Monday, 13 January 2014

First Walk of 2014

The Route
For many of us living out here in Bulgaria, this winter seems to have been exceptionally mild. We haven't really had any snow since November, even in our garden we are left with an ever decreasing pile of snow from when I cleared the drive way. So we are now almost up to mid January, which hopefully means that any real winter will be quite a short one. Before we know it the Martenitsa stalls will be out and we will be keeping an eye out for the arrival of the Storks.

The River
With this wonderfully mild weather it was decided that it would be a shame to waste it. It's still a bit too cool to do any garden work, or DIY bits outside, but it is ideal for a walk. So during the week plans were made to have our first walk of the year on Sunday, meeting at midday. It was only intended as quite a gentle ramble, although initially it didn't seem that far in practice it proved to be maybe a little further than we had imagined. Even when we first arrived, we were faced with a dilemma, tea or coffee? Also the young lady had cooked us lunch, did we want to eat before the walk or after. The general consensus being that we would all have built up an appetite during the ramble, which seemed quite logical.

The Bridge Over The River Yantra
So with teas and coffees drunk it was time to wrestle with stout footwear which had been dragged out from under beds and the back of cupboards. Even though we have not had any real rain either we would be following the course of the river, and there were possibly going to be slippery muddy areas. Not to mention where the sheep had been. So fully booted and spurred the expedition set forth. There is a new way down towards the river and being the curious sort that we are we headed down that way, passing various springs and bizarre looking trees. You know the ones I mean, the ones that appear to have old manky bananas stuck in them. They are a form of seed pod, but with no leaves you cannot help but notice these things. One thing about taking a different route anywhere is that you do get to notice different things. Down near the river level there were small herdsman shelters with quite long barn complexes. Looking at them they haven't been used for that purpose in quite a long while, but it does make you realise how much towns have encroached into the rural setting.

Des Res in need of some TLC
The Ford
Before the onset of 'winter' some of us had noticed that there had been a digger in the middle of the river dredging channels, or that is what we assume that they had been doing. There had also been trucks going backwards and forwards across a fording area. On closer inspection it does appear somewhat deeper than I had imagined. Still we can live in hope that one day a boy racer, in his souped up Lada, will also try and cross here. For the moment the dredging work seems to have finished, and this area of the river seems to be the haunt of countless fishermen. Despite there being so many I have yet to actually see anyone catch anything. Maybe they have
The Ford
plenty of patience or I have been wrong place wrong time.

After scaling the massive mole hills, or the piles of earth and clay that the excavations have dug out, we made it to the bridge and the other side of the river. On one side of the river it was residential, but we were now in open farmland, and it did smell a bit cabbagie, but that might have been me. With it being open the breeze had picked up, and though still quite cool it did start blowing the cobwebs away.

Who Needs Modern Apprenticeships?
When you are out and about walking it is quite surprising what you notice. For example we did see this power cable going across the river to a fish farm. How long an apprenticeship do you think this electrician served before becoming fully qualified? Notice how the ends of the cables have been carefully taped together, and then positioned in such a way that moisture would run down the cable towards the bare elements. Health and Safety would have a field day with some of the things that happen here. Now that Bulgaria is supposedly fully integrated into the EU, will people now have to start worrying about falling foul of H&S directives? There was also some evidence that the high winds and the wet snow had caused some fatalities amongst the trees. The locals being the helpful sorts also seem to have been over there with chainsaws helping to minimise the problem. If anyone needs a little extra firewood I do know where there is some just laying around. We did notice that along the opposite river bank it was a hive of activity.

Picnic Spot
Posher Picnic Spot
If you happen to have a river not far from the bottom of garden, wouldn't you make the most of it and build your own picnic area? Some people do try to outdo others though. It might be more solidly built, and have a proper roof, but it is further away from the water's edge. Although during any floods, that might not be such a bad idea. Onwards, ever onwards our happy band of ramblers traipsed. It was surprisingly solid underfoot, perhaps because cars belonging to the fishermen seem to drive up and down it. The only place that it got a bit squelchy underfoot is when we got behind the railway marshaling yard. There is some good metal on some of those pylons so I am surprised that some enterprising individual has not tried helping themselves to a few bits and pieces. By now we were beginning to feel the need for a well earned drink, and we weren't even halfway.

Welly Testing
Ye Old Oak
With the scenery you could be excused for thinking that you could be in a number of places in the world. Perhaps Bulgaria wouldn't be the first country to spring to mind. Even the birds that we saw are quite universally known, Sparrows, Tits and Jays. Occasionally you could even hear a Woodpecker yammering away at a tree. Reality soon made it's presence felt again as we made our way towards the Lion Bridge. Nearly back into civilisation and a well deserved coffee at least.

Lion Bridge
We made it over the bridge and into the start of the residential area when some lady opened the door to her house and began rabbiting away. There was something about Macedonia, and did we know anyone who wanted to buy a house. Thanks but no, as we have all already got houses. Perhaps we had got muddier than any of us realised and we looked like waifs and strays. We eventually managed to sidle away, and down those back roads there are some cracking little houses, some even have proper stained glass windows. Rather than the normal glass windows which are stained. We headed into one of the local cafes, and had to settle the next dilemma. Would we manage to fight off starvation before we made it back for lunch, or did we have a quick snack? The quick snack won out, but we were very good we all shared cheesey chips. These were chips with a difference though, they were fluted, and never mind the cheese, they would be ideal for a salsa dip, or my favourite suggestion curry sauce. It looks like every supermarket that we go in now the freezer cabinets will have to be investigated. We didn't want to stay in the cafe too long as there is always the possibility of these old knees seizing up.

