Day to day events mostly cataloguing my complete lack of understanding and common sense!

To save space, the most recent blog entry will have relevant pictures in it, but after that the photos will be moved to Flickr for storage, and a link to them added to the blog post. If you want to see all the photos anyway then visit the Gostilitsa Flickr page here.

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There is now a separate site with information on living in Bulgaria, including:

  • An introduction to Gostilitsa and all it has to offer
  • Day to day practicalities of shopping, paying bills, banking, insurance
  • Healthcare matters for people and pets
  • Public transport and issues relating to car ownership
  • Becoming a Bulgarian resident and learning the language
  • Tourism, public holidays, festivals, places to visit, hiking routes

Click here for the link.

Friday 9th March, 2018
Category: 2018/03
Tags: Baba Marta snow

We finally had some proper snow last week when it fell steadily for about two days. It was incredibly dry powdery stuff and I was amazed to notice that you could actually see the individual snowflakes with their tiny six sided patterns.

The snow always brings the birds into the garden for the seeds from the feeder, although this year I noticed quite a lot of birds feasting on the berries on the ornamental apple tree.

The fieldfares and the hawfinch were a favourite of mine.

The cold weather doesn't faze the animals in the slightest, and in fact they quite often just lay out in the snow. The cats of course love it because of all the great tits swooping down to the bird feeder, but the dogs just love bounding about in the snow.

Bella's a great one for scenting out the tracks of everything that's passed by, and the snow doesn't stop her as she just shoves her nose into it and has a good hearty sniff anyway.

March 1st is the day when we traditionally exchange the red and white Martenitsas with each other, and prior to this there's usually a workshop at the community centre to learn to make them. This year I had a go at making the two characters Пижо & Пенда (Pizho & Penda) which are commonly seen. I've seen them where the male figure is the one in white, but I guess it doesn't particularly matter. My Pizho is a very red-blooded character!

Friday 23rd February, 2018
Category: 2018/02
Tags: garden dancing Trifon Zarezan Yalova Ponuda car

Last week was crazily busy, as some weeks are, and it seemed like every day there was somewhere to go or something that needed doing. Despite this I still found time to destroy prune the plum tree, just in time for the temperatures to plummet and the snow to fall. I'm sure it will just make it flourish even more and be laden with deliciousness come summer.

The trimmings have come in handy for my plan to make hoops for the raised beds, either for draping plastic over during colder weather, or netting during the summer to keep the nibbly bugs off. I've wacked some pegs in the ground to bend the branches round to make them curve, but I'm not sure if they'll actually keep that shape permanently; if I lift one up it just pings straight again. Maybe I'll have to tie them across the base or something.

On Tuesday we celebrated Trifon Zarezan in the village. This is the vine grower's festival where vines are given their first pruning and some of last year's wine is poured on the cut bit to encourage a bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Reicho is a fount of all knowledge, so I asked him how I should go about pruning my own vine. I was feeling proud of it - it's only two years old and already has a branch over two meters long. Imagine my shock when Reicho announced that it should be way taller than that by now. It turns out I should have been digging fertiliser around it on a regular basis (I do well remembering to water it) and sadly it's not yet ready for pruning. He said if I go down to the cooperative farm I can have some cow manure which is supposed to be best. I might actually order a trailer load, that way my vine can have regular feedings to fast track its development. I want my grapes!

The following day Gostilitsa celebrates Yalova Ponuda, and this year our numbers were boosted by inviting some other community centres to come along and watch. Reicho (from the community centre, not the vine guy) turned up dressed as a woman, protesting wildly when the babas demanded money from him. His protestations were ignored, especially when the babas suggested having a look under his dress to see if this 'woman' was genuine, at which point he bought his freedom like all the other men.

On Friday I headed off into VT to get my car windscreen fixed. I'd noticed a little stone chip in it a couple of weeks ago and thought it best to get it fixed. It turns out that this isn't as common a repair as it is in the UK, but I eventually found and contacted (yes, another dreaded Bulgarian phone call) a repair guy in VT. I was slightly concerned about car-jacking scams when he said he'd meet me in a car park as opposed to the address on the website, but when I called him as I was setting off he actually said to go to the business address.

It turned out just to be a residential street anyway, but at least I was reassured by the sight of the guy standing there actually holding a windscreen repair kit. He spoke pretty good English (having worked in New York for several years) but I was good and tried to carry out the convo in Bulgarian. He mentioned his neighbour who has a house in Gostilitsa, which sounds very much like it's down in my neck of the woods. The neighbour's called Hristo Radev, so I must make enquiries at some point so see if anyone knows him.

