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Saturday 4 June 2011

37. Village Life, Part 2

Word must have spread around the village that the English had arrived. On our last evening, a local guy and his son stop by touting for work. The son speaks a bit of English and explains that his dad is a “maestro with wood”. It’s a big old village, a few kilometres long and with hundreds of houses – very funny to think the news had spread throughout! The guy and his son invite us for a drink and to see their house. We politely decline (last-minute chores were calling) but we’ll look them up in August and if his handiwork is any good we might put some work his way.

Despite being a big village, it has a really sleepy feel during the week. It comes to life more on the weekend, I guess with city folk escaping to their weekend houses. The one restaurant only opens on a weekend; otherwise it’s a very quiet existence. A few herds pass through the village every day, the usual goats and sheep, but also cows. The clatter of goat bells is a nice way to wake up in the morning. The cows are a bit scary though, huge! I’m such a city dweller, usually the closest I get to a cow is a carton of Cravendale! 

The daily commute...
The villagers were really friendly and helpful. Our neighbour Svilen spent an entire Sunday helping us in the house, he lent us tools (and even hand cream), and fed us several times. I think people are genuinely pleased to see younger people move to the village. The average age of villagers must be 50+, but there’s more of a variety of residents on a weekend.  

And guess what? We’re not the only English folk there! Max had found an English couple up in the hills beyond the village. They stopped by our house one day to say hello, bringing homemade scones, jam and a giant bottle of beer with them. John and Kimberley are about our age and have been in Bulgaria for a couple of years. Their house is about a 30 minute walk beyond the end of the village, up a hill - a gorgeous spot. They’ve been lovingly renovating the house themselves. You can only get there on foot; the car won’t get all the way up the track! Imagine renovating a house and carrying all the materials uphill on foot, and you get an idea of their devotion. We all went out for dinner one night with some friends they had visiting from England (by the way, their friends still think they’re bonkers two years on, so I don’t know what hope there is for our friends and family). Together we discovered – another tip-off from Max – the most amazing restaurant just outside our village. You’d easily miss it from the road, it’s basically just someone’s house on the river with tables and chairs outside. Inside is just one room overlooking the kitchen, with big fur coverings everywhere (a bit like dining in a Mongolian yurt). The owner, Katya, is this great Bulgarian blonde who sits you down, tells you firmly what she’ll be cooking that night (pointing out things from a recipe book) and you decide from what’s on offer. She doesn’t speak English but, between the recipe book and her very expressive body language, we understand each other perfectly well. She has her curlers in when we arrive. I love her. 
The English invade Katya's restaurant
We ended up with a hearty banquet of homemade bread, salads, stuffed vine leaves, homemade cheese, beef stew, bean soup, beer and (randomly) crème caramel. All for £5 each. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Can’t wait to go back and see what she feels like cooking us next time.