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trad village living in Bulgaria. Anyone else?  RSS feed

 
Lucy Elder
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Older rural Bulgarians already do what many, often younger, Westerners dream of but it is hard for them to see the value of their lifestyle in a world where success is so often seen in terms of money.

I live in a small village in BG and buy everything I can locally, avoiding use of supermarkets etc as much as possible.

Anyone else doing something similar in BG?
 
John Elliott
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If and when the world of monied success comes crashing down around them, those rural villagers will feel pretty smug and smart, having eggs to gather, apples to pick, and a garden full of vegetables.

The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. That is, until the horde of locusts comes through and leaves the other side of the fence with just stubble while yours is fine.
 
Ben Plummer
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One of many countries I'd love to visit. One of my favorite bloggers is a Bulgarian emigrant, Ross Gilmore over at Wood Trekker.
 
Lucy Elder
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John Elliott wrote:If and when the world of monied success comes crashing down around them, those rural villagers will feel pretty smug and smart, having eggs to gather, apples to pick, and a garden full of vegetables.

The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. That is, until the horde of locusts comes through and leaves the other side of the fence with just stubble while yours is fine.


I'm wondering if there is any way of preventing the rural way of life dying out before 'the locusts' happen. There are so many villages here with ONLY old people living in them and working the fields. he value/wealth of what is going on in the villages seems to be invisible to many young. Not all, I'm sure, but I've experienced difficulty finding those 'others'. This is one my reasons for networking here.

If anyone knows about the Transition movement, some BG villages are just about transition in action already.
 
Lucy Elder
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Ben Plummer wrote:One of many countries I'd love to visit. One of my favorite bloggers is a Bulgarian emigrant, Ross Gilmore over at Wood Trekker.


Ben. do visit if you can, before the village way of life is subsumed by takeovers from big farm business. There is so much independence when EVERYONE in a village grows their own. Oportunieis for exchange when there are gluts or shortages. Sharing of labour at the hardest times.. But I'm not selling you a Utopian model. There are all the usual people problems. What is different is that (almost) self-sufficiency is the norm not the exception.
'We' should learn from it - and recognise that even when the re is a good model of self-sufficiency there are still people problems.. And it's hard work. The appeal to me is that it is hard work for your own family and community rather than some distant boss figure.
 
Burra Maluca
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Hi Lucy!

I'm in Portugal, not Bulgaria, but in a very similar situation. My village, like most of the villages in my area, is composed almost exclusively of old people, many of them too old to work the land much now but all who are still able will grow as much as they can of their own food. It's been a huge learning experience for me experiencing how the village operates, what they will help you with and share with you and what they will expect you to do for yourself. I think what I love best is the way everyone shares their surplus - they will take eggs from us as most of them no longer keep chickens, and they will also take seedlings and fertile eggs to hatch, and they will shower us with figs and cherries in return. They will also think nothing of asking for help when they need it, but they never expect us to help with ordinary day to day stuff as everyone is expected to do all that themselves. It's taken a while to get the feel of all the unwritten rules, but it's been a honour to be part of their system.

Has it been like that for you in Bulgaria?
 
Lucy Elder
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Burra Maluca wrote:Hi Lucy!

I'm in Portugal, not Bulgaria, but in a very similar situation. My village, like most of the villages in my area, is composed almost exclusively of old people, many of them too old to work the land much now but all who are still able will grow as much as they can of their own food. It's been a huge learning experience for me experiencing how the village operates, what they will help you with and share with you and what they will expect you to do for yourself. I think what I love best is the way everyone shares their surplus - they will take eggs from us as most of them no longer keep chickens, and they will also take seedlings and fertile eggs to hatch, and they will shower us with figs and cherries in return. They will also think nothing of asking for help when they need it, but they never expect us to help with ordinary day to day stuff as everyone is expected to do all that themselves. It's taken a while to get the feel of all the unwritten rules, but it's been a honour to be part of their system.

Has it been like that for you in Bulgaria?


Yes indeed, a humbling learning curve. But I'm on the edge of two systems rather than 'belonging' to either. I suspect my 'own' people may be part of the permie and Transition movements - all over the world.

