Archive for the ‘The Characters’ Category

Yes, I had a lot to do after Kerrie left but that didn’t stop me from taking time to enjoy what the village had to offer.

Unfortunately for Kerrie, she left just before a couple of wonderful folklore days. It was Easter you see, so there was a day in Miladinovtsi and another day in General Insovo.  Hristina had told me ages ago that there was something on at the local community centre and was I going to go along ?.  Of course I was…one thing I’ve learnt is that when I get invited to things, there’s often a very pleasant surprise waiting for me when I get wherever it is I’m invited, so I rarely refuse any invites.

The Mila do was on Friday the 15th of April and she also mentioned that there was something on in General Insovo on the Sunday. Now, I’ve been to the Insovo do in previous years. This is the inter village competition for dancing and singing. It had been wonderful the other times I’d been, so I was definitely up for another visit this year.

On the Friday Hristina and I headed up to the community centre about 9.30am and everyone was there !

There was flowers

There was singing

There was dancing

and a whole table of food, most of it the traditional easter breads and cakes

Which I discovered was all cooked by the local ladies and was to be judged later on by the Mayor and a couple of the village men.

I’d not seen the traditional breads and cakes before and some looked (and tasted) delicious.

The centre piece on the table was a very decorative Easter cake (I think it’s a cake)

it was a fantastic piece and made by one of the older women in the village

and though she may not show it, she was very proud of her creation and pleased when I asked for a picture.

So, after the singing and dancing finished the Mayor and two offsiders started to sample the food and score it. The tension in the room was palpable…trust me

And after the judging was finished and prizes awarded, that lovely table of food was demolished

The men drank Rakia

Everyone ate to their hearts content

And this is all that was left at the end.  It looked like a plague of locusts had been through.

The lovely centre piece, however, was whisked off the table and showed up again in Insovo two days later….but that’s another story.

The only reason I’m getting so much of this done is because the weather has turned to poo…as soon as Mr Sun appears I’m off to the garden !!

There’s still birthday gatherings, Easter, guests and some ‘triffic pictures to go, so if the rain persists, I might just get it all done…

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As I gazed out the window this morning – I’m snowed in, so doing quite a bit of that – I couldn’t help but notice a vehicle that was sliding it’s way up the road.  Actually, it wasn’t the masses of snow or the sliding car that  caught my attention, it was the sheer numbers of people in it. !

The car itself was absolutely packed to the gunnels and to top it off, there were four people sitting in the boot, crammed in like sardines, lid up, legs hanging over the back and all of them having a merry old time.  Let’s not forget that the road is so dangerously slippery just now and it was also snowing quite heavily as, with engine roaring, they slid off up the road. Heaven help them if someone had come around the corner in the opposite direction.

And I know I shouldn’t say it, but it was hilarious to see. They just didn’t have a care in the world and were as happy as anyone could be.

I was relating the story to Mitko later on and he told me they were on their way to the cemetery because it’s one year since their mother died. I commented that perhaps they all had a wish to join her…  🙂

I desperately wanted a pic, but couldn’t lay my hands on my long range lens…by the time I found it, they had slid around the corner…damn and blast.  I must start leaving the camera and all its bits on the kitchen table. I often look out and see bizarre things happening in the streets below me and as they can’t see me, it really is a chance for good shots. I just need to get more organised.

This isn’t the first time the guys that own and drive this particular car have stopped me in my tracks. They obviously have a gas conversion on the vehicle and  a couple of weeks ago, I was walking up to the village centre when I came across one of them doing some repairs to it.  He’d pulled the tank out of the car and was sitting on the ground doing said ‘repairs’ ….mainly with a hammer !!

They just make the best of what they have I think and do the best they can with what they have and all the time they appear to be pretty happy and relaxed about it all.

And what else am I doing to amuse myself while the snow falls ?  Besides making the living room and kitchen lovely and warm for myself and Gina, I’m having my first ever go at making my own yoghurt.  I never realised how easy it is. Well, in saying that, the technicalities appear simple but I won’t know for another 6-7 hours if it’s actually working.  I may just end up with a large dish of sour milk, which Gina will love…so nothing wasted.

And Gina is still insisting on her daily walk.  We’ve just got back and again the snow was falling and the air was bracing, but I actually love it.  I feel great when I get home. There’s been a very nasty flu doing the rounds of the village and one of the women reckons I haven’t got it because I go for a walk in the freezing cold every day. I doubt that’s a correct medical opinion, but I’ve certainly managed to avoid it…so far.

Slightly worrying occurrence last night…Hristina’s sister Donna has been here many times and yesterday she popped in to see if I wanted to buy some Martinitsa’s…they’re the red and white wristlets that people here give on March first. You wear them and when you see your first stork, you hang them on a tree or place them under a stone. In winter when there’s no leaves on the trees, you can see loads of them from previous years hanging on the branches.  Anyway, Donna came up the stairs and Gina and I were waiting for her at the top.  As she walked past Gina, madam took a sly little nip at her backside !!  Fortunately, she only made contact with Donna’s very thick coat, but I was stunned & Donna was frightened because she thought ( and possibly, rightly so) that Gina was going to bite her. I called out ‘Gina !!!’ and she immediately let go and sat there looking deeply ashamed, but none the less, this is not something I want to see happening.   I’m worried that it might be a possession thing with me…she doesn’t want anyone coming here…but I have guests coming and if needs be, she will be banished to the dog house whenever I have people here.  She’s strong and has very big teeth…I don’t want any problems.

