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

Saturday 28th November, 2015
Category: 2015/11
Tags: rain Thirsty Lizard International Day of Dance mayor

Wednesday morning we had the first village meeting about the mayor's plans for the village. Actually Nadya isn't officially the mayor yet although Miroslav, the mayor of Dryanovo, has suggested she fill the role for November until the President of Bulgaria makes some kind of decision about resolving the tie in the last round of voting here. Personally I hope the President has far more important things to worry about than a little village tucked away in the centre of Bulgaria, and that Nadya just slips quietly into the job on a permanent basis without the need for any more elections. Anyway, as I said, on Tuesday we had our first meeting with her.

Considering the awful weather there was a great turnout and the room was pretty much full. I wish I'd taken along a pen and paper to jot down the bits I could understand as so much was said it's hard to keep track of it, but there were a few key points.

A team of tree cutters have been hired to trim any branches or trees which might be in danger of causing damage to property. We were asked to tell her of any trees we'd like to be pruned, so I told her about the walnuts down the side lane which are overhanging my garage (I conveniently glossed over the fact that strictly speaking the garage shouldn't even be there) and some of which are leaning quite heavily towards Stefan's house across the lane. She took photos and said the lower branches can be chopped but the higher ones might need more equipment as they are right over the garage roof.

I also told her about the problem of rain water flowing like a river down the street because of the drains being all overgrown with weeds and she has added this to the list of clearance work. Crikey - things are actually going to happen!

The other main topic at the meeting was the issue of the rubbish all over the place. Work is going to take place near the cemetery to clean it all up, and I think (though I may have misunderstood) we might be getting big shared bins at some point, one for every ten people, as the small ones get knocked over or rubbish blows out of them. The guy from the refuse department did tell us to squash rubbish down in the bins and not to put anything hot in there that would damage them. People mentioned some areas where fly tipping is a nuisance and this will be looked into.

I think we're having these meetings once a month to inform us of progress and plans, and for people to have their say which is a great thing.

It's actually been raining quite a lot the past few days. Last night in particular was heavy and so I've been expecting a little puddle to appear in the living room, but touch wood so far it's staying dry! My new septic pipes are working nicely as the rain water has filled the tank to the level of the overflow pipe and this morning I could see the excess trickling away. Phew!

This weekend has seen a couple of social events in the area. Last night Ken gave a concert in the Thirsty Lizard bar in Slaveykovo. He was trying out some new amplifier equipment so the sound was really good, i.e. you could sing along happily out of tune and with the wrong words without spoiling a great performance.

And sticking with the musical theme: today was the International Day of Dance. To celebrate this we had a get together in the community centre. Apparently it was started by UNESCO in celebration of some ballet guy whose name sounds an awful lot like Jean-Michel Jarre but obviously wasn't. Anyway, with a cup of tea and a plateful of choccy biscuits we watched some popular ballet clips on You-Tube including Swan Lake and Bolero. It wasn't long before we were up and mimicing the ballet moves. Here's my spectacular '3rd position' which I know my thighs will regret tomorrow!

Our efforts all paled into insignificance when Baba Reina, an incredibly sweet grandmother probably in her 70s, showed us how to do the splits:


Jan had brought along some Scottish music so after a quick lesson we all went into the hall where there's more room and whirled around to the music.  A lively morning with lots of laughs - what a great way to spend a rainy November day.

Monday 23rd November, 2015
Category: 2015/11
Tags: Buzludzha Septic Tank

When I stand on the right hand side of my balcony and look south to the distant hills, I can see a tower and next to it what looks like an enormous flying saucer. This is Buzludzha; a monument to communism and what was to be the communist headquarters in Bulgaria. On Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited along by a couple of friends who were going to visit it.

It was built at a cost of almost 15 million levs, much of it gathered from the public in the form of 'suggested donations'; as this piece of graffiti states 'this was paid for by all of us'

The building opened in 1981, and with its red star illuminated at the top of the tower was a visible reminder to people of the might of communism.


(Torches at the bottom of the hill leading to the monument)

(Approaching the building)

(The rather scary tower)

In 1989 communism fell and with it this building, left to fall victim to the elements and vandalism. Officially the building is closed to the public due to the dangers of falling sheets of metal from the roof (they were flapping and clanking wildly in the wind when we were there) but there is a small gap in one side of the building where people can get in. Surprisingly there was a constant stream of sight-seers clambering in and out that day.

(Friends on their way in)

Once inside you can explore the various levels, though a torch is essential for going downstairs as everywhere is in darkness. Corridors lead to toilet blocks and washrooms, heating ducts, storage areas and then across to the tower. The steps on this side were covered in huge chunks of rock and to be honest, with the wind howling I didn't fancy the thought of risking my way up a possibly well rotted metal ladder to peer out from the red star at the top of the tower.

Inside the main building the upper stairs lead out into a large conference hall where the walls are covered in the most amazing mosaics of all colours, some even glittering in gold and bronze.

(All communist themes of course - here are Engels, Marx and Lenin)

(Hammer and sickle on the ceiling)

(More of the walls)

All the way round the central hall is a walkway with stunning views across the countryside. Originally it was enclosed with huge windows but of course now they are all broken.

It's a place which gives you very mixed feelings. The artistry, even in its now delapidated state, is undeniable. It would have been unimaginably beautiful when first completed with glittering mosaics and bright sunny walkway around the edge. But of course it represents a regime which dominated and which meant a life of hard work and poverty for so many of its people. Oddly enough though, many people, particularly the elderly (my neighbour included), hanker after the good old days when everyone had guaranteed work and a place to live.

