A Simple Christmas Eve Family Celebration In Bulgaria

A Simple Christmas Eve Family Celebration In Bulgaria Christmas here with Galia’s family in Yambol was a simple affair with no gimmicks attached. The plan was to have a family get together on Christmas Eve and just talk, eat, drink and dance, bit not necessarily in that order. Four generations of family were all together in one place by 9:00 Christmas Eve and the food and drink was being dipped into.

Christmas is very economical here ijh out household, I don’t think it would be much different if we had money either as the habit of not wasting money is instilled into Bulgarian souls here. As a couple of examples is the fact that we don’t exchange Christmas cards and most of the food is homemade during this season with the majority stocks that have been grown from the summer and autumn. It makes so much sense to be like this/. To me sending Christmas cards was always done in the main just for the sake of it and to not send one was made out to be criminal. This was the only reason many were sent not to be made to feel guilty.

Shopping at Christmas and crowds leading up tot Christmas just doesn’t happen here. To me this is such a great thing to experience and my thoughts are always on my past and the rush and bad tempers and the stress and the commercial rut that the UK is in. It is hard not to get that past and the mayhem of this out of my head even after quite a few Christmases here.

A Simple Christmas Eve Family Celebration In Bulgaria Decorations at this festive season are at a minimum and what we do put out are used year in year out. We just have a simple Christmas tree is a simple half a metre tall plastic affair, which never ages in the ten years it has been used here. It is just as effective each year without lights. No fancy ceiling and wall decorations, just two little Santa Clause figures hanging from a couple of cupboard knobs, that’s it.

Food at this time of year is not that much different form our daily meals. Dishes for the Christmas Eve family celebration consist of vegetarian dishes up until midnight when the meat dishes come out. We all came with out own dishes, which made up the seven different dishes of the night. Seven different dishes on this particular night is traditional although it can be extended to nine or eleven. Apart from the traditional baked bread, the sweet boiled wheat dish and mushroom (in place of mince) filled sarmi (stuffed vine leaves) all the other dishes are regular finds on our kitchen dining table. To me this home made food from homegrown products is a special celebration every day in any case. The difference is the company and occasion, which makes it even more special.

This is a time for all generations to get together as the eldest member of the family starts the celebration off with a speech. Baba at 85 was the eldest and did the honours. She was then handed the flat bread and broke off the first piece then passed to on to every person there. We all hoped to get the buried 20 stotinki coin that gave good luck for next year, guess who got it – Yes me. I felt quite guilty denying all these Bulgarian their luck.

The evening was now rolling with fun and laughter all round aided by lashings of rakia (all three varieties of homemade). Then the dancing started and the gifts made to the children. Not gifts that you expect. These were little gifts of little sweet snacks and some fruit (and apple and an orange) in a little plastic bag. The children of the family were more than content with their gifts, which were gracefully accepted from another older member of the family. The older members of the family are seen with great respect here and again this is so rewarding for me to watch each year.

A Simple Christmas Eve Family Celebration In Bulgaria Dancing, eating drinking and of course talking with the volume on a never crescendo throughout the night continued. Midnight came and the meat was served. This was simply sliced salami and the end of the traditional fasting from meat (just the day for us but puritans from the 5th December.)

We finally left at 4:00 in the morning with Baba being supported on both sides by Galia and myself, I think we both needed her support to be quite honest. Home was only 400 metres away as we arrived and all slept like a log after a heart warming occasion that could and did bring a tear to my eye.

This is how Christmas should be celebrated, with family, tradition upheld and simple food, drink and respect for everyone, something that I am still getting used to here after all the Christmases I never really looked forward to in the UK.
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Working Before Holidays In Bulgaria

I was work this Saturday as it was taken in lieu of the non-public holiday on the 31st January. I thought it was going to be a bit of an easy day with an early finish, not such luck as I wearily walked out of the factory gates at 17:07 after an sharp crisp icy 8:00 start.

What made it worse was that the Lada’s brakes had frozen solid this working Saturday morning after around a –7 C night that followed the rain the previous evening. The water off the road driving home Friday evening must have been the cause of the ice between the brake pads. It was strange that I was the only one stationary this morning, I found out why shortly afterwards. Bulgarian drivers leave their handbrake off during sub-zero temperatures overnight parked up and carry a brick with them to place under the wheel to stop rolling. This won’t happen again with this bit of Bulgarian wisdom taken on board as I embarked into another Lada, this time a taxi) whose driver used this trick last night.

It was indeed a couple of weary people catching a life home only to find that we had guests waiting who didn’t’ know we worked today and it was preparing food and drink after seeing to the Lada with a brick hand. We parties on through the evening and I even got the privilege to see my football team Arsenal live on television Arsenal winning 3-0 against Hull City. The sound was muted and Bulgaria music was played over it. It was quite a funny two hours of football watching Arsenal dance around the opposition with Chalga and Bulgarian conversation in full flow.

Our guests were out of work, but they look upon this a break or ‘pochivka’, I wasn’t too sure whether they were trying to put a brave face on it or whether they really saw it like that. I think the former was the case as they left us at midnight. It was a deep sleep we both had still waking up at 6:30 naturally then going back to sleep again, just a great moment that!

Galia hates the cold and it’s cold. Just walking 100 metres to the shop and back with an artic wind in your face just doesn’t bother me at all, but Galia finds this extremely uncomfortable. My greatest hate about winter is the time it takes to get dressed and undressed, always in a rush, it is frustrating with the amount of clothing that has to be put on just to pop down the road of a loaf of bread.

