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

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2017/04
Sunday 30th April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: mayor village projects Parov Well

I've mentioned Mayor Nadya from time to time, and commented on the improvements she's been making to the village including cutting back all the overgrown shrubbery and weeds from the streets, and the recent work which has taken place down at the stadium. Well things are advancing quite rapidly now especially with the great news that Gostilitsa has been awarded almost 10,000 levs for one of the projects Nadya has put forward. I'll talk about it more in future posts once work is underway but I just thought I'd outline some of the things Nadya told us the other day:

Firstly there will be some renovation work to the boundary wall of the little park opposite my house, and best of all, the well there is going to be mended! I'm so excited about that as it was such a lovely feature of the park but fell into disrepair and had to be boarded up as the walls were so damaged. Once it's all done I'd like to gradually add some flowers to areas in the park (once which look after themselves more or less) and generally help keep the place looking beautiful.

Secondly there will be more play equipment for children in the park area next to the old school. This will be great for attracting young families to the village as it makes it look child friendly and not just full of the elderly.

Thirdly there will be a series of information boards at places along the main street with information of interest to tourists such as the history of Gostilitsa and information about the Roman ruins at Diskoduratera. There will be benches placed along this street too for people to sit and chat.

Fourthly, a small park area just to the side of the community centre is going to be tidied up and then turned into an outdoor museum with items of historical interest (e.g. farm machinery) on display along with seating and information.

That's as much as I can remember but it makes me so excited to be part of this phase in Gostilitsa's existence and very hopeful that new life will be injected into the place.

I discovered all of this on Friday when a group of us met up in the square to help clean up a place known as the Parov Well.  I'd never even heard of it and couldn't begin to guess where in the village it might be, so I was intrigued to go along and discover something new about the village.

We all met in the centre under glorious blue skies and sunshine, armed with various gardening tools and kitted out in old work clothes.  Nadya told us it was up past the church and would be quite a walk, but luckily there were enough people with cars for us all to be driven up there. We headed past the church and then up the rough track opposite the Ioanna Guest House, round a small bend and there it was.

It's set down from road level with a path leading to a wall where spring water flows out. In front of that wall is an area of stone slabs and then the water runs off to one side into the stream which flows down the right hand side. This then runs through a big tunnel under the road and presumably off down the village.

The place was all overgrown with weeds and of course strewn with rubbish. There was a long washing line strung across some trees so I guess maybe the Roma people come here to wash clothes. Undeterred, we smild for the group photo then set to work.

A friend and I crept into the tunnel to begin collecting rubbish and soon filled several sacks with bits of plastic sheeting, bottles, broken glass and rags. After that I pulled some fallen branches out of the stream so that the water would flow more easily, helped rake up the weeds and take them to a big compost area, and then collected more rubbish from further up the stream. Others dug out the stream where it was silted up, pruned back the trees and shrubs, strimmed all the grass areas and cleared all the dirt and weeds from the paths and the area round the fountain itself:

Cutting back the trees

Nadya with the youngest volunteer

The path cleared and the steps down to the fountain uncovered

It was a great morning. Everyone worked hard but with time to chat to each other and to get to know some new people. I met a young Bulgarian couple - Victoria and Krasi - who live in VT at the moment but are renovating a place at the top of the village which they want to make their permanent home. They're artists and can't wait till they can finally live in their home here. There were also some German men who have a place at the top of the village. They've lived here for some time now, and Alec spoke perfect English and Bulgarian as well as his native German.

By lunchtime the place had been transformed. The path and steps were all clear, all the dirt was gone from in front of the fountain and not a scrap of rubbish to be seen. I think the plan is to get the water tested to ensure it's safe to drink, and to have some benches put there to make it a place where people can meet and picnic.

Lunch was provided for all the volunteers courtesy of an organisation called Time Heroes, so after a clean up and change of clothing we all met at Dida's bar/shop for some food and drink:

 

 

Friday 21st April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: bottles door DIY garden

I know I'm always banging on about the weather, but... it snowed! Again!! How can this be happening - it's almost the end of April. Thankfully it was just a flurry and so far the extra that was forecast for today hasn't appeared, but it feels bloomin' cold. So pleased I buy my winter wood a year ahead in order to stockpile it because these past few days I've been dibbing into the spare logs to get the stove blazing again.

Most of my plants are still in the greenhouse with the light bulb on to warm them (Molly now spends 90% of her time curled on top of the greenhouse enjoying the extra heat) and a lot of the outdoor ones still have plastic sheeting to shelter them.

