Bulgaria: 27th August to 2nd September, Black Sea to Varna to Osikovo, Farm life

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Smooth hitch back to Varna (BapHa) where we found the train station and began another uneducated attempt to translate some town/city sense into the Cyrillic alphabet timetables. We reckoned we'd bought two tickets to Popovo (Попово) so found a cafe to sit in for the next hour.
     As we were about to leave to find the train, a man on a nearby table signaled to us that he'd like to buy us two drinks. We smiled and politely shook our heads, we had to go and were too tired for attempted Bulgarian conversation.. His excited expression didn't diminish and a few minutes later two cherry drinks + straws arrived at our table. He grinned and pulled us out 2 chairs next to him. Awkwardly we stood up and started heaving on our bags to leave, not really sure what to do about those drinks... Making stupid train-like movements with our arms, we poured the drinks into a plastic bottle and left him looking pretty frickin disgruntled.
As we walked away we remembered, in Bulgaria, shaking your head means YES and nodding means NO. Ah fuck.

     The train walkway was half the width of me + our bag so Grace pushed me to our shared carriage with sliding doors like Augustus Gloop in the chocolate pipe, where we threw our smelly, dusty bags onto the rack over the heads of our companions. We had been warned to BE ALERT, the train will only stop at each station for 30 seconds. Cleverly we had no idea whether the journey would be 2 hours or 5, and as the train set off we noticed the growing trend of lack of station names at the stops. How would we know when we were nearing Popovo and how would we get our bags down in time without crushing anyone and how would we squeeze outta the train... in 30 seconds... Within minutes we could (we decided inexplicably) barely keep our eyes open, Roofies in the cherry drinks crossed our minds... There was no Roofies in the cherry drinks of course, but we ate a carrier bag of fruit and kicked each other in the shins for 2 hours. BE ALERT.






 






Arriving at Popovo station in the middle of miles and miles of fields. We saw one very full 15 seater mini-bus + a queue of 20 Bulgarians scrambling at the door. We weren't getting in. We asked the only other human we could find if he could speak any English, he shook his head. We were probably stranded, then a lady leant out of her car shouting over that she spoke English. We explained our situation, we were right, that was the only bus into town, we weren't getting on it. She smiled and drove us into town.






   





A few more busses and we found naughty Nick in Osikovo, a beautiful village nestled in a forested valley, accessible only by one 8km long dust track from the next village. The streets are covered in yellow, blue, pink, red, purple wild plums, and walnuts, EVERYWHERE. Nick had been at the farm for the weeks we were at the beach. We met Lisa and Ewen, our hosts.  (Their workaway page:  http://www.workaway.info/9177822224b6-en.html )


















They moved here from Ireland 4 years ago. Houses are, on average, £1500, council tax is £12 per year.. They live totally off grid, no bills, 2 horses and a cart, 4 goats, Foxy the dog, and a kitten, Sugar, found abandoned a few months before. When they brought Sugar home she started suckling on Foxy the dog, Foxy the dog made milk, Sugar got healthy, Sugar stopped growing and 6 months later she is a pint-sized, kitten-size cat. Sugar, the smallest cat in Bulgaria, with the biggest attitude.












   





We had our first delicious dinner in the outside kitchen, cooked on the wood-fired mud-brick stove. Water is collected from a nearby spring so washing up is done once a day, Lisa said we'd need to lick our plates if we wanted to keep the wasps off between lunch and dinner, suited us well being a flat of plate-lickers.


















   





With no electricity there was of course no fridge or freezer. We learnt how to preserve ratatouille and roasted goat in jars- ready meals for Winter. We made apple and pear spread in a swarm of wasps and hornets, Grace and her phobia nearly had a nervous breakdown. Although all at once 28 wasps will try repeatedly to get inside of your mouth, they aren't aggressive like in the UK. To have a bath in Winter when it's -28 outside Lisa and Ewen fill an oil drum with snow, build a fire underneath and climb inside. Milk was drunk straight from the goats udders, (so tasty and for sure we oozed feta from our pores), anything that wouldn't be drunk within the next day was made into cheese and Lisa had a brilliant egg-less pancake recipe for any milk gone sour.
























     Osikovo is in a basin and we got properly pummelled by some spectacular storms. One jumped on us at dusk as Nick and I were in the middle of delivering a herd of goats back to a local Baba (old lady). Goat chaos. We leapt into the bushes to avoid a stampede, bursting udders swinging left to right hanging on by strips of skin, spraying milk like an out of control garden hose. We opened our mouths to catch a drink as Whitey charged past. Couldn't find the old Baba, and had been warned that her dog we could hear snarling on the other side of the gate would get our necks if we entered without her. We waited and shouted, the rain poured, the fork lightening struck, meanwhile the goats climbed a wall and broke into a nearby garden. Nick clambered in to catch them and the wall fell down.


















 





 Inspiring conversations and so much laughter with our wonderful surrogate family. Falling asleep to the sound of a choir of singing Jackalls. And one night to the whirring hum of a low-flying alien spacecraft.








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