Where do I begin? We’ve actually been in Gradishte for 3 weeks today. However we’ve had neither internet nor time to blog. In a nutshell the house exchanged and my wonderful parents lent us the money to leave before the completion and offered to handle the completion with the agents and solicitors too. Terrys parents, sold us at an extremely discounted rate. their trailer so we could circumvent the 3.5 tonne limit on the weight bearing capacity of the van. So on a Friday night some two and half weeks ago and after saying many tearful goodbyes we left the UK with our 2 dogs and what couldn’t be fitted into the two 7.5 tonne trucks we’d paid to carry our goods across.
So quick was our decision to leave that all the things I’d planned to buy went out the window. Marmite and proper Bisto gravy powder were the only two things I did buy. In a nutshell the drive to Dover and the channel crossing went without hitch. In fact most of Europe went without a hitch. It was only part way through Germany that the axle on the trailer snapped and Terry was forced to pull over on the autobahn (frightening when the good burghers of Deutchland drive so manically) so we could empty the contents of the trailer into the van and limp into the next bahnhoff.
There we unloaded the van to find the generator and the welder and with all our wordily goods displayed on the verge Terry welded the broken axle in 30 degrees heat. I took the dogs for a walk and cooked us a fried breakfast. We attracted quite a lot of attention. In fact an Irish travelling family became so enamoured of Vinnie that they sent, in convoy, six members of the extend family with requests to buy him. The truck drivers of almost all European member states also eyed our goods with interest. We beat a hasty retreat as soon as the trailer was fixed and the breakfast consumed.
I shall say little of travels but I will mention the beauty of Romania and Bulgaria. As we sped through the somewhat cathartic scenery of Belgium, Germany, Austria to the untidy but decadent beauty of Hungary it was at the borders to Romania that the scenery became breathtaking and continued into Bulgaria. We had decided to enter Bulgaria via the Vidin bridge but had realised that we would have to enter Serbia, albeit briefly. Serbia was a no-no without a green card and with dogs so we undertook what can only be described as a torturous route on G class roads in pitch black before we called it a day on our first night in Bulgaria. We pulled into a truck stop with a shower and wi-fi and paid 10 leva (£4) for the night.
A river in Romania where we stopped to walk the dogs
Closer up the river was actually pretty fast running so a dip was vetoed
Nearer to the river banks
An eddy near the riverside where the dogs could splash and cool off
An example of the tiling used to decorate Romanian houses
When we finally realised we’d have to enter Serbia from Romania we decided to take what turned out to be little more than a goat track into Bulgaria instead
The remains of the Turkish influence can be seen in the minaret like roofing and church spires
Romanian cottage in the hills
Serbia to the right
One of the last villages in Romania before we entered Bulgaria
Haystacks Bulgarian style. The inherent playfulness of the people became apparent as we passed haystacks that took on themes from a praying angel to clowns. From a distance they could be mistaken for agrarian ogres from another time
Eventually on a very sunny Tuesday morning after three and half days travelling with a van and trailer loaded to the hilt, two dogs and having slept each night on a mattress balanced atop our worldly goods we finally arrived in Gradishte.
The house was much the same as when we had left it but the garden had grown exponentially since last year. Our lovely neighbour Ilia had covered the entrance to the house and garden with the prickly branches of the Mulberry tree to ensure unwelcome visitors were warned off the property. We had to literally beat our way to the front door. We had no time to be overwhelmed. We had to empty the van and set up camp. The dogs were fascinated by the garden but were very upset and unsure what was happening. They tried over and over again to climb back into the van. We decided to apportion the first two rooms in the newer barn extension as a makeshift living/bedroom and a kitchen and the older part of the house as the tool room and storage rooms.
It just happened to be a national holiday in Bulgaria so we could hear all kinds of noise from the square and the park of “Venerable Oaks” up above our house. Sadly we had no time to attend. There was literally 101 things to be done before we could even sit down let alone go and celebrate. Later that evening we heard a voice from the makeshift garden gate. It was our neighbour Ilia come to welcome us home and to tell us he’d been almost daily to the house. We were touched and rushed in to the house to present him with a bottle of whisky and some English chocolates – he tried not to take them but we were insistent. He walked off chuffed. Not long afterwards Sani arrived with a plate of meat and cheese stuffed tomatoes alongside the usual home made whisky. He explained that it was a fiesta and this was his family’s welcome offering. Touched we also gave him a bottle of whisky and some English chocolates. The welcome to our little village was overwhelming.