g+

Monday, 27 December 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

Seasons Greetings

A Merry Christmas to all my readers and contributors .We have just passed 4000 page views !.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Breaking News Skype Collapses !


Skype is experiencing a massive worldwide outage today.

This is according to Skype:
Earlier today, we noticed that the number of people online on Skype was falling, which wasn’t typical or expected, so we began to investigate. Skype isn’t a network like a conventional phone or IM network – instead, it relies on millions of individual connections between computers and phones to keep things up and running. Some of these computers are what we call ‘supernodes’ – they act a bit like phone directories for Skype. If you want to talk to someone, and your Skype app can’t find them immediately (for example, because they’re connecting from a different location or from a different device) your computer or phone will first try to find a supernode to figure out how to reach them.
Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.
What are we doing to help? Our engineers are creating new ‘mega-supernodes’ as fast as they can, which should gradually return things to normal. This may take a few hours, and we sincerely apologise for the disruption to your conversations. Some features, like group video calling, may take longer to return to normal.
Stay tuned to @skype on Twitter for the latest updates on the situation – and many thanks for your continued patience in the meantime.

Bill Gates joke

For  all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the  way computers have enhanced our lives (!?!), read on....
At a  recent computer expo (COMDEX),Bill Gates reportedly compared  the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, 

'If GM had kept up with technology like the computer  industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000  miles to the gallon.'

In  response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press  release stating:

If  GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be  driving cars with the following characteristics (and I just  love this part ):

1. For no reason whatsoever, your  car would crash.........
  Twice  a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the  road, you would have to buy a new car.
 
3.  Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason.  You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of  the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the  windows before you could continue. For some reason you would  simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a  manoeuvre such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down  and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to  reinstall the engine.
 
5.  Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was  reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but  would run on only five percent of the roads.

6 The  oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would  all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal  Operation' warning light.
 
I  love the next one!!!
 
7.  The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.        

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car  would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you  simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and  grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
 
9.  Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to  learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls  would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10.  You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine  off
 
PS - I'd like  to add that when all else fails, you could call 'customer  service' in some foreign country and be instructed in some  foreign language how to fix your car  yourself!!!!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Property tax laws change

Bulgaria's Notary Chamber has proposed the introduction of a final power of attorney in a bid to reduce property fraud.
"This is how the elderly and the sick, including alcohol and drug addicts, will be able to entitle only their closest people to manage their property," Dimitar Tanev, Chairman of the Notary Chamber said.
Data of the prosecutor's office shows that a total of 90% of the people who fall victims to the so-called real estate mafia are elderly or psychologically unstable.
New rules that envisage that all property transactions in Bulgaria must be carried out via bank transfer were approved at second reading by the parliament at the end of September as part of amendments to the Notary Act.
Whilst the change to buying and selling was first mentioned a year ago as part of a bigger plan to reduce corruption in the property sector, they have not come to fruition.
There is hope that the new rules will help to reduce property fraud and money laundering, as well as ensuring that all fees and taxes owing to the state are paid.
The legislative changes will require that both the vendor and the buyer specify their bank accounts for conducting a property deal. Alternatively, they could use the account of their notary public.
These legislative changes are seen as the first step to an all-out regulation of payment in purchase deals through a special law to be called Deposit Account Act.
There is also hope that the new laws may inspire more confidence from overseas property buyers.
But, there are risks to this new system, as sellers and buyers may want to avoid the new fee charged by the bank for servicing the transactions.
Thus, they may agree a lower price for the official transaction and then do a cash deal privately. This is common in France where the new system planned for Bulgaria is already in use.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wikileaks,Bulgaria, and a very dodgy power plant

One of Britain's biggest energy suppliers, which wants to build half a dozen nuclear reactors in the UK, helped develop one in Bulgaria which was "dogged by ongoing serious safety concerns", according to leaked US diplomatic cables.
The German firm RWE, which owns npower and supplies electricity and gas to 6.7 million UK customers, bought a 49% stake in the project in December 2008 and quit as a strategic partner in October 2009. RWE said its decision to pull out of the troubled €7bn reactor project was due to the fact that "the project's financing could not be finalised within the agreed period". It said "safety issues were not a factor".
But its involvement in such an apparently shoddy project, which the cables claimed "reeked of side deals" even before RWE bought the 49% stake, could hurt its reputation over safety and cast doubt on its judgment in selecting who to work with on reactor projects.
In December 2007, environmental groups including Greenpeace condemned the European commission's approval of the project. Approval came despite the former Bulgarian nuclear regulator publicly calling for it to be blocked on safety grounds the month before.
RWE said: "RWE adheres to very strict safety standards and criteria. For each project RWE is involved in, safety has the highest priority. The reason for RWE to withdraw from the Belene project was that – because of the international economic and financial crisis – financing of the project could not be clarified in due time. RWE has advised our Bulgarian partners to the difficulties of financing already at an early stage."
The release of the cables comes amid growing safety concerns over an impending global "nuclear renaissance" with more than 1,000 reactors expected to be built by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association. Countries which could turn to nuclear power for the first time include Albania, Bangladesh, Kenya, Venezuela and Syria.
In August 2008, RWE's CEO, Jürgen Grossmann, responded to questions about reports of its possible involvement in the over-budget and behind-schedule project: "It is remarkable, isn't it, that the possible involvement of RWE in the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Belene, Bulgaria, based on state-of-the-art technology is being described as irresponsible."
The cables claim that despite its due diligence, RWE's confidence had turned to "buyer's remorse" within weeks. In the cable, the US ambassador cited local contacts as saying there was a rush to start construction so that the project would keep RWE on board. RWE had reportedly said that it would not provide funding until it sees the "first concrete poured", signalling the start of construction. Belene project experts privately expressed "serious concerns" that if safety practices continued to be ignored "it could pose a huge risk". RWE's partner, the state-owned Bulgarian electricity company, NEC, which held 51% of the project, declined to comment on any of the allegations.
RWE was said to be "in the dark" on most on-site and technical issues. This was despite a previous cable claiming that the company in February had demanded to review all Belene-related agreements.
The same February 2009 cable reported "RWE worries about the project's lack of transparency and the need to work with Atomstroyexport [the Russian lead contractor]. RWE wants to enforce European business practices". RWE was reported around that time to be in talks with a number of European energy groups, including Belgium's Electrabel, to offload half its stake but did not find any buyers. "RWE realises that working with Russian and Bulgarian companies in the energy sector is a 'poisonous combination' for European investment" the cable added.
The cable also reports: "When Bulgarians talk about the Belene nuclear power plant, they increasingly do so in hushed tones. Issues of delays, financing woes, non-transparent horse-trading and side deals, Russian influence … and the interests of well-connected politicians and energy oligarchs inevitably come up."
RWE's statement continued: "RWE's participation in projects guarantees a high degree of ethical business behaviour and openness to concerns of all stakeholders. We ensure that each project is in line with European standards with regard to transparency and information to the public. It is therefore common practice within all our projects that RWE's or a similar code of conduct will be applied. The same has been true for the Belene project for which a code of compliance was developed and should have been implemented; we would have thereby introduced dedicated instruments against corruption.
"We have raised these issues with NEC and the Bulgarian government and they confirmed that this was a shared mutual understanding. RWE has signed a joint venture agreement with NEC in December 2008 after intense pre-assessment of the project. Under the joint venture agreement the companies involved agreed to jointly continue the project development work, and further advance the project.
"The potential joint construction and operation of the new power plant would not have gone ahead until all relevant safety-related, legal, economic and organisational aspects had been settled during this phase."

