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 26th March, 2016
Category: 2016/03
Tags: shopping mayor garden

The clocks go forward an hour tonight so then I guess we're officially on summer time which means lovely long light evenings for playing out in.  Weather permitting of course, which is being a bit changeable at the moment going from warm sunshine to strong cold winds with each passing day. There have even been fresh smatterings of snow in the area though thankfully only on the higher ground.

My tomatoes, peppers and courgettes were all sown in their incubator bottles just over a week ago and only the peppers have yet to germinate. I think I mentioned a while ago about using hurricane lamps to raise the temperature in the greenhouse. Well they turned out to be a bit of a nuisance to say the least as some of the wicks wouldn't soak up the fuel properly, then a new lamp seemed to leak quite a lot. I also realised that I would be spending at least a lev a day in fuel which might not sound a lot but all adds up if you're talking about having seedlings out every day over a period of weeks. So the other day I had the brainwave of making a little electric light just to hang in the greenhouse as bulbs give off quite a bit of heat and are quite cheap to run. Whilst in Gabrovo I bought a light bulb socket and a plug from a little electrical shop and as soon as I got home, sat down to play.

The first bit of cable I tried using was way too thick to fit into either the socket or the plug, so I just chopped a few metres out of one of my extension leads (the chopped ends were spliced back together again afterwards with electrical tape). The cable had the usual blue, green and brown wires, but the plug and socket only had two connection points. So I gambled on ignoring the green wire, which got taped out of the way, and just connected up the blue and brown. Having then screwed in a lightbulb I placed it a safe distance from anything flammable and gingerly plugged it in. Success! The bulb shone brightly and has taken the temperature in the greenhouse from 10 degrees up to around 20. So, since the tomatoes and courgettes have germinated, they are now enjoying daily doses of bright outdoor light along with a nice bit of warmth from the bulb.

The raised beds are now surrounded by pine needle paths to keep the weeds down and to make it nicer than wading across clay mud after heavy rain.

Nadya the new mayor had her inauguration ceremony during the week. She sent me an email the day before inviting me along but failing to mention what time it started. I messaged her back to ask about this but heard no more. On the day itself at about 4.15pm the phone rang and it was Nadya apologising for not getting back to me sooner and saying the ceremony would start at 5pm in the 'obshtina'.  I'd been strimming grass that day so flew into the shower to wash, dried my hair and then zoomed off in the car to Dryanovo, understanding the obshtina as being the town hall there. I arrived literally at 2 minutes to 5, phew! Upon entering the suspiciously quiet building I asked the man on reception where the inauguration was taking place, causing him to look at me very blankly. He went and asked someone else and then came back to tell me it was being held in Gostilitsa at the 'obshtina' there! I guess obshtina is just a term for the mayor's office anywhere. By now it was gone 5 but I still drove as fast as I could back to the village feelin annoyed that I would have missed part of the ceremony. Silly me, I forgot I was in Bulgaria. The event hadn't even started and people were still milling around outside, so I actually got to watch the whole thing.

On Wednesday one of the babas collared me after dance class to ask if I was going to Gabrovo any time soon. It so happened I'd half thought of going that very afternoon so arranged to pick her up at 1.30pm. It turned out she was wanting to go and visit her daughter, and since I wasn't in any hurry I said I'd go along to meet her too where she works in a flat which baba inherited from her aunt. Rumi, the daughter, is an expert at needlework and specialises in different quilting techniques, often exhibiting her work. Baba was very proud because not long ago Rumi won first prize in an exhibition and came away with a state of the art digital sewing machine which can do all kinds of stitching. The big living room area in the flat has been converted to a workshop and was covered in piles of materials where Rumi showed me some of the things she's currently working on including a gorgeous quilt covered in bright hexagonal patterns.

After visiting her daughter we then went to do a bit of shopping. Baba wanted some bits from the market including some freshly ground coffee from a shop just off the market which had dozens of varieties of coffee beans. You can make up a selection of your own by mixing the different ones and then they grind them down as fine as you want. Considering I'm not a big fan of coffee it smelt gorgeous - I was tempted to buy a bag just to use as scent for the house.

On the way home we stopped at the Bulkarta store where baba told me they sell 500g blocks of fresh yeast for a lev. Unbelievably cheap considering little 10g sachets of dried yeast are about 3 for a lev. She offered to let me have half a block to try so a couple of days later I met her in the community centre where she gave me the block of yeast along with a jar of whole beef tomatoes which she preserved herself. (As well as how to do the whole tomatoes she's also promised to teach me to make the fermented veggies for winter and how to bake the nice soft 'pitka' rolls using yoghurt and soda water).

Back home I proceeded to cut the block of yeast into little 15g pieces which were then individually wrapped in foil to store in the freezer. Had a passing policeman called in, it might all have looked a tad suspicious.