Here there is still semi-segregation. I work mostly with the poorest families who would otherwise have no employment. it fascinates me that among the maxlata (ghetto) population there ARE young people with just one ambition - to get a piece of land and use every square centimetre of it to grow food and raise chickens and a pig etc. But these are from the largely despised gipsy and Turkish population. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in 30 years time to see who lives in the villages and works the land. Expats and gipsies? We from/in the West have learned the value of owning a piece of fertile land and more of us are opting to go in that direction. it seems to be the opposite here. Sad - and such a waste of good land..
 
Helena Davies
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Hi Lucy!

We also live in Bulgaria We have lived here for 4 years now, first in small village in the Strandja region, south of Burgas near the Turkish border. This village was very small and very self-sufficient as you describe (30 people). About a year ago we became parents, and we have moved to another, more developed village somewhat closer to town and "civilisation", in the Veliko Turnovo area. We have settled here because friends of us with similar "Weird" (= eco/green ) ideas already live here, we really liked to be out in the woods on our own, but we also felt we were missing community and frequent contact and sharing with friends with similar interests. So here we are Whereabouts are you?

Warm greetings!
 
John Polk
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I have been in similar environments in various corners of the world.

To me, it seems like the larger, and more centralized the government is, the more you will find these pockets of 'independence'.
The politicians, in order to stay in power, concentrate almost all of their energies on the larger population centers, and practically ignore 'the outside world'. People have learned through generations that their small community is far more important to them than the centralized system, that has never helped them. Things continue pretty much as they did in 'grandpa's days'.

Even here in the U.S.A., much of the rural area is dominated by older folks. The younger generations have watched TV, movies, magazines that depict the urban centers as areas of wealth and opportunity. It is a strong lure to attract the youth out of the rural areas, into the fast, exciting, and wealthy lifestyles of the bigger cities (and the Rat Race).

A sad thing about this trend is that many of these farms have been in the same family for many generations, and many of those children want nothing to do with that land. What will become of those regions if the next generation wants to abandon them for 'the easy life'?

Many of these regions are leery of outsiders. Perhaps, with time, they will realize that many of these villages almost need expats to keep them alive, if their children have no interest. I think that if "we" fit closely into their communities, they will realize that we are an important part of their future. They will see a value in what we are trying to accomplish with years of hard toil.

 
Lucy Elder
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Helena Davies wrote:Hi Lucy!

We also live in Bulgaria We have lived here for 4 years now, first in small village in the Strandja region, south of Burgas near the Turkish border. This village was very small and very self-sufficient as you describe (30 people). About a year ago we became parents, and we have moved to another, more developed village somewhat closer to town and "civilisation", in the Veliko Turnovo area. We have settled here because friends of us with similar "Weird" (= eco/green ) ideas already live here, we really liked to be out in the woods on our own, but we also felt we were missing community and frequent contact and sharing with friends with similar interests. So here we are Whereabouts are you?

Warm greetings!


Hi Helena, lovely too meet you here. I'm miles distant but would love to stay in contact. No other foreigners here and while I admire the village 'system' I obviously don't feel entirely part of it. I'm so delighted to hear there are other permies here. Have met none so far though some nice folk who grow their own.
 
Lucy Elder
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John, pre and during the communist/socialist era here the villages flourished, apparently. V hard in the distant past but some methods are centuries old and still going - cheese and yoghurt making and fruit tree growing for instance - bar some new sprays.

I am v fond of my neighbours but do wonder what the reaction would be if someone came along offering cash for - say - a gm crop. Wretched oilseed rape has already caused some local probs - but it is not acknowledged that there is a problem if there is money involved..

My hope is that some young Bulgarians will join and spread the permie movement. Must be some out there. Otherwise - and oddly - the villages cuold become havens for those fleeing frmo the West - where we HAVE learned to value land where we can grow enough to live. Topsy turvy world.






John Polk wrote:I have been in similar environments in various corners of the world.

To me, it seems like the larger, and more centralized the government is, the more you will find these pockets of 'independence'.
The politicians, in order to stay in power, concentrate almost all of their energies on the larger population centers, and practically ignore 'the outside world'. People have learned through generations that their small community is far more important to them than the centralized system, that has never helped them. Things continue pretty much as they did in 'grandpa's days'.