Uncles Comment: I particularly 'liked' the following phrase: 

"RWE realises that working with Russian and Bulgarian companies in the energy sector is a 'poisonous combination' for European investment"

Smoking bans start to come in

Restrictions on smoking in public areas, which were introduced through amendments to the Health Act, will take effect at the beginning of 2011. By that time, restaurants and other establishments will have to have glass walls installed segregating the smoking from non-smoking areas, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported on December 20.

The decision comes several months after the Cabinet suspended a complete ban on smoking in public areas, which had been planned to come into effect in the middle of 2010.

Smoking areas inside restaurants and cafes, commercial and administrative buildings, railroad stations and airports, should be equipped with walls, tight-closing doors and ventilation systems. The Health Ministry said that starting from January 1 2011, inspectors will be monitoring the implementation of the ruling, escorted by police officers.

Clients caught smoking in non-smoking areas will be fined up to 300 leva, while owners of clubs and restaurants will be fined from 1500 to 10 000 leva, the report said.

The decision on whether to adopt the smoking ban in cafes and restaurants, which have areas of up to 50 sq m, will be up to owners – but they can be either all-smoking or a smoking free zone, the report said. If smoking is allowed, people younger than 18 will not be allowed into the establishment.

Larger establishments will be required to designate separate smoking areas of less than 50 per cent of the total space.

The Bulgarian Government withdrew Act 56 from the Healthcare Act in the summer of 2010, pertaining to the complete restriction of smoking in all public places, pubs and restaurants, replacing it with "a more relaxed regime", the announcement said.

Accordingly, on November 3 2010, the Cabinet approved the ordinance, which will regulate how to manage, separate or segregate respective establishments in the future, in order for these to provide the necessary comfort to non-smokers. 
Uncles Comment: If you are a health nut who likes going to pubs (probably not) then this is ok, but smoking is absolutely part and parcel of why Bulgarians go to bars and restaurants.People will even smoke during a meal.The fines are pretty big and I have heard that many places are closing down because it is impractical or too expensive to undertake the modifications.
One bar in my village gets alot of kids from the local secondary school coming in, the bar is less than 50ft so he either goes smoke free and loses the adult smokers, or smoking and loses the kids. Absolutely crazy, so he is shutting.

It needs more than just a logo !

BULGARIA TO REBRAND ITS TOURISTIC IMAGE
The Bulgarian tourism's rose logo will be probably substituted soon, as a project for the establishment of the country's touristic brand has been launched by the Ministry of Tourism.
The project, which is estimated to cost some BGN 2.9 M, will focus on analyzing Bulgaria's tourism market, as well as the neighboring rival markets. A research will be carried out on whether the current vision of Bulgaria's touristic logo the is recognizable enough and whether it should be changed.
"It is crucial for us to understand how our customers react to the brand's image, which is what they see – the logo, the slogan and the overall vision of the product. There is most probably going to be a new slogan. Bulgaria must be identified with something unique, which is completely different from all other destinations," Nikolay Yotovski, a representative of the Ministry of Tourism explained before the media.
"Bulgaria must be very careful in its choice of a new touristic vision, or it may end up like Spain, which promoted Ibiza as an alcohol tourism destination, creating a very bad image for itself," Yotovski commented.
Bulgaria's main rivals in the touristic market are Romania (cultural tourism), Austria and Italy (sri resorts) and Cyprus (sea resorts), according to the representative of the Ministry of Tourism.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

www.expatfocus.com

Many thanks to Uncles chums at expatfocus for awarding this blog 'Recommended Website' status, it's a major feather in our cap and a major compliment... Uncle is blushing !!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Put some property in your christmas stocking !


Over this festive period after wrapping the presents and stuffing the Turkey (or vice versa if you've got too drunk) you may well start thinking about the new year and it's possibilities.One possibility is treating yourself to an overseas property investment.Bulgarian property is now at its lowest since 2007, and has nowhere to go but up.You can buy habitable properties near the coast for 35000 Euros, apartments on the coast for not much more brand new !.Land on the coast can be purchased, zoned for building, from 15 Euros per square metre.
Just click on the topic title to view my website to see offers, or e mail me direct from the website for information. 

BG Weather update

Well readers, we are now experiencing UK style weather, it started snowing about 11am and has not stopped since.The forecast predicts much the same tomorrow but the daytime temperatures are set to get above freezing so it may not settle.This would have to happen when I am expecting visitors this weekend.Typical my luck !.
The snow has come a week early this year, which does not bode well for the full winter.I have stocked up well with the Christmas food supplies so at least I am feeling seasonal.My mate just phoned and he is leaving Dobrich now, should be an interesting journey back for him.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Paradise

A couple and five staff were trapped inside one of Britain's highest pubs for eight days because of the snow, a chef there has said. 
The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge, near Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, was cut off since Friday of last week, as 20ft of snow drifted against the 16th Century pub and bed and breakfast.
The couple, from Darlington, were trapped along with five members of staff until a plough made its way over the North York Moors and the man and woman managed to follow it back to the next town of Castleton.
However, the five employees have remained on site and will wait for the road to officially reopen, possibly on Sunday lunchtime.
Chef Daniel Butterworth, from Kirkbymoorside, admitted he had been talking to himself during the enforced lock-in.
At first the staff, all aged under 25, got stuck in to the drinks, he said, but on the third day they eased off.
"We haven't been getting ratty," he said. "It's been fun and we have had a laugh. We have been getting on with little jobs, having our tea, a drink, playing games and then going to bed. The bosses aren't here, they are snowed out. We have wireless internet here and the television works so we have been fine."
During the day, the Lion Inn seven have managed to get out onto the snow on improvised sledges made from beer trays. There remained plenty of food and the beer has not run out at the well-stocked inn, some 1,325ft above sea level.
But he admitted the icy internment had not been all fun.
"I have been going a bit crazy, doing weird things like talking to myself," he said. "Hopefully, we will get some more customers in when the road opens again. I could do with some more company. We have had people phoning up asking to get trapped in, but it's kind of boring now and I would like to go home."

Chilly !!

Winter has well and truly arrived.It is currently -7C, even colder with the wind chill. I think we are on target for snow on Christmas Day, probably a little as early as this week.I dont mind the cold, just don't go out unless necessary, and keep the fire well stocked with wood.The only thing is that everday one has to go through the rigmorole of cleaning the fire and re-lighting it.If it gets really cold I often get up in the middle of the night to make sure it doesnt go out.On the other hand a log fire really does look lovely.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Awful story

4 Bulgarian Doctors Face Murder Charges over Baby Death

Crime
The municipal council in Bulgaria's central town of Gorna Oryahovitsa is meeting Monday with one single item on the agenda – to decide on the dismissal of the director of the local hospital – Mirolyub Kozhuharov.
Also on Monday, the Prosecutor's Office is expected to press charges against four of the same hospital's doctors. They were arrested on November 30, 2010, after a 17-year-old girl gave premature birth to a baby that died the next day. The doctors are accused of premeditated murder of the newborn.
Meanwhile, the Bulgarian daily "Trud" (Labor) reports an ultrasound picture taken right before the premature birth shows the baby did not have a heartbeat. The information has been confirmed by two different sources – from the hospital and the police.
The picture has been given to the prosecutor along with a report where one of the doctors has written – "the baby is dead inside the uterus and must be removed in order to save the mother's live."
The investigation, however, believes the picture has been manipulated.
Meanwhile, Kozhuharov is cited by the daily "24 Chassa" insisting the baby died inside the girl's womb and the probe will confirm it. He stated that the baby was not the real problem and the hospital staff was haunted over plans to destroy the facility and take over its property in a prime location of the town.
The Bulgarian Doctor's Union announced they will conduct their own investigation of the case and appealed to the media to not make rushed conclusion before the probe is over.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

First snow arrives !

