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bulgaria begs…..those unasked questions

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Biser, Bulgaria

We have heard murmurings of questions people want to ask, but can’t bring themselves to. So we thought we’d just tell you. If we miss anything, do feel free to ask us outright – we are very hard to offend, and we’ve invited you, so you’ve nothing to lose. There are also some other questions that we get on a fairly regular basis – we’ll answer them here too. You can guess which ones people ask us and which ones they ask others about <wink>

How can you afford it?
This one requires a multi-pronged answer.
Partly, real estate. We bought a cheap flat years ago and then just before we came away (unfortunately AFTER the market had dropped somewhat), we sold it. Fortunately we’d had it for long enough that it made a tidy profit and has financed the trip. We’ve used up the living room, kitchen and bedrooms now and have the bathroom and hallway left to go!
Secondly, we are not signing up with tours that cost $3,000 per person, as you might do if a) you had fewer children and b) you were travelling for a shorter time. In fact, we have only done three “tours” on the whole trip – the trek in Thailand, the trip to Halong Bay and one day we hired a guide and van in Phonsovannh where there was no public transport to use to get to sites ourselves. Everything else we have seen independently.
If we had booked the Trans-Siberian train in New Zealand  the cost for ONE of the children would have been more than what we ended up paying for *all* of us – waiting to purchase seats locally, in our experience, has always been cheaper. (In part due to the fact that overseas agents can only purchase first or second class seats, whereas we travel third class whenever possible). Likewise, a girl who was on the Mekong boat with us had booked and paid for her trip in England – it cost her over two hundred pounds. We didn’t tell her it was only a few dollars if you bought your tickets beside the river!
Accommodation costs have also been skimped on. We have only stayed in one hotel, and that was in Laos and was in a worse state of repair than any of the hostels – it was hotel in name only. In Asia we primarily stayed in guesthouses and hostels, often top-n-tailing on eight or even six beds. We also ventured into the world of couchsurfing, which costs no more than a gift and some cooking-n-cleaning as an expression of thanks.
Once we got the vans our accommodation costs dropped significantly. In Greece we paid not one euro cent. In England we stayed in one campground in five weeks, and only a few times needed to put a couple of pounds in a parking metre. Similarly, France was almost free, Italy not much more.
Foodwise, we are frugal at home, and we continue to be on the road. Sometimes this means not buying local delicacies that most tourists might, but we certainly do not feel deprived. With our bulk purchasing power we can buy a box of icecreams from a supermarket for the cost of one cone on the street. And remember, food in Asia is dirt cheap. A feast of mountains of rice with two different heaped platters of vegetables for breakfast cost only a couple of dollars. We could share half a dozen dollar plates of food for lunch. In Cambodia (and again in Italy and Greece) in season inexpensive local fresh fruit became a staple.
Tourist destinations are identical in that they are overflowing with everything from nick-nacks to enormous items tempting you to take them home. Having to carry everything on our backs for the first six months was a great motivator to NOT BUY. By the time we had the vans we were in the habit. Our souvenirs have been as frugal as our eating, and many have come from not-souvenir-shops…..a decorated tin full of oregano was bought in Greece – the oregano we ate, and the tin will go home stuffed full of undies. Chopsticks. A handmade cloth elephant. A rattan ball, which will probably not make it home, it’s been used so much. A scarf. A communist flag. Journals. A sticky rice basket (which was not so much a souvenir as an essential piece of cooking equipment while we were in Laos, and we I cannot bear to part with it).
The children have bought things too, but that’s their money, not ours! A flute, a crossbow, a chess set and Carcassonne game, a couple of hammocks, a patchwork backpack, wooden dominoes, soapstone signature stamps and rubber band guns (for clearing the farm-we-don’t-yet-have of unwanted rabbits when we finally get it).
We have seen big Turkish rugs and Italian pizza ovens and a whole library of books, all of which would have cost a pretty packet, but even if we could have carried them, we would have had to cut the trip short to be able to afford them, and we preferred to save our money for experience.

How do you stay sane?
Who ever said we were sane?