We now have Sunday off, but an early bed awaits us in the evening with a 6:30 alarm call again Monday morning. Three days of hard graft then 4 days of Christmas to look forward to. I just hope we get paid before the holiday. We are due to have the whole of Galia’s family together her cousin’s apartment block Christmas Eve to see us all into Christmas Day. It will be mainly a vegetarian affair with banitsa and other Bulgarian goodies including lots of dark beer and rakia until midnight when the meat party begins for real and of course freshly slaughtered pig salami will be the first on the new look menu. Most people now only fast on the day rather than from the 4th December which it the strict tradition. We did the same thing three years ago and a memorable event it was then, before I started blogging though. (You can read about Christmas Eve in a Bulgarian Village on my other blog 365 Bulgarian Adventures)Picture from 365 Bulgarian Adventures (Christmas Eve In A Bulgarian Village)

I was too tired to use the camera last night, besides which I am still not too familiar with the set up and am quite disappointed with the quality of pictures to date. I hope to get quite a few shots over Christmas though. I case I don’t get time to post another blog before the 25th can I wish everyone a lovely family Christmas from Galia and myself.
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No Garlic Planted And Chicken Gizzard Balls Result

No Garlic Planted And Chicken Gizzard Balls ResultIt was back in the village farmhouse after a two-week absence. The plan was to sow 1,000 garlic sets for early green garlic for salads early in the spring. All was fine travelling the 37 kilometres in the pitch-black countryside knowing that there was a wood burner waiting to get started when we get there alongside a salad and the new batch of rakia that was brought along. Today was the start of winter weather and was the first day of frost overnight as the supply of fresh daily peppers form the factory farm took their last bow.

We needed this short break this weekend, as it is an extra working day next week working Saturday to make up for one of the non-public holidays in the four-day break at Christmas. We don’t get paid for any public holidays either, that is how it is here with many Bulgarian firms.

Effectively we lose four days pay over the holiday period due. Initially I thought we have been hard done by, but thinking about it again, this makes complete sense, why should you get paid for not working? I had it too easy in the UK it seems getting full pay for a total of around 12 weeks year in year out on holidays when the schools are shut. Having said that, most professionals, including teachers here do get paid during holidays as well, but they are the exception to the working class rule.

Back to the village farmhouse it is a cold house we met, but that was short lived as the fire was started and the thaw began. Within the hour it was a warm lived in home again and the long evening was a treat knowing that a 6:30 start wasn’t due the next day.

I woke at 6:30 the next morning as my body alarm hasn’t a switch off function. It was snowing and my initial smile dropped as I realised that the garlic sowing was going to be difficult if not impossible with the amount of the snow lying and still falling. It became an impossible task by midday as the fall continued throughout the day and evening up to the point of typing at 8:00 this evening!

Garlic on hold it was now anti-freeze in the lada radiator, a load of straw stuffed in sacks and squeezed in the water shaft to prevent freezing up when we are away and rose bushes pruned. Funny, only two days ago I was sunbathing outside during my lunchtime break in a short-sleeved shirt.

Back in the farmhouse it was a wondering mind thinking about what I could do with chicken gizzards that we had got out of the freezer. Galia was keen to cook, but I love doing the same on my home patch and got the nod to use my imagination on the gizzards. Gizzards are a quite tasteless and tough so the would need a lot of boiling and other ingredients to make them tender and a have more taste respectively. I ended up with a very complimentary result, which had full praise from Galia who is very honest in her opinions of whether she likes the food she tries. I noted all the ingredients and the process and give the recipe here:

No Garlic Planted And Chicken Gizzard Balls ResultChicken Gizzard Balls

500 gm Chicken gizzards
1 medium onion finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped
6 chestnuts (boiled and skinned)
100 gm sirene (goats cheese)
1 egg
Brown breadcrumbs (two slices worth)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
200 ml red wine
¼ chicken stock cube
1 teaspoon paprika pepper
Sunflower oil for shallow frying

For the batter
200 gm plain flour
1 egg
3 tablespoons plain yoghurt
150 ml dark beer

Tidy up and wash the gizzards. Put in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil,. Take the scum off with a ladle and simmer for at least 4 hours. (This is where a cooking space on our wood burners come in useful in.)

Prepare the batter by mixing all the ingredients together really well and putting in the fridge whilst working on the gizzard ball preparations.

Drain and rinse the gizzards with cold water. When cool, chop the gizzards up finely with a knife or use a food processor. With a little oil fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the gizzards, chicken stock, a little salt, pepper, paprika pepper and raise the heat stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and leave to simmer with a stir every so often until the wine has totally evaporated. Add the sirene and chestnuts and stir in well until the mixture is well blended.

Place the mixture into another bowl and leave to cool for 20 minutes. Add the egg and breadcrumbs and mix. Using your clean hands mould the mixture into balls the size of golf ball and lay on a plate ready for batter dipping.

Bring the batter out of the fridge (it should have been in there for at least an hour.) Heat the oil in a pan and test the right heat by place a drop of the batter in the oil, which should sizzle and turn brown after a few seconds. When ready, submerge the gizzard balls in the batter and gently place in the hot oil. You can probably get them all in one go, if not just stagger the frying.

The balls will need turning after 2-3 minutes or if the underside is lightly browned off. The same process once turned will lead to the balls being ready for placing on a plate with a kitchen towel to take up the excess oil. Leave to stand for ten minutes before serving alongside a salad, fresh bread and your favourite wine or beer.

Hot and cold they taste great and puts chicken gizzard in a new culinary light. They will last for a few days in the fridge if stored in a sealed container.

