Friday, 23 January 2015

Do You Know Where You Live?

Yesterday was more than a little bit foggy, all of our daily jobs were finished and I had just finished reading my book. My mind started to contemplate what to write for the next blog, and hoping for inspiration I started looking on the internet. Out of idle curiosity I put the village name into the search bar, just to see what would come up. There were a couple of my own blog articles, and also some news items from a couple of years ago. It was in one of the news items that I came across a small statement from our Kmet. In it she said that she was pleased that foreigners had found this little village, but often wondered how we had come to discover it. We were fortunate, as it was our lovely estate agents who brought us out here when we were house hunting. Admitedly, the village is small and quite remote, hence the name for the blog, and it doesn't appear on every map. I can safely say that I only know of one road sign which actually points to the village. So I decided to do a bit more digging, and this is what I found.

The village itself is located in the Veliko Tarnovo region, and comes under the municipality of Gorna Oriahovitsa. It is up in the hills, but actually sits in a small valley. This is quite convenient as all too often by the time that weather has noticed that we are there it has bypassed us and just carries on. If we do get hit by the weather it most often stays above us until it has worn itself out. As an average, the village itself sits at a height of roughly 262 metres above sea level. Seeing as how we are surrounded by farmland, forests and lakes the air is always fresh and clean. Although during the winter it has been known for the village to be cut off, fortunately there is a doctor in the next village 5kms away in case of emergencies. By and large it is a peaceful village, and often the only things you hear are the occasional tractor puttering away in the fields, village dogs barking, or chickens clucking and scratching in the dirt. Sometimes due to the age of the people living here, their hearing might be going a bit, so if they are working in their gardens (most days in the Summer) then their radios might be turned up a bit louder. Houses here seem to have quite decent size gardens, so no-one lives on top of each other so nobody really gets disturbed by other people's musical tastes. Which is quite fortunate as I have a habit of playing some distinctly 'English' music, including various Punk groups.

As I previously mentioned we are very rural here, and you can see the percentage breakdown of how the village area is utilised. Most is taken up by fields and trackways, followed by woodland and trackways. One day I might even find out where allof these various tracks lead, I do know that once upon a time they were the main routes between the various villages, and tend to be more direct that the present day roads. It is a very pleasant place to be, and when the weather is good it is nice to take a slow wander to one of the dam lakes around the village. We have two main ones, Great Spring and Shtirkov.

One of the first  things that I noticed in the village, was that to my mind the houses don't look typically Bulgarian. I had often wondered why, and finally I might have found an answer. It would appear that once upon a time workers for the Governor of a neighbouring village, Varbovka, settled here. They were generically called Albanians , but could have come from anywhere in that general area as it was a larger country than it is now. They were not even the first settlers here as traces of both Thracian and Roman settlements have been discovered, as well as traces of a Roman road. It is not surprising as the land is so rich and fertile, and being in a hill top valley protected from a lot of the weather.

It wasn't until a decree made on the 23rd May 1934, that the village changed it's name to Paisii. As far as I am aware this is the only village in Bulgaria with this name. Prior to that it was known by the name of Arnautlii (Арнаутлии). These Albanian settlers built a small school and church, along with their houses. Even today that school is used for the Kmet's offices, as the school is no longer used as the children get bussed to neighbouring schools. At one time this village was quite a thriving little place, it had its own library. community centre and even a small cinema. Up until people started to get lured away by work in the towns and cities, there was a village population of 872. Sadly this has now dwindled down to about the 200 mark.

It would appear that at one time there was a military presence here as well. They took over the management of the school during the 1970s, by which time it was no longer a school. Maybe I am putting two and two together but perhaps it had something to do with the president's former hunting lodge, which we pass on the ridge road, or at least that is what we have been told that it was. Up in the woods I have found what appear to be tank berms, there is a short runway which is now used by the crop spraying aircraft, and in Strelets there is what appears to be a military style bunker. All very Cold War'ish.

No matter what the history of the village actually is, it is a pleasure living here. The air is clean, the peace and quiet can't be beaten, and the villagers are second to none. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by beautiful countryside, wildlife and birdlife abound. This really is a little slice of heaven, and I consider myself lucky to live here. It might be called Paisii, Paisiy, Arnautlii, Arnautli, Паисий or even Арнаутлии, I am just pleased to call it home. Hopefully I haven't bored anyone too much with my findings about this little hideaway.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

The First Blog Of 2015

First let me wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year, and I hope that 2015 is all that you hope it to be. Most of you I haven't seen since last year, and thanks to you all the figures on the blog were far beyond my wildest expectations, from a starting point of 30,000 you all helped push the figures to just over 91,000. Now here we are into the second week of the year and already that figure has risen by over a 1000. So once again I can only convey my thanks, but you didn't come here to be dazzled by figures, you came to read the blog and see what has happened so far. I think that I can safely say that the weather has been variable, in the past three weeks it has gone from almost t-shirt weather to being bundled up and looking like the Michelin Man, and now back again. We have had sunshine, sleet, snow, rain and wind, possibly everything in between too.

