Saturday, 28 May 2011

Etara and Gabrovo

I thought that I would let you know about our excursion yesterday. We had planned on going for a day out to Ruse with Peter and Claire, but unfortunately poor Claire wasn't feeling very well so they had to cancel. Net and I were dressed for a day out so decided not to waste the gorgeous weather, so out came the map and the difficult choice of where we wanted to explore. I thought Etara sounded good, as quite a few people have recommended it to us, and it was somewhere that we have been meaning to go but just hadn't got round to it. On the map it looked quite a straight forward journey, but we all know what maps are like. The animals were all sorted out, and the housework had been done so there was nothing to stop us. The car gets parked under the barn at night so it was nice and cool inside, but by the time we had got through the gates and locked up we could tell that it was already warming up. 

So with windows open off we set, we were between our village and the next when we could see a figure plodding down the road. It was the 'mad one', we couldn't very well ignore her so pulled up alongside and asked where she was headed. Into Gorna, but she had no hat and no water, and with the weather being without either wasn't a very sensible option, so we said that we would give her a lift, even if it meant a detour for us. All the way into Gorna she didn't pause for breath and insisted on telling all of her extended family news, I'm sure that our ears must have been bleeding by the time that we dropped her off. All was not lost though, as we took the opportunity to have a nervous wee before we left Gorna and got back onto our proper route.

Once on the main road it was straight through to Gabrovo. We did pass a couple of those 'young ladies' in the bright clothes at the roadside. I'm sure that they must be doing traffic surveys or something, and the bright clothes mean that they don't have to wear the hi-vis vests. We got as far as the cafe opposite the turn for Dryanovo monastery, and decided to have a coffee break and some water. Even though we parked in the shade the car was still like an oven when we got back in to continue our journey. We made it to Gabrovo without mishap, or incurring the attentions of the abundant police patrols, and started following the brown signs for Etara. The signs were quite easy to follow, once I got used to the fact that there seemed to be quite a few different spellings, but we arrived none the worse for wear and parked up in the main car park. Just over the road from there we saw a restaurant, and decided that it was about lunchtime so headed over and found a table. The food wasn't overly special, the chicken seemed very oily and the coffee strong and bitter, but I did enjoy the garlic bread.

The Ethnographic village only cost 4 Leva a head to enter, which I have to admit is well worth the money. It is like a walk back into history, and as you stroll around at your own pace you can peer in at various workshops and see how things used to be done here. It is a peaceful and tranquil place, with the sound of running water everywhere along with birds singing in the trees above. The main street part reminded me very much of a world heritage village that we visited in the Czech Republic, a place called Cesky Krumlov. Even though it is smaller, I think that Etara is better, here you can feel and see history being brought to life rather than just be a collection of old buildings. You can buy things that the artisans have made, and I have to admit that I did buy myself a new knife to use in the garden. It isn't one of these tourist traps either, where the prices get hiked just for the benefit of the gullible. We did notice several coach parties of school children being shown round, so maybe they will appreciate the rich history that this country has to offer. One of the few places that I  can remember being like this in the UK was the Weald and Downland museum, but I'm not certain if that is still a going concern.

Once we had finished at Etara, it was back into Gabrovo and a well earned coffee, and as you can see it's a latte. It seems like Bulgaria is finally coming to terms with the fact that I like these. When we first arrived here and asked for one we were looked at as though we had grown two heads. Now I know that not only can I get them in Ruse but also in Gabrovo, another reason to like this town.
Sitting outside over coffee is an ideal opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, people watching. The main area just up from the clock tower is largely pedestrianised, so people from all walks of life wander backwards and forwards in front of you. Even better next to the cafe they were selling ice cream, so cornets in hand we found a convenient bench to sit and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine. All in all a highly enjoyable day out was had by both of us
Before I close I would like to take this chance to say thank you to all of you who have taken the time and effort to read these blogs. According to the counter these blogs have been accessed nearly 1500 times, so once again a very big thank you.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Drivers

The day dawned and we were greeted with bright blue skies and the birds singing. Shame that it was only 6 o'clock, but Fenny decided that it was time for him to go out and water the driveway, and he felt that I should be up and about too. Just recently we have been plagued by cats using our veg patch as a venue for their fights, and Sirius takes a dim view of this and feels that it is his job to bark at them until they clear off, probably much to the delight of our neighbours. As it is a Sunday and this time of the month it was Car Boot day at the VT Camp site, we had arranged to take Jolanta to her first ever bootie, along with Pete and Claire.

