Monday, 23 November 2015

We've Hot Footed to Hotnitsa!

Sorry I have not been in touch lately, we have had to sort out the inter-web at our new place...

Well we've found it...
It's in a village called Hotnitsa which was once featured on "A Place in the Sun".  This caused the village to be well populated by ex-pats two of which owned this house.  There are not so many ex pats now and we have met at least 7 of the locals and said "Priyaten den" which means have a nice day in Bulgeski but probably not spelt like that.  The house is in good nick and has some lovely features not least the Strawbale house that sits in the grounds...
GJ has this marked out as a " man-cave"
The previous owners had a business making these homes out of straw and there is a website showing just how this one was made 
The house itself has a summer/kitchen
Needs a bit of tidying up and a lick of paint
 which is basically a covered area for sitting in on the hot balmy summer nights. Opposite this is a large unused template for a poly tunnel for me to hone my skills at grow your own.  This should allow me to extend the growing seasons but I will still need some raised beds to make things easier for me in my old age.  See I've got plans to keep GJ working for ever.   In the grounds there is a large barn
Just the half that was not in the dark!
We met the neighbors who live behind the barn, on our second visit and the estate agent was told in Bulgarian by them that the wood inside the barn belonged to them.  This was queried with the owner and found to be untrue so the agent hot footed it back to put a padlock of the barn door. We will however be able to use the wood as a sweetener for the neighbors when we come to put Kevin into the barn because the approach is from the back of the property and it will need some adjustment to a walnut tree in the lane which happens to be on their property.  That's how things work out here - give and take. 
These branches will have to be removed....
To allow access to our barn and the neighbor will also have to move his van and bits and pieces  - only to get Kevin in but I think we are going to need a translator!
Inside the house is a beautiful old wood oven which was discovered behind closed doors.  I can see me doing the leg of lamb on one side of this for Sunday Lunch.
Think we better get it swept first though!
We have a downstairs loo and shower room which is very unusual in Bulgarian houses as are internal staircases, and we must be very posh because we even have a bath in the upstairs bathroom.  The house itself was split into 2 with the kitchen area actually in the main living room..
You can just see the fridge on the right hand side and a sink and some units follow on.
It has to be said that I like a nice kitchen, and so the plan is to convert the annex which holds the wood oven above, into a nice live-in kitchen
Oven hidden behind those doors - this could be a dining area
some sort of sleeping area which will become the main part of the kitchen
and then the door to the summer kitchen.
The Man Cave:
I don't think I get a look in here but it has running water, shower etc and there is even a mezzanine sleeping area so if he does something wrong - he can go to the naughty corner.  Here's a few pickies:
 There's that women again!
 The lounge area!
and the kitchen area - but I don't think he will be using this as such!  More likely to be storing oily rags and tools than tea towels and utensils.
Up the naughty steps
And a window in the wall just to confirm the straw bales.
Oh well!!!
Catch up next time with our first few days as homeowners again - at least this one is all ours and we don't have to share it with the bank.
H, GJ and Braken

