Shake, Rattle And Roll In Bulgaria

Shake, Rattle And Roll In BulgariaAnother spell away from the farmhouse and another earthquake that shock the place whilst we were away. This time there was structural damage made to one of my outbuildings. A whole wall had collapsed and the rood was in danger of falling in. I immediately set about putting in a metal support to keep the roof upright and that’s how is stands right now.

This is another reminder of what can happen if you have a holiday home here and leave it for the best part of a year. Bulgaria has earth tremors every day most not noticeable, but then there are regular occasions where more serious shakes hit and many repairs have to be made. If you look at many of the homes in Bulgaria most have cracks and gaps in they stonework or brick work that are moving shifting continuously. This for me was one of the major culture shocks when first moving here. Having a home with big cracks in the wall is normal for Bulgarians, but quite alien for me to live with.

Repairing the cracks and gaps are done regularly here, mainly by just filling them in with cement. This of course will move again and have to be done within the next couple of years. It is a round robin of cement filling that goes on in Bulgaria with different part of the home being filled in each year. Of course if you are not there to take this action you house is in danger of eventually becoming structurally flawed, even to the point of collapse with extended absences.

I know without me immediately putting up a support for the roof that was likely to follow the collapsed wall and I wouldn’t have and outbuilding for my livestock. I had already lost my outside toilet as a result of earthquakes earlier in the year.
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Fire Hazards Not Just On The Television News

Fire Hazards Not Just On The Television News

Quite often I see fires raging swamping up homes, but mainly confined to the television news. Well in this intance is was a live hands on experience and more advice to those who have holiday homes and leave them for the best part of the year unattended. The reason I am writing this is that I nearly ended up with a fire-gutted property and to be quite honest I was extremely lucky to get away with it.

It happened a few weeks ago, where one of my neighbours was burning used toilet paper in their yards and left it unattended for just five minutes. The wind picked up and blew away one of the burning tissues into the adjoining field of tinder dry hay. This caught alight easily and the wind now took hold and swept the fire onto a direct path of destruction not only to my house but others in the neighbourhood.

Fire Hazzards Not Just On The Television NewsIt was quite a few minutes before the true realisation of the potential of this trail of wind swept fire became apparent. We were sitting watching television when we could smell smoke; we assumed that someone was barbequing peppers as that was what we did earlier that morning. It wasn’t the smoke that made us aware of the ongoing fire now gathering momentum, but the crackling that could now be heard a walnut and sliva (plum) trees were caught up in the fire. This led me to make an investigation and as I walked out into the street there was a few locals gathered watching a blazing fire sweeping towards my house, no action was taken at this point as they had already rung for the fire brigade and the fire was too fierce to tackle by hand. The trouble was that the fire brigade had to come from Yambol 37 kilometres away and that was half an hour journey!

I barged into a neighbours garden and asked for help and some brooms to try and beat some of the leading fire trail down leading to my house and we were all soon armed with home made twigged brushes trying not to get too burnt as we hit the trail. There was also fire trails now leading in four different directions, all to neighbouring houses and homes, mine was the first in line.

We managed to stem the route of the fire with only 10 metres to spare where there was long overgrown dried grass in the surrounding landscape. Another tow or three minutes and the house would have gone up in flames. Our efforts now were directed to other homes in danger as the women passed buckets of water to dampen down the area that could well have re-ignited. One of my neighbours was the president of the village hunting club. He called all his members out to help as hunters came from all directions. Without this help it would have been a hopeless situation.

Fire Hazzards Not Just On The Television NewsThe fire brigade finally arrived after we had got everything under control and just spent a couple of hours dampening down the whole burnt out area and made inquiries as to how it was started, which is why I know.

There was a great sense of community satisfaction that we managed to deal with this and if it had not been for my neighbour harvesting the field next to my house for winter hay this would not now have a house there. If is happened on a weekday there wouldn’t have been anyone around and I would not have a house. If I had not reacted to the hearing the crackling of the fire when I did I would not have a house.

People beware of overgrown dried out gardens bordering your holiday home, it only takes a second for a spark to become a raging inferno, as was the case here. I consider myself to be VERY LUCKY to still have my house thanks to the help of the local community; others might not be so lucky.

Top Image via Wikipedia
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A True Bulgarian Break

A True Bulgarian BreakTwo years ago I wrote about a Bulgarian Holiday Weekend on the cheap which is published in my book 'Simple Treasures In Bulgaria'. We couldn’t really afford it then and the same applies here. It was more about just getting away from the day in and day out routine of work as cheaply as possible. This happened again this last week.