And yet, as I look at her here, fast asleep on her luxurious bed with her best ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ face, it seems hard to believe that she would do such a thing.

I wont lie, she has bitten someone.  When she was having her pups one of them died and she was distraught.  I very carefully took the dead puppy away, but she was not happy about it and she even growled at me.  I had people staying downstairs at that stage and I told them that under no circumstance were they to go into the garage because Gina was beside herself and I couldn’t guarantee how she would react to people going in there.  Unfortunately, the woman who used to breed dogs, thought she knew best and went into the garage as soon as I turned my back.  I was at the front of the house burying the puppy when I heard a god awful scream and a terrible commotion ….Sure enough, Gina had sunk her large teeth into the woman’s calf.  I felt terrible that it had happened, but I had been very clear with my instructions.  I always advise people to approach her gently and not to suddenly lunge at her…she doesn’t like that at all.  A hangover from her beatings, I’m sure, so she does need a little understanding, but she’s been so good since I came back that she really caught me off guard yesterday….something to watch for I guess. And she was fantastic with the guests I had last year, so maybe she was just having a bad day.

She’s still my girl and I love her.

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So much for getting my blog up to date before the New Year clicked over.!! Join me now as I step into my time machine and go back to 2010 and finish up a couple of bits and pieces I’ve been trying to do since before Mia became so ill.

Ah yes indeed…..even before the first snows started to fall this winter, the pig killings got underway.

I had noted a few happening around the place when I was walking to dogs….and that’s something I’ll mention in passing.  Never take two large, strong dogs past a place of much blood !!  Bloody hell, I literally have to drag them away and that’s no mean feat.  They go a little nuts when they see all that meat and blood and none of it appears to be coming their way.

Anyway, it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to Hristina and Volchos for their first big kill last Sunday.

When I first went to a pig kill I was too squeamish to go early for the actual killing and cutting up. I did get a little braver and started attending a little earlier and saw bits and pieces of what  transpired. I’m not saying I’m brave enough even now for the actual killing, but I did get myself over there to catch the process of what happens after the death blow.

When I got over the road the pig was dead and the head removed and the hair removed from the skin. The process had reached this stage…..prepare yourself if you’re a little squeamish

While this guy took care of the cutting up of the torso, the innards were being cut up into small pieces by two other men for ‘Barhoor’, a sausage made mainly from offal

and here’s Ivan cleaning out the entrails for the Barhoor

They wash them out thoroughly and after the bits are all chopped up the process of making the barhoor begins.

What do you think this might be ? and no, it’s not a torpedo launcher…

Well, it’s this, the sausage maker, made by Volcho probably or maybe one of the other men there

The bits are all mixed together and the Barhoor making begins

Keep in mind, this is all being done in freezing temperatures…

And while the men are kept out of mischief making Barhoor, the women have plenty to do as well.

Hristina and her sister, Donna were meanwhile cooking up what has become my favourite winter dish. It’s pork with sour cabbage. It’s delicious and warming and perfect on a cold winters day.

Firstly the pork is fried up until it’s fairly crispy. The cabbage is bubbling away in another pot and when the pork is ready, the fat is drained off, a good scoop of paprika is added, along with the drained cabbage and then it’s all well combined.

When everything is cut up, sorted out, cleaned up and packed away it’s time to sit at the table and enjoy some of the fruits of their labour.

It’s the depths of winter, so no fresh salads. It’s time for potato salad and pickled vegetables, green tomatoes and carrots. And plates of ‘cherin drob’ are placed on the table for you to pick at. This is the liver. Now I’ve had some that have been bloody awful but Hristina cooks hers like mum used to make liver and bacon. It’s has a lovely rich gravy and tastes fantastic, and the locals will tell you it’s all part of keeping healthy over the cold winter months. Everything they eat seems to have a purpose and different things appear on the table at different times of the year. The other things that appears at this time of the year is minced garlic with oil and salt and in between picking at the veges and liver, the odd shovel of garlic is taken as well. It’s delicious. !! A small rakia or two is taken with this part of the meal.

Then comes the (usually) enormous plate of pork and cabbage. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t believe how much the Bulgarians can eat while not getting fat. There’s a few plumpys, but you don’t see the enormous people that you see in the west.

So there I am with my plate of pork and cabbage, a few slices of nice fresh bread, a large glass of Volchos terrific red wine and great company in a really warm room…a perfect winters day.

Even the chickens get in on the act…

No wonder the eggs are so rich and wonderful 🙂

And there’s still one to go…this will be part of the family celebration at Christmas. Hristina and Volchos children live and work overseas so they don’t get together all that often. When they do, it’s reason for much joy and celebration, and as part of that this year, this fella will meet his maker…all 300 kilograms of him !!

And the main question I was asked during the day by different people: ‘Why don’t you do this in Australia ?’
Hard to explain that we’re not allowed to…I know it’s a tradition here and one that even the EU won’t knock on the head, but as the younger generation come through, I doubt they’ll want to do it. They’re all more than happy to come to their parents and grandparents in the villages now and leave with a car full of fresh meat, rakia, wine and other produce, but will they take up the traditions ?? I doubt it….far too busy buying shiny things and getting into debt. A shame really. One day Bulgaria and all the other eastern European countries will be just like everywhere else and I don’t think I want to be here when that happens.

On a lighter note…there was one very busy fella when the pig was being cut up…Volchos very fine looking rooster. And here he is…just because

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Now, I’m sure you know me well enough by now to know that I’m not all about work…no matter how busy I am. So when Hristina came to me and asked if I wanted to go away on an overnight stay for another performance of folklore and folk dancing, of course I said yes.

