One Year On !

So it’s been one year ( actually one year and three weeks ),since we arrived in Bulgaria and what a year it’s been. After a lot of discussions and plenty of soul searching, we have come to the conclusion that it’s time to go back to the UK !!! ……………Just joking 🙂
A year ago we arrived in a country we had never visited, to a house we had only seen pictures of, unable to speak or understand the language and to a new lifestyle that was going to be completely opposite to how we lived in the UK. One word that could sum it all up….. crazy !
People say, that when you relocate to another country, you should at least give it a full year before deciding if you have made the right choice. I couldn’t agree more. This past year has been a mixture of roller coaster emotions, a few tears, good times and bad and plenty of soul searching. There have been moments where I have struggled, mostly because I could no longer see my kids on a regular basis. I struggled with the winter, not because of the cold, more due to cabin fever, I loathe being stuck inside for days on end.
Despite the odd struggles, we have fallen in love with Bulgaria. Not only is the country beautiful but we have found the people warm, generous and extremely helpful. We have lovely neighbours that have welcomed us with open arms and we have met a lovely English couple who have helped us so much and have become close friends. We love the village life, so peaceful and stress free and we’ve learnt a lot . Not only about how to grow our own veg but how to recycle everything. It’s amazing what you can do or make ( with a little imagination ) with things you find in the garden or house.
Everything we are doing to the house or garden, we are doing ourselves. It’s been difficult and stressful at times and a huge learning curve but there’s an enormous satisfaction and a sense of achievement whenever we complete a job.
Since being here, our lifestyle has completely changed,for the better I might add. If we’re not working on the house, we are outdoors working in the garden enjoying the weather which has improved our health tremendously. Andy has been asthmatic all his life, every month in the UK, he would go through four salbutamol inhalers and two seretide inhalers. Since being here he only uses one salbutamol every 6-8 weeks and no longer takes the seretide, plus he’s lost over 4 stone in weight ( which has obviously helped his asthma ). I have also lost a little weight and I feel a lot fitter, mainly due to all the work we’ve been doing and eating healthier due to us growing a lot of our own veg.
The language barrier can be difficult at times and have caused us problems at times, like the other week when we were having a conversation with our neighbour ( more of a game of charades really ), trying to explain our plans for the garden. We were telling them we planned to have chickens next year, they asked how many, we said 10. Our neighbour proceeded to have a half hour conversation about chickens, which we struggled to understand exactly what she was saying other than the few words ‘chicken, 10, shop and telephone ‘. Well the following week she came round to tell us we had to go and collect our chickens from a shop! Yes it turns out she ordered 10 chickens for us ! So the day was spent running around like ‘ headless chickens’ trying to sort out a place for the chickens and a secure run! Now, I hasten to say, we try to be careful in what we say 🙂 . We are slowly learning the language but it is a struggle, mostly for me, Andy seems to pick it up easier but I’m sure we’ll get to grips with it in time.
So here we are, one year on and all that’s left to really say is what an amazing year we’ve had. Would we change it for the world…no. Do we have any regrets…..no. Would we consider going back to live in the UK….never!
Bulgaria is now our home 🙂

