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 🙂

Looking like Quazimodo!

Strange title for my blog? Not really, it describes perfectly how I looked after my latest drama ! Last Monday, I awoke early to clear blue skies , beautiful sunshine and a dreaded toothache ! It wasn’t raging, just throbbing and as we were off to Vidin to pay our bills, get our shopping etc, i popped a couple of paracetamols, in the hope that by the time we got to Vidin, the ache would have eased. It did but returned slightly worse by midday, two more pills and it would be fine, or so I thought. By the time we returned home, my toothache was throbbing again, still not raging but niggling constantly. I could feel a slight lump developing just above my lip and realised that it was an abscess. I remembered the last time I had an abscess, swelling, severe pain and no sleep! I wasn’t looking forward to the night ahead. I got Andy to phone the dentist to make an appointment first thing in the morning which wasn’t a problem, unlike in the UK, even in an emergency you still have to wait a week these days!
During the evening the swelling got gradually worse and the tooth continued to throb but not as bad as I was expecting and I was surprised that I managed to sleep through the night but when I woke in the morning I got the shock of my life. I knew my face would swell but not to the extent that it did. What started as a lump the size of a pea developed into a watermelon!! My whole cheek, side of my nose and eye was excessively swollen, I looked like Quazimodo ! I was now in panic mode.
I hate going to the dentist and I really hate needles but at the same time, when I saw the state of my face, I was desperate to get my tooth out. When we arrived in Vidin, we had to park about 10 minutes walk away from the dentist as they were digging up the road and the dentist was down an alley, off a small side street, not really suitable for a LWB high top van. I tried to keep my head down as I felt a bit of a freak and yes people did stare but then I did look like I’d been hit by a bus. When we arrived at the dentist, she took one look at my face and her reaction was the same as when I looked in the mirror first thing in the morning, complete shock. She informed me that as I had a severe infection she needed to send me to a dental surgeon to have my tooth extracted as the usual anaesthetic would not be strong enough and cause me severe pain. After she made a phone call to the surgeon, she gave us directions, explained that he didn’t speak a word of English but for me to not worry as he knew the situation and I was in good hands.
When we arrived the surgeon greeted me with a stern look, directed me in to the dental chair, squirted some numbing spray on my gum area with the offending tooth then proceeded to deal with his other patient who was in the chair next to me. By this time my nerves had kicked in, so every minute felt like a lifetime. The surgeon returned to assess the problem, disappeared for a minute, then returned again with a few tools and the inevitable needle. I braced myself as best I could, the first injection entered the front of my gum under my lip, ( it hurt but not too tragic ), the second needle went into the roof of my mouth and it felt like it was trying to pierce a thick layer of rubber. Well all I can say is it’s a good job the assistant was holding me down and had quick reflexes because my reaction was to grab the surgeons hand and whip it away but his assistant grabbed my hand just in time. The pain was so bad I nearly went through the roof! I think the needle burst my abscess as my mouth filled with blood. When the area of my mouth was numb he pulled out my tooth, it was quick and painless, which surprised me as the tooth had broken at the edge of my gum so there wasn’t a lot left to grab hold off, ( it was a capped tooth that had broken ). They showed me the offending tooth and the root was very long considering it was only a front tooth. I was relieved that my ordeal was over and all I wanted now was the swelling to go down. The surgeon made me sit for quite a while, took my blood pressure, as by this time I think my body had gone into shock as I was shaking like a leaf and when he was satisfied that my tooth had clogged and my blood pressure was ok, he let me go. I was given a prescription for antibiotics and vitamin B complex and a bill for 60 Levs. Despite the needle episode I must admit the surgeon and his staff were excellent, I couldn’t fault them at all and the cost of my treatment was exceptionally cheap. Even the antibiotics, which are one of the strongest on the market, were very reasonable ( 12 Levs ).
On our way home my whole body was shaking and although it was a hot day I was freezing. I was also struggling to stay awake, it felt like I was on sedatives or something and I felt nauseous. It didn’t help that there were potholes along the E79, some of which just couldn’t be avoided. The journey seemed to take forever and by the time we approached our turn off towards our village, I had to get Andy to quickly pull over as I needed to be sick. Not the most pleasant sight for Andy or anyone who was driving by, but needs must and all that.
We had only been home about half an hour, when I decided to go to bed for a while. I couldn’t keep my eyes open or stop shivering any longer. Before I knew it I had conked out. The following day the swelling had got worse and my face and lips were still numb and my eye was itchy and sore. The swelling worried me so I got Andy to phone the dentist to ask if it was normal and apparently it was but he was informed that the swelling will start reducing in about a week. It’s now been 11 days, my face is almost back to normal, I still have a big, hard lump above my lip and part of my cheek and lips are still numb ( weird sensation ), but it’s getting better, I can finally put on my mascara now and at least I don’t look like Quazimodo anymore !!

