Archive for the ‘The Country’ Category

I’ve just had a couple of days of Mr Sun and I’ve got a shedload of work done in the garden, but he’s disappeared again in a huge thunder and lightening storm last night so it’s back to the web page today.

So after the great day I had here in the village on the Friday, come the Sunday it was time to head off to General Insovo. The day dawned clear and sunny, so a perfect day for a Festival in the park.

Once again there were hundreds and hundreds of people there to watch and dozens and dozens of participants and by days end, this park was bursting at the seams.

There was colour, flowers, fantastic local costumes and the Easter decoration that I had last seen on a table in Mila, this time surrounded by a few Easter tradition friends

This whole day is about Easter, displaying your village folklore talents and a lot of colour and motion.  It’s like a moving sea of wonderful sights in front of you.

I spent the day just wandering around soaking up the atmosphere and getting the best shots I could in a crowded situation.

Some of the headdresses were just fantastic !

As were the waistcoats

There were musicians dotted about the place tuning up their instruments for their performance

and this man had an absolutely beautiful voice…it stopped me in my tracks when he started singing.

There was also a lot of children this time. There aren’t a lot of children left in many of the villages as the younger people have upped stumps and gone to bigger towns and cities for work and education. This year there just seemed to be lots of kids there keeping the traditions going…and they were just gorgeous

These girls were heading out on the the stage area…check out their competition behind them checking them out ! Hey, this is serious business with a  definite competitive edge and clearly, it starts young 🙂

They even took time for a last minute rehearsal.

The women’s costumes were wonderful and a few of the men looked pretty spiffing as well


and, of course, the rugged, butch Bulgarian men didn’t let me down….there was many a flower tucked behind many an ear.

And in amongst all the noise and hustle and bustle I found two young girls having a quiet and thoughtful moment

      Both so very beautiful and so very calm in amongst all the hubbub…

And once again I had the privilege of experiencing another moment of Bulgarian culture with all the  beauty, tradition, music and colour that comes with it.

Next stop…Easter and guests. I’ve been busy, which is nice.

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One Year Already

I just realised today that I’ve been back here for 366 days…I can’t believe a year has gone by already.

And, of course, my big question is, where the bloody hell has it gone ???   🙂

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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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What the ????

So. I’m up on the third floor busy washing windows and getting the curtains rehung. I look out the windows periodically to admire my lovely geese as they wander around their pen, eating wheat and looking pleased with themselves. I must have noticed them two or three times when suddenly they disappeared !!

I headed down the stairs to find the gate to their pen swinging ominously in the breeze and the front gate to the property open as well.  I rang Mitko…it was his rather wacko step grandmother that I bought them from…and we figured they had got out somehow and assumed that they would have found their way back to the grandmothers house.

Geese have a very strong homing instinct.  I remember having them in Australia and when I decided to sell them, they came back four times before the new owner managed to pen them in long enough for them to accept their new home.  Anyway, Mitko said as soon as he finished work he would go to her house and see if they were there.

Later that day…Gina and I were taking our daily sprint around the village when the wacko granny bailed me up…

She’s yelling at me and telling me they are her geese. “moi patki, moi patki'”(my geese, my geese)

I’m responding that I had paid her 50 levs for them, therefore they were mine.  I asked her if she had them and sure enough, while I was up on the third floor working with my Ipod on, she had snuck into the yard and stolen them !!!  I was livid and told her they were to come back to me or else she had best produce my 50 levs.

She was just going nutso and she spits a lot when she speaks.  Gina was also getting agitated…she doesn’t like shouting…so I walked away, came home, rang Mitko and said ‘I believe I know where my geese are’

Anyway, long story short, Mitko and his father went around that evening and told her to produce the money or the geese. Apparently, she didn’t want to produce either, so Mitko’s stepdad just went in and took the geese back. He told her if she ever set foot on my property again, I would let Gina out.  Of course I wouldn’t, but I think that was just enough to put the frighteners on her.

So Goosey and Lucy are safely back in their home and still looking very pleased with themselves.

And I did ponder the fact that I have a dog that some whack job wanted back from me and then a similar thing happens with my geese…do I attract these sort of people ??  Maybe I do, but I still have Gina and I still have the geese.

