The Fruits of Our Labours, Part 2

There is one bad memory that I have that is to do with China. This bad memory is to do with the Chinese Embassy here in Sofia. The first time I went to get our Z visas, more than five years ago, it was a disaster. I queued for ages, but they would not even let me into the building. Finally the guard sent me away and told me to come back on another day. Great! It took me about an hour and a half to get to the Chinese Embassy from our villa in Kalotina. Eventually I did manage to get inside, but I had to queue up at five o’clock in the morning. There were already seventeen people ahead of me in the queue and some of them had been there all night. Finally, I did get into the building, at about eleven o’clock, and the Chinese official who looked at all of my papers scrutinised every line of every document. When she had finished, she went through them all again. 

I did, however, score one or two little points. First of all, she told me that I had brought “too many documents”. (Well, this wa…

By George!

I promised you a big piece of news and here it is: I have a new teaching job in Sofia, starting in January. Yes, yes, I do know that I am supposed to be retired and in many ways I was looking forward to being retired. Now, however, I miss the buzz of school life and there is not much for us to do in Kalotina in the winter.
On Monday I went for what was supposed to be an “informal chat” with the headmaster of St. George’s School in Sofia. The photos on the school website make the new school building look quite posh (and huge) and the head also has quite a posh name, Justin Kilcullen-Nichols. The salary is not quite so impressive, alas, but the important thing is that we are going to get an apartment in Sofia as part of the deal. There is no way that I can commute from Kalotina each day. (It is at least an hour and a half’s drive from our house to the far side of Sofia.)
St. George’s School is an amazing place. I have seen quite a few schools over the last thirty-something years and I ha…

A Winter's Tale, Part 2

It really started about two years ago, when we had insulation stuck onto the outside of the house. Tako and his team came to our villa in Kalotina and they started sticking large polystyrene blocks onto all of the exterior walls. Then they put a plastic mesh on top of the blocks and covered that with the yellow-coloured plaster. It looked so much better, as the old white paint was decidedly shabby and, much more importantly, it made the house wonderfully cool in the summer and, we hope, warm in the winter too. The insulation also made the house much quieter inside, as external noises were muffled.
The middle of the house could be bitterly cold in the winter, as heat escaped under or round the front door. The solution to that problem was to fit another external door. As well as keeping in the warmth, the second front door makes us feel much more secure and it is a deterrent to anyone who is thinking of breaking in.
Another important step when preparing for winter’s icy blast is for your …

In the dining room

Our dining room in Kalotina is one of my favourite rooms in the house (or anywhere else). All around the walls are pictures, mementoes and souvenirs of our various wanderings and foreign peregrinations: Romania, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and China. The dining table and the chairs are from England and we brought them with us in the van we hired and drove to Bulgaria, a few months after we bought the house.
Originally the dining room was just going to be a rather dark and gloomy store room when Penka and her husband originally built the house, but we had part of a wall knocked down to connect the dining room to the kitchen. We also had a new window put in, giving us a view of the garden. These things made the dining room a much brighter and more interesting room.
The best thing about the dining room is, of course, my dear wife’s cooking. Here are a few photos of some recent highlights. 
The chicken pâté was delicious and creamy. My dear Irisha usually has some dark, solid and chew…

Down by the riverside

We have now been back in Kalotina for about a week, having returned from Veliko Tarnovo rather earlier than we had planned. (Yes, there is a big secret attached to that one, but you will have to wait a bit more before I reveal it.)
The weather has been wonderfully warm and sunny, even though it is nearly the end of October, so on Saturday we decided to go for a walk along the river. 
The River Nishava is really not much more than a big stream when it flows through the village of Kalotina. A lot of the water comes from the springs in Berende Izvor and so the river has kept flowing, even though we have had hardly any rain for the last few months.
First we went along the road and then turned right by the fishing lakes. Then we came across the field to the river. On our way across the field, we said hello to a couple of friendly horses. Next time, we must remember to bring some carrots with us.
Of course we had to stop quite often on our walk, to rummage around in the leaves for the last of t…

A Walk in the Woods

This morning we went for a lovely walk in the woods, not far from our apartment in Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo (or "VT", as we usually call it) is quite a small and compact city, so you are never far from the countryside. 

Our apartment is in Assenova, the area down the hill from Tsaravets and over the bridge. This means that our apartment is just on the edge of the city and so in a few minutes you are out in the countryside.  

We went along by the River Yantra and then up the hill to the spring next to the road. There is a quite a good path that leads from the spring and up into the woods. 

The autumnal colours of the trees were wonderful: reds, greens, browns, oranges and yellows. 

For most of our walk, the sun was shining and it still felt like summer, but it is nearly the end of October. Soon the temperature is going to fall and winter will be with us again.

Today I wrote to Minty Woodfine, telling her how sad I am that she is no longer writing her blog, Move to Bulgaria. …

Trying Tryvana

We are still in Veliko Tarnovo. I am not sure how much longer we will be here. Today the chimney man is supposed to be coming, following our unsuccessful attempts to light the woodburner and fumigate the apartment.

Tryvana is a pretty town about 50km from VT. It has lots old-fashioned Bulgarian houses and it is a major tourist magnet. The beautiful old church is roofed with stone, with the obligatory candles, icons and lots of dark wood. The shape of church’s bell tower reminds me of something rather non-ecclesiastical. 

The town square and the clock tower are impressive and it is very pleasant to wander along the cobblestoned streets and over the old stone bridge.

We went to Tryvana a few days ago and the GPS did not do a good job. In fact, the GPS really led us in the wrong direction and some of the “roads” that the GPS recommended to us would have made the road in Kalotina look like a blooming brand-new motorway. They were terrible! Narrow, steep, twisty and sometimes almost no tarma…