Galia had a week off and we spent the best part of that in the village location living off all the homegrown produce we had worked to hard to grow. We were to spend three nights by the Black Sea Coast; Galia had booked up campus style apartment for 12 leva per person per night. This was the cheapest we could find that had a self-contained bathroom facility. Three nights was all we could afford with 20 leva for gas in the Lada. The whole package came to 90 leva for the three nights plus and extra 10 leva for bread and beer that covered the three nights there.

There were no other overheads as we brought all our own home produced food and drink with us and filled up a 10 litre plastic bottle of spring water from one of the village communal springs en route to the coast which was just over 100 kilometres away. The use of the electric was all included in the 12 leva price. We even brought our own rakia and home grown herbs for tea.

After the time in the village we left for the coast and just over an hour later everything went to plan and we had a fantastic time relaxing doing absolutely nothing other than laying in bed or on the beach with the odd work to work our food off in the evening. The apartment was clean and airy and had a small balcony that we could sit out on in the warm evenings with a slight breeze cooling us off.

I don’t mean to sound condescending but it was great not to see any British in this particular location that I will keep secret. It is well known by Bulgarians and frequented by many other Eastern block country nationals, but none from Western Europe and boozy Brits I’m glad to say. Throughout our time there we saw no police, not one single family argument, absolutely no one drunk, just a complete cordial time on a beach that was packed to the hilt. There was no more than half a metre between each plot on the sand and all very happy with the situation. The politeness and respect for everyone there on holiday was quite emotionally stirring. My previous experiences of seaside holidays in the UK have all been the exact opposite experience, certainly not at all relaxing with aggressive people and troublemaking the norm.

In our time there we helped in with trying to contain costal forest fire along with hundreds of other Bulgarians, sighting a UFO and attending a free live pop concert by one of Bulgaria’s top bands called ‘Signal’.

We returned knowing that another holiday done of a budget of under 100 leva cannot be foreseen especially with increased gas, electric and water charges coming up here with earning decreasing as each month goes by right now. Not just for us, but most others here and a winter that will be hard for us all. It feels like a challenge we are facing and to be quite honest everyone is worried how many of us will get through it. The biggest worry of course is the cost of fuel here and is forecast to be worse that last winter with Russia cutting off our gas supply.

The break we had was what we needed and we enjoyed every moment.
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Bulgarian Watermelons - Was It Worth It?

Bulgarian Watermelons - Was It Worth It?Was it worth it? The amount of time I spent watering those Bulgarian watermelons over the last few months is unqualified. Quite often and especially over the last few weeks, I’d cycle a 74 kilometres round trip just to water them and of course on the hottest days in Bulgaria, which is why they need watering more often anyway!

The time and effort was made with some people looking at what I’m doing feeling that only an Englishman would cycle in the midday summer sun just to water some melons. The question raised was why don’t you just buy them from the bazaar? Well the most obvious answer is quite simple, money! One melon weighing around 6 kilograms can cost 4 or 5 leva, that is sometimes a whole day's earning right now! To be quite honest water melons are a but of a luxury, even with a glut of them on the market stalls. Many people who know me here of course think I am loaded with money and living off a large pension from the UK. This added to their own reasoning make it even more difficult for them to understand why I bust a gut to grow my own.

There is also another reason why I take so much trouble with making sure my watermelons are water regularly. This is the first time I have ever grown them, I took on advice from my neighbours with the system used to grown them and of course, growing my own produce is my passion and one of the main reason for coming to Bulgaria. The aim is to produce food that is on par with the food my village neighbours grow, as they produce food that to me is the best in every aspect.

So the first water melon was cut last weekend weighing in at 8.5 kilograms. It was too heavy for my bicycle but it rolled into the Lada boot quite comfortably. We got it home but didn’t try it until today just as I got back on my bike this morning from another 74 kilometres trip to water the remaining watermelons. Baba had already cut the melon and the lush ruby red inside of the melon was making my mouth water before even getting a sniff. Well the moment was here, was the effort worth it, was the watermelon going to live up to he standards of my village neighbours? It was a nervous Martin about to try the fruit made from the reservoir of sweat from his brow over the last few months.

Bulgarian Watermelons - Was It Worth It?Well it more than lived up to expectation, I can honest say that this was one of the best watermelons I had eaten. Baba and the family all gathered and congratulated me on that raving success. “It’s better than you neighbours!” Galia said comparing, as we sampled some of their watermelon last weekend - That is after the flies had their say on the fruit.

Was it worth it? You bet!
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