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Not me !!!   Baba marta!!…

Crikey, she really is grumpy.  We had screaming gales with snow on Sunday night and last night the wind howled like a Banshee all night.  And because my house is so high and has so many corners, the wind seems to scream around every one, so it can be quite disconcerting lying in bed listening to it.  Last night it was -10 degrees, the coldest night I think we’ve had all winter… even though it’s now Spring.

And did I say the wind was cold the other day ??? I clearly had no idea what I was talking about. I just went out to get some coal and kindling. I was rugged up to the nines including having a big thick pair of gloves on and by the time I got back inside the house, about 10 minutes, my hands were completely frozen and numb.   That is cold !!  Gina has already been informed that there will be NO walk today.

There is good news from all this though. Firstly, Baba Marta’s great gales are clearly blowing the last vestiges of winter away. Even though the wind is still screaming down from Siberia, the place is bathed in sunshine today and if you can find anywhere out of the wind, it’s really quite warm.

The forecast from here on in is getting better and better,  Days with temperatures in the mid teens and nights around the 5-6 degree mark.  This means that very soon I can stop lighting the fire and get the house cleaned properly.  I love a wood fire, but holy mother of god they are dirty bloody things.  The amount of grey dust I clean up everyday around the living room and kitchen is unbelievable.  I want to wash all the walls down, but no point while the fire is still on every night.

But with good weather around the corner, I’m looking forward to getting to work again..

Secondly, I seem to be winning the battle to seal this enormous house of mine from the elements.  I have spent years replacing windows that have blown open and smashed during big wind storms. And during the big gales I also used to have little gales blowing in through all the gaps in the windows and the house itself.  I couldn’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent wandering around this house armed with a tube of selastic, nails and various other bits and pieces for repairing windows and closing gaps.  I seem to be succeeding. The rendering of the house has certainly reduced the gaps in the brick work and the icy fingers of winter that used into sneak in through the windows have been reduced enormously following all the work I’ve done on them.

Today is Women’s Day here in Bulgaria and I’m supposed to be up at the bar with all the local ladies having another knees up. Sadly, I’m sitting at home writing this having pinched a nerve in my neck.  I’ve done this before and it seems to flare up about twice a year.  I just wake up and my hands and arms are numb. !!  Not a great experience, and even though I’m saying ‘numb’ the pain is excruciating. I took myself off the Yambol yesterday and had a massage and though things are markedly better today, I’m still in discomfort and figured that drinking and dancing probably wasn’t a smart thing for me to be doing, especially as the masseuse told me to go home and do nothing.

I took Gina with me for her yearly top up for rabies, parvo and all the other things she’s protected from.  It took me a while to drag her out of bed but once she was in the car, she was as happy as a sandman.  She loves a day out.  Now, Gina and I have had a pretty good ‘pasture’ this winter. I’ve certainly plumped up a little and was concerned that perhaps Gina was a wee bit ‘debel’ (fat) as well.  I asked Yanko yesterday if it was diet time for her, but he said No, that she is ‘perfect’ and I should leave her be.  He reminded me of the starved dog that he first met, around the same time as I met her, and told me she’s fine…though she wouldn’t want to get any plumper.

I did ask about the nipping incident. He told me she’s protecting me, this is what my dog should do.  I did mention that I had guests coming, but he thinks that because she’s living inside with me over winter, that she possibly perceives people who come here as a threat to me, especially if they are behaving in a loud fashion, which Donna was the day Gina nipped. I’ve already decided that she’s back out side as soon as the weather warms up, so I’m pretty confident there won’t be any problems with her. And as I’m sitting here writing this while she is flea-ing my leg, I couldn’t imagine her hurting anyone.

Because it’s really cold and I not up to doing a lot, I’m making yoghurt again.  My first attempt was pretty successful, though I only had fat reduced milk and it was a bit runny. So today, there’s no poncing around with stupid weak milk..I got me two litres straight from the cow.  It’s thick and rich and gorgeous and overnight it formed a 2 in slab of cream on the top.  At the moment it’s on the stove top cooling down before I put the culture in.  I foresee really nice thick yoghurt this time…I hope, anyway.

I’m also making bread, but this time without the machine.  I’ve been experimenting for a while now, making different things like bread rolls and pizza dough.

