Monday, 22 October 2012

Back in the UK.....

Well we have been back in the UK for just over 3 weeks.
Missing Stanevo already !
The weather hasn't helped being misty & raining quite a lot.
Sues Mum & Dad got back last Friday the 19th, they were away almost 5 weeks!
Hoping to catch up with them soon to compare notes.
We cant wait until we go back at the end of November, Dimitar the agent has sent us a few picures attatched to emails to show how the builders are getting on.
They have lined the cess pit with bricks,

 laid the cold water feed pipe & the 4" waste pipe.

Also the breeze blocks have gone up to create the bathroom / kitchenette area.

By now the bathroom should be installed & completely tiled.....

Friday, 5 October 2012

The drive down to Bulgaria

Sunday the 16th of September 2012.

Sues Mum & Dad had arrived on the Saturday with a chocker VW Transporter named Viktor with a ‘K’

Our Caddy was also loaded with a mixed assortment of paint tools brushes pump-up spray tank homewares bedding cooking gear chainsaw.

Also a RED CROSS food parcel for Si & Mandy.

The vans were packed to the gunnels, not another item could be slid into any spaces.

Our Chunnel crossing was booked for Sunday 6.20am.

Arriving at the check in all went well, we then moved onto the height restriction queue where Viktor was sent onto a different line.

We sat for a few minutes until the loading commenced.

We were split up on loading, Sue & I ate our porridge pots .

After we had finished them we set off to try & find Mum & Dad so we could give them their porridge pots.

We turned around & met a chap who worked on the train, after we told him our plight he took the carrier bag with porridge pots & thermos flask, radioed ahead & passed on the package for delivery to the elderly folk!   

Good customer service there Channel Tunnel .

We exited the train first, Plum & Carol caught us up on route to Brugge.

The route then took us towards  Brussels & then Holland.

We had pre arranged to have a break every 100 miles or so.

Some sandwiches & snacks were consumed.

Then on to Germany where we noticed that there were a lot more picnic areas than any of the countries we had already passed through.

Onto  Koln, Frankfurt & onto our Hotel in Ergaland, near Nuremburg.

This section took approximately 10 hours with breaks.

Hotel was clean but had no facilities for an evening meal.

After a scan of the area we found a Truckers stop & tucked into a fantastic meal, at a very reasonable price.

We had covered 515 miles today


Up, showered & out to the breakfast bar.

It was an “all you can eat” affair, which soon turned into “all you can carry”

The roads were really good & the TomTom Sat nav had worked really well  ( Thanks Chris )

So good that we bought one on our return to the UK.

We carried on , & stopped a couple of times, then on into Austria which didn’t seem as hilly as we thought it would be.

We purchased our 1st vignette.

A sort of road tax for visitors ( How come the UK don’t  have this idea ? )

It was 10 Euros for 9 days.

Through Austria during the day.

A few more miles & we were on the Austrian / Hungary border where we purchased our 2nd vignette.

11 Euros for 10 days

Off we set into Hungary which roadwise seemed fine, with reasonable roads.

We passed an assembly factory for Mercedes Benz !

Followed loads of UK reg ‘Insurance Written off cars’ on the back of trucks , trailers & transporters.

Needing some diesel we drove into a services, & then realised that diesel in Hungary was a lot more than it was in the previous countries.

 We really needed to get to our next hotel in Szeged on the Hungary / Romanian border before sunset.

Found it & I must admit that it was better inside than it looked outside.

The TV had 2 channels !   The same channel.

Plum  & Carol crashed out with some bread cheese & ham salami etc,  while Sue & I went looking for supper.

We had found that Hungary’s  food & drinks on the road were the most expensive so far.

Straight past a McDonalds we found a small bar / pizza bar.

Next problem was we had no Huffs ( The local currency )

Hungary Romania & Bulgaria although being part of the EU, STILL use their own currency.

The waitress spoke reasonable English & we arranged that after our meal we would be able to convert some Euros into Huffs.

The rate was about 2.5 Huffs to the Euro

I had a spicy meaty spag bol jobbie & Sue had a Pizza.

Very nice & a reasonable price too @ 9.50 Euros including drinks.

We paid & took our newly obtained Huffs to the stall outside selling ½ watermelons & plums.