Wednesday 16th March, 2016
Category: 2016/03
Tags: mayor medical vet

The long awaited third round of mayoral elections took place on Sunday and finally we have a clear winner - Nadya, who has been acting mayor for a few months anyway. She has firm plans for improving the village and has already put in a bid for funding from the local authority. Her enthusiasm is undeniable so I'm sure the next four years will see some very positive changes for Gostilitsa.

Molly the cat was feeling a bit sorry for herself on Saturday. I noticed her being sick in the garden at one point then she seemed to spend the rest of the day just curled up in her bed sleeping. As evening came I tried to tempt her with some tinned food but she wasn't interested, so I knew then something was definitely up and brought her in to the house for some TLC.

Apart from a little cat treat stick she didn't eat anything all weekend and by Sunday wasn't drinking either although she didn't seem in pain when I picked her up. I thought she'd either eaten something bad (possibly a rat or mouse that had eaten poison) or she'd eaten something which was causing a blockage inside. Since this diagnosis might require an x-ray I decided Monday morning to take her to a vet in VT which has more facilities than my usual local vet - Sanivet to be precise.

The vet examined her and said more than likely she'd eaten something bad which was irritating her stomach. He gave her an injection to help her stomach and another which was a dose of antibiotics. He then measured out three syringes of medicine for her to be given by me during the day - two to help with the stomach irritation and then a third which was some kind of concentrated food with vitamins etc.

I'm not very adept at this sort of thing, and the white ones definitely didn't taste good, so as I tried squirting it into her mouth she shook her head wildly and ended up with a large amount of it smeared all round her face and neck. Poor girl! I tried wiping it off but it still dried really sticky; she looked an awful mess by the time I'd done the third syringe.

After that she was allowed small amounts of water which she drank readily so thankfully her stomach must have been feeling better already.

Tuesday morning she was allowed small bits of cooked chicken which she enjoyed and then later on she had some bits of tinned cat food.  She was still sleeping quite a lot but definitely on the mend.

This morning she was craving to go out but I needed to make sure the food had passed through her system as normal, so tapping the litter tray I said, "Come on Molly, do a pooh and then you can go out."  Well I guess she understood because not long after she used the litter tray... really used it!

Hopefully she'll stay away from whatever it was that caused the stomach upset. Oh, and for information - examination by the vet, two injections and three syringes came to a total of 20 levs - a mere £8.

Molly wasn't the only one seeking medical attention this week - today I had an appointment to see about sorting out my breathing difficulties.

You might recall last October I managed to wack my nose when I fainted and since then it's been very difficult to breathe through my right nostril. The specialist I went to see in VT recommended a surgeon in Pleven, so with the help of Dobrina and Natasha from the community centre I arranged to go through to see him today.

His office is in a clinic in Pleven, so with the aid of a map printed from Google I headed off in good time. I arrived in Pleven and parked near the clinic with an hour to spare, and being desparate for the loo I decided to find a cafe for a quick snack.

Just down the road there was a Tempo restaurant, so I went in and ordered something to eat before then dashing to the toilet. Ahh, relax! Foolishly I'd ordered something which is always served at 200 degrees - a veggie gyuvech - so I only managed to work my way through half of the scalding deliciousness before I had to head back to the clinic for my appointment.

I use the term 'appointment' loosely. It seems that everyone had been told to turn up at 2pm to see the doctor, so it was just a case of first come first served. Well, almost. Anyone arriving with a small child automatically gets to go in first. (Note to self - borrow small child for future appointments). 

I was hoping that at this appointment we would be arranging an operation to straighten the deviated septum but it was not to be. He examined my nose, made me exhale onto a metal sheet before telling me it wasn't that bad. Umm, yes it is matey, I fall alseep at night pulling my nose to one side in order to breathe! He then printed off a recipe for a nasal wash. I was flummoxed at that point and said is there no operation then? I didn't one hundred percent understand the details but he said something about the operation would involved doing something to a nasal valve under general anaesthetic and then having a small plate inside my nose for a week. I asked if I'd have to pay for this and the figure of 300 levs was mentioned - I don't know if that's because of my paying into the health care system or not.

"Okay," I said, "can I organise that now then?"

"Phone me to arrange it," he said.

More confusion - I'm sitting here in front of you having travelled 100km to organise an operation, yet I have to go back home and discuss it via telephone? That was the end of the consultation. So, tomorrow I shall enlist the help of Dobrina again to try and pin this guy down to actually doing something to repair my nose.

It all seems a bit exhausting when I'm used to a system where you see one consultant and then get sent an appointment for whatever needs doing. So far here I've been to the GP (who wouldn't even look at my nose), twice to a specialist in VT (who finally gave me details of surgeons) and once to a surgeon who has vaguely said an operation is possible but doesn't seem wildly keen to actually do one. Watch this space!

