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A friend wrote in the following question, you'll see it in red, and my reply underneath.
Are these people in these little places without running water owning or renting their houses (ie do they have to answer to a landlord ? or do they choose to collect the water from the well? or can they not afford to put in pipes? or is it working just fine as it is because someone always has the job of collecting water and that serves the purpose of filling their time because they dont have to worry abut setting aside time for the labour saving devices that fill our homes?

Assuming that all of these Ex Soviets are the same, when the Soviets took over they also took over all of the property, the houses, the businesses, everything, more or less.

Then when the Soviet system finished peoples started being able to claim their property back if they could prove ownership, if they were renting what I call a Russian apartment, they had the opportunity of buying that when some cases were granted ownership for a registration fee.

Looking at the houses I saw out in the countryside were probably pre-Soviet So the ownership of those would have probably been the descendants that were living in the houses and therefore would have probably been given back to those people. All this is putting two and two together without doing an in-depth survey.

These houses were built without a bathroom, if you don't have a hand-basin, a bath, a toilet pan, you have no need for the room, so you do your washing out of a bucket or basin in the kitchen, after you'd heated some cold water on the stove, which is probably going all of the time.

These people are peasant farmers, doing all of the work by hand with the aid of one horse and the rest of the family, they sell their produce probably in the marketplace, probably to other peasants who don't have a lot of money and so they never have any surplus funds.

Most of these people have never had a bank account, do not know what a bank account is, and there would be no bank anywhere near them should they wish to open one, besides any money they get is basically spent before they get.

They all have a well out the front of the house if they are lucky by their gate, they get the water by the bucketful as they need it, they use manpower to raise the water, and manpower to carry the water to the house. Knowing the situation in these countries perhaps it should be said instead of manpower, womanpower!

To put running water on to their house first they would need to have electricity to the wellhead, and then a pump that is capable of lifting the water, then it would have to be plumbed to a holding tank, with a water level switch on it, or alternatively directly to the tap, but again with the pressure switch on the system. I wonder if this could be organised for $500NZ, I somehow doubt it, I wonder how many years they would have to save just to put in a pump?

The Bulgarian lei is equal to the New Zealand dollar in relation to the euro, Bulgaria appears to be richer than Romania which is the country this article was written about, the average wage a New Zealand I'm told the $700 per week, from what I can ascertain the average Bulgarian wage per month is $200-$270 and that is working in the city. If you are peasant farmer your income will be lucky to be 50% of those figures, work it out!

Tuesday 13 July Sofia

It was raining when we left the last city this morning, and it slowly got worse until it was teeming down, we started heading off to the first location that was on the program, I queried why we were doing this, and was told it was on the program, Oh, I forgotten, he is a history teacher, and one must follow the syllabus. So we started heading towards the top of this mountain, and he did a turning to the left instead of the right, and slowly the road got narrower and narrower until we reached a gate and at that point he admitted I was correct 10 minutes ago when I told him he was on the wrong road! So it was an interesting side trip for 40 minutes, in the teeming rain! When we got on to the correct road I told to forget about the syllabus and head straight for Sofia.

We checked into the hotel and then I managed to extract him out of the hotel to take me to the Romanian embassy to get the re-entry visa for Romania.

Is just as well we left the last city a day early as it is taking at least two days to get this visa, or I should say it will be ready in two days, but they are complaining about the short time.

At this point I should discuss Mr history's English and his comprehension of that language, his English is not good, his comprehension is extremely bad, and I talked clearly, and really slow my speech down for him, and a lot of the time I have to give up because I realise he doesn't have a clue as to what I'm talking about. I have noted so far on this trip that he does his best to impress the ladies and other people with his importance and is ability as a driver and guide. His driving is atrocious, he cuts corners without a qualm, stops in the middle-of-the-road, lowers the passengers window and shouts to somebody on the side of the street four directions, sits in the car was they wander off to get somebody that can given directions, with the cars are tooting behind him and eventually moving around this car that has stopped, but I must remember I am the visitor, and this may be the way the Romanians and Bulgarian's work and live.

After that Mr history started taking me on a tour around the city, and he was doing incredibly well, so well I was totally lost within a few moments with all this turnings, going around roundabouts, backtracking, so I said to him with a little bit of admiration in my voice, I hope you know where we are!
He said of course we are in Sofia!
I bit my tongue! And waited!