Back to the hotel with the fruit, & off to the land of nod.

This day was a LONG 570 miles.

Max temp of 25.5 degrees


Woke up looking forward to a decent breakfast......


Not a patch on the “Carry all you can” from the previous morning.

We had a few bits & set off for the Romanian border.

Set off @ 8.15am

3rd Vignette was 10 Euros for a month.

Speed limits were a lot lower 50 KMH in all built up areas.

Single carriage roads through all villages.
We pulled over for a break & had a go at the watermellon we had bought the previous night in Szeged

We watched as the locals collected maize plant stalks which they use for animal feed. 

Further on there were loads of stalls outside the houses selling locally grown fruit, veg,  oil  & wine.

Romania looked impoverished, lots of car breakers ( not surprising really, considering their driving ! )
Lots of lorries carrying what seemed like dodgy loads

Arrived at the Calafat Ferry for our short ferry over to Bulgaria.

It seemed that everyone was waiting with hands out !

Port Tax 7 Euros

Ferry  29  Euros ( Classed as a Minibus )

We had to wait 1hour 10 minutes for the ferry to arrive back & unload.

The sun was setting over the Danube river as we crossed.



Vinette was 5 Euros

Personal insurance was 8 Euros.

Arrived at Simon & Mandys  at 9.30pm in the dark.

Had a meal & had a chat / handed the RED CROSS parcel over

Great sleep ! 

This day was 285 miles

Max temp a comfortable 28 degrees


 Heading off for Stanevo

We stopped at the Mountain natural water spring to top up our water bottles.

1 hour 20 minutes later we  parked up outside the houses.
We noticed that the garden was a lot greener than when we were there last at the start of June

The gates were both chained & padlocked.

The sky was clear & blue, the temperature was really hot.

We had phoned our agent Dimitar & arranged to meet him there at 11am.

He phoned to say that he was going to be late & suggested that we popped down to the river to have a look around for a bit.  

Drove down past fields full of grapevines to check point Charlie, one of the original border control points on the Danube between Romania & Bulgaria.

There were fisherman catching ( yes catching ) small silver fish
These pictures were taken a few days later by the way !

We drove back up & met Dimitar, Illian & Carlos who was a new client looking for a property.

Gates opened , we explored with Mum & Dad.

Dimitar told us that the old lady had gone into hospital in Lom a while before.
Illian opened up the old house & we left the door open to air it a bit 

Mum & Dad then set off to their new house which was about 350 miles away, towards the Black Sea coast.
We then opened up all of the windows on the new house & started to dismantle & throw out the beds & wardrobes down onto the yard.

The mattresses & the rugs were next, 

followed by a thorough sweep through.
The house hadn’t been lived in for some time & needed a really good clean.

Then we emptied out all of the gear from the van.  

We set off on our 1st Bulgarian shopping trip.
Head off for our closest town of Lom approx 18kms away.
Some of the roads were really rough.
Coming into Lom, the road is cobble stones & was built in the 2nd World War by the Germans who occupied Bulgaria.
We bought a few essentials & spent 17 Euros.
Parked the van up & went for a walk through the centre of the street.
There was traditional dancing & music being played on the stage in the centre of the park.
Frankfurter & burger sellers next to the restaurants.
We sat down & waited for the waitress.
She arrived & couldn’t speak a word of English.
Sue ordered an omelette by picture description, while I pointed at what looked like chicken nuggets.
Pointing at the picture I flapped my arms in a chicken stylee.....
Da she said.....
With drinks    £6 for us both!
Drove home & went to kip.

 Todays temp 28 degrees


We woke early as usual, mainly as we had no curtains...
Watched the sunrise
Had breakfast, Kelloggs Cornflakes toast & boiled eggs under the apple trees
Sue did some handwashing by the tap 

whilst I watered 10% of the garden as it was getting a bit hot
We had a few neighbours shouting **Read chatting** over the fence.
We think they seemed to understand us, well they understood HOSPITAL anyway?
Finished the clearing up & then washed the rear bedroom, window frames included, caulked the few cracks that needed doing.
Started painting but started to run out of light.
It had become cloudy then sunny, then rained & was VERY windy.
After I washed the brushes & rollers out ( Its always me ) we contemplated rigging up a Field Shower as the water felt tepid coming out of the tap.
I sanded down the window frame, undercoated it & then we re-glazed one panel.
Which took quite some time
Supper / bed

Friday was painting the rooms & undercoating the windows.

