Settling In

It’s been over a week since my last post, partly because we have been busy but mostly due to problems with the dreaded Internet, or lack of ! But we are now connected so I thought I’d best write this blog just in case we loose connection again.
Yet again we have had a rather busy and full week. Last Saturday and Sunday we cleared the living room, filled all the cracks and painted the walls. We laid the wood effect lino that we had purchased on Friday, hung curtains and arranged all the furniture, including the ones we had recycled and finally we had a lovely, comfortable living room. And even though we say so ourselves, it turned out great, considering its been done on a shoestring budget. Now it’s not to everyone’s taste, there are no straight lines, the windows and doors need painting, but it’s ‘rustic’ and homely and will do us for now.
Monday, back into Vidin to sort out our mobile phone as we were having problems. We had to hang around for a few hours while the phone company tried to fix the issue so we went for a coffee. We were both people watching when a couple came and sat at the table next to us, turns out they were English. I noticed they had been given a large coffee unlike the small expresso I had been given, so I decided to ask them what you had to ask for to get a large one. Turned out I only needed to say cino ( as in cappuccino ), if only I knew it was that easy !! After the introductions, They asked us to join them. They have been living in Bulgaria for 4 years, so were happy to give us advice or show us where to get certain things from. We spent a couple of hours chatting and we enjoyed the company immensely. To top it all off they offered us their old washing machine as they had bought a new one. Even though we offered to pay them, they refused to take anything. We couldn’t believe how perfect strangers could be so generous. Turns out they only live 20 minutes away from us so we arranged to collect the machine on Friday. Phone eventually sorted so returned home to finish a few odds and sods in our living room.
Tuesday, as I mentioned previously, we took a day off and visited Rabisha Lake. It was so nice to have a break, relax and enjoy the great outdoors. When we returned home in the afternoon the weather had turned. The sky’s were getting darker so we thought it best to get the buckets filled ready for a bath before the heavens opened. After boiling 5 kettles of water I went for a bath, by this time it was thundering and lightning, quite scary as it was so loud and a bit too close for comfort. I was just getting out the bath when I heard Andy calling me to hurry as we were flooding !! At first I thought it might have been the roof leaking but it was the front double doors. It was raining so hard that the water was gushing under the door into our newly done living room! I grabbed every towel I could while Andy rushed to get all the electric wires off the floor. Took a few minutes till we finally managed to block the leak and dry the floor. Just done in time before the electric went off but by the time I’d lit all the candles, the electric was back on again. In a way it was a relief that only the door leaked and not the roof. The storm also blew our router up so yet again no Internet !
Wednesday was back to Vidin to pick up Andys residency card and for me to apply for mine, plus open another bank account and get a replacement router. Plamen, yet again, was at hand to help us. He also took us to look at some wood burners and electric cookers. We ended up buying a Siemens cooker, secondhand reconditioned, immaculate inside and out and only cost 240 Levs, a real bargain.
Thursday ,back to Vidin again as the new router still wasn’t working , it was getting to be a real pain going back and forth all the time. We were given, yet again, another new router and sent on our way with our fingers crossed. Surprise, surprise it still didn’t work !!
Friday was a bank holiday and we had been invited to our new English friends house for a coffee and to pick up the washing machine. Their house and huge garden was lovely and alot of hard work had gone into doing it . Yet again they were really helpful and full of information that would help us. They even gave us 2 trays of eggs that their chickens had laid plus a hook to remove ticks from the dogs , as twix had one the other day and it was a bugger to remove ! During our visit we got a call to tell us an engineer was coming to sort the Internet out, to our surprise, so it was a mad rush to load the washing machine in the van and get home. The result was…..still no Internet !!!
Saturday and Andys first birthday in Bulgaria ! We spent the day cleaning out the pig shed so we had a dry place for all the logs we need to buy and clearing the rest of the barns. There was lot of dry wood scattered all over so we collected every bit and stacked them neatly in one of the barns. It was 8 hours of hard but very satisfying work and a birthday that Andy won’t forget. We even opened the bottle of home made Rakia that Plamen had given us. Andy seemed to like it but as much as I want to embrace everything Bulgarian , Rakia is one thing I’m steering clear of! I’m surprised the Bulgarians aren’t permanently bladdered drinking that stuff, it really is lethal !
Sunday we thought we’d organise our bedroom and paint our makeshift bathroom so it looked presentable for when my brother and Mum arrive in a couple of weeks ( It’s a bit hard to make a room with a bucket and paddling pool in, look like a bathroom! ) We managed to unpack all our clothes, well only just ! I didn’t realise I had so many and some of them I’m probably never going to wear ( typical woman! )
It was our neighbour Penka’s birthday, so we took round a card and little gift. As usual out came the food and Rakia but as Andy was full of hay fever he wasn’t up to eating or drinking anything. They even tried to give him some tablets for his hay fever but we refused that too and when we left, we were unsure as to wether or not we had offended them in any way. That’s the biggest problem we have here, the language barrier. It’s such a difficult language to learn and we are trying to learn it and we have managed to pick up a few words but obviously not enough to get by. The hardest thing I find is trying not to offend anyone so I spend most of my time apologising , then worrying if I have !
Monday and Tuesday we were back in Vidin buying some kitchen units, sink, a king size pine bed frame, carpet for the bedroom and Lino for the kitchen , plus more paint and other DIY bits. The prices here are quite cheap , kitchen units for one wall ( 5 units including sink unit) 352levs, carpet and Lino ( 12 sqm and 16 sqm ), 228 Levs, bed 202 Levs and sink with all the pluming bits came to 112 Levs. Total comes to 894 Levs ( £397 ), a real bargain we think.
We are getting used to finding our way round Vidin now, it’s no longer taking us hours and hours just to find one thing, we now know where to get the things we need, so now it’s a case of making a list and working out our route. Now we are able to get what we need in a morning rather than it taking all day thank god !
I also picked up my residency card, so now we are both officially Bulgarian residents, for the next 5 years anyway !
So yet again it’s been another busy week, stressful at times but mostly enjoyable. Although we have only been here for just over a month, it feels so much longer and we really feel like we are settling in nicely. It’s hard work and challenging at times but our life ,so far, is exciting, changeable,enjoyable but most of all full of satisfaction and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Oh and finally, the Internet is now up and running……for now……!