I asked her where we were going and she replied ‘Черно море’ Cherno More…The Black Sea.  But where on the Black Sea were we going ? She just shrugged her shoulders, laughed and said ‘Черно море’. So, once again I was off on a magical, mystery tour with the people of my village.  I did run into the Mayor a few days later and he wanted to confirm that I was coming.  I asked him where we were going and found out it was a town called Primorsko, a place I had wanted to visit since Ivan told me about it years ago.  I was very excited about this trip indeed..

So very early on the morning of September 05th I joined Hristina and wandered up to the village centre to await the coach that would whisk us away to the seaside.

even the local dog was there to see us off

and everyone, young and old, was coming along

When the coach arrived there was a flurry of raised voices and waving arms.  I asked Hristina what was wrong and, apparently, everyone was very unhappy about the standard of coach that had come.  It just wasn’t good enough.  Now it looked OK to me, but there wasn’t a toilet or (I think) a movie and so folk weren’t happy. The mayor, who didn’t look too happy himself, eventually got us all onboard and away we went.

Got to Primorsko and there was another problem…something to do with the hotel.  Hey, my Bulgarian has improved exponentially, but I’m still no expert.  Next thing, we’re away to Kiten, 5 kilometres away and in no time at all, ensconced in a very “Russian’ style hotel.

But the rooms were clean and the beds comfy, so I was happy.  I got the share a room with Hristina and Gospodina, the wife of Ivan’s uncle.  It was interesting…I realised how much more Bulgarian I could speak and how much more I could understand, but I still couldn’t keep up when they started a full blown, rapid conversation.

While we waited for our rooms to be made ready, everyone sat outside and those who had bought lunch with them, sat and nibbled. One of the village women who lives just up the road from me is Maria and she’s a very funny woman.  She arrived with her lunch, set herself up on a table, plonked a small vase of flowers, the ones that would later grace her hair when she was dancing, on the table, and proceeded to enjoy a good lunch in the sunshine.

Then it was up to our rooms and, while the ladies prepared themselves for an afternoon of impressing the judges, I wandered around taking sneaky pics with my new very large lens…it’s great because I can take pictures before anyone sees me.  If a Bulgarian sees a camera they will pose, and I want unposed, natural shots…and I got some beauties.

and some, not so sneaky…

No sooner had we arrived in Kiten and got settled, than we were hurried into the bus for the trip back to Primorsko for the competition.  I mentioned before that they take it all very seriously, and you can really feel the tension as they wait their turn…

This day, however, after watching the other competitors for some time, Vala, our local poshta (post office) lady must have decided to ease the tension by getting everyone to have a bit of a dance while waiting to go on.  I was wandering around (again) taking pics when I noticed her quietly dancing, waving a handkerchief…next thing, everyone had joined in and a lovely spontaneous thing happened under a huge shady tree on a beautiful summers day…

Sanka, the Mayors wife, is in charge of the whole troop. Normally she would be dancing as well, but as they had a loss in their family, I’ve been told that she and Dimitar won’t dance for a year. Look at her face while she watches her group on stage:

This is serious business…but all their hard work paid off, as there were many accolades at the end

and while I watched it all through my camera lens, I managed to capture a little of the beautiful colours and textures of the costumes and the fabulous footwear.

Once the competition was over, it was a quick walk around Primorsko and the things you see…

I was busy buying myself a set of garden chimes for my new patio area, when I noticed the Mayor at the booth next to me showing a great deal of interest in something.  I peeked over his shoulder and this is what greeted me:

Knives, guns, nan-chukkas anyone ????

The Mayor purchased one of the larger knives in the range and as we walked away I told him that in Australia, because of the high levels of violence, you would never be able to have a stall like that in a public place and you certainly would not be permitted to walk around the streets with such a dangerous weapon.  I told him the police would shut down the stall, seize all the weapons and probably put the stall holder in jail…and maybe the mayor as well for walking around with such a scary knife….his response ???  ” How else am I supposed to kill my pigs ” and off he walked, proudly showing his new purchase to his wife  🙂

and just in case all those knives and things weren’t enough for you, we could always pop in here for a drink???

Ah, Bulgaria…

Then it was back to the hotel for a big sleep after a busy day and next morning we all headed out and about in Kiten.

We had a beaut day. Most of the people on this trip work really hard and this was a nice couple of days for them away from it all.

The beach was lovely and almost deserted, which was nice, and there was this terrific little bar nestled amongst the rocks….definitely on my list of places to have lunch, or something, when I get back down there again.

and I managed to get my little walking group together for a quick pic.

We then we had a big walk all around the town and then found ourselves and pretty much all of the group down at another beachy/rocky bit.

I told them to gather together for a big group photo…bloody hell, it was like trying to herd cats,

but eventually I got a couple of them all

but all too soon it was time to go

we headed back to the hotel and the bus…now what was I saying about the things you see. I couldn’t resist this guy in his ‘safety gear’ strimming the grass.  Gotta keep the tan up you know…

We jumped back on the bus for a quick trip to Sozopol before returning to Miladinovtsi.

Sozopol was hot, but wonderfully quiet and it was all quiet walks and icecreams

well, except for the guy walking his…..lizard !!! ???

which I found slightly bizarre, but there ya go….Ah, Bulgaria.

It was a very tired old girl who returned to her home that night, but what a wonderful day I’d had…

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God, I’m getting told off now for not keeping this up to date, but you have to be kind to me.  I have a lot to do and I’ve been doing it.