We popped into Lom for some supplies
A small toffee hammer for tapping panel pins in to hold the glass in the frames   £1.20
A few light switches for the rooms   60p each !
Supper / bed as we were out early the next morning.

Up early as we had arranged to meet Si & Mandy to show us around the Vidin Market
We filled up with diesel  38 litres =  100 Leva  =  £40
The outdoor market was a mixture of bootfair style stalls, which were all a permanent fixture , a lot with livestock pens underneath.
Lots of home produce, livestock including
Live Chickens @ 80p, Horses, Piglets @ £53, Goats, Rabbits, Ducks
Lots of peppers & chillies.
Bottles of the local hooch Rakir, you could also buy a brand new distillery copper to make your own.
Vidin indoor market was open 6 days a week & looked like it had everything you could need.
Including Knuckle Dusters with built in knives, Bowie knives, Machettes, & guns of every description!.

We sat down at a market snack bar. Bought burgers etc & had drinks, for the 4 of us it came to £8
Si & Mandy were coming back to ours for a look around, Si rode their Yam XT600 back & we drove the Caddy to Stanevo.
We looked all over & SI went up both attics.
Looked around in the pink house & the barn for the pink house.
We found some stone troughs, one in the pig pen @ the rear of the pink house.
Si & Mandy head off for home, Sue popped into one of our 2 local shops, which is literally 50 foot from the front gates
I rigged up a Field shower with a tarpie ....

It worked but was refreshing !
We had both been invited to a Barbie down @ the Villa near Checkpoint Charlie by Dimitar.
It was only 10 minutes away.
Barry who we had met back in June was there & his wife Linda, who we hadn’t met before.
We arrived & Barry & Linda were there.
Dimitar was out on the Danube fishing for Catfish.
We had a drink, & the villa owner asked we would like some Mousakka, which we accepted.
After a while Dimitar arrived & started preparing the Barbie.
His mates were carrying a LARGE catfish & I said to Sue that I didn’t fancy Catfish!
More time passed & Dimitar produced a large stone dish full of chicken & pork, very nice, & not a sign of catfish.
He had also made a pepper/tomato/feta type cheese salad.

We found out during the night that Barry & Linda were staying in the villa.
Thought that Barry & Linda might like to pop round in the morning as they were passing by to go to their house in Septemvristi.

Saturdays temp was 24.5 degrees


Up early again to glorious blue skies & no breeze at all.
Started to paint , then Barry & Linda called by. We showed them around everywhere.
We asked Barry a few building questions which helped us a lot.
After they had gone we started on the painting again.
Later we started on the lower level rooms, 


Summer Kitchen
& Wood store

I swept the wood store out, with dust mask on.
Chain sawed a few logs, sorted out the rubbish from the house.
Wood panels from the wardrobes stored for possible recycling later on
Sorted out some blankets & rugs for Si & Mandys horses.
Lunch consisted of cheese, bread, tomatoes & peppers & a yellow honeydew melon from our garden.
Removed all the wood planks & stuff from the garage, removed the cart.
The steel rims on the cart sounded like they were running over glass.

 & then swept, *TFR’d & the pressure washed the garage out.
* TFR   = Traffic Film Remover    Degreasant
There were HUNDREDS of walnut outer shells, hoping a Russian black squirrel is to blame , as I saw one in the barn roof joists.

Just like this one..

The garage was looking a lot better.
Made the MK 2 shower.
Now with constant water flow & raised platform * Read Pallet*!
Shower / supper of Chicken curry & hot drinks.
A pretty hard day with crystal blue skies & sweltering temperatures.
Very quiet in the village, the chap with the stallion & cart parked opposite the drive as he had done a few days previous.
He visits the young lady in the shop 
& has a cold 500ml bottle of local lager, about 40p.

