- Wearing different clothes for different situations is a must!! One for the village one town and work and another for going out in the evening, all essentially Bulgaria and in the winter a different set of clothing for bed!
- Leaving food on your plate when you've had enough rather than having to finish it up like a good boy!
- Walking fast just never happens now - its taken a while to get to this stage though.
- Looking at my watch, well I don't wear one now what's the point on knowing what time it is in Bulgaria?
- Ending a conversation - very difficult!
- Getting a job finished, there's always tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or in some cases waiting for your reincarnation!
- Getting your Bulgarian friends to spend some time away from their GSMs, (mobile phones) impossible.
- Washing up or cleaning the home - THIS DEFINITELY IS NOT ALLOWED!
- Adjusting and enjoying a rakia and salad every single evening, all year round - Actually I don't know how I managed to do cope without this before living here.
- Not looking before crossing a road, (jaywalking) Tufty and Green Cross Code Man have never set foot in Bulgaria!
Not necessarily the top ten but many more where they come from...........
The Bulgarian way of doing this is by hand, there is no massive tarmac bearing machines with the job being finished in a couple of hours - the hands on job takes weeks but there is another reason.
Every road is being reconstructed with cobblestones. I really thought that the days of these types of road was coming to and end but it is thriving in Yambol. On a bed of compacted sand each individual traditional cobblestone is placed and sealed in place giving the arching patterns so characteristic of this form of road.
Whilst the repair and re-laying is going on there is absolute mayhem with the closed road but the beeping of horns, the shouting of drivers trying to negotiate their way up a two way street with a one way facility is very funny from a pedestrians point of view.
But then the pedestrians don't really have any consideration in any case as the pavement is totally block with stones and sand and walks up these road are either diverted into the middle of the road or high jumping over the bright yellow token tape. Pram and pushchairs have to contend with an assault course more suited to army training exercises. Do the they complain? No not an ounce as they make their way un-flustered through the obstacle set in front of them.
I suppose it has always been this way and Yambol is well versed in dealing with this. It is just another minor point in the overall development of Yambol that remains a lovely cobble based town in many places. Well worth the inconvenience.
My brother had a scooter and from Skalitsa to Byal Kladenets which was about 12 km there was a mainly ploughed up dirt track lining the sunflower and sweetcorn fields filled full of failed crops this year. This actually cuts another 10 km of the journey is running on a main tarmac road.
Why were we going there?
Well we had to pick up two horses and transport them back to Skalitsa as I was to look after them for a few weeks before hopefully they are sold or looked after for the 4 months my brother is away.
As we made out way two up on a small scooter there was an apprehension about the journey there and even more about the journey back. My brother has a fear of horses and I only really have experience with a donkey and cart not these massive muscled animals.
We had heavy rain a few days before and as we left the road onto the track the slipping and sliding started, in many parts we had to get off and walk our way through parts. This was a real problem for us as only after a short while we wished we'd done it another day when the track had dried out but we were now committed and had to carry on.
A sigh of relief was breathed as we finally got to the village and paused a while before going to get the two horse that were grazing on the side of the hill. Genna and Sparky (the horses) were being looked after by a Bulgarian neighbour who was called to help being them in to be kitted out on the cart that was waiting.
This was the next problem, Genna somehow jolted away from the Bulgarian that was helping and ran free and away from where we wanted her. The next two hours were spend trying to catch here as she played games. Chasing her was obviously not going to work as the minds where working overtime as our bodies rested.
A lasso was the only answer as one was made up from the tethering rope. The plan was to get Sparky out on the fields again as Genna usually grazes next to him. Then if we get within a couple of metres of here we lasso her and job done.
So, we did exactly that, with the Bulgarian neighbours thinking that we were crazy as he just sat on his own cart and watched from a distance, we worked to plan. Every aspect of the plan worked as Sparky was made the bait. It was only a matter of a few moments and a well judged throw of the lasso as Genna approach and the job was as good as done. the Bulgarian neighbour watched with disbelief as the new cowboy maestros strode proudly past him with the two horses.
We kitted the horses up, Genna to pull the cart and Sparky to follow tied up behind then we were off on the track that had almost completely dried up with the now hot sun blazing.
It was a very tired horse that ended up in Skalitsa with another journey back that was far from relaxing on the dulating terrain but we were all tired but home and dry.
Bulgarian police had always seemed to me to be a bit of a perk job. Many of the children of Bulgaria when asked what they want to do when they grow up say they want to be a policeman, (boys of course.) It is the case that the police have major respect in Bulgaria from the Bulgarian public and the Bulgaria new generation. It is the case that Bulgarian Police are not strangled with the law governed and dictated by over kill morals.
A short vacation with my partner found the weather unusually cold and wet therefore beach and sea activities were restricted and the rest of the time in bed sleeping or dosing. A friend rang saying that she was seeing someone on the coast and we should meet up and party on. We agreed!
Her friend was a policeman working in Black Sea region and they duly turned up in the coastal village we were staying at some twenty minutes later and the party began as we met in a posh Hotel garden bar.
Christo the policeman was a man of typical Bulgarian build, short, stocky with a 'beer' belly, piecing blue eye, no chin and slightly graying hair neatly cut. His shorts showed thin calved legs without hair, I don't think they were shaved but his arms shown by his plain short sleeved shirt were definitely not. A pair of good quality brown leather sandals supported this man who just didn't stop talking. His GSM was in constant use and was used extensively for planning the party path for his newly acquired guests who he obviously wanted to impress.
As with most Bulgarian men Christo treated his girlfriend with a little disdain as he dominated conversations giving a one way converation most of the time - normal in Bulgaria of course. Even so you couldn't fail to like the guy who was a very confident bordering on the arrogant. Speaking a little Bulgarian myself we basically debriefing our respective resumes. We found that Christo and I both liked many of the same things, essentially all Bulgaria food, drink, football, women and life here in general. It was found that being a policeman was indeed a good life in Bulgaria and the perks are never ending. Not too dissimilar from being mafia sprung to mind but without having to look over your shoulder every moment of the day for the competition!