Having just digested a few just over an hour ago, my thoughts turn to eating some reheated for lunch two days later at work. Somehow though I don’t think they will last that long as Baba is due to try some out tomorrow and Galia and I will no doubt dip into them again to keep her in dining company you understand. No garlic planted, but the sliver lining is chicken gizzard balls which wouldn't have come about otherwise.
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Freshly Picked Peppers In December In Bulgaria

Bell pepper, with both green and red colors, n...

It was quite amazing as I walked out into the factory farm today at lunchtime. Still there before me were peppers ready to be picked and eaten and that was exactly what I did. From July to December (6 months) I have eaten freshly picked peppers daily for my lunch and more. The massive stocks that were picked at the height of the growing season are still in the freezer untouched for very good reason.

In Yambol there has yet to be a frost that would decimate the last remains of peppers that hang there and still grow on. This is unfounded so the Bulgarians tell me. Most of them pulled up all their old pepper producing plants and turned the earth over for winter months ago. It seems that laziness has its rewards here with my production still rolling on.

On other fronts, we have had to cancel our weekend trips to the farmhouse twice over the last three weekends as party invitation had to be taken up. And why not, there isn’t much to do on the Skalitsa farmhouse other than finish sowing the garlic and there’s no rush. The party starts at 1:00 tomorrow (Saturday) and the occasion? Well the family just fancied a party, that’s it!

Well after all we have spent the best part of a year working the land so it is about time we did a bit more socialising with the town folk during winter. It looks like whether we are in the town or village, partying is the main vocation with winter upon us, albeit a very warm one right now.

Lastly, I am still trying to get a digital camera sorted out; I never thought it would take as long as this and apologise for the lack of photographs in recent months.

Image by Martin LaBar via Flickr
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A Peach Of An Idea For The Bulgarian Village Farm

Peach tree blossomsPeach Tree Blossom

It was a great idea today that sprung to mind when slaving away on the sticky mud trying to prepare the soil for the cold season that should have been on us, but the winter has been delayed for some reason with the warm weather that is set to continue this coming week.

Over the last few years the stress of living in the town and playing catch up in the village at weekends during the growing season has been something I have tried to eliminate. Growing crops that don’t need water every day was a tactic that didn’t work. I needed the help of my neighbour to bale me out in the really hot weather and they had their own crops to take care of. This was another stress I could do without.

So, today the thoughts were all about how to overcome this and trees were the answer. Peach trees were the answer to be exact. The area in which the produce is grown each year could take nine peach trees and of course they need no daily or bi-daily attention. Spaying is needed and of course keeping the jungle down around them, but this could easily be done each weekend without the need for assistance from neighbours.

Peaches are common in Bulgaria especially in this area and are eaten fresh, as a conserve in winter and used for rakia. The need for weekly watering in the summer is essential and they will be planted within reach of the well water so no worries there either, Once they are established after around 3-4 years, the shade they provide will quell the undergrowth and less maintenance is needed. The fruit will also be that much bigger.

The thought of planting vines took hold for a while, but event though the area is perfect and they are easily managed the cost of setting this up was too expensive for use. This made our decision so much easier, alongside the birds that would steal our crop each year with us not there for five days of the week.

We will seek advice from peach growing maestro when we get back to work as they have them there, newly planted last year. We hope to get some saplings soon and of course cheaper than what they retail for in bazaars. This is the Bulgarian way.

Working With Bulgarians For Bulgarians - And Happy To Do So

Woriing With Bulgarians For Bulgarians - And Happy To Do So

For an expatriate to work in Bulgaria it is common to assume that they are working for an expat owned company and therefore serving an expatriate community. I would say from experience that apart form the retired fraternity the vast majority of expatriates that come over here to make a living a re doing so on the profits out of other expatriates that are here or have plans to live here. It is a recently created economy in Bulgaria that is completely isolated from the real Bulgarian economy and to be quite honest is self destructed on the first sign of a recession.

The idea of coming over here and reaping profits from other expatriates is a plan that is doomed for failure. Only the poorest expatiates come to Bulgaria as a rule and they do so on a tight budget that doesn’t cater for services other than cheap Bulgarian prices even at inflated rates for expatriates.

Having worked for expatriate here a few years ago, Galia and I knew after a short time that this doesn’t work as greed and exploitation of our services at Bulgarian rates was taken advantage of and contract were not honoured on many occasion and we lost out financially. Basically we could not trust the expatriates that we worked with, moreover there was no one we could trust. So working away from expatriates was the only solution. We were only after an income for a basic living and as we knew right from start that this was the only way to live in Bulgaria.

So, I now work for a Bulgarian company catering for Balkan clients at a Bulgarian minimum wage and not an expatriate in sight. It is physical work and my workmates are all Bulgarians who don’t speak a word of English, but we work as Bulgarians do. You need to be here to know how they work of course. We sweat out a 45-hour a week and this really makes the weekends a real treat and relief. My hands are raw and sore from the manual work I am faced with, but somehow I feel the need for pain with work here, after all, all the other workers must have the same pains why should I feel sorry for myself and be the only one to complain?

The air of redundancy looms over us all the time here. Only yesterday two employees were shown their card die to lack of orders on the products we make, they were taken on after me as it is last in first out, I’m the next to go if this continues. We live on a knife-edge with our jobs here, but we are luckier than most who don’t have jobs.

