Terror…

These days are no very joyful days. The things that are happening in the world, coming out of Syria and Iraq, are worrying me and, I must admit, keeping me out of my sleep. Because the problem is complex.

5646ddfcc36188e1198b4602Saying IS/ISIL/Daesh does not worry me would be a profound lie. They keep me preoccupied. Where is our world going to? But at the same time, the reactions of our ‘leaders’ also worry me. The emphasis is solely on ‘war’. War generates hate. I do not believe in an all-encompassing solution just by waging war. Nor do I believe that war is avoidable. It is just that fighting and killing in itself will not resolve the problems.

What also worries me is the position of peaceful and righteous Muslims throughout the world. The terrorist acts by IS/ISIL/Daesh are a curse for them, as the latter pretend to do this in the name of Allah. That way, they effectively stir up anti-Islam feelings in the West and create a divide, where only more extremism can grow.

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Bataclan (Paris) – Eagles of Death Metal

Where I live I am surrounded by Muslims. I do feel very safe, thank you. They are generous, peaceful, helpful, compassionate people. They are very poor but even then I regularly get presents from them. Vegetables, prepared food, gifts.. With no other reason than me living and being here even though they know I am an atheist.

But still I am a bit angry at Muslims. They have been quiet for too long. They have allowed that the voice of the extremists, who make up just a tiny figure of their numbers (or – I dare say – are not even real Muslims), is reverberating throughout the world while they kept silent. Or fairly silent. Rarely they sent out a united and strong message to the world that they dissociated themselves from extremist views, that those terrorists are no real believers in Allah. That would lessen the fear for Islam in the West. That would counter the cries of the ever stronger right extremists. That would send a signal to the own Muslim youth that terrorism is not tolerated in Islam.

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An Egyptian feminist artist defecating and menstruating on an IS/ISIL/Daesh flag

Some people argue that Muslims should not defend their religion and explicitly have to differentiate them in the public’s eye from jihadi’s, just like Christians do not have to defend their religion and differentiate themselves from the KKK and so-called Christian extremists. That would be true in an ideal world, but ours isn’t. They have the perception against them, there is a fear of Islam embedded in the West since the cruel crusades ordered by despotic Popes, and now there is the ever growing right extremist lobby just wanting to spread violence and hate like we knew in the forties.

I had many heated discussions with Muslim friends in the past years about their passivity. Sure, they should not be the ones to apologize for the actions of lunatics and misguided extremists who abuse the name of Allah for their own crooked goals. But they should have made clear to the world, already many years ago, including to their own offspring, that their religion has nothing to do with hate and bloodshed. So Muslims of the world: unite!

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Australians Ashley Dyball (left) and Reece Harding (KIA) fighting with YPG

In the past years I have read many stories of Western people, even untrained, joining the ranks of the Kurds and other anti-IS militia to fight the extremists. I have to concede that I always had an admiration for them. Last week I saw a documentary about the parents of Ashley Dyball, an Australian youngster of 23, trying to bring back home their son who went to Syria to join YPG (Kurdish freedom fighters) in their fight against IS/ISIL/Daesh. He blankly refused, as he felt his purpose in life was helping the Kurds. And I have to admit that in the past months, the thought of joining YPG – whatever the consequences as to danger, life or death, and possible judicial persecution when back in the EU – has come up more than once in my thoughts.

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Picasso (1951)

The US know their recent history where they have been defeated both in Afghanistan and Iraq, opposed to what they like to tell to the world. Ex president Mr. Bush jr. is the one that waged a war based on phony and concocted ‘intelligence reports’ of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq just to bolster his ego and show his dad he was not the looser his dad took him for. The result was a power-vacuum created in that region by the valliant Mr. Bush jr. where IS/ISIS/Daesh had no trouble in establishing its base.

European leaders are running around like beheaded chicken, they know something has to be done but without guidance from their American ‘friends’ they are divided and running off in different directions. And the only message they manage to get out to their citizens is one of war, hate and retaliation, without trying to remedy the causes at the same time and thus allowing this situation to eternalize.

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Cartoon after Charlie Hebdo shooting (Januari 2015)

Meanwhile, I am safe here. I do worry about my family and friends in Belgium and all over the world. Considering Belgians have to pay more than half their salaries in income taxes to the State, plus all other taxes this amounts to 2/3rds of their salaries going to their politicians, I guess they get the politicians they wanted and fully deserve them. And again, all this makes me happy to be out here nice and quietly.

Take care!

Love ❤️, Yann.

Looking back

The fair in Popovo (BG) at the beginning of June

It is now a bit more than a year since I started living here in Bulgaria, after having left Belgium a bit discouraged. Or maybe also a bit disgusted by that country and its citizens. The acidification of society, the corruption of politics, the almost non-existent justice (except for the rich), the disproportional taxes.. All these factors, and then some, made me decide to leave that country and look for peace and rest in a corner of the European Union. Not that politicians are not corrupt here, but at least I don’t have to spend more than half of my income sponsoring their secret schemes anymore.

