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 April, 2014
Category: 2014/04
Tags: karma

Do you remember that story telling game we used to play as kids?  Someone would begin a story and then each new sentence had to begin with 'fortunately' and 'unfortunately' alternately.  For example: I went for a walk today.  Fortunately I had my umbrella with me. Unfortunately it had a huge hole in it and when the rain fell I got soaked.  Fortunately I saw a house nearby... and so on.  Well today has felt like a living example of that game.  Everything that happened alternated between good and bad - I swear, Karma was having a struggle keeping my world in balance.

It began when I awoke with an awful headache.  Fortunately I had some aspirins to hand... unfortunately they did sod all to clear the pain... no I won't continue in game mode!  I had my language lesson and then thought I'd wait a while for the milkman to come.  He usually comes on Monday but failed to show yesterday (unless he came and I just never heard him) so I thought maybe he'd arrive today.  No such luck.  I waited till 10.30 and then figured I'd better head off to Gabrovo as I'd got quite a few things to get done today.

In town I parked up in the Lidl car park near the bus station and walked the short distance to the decorating shop to buy supplies for some work I'm having done.  As I was near the bus station I thought I'd get my bus ticket ready for a planned journey two weeks today.  It was not to be.  Apparently you can only purchase tickets up to one week in advance, so I'll have to try again later or take a chance and buy the ticket on the day.

Next it was further into town to go to the bank, the hairdressers, pay the internet etc.  I tried one car park but it was full so back tracked a little to another one further away.  As I was exiting the first car park I became aware of a nasty clonking sound every time I turned the steering wheel.  Hmm, that's not good.  I made it slowly to the car park and got out to examine the wheel where the noise was coming from and discovered to my horror that one of the wheel nuts had come off completely and a second one was working its way loose!  I'd come pretty close to enacting the song 'Three Wheels On My Wagon'!  I removed the loose nut and went off in search of an auto parts place to hopefully buy another.  The first shop didn't have the model I needed but the second shop had one that was very similar which they said should be compatible.  With everything crossed I went back to the car and yes it fitted! Having done this I then walked into town to continue with my to do list.

I'd planned to go to the hairdressers but she had no appointments until 3.30pm (over 2 hours away) so I figured I'd get everything else done first and go back there later.  At the internet place I was happy to discover I didn't have to pay for the month when I wasn't using the internet at all which saved some money.  Now it was back to the car to go to another part of town.

Unfortunately (oops, I said no games didn't I) as I drove out of the parking bay the clonk was still audible. Back into the bay again and to re-examine the wheel whereupon I discovered that if I pushed it, it moved and made the clonk.  Of course the car park was completely devoid of men so I set about jacking up the car to hopefully realign the entire wheel.  Ohhh what a mucky horrible stressy job that was!  I've never changed a tyre in my life though thank God Vlado (that's Vlado as in one of the local lads, not an actual God named Vlado) let me practise fitting the jack a couple of years ago when he changed my winter tyres over, so at least I knew where it was supposed to go.  It took ages to do but I eventually got the wheel on and without noises this time as I drove off.  Of course I was still terrified I'd not done it right and that the wheel would fall off so I drove at two miles an hour up the road to the nearest tyre repair place and asked the nice man to check what I'd done.  He happily sped off up the road in the car leaving me wondering if I should have warned him of the possible danger he was in, and worrying even more about his safety when minutes passed and he still didn't return. But then he arrived, still in one piece and announced that everything was okay.

I cautiously headed to the builder's yard to order the sheets of roofing metal I wanted only to discover they didn't do the colour I was hoping for despite it being clearly on display at the entrance.  A minor set back as the colour of the roof is not a major priority so long as it functions, so after some deliberation I chose one of the colours they did have and paid up.