Even here in the U.S.A., much of the rural area is dominated by older folks. The younger generations have watched TV, movies, magazines that depict the urban centers as areas of wealth and opportunity. It is a strong lure to attract the youth out of the rural areas, into the fast, exciting, and wealthy lifestyles of the bigger cities (and the Rat Race).

A sad thing about this trend is that many of these farms have been in the same family for many generations, and many of those children want nothing to do with that land. What will become of those regions if the next generation wants to abandon them for 'the easy life'?

Many of these regions are leery of outsiders. Perhaps, with time, they will realize that many of these villages almost need expats to keep them alive, if their children have no interest. I think that if "we" fit closely into their communities, they will realize that we are an important part of their future. They will see a value in what we are trying to accomplish with years of hard toil.

 
Helena Davies
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Hi John & Lucy

There are a lot of young Bulgarians interested in moving to the village, we know a lot of people who want to, the question is how to make it work financially, buy land or a property, have money for repairs. And then you still need to make a living! Thank goodness for the internet which allows us to make a living from almost any place now, and to share all the knowledge and ideas. We live here with a few people now, and we have quite a bit of interest of others who also want to settle here. Where there is a desire there is a way! This is a regular village, actually a quite well developed one, but still surrounded by lots of space and stunning nature, close to a vibrant city, and with quick internet connection available. I don't know what your situation is, but we are mid thirties and have just started a family, and when you have a child, you really realize it is so important to be part of a "tribe", to have regular contact with other like minded people. For your child to be part of a community. We really enjoy our contact with all the pensioners but they generally like the way they are doing things right now and find our ideas (like mulching) a bit strange. Why conserve water when you have a tap with running water? We are also very interested in homeschooling, because we are hoping that will give our children more of a free thinking mindset but again we think this is best done in a group and with other children Like you say, we still have on foot firmly into the old ways, and are more and more experimenting with the "new ways" (which are sometimes actually the old ways ).
 
Lucy Elder
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Helena Davies wrote:Hi John & Lucy

There are a lot of young Bulgarians interested in moving to the village, we know a lot of people who want to, the question is how to make it work financially, buy land or a property, have money for repairs. And then you still need to make a living! Thank goodness for the internet which allows us to make a living from almost any place now, and to share all the knowledge and ideas. We live here with a few people now, and we have quite a bit of interest of others who also want to settle here. Where there is a desire there is a way! This is a regular village, actually a quite well developed one, but still surrounded by lots of space and stunning nature, close to a vibrant city, and with quick internet connection available. I don't know what your situation is, but we are mid thirties and have just started a family, and when you have a child, you really realize it is so important to be part of a "tribe", to have regular contact with other like minded people. For your child to be part of a community. We really enjoy our contact with all the pensioners but they generally like the way they are doing things right now and find our ideas (like mulching) a bit strange. Why conserve water when you have a tap with running water? We are also very interested in homeschooling, because we are hoping that will give our children more of a free thinking mindset but again we think this is best done in a group and with other children Like you say, we still have on foot firmly into the old ways, and are more and more experimenting with the "new ways" (which are sometimes actually the old ways ).


Helena, I am so heartened to hear you know young Bulgarians keen to keep the village way of living going by actually doing it. This was one of the reasons for my posting here on permies. I have not encountered any but knew there must be some somewhere..

Quite agree about a need to 'belong' especially with a young family. Are their some young Bulgarian parents interested in that idea too? Have you thought of contacting UK teaching colleges where young graduates with forward thinking ideas might come out? Combined with some more trad teaching from local Bulgarian teachers? I found an excellent young couple to keep my children up with basics when we travelled abroad. No pay - gave them the experiences instead of living differently. Worked out well al round.

Can I ask how you met the Bulgarian younger people keen to live a rural life? Are some networking too?
 
Vasily Kiryanov
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Lucy Elder wrote:

Helena, I am so heartened to hear you know young Bulgarians keen to keep the village way of living going by actually doing it. This was one of the reasons for my posting here on permies. I have not encountered any but knew there must be some somewhere..