Saw a loose horse slowly walking around the village later.
A lot of crickets about tonight, possibly due to the high temperatures?
Sundays temperature was 29.5 degrees


Woke up in the dark, chatted for a while & then fell back asleep for an hour.
Sue started painting the main room,

while I cleaned all of the woodwork with cleaning soda & water mixture.
Primed some more window frames.
The windows have 2 x frames per window.

Lunch under the apple trees again, nice.
We both decided to visit the local shop together for the 1st time.
Sue said " Dobra den "   ( Good day ) as we entered the shop, which made the lady smile.
After some eggs we did the obligatory arm waving & clucking sound.
Off she scurried to the freezer & produced a frozen chicken.
We carried on with our mime, but now pointing to our rears & making an egg shape with our hands.
A bit more rummaging in the freezer drawers & she produced some chicken legs.
I then mimed at breaking an egg, making a cracking sound.
She nodded her head up & down & said na. ( No )
I might as well tell you now that nod up & down = NO......    side to side = YES,  totally the opposite of what we use !
When then realised that EVERYONE keeps chickens in the village, WHY would the shop sell eggs ???

We bought
  • some locally produced smoked sausage
  • 500ml of coke
  • Loaf of fresh bread
  • 1.5l of Ice cold mineral water
Total cost ?     3.25 Lev  =  £1.30

Back to painting.

Illian turned up with the man who was fixing our electrics came to give us a quote, he looked very similar to my mate in the UK,  Ray.
We decided to name the sparky, Rayski... he didn't know a word of English.
Illian broke the news to us.

New cable from the house to the mains pole at the front of the property       100 LEV  = £40
Labour to fit new cable, correct connections, & strip the board with all of the fuses & meters on & TOTALLY rewire from scratch                                                                    120 LEV = £48

We gave the OK for the work to be done.
He would be coming round on Wednesday

The builders arrive to estimate for the Bathroom.
To fit the bathroom complete with all tiling / plumbing, water supply from the mains coming into the property, digging trench for this & diggong a 2.5m deep x 2.5m wide cess pit ( BY HAND )
Build a brick cesspit.
Rather chaotic meeting to say the least with a lot of shouting going on !
But this is the bulgarian way, 2 minutes later all smiley faces ?
Off they all went, time for supper.
YES you've guessed it , table under the trees.
Its such a lovely spot.
Local smoked sausage, Ham, Home picked peppers,Local bread.
This had been the hottest day so far, the bee hives were really busy at around 3pm.
I think the locals now realise that we are now here.
Every evening you see people sitting all around the village, outside the shops, in the village square.
We decided to go off to Lom in the morning, on the hunt for a bathroom suite & a 80 litre water boiler for the bathroom / kitchenette.

Mondays temperature hit 31 degrees  


Woke up with a change of plan
We had decided to ask Barry & Lyn for their help in sourcing all of the items for the builders that were needed to complete the bathroom.
Decided to visit Montana as it was a large town.
After breakfast I strimmed the nettles & chainsawed the small trees away from the rear of the house.
This was to assist the 2 gypsy lads that had been employed by the builders to dig the trenches & the cess pit.
Set off for Lom for some petrol & 2stroke oil for the chainsaw & strimmer.
Petrol smelt like petrol used to over in then UK before ethanol was added  & was £1.10 a litre.
2 stroke oil was £3 a litre.
Also checked out a few of the many builders merchants while we were there.
Heading for a local village to Barry & Lyns house.
We noticed the temperature was rising
Many of the bushes & hedgerows on the way had been burnt, not sure if intentionally or not.
As we arrived, Barry met us at the bottom of the road where his house is.
Our hosts took us around their house.
Plenty of work going on, it had a stunning view & a massive rear room that had a water well in it !
We had a cup of coffee on the balcony.
Then met a chap called Vanni, a local that Barry & Linda had made friends with.
We all set off in 2 vans towards Montana.
Temperature was now shooting up.
25km's later we arrived in Montana.
Called into Technopolis ( Bulgarian version of Currys );jsessionid=(J2EE6572400)ID0412633655DB3ca7b4ed47b03777d14288991c4fdb6a43f6b26dEnd;saplb_*=(J2EE6572400)6572455

The prices seemed good & we picked up a fridge with small freezer compartment £124

& a 80litre Boiler  £72.