How do you do your pictures?
We use a freebie collage creator that is quick and easy to use. It is very limited in its application and reduces the quality of photos, but we haven’t had time to come to terms with Photoshop, so we make do with the highly-originally-named “Arcsoft Collage Creator Version One”

I can’t see the pictures in your posts – is there some other way to view them?
If you look at the Captured on Camera page (either click on it here or in the right-hand sidebar), you will see an album for each country and then a few more too. Clicking the country name will take you to the album. You might have more luck seeing them this way – but be warned, some of the albums have A LOT of photos in them!

Is Rach pregnant?

Would you do it again?
We wouldn’t hesitate for even one moment. We could be packed within a day. We might do one thing differently though….it would be much easier to follow the sun to eliminate the need to lug thermals and woollens all round the world. But if someone wanted to send us to the snow, we’d go. In fact, we’d go anywhere.

belonging in bulgaria

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Biser, Bulgaria


It may only be our third day in Biser, but we feel quite settled, as if we’ve been here forever.
As we walk down to The Shop to buy our “dva chleb” (two bread), we pass a man walking up the middle of the road and we exchange greetings as if we *have* been here forever. Already we know that we too will soon have to leave the goat-dropping-covered pavement and join the man walking on the road, because the footpath will be too overgrown with weeds to negotiate. Yesterday this surprised us – today we know. Besides, we also know there’s not much traffic on the road. In fact, only one car passes us on its way to “town”. And even that one stops. It’s Farmer Ivan and he wants to check we ate apples for breakfast. He also wants to tell his driver that the four children with me are only half the brood, there are eight of them, yes eight children and they all come from New Zealand.
On the way home we are passed by one horse and cart and one car – Farmer Ivan’s driver without the farmer, but it would seem he is now a friend too and he gives us a big wave.
Are all Bulgarians so friendly, or is this just one of the joys of small community living?

All day long an assortment of horses and carts passes along the road. They have been doing this forever. Maybe that’s what gives this place a forever feel.

Boring Bulgaria? NO WAY!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Biser, Bulgaria

We’re supposed to be having a quiet relaxing stay here on the outskirts of a small village. So how is it that there is so much to say about it? It all started with bicycle-horses being manoeuvred around ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bulgaria Beginnings

Sunday, September 27th, 2009
Biser, Bulgaria Yet again we take the risk of sharing monotonously similar observations about a border crossing. We cross and everything changes. It’s happened every time, and we keep expecting that one border crossing will not bring stark differences, but it ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bulgaria Bound

Saturday, September 26th, 2009
Biser, Bulgaria When we set out, we had NO intention of going to Bulgaria, not even as a destination to zip through to get somewhere we might want to go (like poor ol’ France, which turned out to be so ... [Continue reading this entry]

Philippi Fun

Friday, September 25th, 2009
Nea Karvali, Greece Some days are all-round good days. Today was one of them. Breakfast at the top of a ridge overlooking a lake and hills. Good morning driving. Easy roads. Fast times. Pastries and a delicious birthday cake for lunch, eaten underneath ... [Continue reading this entry]

Just The Facts

Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Thessaloniki, Greece Knowing Jboy13 had been taking notes as we drove, I asked him for blog-inspiration, “Did you write about the tunnels in your journal?” ”Just the facts. Not much really,” he succinctly replied. And so you get Just The Facts. Tunnel 1: ... [Continue reading this entry]

words do not describe

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Meteora, Greece

neither monks-n-nuns nor monasteries nor mountains nor magnificence

the approach along a long straight road across the plain

[Continue reading this entry]

gourmet greek

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Meteora, Greece


Being on a limited budget with lots of mouths to feed means eating out in Europe is a rare occurrence for us (or it means you buy one tiny cheesecake and each enjoy ... [Continue reading this entry]

the earth’s navel

Monday, September 21st, 2009
almost at Trikala (having not been able to stop at Delphi), Greece Delphi may not be remembered by us so much as the centre of the ancient world, but as the place we received a hand-delivered letter from The Commander, ... [Continue reading this entry]