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Time Just Flies By!

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog and I apologise to everyone but time just seems to fly by so quickly! Thought it was time to fill you all in on what we’ve been up to since my last proper blog. Where to start. Well as mentioned in a previous blog, the bathroom and winter bedroom is now completed, so next on our list was covering the outside pipework that comes out from the bathroom. Due to rushing and complications, our pipework was a bit of an eyesore to be honest. Although our house is one level, it is still raised quite high above the ground, so the pipework coming out from the bathroom had to slope down the outside wall at an angle before entering the ground and into the drainage. The problem we now had was enclosing the visible pipes and insulating them enough to stop them from freezing in winter. To start we wrapped two layers of foam insulation round the water pipes, then we built a rather large mud brick housing, with roof that surrounds the drainage pipes. I know anyone reading this is probably thinking what the hell! , but it was the only solution we could come up with and we hope it works. The housing is packed full of straw so the drain pipes are fully insulated ( it took a hell of a lot of straw !)
As I mention before, we are on a tight budget, so the materials were recycled from the end of one of our barns. It took us half a day to dismantle. As Andy is a lot heavier than me, it was me that had to climb on the roof to take the tiles down carefully. To be honest I quite enjoyed it, apart from the area of tiles where the walnut tree was hanging over. That was a little tricky, trying to get tiles of whilst being prodded by branches every minute and of course, as usual, I got bitten to death by mosquitoes and barn flies! Surprisingly, everything came down quite easily and we managed to salvage all the tiles and mud bricks ( can’t believe how solid and heavy those things are!). We ended up with enough materials to build our housing and build raised bedding on either side for flowers next year.
The roof isn’t perfect, in fact it’s a little bowed but it will do for now and should see us through the winter hopefully. Next year, when we have more time, we will redo it amongst other things. Time just seems to go by so fast and panic is setting in as we still have to repair the roof, one of our chimneys is in need of repair too. Then once that’s done, we can instal the fires, trouble is its already getting chilly at night now !
Next on our list was repairing the render around our house. First job was to knock off all the loose render, by the time we finished, we had knocked off about a third of the render, ( slight panic on my part and a few squeals of ‘ oh my god, my poor house’ ). With the help of one of our Bulgarian neighbours, we managed to complete the rendering in a couple of days. As we didn’t really know how to do it, we relied on our neighbours knowledge, not one of our best ideas. The rendering is solid but a lot to be desired! It’s quite bumpy, not really a pretty picture but once it’s been painted, which I have yet to complete, it will look a lot better and at least the house will be better protected from the cold and snow. Next year, I think we will strip it completely and get it insulated and rendered professionally.
In between those jobs, we sorted out our garden a bit more, spent the day helping our friends with building their porch, had a lovely day out down at a ‘beach’ at the River Danube. We had a lovely stroll along the river and it was so peaceful and very beautiful. Made a nice change to spend a day away from the house, just relaxing . We were also invited around our neighbours house at the beginning of September, as it was the village festival, as well as a bank holiday. This is a time when friends and families get together and we were honoured to be invited to our neighbours gathering. It was enjoyable but at the same time, like being on ‘mastermind’. The granddaughter can speak quite good English, so she kept firing questions that the other members of the family were asking, like why we wanted to live in Bulgaria, what we thought of the village, what we are doing to the house etc, etc. The worst part was when politics were brought up, tricky subject, we had to be careful what we said so as not to offend. All in all it was a very enjoyable and interesting evening as we got to learn more about our lovely neighbours.
These past few days we have been getting ready for family coming to visit. We have my Sister and Daughter coming for two weeks, followed by Andys Mum and Dad for a week, then my Brother and his Friend for 4 days, so it’s going to be a rather hectic month ahead for us. So these last few days have been a mad rush trying to get things tidied up, sorting out the bed situation, washing, cleaning, etc, etc. Am I stressing out ?, of course I am. Didn’t help that there was a problem with a major pipe in the village so we had no water for almost a whole day, then it’s been raining on and off, I didn’t think I was ever going to get all the bedding, curtains etc washed in time, but with only one day left before our visitors arrive, we have almost finished ( such a relief! ). I’m so looking forward to seeing all the family but I think I might need a holiday myself by the end of it!