We had just finished a beer or two in the bar and I was asked to get provisions for the day as we were off to other coastal towns further south. Drink or not and in the company Christo told me that beer and driving can mix here but only in the villages as now high speeds are not reached - One rule, just don't' crash! So the car was brought back from the apartment and parked up and we were off on a party adventure in Christo's car - the first adventure began immediately - Bulgarian driving!
If you have driven in Bulgaria and seen cars that just flash past you regardless of oncoming traffic, well this was one of them, and was a perfect remedy for the the beers we had as it certainly sobers you up! I found that closing my eyes was the key to a less stressful journey as seeing what was happening really did feel like playing Russian roulette. There was a police check en route and a wave and a shout was given at speed to the police on duty, they knew Christo and his car as they waved him on excitedly.
We arrived at a shop in the town further south and found no parking spaces to save any walking, it had to be directly outside the shop that sold cigarettes. Christo was completely relentless in his disregard for others in his parking as it remain immobile in the middle of the road blocking all traffic behind. This didn't bother Christo in the least as the car remained there with a build up of mayhem from cars behind now queuing. A solitary man started complained outside the shop until Christo got out of the car and then he shut up recognizing him as the law. There was initially a few honks from cars held up behind but this soon stopped as Christo was recognized and the word went round. All bowed to the law here as he talked to everyone that he passed he seemed to know everyone here in this town. Swapping of conversations through people and his GSM was a continuous switch which was consistently made.
Cigarettes soley bought for the Bulgarian women as Christo and I don't smoke. Christo says it was bad for you and you die a slow and painful death from smoking. I agreed, but then though that might explain his driving, a quick and painless death preferred of course. It was now off to another place and the reopening of the road once Christo had driven off to the shouts of 'Chiao!' from shop-owners from both sides of the street.
This time the destination was a restaurant on the coast. A superb setting with blue skies, fishing boat going and cpoming in with catches from the crystal clear blue sea, then prepared and served up; I have only dreamed of locations like this before now. The preferential treatment continued as we were placed a prime positioned table and served before others who had turning up earlier due to Christo's status and respect here. A meal of the freshly cooked fish and more beer was served we were not allowed to pay. Then as Christo approached spoke with the cashier at the bar, all I saw exchanged was conversation!!
It was then off to a newly built hotel with its own bar and swimming pool. Free drinks all round as the owner nervously insisted, there seems a little fear in his voice. During this time we were then told that we have free apartments booked in another coastal town resort. As we moved off again under Formula One speed further down the coastal road Christo's GSM was in full use with further plans being made as we traveled.
We arrived at a luxurious hotel and was shown around by the owner. Then escorted to our complimentary room for the night. This was all an offering from the owner to his policeman friend Christo we were being treated like royalty as everyone bowed to Christo and his friends presence. Some locally caught fresh fish was brought along and offered to us but we just didn't have the facility to keep them overnight and declined. These were big healthy carp caught from local inland waters which I found strange in a place just 50 metres from the Black Sea. We were also asked if we wanted to go fishing tomorrow early in a boat that was ready for use. Again Christo declined as time was the factor but at this point I didn't know Christo's plans and that an early rise was out of the question.
It just so happened that the Bulgarian national football team was playing in the European cup qualifications this particular evening so the TV was booked exclusively for Christo and his guests. Not only that, a full compliment food and rakia was also booked to be laid on for the evening more gifts from the very generous hotel manager!
We freshened up in our assigned spacious hotel apartment and proceeded to party on spending a few hours watching live European football, downing two bottles of grape rakia and various Bulgarian traditional food alongside. Us men Bulgarian or not had everything we could ever ask for this evening at that point. Food, drink, live football and each with fantastic Bulgarian women - what a mixture of components and all free!
Non-stop talking was the main activity and was quite a distraction from me trying to watch he football. It was interesting getting feedback from Christo when the opposition scored. I had to actually tell him they had scored before he replied with 'normal' this was a typical Bulgarian reaction. The same reaction of 'normal' was made to the final score 2:0.
Christo had for many years accepted that most European sides were better than Bulgaria but I was taken back a bit by his lack of interest and emotions during the ups and downs of the match. Talking preoccupied the evening and football enthusiasm was well down the league of interest even well below rakia and food. Perhaps the taste of defeat was inbuilt in Bulgaria and they have learned not to get stressed up about it. He accepted defeat of his team with total resignation this was expected from him and other Bulgarians even before the match. This to them was inevitable anyway so what was the problem!
So football finished and well past 11:00 but that wasn't important. Even more planning had been made by Christo and next thing we know there was a shiny black Mercedes and young smartly dressed driver waiting outside to pick us up. and drop us at a discotheque at a neighbouring town.
Moments later and all feeling like Cinderellas going to a ball as we were transported and dropped outside a discotheque in a neighbouring town. What a fantastic venue it was a state of the art, all mod cons and all done on a massive scale. It was the sort of place you would expect to see public figures and show business celebrities. What was I thinking, there was a celebrity there, Christo and his privileged guests!
The entry fee was waived as was all the drink that was served to us throughout the rest of the evening. Christo was the VIP host of the venue along with the Englishman included as on his three guests as we were tagged with this status for the rest of the night.
Dancing drinking and more eating the night away we then then had the another chauffeur driven Mercedes driving us back to the hotel. This was not before having a little party with some traffic police on duty in the town, but again time doesn't matter here. You go to bed when you are tired here and we were at 4:30 am!
The next morning breakfast was taken on a beach restaurant only 100 metres away for the hotel there no lapse in VIP treatment as they were expecting us. No doubt Christo's GSM was in action again to prepare this earlier. Filled with a Bulgarian pancake breakfast and more beer (well it was almost midday) we soaked up the final moments on the other side of the Bulgarian coin.