The Start Of Winter

Well it’s now been 7 months since we arrived in Bulgaria. We’ve had plenty of gorgeous, hot sunny days, a few spectacular thunderstorms and one freaky hailstorm in the midst of summer but now the winter has closed in and it’s time to go into semi-hibernation. It’s been a bit of a mad rush to get the house as water tight and winter ready but we’ve done the best we can. Windows are covered in polythene inside and out, wood is chopped, water pipes are insulated and fires are up and running. In the last few weeks we have had 3 water leaks all from the same pipe connection and Sod’s law it had to be behind the shower! What a nightmare that was as our shower is a full glass enclosure and weights a ton, so moving it wasn’t the easiest task. The last leak was the worse, as it flooded so bad that the Lino was floating! In a way we were lucky as our bathroom floor is slightly lower than the bedroom floor and caught it just as it was about to seep into our bedroom but it took us an hour to bale out the water and 4 days for our bathroom to dry out. We managed to work out why the pipe kept coming out of the connection so, fingers crossed, no more leak…….for now anyway.
The weather has now turned cold, -6c is the lowest so far but I know it will get colder. I’ve got myself into a routine in the morning now. I don’t need an alarm clock because my scatty spaniel Twix, wakes me every morning at 7 and there’s no chance of a lie in as he paws my arm constantly until I get out of bed! First is sorting out the dogs, then light the fires followed by a nice cup of tea. When the rooms have warmed up a bit, then it’s time to get dressed into my work clothes. This usually consists of jogging pants, t-shirt, sloppy jumper and an old coat ( it’s a little bit cold outside ). I certainly won’t be winning any awards for glamour that’s for sure! There’s not much opportunity to get my glad rags on as it’s mostly been work, work, work on the house and garden. By the end of the day my nails are coated with mud or cement instead of nail polish, foundation has been replaced with dust, there’s no pretty ribbon in my hair, it’s now either sprinkled with sawdust or streaked with paint and my hands could be used as sandpaper, as they are rough,instead of soft and smooth. While i wait for Andy who is also busy ( busy snoring his head off! ) I collect more wood from our barn and clear up the dog mess, ( I know your all jealous of my glamorous life haha). When Andy joins the land of the living and after 2 mugs of coffee, we then spend our days working on the house. As it’s winter and there’s not a lot we can do outside we have decided our winter project is to change our big bedroom into a kitchen, as the kitchen we have now just isn’t working for me. The only trouble is we had to clear the furniture out of our bedroom but don’t really have anywhere to store them out of the way, so now our house is chaotic. There’s chest of draws and side tables in the living room, the bed is in the back room ( which is already bursting at the seams) and we have to leave the 2 double wardrobes in the bedroom that we are changing into the kitchen, ( total nightmare). I can honestly say my house is a mess, almost as bad as it was when we first moved in. The weather hasn’t helped as we have had quite a bit of rain recently, so the garden has been like a quagmire. Not only is my house a mess but with the dogs and ourselves in and out several times a day, there’s mud prints all over the floor (both my brush and mop are starting to wear away !).
I’m not a big fan of winter and I know it’s going to get a lot colder but the one thing I do like about winter is snow! The other day we had our first day of snow, a foot of it. There is no denying it, it really is very pretty. We had been watching the weather forecast so we were expecting it and I must admit, I was like a kid, I was so excited and couldn’t wait for it to snow. It was so funny watching the dogs playing in it and every time my spaniel came in, he had big balls of snow hanging from his hair, hilarious watching him trying to pull them off!
So here we are, 7 months in and we are entering, what I believe is the hardest part of our journey, winter. I’m not looking forward to the extreme cold, or spending so much time indoors and I’m sure I will go a little stir crazy, (Andy will cope with it better than me, I think) but on a positive note I am looking forward to more snow and to building our new kitchen 🙂 ………