Well readers it's finally happened, the first snow fell this morning in Obrochishte, it was a flurry but the temperature also fell to match.It is very sunny now but the evening temperatures are approaching freezing.Winter is creeping up to us !.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Stray dogs cause more carnage

Yet again another person has become victim to Bulgaria's stray dog problem.This time a six year old girl was attacked and killed in a village near Razgrad in Northern Bulgaria.Last year a 60 year old British woman was killed in a similar way, and an elderly Bulgarian woman was rescued in the nick of time in Sofia last week.Even people simply strolling in a public park have been set upon.The fact is that the stray problem is out of control and there needs to be a cull if more lives are not to be put in danger.A domestic dog can be mans best friend but a pack of them can be deadly.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Getting about in Bulgaria

As promised in an earlier post here are a couple of useful websites:
The first http://www.autogaravn.com/index.php?id=28&doc=bus-shedule is a link to the Varna bus station website.Here you will find a comprehensive bus schedule for most major routes.The buses are regular and clean the long distance buses are air conditioned but the toilets are always locked. Buses to Sofia are operated by several companies I prefer Union Buses as they are probably the cheapest.

Buses to Burgas and some minibus services are operated from the smaller Mladost bus station, just across the road from the central bus station, just use the underpass and you will see a side road go down that for 50 metres and its there.For long distance buses the tickets can be bought from one of the many bus offices in the Central station, at the other station tickets are bought from the driver.

The second link is http://www.bdz.bg  this is for state railways, please use the google chrome search engine to translate the site.Trains are slower than the buses but have toilets and buffet facilities.Trains from Varna to Sofia tend to be morning ones or later afternoon.The trains on this line are a bit antiquated, on the Burgas-Sofia line they are modern.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Taxi Wars

Taxi companies waging war in the Bulgarian port city of Varna have caused a dramatic collapse of prices locally, the private television channel bTV reported on November 25 2010.

Protests have been ongoing for several weeks, and prices slashed by 50 per cent. Taxi drivers in Varna protested last week because one particular firm had reduced its prices by 20 per cent and was "stealing" their customers. So in response to this strategy, another firm has offered a 50 per cent discount.

Until recently, Varna had one of the highest tariffs in Bulgaria – at 0.89 leva day fare and 0.99 leva night fare, but prices now have been halved to 0.55 leva, the report said. But when individual firms in Varna were contacted and asked why the prices are dropping, they replied that this was in response to the "economic crisis" and had "nothing to do with the protests"

Meanwhile, the situation in Sofia appears to be quite the opposite.

As many as six out of seven taxis in Sofia cheat their customers by inflating fares, Automobile Administration deputy chief Atanas Todorov said, cited by mass circulation daily 24 Chassa on November 24 2010.

Far too many Bulgarian or foreign tourists still board a taxi at Sofia airport to a destination in Sofia city centre only to find themselves having to pay a bill approaching 100 leva.

Taxi drivers are able to get away with flagrant over-charging because of loopholes in legislation, as some companies charge seven leva/km. For the moment, however, the legislation is such that they are able to get away with it.

Whereas a typical fare from the Sofia Airport to Sofia city centre should cost about 15 leva, some tourists might be charged as much as 140 leva, depending on the company they chose.

Uncles Comment: My experience of taxi drivers along the Black Sea coast is that they are the worst in Bulgaria.Taxis around Varna are ludicrously expensive and they will cheat foreigners any which way they can.My experiences in Veliko Turnovo and Sofia have been much better, in Sofia in particular I always use OKsupertrans, they have offices at the airport and the bus station and you can even phone up and order a cab in english.However always check the tariff in the windscreen and check that the cab is really an OKsupertrans as many have the livery but are not actually so.OKsupertrans number is 02 9732121

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Good productive day

I had a really enjoyable day yesterday out visiting clients near Dobrich.We are undertaking a refurbishment of an old house for some really nice people.I was glad they were really pleased with the result we have turned their lives around as previously the only modern bit of the house was a new bathroom.Now they have plastered walls, tongue and groove ceilings a re-wire, and floor tiles all for 5200 Euro's.It's always pleasing to have a really satisfactory outcome.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

19th November

Tomorrow is International Mens Day , so we can all do nothing lads !!.

Its a fair cop, cop.....!!!

Two police officers who had been bribing other officers were arrested in an overnight operation on November 17 2010, Bulgarian television station bTV said.

The operation was carried out by the Interior Ministry and the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime (CDCOC), in co-operation with the State Agency for National Security, Internal Security Section and the Sofia City Prosecutors' Office.

The operation was carried out in the Sofia borough of Hadji Dimitar. The two arrested were described as "corrupt police officers" who bribed other police officers in order to obtain "sensitive information," the report said.

One of those taken into custody is a serving officer in the Migration Police, and previously was a CDCOC officer.

His alleged accomplice is a serving officer in Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security (SANS).

According to the report, the first officer paid $500 to a policeman in the Interior Ministry for classified information.

Allegedly, the two men would "purchase" sensitive operational data for active criminal groups dealing with counterfeit money and credit cards. During the search, the police found $4000 in cash and several memory sticks packed with "data".

The authorities were tipped off, and the two officers were placed under surveillance over the course of three months.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Property offers on this site

As readers may by now be aware, we do sell Bulgarian property on this website to earn our living, and we also build and renovate, so here is one of my periodic plugs for my website which can be accessed by clicking on the title.

Uncle Bulgaria

Winter on this blog

Due to the weather conditions over the coming 3/4 months, I will have more time to devote to blogging.I will write some more about my own personal interests, but I also will give some hints about travelling around in Bulgaria such as public transport and places to go.
If anyone out there has any requests or ideas please let me know.

1000th reader

Many thanks to faithful readers as we pass the 1000 reader mark since the webcounter was installed, the real number is something like 2500.Correction it's 2688 readers and 127 this week alone !.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Windy !

Bulgaria has been plagued by strong winds with damaged to rooves, as well and billboards and forest fires fanned by the flames.The weather is really strange here at the moment, it was 25c here today which is pretty damn hot.Still I just sense that we are in for a very cold winter.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Appalling Tale

A ten year old, yes a ten year old, has just given birth in the city of Jerez in Spain.The fact that a child that young has had a baby is truly shocking, but the family it appears were completely unfazed by it all.

It was at this point that I guessed the origin of the family (the story gives the game away by saying the family were originally from Romania).So basically they are gypsies, and marrying and having children very young is normal.However even if it's 'normal' it is still not right, a 10 year old is nowhere near bodily mature and it can cause physical damage.

This kind of story really beggars belief.

Monday, 1 November 2010

And it's November !

Monday
Ноември 1
Mostly Sunny
15 º / 8 º
Tuesday
Ноември 2
Partly Cloudy
15 º / 8 º
Wednesday
Ноември 3
Foggy
16 º / 8 º
Thursday
Ноември 4
Foggy
18 º / 8 º
Friday
Ноември 5
Sunny
18 º / 8 º
Saturday
Ноември 6
Foggy
17 º / 7 º

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

This is not a joke !