I’ve completely redone the third floor and it looks damned spectacular…even if I say so myself. And I’ve been out picked 5 kilograms of mulberries and turned them into jam,  mulberry syrup (which is bloody good on pancakes), stewed mulberries for a possible pie in the depths of winter, plus made a boatload of apricot jam. The kitchen has been running non stop for days.

It’s a damned miserable day here today, so I thought I’d sit down label all my preserves and if time permitted, get at least one entry done here…

So, let’s get started by casting our minds back to June 12th..that would be the day after my last entry, but what a day it was.  I had known for some weeks that I was off to Yambol with the villagers for a singing dancing competition.  No, I wasn’t doing either, but I was certainly taking pictures of them.

So, 8.30 on the morning of the 12th, I headed up to the village community centre and there they all were in their colourful splendour. And even better, while I’d been in Australia for the last two years, their numbers had grown. There were a few new faces plus three of the local men. I’ve been to a lot of these events over the years and Miladinovtsi has rarely had any men involved, so it was nice to see some there this time.

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We piled into the cars and arrived at the Yambol sporting complex, where I was greeted by the sight of even more colour and motion

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These events are something they clearly take seriously and while other villages were performing, I took a few shots of the Mila folk checking out the competition.  You can see the tension in their faces

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But once they took to the stage and got their event underway, they certainly did the village proud with the performance.

I’m not sure what story they were telling, but there was bread being broken, wool being spun, song, laughter and dance…

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Did they get through to the next stage ?? Buggered if I know,but I’ve no doubt that if they did, someone will turn up on my doorstep one day telling me to be somewhere on a particular day at a particular time and away we’ll go for another fabulous day of folklore. I love these days. !

As I write this, Mia is lying on the floor behind me, snoring …..like a man !!  Bloody hell !!  you have no idea how loud it is…Christ, I don’t need a husband, I’ve got two dogs doing a perfectly good job of deafening me with snoring….

and Yes, Mia’s finally made the journey to the inside of the house, but that’s another story that I promise to tell you soon….suffice to say, the weather is lousy and both mother and daughter are luxuriating in the comforts of the ‘inside world’

I’ll be back…

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Phew !!  Nana’s been a wee bit sick.  Bloody hell, I can see why they call it ‘Grip’, it gets a hold of you and won’t let go for love nor money.   I’ve even had to take to my bed for extended periods during the day.  But like everything in life, one can usually find something amusing and even in my sweaty, feverish days (and nights) I’ve been amused by the sounds coming from my chest…thank God I don’t smoke anymore actually because I reckon I’d be dead if I’d combined smoking with whatever is in my chest.  Anyway, if you’ve ever picked up a squeezebox or a piano accordion in your life without knowing how to play it, you know the strange range of sounds that can come out of it…think of those sounds and you’ve got the noises coming from me just now.  I’ve been lying in bed  just breathing, as you do, and I’ve had noises both when inhaling and exhaling, so the opportunity has been there to see just how much I can vary the sounds…and I can.  🙂  I’ll be a lot happier when I can’t though. My cleaning regime has ground to a halt basically because I don’t have any energy. However, today, after 24 hours drinking a tea made with chunks of lemon, handfuls of mint, fresh garlic, cloves and large dollops of Miladinovtsi honey I’m feeling decidedly better and ready to tackle the house again.

And I haven’t been completely house bound.

It was my birthday on Wednesday..and no, the bottle of Verve I picked up in Dubai on the way over did not get opened.  I was too crook and couldn’t see any point in wasting it. Anyway, when I lived here before, the Mayor used to ring me every year to wish me Happy Birthday and even though I’ve been away for two years, he remembered. First thing Wednesday my phone rang and I was greeted with a great big ‘Chestita Roj Den Den’ (Happy birthday).  Now, a little aside here…while I was in Australia, Dimitor and Sanka, The Mayor and Mayoress, lost their only child, their daughter. I attended the christening of her first child in 2007, she was such a young woman and I was devastated when Ivan rang me to tell me the terrible news.  I guess I’d kinda been avoiding going up to say hello to them since my return.  In Some situations I’m not as courageous as people think I am, and facing them after their awful tragedy with my limited Bulgarian somehow seemed a little daunting. But when Dimitor rang me for my birthday, I realised that these are more than just some folk I know in a village, they are my friends, and friends are there for you when times are bad and good.  So I got myself dressed and headed up to see them, and it was as hard as I thought it would be, but not because of the language barrier.  Dimitor, as the Mayor, is the person that everyone looks up to, the person that everyone goes to when they have problems… Sanka, his wife also plays a strong role in the village. They are the strength of the village. As I walked up into the village centre, he was walking towards me.  We shook hands, did the cheek to cheek kissing and exchanged a few words. He then started to talk about his daughter and I could see him crumbling…he just looked defeated. I just wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was or whether there was some protocol I should follow, so I did the thing I seem to do best in times of peoples stress and distress…I gave him a great big Sue Mercer bear hug. I probably frightened the living bejezus out of him, but it just seemed the thing to do at the time.  I asked about Sanka, and she was walking through the park in the village centre so I headed over to see her as well. Sanka’s a woman of quiet strength but like Dimitor, she looked exhausted and a little defeated, so after a few tears (from both of us) I did the same to her as I had to her husband, just hugged her really hard and hoped that she could draw a little strength from me…I have plenty to give.

Now, there’s more….me and my storks.  There are a couple of new kids on the block and they’ve moved in just up the road from my house.  I can see them from the window that I’m sitting in front of writing this.