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Time To Reflect

Well it’s 6.30 in the morning, Andy and the dogs are fast asleep, outside the sheep are getting herded up to the field, i can hear the village cockerels crowing, dogs barking, the odd car going down the road and I’m sitting with my cup of tea, reflecting on our life so far, here in Bulgaria. It’s only been 16 weeks since our arrival, yet it feels so much longer! Looking back, I can’t believe how much we have achieved in such a short space of time. Ok, it’s fair to say that the work we have done is far from perfect in places, but our house is liveable and comfortable and almost ready for the winter. Apart from the bathroom and the small guest bedroom,( which we are tackling at the moment ), all the rooms will be done again, the outside of the house needs rendering, new windows need to be fitted, the garden needs a complete overhaul, etc, etc, but we will tackle all that next year, but by then we will have a lot more time and a better knowledge of how to tackle things. Some people think we are crazy doing it ourselves, but aside from the tight budget, we enjoy learning new skills and it gives us a great sense of achievement when we manage to do something we have never done before ( when it turns out right of course ). Ok, renovating a house yourself with limited funds and only a small amount of building knowledge is not exactly a bed of roses at times. We have had our stressful moments ( the plumbing !), our arguments over the best way to do things, ( I’m stubborn so I don’t give in easily haha), tools have gone flying due to frustration ( mostly by Andy !) and a few tears have been shed ( all by me because I’m a woman !) but even through all the difficult times, there is a positive side. We have learnt new skills and we are improving all the time, we are learning to work as a team ( important when your with each other 24/7), a sense of achievement and satisfaction ( the best feeling in the world ) and last but not least, and just as important, especially on a small budget, finding ways to use what we have to make things, rather than just buying it .
So next on my moment of reflection,is our life here. It’s strange how after only being here for a short time, it already feels like home. We live in a lovely village with wonderful neighbours, surrounded by beautiful countryside, great weather ( at the moment anyway! ), met some really nice people and met a lovely ex-pat couple that have become our dearest friends, life doesn’t get much better. Do we miss the UK, not in a million years. There is only one thing we miss and that of course is our families. That is the hardest thing to cope with here, not being able to just pop down the road to see our parents, I became an Auntie recently but it will be a while before I get to see my beautiful niece. It was my Sons birthday the other day and i missed not being able to wish him properly. The last few days have been a struggle for me as I have felt homesick, not for my previous life in the UK but because I really miss my children more than anything. That’s the only downside of moving abroad, having to leave loved ones behind but at least there is the Internet and mobile phones, makes the separation a little easier.
We still haven’t been able to master the language,although we have learnt a few words but we are becoming experts at charades! One of our neighbours keeps telling me off, saying I need to learn Bulgarian and then laughs at me because I keep saying ‘sorry’. Another neighbour and his wife are trying to learn English a little,so they can talk to us, which we thought was sweet of them. More and more of the villagers are starting to talk to us, I think it’s because they have now realised we are not here on holiday but here to live and therefore more accepting of us. Ok, so it all sounds so lovely and rosy, most of the time it is, although to be truthful, at times, it’s hard to work out what is the right thing to do or say so as not to offend, or to understand their ways, but these things take time and I think we are slowly learning to appreciate their ways, as I’m sure they are learning ours.
Looking back to a few weeks before we were to embark on our new life here, I must admit, I was scared and unsure if it was the right thing to do, after all we we moving to a country we had never visited, into a house we bought but had never seen,apart from photos. Yes, I suppose we were stark raving mad but in all honesty,I’m so glad we took that risk. Granted,it has been difficult at times and yes it’s bloody hard work. I’m sure we will have several mountains to climb, battles to fight and a few tears to shed, but if it means we have our little piece of heaven, it will be worth it.
Well as much as I’d like to sit around all day reflecting, I cant, I’m afraid my glamorous life awaits me……..time to go weed the garden !!!!