Red Star
So with the promise of lunch being imminently on the horizon we left the cafe. Even though we were following the main road it was possible to see evidence of previous history. Either that or we had just seen the changing rooms of Red Star Parvomaytsi. All in all a brilliant day, spent with great people. If the weather continues to hold the next ramble is planned for this coming weekend. So no fog, snow or rain please



  1. A very warm welcome to John who is the latest follower of the blog. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog John :o)

  2. Hi Chris,

    I found your blog while searching for information on Polski Trambesh. Your description, in one of your earlier posts, of the trip to the market there strengthened my resolve to get away from the UK. I could almost taste the peaches. You can't get a ripe peach here. They're always rock hard. The sweaty bodies were less appealing but I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth.

    I wonder if you would be willing to give me some advice. I'm planning to buy a house in Bulgaria this year and one of the ones that caught my eye is in Maslarevo, in the Polski Trambesh municipality. Do you know the village? If so, do you think it would be a good place to buy a house? I just want somewhere quiet, with a nice long, warm summer, where I can grow my own food and enjoy the countryside. I would be very grateful for any information you could give me. Thank you in advance.


    1. Hi Neil,
      I have been through Maslarevo several times and it seems like a decent village. There are shops there which comes in handy, and it is not far from the main road so even in winter you would be able to get about. The buses run there too. It seems quite a good location as it is convenient for Polski Trambesh, Pavlikeni, Svishtov and Pleven. You also have the other advantage that on the other side of the village there is open countryside.

      To be quite honest I think moving out here was one of our best decisions. The weather is so much better than the UK. There is more of a community spirit here, but be very careful not to let your guard down too far as there are those who are only interested in themselves. If I can be of any assistance just let me know. Has you joined any of the forums or FB groups yet? Some are better than others but you would need to formulate your own opinion, also take a look at some of the other blogs which I follow for a more rounded picture. I hope that this has helped

    2. Thanks very much, Chris. I have been wanting to move to Bulgaria for the last three years or more but until now it hasn't been possible as I have been looking after my mother. My brother is going to buy my house in February along with my mother. Well, he's not buying my mother but he is going to take over looking after her. This, and the fact that my children are now grown up, gives me the chance to get away at last.

      Maslarevo sounds fine. In fact, lots of places sound fine. Perhaps it would be better to ask you if there are any places I should avoid.

      I am hoping to go out to Bulgaria in March to have a look at some properties. Are there any agents you know of that are particularly good and, perhaps more importantly, are there any that are best avoided?

      I have joined a couple of forums dedicated to life in Bulgaria. Some of them seem very good while others seem to be places for people to shout abuse at each other. Why do they do that? I haven't seen any Facebook groups. Are there any that you would recommend?

      Thank you again for replying to my post. If we ever meet, remind me to buy you a drink. Actually, given Bulgarian prices, make it two.

      Best wishes

    3. Good morning Neil, March sounds an ideal time to start house hunting in Bulgaria, as the weather improves almost daily. Plus everyone goes into raptures when they see the first Storks return from their African winter holidays.

      Round about now I would be pestering Estate Agents for information and details of properties. Try to sort out in your own mind what you want, Such as location, ready to move into straight away or needing work. Do you drive at all, as this will be essential is you go for one of the more remote villages. I would recommend using proper estate agents as that way you manage to avoid a lot of pitfalls. A lot will promise the earth but only a few will deliver. The agents we used never once let us down, they are VTBulgaria and are based in VT and cover the whole region. Another Estate Agency that I have only heard good things about is Yantra Homes. As for the others they might possibly be slightly cheaper but I haven't heard much about them.

      With regards to the forums I did find them a useful source of information, but it got so tiresome wading through people ranting at each other, or trying to navigate my way round little cliques. Unfortunately to a certain extent the same can be said about life over here, but you get that anywhere. Facebook groups there are a couple which I would recommend there is The Very Friendly Group For ExPats And Bulgarians
      and the other one is one called The Pavlikeni Post

      That has probably given you a headache trying to read that lot. Good luck with your house hunting and I hope that it all goes well. If ever you need a hand, or just a friendly ear, please give me a shout :o)

    4. Thanks again, Chris, for that information. I have seen Yantra Homes on the Rightmove website but I had never heard of VTBulgaria. There are some great properties on there. I am now even more spoilt for choice. I definitely need to go over and have a look.

      You were talking about how mild the winter has been in Bulgaria. It's the same here. The grass hasn't stopped growing, trees are budding and bulbs are coming out already. There are snapdragons in the garden that have been in flower since the summer. Of course, winter is not over yet. We might be under a foot of snow before the end of February. On that happy note, I shall sign off for now. Thanks again for your help.

  3. Great read Chris, I feel as if I have been on an early morning walk....must be time for a coffee and sit down. I hope this glorious weather lasts for the weekend ramble.

    1. It's a wee bit cooler here this morning and the frost hasn't started shifting yet. At least it isn't raining. Which can't be a bad thing to say in the middle of January :o)

  4. We have another follower to the blog, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Angelica and also say thank you for taking the time to read it :o)

  5. A very warm welcome to Jasmina, who is the latest follower of the blog. I hope that they make sense to you :o)