The beetroots seem to be holding up alright and the newly sown leeks are beginning to sprout. It's a bit hard to tell what's what because it turns out there was a lot of crop seed in with my straw bales which is busy sprouting. It looks like a crop of grass but the internet assures me it's probably an annual crop which won't take over the beds. I just need to investigate how to use wheat or barley or whatever it is I'm now growing.

I'm hoping the cold snap won't have damaged the tiny fruits on my trees, and the beautiful redcurrants which are developing for the first time:

Also, very excitingly, I think my new raspberry plant might have survived as there are little raspberry type leaves appearing through the ground:

The stick in the top right corner is the actual plant I put in last autumn, so the leaves might be an unrelated weed, but they are now being carefully monitored and fingers crossed will be the raspberry plant.

I've put quite a few flowers around the side garden, and they seem to be managing and putting out some true leaves now, so unless they get totally baked I might have some nice colourful beds this summer.

Despite the icy conditions I suddenly decided to crack on with making the door to my balcony. For the past couple of years I just had a bottle wall along the entrance, mostly to stop the rain blowing in at that end as well as a bit of privacy for when I sleep out there, but it was just a fixed wall and meant I couldn't use the outside stairs at all. A week or so ago, Alfie and I had a little bonding time together to try and counter his wilfulness when out walking where he just looks at me disdainfully when I call him and runs off wherever he likes. As part of this I let him sleep on my bed for a few nights, but to do this I had to carry him up and down the inside stairs as he refused to entertain them. So, long story short, if I can once more access the house using the outside stairs, Alfie can come up and down via that route, hence the need for a door. Well, apart from being a bit wet and cold during construction, it turned out to be rather simpler than I'd thought and is now neatly in place and operational:

Door open....

... door closed!

I'm so proud! It needs a little tidying, and eventually the three columns of green bottles will be replaced by clear ones (courtesy of some lovely friends who pass on their empty tonic bottles which are much stronger than other kinds) but it's there and it works.

With all the vast numbers of bottles employed as walls and doors, I've built up a huge stash of bottle caps and cut off bottle bottoms (no, it's not hoarding) and today I found a little use for some of them:

Bloomin' marvellous.

Monday 17th April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: Easter

Bulgarian homes are full of beautifully decorated boiled eggs at the moment, and no matter how many you eat or give away to neighbours, the fridge is always still packed with them. The reason? It's Easter.

One of the beautiful things about Bulgaria is how much traditions seem to be an accepted and celebrated part of everyone's lives, regardless of how religious or otherwise a person is. The calendar seems to leap from one festival to another, some with clear pagan roots (as many Christian traditions are), some historically based, and others linked to the Orthodox faith.

Last Saturday, for example, was Lazarovden (the day of Lazarus who, according to Christian belief, was raised from the dead by Jesus). In Bulgaria it was a chance for young girls of marriageable age to dress in their finest clothes, adorned with flowers, and to go from house to house singing praises upon the householders in return for gifts of eggs and money. It was said that a house visited by these 'Lazurki' would be prosperous that year. Of course if said household had an eligible bachelor son then it was also a cracking chance for a little matchmaking.

Part of the modern day celebrations include prizes for things like the best dressed girl and the best decorated easter basket. The event always ends with a giant 'horo' in the town square with everyone joining in to make a huge circle for a folk dance.

On Thursday we decorate eggs ready for Easter, using coloured dyes (available in their thousands from supermarkets along with huge trays of eggs). These eggs are then kept until Easter Day when you tap yours against someone else's and whoever has the unbroken egg will have good fortune in the year. A kind of Christian game of conkers. The first egg should be dyed red, and this is used by the oldest member of the family to mark everyone's forehead and wish them good health. The red eggs can be kept in the home until the following Easter. I must admit I do like decorating the eggs, especially the ones where you wrap an egg in a thick layer of onion skins before boiling it and then dipping it in coloured dye. The result is a gorgeous marbled effect which looks even lovelier when polished with a little oil.

On Sunday I invited some friends round for a little Easter get together, and despite the sudden downpour and crashing of thunder just as people were arriving, it went really well. There were 13 of us (spookily like the last supper) but that number was okay is it's one friend's lucky number and also the number of my house. Two joints of lamb were sealed in the clay oven at 10 o'clock the previous night and by morning they were deliciously tender and juicy - a pretty fool proof way of cooking meat, as long as you keep an eye on the oven to start with as the flames were licking over the top several times!

Everyone seemed to have a great time - I certainly did - though this is now the reason I have a fridge full of boiled eggs as a couple of people brought some along, in addition to the ones I'd done. No matter. Over the next few weeks they will be eaten along with the chocolates and hot cross buns after which the dieting will begin yet again. Well, until the next celebration that is!


 

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