Finally there was the trip back to out village apartment and Christo went on his own way back to work. He was still on his GSM talking an planning something else as he waved goodbye to us. We watching him drive of into the mysterious world of deciding what is right and wrong in Bulgarian daily life. Very much a case of looking through the eyes of Bulgarian community policing.
Two years ago it would have been difficult near on impossible to come to terms with situations such as this. You have to learn in Bulgaria how to accept things as they come along and not try and fight against everything. It would not have been enjoyed before and there would be a great deal of stress and guilt attached. This learning how to enjoy yourself and not feel totally indebted to people with their unbounded generosity and kindness is part of the culture here no matter how it is comes. Accepting this type of Bulgaria comes with time and you have to realise that is how it is here. Corrupt? Maybe, but what right do you have to fight it and what would that do? It wouldn't change anything.
It was a whirlwind 24 hours and a view of how the other half live in Bulgaria, from poverty stricken communities trying to make ends meet and now from the perspective of a community that find the good things in life come their way by job status and respect. All the time I was thinking what had Christo done beyond this role as a community policeman to get such treatment. The only thing I can come up with was for him to turn a blind eye on certain things that go on - I might be wrong but that's how it felt.
As for the Bulgarian police, well they are only human, perhaps too human in view of what was experienced. The respect and fear remains for law as seen here, furthermore works in Bulgaria for the main part anyway. It really is a case of hands on policing with the community as part of the policing system.
Community policing it may well be technically in Bulgaria, up and running very effectively as ever here - well before it was reinvented and failed in the UK.
Two UK nationals were given 8-month suspended sentences and three years to be served in probation for attacking policemen in Bulgaria's town of Veliko Tarnovo a week ago.
I was going to keep quiet about this but last week I recall an instance where I was walking home to get my daily Bulgarian lunch and reading a topic thread about the same type of thing hit a note.
On a daily basis en route to home cooked lunch, I always pass the police station in Yambol, this is also the place where you also get your residents permits from. This being the case occasionally you hear English being spoken as they make their way there from the town centre or hang around the area at lunchtime as it is closed.
This was one of those days where a family group with distinct English accents were picked up were making their way up the hill toward the police station. I tend keep my mouth shut on these occasions as the lunch waiting on the table at home would get cold if delayed. And in this instance I was very glad I did.
Bulgarian parking systems on the pavements in Yambol mean that I was forced to follow behind the English speaking people in single file whilst walking on and up the hill. This gave opportunity to overhear their conversation on reflection wish I never heard......
It was about get rat-arsed on the previous Saturday night at a stag night on the Black Sea Coast. They went on talking about smashing a window, trashing the hotel room they were staying in and roughing up the hotel manager who had 'the cheek' to complain in the morning.
They spoke with pride in their voices as the laughing followed the description. In the process their limited vocabulary was mixed with an infrequent variety of abusive adjectives. To add to this one of the foreigners was pushing a pram with a child in it - What a future for that child!
Now this is something that embarrassed the living daylights out of me. I just hoped and prayed that they weren't applying for a Bulgarian resident permit as they turned off toward the entrance of the police station. They should really be going there to face charges!
Many or most things that go on in Yambol are pleasant experiences but on occasions something shakes you up a bit. this was an instance but nothing to do with Bulgaria or the Bulgarians but undesirable outsiders who feel they have license to do what they want without fear of punishment.
So when an item of news comes in where punishment is given for this type of behavior it is actually good new but what did they get? In the case that was mentioned a suspended sentence - What is that in terms of punishment? Well nothing actually.
On a final note, this is very rare in Yambol and its surround. The instance witnessed was the only instance in all the time I have lived and worked here in Yambol.
Whatever the future holds with these people coming to Bulgaria the attraction of this region remains firmly in decent law abiding foreigners with a respect for how things are here.
Some Black Sea resorts however will always bring in summer madness from foreigners which is why I am so glad I live away from all this.
It was that time of year when the grapes, after the weather and starlings have had their share, were to be gathered and turned into the wine and rakia that makes up one of the the most renown traditions of Bulgaria. It was quite a fear that came over me as the grapes were approached, this was based on my previous experiences of bees and wasps 2000 miles away. Many a brave soul would run from British bees and wasps, they always had an attitude over there and something that lay in the mind every time one was seen in Bulgaria.
The humming bees became quite deafening to the ear as the hanging grapes were to be tackled. It was clear that part of the harvest was currently being shared by another winged species of thieves. They initially piece the skin of the grape and make their way into the sweet grape juice within. After which they buzz back to their hives and deposit the sweet content which turns out in jars in the Yambol market a few weeks later. I should have a stake in this honey made from my grapes as a good 10% of the crop had been impeached and taken away for profit to be made on it by someone else.
So a fear of getting hut by these bees was a contention that I was forced to subject myself to. I could wait until dusk and the bees go back in their hives to sleep but then it gets dark very quickly and this job was to take a couple of hours that wasn't an option. It had to be done now, no time early in the morning either.
Gingerly the hand went into bunches of grapes with bees hiding their feast within individual grapes, the buzzing more intense as I mingled further into the crop. After a few disturbances I found that the bees would realize that there was something going on and just let themselves drop off and fly away. At no point did any bee become aggressive, even it I accidentally touched one when reaching up they would still not turn against me.
It got to the stage where a system of gently tapping the stem from which the grapes hung prior to cutting would in fact clear that area of bees. It was a warning that the party was over and their food supply was now at an end. If I could speak bee I would swear they were thanking me and and saying goodbye see you next year.
Two hours of grape harvesting in an atmosphere not quite reaching swarm status but quite close to it in stages and not once did any bee act aggressively, furthermore no stings inflicted. What a nice kind bunch of bees Bulgaria has and what a difference from the nasty aggressive nature I had grown up endured in the UK.
A funny thought to end with but now with the grape harvest in all I have for the first time in nearly 40 years having learned again about the birds and the bees, this time without embarrassment.
