Day to day events mostly cataloguing my complete lack of understanding and common sense!

To save space, the most recent blog entry will have relevant pictures in it, but after that the photos will be moved to Flickr for storage, and a link to them added to the blog post. If you want to see all the photos anyway then visit the Gostilitsa Flickr page here.

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June 2018 (1)
May 2018 (2)
April 2018 (4)
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February 2018 (3)
January 2018 (4)
December 2017 (3)
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NEW SITE!

There is now a separate site with information on living in Bulgaria, including:

  • An introduction to Gostilitsa and all it has to offer
  • Day to day practicalities of shopping, paying bills, banking, insurance
  • Healthcare matters for people and pets
  • Public transport and issues relating to car ownership
  • Becoming a Bulgarian resident and learning the language
  • Tourism, public holidays, festivals, places to visit, hiking routes

Click here for the link.

DIARY ENTRIES JULY 2018 ONWARDS

Unfortunately I've been having an increasing number of problems with storage on this site, so I've decide to continue the diary section elsewhere. Click here for the link to the new site.  The old diary entries will remain here for anyone wishing to delve into the murky past

Monday 25th June 2018
Category: 2018/06
Tags: garden pond veggies

I've been home almost a week now, a week which has flown by in a haze of pottering in the garden and napping (I blame jet lag!)

It sounds mean but I'm always more excited to see the garden when I get home, than I am to see the pets (don't tell them) and it's an exciting moment to open the front gate and see how much things have changed over the five weeks I've been away. I wasn't disappointed.

The veggies have gone crazy, and my eye was instantly drawn to the thicket of corn, some of which is way taller than me. Here's a quick tour of some of the produce:

Okra plants for the very first time. The first batch all got nibbled by slugs so I decided to keep these ones in their pots which seems to have worked okay.

Giant heap of carrots, mainly the small stumpy ones which are delicious cooked whole. Mixing the sand in with the manure clearly worked well and I'm wondering about sowing the turnips here once I've lifted the carrots.

The cucumber plants have trailed all over the place, so I've now lifted them up to dangle over the bean poles. Next year I think I'll tie strings down from the poles and encourage the cucumbers to climb up from the get go.

The leeks are all looking sorry for themselves, poor things. I think I chose bad places for them to grow - next to potatoes and cucumbers - as they got completely overwhelmed by their companion plants and a bit battered. I've transplanted them here now and hopefully the current cool wet weather will give them a chance to re-establish themselves and to start growing better.

The tomato plants are already nice and tall with lots of trusses ready to ripen. What I thought was a plum tomato has turned out to be these big beefy ones, perfect with some sirene cheese!

Back in May, Kaufland were selling off packets of seeds for 20 stotinkis, so I boughts some aubergine ones, having never grown them before. I scattered the seeds in a pot before going to the UK and returned to a big bunch of healthy seedlings. I've transplanted eight of them into these tubs as I don't know how long they take to produce fruits, and if needs be I can bring the tubs up onto the patio for a bit of shelter in autumn.

Good old courgettes, already with several marrow like courgettes and lots more flowers on the way.

The couple who looked after the place whilst I was away had once again put a selection of fruits in my freezer for me, so this year I have loganberries, redcurrants and cherries already stashed, as well as more still ripening, though I seem to have competition as to who can pick them first:

My gooseberries have also produced good crops and make a sweet topping to my cornflakes in the morning.

Those top two aren't mouldy - it was the effect of the flash on the camera!

There are quite a lot of flowers blooming including a whopping big hollyhock which is already towering over the front gate. It's a gorgeous velvety black colour, grown from some seeds I saved a couple of years ago. I've now planted a few more around the garden and might look into getting some other colours too.

I was curious to see how the pond life was progressing, especially the tadpoles, but at first glance it seemed they were all pretty much the same, with just a few developing back legs. then today I spotted these little cuties nestled in the leaves of a pond plant. Aren't they beautiful?

I wonder if they climb up to rest whilst they complete their change into proper frogs, as they seem to have tiny remnants of their tadpole tails still. They don't look too happy yet. Maybe they'll cheer up when they discover their full jumping potential later on!

 

Thursday 17th May 2018
Category: 2018/05
Tags: UK travel Metro

Time once more for the annual pilgrimmage to London to earn a few pennies and promptly spend them all on teabags and solar lights. This year there is Ryanair's new hand baggage rules to take into account, though luckily on the outbound leg of my journey I can stuff everything into my main suitcase, including the laptop (essential for my planned employment) well wrapped in bubblewrap to survive the baggage handlers.  I sincerely hope that Sofia airport doesn't emply random sniffer dogs behind the scenes as there were several, shall we say 'odours' emmanating from my case, which might have brought it under suspician.

Firstly the bubblewrap itself which has been stored in a box in my shed and for some reason appears to have been used as a very cosy toilet by several tom cats as it reeks of cat pee. Maybe they'd been having a game of who can pop the bubblewrap by pee pressure alone or something but anyway, my last minute packing frenzy meant I couldn't face scrubbing the offending wrap so just used it as it was and stuffed the stinky package inside a carrier bag, hoping for the best.

Then there are the garden products. I remember seeing some program or other on TV about customs control which handily divulged the tricks smugglers use to try and get drugs past security. One of them is to package the powder with something extremely strong smelling so as to mask the eau de crack. My suitcase contains a few lettuces from my garden (innocent and non-smelly) along with a big heap of eye-wateringly strong onions (very suspicious). My sister is always thrilled by my non-conventional gifts (who needs mugs and tea-towels?) and will be sure to appreciate the veggies and tomato and pepper plants I have brought her this year.