The final pre-hairdressing chore was to do some grocery shopping so I went to Kaufland and parked at the far end, planning to have a bit of a breather before shopping.  How extraordinary I chose to park right next to a couple of friends even though I had no idea the vehicle was theirs! I began telling them of the car wheel saga and the hubby, who is very knowledgeable about vehicles, offered to take a look just for my peace of mind.  It didn't take him long to diagnose that the clonking was nothing to do with the wheel (which I'd fitted correctly) but the suspension moving about.  Ugggh!  Didn't I just pay a fortune to get all that fixed back in February?  Since the mechanic who did the work was here in Gabrovo I decided to ignore my complete inability to communicate with him about cars and drive there anyway to show him the defect.

Clonk clonk clonk up the road which was full of the most awful road works and potholes imaginable.  I confess I was in full on curse mode by then, proclaiming to the world in general that the entire country was coming apart at the seams, literally, and taking my car with it!  I arrived at the mechanic's, dumped the car in the middle of the road and waited for him to finish what he was doing.  Do you remember me?  I asked.  His eye twitched a little as he nodded and said Ford Fiesta.  Taking him out to the car I pointed to the wobbly bit that was making the noise and prompted him to push the wheel and hear it for himself.  He told me to drive the car into the workshop area where thankfully he set to with spanners and wrenches and tightened everything up.  No more clonks!! Oh deep joy.

Back to the hairdressers where I literally sagged against the sink as she washed my hair, wishing I could be soothed by the gentle massaging and lovely warm water for several hours rather than minutes.  I made her laugh when I announced in Bulgarian that I wanted the style to look 'wild' and then again at the end when I told her I felt very 'cool' now (as in with it).

Grocery shopping was swiftly taken care off and then it was home at long last where fortunately I could have a humungous cup of tea, beans and cheese on toast and watch someone go home with next to nothing on the Bulgarian version of Deal Or No Deal.  What a day!

Friday 25th April, 2014
Category: 2014/04
Tags: new friends garden veggies weather

Time just zooms by here, I can't believe it's already a week since we were getting ready for Easter.  The weather has been very mixed; one day sultry and sunny, the next a complete deluge of rain again.  The veggie patch has had some casualties, namely all the little french bean seedlings :(  Within a couple of days of last week's monsoon all the little leaves had wilted and turned yellow.  I've gone along the row and planted more seeds directly in the soil and now have everything crossed that they germinate.  Everything else doesn't look too bad, the most successful item being the lettuces which somehow seem to replenish themselves overnight no matter how many I try to eat during the day:

 Full sized lettuces...

 ... hundreds of developing lettuces...

 ... and if that's not enough, a bed overflowing with seedlings!

I'm considering starting a B & B for rabbits.

Here's a quick tour of the other veggies so far:



​ Radishes


All the courgettes and cucumbers are still okay though I've taken the precaution of shoving a few more cucumber seeds into the soil just in case, the runner beans are growing, all the onions are sprouting merrily and I've planted corn on the cob seeds.  

Last year the butternut squashes completely overran the veggie patch so this year I've cleared a little space for them at the bottom of the garden:

The weed roll fabric is just so I can remember where the squash was planted when the surrounding garden is ten feet high in nettles.  As I was clearing the soil here I came across a little heap of huge fat white grubs nestled in the soil. They made me think of witchetty grubs but I didn't do my own bush tucker trial with them. Several mysterious holes have also been appearing round the garden and I'm not sure if they're mice or snakes:

Maybe I should invest in some sort of remote camera and do my own nature watch program - on second thoughts it would probably turn into a screaming remake of the Blair Witch Project.

The final bit of garden work this week has been levelling a little area where the paddly pool will go.  I've put some more weed roll down (I should have shares in the manufacturing company) and the plan is to put a layer of sand on top of this to make it perfectly level and then protect it with the sheet that goes under the pool.  I have visions of lounging in the cooling water eating ice creams while the 40 degree August heat blazes around me.  A girl can dream.

My favourite part of the garden though has to be the side garden where the number of herbs is growing steadily along with all the flowers I've planted:

I probably won't get around to using them a whole lot in cooking but I just love pinching little sprigs now and then and smelling the different aromas.

This week I had the opportunity to spend time with another close neighbour (not Bulgarian this time) and discovered we have a remarkable number of interests in common.  How amazing is that! I'm really hoping the friendship blossoms as, beautiful though it is, the pleasures of Bulgaria are so much nicer when you have friends to share them with.