Family Visit

Tuesday 11th June and the arrival of my Mum and brother Mark. It was only a short visit due to my brothers work commitments, they were only here till Saturday but we have been looking forward to seeing them. I was a little nervous to the reaction of my mum as she had never been to Bulgaria before so wasn’t sure she would like it. We had also worked really hard to try and get the house in a liveable state and I was anxious to see their reaction. Don’t think the weather helped my nerves either. Monday it was a beautiful sunny day but on Tuesday it decided to rain all day! The trouble with rain is it makes everything look so dreary plus it wasn’t helping with my kitchen floor, every time the dogs went out, my floor ended up with muddy footprints, I was fighting a loosing battle, trying to keep everything clean and tidy for my family’s arrival.
They finally arrived at 5pm and despite the weather and all the traveling Mark was in high spirits but my poor Mum not so much as she was full of cold and the journey pretty much wiped her out, but at least they arrived safely and I was so happy to see them.
The following day the weather had improved slightly, instead of raining constantly it rained on and off all day but it did let up long enough for us to take a wonder around our village. To be honest, it was the first time Andy and I had actually walked around our village since arriving. It’s a big village, with 5 shops,a bar and even a post office, that we probably wouldn’t have found if it hadn’t been for my brother and his inquisitive nature! Some of these buildings look like either someone’s house or slightly run down and disused. It’s only if you peer through the windows and hear someone inside shouting you to come in, that you realise it’s actually a shop or post office. There is a lovely stream that runs along the back of our village, so we took a wonder down to have a look, only we didn’t take the track that is just at the edge of the village, we took one that went behind some houses but the little track, if you could call it that, disappeared, so my poor Mum was taken through long grass and muddy slopes, during which time we were trying to reassure her that there was a proper track up ahead and no snakes in the grass. We never did find the track!
Although our village is big and there are about 400 residents, around half the houses are empty. Such a crying shame to see so many empty, as there are quite a few really lovely properties, with a bit of work and some imagination, they would make lovely homes. Our village, like most villages in Bulgaria, may be run down and surrounded by derelict buildings, but it does have a certain charm and warmth about it as well as being surrounded by beautiful countryside. It was nice to be able to show my Mum and Mark our surroundings and the reasons why we love it here.
The following day, the sun was beaming, so we went into Vidin. I wanted to show my Mum the market, full of fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables, and all the lovely shops where you can buy just about anything. We bumped into our friends, so we joined them for a coffee. It was great to just sit and chill for a while and watch the world go by.
We had lunch down on the river Danube. There is a quaint restaurant on a boat which does nice food and the staff are friendly but the best thing about it is the amazing views. The Danube is vast and along it, across the water are small islands, which if you wanted, you could go across to them, camp, have a BBQ or just relax and soak up the views. There are cafes and restaurants with small playgrounds,running along the edge of the river, children playing, people strolling and some people fishing, Everyone just seems so relaxed and stress free. After lunch we continued strolling around vidin but It was so hot Mark insisted on getting an ice cream. So it was back to our regular cafe to order a bowl of mixed fruit and ice cream, to the amusement of the waiter, as Mark was like a big kid, all excited because they did ice cream !
In the evenings we sat eating and talking till the early hours. Bit of a struggle for me and Andy as we usually hit the hay around 11, usually because of a hard day working, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Mark and Andy returned to Vidin the following day as Mark wanted to visit the dentist, he was suffering from toothache so decided he might as well get it done here, as it is so much cheaper than in the UK. Unlike in the UK you don’t have to wait weeks either, just a quick phone call and he was booked in for just over an hour later. Turns out the work needed to be done on his tooth would take 2-3 days and as he was flying back the following day he had to leave it. Andy and Mark ended up spending most of the day in Vidin, while my Mum and I stayed at home relaxing, chatting etc.
Saturday soon arrived and it was time to say goodbye, it had only been a short visit and it flew by and I was sad to see them go. It was lovely to be able to show them our change of lifestyle and I enjoyed listened to Marks enthusiasm for Bulgaria, as he loved it and really appreciated what we were trying to do. We look forward to their next visit, perhaps next time they will miss the rain……!