Wednesday 9th March, 2016
Category: 2016/03
Tags: DIY garden Liberation Day

If you buy yourself a Bulgarian calendar, one thing which will strike you is the extraordinary number of bank holiday weekends they have throughout the year. In fact, there are times when you have to time a visit to the bank very carefully to avoid being without money for a fortnight as one celebration lurches merrily into another. 

It's not just the actual celebration day either. If the public holiday falls on a Thursday, for example, the powers that be very sensibly declare the Friday a public holiday too thus giving everyone a nice long Thursday to Sunday weekend break. The condition is that people will go to work on the following Saturday to make up for the extra day off.  They even have a special verb which means 'to go to work on Saturday in lieu of the extra bank holiday' - отработвам.

Whilst this is a good deal for the workers it seems the bosses are not so happy. How can production just be stopped for four solid days? And after such a mega holiday (naturally  fuelled by rakia) who will be fit for work on Monday? And no one wants to work on Saturday, so no doubt mystery illnesses arise to prevent the extra day ever being made up.

Anyway, one such extended holiday has just passed and it was in honour of March 3rd, Liberation Day. The day when the treaty of San Stefano was signed, officially declaring Bulgaria to be an independent country, free from Ottoman rule (which was replaced by nice 'arm around the shoulder' Russian rule instead... at least for 100 years or so).

To celebrate, a big event was planned in the community centre for the evening. It began with a performance by the children of 'The Prince' which actually turned out to be the story of Cinderella complete with ugly sisters and a very pantomime dame type stepmother. They all acted superbly and had the audience in fits of laughter, especially when the queen got very cross with the king for getting a bit too friendly dancing with the wicked stepmother at the ball.

After the play there were more serious readings and a poem, along with patriotic songs and folk dancing.

Once the performances were over, the DJ set up his music and the party began with the usual shared food, drinks and dancing. It was wonderful to see the place so full for once - standing room only during the show - and everyone looked to be having a great time.

When one of the folk dances began, we from the dance classes got up, happily expecting to launch into the one we'd been learning, only to find they were doing something completely different! Oh well, we hopped and shuffled around, sort of getting the hang of it, though I made sure at this week's dance class that they showed us how to do it properly in readiness for the next occasion.

Remember last time I told you about making string out of old plastic bottles? Well I've been busy using said string to tie together the poles for my new and improved tomato stake area. My problem is that the ground still produces boulders no matter how much I dig the soil over, and consequently it's hard to drive the stakes in very far. Then when the tomatoes start growing tall and heavy, they quite often just pull their stakes over.

Well this year I decided to add a lattice of cross pieces between the stakes so that they all support each other and should be more stable.

Looks a bit like a climbing frame - in fact I'm surprised the cats haven't been up it. I also thought it would be quite easy to sling some old sheets over the top to provide protection in case of mad summer hail storms. The sticks are just prunings from my plum and cherry trees and have all been lashed firmly together with the plastic tape.

Lord knows how I shall dismantle it all come autumn!

As well as hoarding plastic bottles I also have a sack of old milk cartons which I originally collected with the idea of using them as an alternative to yoghurt pots for growing seedlings. Since then I came up with a better plan for the seeds (which you'll see shortly) and so the milk cartons were redundant for a while, until one rainy day when I had a mad play in the shed, resulting in two suspended shelves on which are neat rows of milk cartons containing all sorts of screws and nails, each with a little sample taped on the front so I can see what size is in each pot.

Love it!

To save space I've decided to use the big 10 litre water bottles for seed incubators this year, that way I shall only need about 10 of them (rather than trays and trays of small pots) which should make it easier for moving them in and out of the sunshine. I'm not planting much until the middle of March although I have got some rocket seeds in one pot which are already a couple of inches high.

Here are the pots all ready with their compost getting nicely soaked with the rain.

I love inspecting the garden at this time of year for the first signs of new shoots poking through the soil and for the lovely surprises where I've forgotten I've planted something. I was pleased to see that several of the comfrey root clippings I planted are now sprouting leaves, as I want to have several areas at the bottom of the garden where the comfrey can go wild, giving me a plentiful supply of comfrey compost tea.

I also saw in one of my tubs, hundreds of tiny seedlings all over the soil. Now they might all be weeds but I know for sure I had petunias in that tub and I'm hoping against hope that this is what is springing up. For now they are all sheltering under a screen of glass panes just in case I have a free supply of hundreds of petunia plants on the way.

Last night the temperature dropped quite cool (about 7 degrees) so I decided to light one of the hurricane lamps inside the new and improved greenhouse area, just to see how warm it stayed. Well before bed and first thing this morning the temperature was around 12 degrees so it definitely works. I shall do this when my veggie seedlings have emerged if there are bright but cool days, to ensure they get enough light without getting cold.

To end this rather long blog post, this week on the 8th March it was Ladies' Day and as part of this I was asked of they could display my little crochet items in the community centre. So, my very first exhibition!

Next year I might go all feminist and make them display my plastic bottle creations!


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