 Mishenden (Mouse Feastday); St Nestor’s Day. Name day of everyone named Nestor. The day is honoured by women. They are forbidden to do any household work, otherwise mice will harm the house and the grain. They sew up the front and the back of their skirts – resembling the symbolical “sewing up” of the mice’s eyes. It is strictly forbidden to talk about mice.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Budget airlines for Ruse ?

The airport in the Bulgarian Danube city of Ruse is ready to be offered on concession to be used for low-budget flights, the Ruse District Governor, Plamen Stoilov, informs Monday.
Stoilov said the "Shtraklevo" airport will benefit from the fact the airports of the Romanian capital Bucharest are experiencing a traffic overload.
According to the Governor, the previous two attempts to concession the airport failed not because the offer is not lucrative but because the proposals have been poorly prepared and the conditions unrealistic.
Stoilov reports he has already advertised the concession with 10 major airlines in Europe and on other continents, adding in addition to the concession, he would seek other ways for the use of "Shtraklevo" such as public-private partnerships.
The airport was built in the distant 1967. It has 2 000 decares of land and a 2 500-meters long runway in good condition. In addition, the location offers opportunities to combine flights with railroad, road, river transportation, and air cargo.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Ski value

Bansko, Bulgaria's biggest ski resort, is the second-cheapest resort for British skiers in the world, according to new research by the Post Office.
Poiana Brasov in Romania came top in a study comparing costs at 12 of the cheapest resorts. At GBP 259.53 for six skiing essentials, including a week's ski pass, ski hire, evening meals and drinks, Poiana Brasov was six per cent cheaper than Bansko in Bulgaria and up to 20 per cent cheaper than Slovenia's Kanin resort.
The news comes just days after Bansko was named the winter capital on the Balkans at an international tourism exhibition in the Serbian town of Novi Sad.
The little town bordering Pirin National Park, about 160 kilometers south of Bulgaria's capital Sofia, offers a stark but nice contrast between the cobbled streets and churches of the old town and hundreds of millions of euros poured into hotels, ski runs and bright blue gondola bubbles in its modern part.
Supervising all this is the roughly 2,800-meter Todorka peak.
The formerly off-the-beaten-path destination has recently gone mainstream, but it is very rarely that tourists see the vistas doom-sayers warn against - construction cranes and gaudy mutrobaroque hotels, favored by the nouveau riche and organized crime mobsters, known as mutri, with which they try to prove their wealth.
Tourists need to spend no more than 25 euros a night in those hotels, which exemplify Bansko's ambitions best – quite chic, but without the ridiculous attempts to be consmopolitan often found at Bulgarian resorts.
The old town, where the prices are lower even than the capital Sofia, is a collection of ski and souvenir shops with cozy, dimly lit taverns and restaurants. It is not unusual to see an entire lamb or pig roasting on a spit in front of one of the eateries.
The alternatives are the pubs, frequented by British, Irish and Greek tourists, who, together with the Russians, have until recently been the driving force of Bansko's prosperity.
Critics say Bansko was built to meet the standards of not that wealthy tourists, who do not bring lots of money to the country. As the global crisis bit, however, the number of these tourists, who out of fears for their jobs, decided to skip the holidays altogether, drastically decreased.
Bansko's long-term attraction will be limited, unless what is on offer complies with the highest standards, they say.

Uncle's Comment: It may offer good value for money, but a recent report in the Financial Times described investing in property in the winter resorts as a 'disaster'

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Well at least the Romanians are coming !

BULGARIA TARGETS ROMANIAN TOURISTS AT BUCHAREST FAIR
Bulgaria's Economy Ministry is planning to present the country as a destination at the Romanian Tourism Fair 2010.
The international tourist expo will take place in the Romanian capital Bucharest on October 21-24, 2010.
It is usually attended by over 30 000 businesspeople from the tourism sector.
Bulgaria will take part in the Romanian Tourism Fair with an information pavilion of 110 square meters.
A total of 16 Bulgarian tour operators, travel agencies, tourism organizations and municipalities will be presented in Bucharest.
Romania is rapidly turning into one of the top sources of foreign tourists for Bulgaria together with the traditionally important German, Russian, and British tourists.
An estimated one million Romanian tourists visited Bulgaria in 2009.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Brits in Bulgarian elections

The British community in the village of Avren, municipality of Varna, fed up with what they see as the failure of local government, has decided to take matters in their own hands by appointing their own candidate in the local elections, the private Bulgarian television channel bTV reported on October 18 2010.

About 20 British families permanently reside in Avren, one of the largest British communities in the region. The community has apparently grown tired of their pleas falling on deaf ears, so in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, they have decided to act.

The Lisbon treaty is an international agreement amending the two treaties which comprise the constitutional basis of the European Union – the Treaty of Maastricht, and the Treaty of Rome, or the initial treaty of the European Community. It stipulates that every citizen of a European member state country is allowed the same rights in his adopted country as local citizens.

The treaty, which was signed by EU member states on December 13 2007, and entered into force on 1 December 2009, states in some of its provisions, that it ensures greater economic, social and territorial cohesion as well as "common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined in this Treaty".

The British in Avram are upset because the locals keep on littering. They say that they want to keep the place as tidy as it would be in the UK.

Like other residents of Avren, the expats are also concerned at the poor state of local infrastructure. Hence they have formed – in a move unprecedented for Bulgaria –  a foreign club that will have a say in local politics.

Uncle's Comment :This I think refers to the creation of an NGO or political party.Previously British residents have stood for the local councils, even some for 'Nationalist' parties.Obviously they didn't win.

No British airways flights to Varna

Yes,unbelievably it has just been announced that BA are withdrawing the London-Varna service, it is an incredibly backward step but blamed on unprofitability.A Varna-Budapest-London service is being offered in partnership with Malev but it will mean a transfer and hanging around at Budapest.So Wizzair is the best alternative.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Sofia property prices even out

Prices of properties in Sofia have been stabilized, according to data from Bulgarian real estate agency "Bulgarian Properties" and credit holding "Creditex & Hypocredit."
According to the data, the main reason for the stabilization of prices is the reduced construction of new apartments. The National Statistics Institute has announced that construction permits have decreased by 1/3 in the last year.
Another reason is the resumed crediting, which makes sellers more relentless during negotiations.
"Two months before the end of 2010, we can conclude that this year did not show any substantial change in the volume of deals or in prices of properties, in comparison to 2009," the Operation Director of "Bulgarian Properties," Polina Stoykov, said.
According to her, reaching a level of stability was important after periods of high prices, followed by a drastic drop of real estate prices in 2009.
"Bulgarian Properties" has registered that the average price for sol apartments in Sofia in the third quarter of 2010 was EUR 840 per sq.m., which is BGN 30 per sq.m. less in comparison to the second quarter of the year.
Stoykova pointed out that this is a minimal change in the property prices for the past months. Compared to the second quarter, the drop of prices is 3,5%, while compared to the first three months of 2010, the drop is 16%.
The lowest real estate price in Sofia, as registered by the company, was in August – EUR 740 per sq.m. In September, the demand for luxury apartments in the Bulgarian capital increased, which led to the increase of the average price - EUR 997 per sq.m.
At the same time, the number of sold apartments in Sofia in the third quarter of 2010 increased by 10% compared to the previous three months.
"The market was more active this summer, in comparison to previous years," Stoykova said.
According to "Creditex & Hypocredit," prices for small apartments have been stable in the past few months, which in their opinion is the first sign for a forthcoming period of increased prices in this segment of the market.
The conclusion has been based on calculation of the current profitability of residential properties, which is the ratio of the sales price and the potential rent price. It is indicative of the trends in the property market.
The credit company has stated that at present the sales prices are stabilizing faster than rentalprices, which leads to a drop of the current profitability to 4,29% for the first half of 2010,compared to 4,51for 2009.
The drop is felt most significantly in apartments up to 50 sq.m. The company believes that it would soon be felt for bigger apartments as well.
"Apartments in Sofia are already reaching their lowst levels," Krasimir Gumnishki, manager Business Crediting in "Creditex & Hypocredit", said.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Autumn comes

Unseasonably cold here, it's 10 C at the moment about 10 C lower than last week !.It's always a shock that the seaons change so rapidly in this region, the UK is slower but I have always said that Bulgaria only has two full seaons, Winter and Summer, the other two are too short to mention.

