Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Party for Sveti Trifun, Salo, Tractor Wars & Lots of Laughter

I love socialising with our Bulgarian friends, it's always lots of fun, lots of laugh's & even though we speak malko Bulgaski, lots of funny conversations! Feb 14th was Sveti Trifun & the evening is party time at Yovo & Pavlinka's.
We never know when we are invited to theirs for evenings or even breakfast & lunches how many will be there or what to take. I have gone round thinking its just me & opened the door to 20 odd people or a full blown celebration party in the garden! The last few times I have taken Cake but even though they love it, there is always so much food its surplus to requirements, & just serves to massage my ego. So I decided not to bake a cake this time & took 2ltr's of our Red Wine. Good job too there was so much food even when we left the table was still laden after 6 hours of ten people eating! The food was great with a couple of traditional foods you will never see on my table, I just can't  eat some of the Bulgarian foods......
As normal we started with pickled coliflower & peppers then cheese bahnitza which was very nice.
Nadia, Ivancho & Anton
Then Nadia & Ivancho had brought along homemade seeded bread, cured raw pork, cured raw pork fat both called Salo,  a gorgous crab salad, vegetable coleslaw & offal puddingy stuff. needless to say I got Nigel to try the salted raw fat slices, that's what husbands are for :) Nigel said it wasn't terrible but not nice either, so like a wimp I didn't try it! It is literally the thick fat from the back of the pig, not for me!!! I did however try the cured pork Salo & the offal thing, hmmm again not terrible but not something I can see the point of eating as the consistency of the offal thing was not to my taste & quite frankly I couldn't say either had much taste at all. I think I was eating it wrong as surely you must need something with it to compliment & bring out the flavour? I got Nige to taste the cured pork meat but he is not keen on offal so we both dipped out on one tasting each lol! The crab salad was amazing & I ate more than everyone else yet still there was loads left over. The soup as I thought was Cock & was delicious I actually had no bones in mine & it was hot too :D Next was the baked Cock rice, this too was very nice but I did end up with a big bone in this, still it was given to Bobby along with one piece of bread for his tea :(
Plamen & Yovo
Plamen then turned up with the tractor man (can't remember his name) along with his own bbq pork & homemade sausage. The bbq pork was amazing ohhhhhh I could just eat more now mmmmm! Off course he also brought the regulatory boiled eggs!
Plamen & his eggs Tractor man pouring his Rakia
Svetlana had made her normal cake & this was served with three chocy biscuits but I was more interested in the bbq pork & crab salad :)
Pavlinka, Svetlana & Anton. I love this family they are really lovely people!!!
The thing I love about Bulgarian ways of eating is it goes on all night, food is never taken away from the table just added to it. I love just picking at bits through the evening & as it went on for over 6 hours it is nice to nibble something scrummy at intervals, helps the Rakia go down well too! I managed the whole evening on a half  whiskey tumbler of Rakia & a full long gass of wine. These I mixed with water for Rakia & lemonade with the wine through out the evening so I was well happy but not too drunk.
Tractor man bought a barrel of his precious Rakia, not a bottle a whole barrel. I also managed to just take a sip of this :) They were well tanked up when they arrived & as Ivancho also was pretty well oiled too it wasn't long before we had tractor wars break out!!!! So the conversation got on to us waiting for him to plough our back field. He missed it by a week & now the ground is too hard obviously as its winter & we get snow & frost. We know we have to wait till March, not a problem but for some reason it kicked off a huge argument. We then had Ivancho, who it seems also has a tractor, winding up Tractor man & Plamen got the hump & joined in supporting his mate. Much raised voices & banging of table ensued along with lots of laughter & more imbibing of Rakia. Over the next few hours we had love hate & friendship interwoven with Tractor wars, Raboter wars (Work) & Leva wars (Bulgarian currency). I think the gist was, Ivancho was a wind up merchant & was boasting how much money he had made this year ploughing gardens etc! This I found hillarious & was extreemly amusing as both Plamen & Tractor man were possitively worried about how I was handling this situation & were it seems arguing over me!!!!!!! anyway we then had much dancing along with much ado about nothing & when Ivancho & Nadia eventually left there was much hugging & Priatteli (Friends) going on :D
Svetlana & Tractor man dancing to the phone radio :)

