Bulgaria 1O1 – Two Months On

It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!

Moving is stressful in general, now imagine moving to a foreign country without any real knowledge of the local language or even the ability to read their letters… madness, wouldn’t you say? Well, yes yet we decided to call it “an adventure”… it’s been a bit of a crazy roller-coaster but in the end, I claim it was worth it.

Bulgaria 1o1 - Expat journal from real life in rural Bulgaria... It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!

So, what’s different?

Weather, for a starter.

It’s so different to your typical English weather, Mark still can’t believe it. Last weekend we had 15C, hitting 30C in the sun… perfect summer weather one would say yet the calendar definitely shows December! We had breakfast in our cotton shirts in the garden and then BBQ’ed some goat legs for lunch and dinner later during the day. A few days later and a wake-up call, the snow hit, temperatures plummeted and now it’s stunningly beautiful and dazzlingly white everywhere. Crazy hey? It might be crazy but at the same time it’s wonderful, do you know why? Because of the sun! The sun comes to play every day. It might be 2C outside but after putting the washing on the line in the garden it is dry in a couple of hours, come on… this would never happen in the UK in December with its freezing cold rain and the almost constant gloominess from the perpetual grey skies. The sun shines here on average 300 days a year and when it does it is always accompanied by a majestic deep blue sky with the occasional scattering of little fluffy clouds.

Food!

Well, the food here is truly a wonder to behold and try! The almost total lack of supermarkets means most produce is truly local and let’s face it healthy (or at least much healthier than all that factory farmed mass produced stuff designed to the strict requirement of various superstores). The food here taste delicious, even a simple meal has so much flavour, it is pure pleasure to eat.

Prices.

Most people who have some general knowledge about Bulgaria will probably know that it’s less expensive here. Well, for the most part, this is true. Bills, which used to take a fair chunk of our income in the UK, don’t really amount to anything here. For example take the council tax, we paid over £2500 a year for a small, standard 4-bed cookie cutter house, now, it cost us less than £20 for property triple the size. Water, gas, electricity, road tax they all cost a fraction of our old bills but they are some things which cost more… Things like milk for example… if you like UHT milk, not a problem, it’s everywhere and its cheap but if you want fresh milk then you have to pay a premium for it, therefore bottled fresh milk from the store is hard to find and more expensive than in the UK but there is a way around it… you can simply take a more local approach, just like we have, and order some from a local man who just so happens to own a cow, fresh milk straight from the cow or even a goat, pasteurise it yourself at home and enjoy!

People.

People here are so unbelievably friendly! The fact that we don’t speak the same language doesn’t seem to faze them at all. They can chat to you for hours, will smile and wave when you pass them by and give you any help you need even if they have less than you… this is such a culture shock! Let’s face it in England we all have our circle of friends and associates but if a stranger knocked on your door and offered to help you fix a problem they spotted whilst passing your house how would you feel? Would you invite them in and accept them at face value, would you be cautious, maybe tinged with a sense of mistrust. In Bulgaria it is normal, a cultural thing it’s different here to what we have historically felt and thought but extremely satisfying as your faith in humanity is restored brick by brick.

We are kind of snowed in and enjoying piece of quite! Life couldn’t be better. Have a happy Saturday everyone!

A photo posted by Agata @BarkTime (@hunhun007) on

During our time here we have learnt a lot of new things. Some have said to us that we have gone backwards in time and regressed back to olden times and ways, but you know what… it’s good, and if you are of a certain age (lets’ call it middle-aged) it’s not that different to what England was like when we were kids and it makes us happy. Yes, I would probably prefer to have central heating and not have to worry about burning wood logs in my petchka to stay warm but even this has its charm especially in the evening sitting by the fire, not many can say that back home… and with time you simply get used to it.

Don’t get me wrong as I gush about living here, life here isn’t all perfect, there are quite a few things we will want to change in the years to come but for this moment I think we made the right choice. We are genuinely happy, more content and OMG so much more calm than we ever were in England. We get to enjoy daily sun, good food and unbelievably kind and friendly people every day… after all isn’t that what life should be all about?

A Shout Out to The Farmers Market

* by Mark

I am a sinner, for I partake in the nasty habit of smoking and so I am often relegated to the cold and wet outside to satisfy my cravings. Over the years I have grown accustomed to the downside of my habit and accept it as a norm. Oh yes before you think it I have tried to quit and sure one day I will quit with the help of vaping but for now success eludes me. So you may now be wondering what on earth this has to do with a farmers market, let me explain…

We smokers are often told from learned and wise people that one of the many downsides to our habit is a reduced or even the total loss of our sense of smell and taste and as they are indeed wise I for one took them at their word.

In a busy and hectic modern lifestyle we as a society have reduced our foraging for food down to the weekly visit to one of the main supermarket chains, its normal and everyone does it. Now as I wander around the fruit and veg section of our local supermarket the smells are muted and in many cases missing, even in the cut flower section. Once home and dinner is prepared my taste buds experience the same muted sense. It must be because I smoke right, my fault right….

A Shout Out to The Farmers MarketNow we live in the deepest darkest corner of Bulgaria, miles from anything resembling a supermarket and having missed the summer so the veg patch is currently bare we have to go foraging in a new way. So to the farmers market we go on a chilly but sunny Wednesday morning to browse a hundred different stalls stacked high with seasonally appropriate vegetables and fruit. This is where I had one of my life changing experiences.