I see the advantages of Spain where it only gets to 13 C even on Christmas Day, but the snow has a certain allure here and I would not give it up for the world.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Norman Wisdom

So farewell then Sir Norman Wisdom, slapstick icon of several generations.When I was a kid, afternoon tv was never complete without one of his films.In Albania he was a national hero, since his work was the only western films allowed on the dictatorships tv.

As a child I never found him remotely funny, but as you grow older the skill and comic timing come across.Another thing was the sheer longevity of the man, 95 years old and,until recently,physically fit.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Great Early holiday deals


This is one of my favourite hotels and all inclusive for a week is from 350 pounds.This year we will be doing day trips from Albena and negotiating discounts with one of the leading beachside restaurants in the resort.We will be taking guests to the races near Balchik, to Cape Kaliakra and to the Mussel Farm, amongst other offers.Pick ups will be from Golden Sands as well.
Airport drop offs and pick ups are offered too.Just e mail me at info@gobg.co.uk for further details.Click on the title for the link to the Hotel Gergana.

Spotted Dog Pub Barking

The headline has a link that takes you to my local pub in Barking, Essex.The Spotted Dog is very old pub, dating back to the 19th century with wonderful decor.The manager,Russell,is a great bloke who works very hard to make the pub a great place to go.I miss it alot, moreover the really great regulars.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Why Bulgaria ?

I get asked alot by people on this blog and on my website this : 'Of all the places you could go and live and work, why Bulgaria ?'.

I gave been here full time since July 2004 and have loved it here.Living here full time rather than the holiday/holiday home experience is rather different and more challenging.However the very varied hot summer/cold winter climate make it almost like two countries and the pattern of life is very relaxed.

Living close to the sea is a very wonderful positive, but the hinterland is lush and verdant in the summer and snow crusted at the height of winter.

Day to day living expenses here are still very cheap, but have increased significantly since I first came here.A meal in a restaurant with wine still costs only 10 pounds, but petrol and electricity are relatively expensive.A weeks shopping for one should be about 15 pounds.

Generally the people are friendly and getting around is pretty easy with plentiful and cheap public transport.

Moving to Bulgaria is basically a quality of life move and I recommend it to anyone.Property remains very cheap here, prices have fallen by 30% since 2007.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

French thieves steal entire Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard !



Thieves in France have broken into a vineyard and stolen an entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, say police.
They struck in Villeneuve-les-Beziers on Sunday night, taking advantage of a full moon and using a harvesting machine to seize 30 tonnes of the crop.
Farmer Roland Cavaille said similar crimes had taken place before in the Languedoc-Roussillon, one of France's best-known wine growing regions.
He said the theft amounted to a year's work and about 15,000 euro (£12,900).
"They used a harvesting machine to gather grapes. This means there was no need to have lots of people, two people would have been enough," Mr Cavaille told Le Parisien newspaper.
"The area was quite isolated, it is a a few kilometres from the village and near a river. So the thieves were able to work safely."
One witness reported hearing engine noises in the early hours of the morning and police have been examining footprints left at the scene, said the newspaper.
But Mr Cavaille said the thieves were clearly professionals who could easily sell on the grapes.
He said there had been a similar grape theft had been reported in the area four years ago and that another complaint had also been filed this year.
While his vineyard was insured, it did not cover the loss of the grapes themselves.
Mr Cavaille told Europe1 news he had no idea who had taken the grapes but that he was angered and surprised by the theft, as he believed there was a "degree of solidarity" between winemakers

Another health minister bites the dust

Bulgaria has moved onto its third minister of Health in two years with the resignation of Ana-Maria Borisova.She was appointed as a breath of fresh air, but that really meant she knew nothing about Bulgaria's underfunded and creaking healthcare system.Proposals to close smaller hospitals in small towns have not gone down well and staff struggle with low wages and outdated equipment.

The real problem is a lack of cash in the system and a lumbering healthcare bureaucracy.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Buying to become more transparent...er..

New rules that envisage that all property transactions in Bulgaria must be carried out via bank transfer have been attacked by opponents, who say they serve the interests of banks and notaries.
"The law will trample on the interests of a large number of Bulgaria to the benefit of banks and notaries," comments Nikolay Pehlivanov from the nationalist Ataka party as the legislative amendments are about to be moved to parliament for their conclusive approval.
According to him the new rules mean more fees for the clients without any guarantees for their safety.
The rules that envisage that all property transactions in Bulgaria must be carried out via bank transfer were proposed in the hope that they will help reduce property fraud and money laundering, as well as ensure that all fees and taxes owing to the state are paid.
As well as reducing corruption, it also aims to ensure that all fees and taxes owed to the state are paid, through the creation of a State Depositary Bank which would serve as a guarantee for all payments in the form of the state acting as custodian for deposits.
The legislative changes will require that both the vendor and the buyer specify their bank accounts for conducting a property deal. Alternatively, they could use the account of their notary public.
The conditions for depositing money into bank accounts as part of the deal will be specified by the respective sides in written agreements.
There is also hope that the new laws may inspire more confidence from overseas property buyers.
But, there are risks to this new system, as sellers and buyers may want to avoid the new fee charged by the bank for servicing the transactions.

Bad News for travellers

Wizz Air, the largest budget air carrier in Central and Eastern Europe, is shutting down its Sofia – Varna service for the winter, according to a Varna Airport media statement on September 22 2010.

There will be no flights during the winter months, and according to the carrier's website, no flights can be booked currently past the date November 1 2010. However, for the moment, there is no official statement from the carrier itself that the flights are being ceased.

Wizz Air launched its Sofia – Varna service in July 2008, with tickets averaging between 60 and 80 leva, while some tickets were as cheap as 20 leva, depending on reservation. With that, Wizz Air started competing directly with coach companies in Bulgaria which operate on the Sofia – Varna route, charging passengers about 30 leva for a one- way journey.

According to Wizz Air CEO József Váradi, the company has 35 per cent of the budget air travel market in Bulgaria and 19 per cent of the market in Central and Eastern Europe.