There’s a couple that I’ve become friends with, Mike & Mandy, who come here for holidays. He’s a baker and has convinced me that hand made bread is better.  So today I’m starting completely from scratch and if it works, the bread machine can go.  If it doesn’t, perhaps Gina will get a nice brick to eat with her dinner tonight and the machine will live to cook another day.  🙂

next mission…Cheese !!  I’m already on the internet finding out how.  I have no idea, so this could be fun…or not, as the case may be.

Some time later: Someone told me cheese was really easy to make. Hmmmm… I’m looking at these instructions and my brain is turning to mush.  I’m going to leave you now and direct all my brain power to the ‘art’ of making cheese.


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Spring has Sprung, a lot of my flowers is riz but I have no idea where the birdies iz…

Yesterday was the first of March, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. And yes, I know I should have written this yesterday, but life got in the way as it is want to do.

Here in Bulgaria, the first of March is ‘Baba Marta’ day and so I say to you all  ‘Chestita Baba Marta’…Happy Grandmother March day.

And who is Baba Marta ? She’s a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly (sounds like me) and it reflects in the changeable March weather. When she is smiling the weather is sunny and warm, but if she gets angry the cold will stay for longer and it may even snow.  Clearly the old girl is cranky just now because the weather is bloody cold and there’s still snow lying on the ground. The wind is blowing straight off the Russian Steppes and when you step out of the house it cuts through you like a knife.

At this time the Bulgarians wear ‘Martinitsi’, which are made of twined red and white threads. The white is a symbol of strength, purity and happiness. The red is associated with health, blood, conception, and fertility.

This custom is essentially to wish great health, good luck, and happiness to family and friends.

You wear the Martinitsi until you see your first stork or fruit tree blossom.  They are then removed and either hung from a tree or placed under a stone.

It is believed that the Martenitsa bring health, happiness and longevity. Like any kind of amulet, Martenitsa are attributed a magic power that protects you from ill fortune, diseases and the evil eye.

In March 2006 when I became so very sick here, I was given many Martenitsi. I did make the comment one day that they hadn’t done a very good job of protecting me from illness, a comment that was quickly responded to with ‘ah yes, but you didn’t die. You are still alive’, which I guess was a good point, well, in the eyes of the superstitious Bulgarians anyway.

It’s really too cold to leave the living room, so not a lot is getting done around the house.  Gina’s walks in the last two days have been very short indeed. It doesn’t seem to matter how much you rug up, that northern wind just cuts through everything, so the old girl has got a quick spin around the block and then back to the warm house, which seems to leave her a little confused.

My first guest, due this month, has had a nasty accident and broken his leg very badly, so he won’t be coming for at least five months.  It means I don’t have to leave the warmth of the lounge-room to go and sort out bedrooms, which at the moment are very cold, but I do have an early April guest coming in, so I can’t be sitting around for too long.

Today however, I’m sitting with a roaring fire behind me and Gina is curled up in her bed with her nose firmly in her bottom, keeping warm.  That’ll do us for today.

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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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On Sunday night I was invited to celebrate a very special birthday here in Miladonovtsi.  This little bloke turned one and apparently, the first birthday of a child is special and is celebrated with great gusto

His very proud parents, Mitko and Veska, organised a party in the local community centre and in true Bulgarian style, there was food, drink, laughter and lots of dancing.

Now, Mitko is Bulgarian and Veska is from a  gypsy family..and that opens up a whole new story, but it can wait until another day.  Veska is from a large family. She is one of ten children and quite of few of her family were there as were many of their friends from the village, and there’s one thing for sure…the gypsies certainly know how to have a good time.

Not very far into the evening, the dancing started and I got to learn a little about the gypsy culture.

One young fella, Vasile, got up and wanted some particular music played. I asked Mitko what it was and why, and he replied that that Vasile was going to do the ‘ Kewcheck’…that’s phonetic spelling, by the way. The music started and Vasile sprung into action…

I really do need to get a video camera as still pictures really can’t show the incredible movement that goes on.

This is the type of music that’s played when they do the ‘kewcheck’…at ear bleeding volume…

kewcheck (7)

Imagine a lot of pelvic movement, snapping fingers and whistling going on. Suffice to say, it’s almost like a belly dancing style done by both men and women.

And how young are they when they start to learn ? About this young

That’s one year old Rosen there getting into the groove and just a few years older is Choko’s son, Milan, who at 6 years of age is well on the way to knowing the whole routine

And let’s not forget husbands and wives, boys and girls, brothers and sisters, fathers and sons…

Everyone was getting right into it and it was terrific to watch.