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Rabisha Lake

Today we decided to take a day off from sorting the house as we haven’t had one day since our arrival to relax and enjoy our beautiful surroundings, so we decided to visit Rabisha Lake. It’s the largest inland lake in Bulgaria and only 6 Km from our village. As it has been so hot and we have two dogs, we thought the best time to go would be in the morning ,as it is cooler. Andy had checked the map for directions and it was past the next village, so should only take us about 15 minutes. Wrong! We drove through the village that was slightly up a hill, on not the best roads in the world, out the other end ,then the only turning was up a fairly steep mud track. Andy decided we had gone the wrong way and the track just wasn’t suitable for the van. So off we went in search of the lake again. Yet another magical mystery tour down extremely bumpy roads, sharp bends and small hills. Eventually after driving for about an hour we saw the lake in the distance, all we had to do is find a way to get there. Sign posting isn’t the best to say the least, in fact it’s almost non existent! Wasn’t long before we lost sight of the lake and all we could see was a mountain. I can honestly say it would be easier to find water in the Sahara dessert !
It took two hours to get there and the road into Rabisha is literally just a dirt track, but although our bones were rattled to death because of the roads, ( if you can call them that ), and the suspension of the van took a hammering, it was definitely worth it. Not only was the scenery on our way beautiful ,the lake and surroundings was astounding. To top it all off we had the whole lake to ourselves ! The dogs had a great time and we even got them to go in the water, which is a great accomplishment as far as our staffy is concerned , normally if he sees a puddle he walks around it and if it rains, he just won’t go out! All in all a lovely day…..

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Recycled furniture

As previously mentioned, we are on a tight budget and as we didn’t bring much furniture, only 2 chest of draws, 3 bedside tables and a small cupboard ( all flat pack furniture ), we thought we would recycle some pieces of furniture we found in the house and barn. We are quite pleased with the end results.

20130520-202710.jpg a little round side table that has seen better days, or maybe not……

20130520-202825.jpg. The end result, a little rustic but nice.

20130520-202945.jpg. A hidden gem we found in the barn.

20130520-203029.jpg. Turned out well we think.

20130520-203130.jpg a small, painted coffee table.