For now we will work with and for Bulgarians at least you know where you stand with them. There have been lots of new experiences taken on board in this vocation something that I feel very fortunate to be a part of. I hope it continues for a while yet, but work could well end here at any time with the ways things are at the moment.
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Another Bad Experience From Expatriates In Bulgaria

Another Bad Experience From Expatriatres In Bulgaria

I bumped into a couple of expatriates the other day and just couldn’t avoid it. Normally this doesn’t happen as if a see an expat or expat couple I just keep my mouth shut and like ships in the night that pass by unnoticed. This normally happens in supermarkets where expatriates normally shop, I know an expat straight away by the contents their shopping trolley therefore I am forewarned. I will give you an example of an expat shopping trolley contents that I saw only yesterday and yes I do have a photographic memory, but I forgot the cuddly toy!

  • 10 kg Pedigree Chum
  • 3 x Tins of tomatoes
  • 3 x Tins baked beans
  • Countless Amounts of crisps and crisp type snacks
  • A variety of English Tea
  • Frozen chicken
  • Frozen mince
  • Tomato sauce (Heinz)
  • 2 Boxes of tinned beers (Becks)
  • A couple of bottles of wine (Bulgarian)
  • Three loaves of bread (two for the freezer)
  • 10 sachets of instant soup (Maggie/Nestle)

This was the I have no grievance or hatchet to bury with most expatriates over here, but when I see things like this in their shopping trolley I wonder why the hell they are here. Cheap comes to mind straight away, they certainly have no desire to eat Bulgarian food other than the wine (which is cheap as well.) The thought was that apart from the wine, everything was what you could buy in Sainsburys or Tesco in the UK and even here it is roughly the same price and not a comparative equivalent! So the food is the same price as the UK in that respect.

The people I met had seen me a few times working in a Yambol office as a website administrator and they approached me and I just couldn’t avoid them even though I knew they were British. Like I said, I don’t have anything against expatriates here, some I know are very nice people, but I am here for Bulgaria not expat communities. As long as they respect where they are and don’t try and force their own culture on Bulgarians here that's fine. I was approached without any introductory politnesses being passed. The first introduction comment was “I know you, you’re English aren’t you? Why haven’t they got PG Tips here?"

Well two questions put to me and not being one for being rude I answered both calmly with “Yes” and “Because this is Bulgaria,” respectively. They took offence with this ssecond answer and began their attack on everthing here not adapted to the English culture, food, services etc.

I wanted to get away as I knew what was coming and I was right. Next, all I got was complaints and moaning about how Bulgaria is way behind the times and it was not good enough for Brits coming over here. It was as if they were blaming me for the lack of progress here as they commented on the work I did promoting the country to potential expatriates in my work, then letting them down when they take the bait as it wasn’t as perfect as is was made out to be. Far from wanted to argue with this aggressive couple, I was with Galia and out of a kind of respect for this couple didn’t talk Bulgarian but gave a signal that I “wanted out” here. She took the signal straight away and pushed our shopping trolley forward and on beckoned me to move. I made my excuses and followed her willingly. “Blagodahriya Gal,” were my next words as I thanked her for getting me out of the situation. Oh how I hate people like that was the instant thought in my mind and no matter how hard I tried to block it it was there fermenting all evening.

I just wish we didn’t have to shop in supermarkets, but we have to in our financial position, as certain things that are on promotion are far cheaper than elsewhere. That is the only attraction for us both here and of course it is directly en route to the way home from work.

Another very short moment in Bulgaria spoilt by non-Bulgarians. I will carry on my policy of non-communication with the expatriates I see here.

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More Time To Write At Weekends In Bulgaria

Winter warmth

I have found that weekends in the village farmhouse have become more relaxing right now. Not work on the land is needed and it is dark at just after 5:00 in the afternoon. Once the wood burner is lit and we have vacuumed and dusted the place there is nothing else to do other than chill out after a hard week of physical work. I forget sometimes how to wind down and now it is taking a bit of getting used to.

This is the festive season now approaching, not really with Christmas in mind at all, but for the village folk it is a time also to recover from the long growing season here which covers spring, summer and autumn, in fact in some parts harvesting is still going on, leeks, cabbages and even grapes are still lingering on. Only last week I helped a family member with their grape harvest. The distilling for rakia for which they are intended is booked for the 26th December!

So what does an active mind do for 5-6 hours in the dark winter evening at the weekend without Internet? I certainly am not into Bulgarian television, not because I don’t understand it, but because it is the worse form of television, it rubs me up the wrong way completely with Nestle adverts accounting for 50% of products on the interludes! I must admit I like the Bulgarian comedy and music programmes. We just the three main ‘free’ channels namely, BTV (who celebrated 50 years of broadcasting last week), Nova and Channel One. Everything else is mainly junk. We do not have cable or satellite due to the cost. Galia likes most that is on television, so it is on all evening and I just get more and more annoyed with the invasion of ‘bad’ products being washed into her head throughout! I certainly do not rule the roost in terms of what Galia wants to do in the evenings, and if she wants to watch television that’s fine. There isn’t anything else for to do and as we are both online with the Internet Sunday evenings through to Thursday evenings it is good that we both have a break from this. I have to add my most hated adverts apart from Nestle, that come from Coca Cola and Pepsi already doing their Christmas themes!

So what do I do now in the evenings at the farmhouse? It is a passion for writing that still begs to be done and that is now what I do. I have plans for another book to be written, this time on the recipes that I have tried and tasted in Bulgaria. It was touched on in my first book, but needs to be focussed on entirely in a book in it’s own right. I must have drawn up some 50 or so recipes already here and there, the only thing missing are the pictures that I have to work on, a bit difficult without a digital camera, but hopefully one will come to hand at some point. I’m sure it will sell better than my ‘Simple Treasures In Bulgaria’ as it is more geared towards a food loving public.