I just love the Bulgarians!!! At one point Plamen went so red in the face I thought his blood preasure must have exploded then the next second he was singing & dancing to the radio on his phone LOLOLOLOL A very funny evening I would not trade for anything, LOVE them!!!!!!! Poor Pavlinka the evening was meant to finish at 10.30pm as she has school to teach today, we left gone 12.30 & Plamen & tractor man were still there as well as his barrel of Rakia ;D

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sveti Trifun, Vino, Rakia Nastrave

14th February is a Holiday here in Bulgaria. Sveti Trifun (St. Trifun) is known as the patron of the vineyards.
Traditionally, Early in the morning every wine-grower goes to his vineyard, turns to the east and makes the sign of the cross. Then they cut three sprigs from three different vines and waters the spot with wine, holy water and ash, kept from the Christmas fire. It is done for rich harvest. These springs are kept in front of the icon in the house. In the evening all the men of the village get together around the ritual table in the vineyards and celebrate the day with lots of wine. In some regions the men dig a hole in the middle of the the vineyard and bury a bottle of holy water in it for prevention of hailstorms. The feast is also known as “Trifun the Drunkard” because of the large quantity of wine drunk that day.
Well that's all very well but it has actually changed probably out of laziness or more likely the religious connotation has been dropped through the ban of the existence of God during the reign of Communism. Its is still a lovely little tradition which I really like :)
So this morning Yovo came round & we trimmed the vines a little, not all, it will be done properly later I think March. I then had to pour wine on the trimmed vine cuts & at the base of the trunk. We did this to a few of the vines again not all. I don't know why the particular ones were picked!
Minnie kept drinking the wine
 First Minnie decided to get in on the act & was drinkig as I poured then Reg & Kammi decided to join in & they all came up behind to lick up the wine ;D They then slept for hours in front of the fire!
Tonight is the party & traditionally we eat 'Hen, Male' so I guess that denotes a stringy old Cock!!!! Not quite sure about the food, maybe it will be Cock soup!!!!! I am really looking forward to getting together with all of them as even though they don't speak a word of English we get by on our Bulgarian & have a right laugh. There will be plenty of Red Wine & Rakia, we are taking a litre & half of this years wine as even though I normally mature it for a year it's really rather fruity & I want to show it off :):):) Last years is a more full bodied wine this one, at the moment is lighter & maybe lighter on the head tomorrow ;D 

Friday, 11 February 2011

At Long Last The Doctor, New Friends Starting Life Here!