Quite agree about a need to 'belong' especially with a young family. Are their some young Bulgarian parents interested in that idea too? Have you thought of contacting UK teaching colleges where young graduates with forward thinking ideas might come out? Combined with some more trad teaching from local Bulgarian teachers? I found an excellent young couple to keep my children up with basics when we travelled abroad. No pay - gave them the experiences instead of living differently. Worked out well al round.

Can I ask how you met the Bulgarian younger people keen to live a rural life? Are some networking too?


There is an educational/consultancy project - BalkEP at Shipka. They can acts as 'permies hub'. That's the least i can say. Hope to move to BG someday and check it out. Need to convince my wife though... She is very attached to her place.
 
Lucy Elder
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Vasily Kiryanov wrote:
Lucy Elder wrote:

Helena, I am so heartened to hear you know young Bulgarians keen to keep the village way of living going by actually doing it. This was one of the reasons for my posting here on permies. I have not encountered any but knew there must be some somewhere..

Quite agree about a need to 'belong' especially with a young family. Are their some young Bulgarian parents interested in that idea too? Have you thought of contacting UK teaching colleges where young graduates with forward thinking ideas might come out? Combined with some more trad teaching from local Bulgarian teachers? I found an excellent young couple to keep my children up with basics when we travelled abroad. No pay - gave them the experiences instead of living differently. Worked out well al round.

Can I ask how you met the Bulgarian younger people keen to live a rural life? Are some networking too?


There is an educational/consultancy project - BalkEP at Shipka. They can acts as 'permies hub'. That's the least i can say. Hope to move to BG someday and check it out. Need to convince my wife though... She is very attached to her place.


Vasily, they're lovely people. Absolutely flourishing permaculture garden. Seriously happy plants.
 
Vasily Kiryanov
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Lucy Elder wrote:Vasily, they're lovely people. Absolutely flourishing permaculture garden. Seriously happy plants.


Just a permaculture garden? I was hoping they were doing a bit more than just permaculture gardening and conducting gardening courses... Well, that's a start, at least.
 
Margie Nieuwkerk
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Oh gosh! I just found this thread!

I'm in Bulgaria too, since 2006 in the Sliven Region. Born in Holland and lived in the States and in the UK. This is home now, I will never live anywhere else.

Helena, I'm pleased too that you know some younger people that are interested in moving to the village.

My understanding from the people I know is that most of the younger generation want to move abroad where they will earn more money. They don't want to do "farming" the way their grandparents did. Which is basically quite hard work and very repetitive. Every year tomatoes, cukes, grapes, kill the pig at christmas, etc.

I think if there were some permaculture programs on TV here, maybe a series, it might generate more interest. I think young people here DO want to protect their environment, and when they go abroad, they HATE the food and miss the fresh produce from home.

My neighbors (in their 70's) feel that no young people will come to live in the village, but I think they may be wrong. As economies struggle people here will naturally fall into producing their own again. I've not seen much in a way of large agriculture here and I think it's because most of the land is broken up into small plots. It would be really difficult to get 100's of acres of land for a particular crop here.

I've started going towards permaculture last year, and did ok, this year will be even better. I mean my 1.7 dekare plot even with 1/7th production provides way more than I can eat!

More foreigners should come here to do this. They have no idea what they're missing. The last years have been the absolute best in my whole life and I'm in my 60's.

An English friend in Sliven has a little shop with crafts things that she makes. Recently a journalist came and took some pics and did an article for the "local paper" but it went national as well. She's had a lot of people come as a result.

I'm thinking that if we all took pictures of our progress, and maybe had a joint blog/site, it might get picked up. Particularly if we looked at it from the point of view of attracting younger people. Make it picture heavy with just short little blurbs underneath. Similar to the lady who has the Bealtaine Cottage site, just a bit more organized (http://bealtainecottage.com/). You just get sucked in by the pics! and what she did is brilliant.
 
Graeme Wade
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Im not in Bulgaria but I agree with some of the experiences written above, it seems there are similarities across the former Warsaw pact countries or as John says further afield.

