Last Market Day in Yablanitsa

I had a tight deadline today, but also a full weekend of work ahead of me, so I decided I was best off going to Yablanitsa today, for a final trip to the market, since I’d have a better chance of getting lifts.

I had just passed the village limits when I heard a vehicle come up behind me and honk. I thought it was my chauffeur because of the van type, but no. It was a couple in a similar vehicle, which is a two seater… Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t carry my excess weight in my hips because the three of us just barely squeezed in!

They dropped me off just within the town limits, so I had a short stroll to the market. I hoped to pick up another pair of capris, but the lady wasn’t there today, the only time this has happened in all my visits to the market. Am I glad I at least got the pair I had on!

Produce was pretty usual today, but I did see some folks had cauliflower. I found a vendor who had nice tomatoes, but he was the kind who doesn’t let you pick out your own. “Kolko?” he asked me. It literally means “how,” but I’ve heard it used for “how many?” and “how much?” I said four, then amended it to five. I was very happy with the ones he picked out! I also got onions and carrots from him. I got potatoes and zucchini from another vendor who looked at me like I was a moron when I thought he told me my total was 1.20, I handed him as much, and asked if that was okay. He shook his head (which is a nod in Bulgaria) and again repeated what I thought was 1.20 before moving on to the next customer. So I’m guessing I heard right!

I was happy to do my final shop at the supermarket since I am really tired of buying and eating the same foods from there every week! I had a bit of a stumble when they were out of the two different jam brands they normally carry and the brand they had not only didn’t have clear pictures, but the writing was in lower case, which I haven’t mastered yet, and in a super fancy font. I was looking for strawberry, “yagodi,” which looks like this in “normal” Cyrillic: яагоди. Look at what the label has instead!


If I squint, I can see the Ya letter (“backwards R”) and the o is, of course, clear. But the hard g is sort of like a backwards s, the d looks like a g, and the i looks like a u! I think they just want to confuse the tourists!

My shopping was particularly heavy today so I was glad I’d come on market day since, surely, I’d get a lift home. So certain of this was I that I didn’t pace myself heading up the hill out of town to the junction where I usually get lifts. Hmm. No cars today. Okay, maybe by the underpass. Nope… I got all the way to the village turnoff, with 2KM left to go, and thought surely I’d get a lift at this point. I even properly stuck out my thumb a few times, to no avail. By the time I limped into Malak Izvor, I was pretty annoyed with myself for having started off so fast since I had barely enough energy to get up the hill to home!

But I made it! I put my shopping away, then pulled out a tin of sardines I’d bought for the pets as a treat. Normally, Mechka and Penghu each go for a bowl and Sausage gets the tin. But today, Sausage went for a bowl. I put the tin down for Mechka and was very amused when she picked it up and carried it over to the far side of the yard to enjoy her treat in peace!

This was my last trip into Yablanitsa. If I need anything in the next week, I can get it at the village shop. I thought I was leaving next Friday, but it’s actually going to be Thursday (it was always going to be the 22nd, I just messed up the day of the week) and I have to be out of Bulgaria on Saturday. So this time next week, I could very well be in Serbia!

Exhausted Pups

I didn’t have work again today and didn’t want to start on the small easy job I have due Monday night. So I decided this morning to go on a long hike with Mechka and Sausage beyond my Bulgarian Shangri-La. I thought of having coffee and breakfast first, but our routine is firmly set and the dogs would not have had the patience to wait for me. I’m not addicted to coffee and could definitely wait till we got back. I did pack a couple of jam and butter sandwiches, an apple, and water.

Autumn is definitely coming despite the fact that it’s still quite hot out. So many leaves crunching underfoot!






I love that rebel yellow house!





An unexpected burst of colour.








He looks so happy! I was being slow, so he’s coming back to make sure I’m okay!


One thing that I really dislike about being out in nature in Bulgaria is how aggressive the flora is. There’s these things with super long thorns:


I caught my right calf on one of these early in my arrival here and have a more one one-inch long scar with which to remember the event. I was shocked by how long this wound took to heal and, in hindsight, I actually regret not seeking out sutures immediately after it happened or at the very least some butterfly closures, which I should have in my first aid kit.


There are also low lying vines (possibly from a blackberry plant) that wrap around your ankles and shred them. And then, my “favourite” are the shrubs with barbs that snag at you on the side of the road. One got me yesterday on my way back from Yablanitsa:


Beyond Shangri-La, we followed a very rough 4×4 road.






There’s a picnic table at the top of a hill, for some random reason. Max says he likes to go up there for breakfast. I wasn’t ready to eat yet.


There’s also a fire pit.


And some ruins:





I think these are blueberries, but I didn’t try them:


In the video, I mentioned that it was quiet. Well, no sooner had I stopped filming that I heard a vehicle and found it (and a person) quite far away up a hill:



At first, I thought I found the scene of an accident, but then realised it’s just a dump. I have access to a dump just like this on a friend’s property near Haven.


