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 November, 2016
Category: 2016/11
Tags: dogs vet weather walks TV

The weather has become Novembery this week with cold nights and damp foggy days, a time for lighting the fire first thing in the morning, keeping a good stack of logs outside the door and swapping t-shirts for thermals and long socks. For a few days anyway.  The beauty of Bulgaria is that after maybe a week of greyness the sun will once more burst through, and it will feel like summer again with intense blue skies and bright rays warming your face.

My garden clearly thinks it's still summer judging by the number of flowers determined to keep blooming, including a delphinium that suddenly flowered again.

I took the dogs for a walk this morning across the fields and saw this rather spooky looking tree:

Gostilitsa or Sleepy Hollow?

Bella was taken to the vet last Friday to be spayed. She's still pretty nervous of people she doesn't know, and growled a bit when she saw the vet (or maybe Alfie had warned her that trips in the car are never for anything good). Whilst we were waiting for the anaesthetic to start kicking in the vet mentioned that her leg could probably be fixed by re-breaking it and pinning it, though it would need to be done at his Sevlievo practice where he has better facilities. What might that cost? I asked. It's quite expensive, he replied, as I braced myself for a bill of thousands of leva, about 200 leva. I'm still wondering if he actually meant 2000, but if he can really do it for a couple of hundred then that would be amazing.

Of course after Friday he might not want anything to do with Bella ever again. When I returned to collect her she'd already pretty much come round fully and was standing on the floor. The vet said he'd carry her back to the car before we settled the bill, and I led the way opening doors for him. Just as we got to the car Bella decided she'd had enough of this stranger who was holding her and suddenly took a massive snap at his hand, sinking her teeth in pretty deep. Not surprisingly he dropped her on the floor and went in to see to his hand which was pouring blood. I bundled Bella into the car and went in to try and appease a very annoyed vet who was trying to stem the flow of blood with dozens of swabs. After offering to take him to hospital I paid up and sidled away in embarrassment.

This is Bella back home. By the next day she seemed fully recovered (maybe the taste of blood perked her up) and was keen to get back out in the garden and of course to make up for the lack of food the day before.

Today I popped into the vet with a box of fancy biscuits and a card by way of apology. He wasn't there but the assistant knew all about the injury. Apparently he's struggled to do injections all week because of the pain in his thumb. Hopefully he'll forgive Bella - we'll find out this week when I take her down for her vaccinations. Might need to borrow a muzzle!

The burgeoning dog walking group had another outing last week, quite a long walk this time - about 12km - from Gostilitsa to Burya along the ridge and back via the lake path. It was a nice sunny day though nippy towards the end as the sun began to set. The best bit for the dogs seems to be the huge puddles:

I don't mind if the weather stays a bit murky for a while because it gives me an excuse to play with my lovely new TV box which came this week. It's one of those things pre-loaded with thousands of films, box-sets, music etc., as well as giving access to live TV channels. I'm completely in love with it! Now I can watch whatever I want on the TV screen without needing to have the laptop on. Bring on the telly addiction.

Sunday 13th November, 2016
Category: 2016/11
Tags: walking dogs dentist kennel stadium Chinese meal

There have been several exciting developments lately one of which may result in my having a new neighbour, well, next door but one. This is great news as normally the properties higher up the village are the more popular ones because of their panoramic views, so to have a little injection of new life down at the lower end of the village (which even as I write makes me think I'm implying it's on the wrong side of the tracks!) will be brilliant. Fingers crossed that everything goes ahead successfully - or thumbs pressed since we're in Bulgaria (that's what they say here instead of fingers crossed).

I noticed the other day some considerable chain-sawing noises going on in the vicinity and presumed someone was having a major tidy up on their property, but it turns out that it might have been strimmers I heard, as I discovered when I got the low down on village developments whilst at the dentist. I shall have to backtrack a bit otherwise the tale will come out in completely the wrong order which is how my brain often works.

I have long since yearned to visit one of the Chinese restaurants which we have in the major towns, and never quite managed it till now. I think the last attempt was when it was the Chinese New Year celebration in VT earlier this year but the Chinese restaurant turned out to be shut because it was Sunday. Anyway, a friend and I headed off to one of the ones in Gabrovo on Thursday. Would you believe it just as we were on our way I happened to notice that the crown on one of my front teeth felt a bit wobbly. Arrrggh! Typical, just as I'm heading off to eat. The Chinese meal was gorgeous and HUGE. We had fried dumplings and battered mushrooms for starters and then chicken with vegetables, chicken in lemon sauce, fried rice with veg and fried rice with ham and veg. I couldn't manage anywhere near all of it so brought home a big carton of leftovers which I've made into two portions in the freezer. Yummy!

So, now we head off to the dentist part of the story. Having got the wobbly crown I went into Dryanovo the next day to see the dentist at the hospital, and to arrange to get Bella the dog spayed. I had to wait till around noon because I didn't have an appointment, but can you imagine the luxury of getting to see a dentist the same day! No more planning toothache three weeks in advance. Dr Yordanov soon knocked the loose crown off (he had to use a little hammer, and said that if that didn't work I'd have to go home and eat toffees to get the tooth off) then cleaned it all up and stuck it back in with fresh glue. He actually suggested a bridge would be a better and stronger solution rather than crowns so I'll keep that in mind as a back up plan when the tooth gets wobbly again.

Well, whilst waiting for the dentist I saw a friend from the community centre and gave her a lift home to save her waiting around. And it was while driving back to the village that I discovered the source of all the chain sawing and strimming. Apparently Nadya the mayor has organised a major clean up of the stadium area which I must admit has deteriorated quite a lot even in the years I've been coming here. When I first bought the house, the stadium was an area of very smooth flat grass, and you could still make out the concrete borders which must have once marked running tracks and other sports areas. But in recent years lots of little scrubby shrubs have begun sprouting up, the trees at the edge have spread and large sections of the boundary wall have begun to crumble.