Ive been living outside of the two main cities in the Czech Republic since 2008 in two small cottages in villages before buying an old farmhouse with stable/barn in what I suppose is a farming hamlet, four small farms and a few weekend cottages, about 20 residents.

I grew up in Liverpool and I think in line with many people in this situation dream of moving to the country and having a little farm but its a pipe dream with UK prices - village properties cost more than city ones but here its the other way around. There isnt much demand for village properties as the young gravitate to the cities, some of it is work related but the mentality is that many people think moving to the city has some prestige about it. At the same time during the communist period when not many people could go abroad on holiday, the state compromised by selling families cheap plots of land for weekend cottages.

I was living in one of these weekend cottage villages permanently, but its mostly old people living there now who retire there or still visit their cottages there isnt much young blood. The new village Ive moved to is similar, Ive only seen one young family so far, an old farmer next door and an old weekender on the other side. The older people are a great resource though and its a shame that more younger people arent picking up the wisdom from the older heads, Ive learnt a lot from my old neighbours about woodwork, gardening, astronomy, making(and drinking) spirits, cross country skiing and country living. Im only in my early 30's and work in IT in the city so come across other expats and young Czechs who think Im mad spending my spare time breaking my back in the veggie plot, trying to cut my hands off with a circular saw or chainsaw and constantly burning myself but they understand the benefits when I bring in some surplus produce to share out.

I wonder if we might see a revolution in the future of village living with the work from home system gathering a bit of pace. I spent two years working from home here and loved it, was able get out and do some gardening and other stuff before work, during lunch hour and after work because of cutting out the commute.




 
Jane Jones
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Great discussion!

My husband and I are just back from a trip to Bulgaria. Once we no longer need to be in the UK to assist his elderly mother, we'd very much like to move there.

Helena, I'm wondering which village you live in as we are also looking at the Veliko Tarnova area. We've visited twice now, staying in a village close to town. Though there are a disproportionate number of old people there still living very traditionally, there are a number of younger people living there too. I feel we have so much to learn from people who raised families on what they could produce on what is really a very small amount of land.

I'm not romanticising their lives though. Very tough. I know I'm not hardy or detached from material wants enough to live as a peasant farmer, totally dependent on the food I could grow. I'd like to live a hybrid lifestyle of living lightly, no car, repairing and restoring an old earth and stone house using natural and recycled building materials, setting up off grid systems for water and power, and growing what food I could, but having an outside source of income too.

Our only problem is that my husband is somewhat disabled and much more a town person (Londoner born and bred). The idea of living with a sawdust toilet rather than a full flush gives him shudders. And I feel uncomfortable with the idea of having a house in town as well as a village house, even though both would be small and simple.
 
Jane Jones
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Margie Nieuwkerk wrote:Oh gosh! I just found this thread!

I'm in Bulgaria too, since 2006 in the Sliven Region. Born in Holland and lived in the States and in the UK. This is home now, I will never live anywhere else.

Helena, I'm pleased too that you know some younger people that are interested in moving to the village.

My understanding from the people I know is that most of the younger generation want to move abroad where they will earn more money. They don't want to do "farming" the way their grandparents did. Which is basically quite hard work and very repetitive. Every year tomatoes, cukes, grapes, kill the pig at christmas, etc.

I think if there were some permaculture programs on TV here, maybe a series, it might generate more interest. I think young people here DO want to protect their environment, and when they go abroad, they HATE the food and miss the fresh produce from home.

My neighbors (in their 70's) feel that no young people will come to live in the village, but I think they may be wrong. As economies struggle people here will naturally fall into producing their own again. I've not seen much in a way of large agriculture here and I think it's because most of the land is broken up into small plots. It would be really difficult to get 100's of acres of land for a particular crop here.

I've started going towards permaculture last year, and did ok, this year will be even better. I mean my 1.7 dekare plot even with 1/7th production provides way more than I can eat!

More foreigners should come here to do this. They have no idea what they're missing. The last years have been the absolute best in my whole life and I'm in my 60's.

An English friend in Sliven has a little shop with crafts things that she makes. Recently a journalist came and took some pics and did an article for the "local paper" but it went national as well. She's had a lot of people come as a result.