As usual I have tried cultivating my icicle of doom, this year it managed to get to almost a metre long before a sudden thaw caused it to part company from the  downpipes on the guttering. Fortunately it didn't impale anyone or anything, although at daft o'clock on New Year's Day I wouldn't have minded if it had. Once again the village children were out and about with their decorated twigs and wands, tapping you on the back and saying the little rhyme in exchange for small gifts. I'm trying not to cover old ground here as this tradition has been covered in previous year's blogs. Each year I am surprised by the number of children who trudge through the snow to our gate, and yet they are not in evidence throughout the rest of the year. So they are either alien abductees given time off for good behaviour, or they are visiting family. The previous evening we had made up 20 little goodie bags, each one containing fruit, sweets and loose change. I thought that 20 would be plenty, but they all went, maybe next year we will have to make more. I have yet to work out at what age the village youngsters will stop coming round.

Earlier this week, the 6th, it was Yordanov Den. This is the day when young men of the village gather at rivers and lakes and casting caution to the wind plunge into the icy waters to retrieve a cross which the local priest has thrown into the water. Supposedly whoever retrieves the cross will be blessed with good health and good fortune throughout the coming year. Although it doesn't seem to happen here, I think that the closest event to us would be at the Lion Bridge in Parvomaytsi. There the winning man not only got blessed but he also gained 100 Leva, and a 20kg piglet. It would appear in some areas that some of the local gypsy lads have been trying to shoe horn their way in just to get the prize money.

Once again due to the road conditions we were unable to get out of the village to go and observe. Normally when I renew the car insurance at the end of the year I would get the new vignette at the same time. Sod's Law meant that the Post Office wasn't open so that put the kibosh on that idea. Which meant that I resorted to the village bus, this now seems to be like an annual pilgrimage for me. Net is left at home tending fires and exciting things like that and I am sent out into the wintry wastes armed with a to do list and a shopping list. I was surprised that the bus fare had remained the same as last winter, unfortunately I think the smell of the bus was also a hangover from last winter too. Either that or someone didn't get any soap in their Christmas stocking. Apart from the whiffiness the bus is a safer option on these village roads, especially when logging lorries have plastered mud everywhere, leaving frozen ruts behind. Where there weren't ruts the snow and ice had been compacted down making for a skating rink, even the back end of the bus drifted on some bends.

By the time we got to the main road you wouldn't have realised just how slippery the village roads were, as it was totally devoid of either ice or snow. Looking at the fields, as we made our way closer to Gorna, they were having less and less snow in them. Arriving in Gorna itself, apart from some small piles of snow at the roadsides and minor patches of ice on pavements, you could easily think that winter had passed the town by. The first stop was the post office to mail some bits and pieces to the UK, and to get the new vignette. Once again the annual cost has not risen, as it is still only 67 Leva for a full year. I seem to remember it has been that price for at least three years, unlike the road tax in the UK which always seemed to increase. Post Office done, bills paid and that just left sorting the TV package out with Vivacom and the shopping. Due to the length of time in Vivacom sorting everything out, including house phone and mobiles as well as the TV which I initially went in to sort out, I only had enough time for a quick visit round CBA before getting the bus home again. I have had a further trip into town on the bus, as you are limited to what you can get shopping wise by what you can carry, and cartons of milk take up a fair bit of room. So I have had shopping trip mk2 to enjoy, I even managed to find time for a coffee in town.

Over the last couple of days the temperatures have certainly been on the rise. I even took the chance of driving down into Draganovo to refill one of our gas bottles. Today I was outside building my wood pile back up without having to wear 93 layers of clothes. To say that it was quite pleasant would be a slight understatement, there were even bees flitting round. Heaven only knows what they expected to feed on. We have been quite lucky so far this winter, we have only had about four nights where the temperatures have dipped down below -15C. So far all of our water pipes have survived, I did have a bit of an ice build up on the kitchen waste pipe as it exits onto a North facing wall, but that have been sorted out now. The thaw has come quite quickly so now the garden is a bit of a boggy mess. If I', unlucky I will be mowing the grass before I realise it.

So far this winter has been very pleasant, reading in the warmth of the cellar of an evening with a big mug of coffee, the animals contentedly basking in front of the fire. Each morning I do the log run, and sort the fires out for my bit of winter exercise. Soon we will be back to work in the garden so it is worthwhile recharging the batteries while we have the chance.

As to whether the winter has finished with us, I very much doubt it. Everyday the sun is rising just that little bit earlier, and setting a little later, we have had cloud but we have also had blue skies too. The weather can be a fickle thing. Looking on the bright side of things the Martenitsa stalls will soon be out in the main square of Gorna, and apparently Storks were building a nest in the village last year so hopefully they will return again this year.