Roger and I flew from Luton to Sofia to visit my step-brother David. They live in Bulgaria and had been burgled a couple of weeks ago. I was carrying 5 ccTV cameras for them in my luggage. The flight landed at midnight and we picked up a car I had hired at around 1.00am (it was pretty quiet). I only had a 1 inch to 13 miles map and our destination wasn’t on it, but the nearest town was. I asked the Hertz guy which was the way to Varna and he gave me instructions. I thought they were wrong and they were! I guessed ‘Centrum’ was ‘the centre’ and in the opposite direction. Two garage stops for instructions and we found the right road. 220km later we arrived at Sevlievo at 4.30am. I had phoned David and he said he would meet us in the square. We couldn’t find the square and he wasn’t there anyway! Unknown to us his car had broken down and he was fixing it! After a few more phone calls and a temporary fix, we finally met up out side a Supermarket. David warned me that the road was rough. After a further 28km on quite a crazy road, we turned off into what I thought was a very rough driveway, but ended up being a 1.5 km track to nowhere, which then got worse. A further 0.5km brought us to their house in the village. We were dog-tired and went to bed after a coffee, it was still dark, but the house looked nice.
The morning proved what I had suspected, we were in a very beautiful part of the country but quite remote. There were 12 houses in the village, of which 2 were occupied, the one across the cart track was being lived in by Mark (British teacher). The rest of the houses were either derelict or only visited occasionally by their owners (those that were still alive). The village was called Ritya and 20-30 years ago was quite a prosperous (judging by the size and quality of the houses) community. However, most were in a sorry state now and in need of some TLC. David’s house had already been renovated by the previous British owner and was lovely, though he was knocking it to bits and making it better. There were three street lights in the village! No running water, each house had a well, the nearest rubbish bin was 25 mins away in the car. If you want peace, quiet and isolation, this was the place to be. They had no TV, radio or papers delivered. Shopping was a 30-40 min car drive, most of it on roads that seldom saw a car during the day. I though I would hate it and I was wrong.
Luckily I had a car that worked when you turned the key and this proved useful as we were invaluable to David and Genya in helping them with their gardening, renovations, installations and general fetching and carrying. They did manage to get their car working but it wasn’t reliable enough and needed major hospitalization. On the second day we drove into Dryanovo to take Genya to the dentist as she had a painful tooth (45 min journey). Another day we drove to another town to get a part for the pool pump, they didn’t have it and didn’t seem interested in ordering one. I can say that Roger and I worked quite hard in the garden, digging, planting, identifying trees for them, and I even cooked one night and fixed their computer. Genya hasn’t cooked in the past and has had only 10 weeks experience at it (they always ate out or had take-aways in the past). The food was plain but ample and she readily took cooking tips from Roger and I. Not quite the same quality of food that we had in Italy (our last jaunt), but it kept body and soul together (we were a bit spoilt by Joan’s cooking). Each day I drove us to a different place for lunch, and all but one proved to be very good, especially the price, and Genya cooked in the evening.
David and Genya are really making a go of their isolated living, they love the peace and solitude, are esxtremely hard-working (Roger and I tried to avoid Genya at times as she never stops, a bit like Sue I suppose). and they still manage to run their business in the UK. They have internet access and phone calls were always coming in with a problem which needed solving. They managed to chat on the phone and dig up stones etc at the same time. They wake-up at 7.00am and go to bed at around midnight. They occasionally sat down, but not for long. Though Roger and I woked hard in quite a lot of fierce heat, we thoroughly enjoyed it and I began to love the peace and quiet. One day they had the milkman’s son around (don’t ask why he was the milkman because he delivered 2 tankfullls of water for the pool one day) and the lad played his radio while he pointed the patio floor for them (he had bunked off school to do it and Genya got really annoyed at that). The sound from the radio seemed very out of place and intrusive.
We manage to do some sight seeing. We visited a castle , a monastery, a cave, a typical Bulgarian village (for tourists) and trekked down a gorge. Over the week it became clear that David and Genya did know quite a few locals and also ex-pats living in the area (we even bought some honey from one of their neighbours when he turned up one day to tend to his bees). With the aid of technology they are far from being isolated, but they do have the peace and quite of living in their location. They get on with each other exceptionally well and do seem devoted to each other. They were fed up of the pressure back in the UK and decided to do something about it, good for them.
On our return we set off at midnight and had an uneventful journey to Sofia (were were only stopped once by the police to check our papers). We got home at 2pm and I went to bed. On reflection we had a brilliant time because we had a chance to evaluate what was really necessary in life. Nothing was taken for granted and everything required an effort and often we had to make sacrifices and make do whith what was there. My solution to the broken pool part was to go back to the UK and buy it in Leicester and then send it to him, David’s solution was to cannibalise a part off the filter and use that.
Looking forward to going back on October.