Our New Life…. The First Few Days

We finally arrived at our house after 3 days of hard driving and it was a huge relief to get here. The road leading up to our village was beautiful. Pine forests, hills and a lovely stream running along the edge of the village. In the distance we could see mountains, which I think is Montana. The village was as expected, like alot of villages, it was run down, derelict houses dotted about and horrendous roads, but there was a charm about it. This was the first time we get to see our house. As some people reading this are already aware, we have never been to Bulgaria, we bought our house of eBay, so all we have seen of it up to now, was pictures. We knew it needed renovating and we were fully prepared for it to be worse than the pictures, but when we finally got to see it, was even worse than we imagined!
Plemen, who works for the agent we bought from, had met us at Vidin to take us to our house, was lovely. He showed us round, explained a few things and offered us any help we might need in the future. When he left he said he will return another day to take us fishing at Rabisha Lake, 6klm away from us. Definitely something to look forward to.in the meantime it was back to reality, our new home.
The house hadn’t been lived in for quite some time, so it was very dusty and full of cobwebs. It was still full of stuff that belonged to the previous owner. Lots of beds, furniture, clothes, tools, etc, etc. to be honest there was a few stuff we could recycle, like a beautiful solid wood chest, a couple of pine tables, wardrobes and 3 lovely wooden beer barrels. We were pleasantly surprised that there was 3 more rooms in the house that we never knew about, so that was a bonus. The roof was in quite good repair, no leaks that we can see. The structure was sound but the outside needs new render. Some of the windows are rotten and the others needed sanding and painting. All the interior doors are in good order even though they are old but can be refurbished. The exterior doors, what can I say, they just don’t close or have locks that actually work and definitely need replacing! There is no plumbing in the house but we do have fresh water outside, one from the mains and a hand pump that draws water direct from the water source under the ground. Both drinkable although we have yet to fit the pump to the ground source. There is no toilet so in the meantime it’s a bucket job! Not very pleasant and probably the hardest thing to deal with, but we did come prepared, we bought one that looked like a toilet ( not a porta loo ) but it does have a seat ! I won’t discuss the ins and outs of it all but I’m sure you have the idea. The garden is 750 sqm with 2 barns, not the biggest of land but enough for us. The barns are derelict and will need pulling down but I would say 70% of the materials is recyclable. One bonus is we are definitely not short of wood to burn in winter!
To be honest, my first thought after seeing the house and village is ‘ oh my god what have we done! ‘ . It’s definitely a cultural shock and I would advise anyone who is thinking of doing the whole ‘ new self sufficient life ‘ thing to make sure you visit the country first. Now that’s not to say we are putting the place down because we truly believe its a beautiful country with a lot to offer, just that its a vastly different lifestyle to what we are used to and you need to be prepared for that.
When Plemen left and although we were tired, there was still work to be done. First thing was to get the dogs settled. They now have the full run of 1/4 of the garden and it was amusing to see them running round, sniffing every inch trying to work out what the new smells were. Kenzo,our staffy settled straight away but Twix, our cocker spaniel was a little anxious, but I’m sure after a few day will settle into his new life. Once we knew they were safe to wonder the garden, it was time to unload the van and caravan. We were exhausted and it was extremely hot ( 26 degrees ) but it had to be done, so we started unloading our stuff and put it wherever there was a space. The rooms were filling up fast and the spaces were becoming less and less. By the time we were half way, we were shattered, so we decided to finish for the night, have something to eat, a bath then bed. The bath consisted of a small paddling pool, bucket of cold water and no soap because I couldn’t find the bloody shower gel!!! Bed time was 7.30 and that was us dead to the world for the night !
I woke at 6.20 and Andy was still asleep . I put the kettle on, the sort you put on a camping gas burner, let the dogs out and went to put the light on, as it was still a bit dark in the house. No electric! I wasn’t sure if there was a power cut or a problem with the house, so when Andy got up, he phoned Plamen. Plamen said he would sort it and he did, he came to the house, checked the fuses( one had burnt out ) so proceeded to fix it. After taking some copper wire from one of our extension leads, he replaced all 3 fuses with it, went down the road to the electric pole, switched the switch that had tripped and hey presto! We had electric! How simple was that ?
Village life is very slow paced but a hive of activity early in the morning. I watched as a woman herded the goats to the field up the top of our street, then came the man who was herding some sheep. There were villagers walking past every now and again with their tools in their hand going off to do their daily chores, cars up and down the road, a couple of horse and carts and cockerels crowing all over the place.We have a stork at the end of the road making noises, which sounded like a woodpecker. It was a pleasure to watch and it’s those things that make me think how lucky I am to be here.
The rest of the day was spent emptying what remained in the van and caravan. By the time we unloaded everything , there wasn’t much room to move about and when we looked at how much stuff we had , we really couldn’t believe how the hell we managed to fit it all in the van! Next job on the list was to remove the beds in the room we were sleeping in and all the personal stuff left by the previous owner. Those old bed are bloody heavy, by the time we had finished we were knackered.
Finally it was time for food, but as we had to off load most of the food we had bought in the UK, to tide us over for a few days, to lighten the load, there wasn’t much to eat, so it was ‘pasta n sauce’ for dinner! Quite enjoyed it really, probably because we were so bloody hungry! Food over so time to relax and enjoy the evening sunset, bliss !
Our third day here, we decided to go into Vidin to buy some food. Didn’t want to stay out too long because of the dogs, so it was food and home. The roads were strange, we couldn’t work out if we had right of way over junctions or not so we went anyway! One day I’m sure we will be hit.
Went to Kaufland to shop, first stop for me though was the chemist. I had been bitten so badly all over. Some had swollen almost as big as my fist and my hand was so swollen and tight that I couldn’t make a fist. I was not a happy bunny, especially as I had at least 18 bites and Andy had none! Looks like I will be eating plenty of garlic in future!!
Kaufland is quite big and had plenty to choose from, if you could understand what your buying that is! It’s times like this when you really do feel out of your depth,but then we only have ourselves to blame, we should have learnt the language. something we will have to try to do in the near future. Shopping there wasn’t exactly cheap but we will soon get to learn where to go for the best prices and eventually we will grow our own food and keep chickens.
Returned home, ate a decent meal, then it was back to work. We found a few things we had been looking for yesterday but our iPads needed charging but for the life of us we couldn’t find them. By this time Andy was having a hissy fit and I was getting annoyed at him for getting wound up, 2 hours later still no chargers! That’s the trouble with moving, you can never find a bloody thing. After calming down and relaxing for a while it was off to bed. These few days have been strange in a way, at first it was ‘ oh my god what have we done ‘, to ‘ maybe we can do this ‘, to finally ‘ this really is the good life !’ We shall see …………

