FIRST VIEWING FEBRUARY 2005

                  

Having not bought anything the previous November, I came to Bulgaria again with a different estate agent.  I had chosen to view properties that were structurally sound and only needed cosmetic work although I was prepared for the need for an inside bathroom to be added.  The estate agent asked if I wouldn't mind taking a little detour to see another property which had not yet been added to their website.  As soon as I stepped inside I fell in love with the heavy old oak beams, the steps onto the balcony and the gorgeous view right across to the mountains which were at that time covered in snow.  I still went ahead and saw the other properties I had booked to see, but my heart was already set on this place. 

RENOVATIONS UNDERWAY JULY 2005

                             

By May 2005, the estate agent had prepared an extremely detailed quote for all the work and labour which he considered a good one and e-mailed it to me.  It was incredibly detailed and largely meaningless (what’s a nipple muffle for and what about the first floor fugues??).  Anyway the total was as expected and if it meant I had a habitable house then it was all fine by me.  I gave him the go ahead and work began.  With hindsight I think I would have made one or two extra visits during the process to discuss the layout and possibilities.  There isn't a great deal I would have changed except perhaps the position of the internal stairs and the quality of some of the fittings.  In these pictures the walls are all stripped back for re-pointing, there is new woodwork on the ceilings and eaves and new guttering has been fitted.  They are also digging the septic tank in the garden.  I'm never sure of the difference between a septic tank and a soak-away.  I think whatever I have works by letting the solids settle to the bottom and the liquid gradually filters through (a soak-away then??). Sorry if you're reading this whilst eating!

THE REPAIRS CONTINUE NOVEMBER 2005

                    

By now the internal spiral staircase had been installed and the walls were being plastered.  There was an open fireplace in the corner of the living room and the external walls were all pointed.

TIME TO FURNISH IT JUNE 2006

                       

The house was now pretty much finished so mum and I came out on a shopping trip.  The estate agent took us to look at the house; the first time I had seen it in the flesh since purchasing it over a year ago.  The difference was radical.  I was so taken with all the lovely smooth white walls, the old-fashioned stone floor, the pristine wooden ceilings and the beautiful dark wooden windows and doors.  The workman was varnishing the slats for the balcony when we got there, and the bathroom and kitchen had yet to be fitted.

Stella, from the estate agent, took us around the various shops in Veliko Turnovo buying everything from crockery, mops and buckets up to bedroom furniture, a sofa and a fitted kitchen.  The beds were an experience.  Apparently Bulgarian mattresses have wood on one side which forms the base of the bed.  If you want the fancier double sided mattresses so you can turn them you have to purchase wooden slats for the base of the bed separately.

We hired a car for a few days too and were able to start exploring the area a little. I must admit I was VERY nervous about driving.  I’ve driven in Spain a couple of times and didn’t mind that at all because there were recognisable white lines, junctions that made sense, people who drove reasonably sensibly etc.  Here all I could picture was how the taxi drivers drove and the fact that the roads were just wide expanses of concrete with very few markings.  We decided to go out for a spin that night to get used to the roads.  It was absolutely hammering it down with rain and the wipers were next to useless.  Added to the fact that the headlights didn’t light up much of the road, it was awful.  We ploughed along taking random right turns and never being absolutely certain whether we were going the wrong way up a slip road or not.  I was so glad to be able to pull over at last. 

To be honest, I didn't want to go back to the hotel each night, I wanted to curl up on the bare floor in the house and stay there!

FIRST STAY IN THE HOUSE OCTOBER 2006

                                                                   

October 2006 and it was all finished. Me, mum, Sharon and Kerry all came over to stay in the house for the first time.  Only a couple of weeks before, the estate agent had told me the beds were delayed because of a fire at the factory but luckily they came in time for our visit.  Our suitcases were bulging with household things such as bedding, towels, saucepans, glasses and so on.  Goodness only knows what they thought at the airport. 

This time we hired a car at Sofia airport to drive to the house direct.  The car was very basic – I couldn’t even figure out how to open the driver’s window so on leaving the car park Kerry had to pay the car park attendant through one of the rear windows!  It was raining a lot again and the windows would hardly de-mist at all so it was another hair-raising journey. 