Popped them into the back of Barrys Luton van, then set off to the next store.
We were after a bath, sink, taps  & some ceramic tiles.
Barry had shown us back at his house a brand new toilet pan & cistern that he had bought but had changed plans, so wasn't using it.
He also had a brand new door & frame that we coud use for the bathroom.

There were no B&Q style shops, just a vast array of smaller places selling odd bits & bobs.
Almost everything had to be ordered in.
Found an enameled  steel bath in one shop.
After a lunch break, £6 for 5 people including drinks....
Barry then phoned his Bulgarian friend, who lives in Montana asking where we could buy ceramic tiles for the walls & floor.
Checked the temperature & it was hitting 34 degrees !
Evo, Barrys friend met us at a petrol station with his father.
They both worked as mechanics in their own garage that they had closed to come & help us.
The shop was full......of staff !
We looked & then bought a nice square ceramic sink

, a pack of weathered / silvered oak plank ceramic tiles, & a set of sink taps, along with self levelling stuff & adhesive for the tiles.
We were so gratefull, although the transaction took almost an hour !
 Headed home via the shop where we saw the bath earlier & collected that.

The whole trip cost £480 in goods.

Called into Kaufmann, a German MEGA supermarket.
There were car tyres on a rack inside...
A 2.5 litre bottle of fizzy apple that was nice was 20p
11 YES,  11 litre bottle of mineral water was 60p
It was a HOT drive home getting back about 7pm, having left at about 10am.
We unloaded the vans & Illian turned up with the plans, prices & timescales for the bathroom job.
We plugged the fridge in
Loaded the fridge with all of the things we had been desperately trying to keep cool, including the new stock of lagers.
Never been so grateful for a fridge.

34 degrees 


Rayski arrived to start the work on powering the electrics up on the house.
There was a lot of tutting & sighing going on , but he worked right through the day with only a short break for an ice cool lager.
The 2 gypsy lads turned up, looking like an advert for one of those health & safety videos.
Miami shorts, flip flops......
They went round the back of the house with long handled spades.
They started digging, I had decided to pop into Lom for some supplies.
Sue did some handwashing by the tap again.
In Lom I  bought
  • a bag of cement     £1.60
  • a long handled shovel   £3.00
  • 2 x bags of building sand   80p a sack
  • A glass cutter  £2.40
  • Push on tap connector   75p
Got back to the lads making good progress,

Sue handed over a plate with some bread cheese tomatoes & a lager each.

Sue picked some chillies peppers tomatoes from the garden to take home & drop some off to Si & Mandy on our trip home.
Leaving the aubergines til the last day for maximum ripeness !
Sitting under the apple trees supping an ice cold lager, we realised that the gypsy lads were digging away & Rayski was still huffing & puffing away.
Sue surveyed the old house & took extra measurements.
I rendered a damaged wall by the garage doors.
Sue emptied the Summer Kitchen.
Then I TFR'd the floors, which made it smell alot better.
By the end of the day the lads had finished the pit & Rayski also had worked his magic.

After everyone had gone home we went for a spin in the van down to the Danube.
We saw a  Stork nest at the top of a post.
Also found another local shop.
Found the newly restored village church that we had only seen on Google Earth.
Back home to Spaghetti Bolognese made with mince

Wednesday was 34 degrees


Barry delivered the toilet & the bathroom door for us.
The builders came to measure up for materials while the 2 x lads started on the trench for the cold water supply which had to be quite deep due to the frosts that occur during the winter.
They had a BIG job in front of them, as the trench went between the apple trees & right down the side of the house.
Sue took the opportunity to visit Lom with the builders to collect the blocks etc for the build, to see which suppliers they used.
They all went in a GB registered van owned by a Bulgarian friend, for collecting the materials.
Looking for a plain white wall tile that didn't seem to exist.
Sue placed them on order for the builders to collect a few days later, after we had left for Britain.
They showed Sue lots of hardware shops down back streets, but she could still not find any bath taps.
 While away I rendered some more patches in the Summer Kitchen & fitted 3 light switches in the top rooms.
The builders dropped of the materials & discussed final details.

We had been told that the window in the bathroom would need to be changed as the exsisting one was too large & that the bath height would foul with it.
We tried the bath in place & it was fine, so we said to keep the original window, result.