I'm thinking that if we all took pictures of our progress, and maybe had a joint blog/site, it might get picked up. Particularly if we looked at it from the point of view of attracting younger people. Make it picture heavy with just short little blurbs underneath. Similar to the lady who has the Bealtaine Cottage site, just a bit more organized (http://bealtainecottage.com/). You just get sucked in by the pics! and what she did is brilliant.


Margie, thanks so much for this post! I'd never seen the Bealtaine Cottage site- so wonderful and inspirational. I suspect I may well be in my 60's too, or at least very close) by the time I'm able to move to Bulgaria, I'm glad to hear it's working out so well for you.
 
Dan Boone
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Oh, my, this thread brings back some wonderful old memories. I was privileged to spend a week in Nissebar on the Black Sea a long time ago (2000). I'm sure a lot has changed in the new century, but when we took a day excursion inland I was shocked by the lack of mechanization in the agriculture that was visible from our rented van. All we could see was old people working monocultures (mostly lavender) with hand tools -- there were no tractors or farm equipment of any kind visible from the roadways, and nobody working the fields who didn't look 50+.

That said, some of my most vivid memories are of the food, especially a simple salad (served seemingly everywhere) of tomatoes and cucumbers with oil and salt and a hint of sweet plus a scattering of hard goat cheese crumbles. I can make a salad with those ingredients but I can't make that salad to save my life, because I cannot buy tomatoes that good where I am (and I am still striving to grow them myself, although this year it's looking very good for the first time ever).

I suppose any vacation spot triggers good memories, but Old Nissebar was my one experience in life of seaside cafes and ridiculously ornate dirt cheap umbrella drinks full of fruit. I hope it's gotten better economically, though, because it was clear that folks in the countryside were working very hard with very little. And I found the aggressive begging quite menacing; cute little children with their hands out are a lot less cute when they are backed up by glowering men who appear to be stalking you.
 
Suzy Jacob
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Hi we are in Bulgaria too and have been smallholding on 5 acres for the last 7 years. Now winding things down and looking for a new challenge but glad to say that we have learned a lot here.
 
dirk maes
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For the al the BG'rs how did you buy this land. Searching on the spot or via the internet?
 
Suzy Jacob
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dirk maes wrote:For the al the BG'rs how did you buy this land. Searching on the spot or via the internet?


We found our place online after much searching Dirk, seems properties with a garden of over 2,000sqm's can be a challenge to find so we were lucky. On a side note our 5 acres with 2 renovated properties is now for sale at a very reasonable price if anyone is interested?
 
Laura Sweany
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I got fascinated by a British woman named Kathy McGowan here on permies.com who lives in Voditsa, Bulgaria, in a sustainable household/campground called St. James Park. She apparently travels to China to teach English occasionally (and make cash money), and she also acts as a real estate broker for folks who want to buy properties there in Bulgaria. I checked out some of her links, and was SO COMPLETELY ENCHANTED by the houses and countryside that I seriously considered moving there (I'm currently in Seattle). Does anyone on this thread know her or know of her? Anyone know about how Voditsa compares to other parts of Bulgaria? Property seems so cheap...but it's thousands of dollars to travel there, check it out, and then that adds to the cost of the purchase itself. There seems to be a sense of history there that would be missing if I simply went someplace cheap in the US to buy rural property - is that correct, or just me being a hopeless romantic?
 
Henry Coulder
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Im only in my early 30's and work in IT in the city so come across other expats and young Czechs who think Im mad spending my spare time breaking my back in the veggie plot, trying to cut my hands off with a circular saw or chainsaw and constantly burning myself but they understand the benefits when I bring in some surplus produce to share out.

I chuckled at this and wonder how many others are just going for it or have periods of time doing things this way... breaking back... circular saws... chainsaws... sounds familiar in Czech a t least.... I see most of this is about Bulgaria... so happy to get visits from people or if I ever give up here I'll come to you... links in my signature my give you an idea...
 
We can walk to school together. And we can both read this tiny ad:
Mike Oehler's Low-Cost Underground House Workshop & Survival Shelter Seminar - 3 DVD+2 Books Deal
https://permies.com/wiki/48625/digital-market/digital-market/Mike-Oehler-Cost-Underground-House
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