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20130920-151018.jpg The ‘beach’ on the River Danube.

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……!

Adjusting To Village Life

It’s been over 5 weeks since we arrived in Bulgaria and yet it feels so much longer. We haven’t really had much relaxation time as there is so much to do and to be honest it’s not always been easy. Don’t get me wrong, we love it here and it’s one of the best decisions we have ever made, but it can be a struggle at times. Anyone who is thinking of moving to Bulgaria needs to think about it long and hard, as life here is completely different to life in the UK. In order to enjoy living here, you have to embrace it with an open mind, respect the Bulgarian ways and try to integrate as best you can.
Buying a house that needs renovating and trying to live, even a partially self-sufficient life, takes a lot of hard work and determination. We don’t have a toilet or water inside the house, so it’s a bucket for a toilet and dishes, clothes, etc is done outside at the moment. Most of the time I don’t mind, but there have been days that its wore me down. Take the other day, my sheets and towels needed washing, trying to wring out king size sheets outside from a bucket is no mean feat, then trying to hang them on the line without dragging them on the floor is even harder. I failed miserably and the bottom of the sheets hit the dirt, I just wanted to cry! It takes 20 minutes and 5 boiled kettles to fill up our big bowl with water for a bath, which is placed inside a small, dry paddling pool and a cup is used to pour water over ourselves. It does the job but its time consuming and a little awkward.
Then there’s our neighbours that regularly invite us around last minute for something to eat. The other day we had been working all day painting and fitting our little kitchen, I was just finishing making our evening meal, when our neighbour invited us around to eat. Andy tried to explain that I had just cooked, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he told them we would be round in 10 minutes. Well I must admit, I threw my teddy out the cot ! After ranting to Andy that I wasn’t going, I wasn’t going to waste our dinner and I’d had enough, I gave in as I didn’t want to offend our neighbour. I wasn’t trying to be mean, I was just so tired, my hands and back was hurting and all I wanted to do was eat my dinner, have a bath, then go to bed as we had another hard day ahead of us. Turns out we had a lovely evening and ended up a little worse for wear ( too much drink! ).
In all honesty, despite my one moment of acting like a spoilt child, I love our neighbours. They are a kind, generous couple who have welcomed us with open arms from the first day we arrived. They are one of the reasons why we love Bulgaria .
Living in a village is like going back in time, 50 or 60 years. Most of the food that the villagers eat is grown and reared. Not much is thrown away, it is kept and recycled. They use what they have around them to make repairs on the house . Nothing seems to be wasted, everything seems to be put to good use, right down to a branch that has been pruned off a tree! Even though we have only been here a short time, watching our neighbours has taught us to use our imagination more, if its broken we no longer throw it away and go buy a new one, instead we try to find a way to fix it. If we can, we try to use whatever is in our house or on our land to make things. Some things we need to buy but if we can avoid it we can. To us it’s a more positive way to live as it makes us appreciate things more and gives us a sense of pride.
I admit, I can’t wait to get water into the house so I can have a flushing toilet, a shower and a washing machine, these are the luxuries I miss the most, but I don’t miss the ‘throw away nation’ that we lived in, in the UK. Although its hard work, it’s good to go back to basics, to learn how to live of the land as much as possible, to create things by your own hand, to take the time to know your neighbours and learn from their vast knowledge, to do things the ‘ old fashioned way ‘, these are the things that are lacking in the UK and what makes us so glad to be living in Bulgaria. I know that in the future we will be faced with difficult times and have moments when we might want to give up, but we will overcome those moments because this simple, basic life we have chosen will give us the most satisfaction and happiness than we have ever had and you can’t put a price on that…….

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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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 …………