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and they’re building a new nest up there, which sees them wandering around on the ground collecting sticks and the like

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But, there’s something going on with other storks around the village.  I think it’s possibly territorial and last night there was some dive bombing going on.

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So the new kids were defending their nest last night, but all seems settled today and they’re back building again.

While I was out taking pics of the storks at war, the homing sheep came home

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and for a moment, I thought they were all going to come home with me.  They seemed a little surprised to find me standing in the middle of their road and proceeded to crowd around me, baa-ing loudly

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and miles behind them, looking a tad weary, came the shepherd

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Life in the village continues on:  Volcho’s donkey still gives a nightly performance when it’s time to come in and Volcho is forever patient, eventually getting her in the yard

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and though Gorgi’s donkey may love to sleep on the road, she’s much better behaved when it comes to being put to bed at night

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I have more to say, but I think this is a little long, so will leave it now and write a little more later….

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Now, where was I ?..Ah, that’s right…in Bulgaria.

Once I had put all my reservations about returning the Bulgaria to bed, I just had a terrific time with my sister and everyone else that I had time to catch up with.

When I arrived back in the village, clearly the news of my return had spread. I was welcomed back by my neighbours, the Mayor, his wife and my Bulgarian friends. I felt like a long lost daughter….I was truly moved by the experience. I knew I had friends there but was concerned that my friendships were being damaged by malicious gossip. I was right that there had been plenty of gossip. This was bought to my attention by a friend who speaks english, but it hadn’t affected the real friendships I made in Miladinovtsi, the friendships that count.

Also, I was once very good friends with a woman called Stefka…we were great friends, but a couple of issues got in the way and we ended up estranged. When I knew I was going back, and after hearing that she had had a bad run with some of the people that adversly affected my life, I decided it was time to re-establish the friendship. I contacted her from here before I left and arranged to catch up once I got settled…..

I wanted to take Jillian to all the lovely places that I had been privileged to see in Bulgaria. I planned to head for Jeravna and Sozolpol for starters and as Stefka was also on holidays, I arranged for her to come with us.

We had a fabulous time and I even managed to drag my neighbour, Christina along for at least one day out….I figured she probably deserved a day off. We squeezed into my trusty car, and after dropping a couple of village ladies in Yambol, I picked up Stefka and we headed down to beautiful Sozopol. The weather was gorgeous…not to hot…and the old town, where we were, wasn’t too busy.
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We had a wonderful day…we did all the touristy things. We walked the length and breadth of the old town, we shopped, we lunched ( as ladies do), we ate icecream, we chatted …we just generally had a really nice day. And it was good to spend a little time with Christina when she wasn’t working, and it was great to get back to the good friendship that I had with Stefka.

I didn’t have nearly enough time back in BG and I knew that I wouldn’t have time to catch up with everyone I wanted to, even in the village, so I decided to throw a barbie..not the doll, the classic aussie summer feed…..


It was a cracking night !! I made the mistake though of thinking that if I invited 20 people, only ten would turn up…silly me. Everyone I asked arrived, both from within the village and from Yambol and Slavyantsi (sic) It was chaos……Jillian, Louisa, Anne, Jeremy and Gary spent half the night in the kitchen making more and more Shropska salad. I ran out of meat and had to borrow some…my poor pathetic little BBQ could hardly cope with the demand…. never worked so hard in its little life…
Thank god we didn’t run out of booze 🙂
Thank god the neighbours and various visitors from around the village had crammed my fridge full of fresh veges, cirene cheese and rakia….I had the capacity to feed the thousands…well, with veges, cirene and rakia anyway.

When we arrived in Miladinovtsi, we’d hardly had a chance to get settled before people started to arrive to welcome me back…all armed with food. As my huge fridge got more and more full, Jillian was saying ‘Susie, we’re only here for eight days..you have to tell them to stop bringing food..we’ll never get through it’ My response was that if she wanted to try and stop them, to go ahead…I wished her every success 🙂

Mind you, given the mob that turned up for the BBQ, it was a good thing that I had all that food……it certainly came in handy.

My time back in BG was starting to run out and the night after the BBQ, Christina invited Jillian and I over for an evening with her family. She had two of her sisters and her daughters there, with their partners.

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Christina laid on the full feast of lamb, lamb drop sarma, shropska salad, rakia and wine….jesus, no wonder I put on weight while I was back in the country. We had a terrific night with them all. Christinas daughters live away, one in London and the other spends time working in Norway. When I left Bulgaria, both her daughters left around the same time and poor Christina was devastated that we were all disappearing at the same time to different corners of the world. It just happened that they were back in Bulgaria while I was there and it was very flattering to be included in their family gathering.

All too soon my time in Bulgaria was drawing to a close. I needed to spend time with Ivan, and in between him working with his sheep and house renovations and me running around catching up with everyone, we managed to get together…we also needed to sort a few things out because, again, wagging tongues had made difficulties between us….all sorted now though and our friendship is back where it belongs, on solid ground.

I wanted to spend time with his uncle Ivan and wife, Gospodina, which I did. I had a lovely few hours with them and though I’d only called in to say a proper goodbye, I ended up being fed and indulging in just the wee-ist of rakias. These are such good, welcoming people and I hated having to say goodbye to them again. In fact, I hated saying goodbye to any of them….I so wanted to stay there and get on with my life surrounded by these beaut folk……

Possibly the hardest goodbye was yet to come though, and that was saying goodbye to my dogs….again.