Wizz Air expects that by the end of 2010 about one million Bulgarians would have used its services.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Independence Day

Wednesday, September 22, is a national holiday as people across Bulgaria are celebrating the 102nd year since the country's formal declaration of independence from the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
Even though the third Bulgarian state was technically restored in 1878, for the first 30 years of its existence it was a tributary principality to Ottoman Turkey, until complete independence was achieved on September 22, 1908.
After the medieval Bulgarian empire was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1396 AD, Bulgaria was formally restored as a nation-state on March 3, 1878, as a result of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-78 brought about by the bloodily crushed April Uprising of 1876.
Under the San Stefano peace treaty between Russia and Ottoman Turkey, Bulgaria was set up as a state on a territory of 170 000 square kilometers encompassing the three historic-geographic regions traditionally inhabited by Bulgarians - Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia.
Three months later, in July 1878, the Great Powers from the so called "European Concert" revised the San Stefano Treaty in the so called Berlin Congress, an outcome of their conflicting great power interests.
As a result, the Principality of Bulgaria was set up in most of Moesia and the Sofia region on a territory of 63 000 square km. About half of Thrace, or Southern Bulgaria was made an autonomous Ottoman Province called Eastern Roumelia, with a territory of 36 000 square km. The rest of the Bulgarian lands under the Berlin Treaty - including all of Macedonia and half of Thrace - were left in the Ottoman Empire. The Principality of Bulgaria was a vassal state, while Eastern Roumelia was technically an Ottoman province.
Bulgaria's entire political and social life in 1878-1944 was marked by the desire to unify all Bulgarian-populated lands in one nation state - leading the country to participate in five wars in that period. First, the Unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia in 1885, and the declaration of full independence in 1908 were hailed as crucial and successful but only partial steps towards this goal.
On September 6, 1885, the Principality of Bulgaria unified with the autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Roumelia, a few years after its liberation from Ottoman yoke.
The historic proclamation was made after a march by a handful of Bulgarians from the small town of Saedinenie  ("Unification") to the town of Plovdiv, removing one of the gravest injustices imposed in the wake of the Berlin Congress. The Unification was prepared by a network of secret revolutionary committees in Eastern Roumelia, and was backed by the then Bulgarian ruler, Knyaz (King) Alexander I Batenberg.
Great Britain had been the primary protagonist in downsizing Bulgaria during the Berlin Congress because it feared a large Bulgarian state with access to the Mediterranean would be under Russian influence. However, in 1885-1886, it backed informally but rather noticeably, Bulgaria's Unification, seeing that the Russian Empire at the time was against this move, which stirred diplomatic tension in the Balkans, and seized the chance to demolish Russian influence in Bulgaria.
As other Balkan countries objected to Bulgaria's Unification, Serbia attacked Bulgaria in November 1885. In a grand national effort to defend the Unification, the young Bulgarian Army, which had just been left by its senior Russian officers, repulsed the attack, and defeated the Serbs on their territory, thus making the Unification of Northern and Southern Bulgaria a fait accompli.
But it was not until 1886 when the Great Powers recognized the almost doubled state of Bulgaria with a Bulgarian-Ottoman treaty.
After the Unification of 1885, Bulgarian efforts were focused on making Macedonia and the rest of Thrace part of the country. Thus, Bulgaria backed the VMORO (Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization) and its staging of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenia Uprising in 1903 and several other revolts in then European Turkey in that period.
As the uprisings of the Bulgarian populations in Thrace and Macedonia failed, the Bulgarian leadership decided the only way help its compatriots still living under Ottoman yoke was to wage a war against Ottoman Turkey. To do this, Bulgaria had to be able to enter international alliances, and to declare war as a sovereign nation state.
Thus, the Bulgarian Cabinet and ruler declared the country's independence on September 22, 1908, in a historic ceremony in one of the nation's medieval capitals Veliko Tarnovo. They used the fact that one of the European Great Powers broke the Berlin Treaty – Austria-Hungary had declared the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it was supposed to rule for a period 30 years, under the Treaty.
The actions of the Bulgarian leaders were in fact coordinated with those of the emperor and government in Vienna. Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following day, ushering into the Bosnian Crisis (or Annexation Crisis) of 1908-1909 creating diplomatic tension among the Great Powers that served as a preview of the Bosnian or Sarajevo Crisis of 1914 leading to the breakout of World War I.
Thus, as a result of Bulgaria's declaration of independence, the Bulgarian ruler Ferdinand I, who until then had been a Knyaz (the Slavic equivalent of “King”), became a Tsar (technically the Slavic title for emperor). Under international diplomatic pressure, Ottoman Turkey reacted to Bulgaria's declaration of independence only with diplomatic protests, without military action.
As it became independent, Bulgaria subsequently took part in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, World War I (1915-1918) in seeking to regain all of its national territory (and in World War II (1941-1945)), being ultimately unsuccessful.
The celebrations of Bulgaria's Indep Day are traditionally held the night of September 22 in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire that in 1908 Tsar Ferdinand and Prime Minister Alexander Malinov chose as the site for the proclamation of independence.
The Independence Day has been celebrated as an official public holiday since a decision of the Bulgarian Parliament from September 10, 1998.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A national disgrace !

A total of 238 children have died in state-run homes in the country over the past decade, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said in a report Monday (September 20th). According to the document, three quarters of these deaths could have been prevented: 31 were caused by starvation, 84 were the result of exhaustion and two children died as a result of violence. In some cases, children were tied to their beds or wheelchairs or were given strong tranquilising medicines to be "chemically immobilised". Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev told reporters Monday that investigations are under way in connection with 166 of the reported deaths. "In these cases there is enough evidence to suspect criminal negligence," he said.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Europe According to Bulgaria



This is a Bulgarian designers humourous take on how Bulgarians see the rest of Europe !.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Domingo update

The latest news from Balchik Council is that the concert will be next year.When further information is available it will be posted here.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Summer slowly ebbs away

Things are starting to wind down here.The seaon for tourists is coming to an end and the resorts are emptying.Those people who head to the coast for their annual vacation are now back at their desks and the holiday home owners are returning to winter in their countries of origin.

This time of year is always strange as it gets perceptibly quieter, I suppose its a sort of 'the party is over' feeling but it is also nice to get back to something approaching normality.Unfortunately 'normality' also involves a bloody freezing winter, and a period of massive snowfall.

Priority number one now is to get some logs in for my kamina (wood burning fire) which, with its duct work, comfortably heats the lounge and my bedroom.The ductwork is the pipework that takes the smoke from the fire into the chimney stack it rises a metre up and then over two metres across into the stack.I must admit it is nice to have a roaring fire, but it has to be cleaned out and re-lit each day and constantly stacked up.Very few places in Bulgaria have mains gas, and only a few cities have this luxury.The alternative is electric heating but the bills are huge.Air-conditioning units can be useful but they need to be A rated ones and the sturdier ones as the winter temperatures are so extreme that cheaper units cannot convert very cold air into warm easily and can burn out.

I will need probably 8m3 of wood to last all winter, its an enormous amount when you see it delivered and costs about 200 GBP.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Website News

Periodically I post information about my business website (www.gobg.co.uk), today I am updating about services we offer to clients.

We provide a fully comprehensive service to our clients, not only selling property but also new builds and general maintenance.We offer airport pick ups, and settling in services such as buying furniture etc.

A property management service is also available ie cleaning,pool maintenance,paying bills,gardening.

If you have any particular needs e mail me at info@gobg.co.uk or just visit the website by clicking the banner heading.

To Placido or not Placido..that is the question

Readers may recall that I posted the exciting news that Placido Domingo was to sing in Balchik on 4th September, one big problem..it never happened.I think this can be filed away with the Formula 1 racetrack near Sofia and Johnny Depp in Burgas, all absolute nonsense dreamed up to get publicity in the August 'silly season'.

The problem is that people will stop believing what the powers that be actually say.When I heard about the Domingo booking I immediately wondered how they could seat 3000 people in the botanical gardens, it is a large site but undulates wildly (ie its hilly).

The lesson from this is that one should exercise a high degree of solipsism, in other words 'believe it when you see it'.

Snail like Progress in fighting crime

EU urges Bulgaria and Romania reforms to fight crime

Bulgarian police - file pic, 15 Mar 09  
Bulgaria's police and courts are under pressure to root out organised crime.
 