It was arranged that Pete and Claire would come over to ours at about 9.30, we would then pick up Jolanta on the way through the village, and head off towards Dragishevo. We duly arrived, and the first problem was finding somewhere to park, the road outside the camp site was lined with vehicles. I have not known the bootie be quite so popular, it was packed, and such nice surroundings to have a boot sale at. It was baking hot as well, the sunshine must have brought everyone out. I think that I can say that a successful day was had by all, Net got a Canna Lily and some Jerusalem Artichokes (thanks Suzie, but if they take over the garden you did warn us), we also got Ginger Beer, Choccie Bickies, Black Treacle, Cumberland Rings and some proper mature Cheddar. It was a good way of putting some faces to names, and hopefully Jolanta has now been bitten by the car boot bug. Once everyone had done all that they wanted to do it was back to our's after dropping Jolanta off on the way.

It seemed a shame to waste such a nice day, so out came the map to see if anything leapt out at us as somewhere that could be visited. We decided to head up to Svishtov and see how the Danube has been coping with these recent downpours, also none of us had ever been there before. It looked quite straight forward on the map, and so it was until we got diverted. Diversion signs had been posted, but why oh why do they insist on putting them right on the junction where they want you to turn? Twice I ended up driving straight past these turnings, and when you have an articulated lorry trying to disappear up your exhaust pipe there's not a lot that you can do, except wait until it has passed and you can find somewhere safe to turn. Once we were on the right road it was a very pleasant trip, and we went past several fields of cereal with Poppies liberally scattered through them.

After a hot and dusty drive we arrived in Svishtov, found somewhere to park and we were all in need of something cold to drink. We also took the opportunity to ask for directions to the Danube. It was very pleasant sitting under those big umbrellas drinking Coke and Ice, and in case anyone is wondering, yes this is finally a photo of your's truly. Svishtov seems quite a nice town, what we saw of it, and just over from this Bistro/cafe there was quite an impressive looking church.
We had a stroll round, before getting back in the car. Well we had to leave the doors open for a while, as it was a bit like an oven in there. Both parts of the soft top came down, and we set off in the direction that we were given, and sure enough we were able to see the Danube. Normally when we have seen the river at Ruse it looks quite muddy, but today it looked quite clear and inviting. Just then Pete's phone bleeped and he got a text message welcoming him to Romania, and there we were thinking that Romania was on the other side of the river. So we had found the Danube, it was still there and looking none the worse for wear. So all that we had to do was head off home again. It seems surprising but the trips home always seem quicker than the getting anywhere. Mind you we did go a different way, but I actually recognised a road that the SatNav tried to take us across, and the next thing we knew we were in Polski Trambesh. Even with both of the tops down I was slowly melting, and suggested stopping for a cold drink. This was quite fortunate, as it meant putting the soft tops back up, and while we were sat having our drinks we heard the first pitter patter of rain drops on the cafe awning.
Well folks that is about it for this blog, the next 2 days are public holidays, well Tuesday is, but the thinking seems to be if there is a holiday on Tuesday why go to work on the Monday, why not have a four day weekend. So see you at the next blog, and thanks for reading this one.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

It's Busy Here

Well here we are halfway through May, and the busy season is upon us. We try to get as much done now as we can, as we know that in a few short weeks it is going to get slightly warm, and we end up doing what the locals do. We will then be working in the mornings and the evenings, and keeping out of the way of the hottest part of the day. Even when we are working it is a case of wearing hats, as the sun is a lot stronger than a lot give it credit.