Jillian returned to Turkey on the Tuesday, as she was on her way to France to visit our friend Deb Westerberg and then onto Italy to spend time with our sister Helen. This gave me a day to tidy up some loose ends. I organised friends to mothball the house and car for me, but this doesn’t mean the house isn’t available if someone wants to rent it for a holiday. Just email me: aussiebulg@gmail.com if you think you might like a holiday in a very nice little corner of Bulgaria in a particularly special house.

Then it was time to say bye bye to my dogs. Jesus, I was a miserable cow…pretty sad old time for my last day in the country…..I did spend some very nice, though fairly miserable, time with my Gina in the house with me, and then it was time to return them all to the kennels for a few more months until they move to Bourgas. I think I actually heard and felt my heart break as I drove away, leaving them again.

And then it was time to say bye bye to Bulgaria. I’m so glad I went back, albeit for far too little time. I came away feeling exonerated, comfortable in the knowledge that I’m not the problem, it’s certain individuals around me. I’ve sorted out so much ‘stuff’ and restored very important friendships and seen the important people in my Bulgarian life.

So, with very mixed emotions I returned to Australia to start another life with the ABC in Geraldton…..and that’s turning into a whole other story…..

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So, here I was in Australia, working, catching up with great friends and my fab family.

The work situation was sorted…I had tossed that fateful coin and the decision to take the radio job was made. I had a start date, but I knew there was one thing I needed to do before I started the new job.

I knew in my heart I needed to return to Bulgaria to see my good friends there…to see my gorgeous dogs and to decide what I should do with my house…….and to see how I felt about the country after the rather rotten time I had before I returned to Australia.

My sister Jillian had already planned to visit me in BG and so I decided to return while she was there so I could show her a little more of the country than she saw on her first visit. It was the depths of winter when she visited in 2005 and, though she saw more snow than she could poke a stick at and some lovely winter wonderland scenes, she didn’t really see Bulgaria in all it’s glory…

So. plans were made, tickets were booked and on August third I flew into Istanbul on my way home….or is it ??

Jillian had flown in a few hours before me, so once I arrived and refreshed myself a little, we headed out to experience a little of Istanbul.

With the help of a friend here in Oz, I had got us into a really beaut little hotel slap bang in the middle of the old part of the city, the Sultanamet area. It was a great spot to be and it’s a very beautiful part of the city…..


Look at this for a breakfast view…..


And the mosques and buildings were really very beautiful

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And I loved the three and four storey weatherboard buildings that dotted the area


Jillian wanted to do a wee bit of shopping, so I took a photo stroll around and got a few pics of some of those lovely bits of Sultanamet….. and of my sister, of course 🙂

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The next morning we were up early for the bus to Erdine. We were to be picked up there by the lovely Dimitor and transported through to Miladinovtsi. We had a bit of a wait at Erdine and decided to have a coffee. Wandering around our feet were these two little cuties…though I suspect they were for the pot once they had gained a little more weight

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We boarded the bus at lunch time and then hit the road. Gee, I felt so nervous…I guess I knew there were expats in Miladinovtsi who had caused me so much distress before I left, and according to some, were still indulging in malicious gossip while I was away, and the thought of seeing any of them made me feel a little sick, to be quite honest. I was filled with trepidation…..

And I also knew that this was crunch time…I was either going to hate being back in Bulgaria or love it.

Well, as we came over the hill into the village and I saw my house, a lot of my apprehension vanished, and when we pulled up out the front and Jillian stepped up and opened the front door…and I saw just how beautiful the place was, what a fantastic job Ivan had made of turning my ideas into a reality, I knew that Miladinovtsi and the Big House was where I belong.

Sue and Aisha had left the place in good shape and when I headed out to my vehicle, I found they had also left that sparkling….and I thank them for doing that for me and for looking after the house while I was away.

Jillian had only seen the house pre Ivan and there was a lot of Oooo-ing and Ahhh-ing ringing out around the place as she took a tour. Her reaction was important to me and I reckoned if she thought it was a good job, then it was a good job…as far as I was concerned, her positive response was a vote towards me returning to BG.

I had become so despondent before I left BG, that I think I had lost sight of just how amazing the house is and what a huge difference the work I’ve had done has made. Walking back into it was a very good experience for me….very positive.

Anyway…the next most important task was my fat bottomed girls.

I rang Maria (my vet) and organised a time to meet a the kennels. I was sooooo excited about seeing them again…you have no idea.

It was so good to see Maria again and it was so, so good to see the dogs…..and look at the size of them !!! these girls are just eight months old and still have a fair bit of growing to go.

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And look at my lovely Gina…doesn’t she look fantastic.


She was vaguely suspicious about my sudden appearance and all of them were a little reluctant to leave the kennels and get into the car. Who can blame them…I’d left them for four months, and the kennels and the people who had looked after them there, including Maria and her family, had become the important people in the dogs lives.

Even though Maria is now the owner of Rosa, she decided the dogs should all be together as a family for the few days I was in town, which was very kind of her, and I think time with her mother and sister was really exciting for her…they were like a bunch of kids, even Gina. 🙂

We got them all in the car eventually and talk about a car FULL of dogs…..jesus !! There wasn’t much space left once they were all settled in, but they were all on board and off to Miladinovtsi we headed…

Again, on arrival they were a little wary…not sure what was going on, but again, once they got back amongst familiar smells and sights, they proceeded to play….and play…and play…and play. Not only are they huge for their age, but they seem to have endless energy…..

