Archive for January 31, 2011

Ruddy Freezing

The end of January today and the weather is definately middle of winter typr. The snow this year has
been thin on the ground, we had three or four days with 50 cm of snow, the tempreature however has been completely normal for this time of year.

Now that is cold!

I have not succumbed to heating the whole house as is the norm in the UK with central heating systems. I do however have a hot room, with a
woodburner going most of the time. The rest of the house is unheated and the tempreature even inside is well below 0C somedays and probably every night.

The thermometer in the picture above is located outside in my porch which is on the north side of the house so is especially chilly,
no need for a deep freezer here during winter.

January is the month of documents in Bulgaria, new road tax, tax declarations and such like. They really do like nothing better than documents, especially
with stamps and signatures even to get the simplest of things done. When we bought our house foreign nationals were not allowed to purchase property in Bulgaria
but they could own a business. So the process of buying a house entailed opening a business in your name and getting the business to purchase the property.

Obviously businesses are required to submit annual tax returns, the first year I did this was a very convaluted process I have however found a short cut!

Instead of joining the 300 metre queue at the regional tax office to submit the return it is quite possible to send it by post! My first year here I was told that
they had to be submitted in person. Even a nil return.

So today I have been copying the details from last years nil return and putting them on this years document which will be handed to my postman this week sometime.

Next month I am off for a short visit to the UK, as our house there need some replastering doing, UK plasterers quoted us 1600 pounds so we decided it would be cheaper
and more fun to take two of our builder neighbours in Bulgaria back to the UK and let them have the work instead. They only wanted paying 40 euros a day! It should also be quite fun
as Mustafa who is 56 has never been on a plane in his life, and Easyjet is going to get the priviledge of introducing him to flight! (Think he might
need a quick mastika before take off)

My Neighbours Wedding

My next door neighbours son got married yesterday, I am not normally a big fan of weddings
in the UK, a bit too much pomp, speeches, and waiting around so when invited to attend I wasn’t really that bothered. However Turkish weddings do it
differently, no religious service, no long painful speeches or endless toasts to the bride and groom. They do away with all that and get straight on to
the party stage. The wedding itself was held in the local school hall and comfortably seated 300 guests. On arrival the tables were lined with beer spirits and even the
odd soft drink. The men got straight down to the business of drinking the brandy(grodovo) and ouzo(mastika) which is quite a sight at 12:00. The music
then started up, a clarinet with one volume setting – extremely loud. This stopped all conversation and concentrated everybody upon there task of getting drunk!

Dancing was compulsory

As the beer was consumed so the dancing started, the more beer that was drunk the more people took to the dance floor! After the first hour dancing was compulsory for
everyone with enough limbs, there were a few legless already.


So after 5 hours of drinking mixed with some dancing everyone heads back to the vilage in the courtesy bus. The party though does not end there and everyone filed into
the pub.

More dancing

I had a great time, this morning I had a bit of a sore head though, goodness knows why.

The father of the groom

Bring Back The Communists All Is Forgiven

The area in Bulgaria where I live (Kardjali) is predominantly populated by Bulgarians of Turkish
origin. Originally coming over with the Ottoman Empire and staying since. The main employment in the area is tobacco farming. This year under EU legislation
the subsidy has been cancelled, this has not only affected farmers in Bulgaria but all over Europe including France, Germany, Greece and Italy.

The subsidy, which worked out at approx 4 lev (2 euros) a kilogram, when added to the price paid for the product by the wholesalers enabled many people to
make enough money to live on, not lots of money, but enough for them to provide for there families without being a burden on the state (which provides very little anyway).

My friends and neighbours in the village that made their living this way were hoping that the wholesalers would offer them an increase in the price paid to make up for
loss of subsidy. They have been given the bad news that the wholesalers have no intention of paying anymore than they can get away with. This leaves many of the
village facing a 50% pay cut this year, add to this the introduction of a 10% agriculture tax meaning many are rightly worried about their financial futures.