I suppose it's a hard transition for a nation - to go from being looked after by the state, but at the cost of many restrictions, to having freedom but with it the responsibility of making your own decisions and trying to be forward thinking. I have confidence that Bulgaria will find its way though.

Here's a link to an article on Buzludzha by Nova TV, with English subtitles.

More construction now but on a personal and much more useful level. Last week Don, Galin and Lee came round to try and sort out the problem of the overflowing septic tank.  After discussions with my neighbour it turns out that there is a shaft in her garden which leads to some huge communal village tank. In the old days she says it used to get full quite often, but now only she and my other neighbours use it so she suggested I tap into it too.

The first task was to see what level the pipe entering the tank came in at, to ensure the new overflow pipe was set lower. The side of the tank was excavated and then came the exciting game of 'who can spot the sewer pipe'.

The jacket wasn't for anonimity but to make it dark enough for the torch to show up the delights of the tank.

Then began the digging of the trench ready for the new pipes.

There was a massive rock across the trench at one point which couldn't be dug out, so the guys had to spend ages cutting and drilling and chipping a path through it. Baba Ivanka claims that when my tank was first built they actually used explosives to deal with similar rocks. I don't recall the estate agent mentioning that in his regular updates!

Another problem with the current tank is the tiny hatch which is useless if ever you need access to clean pipes or pump out waste etc., so the team also had a new bigger hatch made. Cutting the hole for it took some ingenuity.

The area was marked out and then cut through as far as they could with an angle grinder. You can see the original little square hole in the middle there.  Once that was done there was the problem that if they just cut the whole thing in one go, it would just fall into the tank, possibly smashing the pipes and creating a backsplash of effluence on its way. Nice!

It was decided to cut it out in pieces and to use rope to stop the chunks falling in.

Here they are drilling and chipping. By the way, one of the chisels managed to somersault into the tank never to be seen again. Archaeologists may discover it in 1000 years time!

Once the hole was successfully cut, they built a brick surround to make the hatch higher than the soil level.

And here it is all neat and tidy at the end.

It started raining last night which left me half excited and half worried. I eagerly peeked into the tank this morning to see if the rainwater was wooshing out of the overflow (not enough rain to make this happen yet) but also anxiously shone my torch in the corner of the living room to see if the dreaded flood water was creeping in from the street. Thankfully not enough rain to cause that either.

Still, half the watery problem is wonderfully solved and the other half is soon to be tackled. Happy days!

Monday 16th November, 2015
Category: 2015/11
Tags: elections gourd festival

Finally, after many weeks of worry and gloom, there are beams of light shining at the end of the tunnel. Work is about to commence on sorting out the wretched septic tank problems, I have found a lovely specialist doctor who can advise on nasal surgery if the stuffiness persists, and there's a general sense of being surrounded by positivity. Things are on the up!

Perhaps it's all linked to the general air of new beginnings after the recent mayoral elections or maybe the planets have just moved on and the sun is now rising in Uranus so to speak. Talking of elections - last Monday I was lucky enough to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new Dryanovo mayor; Miroslav Semov, who officially took office along with the thirteen councillors.

This is a happy Miroslav receiving the official chains and the key to the town from the less cheerful deposed mayor. There were various speeches and certificates and flowers given out, and a blessing from a local priest. Then everyone was sworn in after which the new councillors had to propose and vote on a chairman.  The lucky winner with 7 votes was none other than DJ Georgo:

Let's hope his new office doesn't cut back on his DJ duties too much.

In Gostilitsa of course we still await instructions for a third round of voting, though interestingly one of the candidates, Nadya, is now acting mayor in the village until at least the end of the month. Perhaps this is the people saying we don't care about ballot results, this is who we want. Everyone seems happy enough with this situation and she has already begun a clean up program for the village of cutting back overgrown shrubs along the roads, clearing rubbish and so on.

The square was tidied up on Friday morning in preparation for the annual Gostilitsa gourd festival and a big group of us filled dozens of sacks with fallen leaves which were then disposed of away from the streets (and not burned for once which is surprisingly ecological for Bulgaria).

That's me on the left, the only one who didn't realise the photo was being taken.

Later that day there was a gourd decorating session in the community centre. The table was full of gourds of all shapes and sizes from which we could choose ones to paint. I picked a very gnarly one to turn into a piranha which was later displayed with three sharks in the foyer.

Then on Saturday morning the square was absolutely buzzing with activity. Stalls were set out selling souvenirs, toys and snacks, and minibuses arrived bringing performers and visitors from all over. It's so rare to see the place so busy but what a great sight it was. If only it could be like this more often.

All the gourds were on display in the foyer and then people made their way into the theatre to watch the performers. The place was packed, so much so that a lot of people had to stand in the aisle.

Miroslav opened the concert with a welcome speech and then the acts began.

My friend and I only stayed for the first hour or so but we saw singers, musicians and dancers.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time - one couple even got up to have a little dance together in the aisle as one song was played.

Due to the fantastic weather we went and had a bite to eat from the stall selling food in the square and then about seven of us ended up just sitting there in the glorious sunshine, eating, drinking and chatting. All credit to everyone who organised such a lovely event, something that just makes the whole village come alive and have a completely different feel to it.


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