thing about driving and makes engine noises most of the time he is with us.

We all stood by his bed as Galia woke him up by speaking gently into his ear telling him he was going for a ride in the Lada with Martin. After his eyes got used to the light, he was now on his imaginary car steering himself up and down with the familiar raspberry sounds. He was very excited, which is more than can be said for me, I hate shopping and shopping for wallpaper with two women isn't on my top ten party games, What's more, these are Bulgarian women on a crusade for a bargain, which makes it even worse.

I asked Galia whether Katiya knew which wallpaper she wanted. Galia confirmed that she knew exactly what she wanted and we knew I had to get back soon as I had work commitments. But somehow I knew this wouldn't make any difference to the time spent in the shop surveying wallpaper, these are after all Bulgarian women in their element and I knew exactly what to expect.

We got to the shop with both women insisting I could park the Lada on a busy dual carriageway, I knew it was illegal but what the hell, it was less distance to walk being right outside the shop and we were in Gypsy territory and I have a Lada. This is a no go area for the police so no worries, they’d think it was a Gypsy Lada!

Fifty, yes fifty minutes later, Katiya bought the wallpaper that she had decided on in the first place! There was also fifty minutes of Radoslav making car engine noises around the shop. Galia was right, she knew exactly which style of wallpaper to buy, but every other one was surveyed again and Galia was asked for a second opinion on every one just to make sure!

We dropped Katiya back home and Galia told me that Katiya had spoken serious words with her. I found out that Galia had been told off for not providing me new footwear and that she should care more about her man's appearance! The whole thing started when we went into Katiya’s house and in the tradition of entering Bulgarian homes and my footwear off. She caught sight of a pair of tatty old sandals; apparently this was not the proper footwear for going shopping, even in Gypsy territory. Katiya had commented that we’re Bulgarian not Gypsy and why hadn't she bought some decent shoes for me to go out in. To be quite honest, I have know for ages that if I we were going to visit a friend's home or go shopping, I would have normally worn the appropriate footwear, but I didn't know we were going until I had picked up Galia from work!

At the end of the day it was just not knowing what was going to happen after work, Perhaps I should now always keep a pair of shopping shoes in the car, just in case - Galia agreed!

Jogging From Scratch in Bulgaria

Over the last few years I have been so lazy as my lifestyle now just involves sitting down and writing. It wasn't a New Year resolution to start up jogging again, I haven't done that since I gave up smoking over 15 years ago.

I started joggin again because I was looking more and more like a Bulgarian weightlifter every day. I didn't feel right in myself, lacked energy and really worried that my heart was being packed with superb Bulgarian food, but it wasn't being worked off of exercised. As a barometer to the size of my stomach, I have always used the rule that if I can't see my private parts I'm too fat. It had now got to the stage where I had to lean over slightly or get aroused to achieve that. I was too fat! I really have to do something about my Blogaria, actually what a good name for a blog about Bulgaria!

So it was a couple of weeks into January and my intention were clear, lose some weight and get fit, the last thing we need is a hospital bill for a heart treatment and medication. Jogging doesn't cost anything and is an investment in health, unless I get run over by idiot drivers, which has happened a few times.

Having run marathons, been a member of an athletic club, competed in cycling cyclo-cross, and cross country races as well as time trials over 10 and 25 miles as well as mountain biking and endurance events, this was well into my past. This is a danger as a fit person who suddenly give up all exercise is more at risk of having heart attacks than someone who isn't. Starting up again would have to be done very steadily, I knew how to train from the past, warming up and stretching before and after is just as important as the jog. The most frustrating thing is being injured and not being able to perform.

So the first two weeks I just restricted myself to brisk walking starting with a 20 minutes session right up to an hour after two weeks. Eventually faster walking up hills and recovery going downhill. I was ready to start jogging at that point.

My first venture out, it was minus 12 degrees so it was on the the cycling tights before the jogging bottoms, two tea shirts and a sweatshirt, a bobble woollen hat, three pairs of thing sock under my running shoes. After at least ten minutes of stretching I was on the street, but not jogging. Initially it was fast walking then on a flat bit of road a little jog for about 400 metres then a walk again to get my breath back. This was done repeatedly for about 20 minutes on a circular route that brought me back home. Stretching was done again before a quick wash down an a cup of herbal tea or tisane.

For the next four weeks this was a daily routine increasing the jogging distances each time, but always restrained from over exertion. It was now getting to the stage that involved non-stop jogging and over 40 minutes each time.