Soon it was time to go home, back to the hotel, and he headed off, as if he had laid a paper trail, but a puff of wind came up and all of the paper disappeared, so we went this direction, and we went that direction, and we went around in the circle, but not like when I am lost because when I go in the circle I end up back when I started, Mr history was still lost.

After about an hour, he decided to employ a taxi (yes I have done that haven't I) to lead us back to the hotel. We are so far in the wrong direction we would have properly found Rome faster than our hotel! Well the taxi did the trick, and he paid the taxi, so we got to our hotel.

I am using a program called iPassConnect to connect to the Internet in any city that I happen to be in. It is not working in Bulgaria, so I bought an Internet card for $2.50 which will give me 36 hours, so I will be well and truly out of the country within that time.

Wednesday 14 July

This morning we headed off up into the mountain that overlooked the town, he was taking me to the chairlift, which was not working, so we went into a parking area and onto the deck of a hotel that had a wonderful view of a haze covered city, and he sat down getting ready for a good long rest relaxing in the fresh air. After about three minutes looking at this sight, which wasn't even worthwhile switching the camera on for, I said let us go. He was disturbed at his rest being interrupted, and said where will we go? I said where are you taking me? He said we can go here here and here. I said good let us go.

What drove for about 40 minutes, and being the expert I am at getting lost, I recognised he did not have a clue as to where he was going, so we got to remote forest crossroad where he stopped then a taxi pulled up, and let off his fare. Mr history got out of the car, with the map in his hand, and went over it had a discussion with the three people, the whole lot them were waving their arms like in a Italian pantomime, and eventually he returned to the car, the taxi took off, we followed for about 40 minutes, and the taxi let us to the monastery were looking for. The opening times were on the gate, and I looked at them, and we were within the parameters of the times.

I walked on ahead, saw an interesting looking book for 20 lei, which I thought was rather expensive, so when Mr history arrived, I asked him, he just laughed, and said that is what the prices is. I was aware you had to buy a ticket to enter the monastery, and as Mr history's job to buy the tickets, and he made no attempt whatsoever to buy a ticket.


to top right....


From bottom left

So he let me to the monastery, the doors locked of course, I heard him having a conversation with the cleaner, and I got the gist that he was not going to buy a ticket, so I innocently said to him can we go in? He said no it is closed, it will not be open until this afternoon, which of course I knew to be a total lie.

So we walked back to the ticket office, I stopped and asked him can we buy a ticket, he said no it is closed. He walked out to the car. Just then two well-dressed gentlemen came towards the ticket office, talking in English, about what a wonderful monastery this one was, how it is on the world Heritage chart, he turned out to be a executive of the EEC, and as they were buying a ticket, I went out and told my driver, you can buy a ticket, he said Oh they are diplomats, and they are opening it for them. He came in, started talking to the ticket office, and told me to go off with those others and he would sort out the ticket.

I did this, the beautiful old guy who was the guide, welcome to me, asked me for them my ticket, I said my guide is buying it, and as the time went by, and my guide to did not appear, I knew that was going to be a lie because Mr history likes getting a look at anything for free, that he can!

It was a incredible monastery with paintings that were painted before Leonardo da Vinci did his paintings, and the expressions on the faces were so lifelike, which was not the normal for the period we are talking about, and the old guide was so enthusiastic and knew so much about the history of the monastery and the paintings, it is the highlight so far of my trip to Bulgaria.

The executive from the EEC had been to New Zealand last November and was extremely impressed by our country and treated me like a long lost friend, it was delightful. My old guide (hell he is younger than me) also treated me like a long lost friend, and I told him I bring the ticket back for him, he says Do not worry, you said you had paid, I trust you.

So straight back to the car I went, asked Mr history had he paid, he said no, it is not on the schedule, I said what about the five yesterday that were on the schedule, that I did not enter, that you did not have to pay for, at this point is English became almost undecipherable.

So I went straight back into the ticket office and bought a ticket, telling them to told the guide that I had purchased it.

I went back to the car and told Mr history I paid for the ticket, at that point he became so wild has faced turned red, he started shouting at me, telling me I should have never come on this trip, I should have stayed home in New Zealand, and lots of other things which fortunately I did not understand.

