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.

Tuesday 2nd January, 2018
Category: 2018/01
Tags: Christmas New Year Bee Hives

Happy New Year everyone, and I hope 2018 brings you lots of happy times, and many good friends to help you through the not so good times.

This year I cooked Christmas dinner for only the second time in my entire life (though I've assisted many times before of course). I was quite proud of the spread all of which was actually ready to eat at the same time. A huge logistical feat in itself. We had roast chicken, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, potato and butternut squash mash, stuffing, cauliflower cheese, kale, honey roast parsnips and carrots, bread sauce and lashings of gravy.

Well the guests look happy enough anyway.

For New Year's Eve I went to a party hosted by a Bulgarian/German couple who have a house in the village. They have an enormous room in the house - a converted barn I'm guessing - which had a blazing log fire at one end and a table filled with gorgoeus nibbles (and copious amounts of booze) at the other. At midnight we all headed into the garden to let off the fireworks which everyone had chipped in with, to see in the New Year.

After that some of the guests entertained us with live music - guitars and a trumpet player - for a grand singalong and boogie session. We actually saw in three new years over the course of the night - Bulgarian, then an hour later the French and German one, then an hour after that the UK one, which pretty much took care of all the nations represented at the party. I came home very happy and still remarkably wide awake at about 2.30am, went to bed with a mug of tea, and was still up at 8am ready to greet Mitko with the first milk delivery of the year.

New Year's Day was beautifully warm and sunny, so I took the dogs on a walk across the fields up towards the dump at the top of the village. I know I regularly moan about the way so much rubbish is just dumped all over the place in Bulgaria, but on the other hand it does make for exciting rummaging at times, and this visit proved to be one of the most exciting ever!

Boringly the dump is usually just a heap of building rubble, but on Monday someone had clearly recently emptied a property of the previous owner's belongings, amidst which lay the piece de resistance - two complete wooden beehives. I was in heaven.

The big green one contained all the frames for the bees to make their combs on, and the little flaps covering the entrances still move up and down.

Wouldn't it look fantastic in the garden, all cleaned up and painted a lovely bright glossy colour? The problem was how to get them home as they were way too big and bulky for me to lift by myself, and the track to the dump was a complete muddy quagmire - no good for driving the car along.

Lady luck was with me though in the form of two lovely friends who volunteered to come back to the dump with me to collect the hives. We'd initially thought about using a wheelbarrow but with all the amount of mud around we figured in the end it would be easier just to carry them out. I use the term 'easier' very loosely as after a hundred yards of slipping through sludge, the boxes felt like they weighed a ton, but we got there in the end and transported them home.

As well as the hives I also picked out some square pieces of material (useful for covering things), a furry button on coat collar (treat for the cats), a pinny, a blue overall jacket (handy protection when decorating), a holder for eggs (to be used when dyeing eggs at Easter), a crochet magazine (for language practice if nothing else), a little plastic bag to carry all my finds in, and two small photos of a man who may well have been one of the occupants of the house from which all this stuff came. In his honour I'm thinking of finding a way of setting his photo into the hive once it's all renovated.

Click here for photos from this blog entry

Thursday 21st December 2017
Category: 2017/12
Tags: solstace Ignatius Day traditions

It's very exciting as today is the winter solstace and we are now officially spinning our way through the cosmos back to summer. Hurrah!

We have a sprinkling of snow on the ground and below zero temperatures at night but nothing major yet; hopefully it'll stay that way. Funnily enough, at the community centre yesterday, they were talking about some kind of weather forecast tradition which occurs on that day. Apparently they'd said on the TV that whatever the weather is like on that day, that's what the rest of December will have, the following day predicts January and so on. This immediately caused arguments, for every day is going to be cold at the moment, so how could that possibly foretell what July will be like, for example? The general consensus was that maybe it only predicted amounts of rainfall and general cloud/sun conditions.

There seem to be quite a lot of traditions associated with the 20th December which is Ignatius Day (a second century Christian who ended up being thrown to the lions in Rome).