20130520-203256.jpg. Now the perfect table for our TV !

20130520-203339.jpg. This was a dining table but legs cut down, a nice sized coffee table.

Plamen our agent

If there was an award for helpfulness,kindness,patience and generosity, then our agent Plamen would win it by a mile. Since arriving in Bulgaria, Plamen has offered his services by helping us whenever we require it, but what he has done for us so far has gone beyond the call of duty!
Take yesterday ( Saturday ) for example. He arranged to meet us in Vidin at 8am to take us to the market to buy the plants we wanted for our vegetable garden. Obviously we had the problem with the language barrier, but also we really didn’t have a clue about growing veg, only the basics. Plamen of course, lives as most Bulgarians , a self-sufficient life, so in our eyes he was the perfect person to help. We wondered round the market, selecting the veg we wanted to plant, whilst Plamen explain the different types of tomatoes, peppers etc. After about over an hour, we had finished and all our hands were full of bags of plants. We had a selection of tomatoes ( cherry,pink and beef), cucumbers ,Peppers ( sweet and hot ), cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, oh and some pansies for my flower patch. Now it doesn’t sound a lot, but trust me, there was a lot of plants! This year our plot is sort of a test for us, to see what we can grow, how to tend it and how much we will need to plant next year to be relatively self sufficient. It’s just a shame it was too late to plant potatoes.
Plants selected and as we were in the city, it was then off to Plamens office for him to complete some paperwork we needed for the bank and police station. In order for us to get an ID card, which is compulsory in Bulgaria, we had to open a bank account. Each person has to have 3720 Levs in an account as proof you can support yourself, before you can get an ID card ( residency card). Plamen however forgot to mention the amount was each, so I only brought enough for one person, so we decided that we would sort Andy’s out first. Plamen did all the translating at the bank for us, all Andy had to do was sign the paperwork and there was a lot of it ! Took some time but bank sorted, it was off to the police station and yet more paperwork ! Whilst Plamen was sorting that out, we nipped across the road to another bank to make the payment for the ID card and admin fees, a grand total of 49 Levs ! Eventually after about an 90 minutes, everything was sorted, ID card would be ready to collect in 3 days.
Finally it was off to the mobile phone shop to get a contract for new SIM cards for our phones. Yet again more paperwork ! This was also a slow process and all I can say Plamen must have the patience of a saint !
So far it had been a long day and by the time we left Vidin it was 3.45 pm but the day wasn’t over yet ! Plamen nipped home to change into gardening clothes while we headed home. It’s about a 40 minute drive home and we had only been home for about 20 minutes, when Plamen arrived to help plant our veg. He brought with him quite a few jars of vegetables he had preserved, for us to try, which I thought was extremely kind of him. He also said he will show us how to preserve our veg when it’s ready. Along with the jars, he brought us some home made Rakia, the famous Bulgarian tipple!
It was getting late and there was a lot of planting to be done. So it’s just past 5pm, sun still streaming ( 28 degrees ) and there’s Plamen, barefoot, hoe in hand, digging our garden, while we stood around watching, feeling like spare parts, not knowing what to do to help. Eventually Andy was able to help Plamen with the planting and I did some irrigating but most of it was done by Plamen , purely because he knew what to do and we were completely clueless! During the process, he explained how to plant the veg, how much room they required and how to irrigate each variety. Plamen worked like a horse, stopping only to drink water and have a cigarette, he wouldn’t even eat anything even though I offered him dinner, just kept working. It was 9.45pm, dark,and sweaty and tired, Plamen and Andy had finally finished. All the planting had been done, Andy was tired and bitten all over and Plemen was covered in dirt but they were happy with the end result and so was I , although feeling really guilty that I hardly did any of it. When Plamen left, we finally ate our dinner, it would have been rude to eat while Plamen was working so we chose to wait. The conversation at dinner was about Plamen, we couldn’t believe how kind and generous he has been, or how much he has helped us and to spend nearly 5 hours doing our garden, well what can we say, not a lot as we are speechless! We have never met anyone who would do so much, give so much of their time and energy for two people they hardly know and in return ask for nothing. Plamen is a truly wonderful, genuine person and in our eyes a friend for life! One day we hope we can return the favour ………