To the Bulgarian if a bike works and does the job and is cheap or even costs nothing that the option to take. There are those who do have cycling as a hobby, a serious hobby in some cases, I know one particular man who is a fanatic cyclist with the top bikes and gear I see him out on the Yambol highways, this is an exception to the rule. Most cyclist here ride bone shakers and the variety of homemade bikes is fantastic it is almost like watching clown riding circus bikes. The most entertaining variety of bikes are the Roma riders!
The picture is now painted of cyclists in Bulgaria and it was one evening when I was walking home when a searing clutter of metal sound was heard, the sound that makes you want to cringe. Turning back I saw a Roma on a bike with the compulsory plastic box strapped with old string on the carrier full of cardboard moving very slowly along the harsh cobbled road. The cause of the clattering was the fact that the front wheel of the bike had no tyre, he was riding on a bare metal rim. I just stopped in my tracks and stared as this Roma rider slowly clattered past me. At the same time he was staring back at me as if to say what's the problem? Mind you there was still continuous smile behind that questioning look going on into the distance.
There are more shows that go on in the Bulgarian Biking World that have to be seen to be believed, balancing acts, one bike ridden by the whole family, trailers, dog powered bikes, even a one wheeled bike with a skate board wheels fixed on the front forks. Many bikes aren't actually ridden, they are just used as baggage carriers and by golly can they carry a lot. Added to all this most bikes (apart from the new ones) don't have brakes, they rely on the Fred Flintstone method - smoking feet!
Every day a circus act is seen from Bulgarian bikes and Roma bikers - Today was a bit different and with special act on display but I still I didn't have to pay an entrance fee to see it.
This was a family affair as Galia's two sons teamed up with me to form a team of fish hunters prowling the Toundzha and their experience in fishing here, finding the right spots, using the right tackle and bait was the key to success. We all traveled by bicycle cutting even further costs on the free meal we were to catch and very much in the tradition for most Bulgarian coarse fishermen here. In fact a car would have trouble getting here in the position that we took up even in the dry banks that the Toundzha currently had alongside it
The place we found I know know but will not let on in this publication for fear of being over fished by others who read this. The bait was Bulgarian worms and no sooner had we cast the first fish was taken. The river has quite a fast flow but were we were there wasa poll of relative still water in a small bay so the fishing was quite easy without having to recast every minute.
The scenery here was outstanding with countryside in the front of us and the town's dominant white blocks behind us.
After about an hour we had at least twenty fish enough for a meal and a half as we began to pack our kit away. Many we threw back being too small and of course the big carp that got away at one point of the session - yes, really!
Just as we made our way home further up the bank we saw a couple of Roma fishing with homemade contraptions. I wanted to knowhow they set up this and asked to see their equipment closer up. they of course obliged with Galia's two sons looking on in amazement to the fact I wanted to know. what I discovered was more than fascinating.
The rod was a bamboo cane, there was no reel but just some old string tied to the end of the cane. I wonder how on earth they could catch fish with string as the line, this mystery was soon solved as they pulling the tackle out of the water.
At the end of the string was tied about a metre of fishing line and the set up of further tackle was made on this. A float that was actually a small dried pepper that had been painted to make it waterproof and the weights used to make this sit upright in the water were small metal buttons. The hook was the only commercial part of the kit with some sweetcorn as bait. Even more fascinating this was that they had caught bigger fish than us!
This was another truly amazing discovery of how things can be done here on the cheap and as we went back to hand over the fish to the women cooks I just couldn't get what I saw today out of my head. I just love this country, the people and its ways!
A hard day work had finished and a pleasant walk back home was made in the warm September sunshine that continues to dominate the weather outside my vacation dates! It was a good hunger that builds up every day at this time to find that dinner is always in progress in the kitchen on my arrival every evening just before 6:00. Well this is to be expected from Galia and her Baba Mama who through tradition have found it their duty to prepare food for the working men of the house. Galia's son and myself turn up at about the same time each evening and today was no exception.
As I entered the house there was something different about this evening, there was a sense of excitement and buzz in the house as I heard this distant sizzling coming from the kitchen. The area was approached and a smell of fish was in the air, my mouth was watering already.
Galia's had brought home some fish that he and his brother had caught from the River Toundzha today. I could see that they had already been gutted and minus heads, lucky old Alex another Bulgarian doorbell dog got these for his evening meal to hsi delight!. The very simple process was in progress of dipping the fish in flour and frying in a shallow pan of sunflower oil was all that was needed in the cooking.
Before long we had a plate of Toundzha fish ready to eat but where were the chips? A natural reaction to any Brit seeing fish on the menu. The answer was no chips but beer - but somehow fish and beer had this chalk and cheese feeling about it, this thought soon changed a few moments later.
We sat down to the fish dish and a glass of cold Shumensko Beer, soft fresh Yambol baked bread and raw garlic leaving yet again another taste from heaven in Bulgaria. The bones took a little negotiating but after a little while you gain the technique where the meat just falls away from the bone. This left sweet succulent meat that just melts in the mouth. The mouthful of fish was followed by a bite of the raw garlic and a piece of bread and washed down each tie with a sip of beer after a 'Nastravay!' It really was a quite like synchronized fish eating.
What adds to the celebration eating of this fish meal is that it was all free bar beer and bread. The whole meal cost around three leva for a sitting of four and still enough for another sitting! this is how it is in Bulgaria, making the most of natural resources around them, fishing for food is included in this.
From 7:00 onwards this morning there were swarms of children making their way to school! They actually started the new school year on the previous Saturday which was a hangover from the working day in lieu form the previous long weekend public holiday.
Looking around this morning the childrens destination felt more like fashion houses than schools. With no mandatory school uniform in force, the trends of dress were spectacular to say the least. From where I'm looking the Bulgarian fashion is in good hands with the youth of today.
Colourful and interesting as it is watching the children catwalk to school, this is a big financial strain on parents who are subjected to the cry of wants from very fashion conscious children.