Finally, I don’t know why I was so hyped up and in a panic about not having the time to dedicate to writing a few weeks ago. This was of course during the most busy season of harvesting where there wasn’t enough hours in the day and then finding work which took up 45 hours a week just was a straw too much on the camel’s back (forgive me Kamila.) Right now I find myself having the time to post once a week, perhaps twice if I feel prolific enough and work on the new book planned in tandem.

Image by *Susie* via Flickr
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Still Picking Daily Produce For Lunch In Bulgaria

It is quite a bonus that even in mid November I am still picking fresh peppers and tomatoes from the factory farm daily for my lunch. Even though the main crops of tomatoes and peppers had been harvested and now stored for the winter, the growing continues alongside aubergines that are still being picked. How long these free lunch treats go on for I guess is in the hands of the weather. There is no forecast of sub-zero nights this week, so it will carry on I suppose – To Christmas? Who knows?

Cabbages have now been preserved are in a 240 litre barrel of salt water and some cut up peppers, green tomatoes and carrots and local herbs for salads through to April. A new batch of grape rakia was made last Tuesday, it took all night to distil with me loosing a complete night of sleep, but it was worth it with over 40 litres of 58% rakia now sitting. This should be ready to drink after being diluted with spring water once thirty days have passed, also with the addition of submerging mulberry wood for colour and cut apples dangling in a pair of tights. The quantity should therefore rise to around 45-47 litres. With the addition of the remainder of the previously distilled sliva rakia (30 litres) the rakia stock will be sure to last a year. So much for the taxing of home made rakia that exceeds 30 litres! I don’t know any Bulgarian who makes less that 30 litres and none who pay tax on excess of this.

Just in case you are interested the cost of making the 45 litres of 44% rakia is made up as follows:

  • 150 kg Grapes 45 leva
  • 20 kg sugar 28 leva
  • Rakia house fees 15 leva
  • Wood for the kazan 3 leva
  • Salt 0.15 leva
  • Bicarbonate of soda 2 leva
  • Sweets 2 leva
  • Flour for sealing the kazan 0.50 leva
  • Apples 3 leva

I bought the grapes from a friend at work and used raspberry flavoured hard-boiled sweets instead of coriander as an experiment. The total cost was 98.65 leva, say 100 leva with a little gas for transportation. This works out that one litre of home made rakia cost 2.22 leva which is about £1 or $1.50! The cheapest rakia in shops at 40% is priced at around 6-7 leva three time the cost and in most people’s opinion inferior. With this in mind you can see the appeal and why Bulgarian oppose the EU for trying to take this wonderful tradition say more a ritual, that remains in Bulgaria for the time being.

Perhaps this post is more pertaining to my Rakia Site, which has a poll running on whether tax should be paid on home made rakia.

In the meantime I hope to enjoy this last batch of rakia with family and friends with the stock of salads over the festive season and beyond. It is of course the life and soul of the Bulgarian kitchen table.

Sorry no pictures, still no digital camera right now.
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Tampons - An Inventive Bulgarian Alternative

Tampons - An Inventive Bulgarian Alternative

I know smoking is bad for you but here in Bulgaria it is considered normal to smoke and unusual not to. This will change as the EU grips Bulgaria by the throat and forces the people there not to smoke by raising the cost of cigarettes tenfold.

The cost of cigarettes has double in the last couple of years and is due to increase by another 43% in the New Year, so Bulgarians being Bulgarians find a practical way of dealing with this. The answer they have now is to roll their own cigarettes, which works out at around half the cost of factory made smokes. My partner uses filters in her rolled versions and this is where the tip comes in.

This weekend she ran out of filters so being a practical women she looks for something that could replace it as we were in the village with no shops that sold roll up cigarette accessories. It was that time of the month when potential baby producing women bleeds and she had some tampons in here handbag that dealt with it. Sunday morning I woke up and found one of these tampons cut into pieces. She had used her tampon as cigarette filters!

Well this is how it is in Bulgaria, such a practical people as ever with no scruples about dealing with a problem in whatever way works that lay in front of them. I must add that the tampon in question was unused! (In case you were wondering.)

It worked so well that my partner has decided to use tampons instead of conventional filters as it actually works out cheaper and works just as well. My advice of course is to give up smoking all together which would be a bigger saving, but this is Bulgaria and the smoking goes on.

Image via Wikipedia

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Sirni Zagovezni In Bulgaria

Welcome to World Blog Surf Day. I hope you enjoyed The Skaian Gates by Yarzac. The theme as you may know is about Holidays and Celebrations and for sure there is bound to be a great varity form around the world. A big thanks to Sher at Czech Off The Beaten Path who again has taking this third World Blog Suf Day event up a league with her dedicated work and excellent communication to participants.

I have already written about my favourite celebration in Bulgaria and it has been published in my book Simple Treasures in Bulgaria. If you like what you read I am offering my book (in the ebook format) for free to all World Blog Surfers who take part in this event. Just let me know your email address in the comments and I will return the ebook which retails at £3.75 (£11.95 for a hard copy.) If you want to see a preview of the book you can here -> Simple Treasures In Bulgaria.

Enough said, here's the World Blog Surf Day post.