EU leaders say Bulgaria and Romania must take urgent action to tackle crime and corruption - areas in which they are failing to meet EU standards.
EU foreign ministers said Bulgaria must strengthen the transparency and accountability of its courts and impose tougher penalties for organised crime.
Major shortcomings were also found in Romania's judiciary and the EU voiced concern about conflicts of interest among government officials.
Both countries joined the EU in 2007.
The European Commission set up a Co-operation and Verification Mechanism just for Bulgaria and Romania because the EU judged that they needed to do more in the areas of judicial reform, combating corruption and - for Bulgaria - organised crime.

Pressure has increased for them to speed up the reforms because they both want to join the Schengen zone next year - the area of passport-free travel for EU citizens, which covers most of the EU.
In 2008 the Commission suspended about 500m euros (£413m) of aid to Bulgaria, saying it must do more to fight corruption and organised crime.
'A matter of urgency' At their meeting in Brussels on Monday, the EU ministers praised Bulgaria for having stepped up penal reforms and indictments for high-level corruption and organised crime.
But they complained of "important deficiencies" in court procedures and inadequate judicial follow-up of organised crime cases, recommending the use of dissuasive sanctions and asset forfeiture.
In Romania, they said new legal codes set to take effect in October 2011 "will provide an important opportunity for a thorough reform of the Romanian judicial system".
But the EU statement said "little effective progress has been achieved as regards the efficiency of the judicial process, consistency of jurisprudence and the accountability of the judiciary".
"Human resources remain a major challenge. A co-ordinated anti-corruption policy across the different sectors of government is missing. Substantial improvements are required in the field of conflict of interest" in Romania, it said.
"The [ministerial] Council encourages Bulgaria and Romania to intensify their reform efforts as a matter of urgency," the statement said.

Uncles Comment : The fact remains that not one major organised crime figure has been convicted and served a sentence of any length.Often the judiciary blames the largely untrained police force for not reaching a convincing standard of evidence, the police on the other hand blame the judges for being too weak (the implication of corruption is always in the background).Often an accused individual can delay their court appearance by simply sending in a sick certificate !.

The only people who do get convicted are the comparative minnows, who seem to be offered up to the Bulgarian public as some sort of sacrificial lamb. 

Monday, 6 September 2010

Great English Language website

For those of you bored with the TV output from Bulsat and ITV Partner, here is a great website with tv programmes and the latest films. It's free and high quality.Just click the headline of this post its www.veetle.com

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Any spare cash ?

Thousands of Roma families from across Bulgaria gathered for the traditional bride market, with bids of up to 50 000 leva (about 25 000 euro) from would-be grooms, Bulgarian National Television reported.

Negotiations were held at a church near Bachkovo Monastery, in central Bulgaria about 10km from Assenovgrad – the latter town, coincidentally, formerly held sway as the centre of wedding dress-making in Bulgaria.

High prices were demanded, and offered, in spite of the financial crisis that has severely hit Bulgaria.

One man, identified only as Sergei in the report, said that he had offered 40 000 leva for the bride he wanted. He said that prices depended on the beauty of the bride, whether she was hard-working and on her skills.

The bride-to-be said that she was happy with the transaction "because I love him".

The bride’s grandfather, Mitko, said that prices of brides only went up over the years, never down.

However, some young men went away empty-handed this year, because they could not afford the prices demanded during haggling. They would have to wait until this time next year, for love and better and financial times, the report said.

Kolyo, a bachelor from Chirpan, said that prices averaged 20 000 to 25 000 leva, often higher, in spite of the economic crisis.

Prices were about 10 to 15 per cent higher than in 2009.

"Brides are getting more expensive?" the television reporter asked him.

"Yes, like gas prices," Kolyo said.

great news for taxi passengers

Bulgaria’s Cabinet has tabled in Parliament amendments to the Carriage by Road Act that would empower municipalities to set limits on taxi tariffs, in a move intended to end abuses in the industry – but the move already has been opposed by the Commission on the Protection of Competition and some in the taxi industry, who have threatened to blockade Sofia’s streets if the legislation is approved.

Exorbitant tariffs charged by some taxi firms and drivers have been the subject of numerous complaints over the years, especially among foreigners and expatriates in Bulgaria, although it is not only non-Bulgarian-speakers who fall prey to cheating by copycat companies and unscrupulous drivers who charge excessive fees or use special devices to inflate fares.

There have been moves from authorities and from some major players in the industry against abuses, including a raid by police and tax authorities in early summer 2010 against "pirate" taxis in Plovdiv, and court actions by large companies such as OK Supertrans against rivals who mislead passengers by mimicking the names and logos of reputable companies.

At the beginning of August 2010, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported that some drivers continued to use "pumps" to manipulate their taxi meters.

BNT interviewed a taxi firm executive, Iliya Vassilev, who said drivers in some companies were using "pumps" that were operated by various means, sending electronic pulses to taxi meters in various ways, including a remote control device in the driver’s pocket, or buttons linked to the volume button on radios or music players or electronic windows.

"Maybe some passengers will have noticed how drivers turn up the volume on music, or open and close windows," Vassilev said.

Such pumps were usually difficult to find, inspectors said, because the mechanisms customarily were concealed deep in the electronics of the car.

Nikola Chavdarov, of the inspectorate in Sofia, said that inspectors did not have the legal right to dismantle a taxi’s dashboard, for instance. "It (a pump) can be hidden anywhere," he said.

Even if passengers complain about inflated tariffs, inspectors might not arrive in time to prevent the driver removing such apparatuses, BNT said.

However, taxi companies said that they usually took matters into their own hands, fining drivers who were the subjects of complaints. "A good image among customers is directly linked to their profits," according to the BNT report.

Companies said that they routinely fined drivers, including one case of a driver who regularly had been fined about 200 leva a week. However, when asked to show documentation of these fines, the firms said that these were confidential.

Travelling with an odometer, a BNT reporter found some discrepancies between the mileages recorded by taxi meters and the distances recorded by the odometer. While sometimes the distances matched, in other cases there were differences of about 30 per cent.

In July, Sofia’s deputy mayor in charge of transport, Lyubomir Hristov, said that the municipality intended to introduce ceilings on the amounts that taxi companies would be allowed to charge customers.

Any limits would be put in place with the consent of the major taxi companies in Sofia, he said.

The amendments envision price limits being imposed by the local authorities, who also licence cab companies, and would have to be updated at least once a year or at the request of the Transport Minister.

Hristov said that the price would be determined using a formula that would include vehicle ammortisation, an average weighted price of fuel and even the driver's salary. Sofia municipality was already working on drafting several such formulas that could be presented to taxi companies as soon as Parliament approved the amendments, he said.

According to city hall statistics, about 5000 cabs in Sofia had valid licences. The amendments envision fines of 3000 leva for taxis charging more than the ceiling imposed by the local authorities.

In June, the country's competition watchdog rejected the Transport Ministry's proposal on cab price caps, saying that it would only serve as an excuse for taxi companies to institute a price cartel, stifling competition and innovation.

"Putting a maximum price ceiling on the taxi service would mean that all parties affected would create a cartel among themselves and establish prices which are close to the preceding ones," Dnevnik quoted a spokesperson of the Commission for the Protection of Competition as saying.

The report said that the Transport Ministry had requested the opinion of the commission on the matter, and in turn, the commission said that that they "understand the social aspect of implementing such a measure, but that it would be against established European practices".

"This would negate the initiative from the companies. It will deter them from improving the diversity of their services, and the quality of service," the commission said.