Saturday it was Trifon Zarezan all over again but this time in another village - Kereka - where I've been going for dance lessons. The hall was packed and we were entertained by live music from a group of musicians and two singers who did a mix of modern music (Bulgarian and English) with plenty of horo dancing in between. At about 4 o'clock it was time for the dance group to show one of the dances we'd learned, the 'gypsy horo'. We all remembered the steps and were even joined by a little three year old girl who wandered onto the dance floor and broke into our circle! Here we all are outside the hall wearing our 'I love Bulgaria' uniform t-shirts:

Our next practice is on 3rd March, and I plan to get a list of the names of the dances so I can be practising them at home else I'll forget all the steps!

Click here for some photos from today's blog.

Friday 9th February, 2018
Category: 2018/02
Tags: Dancing garden veggies mincer

Do you ever find yourself feeling sort of antsy and dissatisfied with life for no real concrete reason? I sometimes get like that, and my instinct at such times is to shut myself away and get all hard done by and lonely - boohoo, poor me, nobody cares. Fortunately I can recognise the arrival of these moods and know from experience that giving in to isolation just leads to more intense grumpy bitterness, which prompts me to cut myself off even more, which leads to... well, you can see the spiral effect, right? My antidote now is to force myself to do something sociable (even if I really really really don't want to) and thus far the gods have rewarded my efforts with pleasantness.

One such instance was a couple of years ago when I was on my way to the pumpkin festival in Sevlievo and found Bella on the way. Rescuing her took my attention completely away from myself and made me focus outward on something else. Not surprisingly, the dark clouds soon lifted.

Well, last Saturday, in an effort to cancel a little pity party, I headed off to Kereka where a Bulgarian dance class was to be held. I knew at least one other Brit would be there (it was they who told me about it) but when I first arrived there were only Bulgarians there who all appeared to know each other. It took a huge effort to stay in the room and not sidle back out the door - I think sheer bloody-mindedness took over and I was determined to dance, even if it was in a corner on my own whilst this big group of experts whirled around.

The first dance began as a warm up and was thankfully a very simple one which I could join in with. The next one looked a bit more complicated, so I stepped back from the circle to watch, hoping that I'd be able to get to grips with it. To my delight, one or two others were also unsure as to what to do, and one of the girls leading the session took people to one side to try and break the steps down. Phew, they aren't the Bulgarian Olympic Dance Squad after all!

For the next couple of hours we did maybe four different dances, and then focused on the 'Tsigansko Horo' which I recall seeing people doing at previous events. No one knew how to do it so we learned a little bit at a time and did lots of repetition before starting to put it together in chunks. It was brilliant when it started to click and I was stepping and kicking along with the others. Tiring stuff though - definitely a great exercise workout!

Our teachers were so pleased with the results that they asked if we'd like to perform it in a couple of weeks' time at the village Trifon Zarezan celebration.

I'm going again tomorrow and really can't wait. Negative mood? What negative mood!

I think I've mentioned a few times about the lovely mild weather we've enjoyed this winter, and it's been really tempting to start the veggies off early, but I've been resisting just in case there is a sudden major freeze. I don't think that's going to happen now though, so this week I began some planting.

I bought some onions at the market the other day (hopefully they're ordinary onions and not shallots this time) and so far I've planted about 200 in the garden. 

I've also done some lettuces under a sheet of plastic, and sown individual parsnip seeds in little loo roll pots. These have been put in the greenhouse to keep a bit warmer while they germinate. Up on the landing there are yoghurt pots with various tomato varieties and tons of peppers (fingers crossed this year I'll finally get my own pepper seedlings to grow):

The manure pen in the garden is brim full and hopefully the stuff in the centre, where it's been warmer, will have started to rot down. I think it's been in there since October so by the time I start using it in March it will have had 4 or 5 months of rotting time. Last year the stuff in my raised beds was fairly fresh and it was amazing how the volume of it dropped as it decomposed over the year - literally halving in depth. I've been turning over the soil in the beds ready for topping up. 

There's a section at one end  where I've mixed in a lot of sand I salvaged from the street outside (when there's heavy rain, building sand washes down onto my street from where people have it heaped outside their homes for building works). I plan to plant some carrots here this year as I think pure manure has been too light for them to grow successfully before. I've already sown a few rows of radishes in this bed.

And finally I've been making my own minced meat (ground meat, not Christmas pie filling!) this week. All the mince I buy over here, be it from a butcher or supermarket, tends to become one big sticky lump in the pan, and always has some kind of weird herby taste to it, which affects the dish you're trying to make. I'd wondered for a while about the possibility of making my own mince, and then a few weeks ago a friend lent me a mincing machine exactly like the one I remember my mum using when I was a child. I finally got round to buying some pork this week and had a go at putting it through the mincer. It sure wasn't as straightforward as I remember it seeming.

The mincer kept getting clogged up and I discovered that the sinewy bits were getting tangled round the blade and were blocking the holes in the disc the mince comes through. So I got into a routine of cutting the pork into smaller bits first, and every so often taking the disc and blade out to scrape the sinews off. 

I fried a few bits of it and was thrilled to have mince that actually stays in separate bits and tastes of meat. Bolognese and chilli are back on the menu!

Click here for photos from today's post.



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