I asked why it was being tidied up and she told me that there's a possibility it may get used for some big sporting events, like the Milan football camp which was held in Dryanovo during the summer. How brilliant would it be if this huge old stadium area had new life breathed into it and once more saw sporting action. I have dreams that the place may actually get transformed in the coming years if sports groups start to use it, so here are some pictures of what it looks like now:

I believe these were the changing rooms, or maybe where equipment was stored.

This area, mostly hidden by shrubs now, was where awards were presented.

These are the concrete bases of the seats.

The entrance to the seating area.

And finally a little shot to give an idea of the extent of the area.

I can't wait for the day when I post a photo of an event taking place here.

This time of year is ideal for walking as it's not too hot, so on Wednesday a small group of us went for a little dog walk. There were four dogs altogether who were all terribly excited at first and desperate to sort out their pecking order, but once they were off their leads they soon settled down and enjoyed the walk. We did the river walk again - across the fields to the Yantra river, along the banks for a while and then up to the ridge and back to the village. Some of the dogs (Alfie included) enjoyed getting as dirty as possible and wallowing in the huge expanses of deep mud we came across now and then, but everyone had a good time. The plan is to gradually introduce more dogs to each other so that owners and hounds can enjoy local walks together through the cooler months.

With the colder weather approaching it was time to make a second kennel so that Bella and Alfie have a warm shelter each. Luckily some lovely friends in Burya had a whole pile of scrap wood in their shed which I was able to help myself to, and had a merry afternoon sawing and hammering to create another little animal den, complete with insulated walls and cosy bedding. I think the two dogs swap around as to which kennel they sleep in, but here they are with Alfie in the new one and Bella in the old one:

Bella looks a bit worried. Maybe that's why she's resting her chin on the little shark toy for protection!




Sunday 6th November, 2016
Category: 2016/11
Tags: weather Uzana hiking recipe cooking

We've been enjoying some amazing weather lately with clear blue skies and temperatures which have you reaching for the shorts and t-shirt again. On Wednesday some friends and I took advantage of the sunshine and headed off to Uzana for a spot of hiking.

For anyone not familiar with the area, Uzana is situated to the south-west of Gabrovo and is mostly known as a small winter ski resort with a range of ski runs and hotels. It's also, however, a great base for hiking into the Stara Planina mountain range, with hundreds of trails criss-crossing the forests and extending up onto the ridge which runs the full length of the mountain range.

We stopped off first at one of the hotels there and had a coffee on one of the terraces which had phenomenal panoramic views to the north.

Apparently they also do good meals there so I'll definitely be heading back some time. Who wouldn't want to feast their eyes on such a vista whilst filling their belly with great food!

After coffee we drove on a bit further before parking up and heading into the forest on our walk. Surprisingly there were sprinklings of snow around the trees and it felt quite chilly in the shade, but as soon as we stepped out into the sun the gorgeous heat kicked in big time.

We climbed up steadily onto a small peak from where we could see all across the plains to the south with Kazanluk, the golden dome at Shipka and even the Rhodope mountains away in the distance all clearly visible. It was awe inspiring to stand there and gaze all around - it felt like you could see all of Bulgaria from up there. I even convinced myself I could see Gostilitsa!

Well, it was the right direction anyway.

We picnicked up on the top, sitting on the sheltered side of the hill before making our way back down. So lucky to be living somewhere with such glorious unspoilt nature literally on the doorstep.

Since getting the chest freezer a couple of years ago it's been very easy to harvest veggies and just wack them straight in there rather than trying to can things, but something I've been wanting to have a go at is what they call 'turshia' here. It's a lightly pickled jar of crispy vegetables and makes a great refreshing salad to nibble at with some meat and fresh baked bread in winter. There are hundreds of recipes on the internet but I chose to ask a Bulgarian friend for her instructions.

For one litre jars you add a tablespoon of salt, four of sugar, four of vinegar and two crushed aspirins. Then pile in your chopped veggies (any from cauliflower, bell peppers, carrots, cabbage and green tomatoes). Add a choice of herbs (suggestions are red pepper, garlic, dill and allspice) and then fill the jars with cold water. Put on the lids and turn the jar upside down. Every day for a week you turn the jar the other way, then I think leave it for at least a month in a cool place. I made four jars (mine were half litre ones so I halved all the ingredients) so it will be interesting to sample them near Christmas. As usual I'll start with a tiny spoonful and see if I survive before munching a bigger portion.

Whilst we're on the subject of food, we had a couple in the village on Saturday selling products from the UK. Their prices were pretty reasonable (some UK food sellers have crazy prices like £10 for one teabag) and they had a big range of stuff. I treated myself to a couple of packs of bacon, a big bag of black pudding slices and the last pack of malt loaf (apparently it was the big seller of the day). I noticed they had things like Heinz salad cream and mint sauce so even less for me to fill my suiitcase with whenever I go to the UK. Tonight I treated myself to a huge fry up complete with homemade chips using my new chip basket. Scrummy!

Despite the beautiful weather it's undeniably autumn out there and the leaves are all falling fast. I spent a few hours sweeping them up from the two streets by my house and bringing them into the garden to use as mulch. Some have gone on the paths between the raised beds but the rest are stashed in the wigwam where they can slowly rot down and give all the earthworms a delicious feast. Alfie has enjoyed launching himself in there now and then and crunching round and round.

Good thing he's got white fur or I might never find him!


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