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

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All Diary Entries
24th February, 2005
Category: 2005/02

Final day, time to take the plunge. Went back to look at the third house again, this time in the builder's swanky four wheel drive vehicle. Loved the journey again as for most of it I could see the mountain peaks in the distance, absolutely smooth white with snow. Kept picturing myself driving along in the summer and stopping off to admire the views 'on my way home'. At the house I took some photos and a video of the outside then the wretched camera said battery low! Two sets of spare batteries left back at the hostel of course. Thankfully the camera held out long enough to get some inside shots too.

I had some long discussions with the builder about potential layouts - where the bathroom would be, the layout of the kitchen, position of lights, sockets, stairs, type of flooring etc. I kept trying to recall the thousands of home makeover programmes I've seen, but this was a little more basic. "Yes, I would like windows... Can the kitchen have a washing machine..." and so on. Couldn't cope with discussing the garden and built-in barbecues so told him I would think about that later. Went for a drive around the village and saw another couple of foreign owned properties, the post office and a couple of shops.

Drove back to go to the lawyer's office to start the ball rolling. Had to stop off at the previous estate agent's to collect my company documents. Felt a bit guilty but Svetla was really nice and was excited to hear about the house. The rest of the day was spent trooping between the lawyer and the notary office. Had a couple of hours free so went for a wander. Bought some good luck bracelets then went for a pizza and to play with my G & M Bulgaria Ltd company stamp. Got talking to a couple who are booked on the same Heathrow flight as me tomorrow. They also hope to have bought a place despite the price of one they liked rising from 10k to 30k in the space of two days! They are actually hoping to come and live here.

The final signing of the preliminary contract with the lawyer and I now officially have a Bulgarian home (subject to searches etc). Got taken off for a celebratory drink by the agent and the builder. Felt myself getting horribly tipsy after two neat vodkas and I had yet to count out the 760 deposit. This ended up taking five attempts as I kept getting to 500 and then losing track (zero alcohol tolerance). Eventually gave up on discretion and counted out loud onto the bar, hoping the agent would keep track for me.

The deal done, the agent and his friend (who couldn't for the life of him fathom why the British want to buy in Bulgaria) drove me back to the hostel, stopping on the way to look at the big fortress which was all lit up beautifully.

23rd February, 2005
Category: 2005/02

Oh my word, what a day! Set off at 9.40am to view two more houses near Plovdiv and it was raining as we headed for the mountains. Our route took us over the Shipka Pass with its brilliant scenery. As time passed I noticed increasing amounts of snow by the side of the road and an hour after leaving Veliko we were stuck in a blizzard on a steep incline with lorries slithering about in both directions trying to get a grip in the snow. Very hair raising as the driver swerved and skidded round broken down vehicles, in and out of the path of oncoming traffic. Eventually made it over the hill and down the other side. It was lovely and sunny there and very warm sitting in the car. We were driving along the foot of a mountain range and it was all absolutely stunning to look at. Saw lots of really big birds of prey and a couple of tall white birds in the fields (storks??). The road had no tarmac on it though so it was very rough going.

Turned off towards Koprivshtitsa and had a lovely drive through forests alongside a river. Eventually got to our destination - Shipla - at about 3pm. The house itself was totally bare but in good condition. Far too big for me though and I didn't like Shipla, too many industrial areas, so all that way for nothing. The agent suggested going back via Plovdiv for some reason, and I didn't argue although I did make the driver stop at the nearest garage as my bladder was about to explode.

Reached Plovdiv at about 4.30pm where the agent asked if I was hungry and suggested we go eat. A few blocks later the agent's cousin turns up to lead us to a cafe whereupon the agent confessed that he loves Plovdiv and doesn't see his cousin often enough. He did treat me to dinner and a drink though so fair enough. Felt a bit of an outsider as they all chatted in Bulgarian, laughing like mad. The agent translated the conversation now and then which seemed to consist of tales of their drunken lads nights out.

Headed off back to Veliko Tarnovo. The fog came down really thick so the driver couldn't see the direction signs (judging by the frequent swerving I suspect he couldn't see the road much of the time either) and we had to stop many times to ask the way. Eventually got back about 8.30pm. Dreaded finding out the day's mileage charges... 240 levs!! Oh well, maybe not so much for a whistle stop tour of 90% of Bulgaria, and the fact that I have already eaten means I don't have to brave the steak and kidney pud at the ex-Arab place. Result!

February 22nd, 2005
Category: 2005/02

Slept well last night - very warm. Had marmite sandwich for breakfast then off to view houses. The first one is very old and traditional, but in a fantastic location, looking out onto a steep wooded hillside with a river. Really liked it except the access is a bit difficult - you have to walk up a steep rocky lane to reach the entrance; no good for holidays lugging suitcases.

The second house I saw was nice but more modern. The builder who came with us got very excited in the cellar and pinched two books and a couple of old saws to decorate a place he is currently renovating. I got a bit concerned when we were outside and the builder strolled off into the garden. "He would have a pooh" announced the estate agent cheerfully. Decided to discretely stare at the house for a few minutes to give the guy some privacy when it suddenly clicked that the agent was saying the builder would have a pool if the place was his! Phew!

The third house really took my fancy. It was really old again and ready for renovating. Found myself gleefully picturing having holidays here.

The final house was to the north. Nice house but I didn't like the area.

Back at the hostel I discover a new tenant. A song writer named Dylan (not Bob) who mostly lives in Istanbul but comes out every few months. He got mugged last night but the police have caught the culprit. Dylan cheered himself up by buying an electric guitar.

Decided to have a hot shower but then realised I have neglected to bring a towel and none are provided. After rooting through the many cupboards and drawers I discovered a pink and blue striped baby blanket. It smelt clean so decided to use that. Having showered I then went out to eat. I decided to go to the Arab restaurant mum and I went to last time as I know where it is and the food was good. Went inside and asked for the menu. Hmm... something not quite right... Ah! It's not an Arab restaurant anymore but being run by Andrew from Harrogate. Ordered cheesy chips and chicken kebab. Got talking to Andrew who said how disgusting the Arab owners had been and how everyone who ate here before got food poisoning. Told him my Barnsley stomach must be made of stern stuff. The conversation then turned to all the thousands of Brits who have properties out here. He was quite negative saying how the property prices are now too high for the ordinary Bulgarians. "Yes!" stormed the waitress. "Too much for me!" I nodded sympathetically. Andrew went on to say how foolish all these Brits were, expecting their properties to increase in value. "They won't," he said, "because there are so many empty properties around." I nodded wisely again whilst racking my brains for a valid non-house-hunting reason for me to be in Veliko Tarnovo. Please don't ask me why I'm here... please don't ask me why I'm here...

Managed to blag my way through saying I was just visiting the town because it looked nice on the internet. He gave me his card for flower arranging/ landscape gardening services and announced he was doing a lovely steak and kidney pie for tomorrow. Am too scared to eat there again in case the waitress discovers I'm one of the ones pricing her out of the housing market.

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