Right now it is at the stage where I can manage to turn my jog into a running and back to jogging to recover. It is now two day jogging and one day off as rest is needed with the amount of energy used now.

I feel much better in myself, have far more energy and when spring comes I will be fit enough to do some intensive digging on the farm. I can clearly see my privates now and that is a relief. I never weigh myself , but I know that there have been quite a few kilograms left out on the road.

Anyone who blogs a lot, should really consider getting out and doing some exercise, it's not good for your health otherwise, you'll have more energy and think better as well. Besides, when was the last time you got out of breath - Perhaps, some of you shouldn't answer that! No matter where you are it can be done, even if you are a moving target for crazy Bulgarian drivers in Yambol.

Never A Slave To Fashion in Bulgaria

A good tip I learnt since coming to Bulgaria and that is not to become a slave to fashion, especially in the home. As an expatriate there are habits that take a long time to get rid of. Wearing shoes in the house, saying please and thank you to everything, eating as fast as you can and stopping only when your plate is empty, using a knife to name a few. Most if not all habits I feel are better here than the old habits I used to have, but the main difference is the habit of being a slave to fashion in the home.

Things look nice, but they are nicer if they are trendy, up to date and fashionable. This is what I was forced to believe in the UK. Here, there are things that are used in the home that are twenty thirty or even fifty years old and work just as well as they did when first bought. If things do have to be replaced, they are replaced with the cheapest they can find, even if it means shopping for weeks to find it.

A classic example is a table cloth that was replaced. The old one was at least 30 years old and the cheapest around at that time. It was a plastic table cloth with some flowers decoration on it that had faded over the years. The problem that arose was that there were a few holes not in the tablecloth and Galia had seen some very cheap plastic material so bought form the second hand market with the table clothing in mind.

The point was that this tablecloth was in mind for being replaced but it had taken around two months for a bargain piece of plastic to be found. No new table cloth, a sheet of plastic that would be turned into a tablecloth with a bit of sizing and cutting. This is a habit that stands out in Bulgaria, their one minded resourcefulness to get something replace at the cheapest possible price, yet still let it do the job very well.

We now have a new table cloth, but that's not the end of it. What happened to the old tablecloth? Simple it was cut up, the holey bits were thrown away and smaller table clothes were made for other tables that plants were placed on. These will now last at least another 30 years, possibly forever.

It hasn't taken me long to catch up on to this habit of finding the cheapest and recycling the old, it was always in my blood, which has a green streak in it anyway.

What and who is Trifon?

What and who is Trifon?The days are growing longer, but the cold is still rolling along each day as we wear our winter clothes and start to count on to the month of April, spring and work again on the land. There are a tough plant that needs attention, the vine. It is the first task of the agricultural calendar - it has a name and a special day, a celebration day as always in Bulgaria. Trifon Zarezan, pushes itself forward as the day of the grower and wine this falls on February 14.

In Skalitsa the celebration of the first cutting of the vine took place a week earlier, but officially 14th February is the allocated day Nationally. Going back many years it used to be the first day of February, but somehow it now has arrived in modern times two weeks later - I don't think it is to do with global warming, more from a date of convenience.

Back to the poetic tale of Trifon; Bulgarian land goes back from time immemorial and with that sacred land people here have been taught to grow vines and make wine from its grapes,. It is not only taught but celebrated before during and after the labours on the land. There is no end to joy and celebration in Bulgaria with the wine that is worn throughout the year.

In past centuries, the feast of the vine and wine in Thracian lands remain to this day. There are folk festivals and customs in Bulgaria with the old pagan traditions remaining, even before the arrival of Slavs and Bulgarians took hold in the Balkan Peninsula.

Zarezan Trifon has always been regarded as just a folklore representation. He was Christianised with attachment to a young patron Saint Trifon who moving into a village called Komsada Maloaziyskata on February 14. The Bulgarians that were involved with this, not shy of fun invented the legend of Trifon and how you cut the nose of the vineyard with kosera (Bulgarian secateurs) and therefore become embedded a ritual from these moments on tagged with the name Trifon.

It is vital that each year vines are well trimmed to make good grapes and good grapes subsequently make good wine and if the wine is not up to standard, further down the line good Rakia is the safety net. A good wine raises Bulgarians good thoughts and leads to good deeds, that's what makes it so good here.

What If You're Sick In Bulgaria?