Any wandering dogs might actually be distracted from the onions by the more delicious scent of cured meat in my hand baggage (part of the 'clean the fridge out of left overs and call it a picnic' food for travelling). I always seem to take heaps of food for a journey (just in case the plane should break down on the tarmac for three days) and, Enid Blyton style, here's the list of what I took this time: Sliced apples, carrot and celery sticks, a pot of hummus, four jam sandwiches, sliced grilled halloumi, the enormous slab of cured meat, a packet of cheesy biscuits, crisps, sweets, energy bars and two bottles of drink (sorry Blyton fans, no pink curls of tongue or lashings of tomatoes). Amazingly, what was left of it by the time I reached the airport, which was still quite a substantial amount, could be crammed into the miniscule hand baggage Ryanair allow you to take on board (along with my phones, camera, documents etc).

The coach journey to Sofia was nice and comfey. I sat on the non-sunny side this time after arriving as a melted human puddle last year, and, as always, managed to doze of a lot of the time despite the noise from the films being shown on the TV. Thankfully there were no children travelling as the films shown were full on sex, drugs and violence ones, though come to think of it, that's the usual fodder for the many soaps shown on Bulgaria TV at all times of the day (no protective watershed here). 

I decided this year to have a go at taking the Metro from the bus station to the airport rather than the usual taxi and with a few hiccups along the way, managed to make it to check-in with several minutes to spare.

There are two metro lines, M1 and M2, coloured blue and red on the plan. The blue one seems to do a massive loop at one point, so to save time you take the blue line a couple of stops from the station to Serdika, and then get another one to the airport, thereby cutting out the big loopy part.

It took me quite a while to actually get to the Metro in the first place as I kept lugging my case down flights of steps which turned out to just be underpasses, till a kindly policeman pointed the way to me. The metro costs 1.60 levs (about 70p) for a journey of any length. Excellent value! It's actually a lot like the London Underground apart from the lack of graffiti or MacDonalds wrappers floating around. Everyone sits there glued to their mobiles, though eye contact isn't frowned upon. Handily the next stop on your journey is clearly announced and displayed each time and there is even a little light up plan above the doors showing you exactly where on the route you are.

Changing at Serdika was a bit confusing as I didn't know what line to change to and it was much busier with people. A kindly chap carried my suitcase up the stairs for me, explaining that there were lifts everywhere which I could use (it hadn't even occurred to me to look) and then by sheer chance I spotted the sign for the airport train. It takes you right next to terminal 2, with its very swanky marble tiled flooring on the platform, and there's a free shuttle bus from there if you need the other terminal. All told, with dithering and waiting time, the journey took about 50 minutes.

The flight was delayed by 30 minutes (with Ryanair I'm always grateful that it's willing to take me to my destination at some point at all) so I used the extra time to sink into one of those huge cosy massage chairs which were located in a nice quiet corner of the airport. That was until the chair started repeatedly shouting at me to either put a coin in the slot or get up, forcing me to leave in embarrassment. Departure time arrived and after one big cup of tea and several more dives into the picnic bag I arrived safely in London where my sweet sister was waiting to whisk me home to a much needed bed.

Friday 11th May, 2018
Category: 2018/05
Tags: St George pets garden

The peonies are in full bloom at the moment, huge white pompoms with crinkly red edged petals in the centre, and amongst them all one deep pink specimen. I never usually see many of the flowers blooming as they normally burst into colour when I'm away in the UK, but this year they've all sprung into action early and it's wonderful to enjoy them for once.

The veggies are all progressing rapidly too, and the courgettes and cucumbers are already fruiting. Excitingly I have two okra seedlings and possibly two more germinating, so 'ladies fingers' crossed I'll actually get some fruits from them this year. I've some unexpected potatoes in a few places, probably sprouting from spuds I failed to dig up properly last year. I've also made a bit of a potato pen this year for the deliberately planted ones. The idea is that as the plants grow, I'll keep covering them in soil to encourage more and more potatoes to grow as the plant grows upwards. The pen is just made out of wedges of straw bale arranged in a circle and roughly held in place with old cloth, inside which I've put horse manure.

I'm secretly yearning for cow manure at the moment, having had the chance to study a load which a neighbour had delivered. It's exactly like the kind of soil you'd get in a bag of really top quality compost, and you can have an entire trailer load for a mere 10 levs. I'm thinking of ordering some and then bagging it all up ready to use in tubs and baskets, and for sowing seeds in.

Last Sunday it was St George's Day in Bulgaria, and to celebrate I invited 9 friends round to share a meal with me. Traditionally roast lamb is served, but my freezer contained two joints of goat meat instead, but slow roasted with garlic and rosemary for 5 hours and served with a dollop of mint sauce and you'd never know the difference.

Naturally the cats were thrilled by all the smells emanating from the table, but only Finlay was able to work his charms well enough to be invited to sit at the table and sample some ice cream.

I used the goat bones afterwards to make a huge pot of stock for soups and gravies, and then the bones were shared out amongst the animals. This sudden change in the usual pet biscuit diet must have given them a thirst for fresh meat as both Finlay and Molly were out on successful hunts the next day.

Molly left me a little gift on the table later on. I'm not sure if she was contributing to lunch or making some kind of mafia threat though.

To see what she left me and other photos from today's blog, click here.

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