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.


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

Tuesday 26th January, 2016
Category: 2016/01
Tags: politics mayor of Dryanovo

Last Wednesday the mayor of Dryanovo, Miroslav Semov, came to Gostilitsa as part of his whistle stop tour of the locality, to bring us up to speed on current plans and to find out what the people actually want.  Five of us non-Bulgarians went along and settled in the back row, along with the rest of the naughty ones, to listen to proceedings.  Here are some of the bits I gleaned (or completely misinterpreted):

1. Dryanovo doesn't have a waste disposal facility so all our rubbish gets taken to Sevlievo where it is weighed, and Dryanovo gets charged accordingly. As a result the mayor requested that we try and only put essentials into our dustbins and think about other means of disposing of some things (which I imagine people pretty much do anyway such as composting food scraps and burning paper and card).  He also mentioned not to be putting building waste into the bins as this is supposed to go to a place designated for this. Apparently there is such a place in Dryanovo but my attention wandered so I've no idea where it is or whether you pay to use it.

2.  Still on the subject of rubbish and people are quite concerned about the amount of fly tipping which goes on around the village. I must admit it seems to have got a lot worse over the past year and some areas where I take Alfie for a walk are so absolutely strewn with household rubbish you have no choice but to walk through it - it's disgusting. I might have mentioned that I started picking up the rubbish down my little side lane recently, and in just two sessions I managed to fill 7 big sacks full of old bottles, bits of clothing, tins and broken glass. Thankfully the bin men here are brilliant and seem to just take whatever is in or next to your bin no matter the quantity.  Anyway, to get back to the point. Miroslav has said that at some point there will be a big clean up of this rubbish and then signs will go up all around the village warning of a fine for illegal dumping of rubbish. On the signs will be a phone number so if you see someone in a car dumping things you can report their number plate. (If I see them I will take a sneaky photo as evidence too!)

3.  One woman asked about the chances of having a more useful bus schedule to enable people to get to and from work in Dryanovo and Gabrovo.

4.  Someone mentioned about renovating some of the neglected places in the village - namely the church, the attached former school and the stadium.  Regarding the church and the school (which would become a museum of village education) it seems that there are plenty of grants out there but they stipulate that the village must have a population of at least 500 permanent residents. Interestingly we have about 350 (I think) but officially the number is much less because of the amount of people who haven't bothered registering their change of address. For example, someone may also have a flat in Gabrovo and that is where they are registered, even if they actually spend most of the year living in Gostilitsa. Consequently any per capita funding goes to Gabrovo. I think Nadia, the acting village mayor, is quite keen to put a bit of pressure on people to change their addresses, though it still leaves us short of bodies to apply for funding.

The stadium however seems to be part of the Dryanovo plans. Miroslav mentioned something about getting Dryanovo involved in some kind of national sports program and as part of this, our stadium would be put back into use though this won't happen in the current year of funding.

5.  Miroslav said that if anyone ever needs to go and see him in person then he has an open surgery on Tuesdays from 9-12.

Now, wouldn't it be handy if a Bulgarian who was at the meeting could read through all this and tell me how far off the mark I am!

Monday 18th January, 2016
Category: 2016/01
Tags: snow

Well it had to happen. After months and months of unseasonal warmth and sunshine, the winter finally arrived with a vengeance, causing chaos across much of the country.

It began on Saturday afternoon when the rain changed to sleet and then snow, and by late evening it was beginning to settle. It shouldn't have caught anyone out really as it had been forecast for a while, and so I made sure all the shopping had been done and that a huge amount of firewood had been stacked just outside the door.

Sunday morning and the garden had been transformed into a winter wonderland. The snow was already a good 20cm deep and still falling although it didn't actually feel that cold outside.  The first jobs are always to sort the fire out, which sometimes just means putting a few twigs on to get it going again if there are embers still glowing from the night before, and to bring in a new bucket of logs so they can be warming up indoors. That extra bit of drying time makes them burn better without too much smoke.  The next job is to check the pets' food and water and replenish as needed.

Some might say it's cruel to leave the animals out in temperatures down to minus 15 celsius and worse so let me describe the scenario a little more. Alfie has an insulated kennel inside one of the barns. As well as insulation all over, it has a thick padded cushion, two blankets and two pillows all arranged into a little nest shape which he curls up in. Finlay, one of the cats, spends the night in with Alfie so they have shared body heat, and if the temperature starts hitting minus 15 or less then I put a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel in there as well.

Molly the eldest cat goes out by choice. She will tolerate being in the house for five minutes or so before standing by the door crying to go out again. She too has an insulated box under the porch which also has blankets and a pillow inside. There is a second igloo cat bed which is covered in two layers of blankets and positioned on one of the sun loungers inside the plastic bottle enclosure, though this tends to be used more during the day, as modelled here by Finlay:

Poppy tends to be in the house overnight simply because I like having the company of a pet.

Freezing drinking water is an issue and the bowl has to be frequently changed during very cold weather so they all have access to water. They start the day with a hot breakfast of a bowl of bits of bread in warm water flavoured with marmite which they all wolf down.