Sirni Zagovezni
One of the most popular festivals in Bulgaria is Sirni Zagovezni, meaning ‘Shrove Sunday’ or ‘The Great Lent’. This falls each year on a Sunday some seven weeks before Easter. I have experienced two seasons of these now; it is a time for celebrating the beginning of spring and a period of fasting, in fact the longest fasting period of the year in the Orthodox tradition. This means abstaining from meat, dairy products (fish once a week is allowed), no traditional dancing and no marriages to take place until Easter. This fasting does still go on, but the food here is too good and too tempting for me to even consider joining this part of the ritual. Many villages and towns have the tradition of building large bonfires, and Skalitsa is no exception. There is either the usual communal bonfire or individual groups made by neighbours on their own. The fires are built on higher land in the belief that this will prevent hailstorms striking the areas that they light. I live right up on the high ground of the village, so just outside my house is a good place for this. The preparations for this festival include hand-carving wooden rockets and laying them out for a week or two until they are tinder dry for the day. This is really tough on the hands and my carving efforts only resulted in three rockets.

Each rocket is fixed to its launching stick, and then lit from the bonfire before blasting off to challenge the other rockets as they soar up to a hundred metres over the neighbouring houses. As each is launched, a name is shouted out and that rocket subsequently dedicated to that person, family, friend or lover! The handmade rockets are collected up by young Bulgarian maidens — whoever collects the most will be deemed to be the fairest in the town or village. The young male pilots of the rockets therefore usually aim their rockets at their favoured maiden’s home to make it easier for her to find. This is a tradition where both young and old gather. The bonfire is the place where asked-for forgiveness is given from the young to the old; a time to rid everyone of past quarrels. This is also traditionally a time for the younger members of the community to respect their elders. Jumping over the fire is another part of the ritual, usually performed by the younger members of the community, although many older members have been known to have a go, and some of them did this cold Sunday evening! It is said that the farthest jump would give that young man a wife in the autumn, but all attempts will give good health to the participants in return for their efforts. I had a go, but graciously let others beat me in distance —the reason being quite simply because I didn’t want to get married again!

Even when the rockets and jumping have finished and the wine and rakia have been passed round until they’re almost gone the festivities don’t stop. This, after all, is the last day of feasting and dancing prior to the fasting period, so it’s back home for Bulgarian apple-bobbing, wining, dining and dancing until the early hours; for the morning brings about a focus of the body and mind until Easter. Which was just as well, as I didn’t fancy anything to eat in the morning….

Please take time to visit Karen at Empty Nest Expat Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said of her, "Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing--and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic." Some creditable review that lives up to her blogs if I may say so.

Finally please visit the next wordl blogger in line on your world tour. Sezinia by Sezin. She describes herself as follows:
I'm a global tumbleweed with roots currently down in Prague, Czech Republic, who writes about culture, politics, spirituality and horror.
What a mixture!
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Finally Got A Job In Bulgaria Again

Thank you all for all your comments regarding my last post. There is a burning inside me that wants to spill all that happens here but it is being held back by time. It is something that I thought I would have lots of here - this is not the case right now. Far from being a rat race, things just take far longer to do here than in my previous life and trying to acclimatise with this is still something I am trying to fight, although never as much as I used to.

After being made redundant here back in 2007, it is with relief that I have now found local work here at the minimum Bulgarian wage (around 18 BG Leva a day.) I am now otherwise occupied for over 40 hours a week sweating out with other labouring non-English speaking Bulgarians. I am very lucky indeed, as many people here do not have any work at all here. It was found through the family grapevine and social connections, without this I would now probably be on a plane to the UK with borrowed money for the flight and find myself homeless and jobless there.

So as it stands now I am working as a labourer full time. It is physically demanding and I’m totally knackered at the end of the day, (which I really love for some strange reason,) but now have a living here where a contribution to the family budget can be made. I certainly feel less guilty eating the food that is constantly laid on the table. After work it is working on the farm, even in the dark and weekends still at the village of Skalitsa maintaining the farm there (without Internet connections.)

The time spent blogging now is maybe an hour or two at the most prior to hitting the pillow for some well earned sleep. Somehow the pressure to fit things in this time is making blogging stressful trying to cram everything in. For now all I can do is keep things ticking over and that’s what I will try and do. This is being written in a rush at 6:00 am prior to setting off to work at 7:00 whilst eating a banitsa and drinking Ayran.
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Blogging Takes A Lay Back

Blogging Takes A Lay BackI’m sorry there have not been recent posts here as so much has happened over the last few weeks my own normally high and motivated zest for telling people about what goes on here has taken a bit of a bashing.

Why this has happened is quite hard to explain. There was a sudden flash in my mind saying, why am I telling people about life in Bulgaria? This was a question that I found very hard to answer. It is quite common for expatriate to have a quest to tell everyone what it is like in the new country they have taken on board and then after a while it wears off. Has this now become a trait in my own will to tell that has rolled on and run out of steam?

There must be others who have arrived at the same conclusion. The problem here is that I am not in Bulgaria for leisure, but to earn a living and that takes a great chunk of time out for doing things that don’t pay. Blogging certainly doesn’t do that. It may cover the cost of the Internet and maybe buy a loaf of bread each day but that’s where it ends.

There is now a little easing down in the farming for food, but my time has to be focussed on making a living and that is where my goal lies. This blog will run on, but at a much slower pace now with prioritise time on pastimes that can pay for my living here.

All said and done, I would much rather be here scraping a living here with the life that surrounding me than in the UK getting further into debt each month and of course no life at all.
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Working Abroad Away From Bulgaria? No, Just Talk Really


Would I rather be living in France, Spain, Greece, Cyprus (I’m half Cypriot) or more exotic lands such as Thailand, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, which I absolutely adore? The answer a few years ago was yes. Any one of these countries could have easily been my choice of becoming an expatriate, but the bottom line was they were all too expensive. Now of course I have found my niche, a new family life and work in Bulgaria.