Friday 18th April, 2014
Category: 2014/04
Tags: rain Easter egg decorating storks

The horrible cold wet weather continues and yesterday there was quite a storm in the afternoon during which it absolutely pelted down with rain.  The street outside became like a little river and the poor garden was temporarily covered in giant puddles:

Thankfully after the rain stopped the water drained away fairly quickly, but it isn't doing much for my little seedlings which seem to have all halted their development.  The forecast is for the weather to warm up significantly from Monday onwards so hopefully that will get them all wriggling their little roots in delight and shooting up green and strong again.

It was about an hour before the storm that I had the pleasure of seeing a group of five storks flying directly over the house.  Perhaps they knew the monsoon was on its way and were headed to higher ground for safety.  They flap their wings quite slowly and with their long necks and legs they look quite prehistoric as they circled across the sky.  Jurassic Park IV:

It's Easter here this weekend, for once east meets west and all branches of Christianity are celebrating at the same time.  I thought that this year I'd have a go at making hot cross buns and bring a bit of Blighty to the neighbourhood.  I found a straightforward recipe on the BBC Good Food website and set about making them. Initially the mixture was horrendously sticky and instead of kneading it as instructed I was left wearing a pair of dough gloves.  I added a few more handfuls of flour though and the gloopy mess became more manageable.  With their crosses piped on and baked to a golden brown and then glazed with melted jam (courtesy of the Skalsko tombola some weeks ago) the results not only looked like hot cross buns but actually tasted pretty good too.  I have amazed myself!

Monday is the Easter party in the community centre so I'm going to make some more for the locals to try.  Fingers crossed they turn out as good as the first lot.

The preparations for Easter weekend began yesterday when we had an egg decorating session in the village.  It's tradition in Bulgaria to decorate boiled eggs and then on Easter Day you tap them against someone else's and whoever's egg remains uncracked will have good fortune during the year.  The eggs aren't wasted because after the tapping you get to eat them.  

When we arrived there was a whole heap of eggs already boiled and plenty more on the go. Natasha, who works at the community centre, had put out different materials for decorating eggs and the first one we did was using onion skins.  You cut up the onion skins into tiny pieces and put an unboiled egg into an old pair of tights wrapped in these skins.  Tie the egg up tightly and then put it to boil for a good 10 minutes or more.

Whilst the onion eggs were boiling, the traditional first egg was dyed red:

The red symbolises the blood of Christ and the hard shell represents the sealed tomb.  (The tapping of the eggs to crack them represents the opening of the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead).  There is also a story that after the resurrexion, Mary Magdalene went to see the Roman Emperor Tiberius.  Everyone was supposed to bring him a gift and most came with expensive luxury items but Mary, being poor, could only  present him with an egg whilst saying Christ has risen.  The emperor shook his head in disbelief.  Why, someone can no more rise from the dead than that egg can turn red, he said, whereupon the egg did just that before his very eyes.

Our red egg was taken to each person in turn and used to draw a little cross on our foreheads accompanied by the invocation to have a long and healthy life.

We all then got stuck into decorating the rest of the eggs.  Some used leaves to mask areas of the eggs before dipping them into dyes whilst others put dots of different coloured dyes onto cotton wool and wrapped the egg in it for a mottled effect:


I went a bit mad with the dyes on my first go and ended up smothering the egg totally but the next one turned out better.  I'd brought along some paints and stickers and some of the eggs were further adorned with these.  My favourites though were the ones boiling in onion skins. After they'd been boiling for a while they were then left to soak, still wrapped, in the pots of dye.  After this was done and they were unwrapped they had the most gorgeous mosaic effect on them.

Once all the eggs were coloured and dried we used a soft cloth and some lard to give them all a polish:

The eggs were all placed on a tray with some cranesbill (здравец) for decoration.  Don't they look pretty?

On Monday we'll tap them at our village Easter party and eat them along with the traditional Easter bread called kozunak and hopefully some hot cross buns!


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