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 29th September, 2015
Category: 2015/09
Tags: rain flood

The rain continues and many parts of Bulgaria have been hit by flooding again. Horrible scenes on the news of families ankle deep in water in their homes, crops ruined, mud everywhere, and the rain continuing to pour. As I went to bed I remember thinking that my soggy garden is nothing compared to what some people are experiencing.

Well when I got up this morning things turned out to be a bit worse than I'd imagined

Next to the fire place a puddle of water had crept in during the night and had spread across the floor a little way, soaking one of the cushions which was heaped there. (Thankfully it hadn't spread as far as my laptop which was also on the floor nearby!)  It seems that water from the rain is somehow coming up through the floor next to the outside wall which at that point is a couple of feet below ground level.

I'm really, really hoping that it's been caused by the fact that a drainpipe empties out onto the path near there and maybe the ground has become so waterlogged that the rain is no longer flowing away from the area quickly enough.  So this morning has been spent trying to divert water away.

The first task was to remove the lower half of the existing drainpipe and then cobble it back together, along with a nice beer bottle extension, so that it now reaches right onto the road.

The dark patch on the path next to the house shows where the drainpipe used to end.

I then went along to examine the outflow pipe from the French drain which was put in all along the front of the house when it was first renovated. Well it turned out the end of it was broken and clogged up with stones and mud. As soon as I scraped the blockage away quite a bit of water poured out, so maybe this too was part of the culprit.  I've chiseled a little channl from the end of the French drain pipe to steer the water away onto the road at the side of the house.

More worrying though is the fact that once more the septic tank level has risen by a few feet overnight from the rainwater getting in. I'm rather confused as to why this should be happening when the tank has been there for 10 years and this can't be the first torential rain we've ever had.  The tank itself is a pit lined with big stones, so rainwater will always have been able to seep in through the gaps in the rocks.  Why is it flooding in so fast just lately?  It's all becoming a bit of a watery nightmare.

Monday 28th September, 2015
Category: 2015/09
Tags: rain garden

Once more we are in the grip of dismal rainy weather and I think we can say goodbye to the long summer of scorching temperatures we've had. Mind you, I'm still sleeping out on the balcony at the moment as despite the rain it's still not actually that cold. The blanket of cats which descends during the night helps keep me toasty (too hot sometimes) and I awaken each morning to find myself flanked by Molly and Poppy with Finlay wrapped around my head.

It's on days like this when thoughts turn to winterisation and making sure everything's ready for the colder months. One such (hated) job is to stick my head up in the loft hatch with a torch and see if I can spot any rain dripping through. It all seemed thankfully dry up there and the dear old rat trap is still in position in case I have any nocturnal visitors this winter.

The plastic bottle walls on the patio are still holding up well so I've sorted out another couple of batons ready for the third wall as in another month or so the plants will need to be wrapped up and tucked away. 

I've been doing a bit of tidying up of the flower beds and have managed to propagate some of the plants to spread them around. I took the drastic measure of chopping the clematis right back as it has gone a bit mad and wandered all over the place at will. Next spring I'll try and direct its path a bit better and keep it trimmed to encourage it to be bushier. I've recently bought three other clematis (clematises? clematii?) which are supposed to flower right through into autumn. If they take off they should make a great splash of colour on the walls and fence (I've got dark purple, red and blue).

I'm pleased that all the yellow autumn crocuses I split up last year have taken and there are sweet clumps of them in various patches round the garden.

The comfrey which I bought as a ground cover/fertilizer has gone mental. When I tried to dig it up to split it I discovered a humungous tap root going way down deep. It's now been relocated to the bottom of the garden (by the newly renovated wall I mentioned) where it can grow as much as it likes, and lots of bits of root have been chopped up and planted in pots to get even more plants going. I've also put lots of the leaves in a bucket with a lid to make compost tea (not for me I hasten to add) but I'll report on this another time.

The strawberries keep sending out new runners so several more have been potted up, along with calendula and rudbekia.