Every time I’d been before, the taxi drivers took a short cut through a gypsy area on the edge of the airport which takes you straight to the main road to Veliko.  We missed this totally and ended up going right into Sofia.  I didn’t have a clue where we were going and just kept driving hoping to see signs for Varna.  After about an hour we did and realised we were on the right track

Most of the journey went okay (apart from not being able to see out the windows) but it was dark by the time we neared Gostilitsa.  I knew there was a right turn to Gostilitsa shortly after we pass Sevlievo but in the dark it all looked different.  Honestly, we must have taken about 10 right turns – all of them wrong ones.  Stella, the estate agent,  kept phoning to ask where we were because we were so late.  Eventually she figured out where we were and told us which turning to take, and yayyyyy it was the right one!!  We got to the house at about 9.30pm – about 3 hours late! Nightmare.  The chief builder was there with Stella and showed us how to turn the electric and water on and off at the mains and how to work the chimney vent.  As soon as they left it was time for a healthy English fry up and a cuppa… AHHHH!  The furniture was all there so it was a case of ripping packages open and making up beds quickly so we could go to sleep.

 I'll never forget that first night though, laying on the sofa bed looking up at the big dark beams, almost like being on some Viking ship.  Just laying there with a big cheesy grin because it was all real.

WORKING ON THE OUTBUILDINGS SUMMER 2012

         

Having moved over here permanently at the end of July 2012 I began the process of renovating the outbuildings and tackling the garden.  First were the two barns.  The end one was re-roofed and had a concrete floor to be used as a wood store for drying the wood.  The second barn was again re-roofed and had a concrete floor but was also enclosed and had a water supply and drainage installed to use more as a workshop or even somewhere to sleep out in the heat of summer.  Along the patio wall and in front of the barns is a concrete path to make it easy to barrow things around, and a set of steps was built leading down from the patio to the barns.  Electric lighting was installed in all the outbuildings and several sockets added.

REBUILDING THE GARDEN WALL AND GARAGE, PORCH ROOF EXTENSION, 2013

After the heat of last summer I really wanted to increase the shaded area immediately outside the house and so arranged to have a roof extension added to the balcony floor. The main frame is all wood and firmly bolted onto the edge of the balcony, and supported by the beam uprights. This was no mean feat as the balcony floor has a remarkable curve to it, but the guys overcame this obstacle and provided me with a great summer outdoor area. I have my dining table and chairs out here all the time now, and in summer the electric oven comes out too so that I can cook here without getting the house baking hot. In winter it means the wood stored directly outside the door is kept nice and dry and I can shelter some of the more delicate plants under here too.

  

The old garage had a flat roof which was decidedly concave, so there was no way I would risk parking the car in there. In fact I used to worry that one day it would collapse whilst the old neighbour was using it as a shortcut through to my place, so I decided to have the entire thing knocked down, salvaging as many bricks as possible and then rebuilding from scratch. It was quite a project and including the addition of electrical wiring and guttering, took over a year to complete, but the end result is great. I have a garage 4m x 6m with lighting and sockets, and at the side is a covered walkway leading to a garden gate for access to the side street. As with all projects it had its hiccups, one being the slope on the side path was initially not away from the garage enough, and after torrential rain the garage became a huge puddle. But the guys came back, re-concreted the path, and now it all stays dry even in the worst weather. Being impatient I actually put the wooden door leading to the garden path on myself though to my credit it fits the gap and stays shut when it's supposed to!

     

On looking through my photos I can't find one of the finished garage, but suffice to say it's all now rendered, wood-stained and painted white in the relevant places!

The final major thing this year was to have the garden wall rebuilt and wooden fencing put along the top to make it a bit more private. Because a lot of the old stones were quite rounded I had to pay for quite a bit of stone but the finished wall (which took them about three weeks from demolition to completion) is perfectly straight and solid, and the wooden fence along the top, made by a carpenter, finishes it off lovely,

 

ROOF EXTENSION OVER THE BALCONY, SUMMER 2014

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NEW KITCHEN WORKTOP AND SINK, SUMMER 2015

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FRENCH DRAIN, SUMMER 2016

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