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
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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

Monday 29th April, 2013
Category: 2013/04
Tags: porch extension garage weather wedding cold soup


The glorious weather continues unabated with temperatures reaching the 30s today.  I've been waking up quite early (for me) around 7am and heading out into the garden to do some weeding etc before it gets too hot.  The clay oven continues to develop tiny cracks as it dries and must now be about two feet thick due to the amount of extra clay wodged all over it.  It's gone from being a little diversion to a full blown battle as each day I remove the cardboard shielding it from the sun and begin scrubbing away at the little cracks.  The likelihood of it ever being used for actual cooking is now dwindling and I'll be happy if I just end up with a dome that doesn't crumble to pieces.  Thankfully the other people who have been working on various things are far more skilled at what they do!

The porch extension is now all but complete and just needs some ridge tiles and the guttering adding.  I've been practically living under it this past week, staying out until bedtime.  I even made a very wobbly table to put the laptop on so I can sit and watch TV while eating dinner.  (I'm currently working my way through the Little House on the Prairie TV episodes - nothing like ending the day with a bucket of feel good slush.

  Beginning to add the roof beams.

  Now the tiles

  Beautiful shady area all stained and varnished.

Next winter I can store some of the logs between the two pillars at the end where they will not only stay dry but will also create a wind break at that end.  Once the windows have had the plaster re-done around them I can bring the table and chairs outside and basically lounge my life away :)

The garage too is rapidly taking shape and now has the beams for the roof in place:

  Beginning the framework

  Treated beams - all my own work!

There have been a few extras thrown in along the way such as a side path and gate to the lane and the decision to extend the roof to cover the path but I'm still confident at getting it all finished for between 6000 and 7000 levs.

One evening when I was round at Gancho's, Bobi put on her wedding video to show.  It was interesting seeing some of the marked differences in traditions between the Bulgarian wedding and what I know of UK weddings.  The groom goes to where the bride is dressed for the wedding and there is a mock fight between the groom and the bride's protectors (male friends or brothers) whereupon the groom bribes his way in with two lev notes.  There's lots of music and toasting with drinks at various points and then when the bride and groom finally leave the house to go the wedding itself, a bowl of flowers is placed on the floor. The bride takes the flowers and throws them in front and then kicks the bowl of water over.  I saw this same thing happen in a different video too when everyone graduated from high school.  Maybe it signifies a breaking from the past and entering a new phase of life.  The wedding ceremony itself was recognisable with vows and rings etc.  The couple then gave little gifts to everyone present and the day continued until late into the night with drinking, singing and dancing.  There was a lot more to it, but these are just some of the things that struck me.

Gancho lent me a very natty device for bundling up stacks of kindling:

  You place a huge heap of twigs between the triangular pieces of metal and then flip the curved bar across.  That pins all the twigs tightly together while you tie a piece of string around them.  The result:

  A neat stash of little twigs ready for next winter.
Baba Ivanka has been giving me a lot of salad stuff lately; lettuces, spring onions and little thin garlic onions.  Like the other Bulgarians she insists that salad should only be accompanied by rakia - the national drink guaranteed to take the skin off your tongue.  I told her that unfortunately I didn't like rakia upon which she presented me with this:
  A hideous jug full of the stuff.  Just one sniff nearly took my head off, so I'm afraid this is likely to only be used as a serious drain cleaner.
The elections are coming soon and the main parties are campaigning and slandering in earnest.  I was presented the other day with a selection of GERB goodies: Sweets and boxes of matches.
  I intend to remain neutral as I scoff the sweeties.
And finally, I got the chance to sample tarator a few days ago.  Tarator is a cold soup made from natural yoghurt, grated cucumber, oil and garlic.  It was actually more tasty than it might sound and I can imagine it being very refreshing on a really hot day.  To be honest though the big bowl full was a bit too much for me.  Next time, smaller portions.
Sunday 21st April, 2013
Category: 2013/04
Tags: garage patio

Work has begun in earnest this week on the garage and the extension on the balcony, so here's a quick run through of the work so far:

 Gancho up on the garage roof with a huge pneumatic drill and NO safety gear!  In the end it turned out the roof was quite well stuck together with the metal grids inside it but I was still horrified to see first Peter standing half inside the garage knocking bricks out with a hammer and now Gancho drilling away up there, especially when he got right near the edge of the garage and was still chopping chunks off.

 The garage from the street as demolition begins.

 And the walls come a-tumbling down.  The only casualty in the end were my ladders which got hit by a chunk of wall and got a bit mangled.

  After only a couple of days the entire thing was reduced to rubble.  The bricks were moved to one side to try and salvage as many as possible to re-use and the rest smashed up to get the old metal out for scrap (at 35 stotinkis a kilo apparently).