This all comes from various sources of direct and indirect advertising solely geared up for these impressionable ages groups. Because Bulgaria is still very slow to pick up laws on high moral grounds this may the be reason why the country haven't considered the introduction of school uniform based on discrimination of the poorer families who wouldn't be able afford to keep up with the latest fashion. This creates an unacceptable instance where there are those who have and those who don't a situation intolerable in the eyes of the modern western world.
Somehow though I don't think school uniforms will come into play in school at any time in Bulgaria. After all they had 50 years of uniform clad children pre-1990 and there's no going but with the taste of fashion freedom now firmly in place. And certainly the moral thinking behind the 'have' and 'have not' society in Bulgaria is fully accepted as what goes on here not without prejudice I might add - but that's how it is in real life.
It was a real mystery as to why tripe soup was ordered at the time until it was explained that this soup was a perfect remedy for heavy heads after drinking sessions usually drunk in the morning for the morning after the night before!
For starters tripe soup went out of fashion decades ago in the UK and after this session all I can say is they just don't know what they are missing over there now. This was the resurrection of a dish for me that I thought had disappeared of the face of the earth. How could I ever doubt that the Bulgarian would continue to surprise me with their taste and food fashion that always remains very much at the doorway to heaven.
Shkemba Chorba was enjoyed to the hilt with fresh bread (there is a bakery open 24 hours round the corner of this bar) after adding dried roughly ground chili peppers, garlic, vinegar and salt.
Such a simple dish that touches all corners of the tongue taste buds resulting in a clearer head and constitution to walk home to.
I may also add that at no time does the descriptive word 'Drunk' portray evenings like this. Bulgarians generally do not get drunk, just more merry as the evening turns into morning. The Bulgarian company, food, talk and dance help enormously.
Shkeme Chorba is based mainly on chopped up calf stomach lining cooking in a milk based liquid with garlic, vinegar and chili peppers as seasoning.
The recipe has been sourced from my Bulgarian partner Galia and has been published here, just look for the recipe menu:
Speaking to a Bulgarian friend the other day I asked why he didn't have any sense of disappointment when Holland scored a goal against Bulgaria in an European qualification match on terrestrial TV? He said that football was of no interest to him and was the same to many other Bulgarians. He went on to say that they expect footballers to score two or three goals in every match and if they don't that where the interest ends. On any professional football front this doesn't happen and a sense over expectation from sportsmen leads to inevitable failure in their eyes. What he is really saying is unless the team is the best in the world most Bulgarians want to know and don't care!
Anyone who knows about football will be fully aware that the game is not just about a couple of individual footballers scoring lost of goals, it is far more complex than that. This leave me doubting that my Bulgarian friend know much about the game anyway with statements like that. Furthermore if he wasn't interested in Bulgarian football that would provoke more evidence of his lack of knowledge and understanding of the game. Another 'Bulgarian Maestro!'
It just goes to show that there is a big difference in the way sport is viewed and felt here. Certainly sport is not a way of life here unless you are part of the of game. Many football followers in the UK have this fanatical side to them which is part of their culture. I might add that British culture might well be lacking without football as part of it. It may be so that the UK and other countries need football, Bulgaria at this point doesn't and it would be no great loss to many without it.
A recent forum posting shows another example of this recently:
Just to add to this, there were some English speaking Bulgarians who contested that Bulgarian are quite passionate about their football and noisy with it contrary to my experiences. There has now been an invitation to join these passionate Bulgarian football folk on the next game due. We will see whether this will change my view of the matter.
Since moving here, a total of three cigarettes have been smoked all instances fo this have been after quite a few rakia. Each occasion was regretted the following morning with the stagnant breath hanging around being fueled by the smoked lungs. It just takes one cigarette to cause this morning after affect.
It has only been on very rare occasions that the evenings are spent with non smokers, usually foreign visitor strangely enough who come from non smoking policy based lands abroad.
The real reason for mentioning about smoking in this blog is the certain fact that wherever you sit the wind blows smoke into your face. Every single occasion without fail, in the garden, in the home, in restaurants, waiting in queues, even lying on the beach it is a certainty that the wind direction has it in for non smokers!What is also guaranteed is that many other non smokers have the same problem and can relate very clearly to this - just ask one and see - Bet you 10 stotinki they agree!
It was a national holiday in Bulgaria from Thursday 6th - Sunday 9th September, a four day weekend what could we do?
My car had been smashed up therefore we had no transport and with the repair bills due, no money to spare either. We deserved a holiday the last one we had we were ill for three of the days and rushed around for guests the rest of the week. No real rest-bite for us at all. We needed a break! What are the options with 100 leva we had put aside for this occasion?
The Black Sea Coast was a option and we found that getting to Bourgas only cost 4.20 leva each by train - a return journey of over 200 km for less than 4 pounds! That was the first stage as the tickets were bought.
After looking at the weather forecast we were well naffed off, it said that the three days we had booked were cold and forecast rain! All year we had sizzling temperatures and only the odd day of rain. Now the only three days in the year we could call a holiday it changes! However we were still very excited about sleeping for three days if the forecast came true! Quality time together ALONE also was a major factor.
Having scanned the internet for cheap apartments in the coastal village and found quite a few that were only charging 8 leva a night each. We could spend three nights for 24 leva each all with en suite bathrooms, TV and sea view balcony! This particular village was some 25 km from Bourgas and we guessed the fare would be around 3 leva each for a bus to the apartment location. The total sum for travel and board was 62.40 leva.
All went according to plan apart from sharing a taxi with another couple from Bourgas train station to the village location and still on budget having only paid 6 leva for the both of us to travel the 25 km - Don't try this at home folks!
Arriving at the apartment that we booked on the internet only to find that we were shown two other apartments in other houses in the street, we declined and was shown the actual apartment booked but it was only 100 metres from the main coastal road. A lovely laid out modern apartment with air conditioning but the noise from the road even with close double glazed units was too much.
We left and went back to the bus stopping point to seek further accommodation from owners looking for client getting off buses there. A couple of inquiries and we found an owner who had what we wanted and still on budget for only 8 leva per person per night.