I had such a wonderful time with them. After a few days, Gina reclaimed her position in the house and got very settled indeed..and this is where my heart got broken again. When it came time for me to leave, she knew. She started following me around the house and hanging around my suitcase, checking the contents and giving me whithering looks as I put more bits and pieces in it. She just looked hangdog for the last 24 hours or so and I could hardly stop crying….

I love Mia, but I adore Gina…she’s my mate and best girl and I still feel an overwhelming sense of guilt when I think about deserting her….I just couldn’t bring myself to give them up completely, but maybe this is something I have to face in the near future. I can’t seem to make up my mind where I want to be, and that’s not fair on the dogs.

And their future ??? well, Rosa’s is in place. She has the best owner she could have in Maria and for now, the other two are being looked after by a friend of Maria’s. It’s the best possible arrangement, because if I return to Bulgaria I can have Gina and Mia back, on the condition that the guy can put his male Karakachan over her next year and he keeps the pups, and if I don’t return, I will either ship them out here to Australia….or wherever I decide to settle….or he can keep both dogs for himself. I’m bloody lucky, aren’t I ….things just seem to be falling into place for me, not matter which way I turn.

I have loads more to tell about my visit. We crammed an awful lot into eight days… Jillian and I had a beaut time and I have so much to tell about the village, the villagers, Ivan, days out with Christina and an old friend that I had lost contact with, Stefka, Stefka’s daughter and her amazing art.. Take a look at this http://www.inatrifonova.com

there’s stories, there’s pictures and I’ll be back with all that and more another day….

Right now, I have to make marmlade…and that’s ANOTHER story 🙂

bye for now

Mercer xxx

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and so, after one week of some of the most bitterly cold weather I’ve ever experienced, it got warm !!! It’s truly bizarre…..one day freezing, next day standing out in the yard soaking up the warmth like a lizard…..God, it’s great…

And though I dont remember planting hundreds of bulbs, I must have, because right now my garden is a mass of little green points….the first peepings of numerous bulbs. It’s going to be fantastic if they all flower.

There’s a lot going on just now, and getting my back sorted out has been a big part of it. After months of injections and codiene, which was giving me nosebleeds, I eventually found the amazing Dr Dobre…Yep, Dr Good is his name….and he is. He’s made a huge difference to me and I am almost able to walk properly, which is nice. Added to this is the discovery of Bobby, the blind masseuse…..only in Bulgaria !!..but again, this guy is remarkable and is also helping me incredibley. I’ve gone from drug riddled cripple to much happier, walking nearly properly, able to stand for long periods, able to walk a fair distance…and almost getting a nights sleep..and this has happened in about three weeks…… I’ll be dancing next …NOT !!

And ..then there are my favourite girls…ever growing, ever gorgeous..and getting naughtier by the day


And still spending their days playing in the ash from the fire that I’ve dumped in the backyard….


Look at my lovely white puppies !!!!!

And, as always, when the camera appears, Gina looks on with a jaundiced eye 🙂


Apparently, these dogs are elligible to be registered with the Bulgarian National Karakachan Breeders Association..they are perdigree and come from a strong line of dogs, so I may do this in case I ever decide to breed them.

Regardless, I still love ’em to death and just like the fact that they are great dogs…..their breeding line is actually the least of my interests.

For now, it’s time for some rest…..now my back is getting sorted, I’m having much better sleep and have a lot of catching up to do….

There’s lots happening and all will be revealed in the coming weeks…..

for now

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and so we went from deep and crisp and even, to slimy, muddy, damp and downright yukky !!! And every day is now a battle against the black sticky mud that is the soil here when water is added…

The weather has actually been quite nice the last couple of days, but we had day after day after day of really heavy, wet fog last week…and it was really depressing. There just never seemed to be an end to it..then I awoke Friday morning and realised that I could see blue sky !! and a large, yellow ball in the sky, the name of which I had some difficulty remembering 🙂
I was chatting to my downstairs guests and we realised that we have not seen the sky since well before Christmas…just greyness, that’s been it. No wonder everyone’s been feeling a little low…and what a difference blue sky and some sunshine is making. The temperatures are still low, but the sun has some warmth in it and I stood out in the backyard yesterday and soaked up the warmth like a lizard on a rock…god it was good !!

and the puppies !! Holy, moly, you should see how filthy they are ….in between still being the most gorgeous creatures on gods earth just now 🙂

I’m now letting them out of their compound every day so they can burn off a little of their endless energy, and now that all that lovely white snow has gone, they’ve discovered the place where I’ve been dumping the ashes from the fire…and Oh, what a lovely place it is for them to play. I took my eyes off them for about half an hour the other day and when I went out to check on them, I was greeted by two of the blackest, dirtiest, happiest puppies you’ve ever seen….. I put them back in the compound for the night and I don’t know whether it was them rolling around in the hay or whether Gina was a very busy mother, but the next morning they were back to being lovely and snowy white…..but not for long !!! no point trying to keep them clean…..and they are just having so much fun being puppies…..truly delightful.

And Gina ?? well, I suspect in her previous life, there wasn’t a lot of play, and she now seems to be learning how to play with her pups. The first few days she wasn’t doing very well and was way to rough with them, but now, she is just having so much fun with them…and they with her. This is what I wanted for her..the chance to actually enjoy her pups. I’ve found out that the first lot she had died and the second lot she ate because she was starving, which must have been so terrible for her. She’s been the most fantastic mother, and she really does love these pups. It’s been a joy to watch her.