  Then came the digger.  It was quite handy actually that there had been a problem with the water mains that day and they were in the area trying to find the source of the problem in the pipe lines.  Since Peter works for the water company he managed to divert the digger for an hour so I only had to pay for the use of the vehicle and not for bringing it all the way here as well, saying 100 levs.  Apologies to everyone who had to wait an extra hour for their water supply to be reconnected though :)

  Dumping the rubble onto the truck.  The big tree in the foreground has been a bit of a bone of contention.  All the Bulgarians maintain that the roots will soon mess up the garage floor, that they will creep out further and demolish my house and that the whole tree is generally a big nuisance and should be removed.  My point of view is that it's a tree!  A lovely old tree that has woodpeckers and walnuts.  Therefore the tree stays, for the time being.  I noticed that both the digger and later the cement lorry gave it a few secret nudges now and then but the tree and I won through and it remains there.  Of course the minute I see my garage floor cracking I'll take a chain saw to it myself!

  Here is the said cement lorry.  He arrived over half an hour early and the ground wasn't even ready so poor Gancho and Peter had to dash around like crazy laying out the metal grids and making sure everything was level.  The lorry itself couldn't manoeuvre properly (the tree was blamed again for this!) and this picture shows the closest he could get to the garage base.  Engines on, chute ready, down comes the cement...

   ...and off snaps the chute dumping cement all over the place.  This caused horrendous problems.  They now had to put a load of metal sheeting in the streets to pour the cement onto and then spend a good 2 or 3 days barrowing it into the garage.  I've been told they're never going to use this cement firm again.

  Friday the second big project began and that's the extension onto the balcony to make a much bigger shaded area on the patio.  This will be superb when it's finished because it will create an area that's not only shady but nice and dry too, so I can safely have a table and chairs out there without having to cover it up all the time, and also my stash of winter wood will fit very well up on end.  This is Dave and Keith busy fixing the support beams together and shaping the edges.

   And now the whole thing begins to be assembled beginning with the big panel of wood on the edge of the balcony which will support the roof timbers.

So, busy busy time but very VERY exciting.  And what have I been doing?  Well, my job has been to paint all the garage timbers with bochemit and also some grund to give a good protection against woodworm, mould, damp etc and to hack up the branches and small shrubs which were chopped down near the garage.  Phew, exhausted!


Thursday 18th April, 2013
Category: 2013/04
Tags: bank

Last Friday I went into the bank in Gabrovo to draw some money from my interest account only to be told that there is a 0.4% charge for this.  I wrinkled my nose, as you do, and she went on to explain about my different accounts.  The high interest one (which I was trying to use) incurs the charge.  The ordinary account, where all my interest gets sent automatically, does not however, and so she suggested that she transfer money from the interest account into the ordinary one and then I can withdraw it for free.  Job done, I thought, at which point one of the senior colleagues wandered over.

"You don't live in Gabrovo, do you," she asked.  "If you had internet banking you wouldn't need to come to town every time you need money."

Hmm, this is true.  And with internet banking there's also the future possibility that I can use it for money transfers and paying bills but, most importantly for now, I could transfer money between accounts as and when I wish and then withdraw it for free.  Okay, show me where to sign up.

It cost me 30 levs (the free internet banking only allows you to check your accounts and not move money) and at the same time I applied for a debit card which I can use at the ATM to withdraw up to 1600 levs a day.  I need to check if this is charge free at all ATMs or only certain ones.  The debit card will be ready for collection in a couple of weeks but the internet banking was sorted sooner.  I was given a sealed password, and ID number and a little plastic code generator (similar to the device I use with Nat West for transferring money).  I was also given a set of instructions for activating the account.  The only problem was the instructions were all in Bulgarian.  Very kindly though, the bank woman gave me her mobile number and told me to phone her if I had any problems.  I was told to wait a few days for the account information to be set up.

Sure enough on Tuesday I received a phone call.  There was momentary panic when I saw it was an unknown Bulgarian number calling me but I hit answer and murmured 'allo?'  The only part of the reply I understood was that the person was from Alpha Bank, so after his spiel I had to admit I was very sorry but I hardly understood any of what he was saying.  He apologised profusely, in English, and went on to say that this was just to ask a few security questions before activating the web banking just to be sure it was definitely me.  This took a matter of seconds and 15 minutes later my account was active.

When I logged on I found that immediately you could opt for the instructions in English so I was able to follow everything unaided.  Minutes later I was able to see all of my accounts and the amounts in them.  So, I just need to wait now for my debit card and then spend, spend, spend!

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