The owner led us there talking all the way along about how expensive it was to holiday for Bulgarian nowadays and how the foreign tourist have pushed up the prices of property and rent in this village over the last few years. The room when seen was on the third floor of a converted house and had an en suite bathroom, TV but no air conditioning but this wasn't important to us. The room was immaculate with snow white sheets for the comfortable beds and balcony with a sea view and table for evening meals and drinks - the en suite bathroom had a powerful shower and a great view of the sea from the side window but only sighted by a male toilet goer though - think about it!
What more could we ask for at 16 leva a night for the both of us. There was also a fridge in the corridor we had access to the quaint village centre and through to the lovely sandy beach was only a five minute walk. This location had everything you could ask for in a resort including some lovely restaurants and evening entertainment.
The weather was indeed cold and the rains came no time on the beach or in the sea due to this. Apart from a little walk around and the second evening a restaurant getting lost and soaked in the pouring rain tying to find our apartment, the rest of the time was spent in bed sleeping or dozing. Then a phone call from a friend changed the last 24 hours spent there and we were certainly glad of the sleep we had up to this point! Another story though!
To finish off the next day, we got a lift back to Yambol from our friend and donated 10 leva towards petrol, saving even more on the fare back. The whole four days and three nights including travel, food, drink, entertainment and even a little souvenir to take back, we still had change from the 100 leva for the both of us from start to finish! Even on a Bulgarian wage a good price to pay for a long weekend on the coast!
Without Bulgarian knowledge foreigners here would find it quite difficult to copy the cheap system we used, the Bulgarian language is the main obstacle and the fact that most people we had to deal with didn't know I was English - I have learned to keep my mouth shut at critical moments, usually when deals are done with apartment owners, shop owners and taxi drivers.
Bulgarian weekend holiday at Bulgarian prices? Yes but we are lucky to have disposable income for this, many other Bulgarians don't! We are indeed fortunate people here in Bulgaria.
A British couple had set up their new dream home in a small remote village in the midst of farming people, very much like thousands of other villages scattered around the Bulgaria countryside. Livestock roaming the streets was common place in these types of areas, all calm, peaceful and living in harmony with the community system that worked.
Traditional ways of keeping dogs in Bulgaria are very different to that of British ways and this primarily was the heart of the problem. The British couple remained adamant that their dog should live with them very much in the British fashion. It was allowed to run around the countryside, live and sleep in the house and essentially be treated as part of the household. It would often be let out to roam free in the streets and fields outside the boundaries of farmhouse and grounds until not before long the sad sage began.
A elderly woman neighbour had called round to the house complaining that the dog had attacked and killed many chickens from her farm and blamed the British couple for letting the dog out to roan free. The matter was resolved simply by the old woman being compensated with money to replace the chickens and a promise from the British couple to not let the dog out in the future unsupervised.
The dog was now confined to within the boundaries of the grounds, still without being tethered or tied up. It was only a matter of time before the dog found escape routes with the massive area of land and continued began to chase and worry sheep, goats and poultry in the area. The Bulgarian owners had full justification to continue to complain but the British remained firm about how the dog should be allowed freedom regardless of the stress it was causing to local livestock. The dog was apparently obedient when the owners were there but not when they were absent.
Subsequently with the owners absence on other occasions, more local chickens were killed and more monetary compensation made but this really wasn't the way forward as far as the Bulgarian locals were concerned. They were living in fear of the next attack and the worrying was affecting the sheep and goats milk production and the British couple refused to accept that the dog was not under control in their absence.
There remained this insistence that the dog should continue to be unleashed at all times in their absence and no compromise was sought as they felt they were morally right in the way the dog should be brought up. No real regard was made to the loss of local Bulgarian livelihoods that were being caused by this dog. This couldn't carry on where there comes the part that brought the matter to an end.
The British owners were away again for a few days and on their return they found that the dog had been poisoned and lay dead on within their own grounds. The calculated consequence from the Bulgarians point was one less worry for them and their stocks now safe. From the British couple there was now bitterness and suspicion to many of their closest neighbours and the house is now up for sale for a move to another village.
The mayor and local policeman were approached regarding the matter with a shrug of the shoulder response, there was nothing they could or indeed would do about it!
The question is raised who is right and who is wrong added to which some might say was an inevitable end in Bulgaria.
Bad luck and stress that comes with it is a part of life no matter where you are and dealing with it is done in different ways. In Bulgaria there is treatment that is made in from alternative medicine sources, bordering on the edge of witch doctor theology.
In Bulgaria this is widely believed and practiced and for the second time since since living here I have found the need for the practice to be administered from the local practitioner in my Skalitsa village.
It came to pass that my English guests have come to stay and we all caught a virus and were ill for three days. Added to this my car had broke down and we had to use taxis. Then to add to a trilogy of disasters the car was smashed up on the way to the garage to be fixed after our guests had just left to go back to England. So the week of vacation left us totally drained from illness, the cost of taxi fares and now the cost of car repairs. The stress of the whole week had got on top of us. It was decided that we travel to Skalitsa and get treatment for this the Bulgarian way.
Having gone through this procedure before it was familiar territory for me, but this time I knew what it was all about before the process, this wasn't the case first time round! Before, I was taken there by my neighbour after crashing another car, not really knowing why until some months afterwards when my Bulgarian language picked up a bit and then understood.
As the appointment was made, we decided that as well as my partner and I our neighbour was to go as she had found a snake in her kitchen that very morning. She had a phobia against them resulting in a very stressed Bulgaria woman in need of therapeutic help right now.
We need to take 2 leva each for the services and a piece of lead. The lead was found for my neighbour as she had a Bulgarian fishing ledger weight that was still made from pure lead. From my own fishing tackle, the weights although looking like lead were in fact another compound of metal. Lead weights of course have been banned in the UK for a number of years now so we had to travel empty handed in the hope the Maria the healing doctor had a spare supply at hand.