Actually, some of these are with the planned seed swap event I'm trying to organise. Quite a lot of expats like to grow veggies during the year so I thought it might be nice to have a get together a couple of times a year to exchange ideas, have a bite to eat and to swap spare seeds and cuttings. I've had a good response from people so the first one is likely to go ahead on October 9th (unless further monsoons are forecast).

Speaking of monsoons, one of the ongoing septic tank problem solving ideas has been to ensure the drain field is as workable as possible. I've been aware that since the sheds got renovated three years ago the rain water from the roofs feeds into a barrel situated quite near the end of the tank. Of course it doesn't take much heavy rain to fill the barrel and then the excess just floods over onto the grass and is possibly saturating the ground and preventing the water from the tank soaking through. To try and resolve this problem I've dug a small channel from the barrel to funnel the extra rainwater away down the garden.  I went out to have a look in the current downpour and it's actually working pretty well.


An unfortunate mole seems to have dug its hole in the middle of this ditch and so the water is now pouring into it - hopefully the little creature will be able to swim out of another exit!

Oooh, great excitement the other day when I suddenly spotted these on my olive tree:

Yes, actual olives! Okay so there might be only two of them this year, but I'm already anticipating olive oil exports to the UK in the next year or so. Get your orders in now.

Did I mention the alarm bell I bought my old neighbour when I was back in the UK? Basically it was an extra powerful doorbell which supposedly works over quite long distances. I gave the button to her in a little case which she's supposed to wear at all times, and the actual bell is plugged in outside my door.  She was quite excited by this when I gave it to her, and I explained that it was for dire emergencies such as if she fell and couldn't get to her phone. Well I've yet to see her wear it and when I asked she said it was hanging up indoors where it would be safe. She didn't seem to get the idea that it was she who was supposed to be kept safe and not the button but I left it at that.  Well the other day I was sitting in the garden when suddenly the bell rang.  Feeling afraid about what had happened to her I flew round to her house and let myself in, only to discover her sitting happily in the front room, chuckling away to herself.

'I made you come, didn't I,' she laughed, thrilled to bits with how it had worked. I couldn't help but laugh too and was actually very relieved to know it had worked even through the thick walls of her house.  Luckily her son-in-law has warned her if she uses it to get me to go down there for no good reason then one day I might ignore it when it's a real emergency, so hopefully she won't be playing tricks too often!


Wednesday 23rd September, 2015
Category: 2015/09
Tags: birthday observatory Gostilitsa Day garden

Well the birthday was celebrated in great fashion with a slap up meal in Gabrovo (complete with indulgent chocolate and ice-cream pancake for pud) followed by an exploratory trip to find the planetarium. The signs pointed vaguely up from Billa (along with a sign for the 'zoopark') so we set off driving up the road leading into the hills. I've never been up this way before and very soon we were going along a scenic country lane with views across to Shipka and Buzludzha to the right of us.

We passed a sort of open park area with kiddies' playground and a holiday rental house, followed shortly by the zoopark, after which the road ended at a T-junction with no signs in either direction. We backtracked to the park area where we saw some people near their vehicle, and pulled over to ask if they knew where the planterium was. They told us to follow them as it would be easier than trying to explain the way.

Back down the hill we went and after a couple of minutes they pointed out a large building just off the road; this was apparently the planetarium.

The curator came out to meet us and explained that every weekday at 1pm there is a projection show in the planetarium for 4 levs, lasting about 35 minutes. You can arrange to see the show at other times but you need a group of at least 13 people to do this.

I asked if it was ever open at night and he said yes if there was some sort of astrological event. As luck would have it on the morning of September 28th there is to be a total eclipse of the moon, and the observatory will be open for people to view this through one of their telescopes. (Unfortunately the weather forecast is looking like total cloud cover at the moment so this might be a no go).

He then let us go out onto the terrace at the rear of the building where we had a stunning panoramic view across Gabrovo:

Here's the link to their site if anyone's interested.

