In Bulgaria. I was kindly offered to come and help at a small holding, about one hour south of Sofia. As it was too far to drive in one day I decided to split the journey up into two legs. Close to Thessaloniki I found a cheap camping with a pool. It was the second time ever that I used my tent (after Albania).
The next day I drove to Bulgaria via Macedonia. The pass from Macedonia to Bulgaria is very scenic, so I took quite a few stops to take photos. Somewhere in the afternoon I reached my home for the next two weeks. Enter Tina & Kevin, an absolutely amazing couple from the UK who traded their hectic corporate lives in London with the simplicity of living off the land somewhere in the Bulgarian countryside. Anyone who steps out of the rat race is pretty much automatically on my side so needless to say we got along pretty well. They had bought a house and over the past few years they had turned the weed infested garden into their own back yard supermarket. Or vegetable garden as people sometimes call them. I’m somewhat of a ‘city boy’ in the sense that I grew up with all food always coming from the supermarket. So the notion of walking into your garden and coming back with a handful of ingredients to make a delicious meal without ever going into a store is so alien to me! So much different green stuff of which I’ve already forgotten the names (koriander is one I remember). And it tasted so much more intense than the things you buy in the supermarket! And not just veggies. There was milk and cheese from the goats, eggs from the hens and in the freezer they had meat from last years pig.
I really loved the animals, even though the pig, ‘Big Mama’, can be a little bit intimidating in the beginning but she just likes to rub herself against your leg when she’s itchy. So there were: Big Mama with her piglets, goats with four young ones, peacocks, chicken & cockerel, ducklings, goslings, one grumpy old goose and two Yorkshire terriers. Oh and a whole family of cats and kittens! They were all so cute, but the funniest ones were the ducklings and goslings.
Kevin and Tina have become authorities on just about everything there is to know about self sufficiency and they are great cooks, so I have learned heaps of new things in those two weeks. I can also milk goats now! Herding them was a different matter though, I managed to split up the herd. Or actually, one half of the herd just walked back home without consulting me.
I made a few day trips to the capital Sofia, where I met my brother in law who was going to Macedonia with a friend for the weekend to attend a wedding and he was flying via Sofia. So we had pizza at a nice Italian restaurant where only one of the waiters spoke English. On other days, I went to Plovdiv (Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city, almost 8000 years old!) and to Borovets, a local ski and mountain hiking area close to where I was staying. I took my paraglider with me to start from one of the ski slopes but I decided not to fly as I calculated my glide path and the distance to the landing zone. Worst case scenario (some headwind and more sink than usual) would mean that I wouldn’t be able to reach the landing zone and that I would have to land in a forest on a mountain side, so even though the conditions were thermic, I passed.
I’ve had an absolute blast in those two weeks in Bulgaria and I’m going to miss the telly shouting, the Masterchef Australia sessions and my own pancake making with hysterical background music! Tina & Kevin: Thanks a million! Hope to visit you again some day!
You can find Pieter's blog about his adventures here: http://www.rideandparaglide.com