Handed over a set of new keys for the property.
The 2 lads had worked really hard & had completed the water trench.

Sue started packing items to go home. While I went round moving stuff about & checking the new padlocks out. I went & secured the pink house & its barn.
I collected the bag full of pre communist gas masks ( NEW ) that we had found in the pink house to bring back to the UK for placing on eBay.
We loaded all of our tools & things we were leaving in the front bedroom.

We had one last hose pipe shower in the garden field shelter, made sure everything was locked.
I picked the watermelon from the garden, Sue got the Aubergines  & we headed off to Si & Mandys for our last night in Bulgaria.
Driving out of Stanevo we took a final look back, until the next time

We arrived, had dinner followed by our water melon which was delicious.

Thursdays temp was 33 degrees


We woke up at Si & Mandys in brilliant sunshine, had a walk around taking it all in.
Lilly the dog still looked a bit sleepy !
But after a while she perked up !
We had breakfast & a final look at the Chickens Ducks & Horses.
Si & Mandy rode into Vidin, & we followed in the Caddy.
A quick provisions stop in Kaufland for some stuff for the journey back to the UK.
We bought a saucepan & mugs as we had left the kettle in the house.
They led us to a fuel station where we filled up with 48 litres of diesel, which worked out at £49.20.
On to  the Ferry port & we said our goodbyes, which got a bit emotional.
Off they went.
It was SO hot !

We paid the ferry charge

Then waited

We caught the ferry at  12.10
No fees at the Romanian border as the vignette we bought on the way down was valid for a month.
We drove through Romania & found new town bypasses that we hadn't found on the way down !
The journey seemed so much quicker.

Still plenty of horse & carts about.

Found a booth just before the border where we bought vignettes for Hungary & Austria for 25 Euros combined.
Also changed up some Euros into Huffs
Crossed the border approx 7.30pm into Hungary.
After a while stopped @ a roadside restaurant.
Sue ordered Turkey Snitzel & I had a Gardeners roll, which was vegetables rolled inside a chicken fillet & the fried in a sort of batter.
Ordered 'Baked' potatoes that turned out to be chips !
Drove on until 10pm when we found a motorway services that was quiet.
Loaded all of the gear into the front of the van, set up the inflatable bed & crashed out.
It was now 16.5 degrees & rain was evident.

Fridays max temp 32 degrees


Woke up & had breakfast of porridge & coffee on an outside table in the services.
Set off @ 8.15 drove through Hungary & into Austria.
Less blue skies, temperature definately dropped, looking grey.
Stopped at what we found out later was a flashy expensive services.
Went into the Grillhouse & had lunch, which after BG prices wasn't cheap.
2 meals with 2 soft drinks & NO vegetables 28 Euros.
Rain started to come down heavily on the Austrian / German border.
Van took 58 litres @ approx £1.20 a litre.
The Caddy was running really well if a little dirty , but soon all of the Bulgarian dust was washed away with the German rain.
Heavy rain for MILES, we decided to eat at the truck stop we used on the way down, & we booked a room also.
It was nice to have a shower & a real bed!
We watched an English WW2 film that had been dubbed into German ? quite bizarre.

Saturdays max temp 21.5 degrees


Woke up to fog & mist & only 5 degrees.
 Set off @ 7.30am having declined the hotel breakfast, as we were going to stop @ one of the many forest rest areas within 30 minutes or so.
Anyway we stopped about 2 & a half hours later as the fog was still pretty low.
We stopped at a services & went in for a look round.
Eventually decided on a services breakfast which wasn't too bad & quite a reasonable price.
Croissant bread roll boiled egg jam & coffee for 4 Euros each
Filled up the van again @ £1.20 a litre
Stopped in Belgium to top up to avoid the UK rip off prices.
Arrived at the Channel Tunnel 3 hours early, there were no early trains as they were fully booked.
Looked around the duty free shops, & then found out that our train was delayed by 45 minutes.
We were too late for our Fish & Chip supper back in Ashford, so kebabs it was.
Total mileage was 3,253 miles.
We were home....
But within a few days we had booked flights for the end of November, for another  BG adventure !

Sundays max temp 19 degrees

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