Hotnitsa 2

Living In The Village

One of the things that attract us to Bulgaria is that the village has a liveliness that most British country dwellers would envy. How many British villages today can boast a post office, three bars and late-opening 7 day a week shops, all for a population of around 500 people?

Some of this may be a leftover of the socialist habit of bringing services to people where they live. Whatever the reason, the presence of these services makes living in the village rather than using it as a commuter base viable.

If it is infrastructure that makes life here possible, it is the people in the village, their love of life and generous welcome that have made living here so much fun. Like many Bulgarian villages, ours has a mainly elderly population. People who have been in Bulgaria for the last 60 years or more have been through a variety of experiences, some of them unpleasant if not terrifying. They've lived through communism, near anarchy, crime gangs and inflation of the extent where prices change hourly (buy your bread in the morning because if you wait until the afternoon you won't be able to afford it). Like those who have been the victims of pension frauds or mismanagement of funds in the UK, these are people who have lived most of their lives in the expectation of a secure and supported retirement, only to have all their expectations destroyed by circumstances entirely beyond their control. In spite, or maybe because of this, Bulgarian villagers seem to meet life with enthusiasm, a willingness to take pleasure in simple things and an ability to live in the present moment without worrying too much about a future that can't be predicted.

Old age is vibrant here. At times we joke that life in the village is like living in an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, we've never yet met our neighbours coming down the hill in a bathtub, but I'm firmly convinced that's only because they don't have bathtubs. In the meantime, the sight of my 80 something neighbour and his friend going off to the village centre on their chopper bikes, then returning after a beer or three, berated by wives as they wobble down the street brings a smile to my face.

Most Bulgarian villages seem to have been built for about 10 times the population currently occupying them. At its peak our village housed 2000 people, today we number about 500. (Yes, we,... I will never be a Bulgarian, but I love the village, care about its future, and when the elections come, I intend to place my vote for the mayor of my choice).

Getting people, any people, back into the country can only be a good thing. Houses look better when they're lived in, better yet when they're cared for or renovated and once enough of them are inhabited, taxes from the people living in them may start to pay for things like road repairs, or even rubbish disposal (one day... maybe... please).