Bulgaria 2008

Bulgaria

A Land of Surprises

I’m staying in Bulgaria with my brother who lives in a village called Mutnicka which is near a town called Shumen.

My brother and his wife are the only foreigners in this village. There used to be an old Russian man here. Bulgaria is slowly/fastly becoming populated with ex-pat Brits. While driving in a far away village we passed a British Ford Transit van parked by a house that was obviously being renovated.

The Family Estate 1

He lives in a large 2 storey house on 2000 sq m of land.

1chrishouse

Like many rural Bulgarian houses the upstairs is a self contained flat. It is not uncommon for families plus relatives to all live in the one house. The winters here are very cold and it conserves heat to have lots of poor people in one room.

The Family Estate 2

He also has another 2 storey house at Lake Ticha which he is currently renovating:

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this is the view from the upstairs patio:

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The Family Estate 3

His estate also includes 3 abandoned houses on 2000 sq m each plus a 5000 sq m paddock at a place called Omarchevo

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Barns made from hand hewn beams:
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The Culture

I could describe the culture around me as a “peasant culture” if you accept the rural meaning of that word. When driving around country roads here, every tree along the side of the road is either a fruit tree or a walnut tree plus others I cannot identify. I saw a family collecting seed pods from a large tree. Horses and carts or donkeys and carts are a common sight.
rural

 

Death Posters

Everywhere we went, either by bike, car or on foot we passed posters with pics of a person and some Bulgarian text. Lots of the people looked about 30 years old in the pics. I was told that they put them up when someone dies. I asked why they all died so young and was told that they were old but used photos of them in their prime.
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death1

 

An Anomoly

Whilst we were biking around his village I saw what looked like a familiar plant growing in several locations:
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dope

yes it is dope, not that man, he is my brother! I rubbed the leaves and there was that sweet sticky smell! He tells me that whilst everyone appears to be drunk most of the time, drugs are a big deal and no-one seems interested in them, least of all these huge dope plants around the village.

Country Life

My brother has a seen a wild lynx about the size of a small Labrador calmly walking across a country road. Hawks and buzzards are a

common sight, in fact bird life is prolific.
These are crows:
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The collective noun for crows is “a murder of crows”

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He tells me that wild boar and bears are in the hills not far from here. Huge open swathes of rolling country seem to be everywhere once you leave the main roads and forests, woods and copses abound.

idyllic

 

Abandoned Buildings

In a far flung village where geese and goats roam the roads
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there are two huge empty buildings that must have served some local or regional function. Looking at them now it is hard to imagine what that was. One of them is four stories tall in a village where the tallest building is about head height.
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Empty buildings are everywhere, not houses, although them too, but buildings that can only be described as administrative. It is not hard to imagine Bulgaria under the Soviets as being a country where everyone had a job, a future, probably wore a uniform and everything was kind of new in a roughly finished way. The old soviet roads are concrete two laners and it was obvious that there were not many cars at the time.  In reality it looks like when the Russians left the whole place started going downhill. There is sense of decay almost everywhere I’ve been.

Not Abandoned Buildings

The buildings that are not abandoned but look like they are, like this one with all the tiles missing that is the office building for a tile factory!

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An army barracks not far away looks like the officers left 20 years ago. Soldiers just seem to hang around smoking and the grounds are littered with old vehicles and piles of building rubbish. I am told that when the army is on manoeuvres the tanks and trucks look like a procession from a military museum.

Unfinished Buildings

In the middle of Shumen are many unfinished building projects one of which is huge in both scale and undertaking.
empty1

This is the ground level view from the side, if you look carefully you will see that the new building has been built over the top of an older building!

 

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The Concrete Heroes Monument

On the hills above Shumen is a monument to the three mythical founding fathers of Bulgaria. The scale of this is bigger than I can imagine and I have seen it!

It stands on the skyline and is bigger than any of the natural land forms around it.

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It is poured concrete in a highly stylised form. It has the scale of the Soviet Stalin statues with the style of an American comic and I mean that in a nice way:-)
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monument1s

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Now to give you some idea of the scale:

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monument4s

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monument3s

On a slightly different note, here is that horse again, see the right front leg that is raised? my bro tells me that last time he was here that had fallen to the ground and broken!

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All the time we were standing under this! complete confidence in Bulgarian concrete fixing?

Also in Shumen are also new restaurants that could look at home in London or any other major city. The only difference is the prices. Three of us went to one of these new places and ate incredibly well cooked and presented dishes plus drinks for 52 Lev which is about 20 pounds or $NZ52. Compare that to the local restaurant where you can get 3 main meals, 2 pints of lager and a glass of wine for 17 Lev and not only can you smoke but so can the cook!

In spite of the apparent run down nature of the place and the poverty that is visible there are also signs of new wealth. Alongside old crapped out cars are Mercedes and other “smart” cars.
peasant

 

Cheap properties are still available, see this page. Building materials and labour are very cheap so buying a house that needs work is not the big financial hole that it is here.

End.