Well finally after being poorly since boxing day I got back to the Doctors for a check up from my last visit & an examination into my poorliness. Nigel came for the first time & wasn't prepared for how cold it is there. You have to sit it out in the corridor on a couplr of broken benches, like something out of an old coach bus. Monday the wait was 90 minutes & Nigels ankles were frozen! There was another English couple waiting who it turned out were very RUDE & IGNORANT so we left them to it while we chatted on. The Dr did a few tests then informed me I had to see the neurologist! Well I was a bit freaked out by this information & left with instructions to return the following morning, feeling a bit worried! I pulled myself up & enjoyed a day in the sun with my husband Nigel we had lunch & got a few jobs done then went to see our  friends. A couple from England have just moved over & have had problems with their van, which broke down in Germany with al their worldly goods on the back :(:( It was nice to meet them & the really funny thing was straight away Pete recognised me. Apparently one day when they came here the first time they were at the cash point at the same time as me (in an area I dont live in!!!) & I said something like 'ahh English, welcome to Bulgaria, bye' & gave them a big smile! I thought it was amazing he remembered & he said I was very friendly in the midst of a foreign land & I stuck in his mind :):):) Just proves its good to be friendly & give a welcome to people you don't know, unlike the miserable buggars in the Dr's! Oooooow some people really make me mad, what cost a cheery exchange of welcome & a smile or a bit of helpful information! We broke bread together (do you like that expression, I do!) & enjoyed a lovely casserole Net cooked.
So welcome to Bulgaria Pete & Claire!!!!
The following day Tuesday off we went to the Dr's surgery again waiting for another 90 mins in the freezing cold (must be a magic number) & when we finally got in she made a call to the neurologist & told us we had to go with the nurse, who proceeded to take us to the other Dr's office. Brilliant no way we would get lost :).
The Drs room was very modern, clean & would have been comfortable if the examination couch wasn't  equipped complete with stirrups! Well I never :) but my couch, thankfully,  was in the other corner. I would hazard a guess that she shares it with a gynie Dr, which I will find out about next appointment. I am not sure how to describe what she did to me but it felt like I was being abused in some way when in reality I was just being manhandled! She did not speak a word of English so instead of sign language she sat me forcibly on the bed, put some glasses on me which were so magnetised I couldn't see her instructions! I had to cross my arms around my chest??? & follow he finger, ok. Then she grabbed me by the arms & forced me down on my side shoving my legs up on the bed, I was blind & the world was in a spin while she continued to manhandle me hard lololo I had a tear rolling down my face as pathetically it was quite scary! She then pulled me up & did the same thing only reverse side then shoved my head face first into the bed! I would love to have seen the little plateau from Nigel's point of view, he has said nothing :):):) If I knew what was to come it would have been fine but being blind & the terrible giddy vertigo world spinning of its axes combined with the rough manhandling felt really wrong!!!!! :):) Funny now though. So apparently I have a stone in my ear canal, yes this is real not misinterpretation.  I have three different tablets to take along with instructions to move slowly :) when I stand wait two mins before moving :) & only sleep on the left side head elevated for two months :(:( this I have tried & ended up feeling exhausted through lack of sleep! I was assured it is not my head so we go back on March 14th at 11am & this time I am prepared for the abuse ;);)
I cheered myself up by getting two large cups of hot corn from the street vendor with chubritsa, mayo & parmesano cheese Mmmmm totally gorgeous! We ate it in the square enjoying the sunshine & each other, while people watching, one of my favourite past times here in Bulgaria you certainly see some marvelous sights :)
We then went over to see Pete & Claire in their new home a lovely house the other side of Popovo, we have made a few friends over this way :)  There are a few little things that need sorting Nigel is going to fix a leak & do some wiring for them over the next couple of days. Its lovely to meet new people especially those on the threshold of a new adventure & knowing all the great things which will unfold for them. Getting to know the local villagers enjoying the country ahh I feel excited for them!!!!! Its also really nice to have new friends :)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Life in Bulgaria........ Spring...... Chestita Baba Marta

All through winter we look forward & the mantra from all us ex pats is  'Never mind it will soon be spring'.
Spring comes early here & usually with a bang, but February will give you a taster sometimes, like this year. Its almost mid Feb & we have been having 24c temps in the day! It has been a lovely relief & we have actually been out with no coats on as its too hot :):), drinking & eating outside the restaurants & everyone has been happy.
The Martenitsi, or Martenitsa, are being sold on the streets & I am now looking forward to Baba Marta, Baba means grandmother & Marta is March, so its Grandmother March. March 1st is Baba Marta, it is a traditional folk law here to usher out the old & usher in the new but we have to make Baba Marta happy so we have a good year. We wear little decorations of red & white cotton threaded together sometimes with beads & tassles then when we see the first Stork or the first blossom we take them off & tie them to our fruit trees for a good harvest.
We adorn our houses with little Martenitsa dolls hung from door handle or on walls for a healthy household & also wear them on our clothes. Its a happy day :):):) So first of March I will not be saying Dobur Den ( Good morning) but Chestita Baba Marta (happy grandmother Marta). End of Feb is the spring clean to get rid of all the old stagnant & bad parts of the previous year ready for new growth & life.