But today I started asking myself if this was a good decision I made, if Bulgaria really gave me what I expected from it. And I think I can say I’m still happy with my decision. Of course nothing is black or white, but adding everything together I found what I was looking for. Some things I really do miss, some I really don’t. Maybe the big difference with other people is that I never really grew up in Belgium, nor have I lived long in the same country nor region. I moved over 20 times in my life, and most of the moves were to completely different regions or countries, sometimes separated by hundreds of miles. So I didn’t grow those roots most people seem to have, nor do I have an allegiance to death with any country, despite having served the Belgian armed forces dutifully during seven years of my life.

Waterfall along the eco-trail near Emen (BG)

Bulgaria has been very welcoming for me. In the beginning I was surrounded by wrong people, luring expats into their money-making maffia-practices, but once I managed to get rid of those people I got submerged in the Bulgarian culture. Most credits should be given to Emo, my neighbour who offered his services as builder once I threw out the whole maffia-gang. As we grew closer by working together, we became friends and he became my window on Bulgaria. Of course there is also Yoana, the woman who works on the administrative side for expats who hire her for her outstanding services, and whom I also befriended. Someone like her is invaluable in a country which not only speaks a difficult language, but also writes in a different alphabet.

Since the very first day the language has been the biggest obstacle to surmount, and it still is hampering my efforts to build an extensive social life here. People mastering the English (or French, German, Spanish) language are rare over here, but maybe that is an advantage pushing me to learn the language faster. Now I manage to express my wants, but I’m still a long way of being able to have an intimate conversation about feelings, and that makes me sometimes a bit sad as this is the main (and only I guess) way to really connect with people. After a long search I found someone to teach me Bulgarian (and does speak the English language well), but it is not an easy language to learn.

My neighbor playing on my guitar in front of my trailer :)
My neighbor playing guitar.

What provides me the most happiness is the peace and the silence. No cars racing by, no planes flying overhead, no trains thundering by. Just the sounds of people walking on the street, the voices of people sitting on a bench beside the wall at the gate of my property under the shade of a big tree, the animals grazing around between the houses, the occasional cart with horse passing by, and sometimes the Bulgarian or Turkish music from a stereo a few houses away when the people are happy. Of course there is a car passing my house once in a while, but no more than 4 on a busy day, and in the season there is an old Russian biplane with a star engine making a deep growling noise maneuvering over the village to spray the crops in the huge fields, but this sound is rather welcoming as it is rather seldom. Nature over here is uplifting for me, and the notion I can go anywhere, without fences, private properties or prohibited areas and knowing that whomever I shall meet will be friendly and hospitable is heartwarming. On the premise I can make myself understandable of course ?

Slowly I start to attune to the rhythm of nature, and though I never had green fingers, I start to work in my garden more often, reaping the fruits trees and plants freely offer me. I prune trees and vines as if I was a semi-pro, and harvest the strawberries and cherries that are waiting to be picked this month. These I cook and then dry the jam-like substance in my dehydrator to preserve the abundant quantities for later on in the year. I try to keep on schedule for once the cherries and strawberries are gone the raspberries, apples, pears, plums, apricots, grapes and peaches will grow ripe and then I fear I will have to work day and night to process the vast quantities nature freely offers me.

A very old cemetery.. (BG)

My decision to buy a motorcycle with off-road capabilities was a good one. It enables me to recon the area, and reach places I never would have visited with my car. Just driving around in a car with no specific goal, turning around when something catches my attention, engaging a dirt road trough the fields and woods, is no thing I would have done, but the motorcycle lets me do all that when I drive around at leisure with no specific goal other than enjoying myself and discovering new places. My motorcycle reinforces my feeling of uninhibited freedom this country offers me.

The downside is I did not manage to convince my family and friends to move over here ?. So I do miss them, and being able to see them from time to time via FaceTime or Skype is reassuring. And of course I travel to Belgium regularly, as the people I do love with all of my heart are living there. Often someone drops by on a visit, and the last weeks my neighbor and his son-in-law were busy rebuilding my guesthouse next to my house. That will eliminate the need to shelter my guests in my trailer, as luxurious as it is, but a house feels more comfortable and cosy. Once ready it will have its own toilet and shower, a little kitchen and a living room. And the two houses are connected via the half-basement which functions as my huge living room, so even on cold or rainy days there is no need to go outside to meet. Due to the thick walls in sandstone and clay the temperatures are reasonable indoors during the hot summers. Down in the half-basement the temperature is always pleasing: warm in winter, fresh during summer. That is why I made it my living room, with a soon-to-be built rocket mass heater for heating the house in the cold winter days.