Monday, 9 November 2015

Sofia - The Capital and some culture

Whilst waiting for some time to pass - because of which I will blog about later - we decided to hire a car for a week and take a city break in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city.  In preparation and to get a little practice driving a left hand drive car, we ventured down to the market on Wednesday to pick a few things up.  Graham wanted a supply of chillies (which he uses like normal people use salt and pepper).  We approached one of the stalls who advertised 1.60 levs per kilo.  Because we were not sure how much we would get for a kilo, I duly pointed at the sign and said "edna" which means one in Bulgarian.  The seller started putting more and more in the bag and when we told him to stop he charged us 2 lev.  That's what I call rounding up!
 In UK I used to get 4 chillies for 80p and this lot cost 72p.
 Phew - what do I do with these now? - Ah, a nice decoration!
We decided that because of our lack of Bulgarian we would play it safe and book a "Best Western" hotel right in the heart of Sofia called 'The Bristol'.  We arrived amid masses of traffic going every which way - scary for us country folk.  We parked the car on the pavement outside the hotel (several cars already on the pavement so just followed suit) and the bell boy came out and shimmied us into the hotel and took the car off whilst we checked in.  Phew, it was all a whirlwind.  Our room was what you would expect from a "Best Western" with en-suite, mini bar etc. so we settled in to look at the menu to see if we would eat there that night.  Now the reason the break was so cheap is that they make up for it on the menu - without wine, averaging £70 for two which is mega expensive for Bulgaria.  So off we went into the city and the first, most inviting place we came across was a "Happy Bar".  This is a restaurant chain that primarily supplies tapas type dishes, sushi and larger mains.  In the UK we would order our starters, mains and drinks first and they would come in that order.  Not so in Bulgaria.  Each dish comes when it is ready (so one person could have their dish 20 minutes before another and main before a starter).  For us though, it all came together.  I ordered courgette cakes to start followed by a chicken dish, GJ ordered a beef tongue starter with another chicken dish to follow.  Voila - four plates on the table together.    
I will say the service, buzzing atmosphere, and food were great together with the cheap prices but unfortunately Bulgarians still smoke in the restaurants and the fog was quite thick.
Next morning we were advised by the bell boy to take a guided walk around the city and our free guide would be in front of the National Theatre at 11am.
Well we waited and waited..
met this lady en route..
listened (and donated) to this trio whilst we waited - they were excellent.
We got talking to a German chap who was also waiting.  He was in Bulgaria to help out with integration of immigrants - what an interesting chap.  We were accosted by a lad on a bicycle who explained that there were no volunteers to do the tour on foot but that he was available to do it on a bike.  Now I know that we are proficient bicycle riders after our French trip but this city is as busy as London and there was no way these old folk could cope with that.  Off went the German fellow.
See the universal fast food joint on the left!
So after a coffee, we went off to do our own sight seeing.  Not sure what the buildings are but I thought I would give you an idea..
We thought we would learn about the history of the country we were going to be inhabiting so we went to the History Museum...
Unfortunately we were not able to take photos inside but the history of Sofia was very similar to ours once the Romans had left their mark.  Even up to the start of the 20th century, the clothes looked like they were used in Downton Abbey.  It's amazing that the city is rich and vibrant yet move out to the country side and even though there is no more communist rule, the villages are still very poor.
 Lunch in the American Cheer Leaders Bar that we stumbled across - very cosmopolitan...
and when in Rome (or America) - Ceaser Salad - which came about 20 minutes before GJs Burger.
That night, we decided to find an Indian restaurant (Spice Island) but they were hosting an Indian birthday party - always good to go were the locals go.  The host managed to squeeze a table in by the reception desk for us which was great because the dewali style singing started downstairs which gave a great atmosphere.  We ordered, 1) Popadums with pickles, 2) Onion Bahjees and Samosas, 3) A chicken dish, king prawn dish and vegetable dish and drinks.  However, firstly came the Bahjees and Samosas - both excellent. Then the drinks..... 
then the popadums.. 
 and before we had finished that lot, along comes the mains with rice - Phew, our little table was groaning so we had to use the reception desk!
All were absolutely excellent.
Next day, we went to the National Theatre once again for our walking tour but when we got to meet the guide, it turned out that the walking tour was actually a hiking tour to the mountains overlooking the city.  Well neither of us were dressed for that and we didn't have packed lunches either so we had to be left to our own devices again.  As you will see - my legs were starting to play up so we slowly meandered around the city to find parts we hadn't yet seen

 On Saturday, the parking areas are deserted

 We visited this cathedral which was quite impressive but again we were not allowed to take pictures
 This chap was a bit stern and if we had had a guided tour, I could have told you who it was
Just one of the unusual sights  A biker who clearly had a bad leg!
Back to the Happy bar for lunch - because we couldn't find a Greggs! - Sushi for me with edemami beans and chicken dippers - Bulgarian style for GJ.
 And that night back into town to the Spaghetti House, which unfortunately was empty at 7:30 pm but once again the starters came with GJ's pizza and 20 mins later came my rigatone with capers and mozerella.
Tempted though we were, we decided not to get a taxi back to the hotel but I thought I would put this on to remind GJ of what he is missing - Ha Ha!
More ramblings and news soon.....
H, GJ & Bracken
PS: It's was the first time we have actually gone away and left Bracken with someone else (Sister & BIL) and he didn't pine a bit - unlike me!