We eventually turned back and, to my horror, we came to a junction I didn’t remember! I figured, worst case, I’d pick the wrong way and have to double back, but I was getting tired. Sausage seemed convinced as to the direction to go, so I asked him three times where home is and he kept starting down one path and looking back to make sure I was following. He’s never led me astray before, so I followed and, in very short order, I was able to confirm I was going the right way!

We got in a full two hours after leaving. I gave the dogs their breakfast, but all they wanted was water before flopping down! I had coffee and, an hour later, another coffee with a second breakfast of toast with sirene cheese and berry jam. I’ve been eating a lot of peanut butter since I got here and am trying to curb the habit, so I’ve switched to the cheese with jam on my toast. Very yummy. 🙂

Around four, it was time to take them on their second walk. I took a different path, where it was still very clearly autumn.


While the dogs had been very enthusiastic as we set out, the minute we got to the first big uphill, both stopped and looked at me with a “we’re done, thanks!” look. I decided to push on and they followed, but stuck close rather than going on ahead. I have a favourite spot to stop and turn around (start of the second video in the link above) with a nice flat rock for sitting on and admiring the view. I sat there and cuddled with the dogs for a good ten minutes, trying not to cry as I realised how much I am going to miss them. They have spoiled me for life and I will have to be very careful before I accept another dog sit since they’ve raised the bar so high with their intelligence and sweet disposition.

It’s been a lovely homey weekend, but I hope work picks up! I don’t expect anything for tomorrow (since it’ll still be Sunday in North America) and had thought to go to Sofia, but the museum I wanted to visit will be closed. I have to really watch the calendar and bus schedules, but I’m thinking of delaying heading to Serbia by a day or two to have time to visit a couple of Sofia museums. Or I might be able to get away at a late date this week. We’ll see. Work has been surprising the last few weeks!

12 kilomètres à pied, ça use, ça use…

I really burned the midnight oil with work this past week, so when it was 10AM yesterday by the time I was up, had walked the dogs, and breakfasted, it really was too late to go to the market in Yablanitsa, never mind that I had another really full day of work ahead of me. I decided to postpone my trip to today, even if I knew I would very likely not get a lift.

I would have actually preferred to do a day trip to Sofia today, but I had an 11AM Skype interview about a possible house sit, so that changed my plans. I did the interview and then left for town around 11:45.

It was a pleasant walk, surprisingly hot, but increasingly overcast and with an odd breeze. I didn’t mind walking all the way in.


Coming into Yablanitsa.

I thought I was finally ready to try the “snack bar,” if only for a coffee, but there was a “ne raboti” sign out front, which I’ve come to understand means the business is closed. Dang!

Instead, I went to a cart place that’s set up across from the plaza, where I knew I could get a kebapche. It’s really not what I was in the mood for, but it was cheap and good, although I didn’t finish all the bread. This was my first time eating at the cart!

It was only then that I realised that a lot of businesses were closed. Crap! Had I ever come into town for groceries on a Saturday? Thankfully, the supermarket was open! I got what I needed, remembering coffee at the last minute, and was still insufferably pleased with myself that I can say, “I would like a big butter, please,” in Bulgarian. Of course, I treated myself to an orange-chocolate ice cream cone for part of my walk back!

One phrase I really should have learned earlier in my stay here is “I understand.” The lady at the cash spent way too much time trying to mime that I needed to pay a deposit for the beer bottles and that she was adding it manually to my total, despite my saying, “Yes, okay, very good, not a problem,” repeatedly. I appreciated her efforts!

I hoped to get the taxi home, but he wasn’t at the town plaza and when I called, he said it would be an hour wait! I could get home in an hour and it’s not like there’s anything to do in Yablanitsa to fill the time! So I declined and headed off on foot. Traffic was light, so I didn’t get a lift.

However, I ran into a man putting wood in his car about 1KM from home who chatted with me in English (!) for a bit and then said if I could wait a bit, he’d take me the rest of the way. At that point, I just wanted to be home, so I politely declined. It started to sprinkle rain as I left him.

The dogs still got their walk this afternoon, of course, but now I’m officially beat! I don’t have any work for tomorrow, so I think I will have breakfast before heading out on a much longer hike with them. I probably won’t have any work for Monday either (because it will still be Sunday for my clients), so I may do a run to Sofia then. I just want to make sure museums are open on Mondays.

Hard to believe I should coming into Belgrade about this time in two weeks. WHERE has the summer gone?!

What a Difference a Few Months Make

I just got back from the village shop, where I hoped they would have the good German butter. They did! But not only that, they’ve seriously expanded their product line. They now consistently have deli meats, cheese, butter, yoghurt, bread, decent produce, and now even a meat freezer. What a contrast to when I arrived and was forced to walk the 12KM to Yablanitsa and back in torrid conditions just for a few staples!

I got the butter, cheese, and salami on my list, and then added a package of kufte meat (think seasoned ground pork with which to make meatballs) from the meat freezer.