Maybe it was a miracle, maybe Bulgarian cigarettes are made different whatever it was my sense of smell was reeling from all the inputs. I could smell everything and in many cases I didn’t even have to be an inch away but several paces away was close enough to smell the produce. It was an amazing experience and has left a lasting impression on me. When we returned home and prepared some of our newly acquired food my taste buds also joined in with the revelation of working again as the taste of everything was distinct and filled my mouth. I am hooked.

…and yes I still smoke, probably more now than ever as the novelty of £2 a pack makes quitting just a little harder!

So why, I was left wondering, why have my senses returned to me so suddenly after all these years of being dormant. Turns out if you eat stuff grown in clean soil, that’s clean in the sense of not being saturated in chemicals and in a natural environment as it is meant to be grown as stated by Mother Nature the end product smells and tastes amazing. If you eat stuff grown out of season, stuff that grew in a polly-tunnel and that was fed chemicals to facilitate the fastest possible growth cycle to maximise profits the flavour and smell is muted. It is all to do with the micro-organisms in the soil, all the creepy crawlies who defecate and die in the soil, the rain water and the whole ecosystem that the plant grows in. Things we probably don’t want to think about as we are eating but are vital to the amount of smell and taste we experience at the end of it all. Commercially grown stuff tends to be shielded from all that stuff and we pay the price.

So I return to my starting point, with a huge shout out to the farmers market, they are not perfect but they are a far better option than the supermarket shelves of commercially churned out produce. So support your local business person and visit your farmers market and spend a little extra cash, trust me your nose and tongue will thank you.

Following the Dream

I don’t want a perfect life; I want a happy one!

Just like the quote says, we are on a mission to have a better quality of life… but let’s start from the beginning…

Following the DreamAll of this started about two years ago. We were getting fed up with living in UK, it was all work, work, work (more commonly referred to as the “rat race”) and there never seemed to be a lot of time for anything else and even if there was time there was never enough money no matter how hard we worked; couple that with the endless gloomy weather and seemingly daily rain resulting in it always feeling damp and meaning a lack of sunshine. There was also the issue of a growing hatred of the ever encroaching nanny state with the 1%ers amassing total control over, what felt to us as every aspect of our life in the end led to a level of dissatisfaction that resulted in us one evening deciding that it was time for a change… so we took the giant map of Europe out and started to look for a new place to live.

Yes, I know this might sound a bit extreme but life is short, we aren’t getting any younger and frankly it felt like the right time for our next start.

After going through all the obvious suspects aka favourite spots for Brits to emigrate to such as the south of France, Spain, Italy maybe even Switzerland but they were realistically outside of our budget, we were shortly running out of places to live… all we wanted was an affordable for us country with sunny weather, good food, friendly people and you know what… we found it…. In Bulgaria!

I can imagine that most of you at this moment are either thinking good for them or as is usually the case sat there thinking WTF! Well, trust me when I say we have kind of gotten used to this reaction from people by now. Most people can’t understand why on earth we would want to move from such a well-developed Britain to an underdeveloped country like Bulgaria… well, at the heart of the matter we just wanted a simpler life and after extensive research we truly believe that we can achieve our dream here.

It took us a long time to get to this stage. Four months ago we sold our UK home and by completion day we had managed to move all our belongings into my parents’ house/garage/garden shed in Poland.  From there we filled the car with diesel and started the long drive, 48h later we arrived in Bulgaria. The search for our new home began in earnest…

We came prepared with a long list of houses that we wanted to view. After a few weeks of driving around and viewing properties with endless hours of discussions about all the pros and cons of each place we had whittled the original list down to a short list of three favourites. At this time we enrolled the help of my dad… He desperately wanted to come, probably as much out of curiosity as wanting to make sure his daughter wasn’t about to buy a disaster and from our side it’s always good to get the opinion of someone more sensible than you may be. So we had him fly over just to check out our potential list of a new home. As it ended up all three passed the “dad inspection” and it was time to start making offers… long story short last month (yes, we have a small mini anniversary today) we become the happy owners of our new Bulgarian home.

I have to say it was a real roller-coaster… up and down and up again… so many new experiences, so many things to learn but you know what… we are for the first time in a long time truly happy. We own a lovely house with a garden big enough that we could hire a man with a tractor and plough to plough a section of it in order to get it ready for being a veggie patch next year, we are surrounded by kind, helpful people (no, we can’t understand them most of the time but no one seems to care), we are eating simple but real food, which tastes amazing but most of all we are debt free, we have no mortgage, no loans, no worry… I wake up, brew my morning coffee and go out to drink it in my warm sunny November garden (yes it’s the middle of November and it’s still warm), looking around and thinking to myself: “this is all ours”! This makes me happy!

I know we haven’t been around much lately (and thank you for the many emails checking up on me) yet as I sit here writing to you all with this update I can hand on heart say that all boxes are unpacked, the house is taking its final shape and we are now on the mission to do what we enjoy most… cooking, baking and blogging about it 🙂

Take care, speak soon and remember it’s never too late to follow your dreams!