What If You're Sick In Bulgaria?What happens if you are sick or ill here? There is no getting away from it, you have to pay money for treatment and medicine, no one is exempt. How much you pay depend on where you are from and who you know. There is no uniform in terms of medical treatment in Bulgaria.

I have written before about having family in the medical profession here, it really is a major advantage if you are fortunate enough to have some brains in the family. The vast majority of people here haven't of course and the fear of being ill is quite apparent. The crying for someone being ill, especially in the villages is for the lack of money to pay for treatment more than the patient.

What If You're Sick In Bulgaria?There is another twist, being an expatriate. Doctors, hospitals, dentists and opticians will know straight away that you are an expatriate and there is a completely revised rate for treatment and medicine. This is besides the fact that there is a reciprocal agreement in the EU that all EU citizens have to be charged as Nationals of that country are charged. I have this written on an official document stating that law is in operation. This is Bulgaria, this does not go on here and you can't blame them. The pay to the medical profession for their services and funds put into to the medical profession are diabolical. If there is a chance of robbing the rich to give to the poor then this is a prime example of it. What's more if they can get away with it it will happen.

The problem with this is that some expatriates are poorer than the Bulgarians and that makes it totally unfair. What's more, there is medical insurance that is available that you can take out as an expatriate to cover medical expenses and it advised, especially to those that were ill and had to pay out extortionate medical bills. This again is okay is you can afford medical insurance, if you can't, then you have to take the risk of not being ill. If you are poor everything is against you in this world, Bulgaria is no exception.

What If You're Sick In Bulgaria?The question is, what do you do if you are ill? Well if it is life threatening emergency treatment is free for all, beyond that you have to pay. So for the poor, after the emergency is over they will go back home and tended by amateur doctors, namely their families and try and gather enough funds for basic medication to keep them going. The problem is compounded if the patient was working and relying of that income, which now has dried up with the incapacity. There is no escape from more poverty in these instances. You can now understand why Bulgarian weep if illness strikes.

Snow? - What's the Problem?

Snow? - What's the Problem?It is quite amazing how one country can come to a complete standstill and another just carries on as normal when there is a bit of snow. There has been major amounts of snowfall in Bulgaria this winter and all the roads are still being used whether cleared of snow or not.

The system here in and around Yambol is to use snowploughs on the main trunk roads, tractors with snow shifting devices fixing on the front of the machines in the villages and just sprinkle a load of grit and sand on all roads to give a little grip. There is no salt put on roads here, and to be quite honest there is no need as the systems in place here work very well.

It is a quick recall to the UK where the slightest touch of snow sends shock waves through the country, which grinds to a halt. I know they have a lot this year, the feeback I get is that it has been the the worst there for 18 years! Don't ask me why, perhaps they are trying to be too clever in dealing with it. Working with the weather rather than against it is probably a better solution, that's how most deal with it here. The snow will go eventually why try and clear it all?

In my street in Yambol town last year it was covered with snow for at least three weeks. People in cars and on foot used it daily in this condition, albeit slightly more cautious than normal, of course it does cause problems, but no complaining just taking it more slowly than normal, which is slow to start with anyway. The sand and grit mixture, and that was all it was, that was put on the surface of the ice and snow really does a very good job. No salt on the roads is another reason Lada cars last so long, no rust!

Cutting the First Vine in Skalitsa

Cutting the First Vine in SkalitsaThis Sunday 7th February was celebratory day in Skalitsa village where the first vine is cut. This happens in various areas of Bulgaria where top-notch politicians are seen to perform the first snip of the wine-giving vine.

In Skalitsa this happens every year, but I've missed the last two and only got to witness this one by accident with neighbours begging us to go with them to the village centre. To be quite honest I wasn't really in the mood and wanted to spend quality time with Galia, as we don't get to do that during the week.

We decided that I would go alone, as Galia knew she would be the topic of conversation in the village centre with Skalitsa representing many villages in the area. Instead, all I got was 'Where's Galia?' when I arrived there and mixed into the crowds. I have written a detailed account of this day in my first year here which is due to be published soon on my other blog (365 Bulgarian Adventures) so I won't go into to much details for fear of repeating myself.

Needless to say, I understood far more this year than I did on my first year here. Basically there are a lot of speeches, performance or poetry, acting, singing, dancing and many speeches from the politicians who never miss a trick to gain favouritism in the public eye. The television cameras were there as well, I noticed they just focused on the VIPs speeches and actions and one or two side events form villagers, understandably mainly geared towards national interest.