I noticed that a lot of the dancers, both men and women had tied something around their waists.  I asked Mitko the significance, but he couldn’t enlighten me….I’ll keep asking.  Someone will know.

A number of attempts were made to drag me up there, but I feigned a bad back and just kept taking photographs.

And it wasn’t all about the ‘kewcheck’ either. There was also some traditional folk dancing and I DID get up and take part in that, but only the really easy dances…as soon as the pace and the difficulty of the steps increased, I ran away.

Whether Bulgarian or Gypsy, the dancing culture is very strong here and makes for a terrific night out.  It can happen at parties, in cafes, in restaurants and private homes. I even joined Hristina and her daughters for a driveway dance after I spent Christmas eve with them.  I just love the spontaneity. The ‘right’ piece of music is heard whether near or far and someone will get up and start dancing…one up, all up.  Culture and tradition is something I’ve not experienced a lot of, and I’m finding it so invigorating.

And let’s not forget the reason we were all there

All in all a great night.

I always feel very ‘included’ to be invited to these various events, festivals, birthdays, name days and ‘Prazniks’ (holidays…)…let’s hope there’s many more to come.

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HUH ???

After weeks of rather gorgeous weather, warm days in the mid teens and chilly nights, the forecast for today was a little light rain…Hmmmm

Unless I’m greatly mistaken, that’s snow !!!  Not a lot, of course, but snow none the less…perhaps winter isn’t over yet

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Bloody Hell !!!

You know that I’m tearing the house apart inside and doing lots of severe cleaning and curtain washing and wall painting so, of course, the place looks like a bombs hit it.

Gina, my ever strange but much loved dog has, for some reason that only she knows, upped stumps and moved into the bathroom…which is very weird. She does make me laugh though.  She’s only ever had one bath in the house and that was when I first got her and she virtually had no fur and her body was covered in sores and scabs.  I carried her upstairs and put her in a warm bath and washed her in antiseptic shampoo but as sick as she was, she hated it.  Now she’s living in my bathroom, every time I go to have a shower she gets very nervous indeed.  Take her for a walk and she’ll get into every stinking muddy bit of water she can….show her clean warm water and she’s on tenterhooks.

This is all leading somewhere, by the way…

Last night I went to  party and that’s a web page all of its own.  Suffice to say, I’m a little fragile today and not doing much of anything, which includes getting the house is some order.

Yesterday, when I was walking Gina, the Mayor and his wife, Sanka, pulled up next to me in their car and asked if I could come to his office this morning to fill ‘something’ in.  I had no idea but today at 11am I tottered up the hill to see what it was I had to do.  The Mayor was there but not Sanka and apparently, it was her I had to speak to.  I said I’d return at 12.15 ish…

So, we’ve got a bomb site house, a dog ensconced in my bathroom and me not looking too fabulous…Oh, add to this scene of chaos two big plastic crates of dishes from the party last night which I offered to bring home and wash…

See where I’m going yet…

At 12pm precisely, as I was getting ready to head up the hill to the Mayor, there was a knock on my door and who should I find standing there but the Mayor…and his wife.  Bloody Hell !!!  of all days to come to the house !!

My heart sank as I thought about the chaos upstairs…

I led them up the stairs, which today have a nice layer of Gina’s hair on them, took them into  the kitchen where I had to clear a space on the table for them to sit and just felt really, really embarrassed.

And why were they here ??  It’s census time. I’ve been censused in Bulgaria !

The only good thing was that I actually understood almost every question they asked me…there were a couple that required the dictionary and there was a bit of pointing at objects going on, but all in all we got through it without too much stress.

My embarrassment was increased somewhat when Dimitor had to look in the bathroom to estimate the square footage. He walked in and there was madam stretched out on the floor looking as happy as can be.  They villagers don’t have their dogs inside, let alone relaxing on a big soft rug in their bathrooms…

He looked slightly taken aback.  I was just plain embarrassed and Gina just yawned…

Anyway as they were leaving down the hairy stairs, Sanka told me if anyone came to the house tonight I needed to let her know and we would have to do the census again…Dimitor and I agreed that if anyone came, I would tell them to bugger off until tomorrow  🙂

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