One of the many jobs on my to do list has been to sort out the wall at the end of the garden.  There's a narrow concrete path which runs along the very bottom of the garden where it meets the neighbour's barn, and since the soil in my garden is higher than this path, the excess rain water drains off down here and then runs along the path and through a hole in the dividing wall. (Since visiting the neighbour I've seen where this mysterious hole goes to: It leads out, via a drain pipe, into her garden. It's from here, she has  recently informed me, that I could dig a trench about a foot or so down and extend the drain pipe right across her garden and out into no man's land and send all my sewage off to soak into the ground out there).

The soil is held back by several huge stone slabs propped along it, but over the years the soil has seeped through the gaps and the slabs have all started to slip down a bit, allowing the soil to erode ever more rapidly.

So the plan has been to dig a small trench at the end of the soil and to stand the stones back in an upright position where they can hold the soil better. It took a couple of afternoons of hacking out the soil, replacing the stones (making sure they overlapped) and then back filling behind them with the removed soil and putting some more hefty slabs on top to help them stay upright.

This is it partway through. Now that it's finished I've planted a shrub, some herbs and lots of strawberry runners in the soil behind the stones which too should help hold the soil together and not let it just wash through into next door's. Just think, in a year or so I could be sitting there eating juicy strawberries whilst my effluence gurgles off through the wall and across the fields. Delightful.

Monday saw the celebration of Gostilitsa Day which falls on the 21st September each year. Tell a lie, the celebrations actually began the day before, starting with an arts and crafts session in the community centre organised by Mariana who used to teach at the village school.  There was an amazing number of children there which was brilliant to see; not just former pupils but also some who live in the village and others who must be here for the weekend visiting relatives.

The tables were covered in all sorts of natural materials such as dried beans, lentils, pine cones, twigs, along with various colouring materials and glues. We were instructed to draw a template of something on our paper, such as a sunflower, and then fill it in using the materials available. Everyone got to work and when I went round to have a quick peek at how the children were getting on I was amazed at how careful and patient they were being, even the tiny ones:

The babas sang some songs partway through and of course the mayor said a few words to a slightly inattentive audience.

In the evening it was party time as DJ Georgo set up his gear in the square, along with some stalls selling toys and a snack bar.  Tables and chairs were put out and people began to gather.  As darkness fell, some of the children kicked off the celebrations with a display of traditional dancing

and then it was time for everyone to sit back, eat, drink and join in with the dancing.

I've never seen so many people in the square before and the atmosphere was lovely.

The next day at about 2pm there was more music, this time courtesy of a guy with a keyboard and a female singer. Safely away on the far side of the square I had time to study the footsteps a little and have a practise go. I think I may actually have mastered one of the dances!

In the evening I was lucky enough to get invited along for dinner at a neighbour's house just along the street.  The long table was set up in the summer dining room and the guests comprised the elderly couple who live there, their son, his wife, her mother and father, four friends and myself and a friend. Nadia had been very busy preparing the food (apparantly not just that evening but the day before and for the day after too) and served us a very tasty cockerel soup (I enquired if it was because said cockerel had been too noisy), banitsa, two kinds of salad, meatballs, stewed pork, and rabbit stuffed with rice. There was rakia and homemade wine to drink, along with beer and soft drinks.

It was a great evening, not just because of the food but the company too as everyone was very friendly and jolly. We went out later in the dark to have a look at all the rabbits in their hutches - apparently they are only a few months old when they're ready for the pot. If I ever get to the stage where I have the time (and know how) to keep some animals for food I think rabbits might be one of the things I could cope with. Nadya, the host, said she'd be more than happy to give me a pregnant doe when the time comes, to get my collection started, though I wonder how many years it would be before I could psyche myself up to killing them.

The final celebration this week has been a late birthday meal out with a couple of friends who are here on holiday. We went into VT to the Shtastlivetsa restaurant in the old part of town. I've been here a few times before and never yet been disappointed with the food, and this occasion was no exception.

I had chicken fillets and haloumi cheese served with a lemony sauce and a side of roasted seasonal vegetables, followed by a desert of pasta stuffed with marscaponi and apple topped with crushed nuts. My, was it gorgeous and incredibly filling as always. Probably just as well I bought that skipping rope at Kaufland earlier this week - I shall need it to work off all the delicious calories.


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