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Our Garden In Progress

The last few days we have been trying to sort some of our garden out. There’s been lots of digging, weeding and rotovating, but we are slowly getting there. We managed to make a plot for vegetables, although we’ve yet to plant some, and as we have 2 dogs, we needed to fence off the area. We are on a tight budget so most of the materials we use has come from the house or barns. We brought a roll of chicken fencing from the UK but we needed posts and a gate, so it was a case of hunting through the barns. We found some long, thick tree branches and a wooden gate which would do the job. After digging the holes for the posts, we cemented them in, ( 9.90 lev for 25 kg bag ), fixed the fence to the posts with wire we also found and hung the gate. If I say so myself, it looks pretty good and in keeping with our surroundings. Total cost 38 lev.

20130515-065543.jpg. Our side garden before clearing.

20130515-065634.jpg. Andy using the rotovator

20130515-065846.jpg. The finished result, our soon to be veg plot!

The Good life

Well it’s been quite a busy week and whatever plans we made seemed to change from one day to the next. Nearly every day we were heading into Vidin for one reason or another. To be honest, when we were living in the UK, life was so mundane , but here in Bulgaria, every day is different and life, so far, has never been so good.
Monday we headed into the city to buy a new Hoover, our Blue Peter attempt on our old Hoover wasn’t really that successful. The dust blowing out of the hoover was causing Andy to sneeze excessively and as he suffers from asthma, I thought it better not to kill him off just yet! So it was back to Teknomarket to make our purchase. Now when we walk in, we are instantly recognised, so they send over the only member of staff that can speak a little English, quite amusing really. The service is excellent, items are good quality ( mostly Samsung ) and the prices are reasonable. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for electrical goods.
Back home and it was back to sorting and a little strimming of the rear garden as we have clumps of wheat growing everywhere. we didnt stay out too long as the mozzies were out in full force!

Tuesday it was back to cleaning and trying out the new hoover. Took us most of the day but we managed to get the living room, cleared and clean. There was a corner settee and two armchairs that had been left in the house that was covered with blankets. To our surprise they were not too bad a condition, a bit dusty, but with a thorough Hoover and a couple of throws, we had ourselves somewhere comfortable to sit, and one added bonus was the settee was also a metal action, double sofa bed! Ok the mattress was past its sell by date but the metal frame was in good working order, just have to buy a new mattress and voila, a guest bed! I must admit it was lovely to be able to sit down at night on something a lot more comfy than an old wooden kitchen chair. Our Hoover did us proud, money well spent !

Wednesday was a rather interesting day in some respects. The morning was spent trying to clear some of the front garden from all the overgrown weeds, whilst I was also trying not to get bitten by the dreaded Mosquitos and as usual, I lost ! The gardening was short lived, as Plamen, our agent, turned up with a plumber and electrician, to do quotes on some work we needed doing. As we have no water in the house or no bathroom, we wanted a quote for all the pipe work for the toilet, a shower and boiler and connection from the outside mains into the house, plus the cost of installing a wood burner and radiators. As for the electrics, they needed a complete overhaul ! The tradesmen were Bulgarian, so we couldn’t understand a word they were saying, so all I can say is thank god for Plamen ! I found it rather amusing listening to them, voices being raised every now and then, arms flailing in the air on the odd occasion ( just like the Italians do) . I couldn’t understand a bloody word but I could tell that there was certain things that Plamen wasn’t happy with. During this long exchange of words, was approached by a gypsy that had been hanging round our gate. He called me over and proceeded to ask me something, which I replied ( as usual ) ‘ I don’t understand, I’m English’. As always, I find, as soon as you say ‘ English’ they understand but still continue to have a conversation with you. So I just stand there and smile and nod ( probably not the right thing to do ! ). But this time I asked Plamen to interpret. Turns out he was offering to dig up the whole front garden for 10 Levs, wasn’t going to turn that down in a hurry ! We agreed and Plamen told the man he can start straight away, but the man then asked for more money to which Plamen said no, he offered to do it for 10, so take it or leave it ! He eventually decided to leave it but return later that evening to try to get Andy to let him do it, but Andy also sent him packing.
Anyway after 2 long hours we finally got our quotes. To be fair the quotes were good in comparison to UK prices but more than we wanted to pay, so after all that, it was back to the drawing board. But on a good note, Plamen had also sorted out our Internet connection, so we were finally up and running, all we had to do was nip into Vidin the next day, pay 3 months in advance, ( 69 lev ) collect our router so we can have wi fi, and that’s us sorted, happy days !

