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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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.

Thursday 27th October, 2016
Category: 2016/10
Tags: Bella Alfie community centre

Last night there was a meal put on by the community centre for people who have a regular connection with the place, and I was one of the ones lucky enough to get an invite. I was expecting there to be some nibbles but there were full on plates of food: a big portion of chicken, potatoes with onions, at least three chunks of banitsa, salami sticks, ham, bread and a side salad of pickled winter veg. Dobrina knows I don't like beer so one of the babas brought along a big bottle of homemade wine for me and a carton of pineapple juice.

There were over thirty people there and the feast was punctuated by folk dancing (all those lessons weren't for nothing), singing, joke telling and poetry.  All in all it was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere, not to mention filling!

Bella, the new dog, has been making progress. After the first week I managed to get a loose collar round her neck (the poor thing peed herself with fright) though actually, now that she's putting on some weight, the collar feels like it fits her. She wasn't shy about pinching Alfie's kennel, so I put a big box with blankets inside next to the kennel which one or other of them uses. A friend has kindly said I can help myself to lots of oddments of wood from his place, so I'll make another kennel ready for winter.

Having got the collar on her the next job was to get her ready to have a lead. If I even slightly tugged on the collar she would panic and start to cry, so I honestly thought it would never happen. Then on Tuesday this week I had the bright idea of clipping the lead onto her collar whilst she was just sitting down, so she wouldn't feel any pulling. Whilst she was distracted by one hand patting and ruffling her head I swiftly clipped the lead on, at which point she took off like a whirling dervish. I've never seen a dog spin round so fast! Of course as soon as she began rotating, the lead got all wrapped round her hind legs which panicked her even more.

Fortunately she was only terrified of the lead and not me, so I was able to pull her legs free before she then took off round the garden, wriggling into all the bushes and round corners trying to escape the lead. All the time she was screaming horribly - it really sounded like I was killing her. Eventually I managed to get her laying down so I could soothe her before the next screaming bout.

We persevered though and after about an hour we began a little pattern of me walking a couple of yards away and then sitting down whereupon Bella would hobble over and sit next to me. As time went on we progressed to starting to walk round the garden, though stopping for a calm down every time she suddenly panicked and screamed again. I'm wondering if she was maybe kept quite tightly tethered before and got her leg all caught up and that's how it got damaged.

Well, the second day the panicking was much briefer, so we progressed to short walks out in the street and up and down the lane. I have to hold the lead up quite high to stop her bad leg getting hooked up in it, but she's getting the hang of it really well.

Here's a little clip from yesterday.

Hopefully after another week or so of walking on the lead she'll be ready for a trip to the vet.

Tuesday 18th October, 2016
Category: 2016/10
Tags: dog sloe berries

Aren't emotions silly old things at times? You can feel the feelings creeping over you, and then the negative thoughts start to dominate and before you know it everything suddenly seems grey and sad. My particular little demon at times is loneliness.  Funnily enough, as an introvert I can find social gatherings a challenge and quite draining - all that easy small talk going on which I can never seem to find the right words to join in with, or the nerve! So a bit of a double edged sword - not wanting to be left out but feeling odd when brought in. Grrr, stupid complicated brain! Anyhoo, I have my little ways of cutting off an attack of the blues - activity, making myself have contact with people, keeping a note of daily nice things to look back on - "See, it's not all doom and gloom" but every once in a while the coping becomes a bit more difficult.

The past week or so has been one such build up.

Well, on Saturday there was the pumpkin festival in Sevlievo and I had the choice - either stay at home and miss out because Billy-no-mates didn't have anyone to go with, or suck it up and go see the fun. So off I headed in the car. Just as I was approaching the junction with the main Sofia-Varna high road (with vehicles travelling at 90kph and probably much more) I saw a dog limping around in the middle of the junction. My stomach lurched. I felt sure the dog had been hit by a car and was now wandering dazed among the traffic - any second now it would be killed!