Who is to say that Galia and I won’t still move on to new countries to work? We are both free and still relatively young enough to work for another ten or so years. The chances are that this won’t happen though as we are in the poverty trap. Just the cost of an aeroplane trip form Bulgaria to Cyprus, only two hours away, would cost a month’s wages.

We have often talked about whether we would like to work in another country and Spain was the country that was talked about the most. May Bulgarian work there for a few years and come back for a year or so to recover before going over again when the money runs out. We did exactly this in the UK two years ago, working for a few months then coming back with some funds to live off, but the whole experience was too stressful for us both. The UK is out of bounds due to health reasons.

Right now whether we like it or not we are in Bulgaria for life, it is lucky that we do like it although like most people we would like to have a bit more income to cover all the increased fuel bills during the winter months and perhaps enough to afford a week away on the Black Sea Coast (and be able to afford to eat in a restaurant there) in the summer. We are luckier than most as we both have a vocation here and we can afford food, many don’t and have to do with much less.

Part of living a Bulgarian life is to experience the poverty, which many Bulgarians have to endure. It remains that for many outsiders looking in that they will never be able to understand what it is like not to be able to afford basics. We have been in exactly the same position many times over the years and rely on support form other members of the family to help us out. We of course help others family members out if they are in need whenever we can. You cannot know what this is like unless you go through it at first hand.

The question is that if we did travel abroad to work we would probably miss our family and friends so much that it would be short lived anyway and of course not have jobs to come back to when we return. It may sound like we have itchy feet, but like most things here we just talk about it because that what everyone does here.

Image via Wikipedia
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A Passion For Rakia Making Amongst Food Galore In Bulgaria

A Passion For Rakia Making Amongst Food Galore In Bulgaria

Grapes are in full swing in Bulgaria right now. The pickings are taking place all around the country for wine, rakia and of course eating. Not a day passed right now when we don’t get grapes presented to us from friends, family and neighbours. Every bunch of grape received is of course the best grapes in Yambol!

Rakia houses are running at full steam right now and you can see a trail of smoke on the horizon as the kazans (distilling systems) had been expelling smoke all night from the wood that supplies the heat. All this of course well worth the effort as this year’s grape rakia will be ready to drink by November when the pig slaughtering season starts – I can’t wait as my own grape rakia process had started last week with 150 kg of Yambol grapes now fermenting away. This is on top of the 40 litres of Yambol sliva rakia already in store and being drunk daily right now. You might want to check out The Rakia Site if you are interested in this wonderful spirit.

Food is coming in from all angles. Tomatoes aubergine and peppers have been flowing out beyond the stocking that has filled out freezer to bursting. Cabbage and leeks (which are the third succession of crops this year) are ready to eat now and will be picked and stored by the end of November.

No pictures unfortunately as my camera is still waiting to be replaced and the offer of 100,000 Entrecard Card credits and $20 for a replacement still stands. My Yambol Daily Pictures site just can’t function without one.
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Moni The Bulgarian Kitten Needs a Home


There is a call for a new home for a kitten that has nowhere to go right now and is being carer by Keith who took them on after taking in a stray pregnant cat. I know there are thousands of kittens in Bulgaria that have no homes but this one hopefully will be lucky.

You can see a photo below of the mother and 3 kittens, Moni is the top ginger cat in the picture and the only one who hasn’t been found a home yet.

Moni is nearly 4 weeks old and in very good health, he apparently is the first to turn up at feeding time and rather mischievous. He will be ready for his new home at the 4-week-old mark and should be fully trained at that time. Keith has kindly offered to pay for a castration if required by his new carer and also for flu injection.

Obviously this is only practical to potential carers in Bulgaria. Please let me know if you can help and I will pass your details to the kind, generous and caring Keith.

Moni The Bulgarian Kitten Needs a Home
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Strangling Freedom In Bulgaria

Location of Bulgaria within Europe and the Eur...Image via Wikipedia

Living in Bulgaria was the best ever move for me, but only because I take the rough with the smooth. It is not a country for the faint hearted other those who are of a sensitive disposition. It is a wild country with many issues that outsiders feel are not morally correct and that is trying to be tamed by the EU. Interference with Bulgaria’s culture and ways of life are being destroyed right now. It is always outsiders who feel they know what is best when they can’t even manage their own backyard!

I feel very strongly about interference in other cultures coming from those who have probably never even visited the country they try to dictate to. I’m talking about foreigners who criticize a country from afar believing that their views are the only views that are on the table. There are so many instances of things that go on in Bulgaria that are looked with total distaste from outsiders. Smoking, litter, health and hygiene, corrupt politics and policing, illegal trading and counterfeit goods, cruelty to animals etc. Yes many of these things are facts here, but to Bulgarians this is what happens and is accepted as part and parcel of life here. Then there are outsiders who see this a culture shock and want to change things in line of what they think is right.

Whether it is s right or wrong is immaterial is just different at the end of the day, but that is not accepted. Why do they want to change Bulgarian into becoming another boring EU state with the same petty rules and regulations all built on making money from fining those who break them? It is Bulgarians that live in Bulgaria and they should be allowed to decide what needs doing and deserve a degree of autonomy, but this is been taken away right now.