We arrived twenty minute late, but this is what happens here and Maria was ready for us with the bottle gas and cooking plate supporting a big table spoon in the middle of here living room floor. Beside the now flaming gas cooker there was placed a small white bowl of water and a screw topped plastic container which held a supply of lead. We were in luck, the lead supply was in stock and the process could start.
I was first in line and placed on the chair finding myself watching some lead being place into the spoon and held over the intense heat. It wasn't long unit the lead had turned into a molten state and this now in the spoon and the bowl of water was picked up and placed over my head. A chant was whispered and the spoon touched three sides of the bowl before the lead screeched out a cry as it hit the water. It was then back to the heat for a remelting of the lead and the same process was done another twice above my head.
The same treatment was then moved onto the the chest as the melting of the lead, the chanting while tapping the edge of the bowl and the return of solid metal from the water treatment was actioned but only done twice in this area.
The final process was done by my legs where at one point a sizzling piece of lead jumped out of the water missing my bare foot by a couple of centimeters and scorching the rug laid on the floor. This rather shook me up thinking what could have happened! This was repeated four times by my as the lower part of my body apparently had high stress levels.
Each time the lead was picked out of the water it was examined and repeated it the shape of the lead warranted another session in that particular area. It was clear that from the shape that formed that there were problems at the lower end for me hence the process being repeated again and again.
Afterwards the now very warm water from the bowl that the lead was poured was transfered into a glass and I was asked to take three small sips. This I duly did knowing that it was probably contaminated with lead, but this is Bulgaria and Bulgarian ways and traditions were respected.
Whilst Maria turned away to pour the water into the glass to drink a payment of two leva was placed on the floor by the stove and was picked up whilst the sipping was going on. I remember before that the exchange of payment was made whilst each respective party wasn't looking.
My partner was next and no less that five repeated processes were done above her head, there were obvious problem there. My neighbour followed on as I observed trying to discover the types of shapes the lead resulted in to cause the process to be repeated or move on. It seems there the was definitely a jagged and sharp characteristic to the lead to cause a repeated administration in the same areas of the body and a smoother finish when moving on further down. All were asked for the three sips of the water whilst the payments were being exchanged and presented the lead in wrapped newspaper afterwards.
Because my partner still had problems with the lead over her head another follow up form of practice was taken up. Maria took a handful of salt crystals in hand and sprinkled some over her head whilst another chant was whispered. Again this was done at least three times before Maria was satisfied that the treatment affected.
The wrapped up lead were now to be placed under the pillow for three nights and then thrown into a river for the lead now full of the owners' stress should now run downstream never to return.
It is with interest that the Bulgarians truly believe this practice to work and part of this the unwavering belief of the process. This of course is another major contributing factor of process actually working through physiological channels of alternative medicine.
Having been without a car this weekend it was the return to using the bus from Yambol to Skalitsa and back again this weekend. This is something I used to do regularly but haven't for quite while as I looked forward to the experience once again.
One thing I noticed was the fare remained the same as it was two years ago, 3 leva each way for the 35 km trip. The difference now it that the a mini bus was used instead of the old fashioned coaches which I had to pleasure of using these were vehicles that should have names, such as Colin the Coach or Barry the Bus. It is such a shame that they are being decommissioned out right now. there are still a few about but not on our route today.
The trip to Skalitsa was as expected, a Friday evening and the last trip of the day -packed to the hilt! Many passengers who didn't force their way to the front of the queue just had to stand bunched. There was no fear of falling over from the rolling minibus negotiating Bulgarian pot holed town roads, they were packed so closely together and couldn't move let alone fall over!
We were lucky, Galia was Bulgarian and a furthermore a Bulgarian woman as she managed her skillful Bulgarian technique of pushing in to the front, then saving a place for me once on the bus. I still can't bring myself to do such things with the 'ladies first' culture till embedded in me.
A stuffy journey it must be said but we arrived with only a short walk to my farm as the driver took us almost to our doorstep as the bus drivers do over here.
The journey back on Sunday afternoon was yet another experience that stick in the mind and something I had not encountered on this scale until now.
We were told the time of the arrival fo the bus was 4:30, it didn't arrive until 5:00, not surprising as 4:30 is another way of saying 5:00 in Bulgaria! There were at least 15 people waiting to get on the bus and the bus was fully laden with passengers including those standing all from from the previous town of Topolovgrad and village en route!
Do we now have to resign ourselves to staying in Skalitsa for another night? This was my immediate thought and I was quite willing to accept that for an early rise tomorrow morning. Other Bulgarians including Galia waiting had no such thoughts. GSMs was working overtime by the bus driver and moments later another minibus turned up, this one was empty and we duly boarded it. It may well have been waiting in the wings of a Skalitsa side road in case the demand exceeded supply as was the case here.
Both minibuses left following each other fully packed even at this stage with more standers than seaters. I knew that there were another three villages to be stopped at en route were more passengers were to be picked up and we were traveling in full capacity right at this moment! How will they cope?
Well the first village had 6-7 more people as the shuffling back went on with the existing standing travelers. It was at this point that Galia and I were beginning to realize that this was quite funny but only because we had seats. If we weren't seated then our smiles would have been wiped off completely especially with the smell of body odor coming from some of the standing population now definitely cuddling against their will!
Another village and more shuffling back with 5 more loaded on I didn't think this was possible as the minibus like a mobile can of sardines made its move again at a slower rate than before and for good reason with the overload it was now carrying.
The last village stop was Roza, the biggest village and the biggest number of travelers wanting to board for Yambol. There were at lease another 10 wanting to step on, surely this was not possible? More shuffling and a further four passengers boarded. We could see there were others now sitting on other's laps as Galia sat on mine freeing up another seat. Others however who didn't know each other refused to do this. One child was then put on the driver's lap and the remaining passengers sitting on the boarding steps and others leaning into the contours of the front window screen and sitting on the side of the ledge of the driver's dashboard!