First we have February 14th. No not valentines day but the traditional day for pruning the grape vines! We will be out there helping others & then back here pruning ours for a good healthy crop to make lots of lovely Grape cake, Red Vino & Rakia :). Lots of food will be prepared & eaten along with Rakia & red wine from the previous crop will be partaken. I am so looking forward to it, lets hope the weather holds out with lots of warm sunshine it will be a good day!
Grape buds
These Grapes still have 4 months growing to do!!! We also have big red Grapes too
I know, I know, it's not spring yet but you could be well fooled into thinking it's just around the corner. Now saying this March is Spring but we had a 3' fall of snow over night 3 winters ago so I personally hold my breath till April. April is a glorious month with everything coming to life, Bulgaria springs into glorious colour with al the fruit trees blossoming & trees that from a distance look like cotton wool :) My garden also looks its best in spring with the birth of bulbs & I just love to see the Lilly leaves & can't wait till they burst into bloom in June. The one shrub I am over the moon we inherited here, is the peony, we have four bushes & I adore them!
All four bushes are slightly different colours but all beautiful & a very welcome but short lived visitor in spring.
Time to fill the pool so it can warm & tidy & clean pool area :)
Time to get out the cushions & enjoy the sun in the sheltered area temps have been over 40c in April!
 My tortoise's will also be hopefully surfacing I LOVE them & can't wait to see them romping around in the garden :):):) The baby is a worry but it survived last years hibernation period in worse weather & temps so we hope!!! Off course Spring also has given us our Kittens & our Pup's
Minishka was pushed under our garage doors full of mange & flea's
The garden bursts into life from Feb onwards slowly at first, but then there is an explosion & it's definately at it's best at this time of year.
Can't wait for my cherries I compot them to have all year

First bulbs of significance, I wait a long time to see these :)
Spring is the start of our socialising & many parties are had in the garden as space is a problem for us. At first coats are needed as evenings can be a bit chilly but April is normally very warm so life al fresco starts & I can't wait. Here is a little of life in Spring in photo's....... 
 As you can see Spring can also be sunbathing weather, this is begining of April !!!!!
Must have coffee trips with friends to soak up the warmth of the sun
The first thing I like to do when the weather changes is have a day in Veliko Tarnovo & lunch at my fave cafe
 people watching & lazing in the sun over perfect coffee!
Well it is SPRING ;D
Yep it's a must after a long cold winter & is mandatory ;D

 Also the start of work in the garden that doesn't stop till end of summer!
 Rape fields outside our village

Party time starts now :)

Beginning of April eating in the garden, bit chilly after 7pm!
Even the tent is a bit chilly at times but keeps the dew off  ;D
Spring is a great time for catching up with friends, some we may not see all winter or just briefly. I would love to have a lunch time party in April/May but the Villagers are sooo busy it can only be done in the evening. This year we have some new ex pat friends so I may be able to arrange something, at long last :)
So my Bulgarian spring in a nutshell is......
Lots of garden work, clearing weeds, planting, sweeping, mending etc interspersed with sunbathing in the suntrap, reading Martina Cole & soaking up the sun. Cooking for meals with friends, making Jam, going out for coffee & a little bit of al fresco restaurant eating in VT. Sight seeing is also a prerequisite especially after being house bound for awhile & seeing Bulgaria come to life is truly a wonderful feeling. Warm temperatures, hot sunshine, browning of body & a feeling of hope & something to look forward to, & that folks is SUMMER........ 


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Bulgarian Village Life Some Best Bits....Winter

Wow where to start....... The first year we lived here we were so busy enjoying life, working on the garden & bathroom that nothing was blogged.. Such a shame as 2009 was an amazing year for us. The newness of exploring a new culture, country & people along with enjoying a fab new lease of life & the amazing weather! I then got the blog up & running but unfortunately in one of my worst ever years. So now I have decided it's never too late so I am going to try & share some of it with you!