I bundled them all into the car the other day and took them off to the vet for their shots. I asked a friend, Sue, to come with me because I kinda thought they would be a real handful, but they weren’t. They were lovely, though one of them did get a little car sick…and I give them porridge for breakfast…….so you can imagine what I had to clean up in the car 😦

They were fine with the vet..a little whingy, but didn’t embarrass me at all. Now, keep in mind that these guys are 8 weeks old…..Rosa is weighing in at a hefty 15 kilos !! and Mia isn’t far behind at 13 kilos…..My fat bottomed girls indeed !!

We tried to get Gina on the scales, but she was too big, but Maria (vet) estimates she’s probably around the 40-45 kilo mark and in perfect condition….so I’m very pleased and happy. She’s come back from the brink of starvation and is now a happy, healthy girl..lovely 🙂

And when I haven’t been completely and utterly engrossed in the dogs ???

Well, this year we held Babin Den at my house. I asked Donna, Christina’s sister, if Babin Den was happening at the bar and I’m not quite sure why, but it wasn’t, so I offered my house. The local ladies sorted out the inviting for me and brought all the food and I just provided the house and lots of really good chocolate…they love a chocolate in this country…and my friend, Aisha, bought a large batch of scones, which really went down a treat. I love the fact that if you produce something different at these do’s, the folk here will always give it a go. If they like it, they descend upon it and it’s gone in seconds… if they don’t, it sits, a solitary, unpopular food item….Scones were a huge hit !!
And so the local ladies arrived and we got down to the important business of eating and drinking….
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god, you should see how much rakia I now have…could start my own bar with the booze they bought…
and then, I put on my Bulgarian music and the dancing commenced !!
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It was a really beaut day and I thoroughly enjoyed, as did everyone here….mind you, if I do it again next year, I might have to buy a bigger house ..or knock out some walls….or something.

Before the snow thawed, we had a bit of drama across the road. I was sitting here keeping warm the other day when I heard an almighty THUMP !! I then heard Teodora, the lady across the road, wailing. I ran out of the house and, bloody hell, the weight of the snow had bought down their outhouse..which was full of their sheep. Jesus, it was awful. Karlina from next door was already running over there and I joined them to see what we could do. It was freezing cold and there was no way we could lift the roof…obviously the priority was the get the sheep out and hope that none were dead. I ran back to my house and got Gerry to run up to the bar and get men to help and I also shanghaied a few blokes that were walking past to come and help. Another brit in the village stopped and helped and eventually all the sheep were rescued..intact. This was fantastic, because when I first looked under the wreckage I could see blood and was sure that there would be casualties…..
Anyway, there we all stood afterwards and I realised that they had nowhere to put their sheep…so I offered my garage. An offer that was taken up, and a few hours and a few metres or wire later, half my garage became a temporary home to seven large, surprised looking sheep. They were only there for just over a week while Giorgie and friends sorted out the rubble of the outhouse, which then gave them access to their other outhouses, so the sheep could then be moved there, but it was rather nice to hear them out there when I was with the dogs..almost felt tempted to get some….NOT !!! 🙂

On the ‘Bugger !!!’ list…..I sometimes make mention on here, after a hard days work, that I have a Nana back….gets sore, few twinges here and there, makes strange cracking noises sometimes when I stand up, usual stuff. Well, before Christmas the problem seemed to escalate and I’ve had some really serious problems..a few days where I’ve been pretty much crippled with the pain. Once again, the Bulgaria medical system has picked up something that should have been found years ago either in Australia or Scotland, both places where I’ve had XRays and MRI scans….

My mother had a curvature of the spine and it appears that I have inherited it from her. When they told me here that I had it, I asked the question ‘how could that happen’ to which the doctor responded, ‘it didn’t just happen, you would have been born with it’
Anyway, it’s obviously been there forever and has caused a little problem here and there over the years. Now, I’ve done something…the doctor suggests perhaps lifting heavy things that I shouldn’t be lifting…and one of the vertebrae on the curvature has herniated and is pushing up against a nerve…Shit, Shit, Shit !!! And boy, am I experiencing some pain…and no, I’m not having an operation. At the moment I’m having a course of injections, which Aisha, a friend in the village, who’s a nurse, is administering. Poor woman, has to face my bum everyday…… I’m also taking some pretty good drugs and this is keeping things under control..sort of. Next Sunday I’m off to see some guy in a village near Sliven who is, apparently, a bit of a miracle worker with dodgy backs. My doctor is taking me there, so he must be OK….I hope 🙂 I told my doctor that I don’t care if this guy’s a witch doctor and wants to smear me with pigs blood, as long as he fixes the problem…I want my life back and just now, this is really slowing me down…..

and just a small aside….Poor old Aisha rang me today to tell me that one of the village ladies turned up on her doorstep this afternoon, injection in hand, asking her to please administer it to her….and she’s coming back for the next one in five days !!!! So not only does she have to face my backside everyday, but now she’s got the villagers coming to her as well and presenting theirs….

God I love this country..there’s always something slightly bizarre that brings a smile to my face everyday 🙂

And last, but not least, today is Australia Day, and I was asked to do an interview for the Sofia Echo, an English language newspaper that’s produced in Sofia. They wanted an Australia perspective on living in Bulgaria..apparently. Anyway, it’s done, and I’m waiting to see what it’s like. I have no idea, but they’ve promised me a copy for me and some for my family…..so lets hope I haven’t made an idiot of myself ….

I think that’s it….If the puppies ever stop running around like whirling dervishes, I’ll get some more pics and post them, but for now, ciao, ciao

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