The event gives prizes to villagers who had entered the wine and Rakia competitions. There were many categories of wine and Rakia and it is a big accolade to win, where they get a certificate and prize. The main winners were from Skalitsa, that wasn't bias, jus that Skalitsa is one of the biggest villages in the area and more people from Skalitsa entered the competition.

At the end of the ceremony and much public talking and performing and after quite a few glasses of free red wine served from a massive wooden wine barrel. I don't often drink wine so it was a very pleasant change as the mingling went on. Finally, with a candyfloss in hand I went back to see Galia. If you want to see more of the event visit the report was made by the Yambol press, it's in Bulgarian but the pictures give you a taste of what went on, very colourful. www.yambolnews.net

Cutting the First Vine in SkalitsaBy the time I had got back the candyfloss has almost disappeared it had just seemed to evaporate. I'd never remembered candyfloss evaporating when I was a kid, but then it was eaten straight away. Galia looked at me curiously as I offered her a stick! I'm sure she though I had eaten it en route. With that we both enjoyed the rest of the afternoon pruning our own vines in the summer-type day in February.

Photograph of the kid and the candyfloss is courtesy of www.bouncekrazee.co.uk

Jogging and Cycling in Towns and Villages Respectively

Having taken up jogging in Bulgaria over the last month, there are many reasons behind this. Before starting can I mention that normally I am an avid cyclist, if ever a few kilograms wanted to be lost from a fit, but aging man, a couple of weeks cycling over long distances usually did the job. I just love cycling, even in mid-winter in sub-zero temperatures (see 365 Bulgarian Adventures.) So why jog instead of cycle?

During the week I am in Yambol and the many cyclists that wheel and hobble along the cobblestone street is a refreshing sight. Every cycle I see my mind says 'one less car', but the cycling is down more to cost than environmental conscience. Most of the bicycles I see are not roadworthy and those that are ride the wrong way up roads, on pavements and carry vast amounts of luggage making the bicycle too unstable to ride so it is pushed. The average speed limit to cyclists in Yambol is just generally just slightly faster than walking pace. If yo add the horrendous potholes that have really got worse and worse this winter as each day goes by, going any faster, without brakes on their bikes, makes absolute sense.(see Roma Riders)

With all this in mind, my bikes is sitting in the garage as my style of cycling is very different from Bulgarian cycling. First and foremost I do it for pleasure and health, I don't think this aspect is even consider for one moment by most Bulgarians. Riding a bike is done only because a car can't be afforded! I cycle like I am on a time trial most of the time, this can't be done in Yambol, nowadays there is too much traffic, too many bad roads making it far too dangerous to travel at speed in such environments. If I have a hybrid mountain bike it would be fine but I have a light and fast touring bike designed for speed on good roads, I can't do that here. I have another bike, a pure road bike in Skalitsa as the road there are excellent for touring and road riding, this is where my cycling usually takes place.

So, the jogging has taken over form cycling in Yambol. I once competed the London Marathon a long time ago, but that is ancient history now as I tramp the back roads of Yambol. Even on the road it is like a cross country event with the torn and uneven road surfaces. I think I must be the only person in Yambol who goes out jogging. I have never seen anyone jogging here since I been here, even in the warmer months. Bulgarian drivers just don't know how to react when passing a jogger, they always pause as they are not sure whether to give me a wide berth or run me over - they certainly have been close to that. Yet if I was on a bike they would give the greatest respect when passing.

Dogs haven't a clue what to do when I pass them. The ones that are chained up bark to the hilt, well that's what they are there for. The wild, free dogs bark when I approach but that stops suddenly when I pass, they also have not seen anything like this going on. It's almost if they are saying that it's their job to run on Yambol roads not mine!

Loosing weight is my prime objective here, plus I've had a few warning signs from my heart telling me to work it a bit more. Also in view of reading Malcolm and Ciejay's Blog, it probably makes me even more determined to keep it up.

Galia did a half marathon here in Yambol quite a few years ago, it was a one off event for charity so she tells me. Pity it's not an annual event, but then jogging is not at all a Bulgarian thing!

Bulgarians Ill in Winter

Everyone seems to be ill in Bulgaria during the winter, colds, flu, headaches, you name it they've all come down with something recently. This happens every winter here, I think I know why.

In the winter many just stay indoor unless it is essential that a trip has to be made. Going to work the buses are crowded with all the windows shut. In the work places, the air-conditioning circulates the germs in a air trapped environment. In the Post Offices, Banks and other utility payment places, the waiting in queues with virus filled people seems never ending. These queues are tightly packed, you will often get someone breathing down your neck wherever you queue here. It is no wonder that sickness is at its prime during the winter.