What have we been up to? We spent a couple of days giving Pete and Claire a hand fitting their kitchen, and they are happy with the end result so that was a job well done. Our pool is now up and full of water, so now all it has to do is warm up. We are trying a solar pool heater this year, it looks like glorified bubblewrap just floating on the surface of the pool, but even if it prevents the heat escaping during the night it will be worthwhile. Net's studio has now been recladded with bark strips and perspex windows put in, so Net can paint away to her hearts content over there. Most of the woodwork on the barn has been restained, just the finishing bit to do tomorrow, I've also been up on the roof refitting some tiles that have slipped during the gales, who said we don't get wind in Bulgaria? The satellite for Sky is now up and running, many thanks to Chris for giving us a hand with that, it is really nice listening to English radio while we are pottering round in the garden. We just have to get used to the time difference, I still haven't been able to catch pop master but i will do at some stage. The grass has had several cuts, but it grows like Triffids at the moment, you turn your back and it's like you have never touched it. When I was cutting out the front it was about a foot high, so it was more like hay making out there, it is always advisable to keep the grass short as there is no telling what might be lurking in there, and Net has a bit of a phobia about snakes. Not to mention the local sheep and goats leaving their ticks for the cats to bring indoors.

Talking of cats we have a new addition to the family, we now have Mini Mog, who is very similar in colouring and markings to one that we lost earlier in the year, hopefully our grand-daughter won't notice the difference. We do have another kitten on the way but it is only 3 weeks old at the moment, Net has already named it Sillyo, which should please Ashleigh when she comes over later this year. The cats have taken a liking to playing in amongst the Garlic plants, so they are looking a bit squashed at times. They have also taken great delight in filling in most of my trenches, that I carefully dug while Net was over in the UK, so who knows where the veg seeds have ended up, there certainly seems to be a lack of carrots. George and Violetta decided that we needed more tomato, pepper, cucumber and chilli plants, so they bought some round while Net cut Violetta's hair. If nothing else we are going to be living on them with garlic, onions and squash, either that or we will end up fed up at the sight of the things. I will give George his due, he has planted them all up for us, not that we haven't done so for the last couple of years on our own, but in their normal style they know best. Sometimes we dread the doorbell, and what it might bring.

The weather has been variable to say the least, and we have had a couple of cracking thunderstorms, not to mention downpours of biblical proportions and temperatures in the 30s in the shade. You can feel the air pressure building before the thunderstorms hit, so we head under the porch and pull up patio chairs to watch the show. Our Boxer, Fenny, never used to like the storms in the UK, but now seems quite happy to sit and watch them with us, Sirius is more interested in seeing what the cats have left in their bowls.

It hasn't all been work here as we have managed a couple of days out, and have found a few places where we can download books onto our kindles. We have also shown Jolanta some of the closer garden centres, Net and I are as bad as each other when it comes to plants and I ended up coming home with a very nice Acer, and a few more Fuschias. The garden centres aren't what we were used to in the UK, but they are getting there, and you can get some quality plants here, they might be a bit different at times but they know what grows here more than we do. Having said that our English Foxgloves and Hollyhocks are doing a treat so far this year.

On a finishing note our Icelandic friends are now back in the village, so we would like to say welcome back to Johann, Kristin, Halldora and Halldora's boyfriend.