One of the customs concerns the first person to enter your house on that day. Whatever kind of person they are dictates what sort fortune the household will have - you pretty much only want happy, lucky souls crossing your threshold. As I was the first non-employee to enter the community centre I was pronounced their 'Полазник' (Polaznik) and they seemed pleased enough which must mean my character has passed the test, or was it just that they were happy to receive the card and Christmas pressie I took along.

I like to do homemade cards but was a bit cheaty this year as I mostly used sparkly stickers and added a glitter border to the card. We got to talking about how it used to be as big a tradition in Bulgaria to send cards as it is in the UK, at which point I shared my bad news.

When I went to the village post office on Tuesday to hopefully collect a nice pile of Christmas cards from friends and family in the UK, I was surprised to find the place shut. That evening I learned from friends that the post mistress had decided to close up the previous week and wouldn't reopen till after the new year. I was so gutted! By the time I actually picked up my cards it would be nearly time to take them all down again. Despite the ease of messaging people via Facebook and texts etc, there's still nothing quite like a physical card on birthdays and at Christmas as tangible evidence that loved ones haven't forgotten you.

Well, having accepted that this year would be fairly card free, I was thrilled to get a message from Dobrina (at the community centre) this morning saying that the post office have passed all my cards over to them ready for me to collect at my leisure. How perfect is that! So tomorrow, when Natasha is back in the community centre, I'll be up there first thing in the morning to collect my cards. The pros and cons of village life in action.

One more rather odd tradition I took part in yesterday (I sometimes wonder if they make them up to see how far I'll go) was to squat over a fake chicken nest. Apparently I was symbolically hatching lots of eggs so that my coming year will be full and fruitful. We shall see!

Sunday 10th December, 2017
Category: 2017/12
Tags: weather turnips wool

I was peering into my winter veggie bed the other day (at the moment it's completely cocooned in green plastic to protect the veg from being swamped by snow or damaged by severe frost) when I noticed that some of the things which struggled to get going all through summer are now flourishing quite nicely.

The kale has developed quite long leaves - not in vast numbers but enough for a meal from each plant - and the savoy cabbages are finally getting little round hearts to them. Best of all are the turnips which suffered badly from flea beetles turning the leaves to a network of lace and remained quite small and spindly till recently. Now they have dense crowns of leaves and signs of actual turnips under the soil! I pulled one out just to see what they looked like and was pleased to find a nice white root, sort of like a fat parsnip. The turnip was duly washed and peeled and then chopped up along with onions, garlic, pork and plums to make a fruity dish accompanied by rice and spinach.

I've still to find a successful means of roasting the beets and squash without them going too soggy, as I think it would be nice to have a selection of roasted veggies instead of the usual spuds. Maybe I need to cut them into smaller chunks and have the oven really hot to get a nice crispy outer layer. I have all winter to experiment!

Speaking of winter, I took the dogs on a walk Saturday morning up to the top of the village. It was glorious sunshine and felt hot in just a t-shirt, and would you believe, sitting there on the hillside I could still see little crickets hopping around chirping, and butterflies!

Then, less than 24 hours later the ground is covered in a few inches of icy snow. Crazy weather!

I keep putting off shutting down the outside water as it's so useful for filling up the animals' drinking bowls, but I guess I should get on and do it to avoid getting leaks from frozen pipes. Hopefully, now that the main switch for the outside taps is sunk underground it should be a bit more protected from any severe low temperatures, though looking at the forecast it's nothing like as white and cold as it was this time last year.

I still like to have the log fire going though, especially in the evening, and I've now made a very cosy couch right next to one of the radiators. I mainly did it to have some extra comfy seating for when I have visitors as the settee only seats three people and it's weird to all be sitting side by side in a row. So I brought down the camp bed, which has been living unused up on the balcony since moving here, bulked it out with some of my big scatter cushions, and then covered it with a gorgeous double sided fur blanket which I bought from a second hand shop in Gabrovo. I curl up on there when I'm watching telly in the evening, usually with a mug of tea keeping warm on the radiator next to me, a bowl of snacks by my side, and at least one animal snuggled down next to me. Bliss!



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