The amount of money spend on drugs is almost on par with the cost of food. I often wonder why there are so many chemists in Yambol, perhaps this is the reason, to cope with the demands that are set upon them in the winter months. Aspirin, paracetamol, throat lozenges, cough syrups, but none as popular than the rakia which is frequently being dipped into as a winter medicine. The 46 litres of 42% proof rakia that was made a few months ago is now down to 30 litres and counting. I dread to think how people cope without rakia. Certainly not making your own would add substantially to the chemists' profits and the increased poverty stricken communities here.

So why haven't I been ill every winter? I can't remember having anytime when I have had a virus, cold or flu since being here. Everyone else around me is dropping like ninepins and the Englishman seems to be immune from all the bugs that are going around. It's not as if I do anything different from anyone else apart from recently taking up jogging again. I'm indoors all day, I queue for hours and use the sardine buses and I also am subjected to air-conditioning environments all day. So why am I in perfect health each winter?

It's a mystery, I don't have an answer and neither do the coughing and spluttering people around me. Galia and Baba both have picked up colds over the last couple of days, Ivo is expected to fall with it any day now and there's me off jogging for an hour. I feel quite guilty about my good health, but then not going jogging wouldn't help matters either.

Spring is only a few weeks away now, the 1st March should just about have seen us through this Bulgarian winter and the illnesses that go with it. March 1st of course is another big day, it's another Imen Den (Name Day), the biggest name day of the year. Have you guessed what it is yet?

A Miracle Cure - The Healing Stones of Skalitsa

Last month I was in great pain due to twisting my back. I was in bed for over a week not being able to walk. It was a long haul from first doing it to recovering and the remedies that were used to cure it were diverse to say the least. All the tried practices failed except one.

From the initial aspirins and other painkilling tablets, this went on to massage, then two courses of painkilling injection. It didn't stop there as the Rakia treatment was tried, both internally and externally. This still didn't work, I was still in gross agony so the burning lead ritual was performed to rid me of evil spirits and finally to hospital for x-rays, which didn't show anything wrong - but I was still unable to sit down and trouble standing and walking.

A Miracle Cure - The Healing Stones of SkalitsaSo how did I get from this state into now jogging? It was something that I should have done straight away, something that had been tried and tested not only by me but others with resounding success. It is the healing stones in Skalitsa that finally cured me!

There have been many occasions where illnesses had just suddenly disappeared by just laying on the stones, which are situated just a ten-minute walk from my farmhouse in the village. This is the place where two magnetic field cross each other with only one other place in the world where this phenomenon happens somewhere in Mexico. A top professor from Sofia had made conclusive tests that scientifically verified that there is a phenomenon there and healing does take place. Two previous articles have been written on this Healing Stones in Bulgaria and Skalitsa Healing Stones More Evidence. - Please feel free to get more of the background here.

This particular healing experience was the greatest yet of my own personal evidence that these healing stones really do work. I had just managed to drive to the village in great pain this particular weekend and the next day gingerly walked to the stones. It was a sunny day so the winter sun had already warmed up the healing stones. I chose a flat-topped stone and lay there for around 40 minutes. As before, I didn't notice anything happening whilst I was lying there, or when I painfully tried to stand up and walk again. But what happened next was yet another amazing experience!

As I walked back to the farmhouse, my walking became much more fluent and the pain gradually subsided. By the time I was home, this had improved even more. I had a good night's sleep for the firs time since the problem started. The next day, I just felt a bit stiff, no pain as I drove home without any pain at all. I was not on any medication other than an aspirin in the morning.

Back in Yambol Sunday evening it was as if a magic wand had been waved over me as seemingly I had been cured. The following morning I was sitting down at work without any problem at all and no need for any medication at all. A few days later I was jogging and haven't stopped since.

A Miracle Cure - The Healing Stones of SkalitsaI am totally convinced that the healing stones were responsible for this. It is not a one off, they have healed and others on countless occasions. Everyone knows about them locally, but hardly outsiders other than those I have told. I was such a sceptic when I first heard about these stones, but now I am a firm believer that they have healing qualities that have now cured illnesses before and now cured my back, something that professional doctors and a hospital couldn't.

Galia and I now carry a little healing stone each in our respective handbags and slightly bigger ones lay in the farmhouse and in our Yambol home. It should keep illnesses away all the time judging from past experiences.

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