Bulgarian-language media reports on September 1 2010 said that taxi companies had said that if Parliament approved the proposed amendments, they would blockade Sofia.

Blogsite

As regular readers of this blog will realise, it has always been my intention that this site would be interesting,informative and quirky.It covers a range from satirical to serious politics.I must be doing something right as we have had nearly 800 readers since I put the visitor counter on.My estimate is that, from the beginning, over 2500 people have looked at Uncle Bulgaria's musings.
Thanks to regular readers, and please dont be afraid to contribute, my idea has always been to get a dialogue going with my readers.Please keep visiting and enjoy !.Any suggestions or requests for info/articles are very welcome.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

World Testicle Cooking Competition in Serbia

Yes readers you are really reading that title !.They cook only the testicles of various animals in various sauces and garnishes. Testicles, particularly of bulls, are a great delicacy in the Balkans.People from all over Europe attended.Speaking for myself I will be giving it a miss !.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Day at the Races


I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day at the racetrack at Strajitsa near Balchik yesterday.It was a very pleasant surprise as it was my first visit.
Entrance was one lev and there were bars serving beer,soft drink and food.The course was run down but had a certain charm and the racing was professional with proper starting stalls,thoroughbred horses and jockeys in silks.
The stands afforded a good view of the six races which started at 4pm and finished at 6.30.All  races were on the flat ranging from 5 furlongs to 1.3 miles.The biggest prize of the day was a whopping 4000 leva.A complimentary racecard was provided with the entrance fee.
All in all a great day out.Contact me for directions etc if anyone wants to go.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Comeuppance for property journo's ?

As many will be aware one of the cushiest jobs (apart from food critic), is property journalist.In this role you get to jet all round the world, stay in nice hotels and generally have a jolly nice time all at the developers expense.
Now I hear word of rumblings from Ireland that local journalists are about to be sued for writing misleading articles about the Irish market, which investors claim led them to make bad investment choices.
Readers will know that,despite having a property business here in Bulgaria, I am candid about the market.
If people started suing the UK property supplements I think the queue would stretch for many miles !.
But I always wonder, who is the most to blame ?: journalists for writing unquestioning 'Wish you were here' type articles or people with more money than sense who merely followed their greed for a quick buck ?.
My mantra has always been that property is not some goldmine that is inexhaustable, it directly relates to the health of the general economy.If you want to buy a second home think of it as a holiday home, if it makes a profit that is a bonus.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Coffee Time !

Starbucks' strange vernacular finally drove a customer nuts.
Lynne Rosenthal, a college English professor from Manhattan, said three cops forcibly ejected her from an Upper West Side Starbucks yesterday morning after she got into a dispute with a counterperson -- make that barista -- for refusing to place her order by the coffee chain's rules.
Rosenthal, who is in her early 60s, asked for a toasted multigrain bagel -- and became enraged when the barista at the franchise, on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, followed up by inquiring, "Do you want butter or cheese?"
LYNNE ROSENTHAL - Prof rips schmear tactics.
LYNNE ROSENTHAL
Prof rips schmear tactics.
"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told The Post. "I refused to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want.
"Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."
Rosenthal admitted she had run into trouble before for refusing to employ the chain's stilted lexicon -- balking at ordering a "tall" or a "venti" from the menu or specifying "no whip."
Instead, she insists on making a pest of herself by ordering a "small" or "large" cup of joe.
Yesterday's breakfast-bagel tussle heated up when the barista told the prickly prof that he wouldn't serve her unless she specified whether she wanted a schmear of butter or cheese -- or neither.
"I yelled, 'I want my multigrain bagel!' " Rosenthal said.
"The barista said, 'You're not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!' "
But Rosenthal, on principle, refused to back down.
"I didn't even want the bagel anymore," she said.
The bagel brouhaha escalated until the manager called cops, and responding officers ordered her to leave, threatening to arrest her if she went back inside, she said.
"It was very humiliating to be thrown out, and all I did was ask for a bagel," recalled Rosenthal, who said she holds a Ph.D. from Columbia.
"If you don't use their language, they refuse to serve you. They don't understand what a plain multigrain bagel is."
A Starbucks employee who witnessed the incident blamed Rosenthal.
"She would not answer. It was a reasonable question," the worker said.
"She called [the barista] an a- -hole."
An NYPD spokesman confirmed that officers were called to the coffee shop but said he was unaware of anyone being tossed out.

Uncle's Comment: Moral of the story, have a nice cup of tea !.

Australian election its all over !


  •    Dirty Harry the saltwater crocodile has picked, or should that be bitten, Australia's Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard to win Saturday's cliffhanger general election. Skip related content
Given the choice of two dead chickens, one with Gillard's face stuck on the carcass and the other with conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott's face, Harry snapped up Gillard.
The Abbott chicken carcass was left hanging at Crocosaurus Cove enclosure in the Darwin, local media reported.
Election-eve opinion polls say Australia is evenly divided on who should win the election, with 10 percent of 1.4 million people undecided, raising the prospects of no outright winner and a hung parliament.
Harry, who weighs 720 kgs (1,590 lb) and is about 5 metres (16 ft) long, correctly picked Spain to win the soccer World Cup last month, just like Paul, the "psychic" octopus from a German aquarium who became a media star during the tournament.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Sunny Beach News

BULGARIA'S SUNNY BEACH COMPLAINS OF IMAGE ATTACK
The owners of the biggest Bulgarian Black Sea resort Sunny Beach has claimed that there has been an intentional attack against the resort in the past few months.
The head of the Managing Board of the Union of Owners of Sunny Beach, Elena Ivanova, has announced that the most serious problems of Sunny Beach are the uncategorized tourist sites, the false exchange rates at the change bureaus and the unrealistically high rates of the taxis.
“The resort is doing very well and is going through a very busy season,” said Ivanova and added that the problems, covered by the media, are far-fetched.
Veselin Nablatanov, a member of the Union of Owners of Sunny Beach, has announced that the union has conducted their own investigation, which has showed that the wastewater treatment plant in the resort was not working for 2 weeks.
“All the streets are clogged with sewage,” he said.
Nablatanov has added that the Water Supply Company (ViK) has ordered the stopping of the pumps in Sunny Beach when it was announced that there will be electricity interruptions caused by breakdowns and problems in the electricity network.
However, a reporter check has established that there were no polluted streets in the complex.
The Executive Director of Sunny Beach PLC, Mariya Mihaleva, has announced that only the high temperatures in the recent days were causing the electricity interruptions.
“The problems in Sunny Beach are not new. There are no intentional campaigns or provocations,” said Malina Stratieva, a hotelier.
According to her, the problem is that the resort is overpopulated and all the beds are full, but the infrastructure was not estimated for such a large volume.

Uncle's View : Sunny Beach is an over-developed legoland of a resort.It has been built in a hurry, going from 27,000 to 300,000 bed spaces in just a few years.Absolutely no thought has been given to infrastructure and now they are paying the price.The power cuts have meant that some tourists simply went home.The only thing that saves this place is the lemming like UK tour operators, who have virtually abandoned the other northern resorts and use Sunny Beach exclusively.Perhaps after this summer they will think again !.

Monday, 16 August 2010

House Building in Topola

Here is our latest building project located near the BlackSeaRama and Lighthouse golf courses, and virtually on top of the Thracian Cliffs links course.There are two houses and  a large pool on the site and each 160m2 house is for sale at 160,000 Euro's.If any readers out there need building work done please dont hesitate to contact me by clicking on the banner heading.