While waiting for the cashier to fix the coffeemaker and serve me, I noticed a new spice rack (which had baking soda, LOL) as well as an improved sweets display that featured Milka-brand chocolate, which is really good. I’ve gone in less than three months from the gal who was scared to go into the shop to the gal who could say, “And Milka chocolate with hazelnuts, please,” in Bulgarian! The clerk immediately grabbed the right package. It never fails to astound me when someone understands my small bits of Bulgarian. 🙂

Back to work I got. I’m in overtime mode from getting some extra work yesterday when everyone else was slacking off. I take Labour Day literally! 😀


I headed to town pretty early today to get bread and tomatoes. The man who has picked me up a few times pulled over just as I got to the village square so I got a quick ride into town. Yay!

He’s very chatty and not daunted by the fact that I barely understand anything he says. He started to go on about Teteven and since he said bazaar and Saturday, I figured he was asking me if I’d been to the market there (sadly, no). To show that I was getting the gist of this part of our conversation, I said, “Big bazaar Teteven,” and he rolled his eyes and said, “Very big! The Yablanitsa bazaar is very small!”

And that’s as far as we got even though he kept talking!

We got to town and he pulled over at his usual spot, then said what I understood to be, “Be here at 9:30 and I’ll take you back to Malak Izvor.” I thanked him and made a note that I had 45 minutes to test my understanding of what he’d said.

First stop was the trouser lady. Unfortunately, my capris will not survive my Bulgarian summer. I bought them at the last minute because I knew I’d be hiking a lot here and so they have practically been my uniform. There are stained and also discoloured from my having had to type on my lap all summer. I don’t feel comfortable wearing them in “public,” ie. any further than the village shop.

I immediately spotted exactly what I wanted: black, rayon-type material that looks and feels luxurious and washes well, suitable for a night out or slouching about, and capri length. The lady came over and took the ones I was examining out of my hand and said, “Too big!” She pulled out another pair and showed me that they would fit perfectly even though they were marked XXXL. Wow, I’ve never worn more than XL in my life (and currently wear medium), but she was right!

I asked her how much, bracing myself and happy I had tons of cash. Well, while I understood her answer, I couldn’t believe it. Ten?! She held up ten fingers to confirm I was hearing correctly. 10BGN! 7.60CAD or 5.80USD! WOW!!!

This photo really does not do them justice. I need a cute top to wear with them!


I got my tomatoes after and then headed to the supermarket. Yablanitsa is a normal Bulgarian town and pretty ugly, but sometimes it surprises me:


I didn’t need much at the supermarket, but I did pick up a tin of sardines for my love bugs. I can’t believe we only have another three weeks together! 🙁 I also got a chocolate orange ice cream cone. 🙂

It was almost 9:30 by the time I had finished my ice cream and returned to the market. I didn’t see my chauffeur, so I perused the wares again, really wanting some green grapes. Finally, I decided that I was very likely getting a lift home and so the grapes would survive the trip. So I found the vendor who had the freshest looking ones and handed him a bunch. He weighed them and quoted me the price, which was either $1.30 or $1.13, with the former being much more likely. I handed him a 2BGN note and then said, “Um, three…?” passing over the 30 stotinki I’d conveniently gotten as change at the supermarket. The merchant grinned and said, “Very good, thank you!” passing me a 1BGN coin as change.

Bulgarians love you when you have exact change or are able to make change a whole number. Rae’s Bulgaria travel tip of the day!

I promptly sampled my purchase. YUM.

I got back to the drop off point at exactly 9:30 and guess who pulled up? Yep, Mr. Chauffeur! I had understood him! Wow!

However, I didn’t understand a word he said on the drive home. *wry grin*

He dropped me off at the guesthouse and then I schlepped up the hill to put away my groceries and give my charges their late breakfast.

Mechka and Penghu are greedy pigs, so I always leave some in the tin for Sausage and this way I know everyone gets his or her share! They were very happy with their treat!


I have to share something Penghu did last night because never in my life has a cat made me laugh so hard before!

Night before last, I gave Mechka and Sausage a treat and then Penghu ran in the house meowing at the injustice of it all. I had a nearly empty sour cream container ready for him, so he was happy! I don’t know if that was a trigger, but he was incredibly affectionate and cuddly all evening and that followed into yesterday. His favourite spot is to lie across my neck and burrow in, which is great because it means I can keep working as he snuggles.

Around ten last night, I gently pried him off me and took him outside because I don’t want him in the house at night or when I’m not there (I don’t trust him in the kitchen). He immediately ran back into the house. I went into the kitchen and bedroom, but he wasn’t there and I figured he was just messing with me and had sneaked back out. So I closed up and headed to the shower.

The shower is huge and it takes a moment for the hot water to come, so I step in, turn it on, then step back out to put together my sleep wear and lay out the towel I use as a bath mat. So I started on that last night, got the water on, turned around, and… found a very sheepish looking Penghu huddled in the corner of the shower (away from the shower spray)! The look on his face was almost as priceless as what my shriek of surprise must have been! I would take bets that he is extremely intelligent and his reasoning was that since he’s never seen me in the shower, I must not go in there and therefore it would be the perfect hiding spot. Ha ha ha. I brought him outside again and he again tried to come in, but I managed to get the door shut before he could.

I really hadn’t expected to bond so hard with my charges and I am spoiled for life when it comes to dogs. But I’m grateful that we’ve had such a lovely time together.