Wednesday we returned to Vidin to meet Plamen, he took us to the Internet shop to pick up our router, then to the bank to exchange some money. We were impressed with the exchange rate we were given. In the UK we were given 2.13 lev to the pound, here it was 2.29 ! He also took us to a builders merchant, which he said had probably the best prices. I must admit, the prices were good and had almost everything you would need for renovation. We were feeling guilty for taking up so much of Plamen’s time, but he assured us it was not a problem and that it was all part of their service to help us settle into Bulgaria, now you don’t get that level of service in the UK !
We headed off for a coffee by the Danube river and sat on a small river boat restaurant. The views were magnificent and this was our kind of heaven, water, sun , beautiful scenery, what more can we ask for !

Friday, it was up early and back, yet again, into Vidin. Our router wouldn’t connect so we had to take it back to get it sorted. Service was good and they managed to sort it quite quickly. So it was off to meet some expats, Sandra and Rich, that we had been speaking to on the forum. They were kind enough to take us to meet some other expats who were all as equally nice and very hospitable. We did a lot of driving today but it was worth it, not just because of the people we met but because we got the chance to see a little more of Bulgaria. Such a beautiful country and at times quite breathtaking. It was a long but informative day and hopefully we made some new friends.

Saturday it was back for the hundredth time, to meet Sue and Paul, an expat couple who left the UK a day before us. We had arranged to meet at the weekly outdoor market, a place where the locals sell their produce and other items, tools, bikes, clothes etc. it is also where you can get livestock from, like chickens, ducks, rabbit etc. It was pretty impressive and so cheap, I couldn’t believe the sizes of their tomatoes, bloody huge! Sue and Paul also took us to another indoor market that was surrounded by lots of small shops. That was even more impressive. You could get pretty much anything you wanted even guns and knives! Definitely somewhere we will be frequenting, although we would need a few hours to have a good rummage around! It was such a gorgeous, hot, sunny day, so we went for lunch down by the river again. Food was good although each persons meal was served individually, but not together, so by the time Sue got here’s we had already eaten! Prices were fairly cheap and the food was nice and the company was even better. On our way home the inevitable happen, Andy got pulled over by the police ! after being asked for our passports and driving licence, Andy was told to get out the van and follow them to his car. apparently he was speeding, 77 klm in a 60 klm zone, funny how there wasnt a sign to say it had changed from 80 to 70! The police said he had to pay a 50 lev fine but Andy told them he didnt have enough money, they told him he would have to go to the bank but as it was shut he couldnt, in the end they muttered something about English, shook their heads and told him to go. Phew, that was a lucky escape! Apart from that fiasco, all in all it was a truly enjoyable day. It’s been a busy week and we’ve done quite a lot of driving but it’s all been worth it and we can honestly say, although we don’t have much, we are truly blessed …….

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Let The Battle Commence….

Well we have been here 8 days now and so far I have been bitten by Mosquitos 26 times! My legs, back, feet, arms and even my face have been a feast for the little buggers. I have only had one night where they let me on parole and it was a joy to wake up without another annoying, itchy lump, but that was short lived. There was a time when every day I would spray ‘ 2one2 sexy’ or ,Byzance’ perfume so I would smell nice, but those days are gone, now it’s ‘SOS’ insect repellant, followed by dollops of antiseptic cream and if that don’t stop the itching,then a rub over with fresh garlic! So as you can imagine, I’m not smelling like roses at the moment. Today I have even made one of those home made mosquito traps, the one with the bottle filled with sugar, water and yeast. It’s hanging outside my kitchen and tomorrow I will check to see if it works, if it does then the house is going to be surrounded with bottles. I’ve had enough, this means war, so let the battle commence………

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A Gift from our Neighbour

On Sunday the neighbours daughter came round to give us a gift due to the fact it was Easter. It was a basket of dyed eggs and sweet bread, a Bulgarian tradition at Easter time. Luckily for us she spoke English, so we were able to say thank you properly rather than just nodding and smiling! What a lovely gesture!

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