I told him to get on with his job and do it properly instead of chatting at females all of the time. That let off another tirade, so I just shut up, and eventually has faced returned to normal colour, and eventually he started talking again as if nothing had happened.

I will not forget the lie he told which placed me in a situation I have no right to be in.

Eventually we resumed our tour, and I made sure I entered every building that was on the tour list, most of them I would not bothered to the entered an already he has spend more money than the entry fee he refused to pay. I also make sure that I entered every other site that is on the list, even if I'm bored to hell with the thought of another monastery. If he was hoping to save money for himself he's just lost the deal.

One of the sites we went to was the Continental Plaza in the centre square of Sofia, it is a restaurant on the eighth floor, and he took me up there for a photograph, but they would not let people in just for a photo, quite rightly so, as it was 12.30 I decided to eat, so we both entered and sat down, he looked at the menu and decided it was too expensive, so I had the best meal I've had in the Balkans, by myself, it was really enjoyable. If you get to Sofia you must go to the Sky Plaza restaurant. You won't regret it.

After a little bit more walking, it was time to go home, and so we went through a repeat performance, almost, this time it only took one hours 45 minutes to get home, and we did not need a taxi, but he had people running after him, while he sat in the car and people came running to give him instructions.

No, I would not have had all of this fun, if I had stayed at home.

Thursday 15 July

Today the day that I'm collecting my visa to go back into Romania, so basically it is a wasted day, Mr history offered to take me to the art museum, which sounded good, but once I got in a discovery was modern art which of course I do not understand, and quite frankly have no wish to. The next two locations also sounded good, but you can't say I don't learn fast, because I asked him what was in these locations, and the reply was nothing like what the title of the buildings indicated. There is certainly a problem with somebody that has a lack of English, but thinks they speak perfect English!

So we went for walked through the shops, he wanted to go to the embassy at two o'clock so we had three hours to fill in, at 12 o'clock I decided to go back to yesterday's restaurant, and then at one o'clock Mr history started to take me to the embassy, the 10 Minute Drive took 60 of "lost" driving minutes, but that filled in another hour!

Of course the embassy was not open until three o'clock! So we wandered around one of the small marketplaces you find near these massive blocks of Russian apartments, as we entered the marketplace, Mr history informed me, "this is a bazaar", I felt like saying Oh I thought it was a swimming pool!

Patience, Ivan, patience

This marketplace consists of tiny little cubicles where people can display their wares in whatever field they happen to wish to be in. Found two interesting grog shops, the first one claimed to have 150 single malt Scotch whiskies, and three bottles of NZ Villa Maria wine which he claimed was very popular.

In just round the corner was another grog shop with about the same number of single malts and he also had one bottle of Villa Maria wine for sale.

Eventually it was time to visit the embassy, and the official told Mr history would be ready 4 30 which is precisely what he told us when we left it on Tuesday. I thought to ask how much money was required, and the answer was 35 American dollars, yes it must be American dollars!

Eventually 4 30 came, met an Aussie guy there with his Canadian girlfriend, so whilst we are waiting we had a good old chat, they had just come through Serbia and said they had a great time, didn't experience any trouble whatsoever, real friendly people, they were staying in youth hostels and travelling on public transport. That is probably the way to go, if your body will stand that process.

Eventually the passport was delivered an I asked Mr history if we could go to one of the super malls on the edge of town, and he said no we need a special card to be able to enter the mall, an in no way would he budge from that situation, so it is another lie to get out of what he does not want to do, Oh well!

Got lost again coming home tonight!

Friday 16 July Plovdiv

Today it was moved on day, we went down 120 kilometres to visit the Rila monastery, a most impressive group of buildings. The old church itself is in the centre of the almost triangular shaped group of buildings, I assume the accommodation and offices that are all round church five story's high, the inside of the church of course it is Bulgarian orthodox, and the decorations inside it, the paintings, the icons, the brasswork with a most extensive I've seen anywhere in the world in an orthodox church.

It eventually it is a world Heritage building or something of that state, it is well worth the trip out of the way to see this monastery.

The intent was, to go back a little bit and then come across to the city we are in, my worthy guide could not find the road, would not stop ask, so we went back to Sofia, went through the traffic and out the other side probably adding to hours to our travel. The map he has with him for this trip, is about one to 800,000 which, with the scale like that, is basically useless.

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