Friday, 6 November 2015

We arrive at Chez Brunger...

Well, Kevin and GJ got us here in one piece on Sunday 25th October to Polski Senovets village which is where my sister and brother in law live.
 Kevin sitting outside - can you imagine the curtains twitching!
Chez Brunger or in Bulgeski - Dom David et Sarah
The outside kitchen on the right and the front (or side) door..
Leading to the Chicken roosting shed and night time perch, then on to the goat shed..
Millie having a scratch and David closed in for the night!!!
Goat - who said goat? Grrr!
On Monday I had about 5 loads of washing to do and we decided to choose and book some houses to look at on Tuesday.  We looked at 5 on Tuesday within the village that S & D live (Polski Senovets), one of which was just what we wanted but with possibly a bit too much every day work going into our old age but we thought we would put it on the back burner.  Some of the houses were pretty bad but for the price, we didn't expect much.  It's quite creepy that when there has been a death in the family, the Bulgarians celebrate it by putting a poster of the dead person on the entrance door, for how long I'm not sure but there are posters everywhere. 
On Wednesday it was market day at Polski Trembesh, a couple of villages away, so off we trundled with David and Venka and Jordan their neighbours.  Venka and Jordan are both in their 60/70s and have adopted David and Sarah and between them all, they manage very well to communicate.  
Venka, Jordan, David and Me off to market in the early morning mist.
 The market was an array of colours with all the lovely fruit and veg stalls - no photos tho' because we were standing out enough without being tourists.  Under a subway to avoid the railway track and there were stalls selling shoes, kitchen stuff, clothes, hardware - you name it.  We met up with Venka and Jordan in a very trendy cafĂ© for coffee and were invited to their house that night for a meal and that afternoon to look at a house for sale of another neighbour.  OMG! The price started at 19k Levs, quite a lot of people turned up to show us around babbling away in Bulgarian.  After having negociated the unkempt garden to get into the house (if you could call it that) we went from smelly room to room in the dark and semi dark.  The calendar on the wall was dated 2006 which is when it was last inhabited, yet things were left just as though somebody had just walked out - use your imagination.  When we came out of the house the looks on our faces brought the price down to 12k Levs. (1 lev = 37p)
Later that night at Venka and Jordan's the price was 10k Levs but we still didn't want it!

 Jordan watching David denying that he had had too much rakia (the local hooch).  Jordan should know because he was secretly topping him up.
 Venka just smiling because she cannot understand a word GJ is saying and he hadn't had too much rakia
 A present from Sarah and David's recent trip to UK - Liverpool stuff - A common language
Well what a bobby dazzler!
The meal consisted of a plate of mixed vegetables raw but pickled for a starter, Fish and Chips which was carp in batter with chips and grated cheese on top - all cold.  That's how they serve it, so that the hostess doesn't have to be away from the table for long.  Alongside this came a plate of very fatty cold cured meat but Sarah had made some chocolate brownies for pud - so that was alright then!  It was lovely to be embraced by these people and their humble surroundings.  They are a very genorous, proud and hospitable nation - even though we told them that we didn't want the house. 
Thursday took us to Velinko Tornovo, the largest local town (used to be the capital I believe) and we visited the local supermarkets.  We had by now found a nice walk we could take Bracken on which headed out of the village
You will notice the weather and the lack of outer clothing!
and the fact that we are still eating in the garden...sorry about the washing!
This takes us to Friday and more viewings - another 4 I think, it is all quite a blur....
Now this was interesting!
More about this next time......what a busy week!!!
H, GJ & Bracken