I live here and see things changing very fast on a day-to-day basis, the freedom is disappearing before my very eyes and that’s not good. I came here to live a Bulgarian life not a European cloned life, which is what it will become. Hopefully the full transition to EU reforms won’t be trance into place until I am resting peacefully six foot under in a Bulgarian cemetery.
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Fishing In A Secret Bulgarian Lake Location

Fishing In A Secret Bulgarian Lake LocationFishing in Bulgaria is enjoyed by millions, but as a hunt for food not just sport. Many use nets and devious ways to gather fish from lakes and rivers and although a blind eye is turned to this, most decent Bulgarians, including Galia’s family and friend here look down on that as an unfair way of hunting for food. Both Galia and I love fishing, but we just never have the time to go and practice it. It must be about a year ago since we last went and that was only because her son who is a keen angler insisted we take a break from farming at the weekend.

Well this weekend her son was with us again and the plan was to go fishing early in the morning before it gets too hot. The alarm was set for 5:30 and all three for us were off by 6:00. We knew there was lots of work to do with harvesting and preparing food gathered for winter this weekend so we planned to get back by 11:00 giving us time enough to complete the chores when we got back.

Now the place we visited was not know by many people here, not even local people and I am not going to give the place away now, but only to say that it is some 3-4 kilometres off road to get there and only accessible by Lada in the dry season due to the state of the track. We found it by accident one day after getting lost and kept the location in mind. It is the most beautiful and unspoilt spot of crystal clear water and the wildlife is everywhere you look in every direction. We were the only people there and apart from a hiker who passed up remain the only anglers there all morning.

Galia’s son had boiled some wheat the evening before and this was both the ground bait and bait on the hooks on our lines, he said we were guaranteed fish with this. No sooner were our lines cast and the fish just came rolling in one after another. There was no relaxing here as we were kept active for a full three hours with fish being caught every minute or so. The fish we landed were all carp, they weren’t that big, but totally edible as the buckets we brought with us filled up. By 10:30 they were to the brim with fish.

Fishing In A Secret Bulgarian Lake LocationWe brought home well over 150 fish as some were given to our neighbour, some prepared for frying for this evening’s meal and the rest prepared for the freezer both here in the farmhouse and back in the town home. It took some two hours to de-scale, gut and de-head the fish, no problem with the future meals in mind when doing it.

The fish was cooked simply by dowsing the finish in flour and lightly frying in a shallow pan of oil. The flesh fell off the bone as we feasted on these fish that had such a clean pallet unlike many freshwater fish I have eaten in the UK with a muddy taste. It was a feast we all enjoyed from out labours and that made a major difference as well. Buying fish and eating it just isn’t the same. We knew where these came from and the environment was a clean as anything you can imagine and local. Food always tastes better when local in any case.

Fishing In A Secret Bulgarian Lake LocationWe talked now about getting me a fishing license so Galia and I can go other times when her son is not there. Before you ask, yes you do need one and Galia and I were fishing illegally, but this is what goes on in isolated areas in these parts.

The best thing of all is having a female partner (Galia) who absolutely loves fishing as well. It has always been a fight to get permission to go fishing before now and fishing with guilt has always been the case, no longer!

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A Bulgarian Birthday Without Fuss

A birthday is something both Galia and I both can’t wait to get over. There is too much fuss made with it, especially that we are both getting on a bit. Bulgarians love celebrating things and birthdays is an occasion where this is more than just an excuse to have a get together with food and drink. Such an occasion was last Friday with Galia’s birthday.

Our normal plan on Friday is to zoom off to the farmhouse directly finishing work at 5:00 and even though it was Galia’s birthday that day the plan still stood for us to do that. The reason were two fold, the corps needed watering that very evening and Galia just didn’t’ want to be around as she knew there would be lots of fussing an guests on here birthday, this is something she didn’t want so the village destination was on to get away from this.

It’s never that easy as Galia’s son turned up just before we were to leave and he was to travelled with us to the farmhouse as a guest with his girlfriend joining us the following day after she finished work in the evening. Then there were more people who were crammed in the car after we had been shopping for provision. Out village neighbours and their Labrador dog clambered in the Lada with the boot full of factory farm produced peppers for barbecuing and 75 kg of ceramic tiling which our guests wanted transporting as their bathroom was being renovated this weekend. We felt every bump on the road to Skalitsa as the Lada bottomed out on each bump and there ARE LOTS OF BUMPS!

Everyone knew it was Galia’s birthday but most people just wish Happy Birthday along with wishes of good luck, business, health and love, gifts aren’t always given and to be quite honest both Galia and I are quite embarrassed with receiving them as we know money is very short here. I had paid for an item of clothing a week ago and Galia insisted that was to be all she wanted from me as a birthday gift. Although we don’t want presents we both can’t help not getting each other a little gift. That’s all she got from me as she would become upset if I bought something else, I know I’ve done it before and I felt as guilty as Galia.

The evening was spent as a threesome with Galia son and me as we sat outside in the dark night sipping rakia and salad and went inside later to present Galia with a little cake with three candles which we use again and again for every birthday in Skalitsa. A Happy Birthday song sung badly a birthday kiss and the candles blown out and that was the entirety of the birthday celebrations. We were all tuck in bed by 10:00 – The reason? We were all going to go fishing in the morning and the alarms were set for a 5:30 rise!

Galia really enjoy the little fuss that was made on this day she calls ‘unspecial’. I know what she means. Birthday celebrations to Galia and I are to be celebrated but not lavishly with massive festivities and expense. The little cake and song along with the spoken wishes were just enough put a silver lining on an ordinary day and that’s all Galia wanted.

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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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