This is our first ever snow in Bulgaria,  it arrived while we slept!
 Bulgaria, land of beauty, Green lush countryside, fascinating culture & history. The weather has the best summers & the worst winters. Well I say worst I was amazed at how I coped as I hate UK winters & especially snow. Glad to say that here this is a completely different form of snow, it's dry! & the cold winter, well mainly its dry & sunny!!! We do have the occasional foggy damp couple of days but its not the norm. So winter is an adventure, sometimes a hard adventure but nevertheless it can be wonderful. We get through the winter here by knowing its spring soon there is no slow build up to spring it just suddenly is! Summer is the same although to begin with we can have a lot of thunder & lightening as the heat rolls in but it eventually settles & we have a very dry few months. Spring temps here are like UK summer temps in fact I have sat in a sheltered position in April & it has reached 40c in sun! Love it!!!! As we arrived in the winter I will start with  photo blog from there.

The Beast
When we first arrived we only had a Luton box van, I call her the beast! So we were driving around in her when the snows arrived.
Now it can be snow free one minuet then within 15 mins you can be stuck which happened to us! The problem was we were in Veliko Tarnovo. We had a day of shopping & decided to have dinner in our fav restaurant when it started to snow very lightly. We had gotten into a couple of sticky situations before, like getting stuck halfway up a hill but had gotten out of them ok, so we decided we should leave but would be ok. Well Ok we were all the way along the main road, the fear set in as we turned off into the country lanes that lead us home! Now by this time it was midnight, my husband had refused to put the snow chains on & in fact had never had them out of the bag since we purchased them in England! The snow was growing alarmingly all around us as we drove through the forests that house wild boar. Now Nigel is not a man of many words but sometimes his silence speaks volumes & at this time it was screaming at me! Eventually we came to a slow halt as poor Beast could plough through no longer. Now I am a purveyor of horror films & every single bloody stranded in the middle of nowhere at gone midnight with no help film came back to haunt me! Nigel then decides its time for the snow chains & breaks out the bag, & without reading the instructions (he's an engineer, they don't read instruction) tries to put them on! This in pitch blackness took him an hour!!!! He even threw a wobbly which was hilarious :):):):) I was trying to get him to read how to, which eventually he did & it still took forever. Eventually after freezing solid, being scared to death & having the only two vehicles to pass by, stop to see we were ok waved on their way, we were able to limp onwards. After a short while there was a very bad noise which turned out to be a mud guard which had gotten caught in the chain & ripped & twisted but we were able to continue home. I have never been so pleased to see my house so much in my life & believe me there has been a few occasions here!!! Now we never drive the Beast in the winter with a possibility of snow, she I am afraid is just not built for it!
My frozen snow covered Pine
Winter in Bulgaria when the snow arrives is the hibernation period. Its rarely you see any neighbours.
 First thing in the morning the skies start to fill with smoke from the wood burners & you will see the odd person traipsing to the local shop for fresh bread & whatever else they may need for the day, then only the hardiest of people venture out.
The dogs love it, Sophie is a bit wary of cows so she likes to go run around in safety, scaredy cat :)
Fresh bread being delivered to our shop
I love walking round the village in the snow its lovely
Our Church its now minus its bell tower as lightening struck it
I love my village in the snow
This Christmas there was no snow as even though we had a reasonable amount to warrant being snowed in by Christmas eve it had dissapeared so this is Christmas morning :(

Christmas day temps reached 24c
So this year has been a pretty good winter so far, we have had snow & we have been snowed in but lots of sunshine & warmth too which keeps the spirits lifted. When it snows for one day we are stuck in the village for two weeks. So winter is for hunkering down & battening the hatches, intermingled with sunny & warm days out.
So now we hope the rest of this year passes with none of this!
Poor Beast, she really went through it that year!!!
Today we still have snow on the ground but only a little as the sun has been glorious these past few days. We have wind but even that is warm. The spring bulbs are throwing up their greenery which lifts our spirits even more as spring is just around the corner!