All was now fixed together like a jigsaw puzzle when suddenly there was a shout from the back of the bus as it began to slowly move off! Someone had fallen asleep and had just woken up, he wanted to get off at this Roza stop...... Apart from those sitting on top of each other in seats, the whole bus had to disembark to let this old chap off and then reposition themselves as before. It was a humorous moment for all, you could tell as the atmosphere took a lift with the humorous side of the whole situation.
The bus now approached Yambol and the roads driven over very carefully not least because of the child helping with the steering!
We arrived a the bus station with a certain disbelief that so many people could fit into a minibus - Another Bulgarian experience which could have been much worse if I hadn't been with Galia who forced herself to a seat in the first place!
The strange things was everyone seemed to accept that this happens and gives cause for me to think that this is now a regular situation for these travelers. What compounds matters even further are the wads of luggage people take from the villages where all the produce they have grown are taken back to their apartment in the town with the minibuses having no provision for this. We were no exception with three big carrier bags full of tomatoes, peppers etc gathered from the farm.
I would recommend this type of journey for anyone purely for the reason of appreciating you current form of transport and having some degree of sympathy for Bulgarian travelers without cars.
The tree has a wealth of uses to the Bulgarian and a replanting policy throughout the country will ensure the tree covered areas stay at around 30% of the area of Bulgaria.
Where do we start with the use of the tree? The warmth from the fire giving heating in the winter and cooking at all times, the most effective a green method of heat emission known from mineral sources. Wood burnt produces carbon dioxide, this is feed for trees and as long as the balance is kept Bulgaria remains pollution free from wood burning activities.
Tree bear fruits, nuts, berries, tea and various other goodies not only for human consumption but for animal feed and a renewable source each year. The fallen leaves provide more feed and fertility for the ground they rot on.
Wood is the staple diet of the Bulgarian home and surroundings from fencing to brooms, from toothpicks to propelled burning rockets and from rabbit traps to car jacks. Hanging goats and sheep from trees when skinning them, shaved twigs to clean out intestines and even using then as a swing for children, the list goes on.All hand made in most cases.
Cart pulled by horse and donkey are essentially wooden and many chassis on these popular and working means of transport are still made of wood.
Dead wood is collected and is a natural waste product used bu Bulgarians, this collection of dead wood for heating is legal and is common practice throughout the year.
Shaded areas for all that need it in the hot summer climate, a cooler areas for crops to grow, humans and animals to shelter and a haven for birds and insects alike.
Where would Bulgarian dogs go without a Bulgarian tree? Leaning on to talk and stub a cigarette out, falling asleep under them, giving it an odd kick when in a mood and using them to hide from the wife after a few rakias are just a few of the uses I have personally seen in my village.
The list really is endless.
On a more serious note the the tree and the wood from it is what Bulgaria is made from. It still is a wood cultured society with the main components of housing made from wooden structures, even wooden scaffolding and supports for concrete walls and ceilings in new apartment block going up.
Finally, and only really having passing comments on the topic, where would the the Bulgarians be without their beloved Slivatree, now where have I heard that name before?
There are lots more reasons to leave the UK other than the events of crime and the total loss of a fair judicial system, however it is still one of the main players in the swing of people wanting to get away from Britain.
It is fair to say that a good proportion of British just put up with things as crime spirals its way out of control affecting the vast majority of people's quality of life and indeed freedom. Some of course don't even realize that other ways of life exist away from this and that the UK is the centre of the Universe come rain or shine - fair play but a shame.
The suggestion of looking at others who have had the vision and have tried it as these are the testimonies that ring true and give a new light of hope to many others who do not wish to be the pioneers and risk takers. Many follow on once a pathway has been trodden and expatriate communities abroad form from this in many instances, safety in numbers is a comfort for some.
Back to Britain, I refrain from calling it Great Britain but may rephrase that as Grate Britain as law abiding people are being put through the mill of an ill society that fails to protect them before, during and after crime strikes. A country that has become so over moral the whole system can't breathe from being strangled from it. Crime is now firmly rooted into UK society and part of the culture there now because in many cases it pays, but goes much deeper than that.
In Bulgaria crime exists but it is dealt with in a totally different way, criminals are punished when caught! Sometimes injustice may seem to have been done, perhaps on occasions innocent parties are punished but this is not common and say that these instances should be looked upon as an acceptable level of tolerance within the system.
No system is perfect but you have to look at the whole effectiveness of the system in place not just at the little nuts and bolts. I can see many a moral maniacs building up a head of steam with this but look again at what this shows in respect for the law and again look again at how you see things from your patch. No one has a right to judge other countries systems of law, in fact Bulgaria has as much right to tell Britain how to run their system.
Look at the bottom line, look at the overall effectiveness, look at the system that puts people off from committing crime - Question: Where exactly is the crime rate highest?
In many people's books there should be a fear of doing something criminal this just doesn't seem to be there in the UK but is here in Bulgaria. The police are feared here (as opposed to respected in many instances) and this is in conjunction a sprinkling of corruption within. That again may be deemed as another acceptable level that helps the police system work with fear in place. In turn, walking the law enforced tightrope carefully to most Bulgarian citizens is how it is and how it works here.
And yes, the Mafia work in their own circles doing their Mafia things in their own circles but Mafia exist worldwide with deep roots in the UK! They seem to be feared by all including the police but again this hierarchy is worldwide.
When the streets aren't safe to walk in the day as well as night then there is something terribly wrong with that society - You can do this in the vast majority of areas in Bulgaria. If truth is told you are more likely to get attacked by an inquisitive donkey than a mugger in most of the country and that in itself is rare enough.
Worldwide cities and large town attract criminal activities Bulgarian no exception but that's really where it ends and then there's the Roma. The Roma are a different story but again we all live with them worldwide some more acceptably than others.
So Bulgaria is a destination for many where the crime rate is non existent in many areas. That it the big appeal to so many. I am lucky enough to live in one of those areas where mine countless other villages find a totally crime free society within. The community don't need police as they know that everyone knows what is right and wrong in the local community. They police themselves!