Monday, 2 May 2011

It's May Already

Firstly my apologies for not having done a blog during the whole of April, but it was quite a busy month out in the garden. Also Net was over in the UK for the birth of our youngest granddaughter for a couple of weeks, so I was left with a LIST. Even though I didn't complete the list, the vast majority did get done, I managed to feed myself and the animals, look after the house, do most of the garden and still managed a couple of games of snooker. We have managed to make both of the car boots at the VT Camping Ground, so that managed to cut down on my shopping list for Net to bring back, but I am very pleased to report that she brought me back loads of goodies and a Kindle.
So recently we have had a new family move into the village, at the moment it seems like it is just a holiday home for them, but their brother also wants to buy in the village. There are also unconfirmed reports that an Irish couple have bought in the village too, it will soon be a mini league of nations here. Already the foreigners make up about 10% of the village population, but that isn't difficult in a village of this size.
So it has been a long weekend over in the UK, starting with a day off for the Royal Wedding on Friday. I have to admit to watching part of it, my excuse being that I was suffering a bit with a head cold that Net very kindly shared with me. It all seemed to go well for the happy couple, and credit has to go to whoever organised it all. It just goes to prove that when it comes to Pomp and Ceremony that the English do it best. One bit did disappoint me, I don't know if anyone else saw the cartwheeling priest but apparently he has been disciplined. It was a wedding, and aren't they meant to be a happy occasion? If he did it during the service I could understand him being disciplined, but he waited until it was all over, just goes to prove how stuffy the Church is and they wonder why congregation levels are falling. I'm still a bit puzzled by the presence of the trees inside the Abbey, who invited The Ents from The Lord Of The Rings?
Saturday and I was feeling a wee bit better, which was fortunate as Chris turned up to give a hand fiddling about with the Satellite dish. The long and the short of it is that we now can get some of the Sky Free to Air channels. Net now has a plethora of News channels to choose from to keep up to date with current affairs, and for me I now have plenty of radio stations to keep me happy. The radio stations in Bulgaria do seem to have improved since we arrived here, and we are no longer subjected to Boney M, but their presenters do leave a lot to be desired. Shortly after Chris and I had finished Claire and Pete arrived, Net decided that maybe we could do with a twin LNB so that the signal could be sent to both ends of the house. It was a nice day and once Pete and Claire had finished their coffee and I had put my tools away it was off to Popovo. On the way over I thought that Pete and Claire were taking their time until Net reminded me that they still had a get you home tyre fitted. So once we got to Popovo Pete and I quickly changed the wheel over, so much easier doing it on solid level ground. We knew of 2 likely places to get a twin LNB, the first was closed and the second only had single LNBs. Claire then decided that she wanted to price up kitchens, but guess what, that was closed too, so we went over the road and into a shop that was open. Whilst in there we were followed by a member of staff, Claire wanted to know how to say that we were just looking. I replied 'Shufti', but kept a straight face as I said it, Claire was just about to repeat it to the staff member, when she must have seen me and Pete nearly wetting ourselves and thought better of it. After a largely wasted trip round Popovo we went for coffee near to the bus station, Claire decided that she wanted to get rid of a lot of her change so the waitress ended up with a pile of 1, 2 and 5 Stotinki coins. We did find the AgroApteka open and they were able to get their weed killer and vines so maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all. Net managed to get some plants to do our hanging baskets too.
Onto Sunday and the forecast rain didn't happen, so we were able to spend the day in the garden. The grass has all been cut, well apart from the bits out the front of the house, the flower beds have been weeded again, and the remnants of my bonfires have been cleared away. We both caught the sun, and even though we might have looked red and burnt there was no discomfort at all, not even when we had showers later that evening.
Which brings us nicely to today, Claire and Pete had been given some duff information about how no banks in Bulgaria would accept English cheques being paid into an account. We took them into our local branch of First Investment Bank and no problems whatsoever. While they were doing their paperwork, I was round at MTel trying to find out why I haven't received a bill yet. I know it sounds a bit daft to chase up a bill but we don't really want to be without internet. In one way it was worthwhile as the problem is down to their billing department and from looking at their computer screen I pointed out that I was being double billed for April so that was sorted out there and then, I'm still not paying until I get the actual bill though. Once everyone had been sorted out it was time for a coffee, mainly so we could find out if the Kindles would work in a so called WiFi cafe. We've noticed that some say that they are WiFi, but when we have asked we just get blank looks, at least this one worked and the coffee was good too. Then onto lunch at a little restaurant up a side street. Net likes going there for their lunchtime specials when we are in Gorna, The only problem being that the lunchtime specials are hand written, if it is printed I can just about decipher a menu but hand written absolutely no chance. So we asked the waitress, who unfortunately couldn't speak any English, so she got her friend over to try and help. This unfortunate girl had no front teeth and Dracula like fangs, but she gamely tried to help us. Net wanted to know if there was any Chicken, but got blank looks, even asking for Chicken in Bulgarian didn't help. I blame the head colds and bunged up sinuses, not to be outwitted by a menu I started doing barnyard impressions. After which we worked out that there was no Chicken, but they did have Pork and Fish. Claire and Net were all but wetting themselves, the waitress and her friend probably thought that I had escaped from an asylum, and Pete sat there deadpan. In the end we all ended up giggling like a bunch of schoolkids, what a great way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday, good food and good company.