I pulled over and got out, at which point I could see that the dog was actually slightly off the highway (thankfully) and when she spotted me she came hopping over. I had no food in the car, only some sweets so she swiftly gobbled down some toffees which I threw to her as I wondered what to do.

I phoned some people I know who deal with homeless dogs but there was no way they could come right then, so I decided to try and get the dog in the car. After a quick drive back to Burya for some bread I then spent about an hour leaving trails further and further into the car until she'd climbed in far enough for me to shut her in. She briefly hit the windscreen in her panic (please don't destroy the car) then settled onto the back seat to eat the remaining bread. I managed to squeeze into the driver's side and off we went back home.

Video of the dog back home in the garage

She's been here 5 days now and has been wormed and flea treated, and has settled in with the rest of the menagerie. Poor Alfie got evicted from his kennel by her, so there's now a spare bed made up in a box next to the kennel for now. I've no idea who sleeps where as they both come charging out to greet me as soon as I step into the garden. I tried putting a collar on Bella (the first name which popped into my head for her) but she yelped like crazy and soon whipped it off, so now I'm just focusing on ruffling her fur when I feed her to gain her trust again.

The long term plan will be to feed her up (she's quite horrible to feel because she's just all bone), increase her confidence and then hopefully eventually get her to wear a collar and lead so she can be taken to a vet to get her leg looked at. Once she's fixed up then I think the people who take in other street dogs will look at finding a permanent home for her.

So, why did I begin this tale with my little downer? Well, Bella completely took my focus away from myself and turned my mood around. Well done Bella!

The sloe berry experiments have continued, and this weekend I think I got just the right amount of sugar and orange juice to make a decent cranberry sauce substitute. The hardest bit was removing all the stones - hundreds of them - and for a while everything got splotched purple; hands, clothes, patio...

If I decide I like it, then next year I might try and collect even more sloes but just squeeze the juice out to use, which will be a much quicker process. I got three and a half jars out of what I collected though which, along with the jar of cranberry I made before, should be more than enough for a year's worth of roast chicken dinners.

Some of the sloes were diverted off for a different purpose: sloe vodka. From what I've read you can pretty much use any alcohol plus fruit to make booze - sloe vodka, sloe gin, sloe sherry etc (though probably not sloe beer!)

230g of sloes were washed, pricked and put in a jar along with an equal amount of sugar, and then it was all covered in 500ml of vodka. You seal the jar and give it a shake every day to dissolve all the sugar. Once the sugar has deissolved just leave it all to mature for 3 months and then strain out all the bits et voila. Beautiful ruby red vodka. Наздраве!

Tuesday 11th October, 2016
Category: 2016/10
Tags: Communism

A Bulgarian friend called round today just for a chat and a coffee, having just come back from seeing her mum who is a bit poorly at the moment. It's the first time she's actually seen inside my house funnily enough, as usually it's warm weather and we stay in the garden.

She was full of questions about the original layout of my place such as where the fire was and whether the internal stairs were there. She compared it to her house where the only indoor living space is upstairs by the sounds of it (I've never actually been there) and the downstairs is a sort of summer kitchen area open on one side.

She told me the property was originally one inherited by her husband, many many years ago, and then she told me something quite startling. She said that previously the property included a much bigger area of land, but when Communism came to Bulgaria they wanted the village to have a public square and simply took the land they wanted for it, including from this family. She described the parts of the square which used to be owned by her hubby's family and we're talking at least 500 square metres. Can you imagine that? It's like the local council coming along one day and telling me that they're going to put a car park in my garden, and boom that's it. No more garden and there's nothing I can do about it.

Was it really as drastic and final as that or is there more to the story? Were the family targetted because they were somehow in the communist bad books? Was there actually some kind of financial recompense for the loss of property?

The events would have happened before my friend was even born so I guess she would only know the version told to her, but still, the mind boggles.


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