This along with the financial crisis put upons by large capitalists organizations (banks) has started the locals thinking that life although somewhat restricted
under the previous communist regime, at least provided them with a way to make a living.

So when I was in pub over the weekend, the conversation around me turned to politics, and in particular whether life in communist times was better. Oh what short memories they have here.
Mahmood (my bee man) was the main protagonist. I asked where his extended family were. Knowing full well that the majority of his family had left Bulgaria
along with 300,000 other Bulgarians of Turkish origin during what is known as the ‘Golyam Excursion’ (Big Excursion) of 1989. During the final stages of Todor Zhivkovs
reign as communist dictator of Bulgaria, as his sytem started to fail, instead of looking for solutions to problems with communism, he blamed the minorities in
the country, the Roma, and of course the Turks. The wikipedia article is here

So, would me Turkish friends and neighbours really be better with the communists is charge? Maybe not.

Smoking Ban Bulgarian Style

For those of you out there that intend on living forever, don’t eat red meat, don’t drink,
eat your five a day, and generally do everything the government tells you to do so that you can live until you are 120 you had probably better stop reading this now. If
however, you enjoy all good things in life read on. Before I start I should point out that although I am a smoker, I realise that it is bad for my health and probably
those around me, but so are lots of things, cars kill more people than smoking and they haven’t banned driving in public places just yet. (except Sake – I know)

I live in the south of Bulgaria, whose main income is the cash crop tobacco. Now I am sure there are vegatarian beef farmers, lacto intolerant dairy farmers.
but in Southern Bulgaria non smoking tobacco farmers just don’t exist.

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and has enjoyed, mostly, the infrastructure hand outs (after their politicians have taken a cut).

As from 1 Jan 2011 coming into line with European policy, Bulgaria has adopted a no smoking in public places policy – almost. This when introduced in the UK, regardless of what the government tells you
did not increase the takings at your local pub. The UK had approximately 25% of the adult population that were smokers, the policy was adopted from our special relationship legal
advisors over the pond, was, not to improve the publics health (does the government really want people living too far past retirement), but was to avoid expensive lawsuits
from non-smoking bar staff.

So as Bulgaria has introduced a smoking ban, instead of being completely ban all smoking as its a horrible dirty habit, this is how they have done it
– common sense at last, let the person who runs the bars decide. I will never say a bad thing about Bulgarian politicians again! (maybe)

New Years Report & Lidl Madness

The hangover has finally gone, but only just. Why is it a good idea to have a whiskey (100ml – single Bulgarian measure)
at the stroke of new year when you are already 3 sheets to the wind! It is always a good idea at the time, but the morning after doubt begins to seep in.

Annie was over for a well deserved break, and we invited another Anglchanka from a neighbouring village along (Elsa). The evening started slowly, but being relatively new to New Years celebrations
were not prepared for what the locals can manage. In that you should carry on drinking until it is light! I got no where near the break of dawn, but have been informed that
Ilyas and Aziz most certainly did. Hikmet the barman was to say the least not enthralled by stamina!

Annie with a sparkler

I have stolen these pictures from Elsa, as I didn’t take any, the originals can be found, along with her diary of life in Bulgaria
here. The main celebration at midnight is a firework display, and from our vantage point outside the pub
a great view of all the surrounding villages setting off fireworks could be seen.

Ilyas enjoying a sparkler

Back at the end of November, the discount supermarket chain ‘Lidl’ opened a branch in the local metropolis that is Kardjali. Now when Lidl opens a new shop
in the UK, the majority of the populace probably doesn’t bat an eyelid. Here however, with promotions including banana’s at 50 stotinki a kilo, it has caught the attention
of the populace. So much so that banana’s have been restricted to 4 kilos per person, for those willing to spend three hours in a queue. To date no less than 6
ambulances have been called to the store to revive customers, who either got excited at the promotion or just squashed in the rush! I await the opening of Aldi with trepidation!

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