The Bulgarian Door

A Bit about the Bulgarian Door

50 years or more, that's how old this Bulgarian door was on my newly renovated house in Skalitsa. It was a main feature and talking point to many a guest of mine and being the only entry point of the house and had been opened to thousands of other guests and closed in the face of unwelcome members of the community in its time.

Since buying my farmhouse everything had been replaced in the renovation except the wooden front door and the internal doors all of which has such history and character. The suggestion that the front door should be turned into new aluminum PVC version had been made not only by expatriate friends and family but from local Bulgarians. These Bulgarians have no qualms or sentiments about losing a part of the heritage of a house when it comes to practicabilities this wins hands down.

The door was ill fitted and the only security in place was a metal catch that swiveled across, no more than 5 cm in length, but it did stop the door from rattling in winds, that was it! The arched windows at top were of a glass off cut style all held in place by a couple of tacks but not sealed in between the joins. The varied multi patterned frosted windows having been recycled from other buildings at some point. The air flowed freely through the gaps, no need for a cat flap as the space at the bottom of the door to the floor was was enough if not for a kitten certainly for a rat!

I love my door

There was something about this door that I didn't want to let go of. It had been through two winters with me there and the big thick curtain that was hung in from of the door stopped the elements getting in and it felt Bulgarian and cosy. During the summer the door was tied back 180 degrees and kept fully open for superb ventilation through the homemade mesh door that did its job very well. As always in Bulgaria these things all worked and I really didn't see the need to have it replaced, am I really British?

Why change my mind?

My neighbour recently had his front door renovated it was stripped of decades old layers of paint had added a couple of new panels then finished off in clear varnish - the finished product was impressive for a Bulgarian door. This sowed the seed in my partner Galia's mind, she was determined to get me to change my door and the beginning of a plan was formulating.

The plan

The decision was made to get the replacement door not renovate the old one, I was quite upset in one sense but again practicabilities of a new aluminum door were overwhelmingly favoured, not least from a security factor, well around here that mattered little anyway!

I was going to make inquiries in Yambol town with a building company but was scorned from locals who now had taken the matter into their own hands. I had no control over what I wanted and knew there would be trouble ahead. I think it was from the fact that there was a aluminum window and door factory based in my home village of Skalitsa that impelled locals to get the business done from there. Not only that but they offered a fitting service as well. So the door was measured up ordered and a date set to fit it in.

Goodbye fair door, you served us well

Saturday arrived and the morning brought about two chaps from the factory with the door at hand. After just an hour the place was shrouded in dust, splinters and rubble as the men said goodbye. Goodbye!? Are they off to lunch or what? Surely they can't leave things as they are? Too right they can't - in other word they can and did. I was livid, the door was standing and absolute clutter, chaos and a total disbelief of the situation I find myself in.

Call that a job?

Now Galia being Bulgarian just couldn't understand why I was so upset, the door was fitted what was the problem? As I explained, there was exposed brickwork all around and more cat flaps in the seals of foam that was still hardening. Much of the plaster of the adjoining wall had come away leaving a door that seemingly could be blow down in the wind.

My treasured old door and netted mossy guarded door were stored carefully away before we started clearing all the mess the door installers had left. After and hour or so it look just as bad, the door now the highlight and without the distraction of clutter. Next step? We need a plasterer and we need one now as we were due back in Yambol tomorrow and the place isn't secure. Oh how I wished we had got that British building company to to the work - It would have been completely serviceable by now and we could send the rest of the weekend relaxing!

A Plasterer getting plastered?

We had in mind to tour all the cafes and bars of the village but found a plasterer in the first one we visited, good job we caught him as we though he would end up plastered himself. (We were to find out later that he didn't smoke or drink as it happens.) He was only that he said he could do the the job now - well there are around 400 plasterers in Skalitsa, they really aren't hard to find.

We had no materials and had to find the owner of the hardware store who was drinking in another bar, (he did smoke and drink.) We went back to his shop with us and opened up especially for us to buy the cement and plaster materials need for the job. It is Saturday afternoon a very hot and bothered Englishman running and driving around this supposed Skalitsian maestro on the pursuit of tools and materials for the job.

The weekend gone!

We finally got what we needed and the job commences well into the mid afternoon, the guy seemed to know what he was doing leaving our house at 10:00 that evening after we had fed and watered him. to be quite honest he did a good job as far as I can see, re cementing the demolition job beforehand and finishing off with plaster but it wasn't finished. He was to return at 9:00 on Sunday morning to complete the job - so much for a relaxing weekend for Gal and me.

Not only did he finish the job but he went around the rest the porch area repairing cracks and badly sealed plaster then went indoors to do the same in every room there.

It was now 4:00 in the afternoon and all finished but as usual the mess left was horrendous and another two hours went by cleaning at 100 mph as we had to be back in Yambol before dark.

Looking back

Before we left we both looked at the work that had been done, apart from the door it wasn't clinical by any means with it's typical Bulgarian style contours of wavering walls. Yes, it retained some character in shape and style of old Bulgaria but if I was any other British ex-patriot with British expectations I would not be happy withe the result and have the thing done all over again. Another Bulgarian maestro he may be but that would rather devalue the word maestro to many outsiders.

Would I have wished the job having been done by a British managed and British standardized company? Call me extrovert and liking living on the edge but for me, with my Bulgarian partner and friends knowing what to expect I am forced to say no. I am here to living and totally immersed in the Bulgaria community and if that's how things are done here, no matter how badly in foreign eyes, that's what I accept.

I understand fully the requirements of many who come here and the standard of work wanted. Doing it my way Bulgarian style for anyone else you have to be warned! Don't expect a job to be done the way you want it by employing local workers the job you will be letting yourselves into a nightmare scenario.

At the end of the day the Bulgarian door now is still a Bulgarian door made in Skalitsa and fitted by Skalitsa folk in Bulgarian style, never going to be perfect but that's Bulgaria!