So far there are no sniffles or coughs and they have still been full of energy, especially Alfie as you will see later on.

After the fire and the animals it's then time for a cup of tea and to get dressed.

When we have snow I like to go round and clear the paths a bit from the house into the street and then round at Baba Ivanka's. I channelled my way from the garage to her front door and then decided to go in and clear a path to the chicken shed. I must admit I quite enjoy shovelling snow (when it's not actually belting down) and soon worked my way back around to her door. She was just opening the door then so I said if she had the food ready I'd go and feed the chickens for her. No need, she told me. In anticipation of the snow she'd just put down twice as much food the day before so they'd be alright till Monday! Ah well, the shovelling was good exercise anyway.

Monday and the snow was still falling, now coming up to my knees. Today though the electricity and internet have been very sporadic and the water was off for a while this morning. These are all just part and parcel of life over here and are usually just inconvenient rather than major problems. You soon get into a routine of readiness: Unplug important devices in case of power surges when the electricity comes back on, have alternative cooking facilities (I have a little primus stove as well as the larger gas hob), as soon as water pressure drops make sure to fill some containers, and have the candles at the ready.

The snow eased off a bit around lunch time and since Alfie was champing at the bit to go out we headed off down to the stadium for a short walk. Like I said, the snow was totally up to my knees and deeper where it had drifted, so Alfie had a whale of a time kangerooing around and getting completely caked in snow:

Click for the video clip

The snow is due to ease off now but the overnight temperatures could get down to minus 20 for a couple of nights, so it will be hot water bottles in the animal bedrooms, the fire banked up to tick along overnight to keep pipes from freezing and a little heater by the chest freezer to protect it.  Yes, this is a Bulgarian winter.

Tuesday 12th January, 2016
Category: 2016/01
Tags: crochet car breakdown cover Christmas pud

Last Friday was the monthly 'big shop' in Gabrovo and it turned out to be quite productive. I went armed with a list of things to tackle (apart from shopping) including paying into the health care system for another year and finding out if I can get car breakdown cover.

It always lurks at the back of my mind that if I was driving a good distance, say to Sofia, and the car broke down, then I'd pretty much be at the mercy of passing fellow motorists, which isn't ideal. My car insurance company offers free breakdown cover but unfortunately it's only valid for vehicles under 10 years old and mine no longer qualifies.

I've seen posts on Facebook mentioning that Allianz do breakdown cover, so I looked up their branch in Gabrovo and, after visiting the hairdressers, went along to find out more. Well it turned out to be quite straight forward. There are two options: For 25 levs you can cover your car anywhere in Bulgaria except the village you live in, or for 50ish you can include the village. If I break down in Gostilitsa, I thought, there are plenty of mechanically minded people to lend a hand, or to tow me into Dryanovo if needs be, so I opted for the cheaper cover. All the woman needed to see was a copy of the large vehicle registration document. A few signatures later and it was all done.

There's a number you call and then you apparently have to listen for the breakdown option at which point you're connected to someone who will then help you out. I haven't yet studied the ins and outs of the booklet but I think it includes things like towing to a garage or home, taking passengers on to their destination, a night in a hotel if it's very late, and of course roadside repair minus the cost of parts. At least it's a bit of peace of mind now when heading off out of the immediate region though the superstitious part of me thinks that since I now have cover, the car will break down just to put it to the test!

For Christmas I was given a beautiful book on how to crochet all sorts of flowers, leaves, fruits and vegetables - I'm inspired! Unfortunately the book is entirely in Bulgarian (not that this will stop me) and I'm a complete novice at crocheting, so I thought it would make sense to first get to grips with what the terminology in English is and how the different stitches are done before then trying to translate and follow the Bulgarian instructions.

Just along from the Allianz office I passed a little sewing shop and went in to purchase a crochet hook - the largest one they happened to have in, which was 3.5mm.  Back home I found a set of beginners' videos on YouTube which show the stitches step by step and go very slowly; ideal for me!

The first task was doing a chain of stitches which wasn't too bad once I slackened the wool a bit, and then trying to go back for a second row. That was really difficult as I couldn't make out which bits of the previous stitches to use. Still, I persevered and turned out a little curly strip of green crochet.

Browsing more videos I came across a series on flowers including beginners' ones and had a little go at a simple 5 petal flower. At least it looked simple. Can you spot the mistake?

I know I sewed 5 petals so where the 5th one went I have no idea!  Well today I had another go and things seem to be improving nicely.

My plan is to make jottings about the names of the stitches and how to do them, then to look up the Bulgarian equivalents, and then to try and decipher one of the simpler ones from the book. Hope Boris my language tutor is up on his needlework skills.

Sorting through the kitchen cupboards the other day and I came across a Christmas pudding dated March 2014. So, only slightly past its sell by date, and I figured with all the alcohol in it, it should still be edible. I microwaved a portion to try it but sadly the booze had turned the sponge to a very mushy texture and although it tasted okay it just didn't feel right. Never mind, the banana and cream went down a treat instead.


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