To new beginnings

Well we went to meet my parents today for the last time in the UK. It was lovely to see them and the meal my mum prepared for us was lovely, good English cooking is something I will definitely miss, but I’m sure Marie will master Bulgarian cuisine fairly quickly 🙂 .
We started the meal with a toast from Marie to new beginnings as we set off on our journey, my parents have sold their home of over 16 years and are downsizing. It is a completely new journey for them living in a smaller property but I know they will enjoy having a bit more free time.
It was lovely sitting in their conservatory telling stories from our pasts and discussing our new adventure and what we have to come. One of the discussions that will also stick in our minds in the urgent requirement to have a toilet installed which shall forever more be named as “Ian’s Throne” as currently we don’t know if we even have a toilet or where it might be of we do!
It is kinda nice to think that in some ways we are living out the “dream” of my parents of living out the “good life”, although it does add some minor pressure to ensure that we succeed with our dreams and make our house into a home as much as possible in time for their first visit.
There were some tears but overall alot of well wishes and I think some slight approval and admiration for what we are doing, as with alot of people when we mentioned what we are doing they were sceptical, but have gradually come round to the idea.
We will miss them and it will be strange not having them close by, but I am glad that things are coming together for them and with today’s technology we shall be able to keep in contact.
We now have our list of jobs to achieve before them come to visit and we look forward to that day and showing how far we have come.

Our Home On Wheels

After looking at the route we would be taking to Bulgaria, it soon became apparent that a near 2000 mile journey is going to take us at least 3 – 4 days of solid driving.

Because of this we realised that it would be beneficial to have a caravan, not only for the journey but also to stay in whilst we do the renovations on our house.

Now us being us and not always doing things the “normal” way (after all we did buy a house blind off of Ebay), we went back on to the wonder that is Ebay and fell in love with this completely original 1960’s Retro Caravan. Mint condition out of the box doesn’t even come close to its condition, but it is going to be a great place to relax in after a long day, it is inspirational just sitting inside of it.

The only slight downside (possibly) is the looks we might get at border controls as we are going to be towing this beauty behind a LWB high top transit van, we will look like some bizarre travellers, but we will keep blogging as we travel so we can let you know how we get on as we pass through the numerous borders across Europe.

It is going to be one Big Adventure but we can’t wait for it to begin.

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