Storks are omnipresent (BG)

Most of all I miss my partner. She is a courageous and superb woman, often having to handle the problems she encounters by herself due to my frequent absence. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty. And of course lots of people do not understand the symbiosis between us, as we are not living the ‘standard’ life a couple is supposed to live by general standards. But we are happy, and we manage, and there is no ‘standard’ way a couple should behave, it is all about agreement between two people. Some have an open marriage, some have a conservative relationship, some live apart together, some cannot spend a minute without each other.. Whatever works and makes these two people happy, and it is no one else’s business. But I do miss her ? And we often travel to see each other. She likes it here, and I try to like it in Belgium.

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Church in a little monastery near Veliko Tarnovo (BG)

Little by little I get to know more and more local people, I get invited to parties and celebrations, and so my horizon is expanding and I get immersed in the Bulgarian culture. I have no doubts about staying here, just the evolution of civilization worries me a bit, and I fear it will catch up with the Bulgarian countryside in a few decades. But I might not be in this world any more by then, so there is no reason to worry about that yet. And if it happens and starts to bother me, I just might move on to a further place.

Love ❤️, yann.

Count the sheep

sheep-hd-wallpapers-of-high-resolution (1)Since a few months I am struggling with a problem. It is more of an ethical problem. I have been providing work and thus income to two local families by employing them for the works around my house. But one day this will end, except for some occasional work in the garden or maintenance.

In the year-and-half I have been living here I got to know the people of my neighbourhood more intimately. The things that preoccupy them, the things that make them happy. But, as almost everywhere in Bulgaria, the biggest obstacle for people is the lack of work and money. Slowly I got more and more involved in the social life of my neighbourhood, and I felt more and more responsible for the well-being of those people who accepted me and helped me out whenever I needed them.

Shepherd-and-SheepSo the thought that one day I will not be able any more to provide work and income for them is a heavy burden that keeps my thoughts busy. Giving them work now and ‘abandoning’ them later on is not an option, but my financial possibilities are not unlimited. Today they were sitting, talking and having coffee on the street, and I joined them. I asked them if the keeping of a herd of sheep would be profitable, and if they could imagine themselves tending sheep in the future. Grass and food for sheep is abundant and free over here, and there is plenty to stock for the winter as not to incur costs to maintain those animals when kept inside from the cold.

They were rather enthusiast. Their grandfather was once a shepherd, and so they learned when young all there is to know about caring for sheep. A sheep costs about 100€ a piece. An ewe produces about 2 liters of milk a day, which can be sold at 50 cents per liter. Every year an ewe breeds two lambs, which can grow up and later on produce more milk and lambs, or can be sold for the meat at around 90€. Besides that every sheep gives wool that also can be sold.

So if I would purchase them some sheep, they would be able to breed them into a bigger herd year by year, slowly increasing their revenues. Eventually they would be able to be self-sustaining and even to repay the debts they have by me buying the sheep.

the shepherd and sheep dogs taking his sheep out to the fieldsFor now I will reflect a bit more on this possible solution, but it seems feasible and rather easy to me, since they are willing to convert themselves into shepherds. That way they would be self-sustained, and my conscience would be appeased by seeing them independent and earning their own money.

Maybe I should start to think about getting some crowd funding by people willing to invest in this project, enabling us to buy more sheep so these people can get more productive faster. That will also enable them to repay their debts earlier. And ensure a safe and worthy future for these open-handed people, despite them being poor.

Love ❤️, yann.

Count the sheep

sheep-hd-wallpapers-of-high-resolution (1)Since a few months I am struggling with a problem. It is more of an ethical problem. I have been providing work and thus income to two local families by employing them for the works around my house. But one day this will end, except for some occasional work in the garden or maintenance.

In the year-and-half I have been living here I got to know the people of my neighbourhood more intimately. The things that preoccupy them, the things that make them happy. But, as almost everywhere in Bulgaria, the biggest obstacle for people is the lack of work and money. Slowly I got more and more involved in the social life of my neighbourhood, and I felt more and more responsible for the well-being of those people who accepted me and helped me out whenever I needed them.

Shepherd-and-SheepSo the thought that one day I will not be able any more to provide work and income for them is a heavy burden that keeps my thoughts busy. Giving them work now and ‘abandoning’ them later on is not an option, but my financial possibilities are not unlimited. Today they were sitting, talking and having coffee on the street, and I joined them. I asked them if the keeping of a herd of sheep would be profitable, and if they could imagine themselves tending sheep in the future. Grass and food for sheep is abundant and free over here, and there is plenty to stock for the winter as not to incur costs to maintain those animals when kept inside from the cold.

They were rather enthusiast. Their grandfather was once a shepherd, and so they learned when young all there is to know about caring for sheep. A sheep costs about 100€ a piece. An ewe produces about 2 liters of milk a day, which can be sold at 50 cents per liter. Every year an ewe breeds two lambs, which can grow up and later on produce more milk and lambs, or can be sold for the meat at around 90€. Besides that every sheep gives wool that also can be sold.

So if I would purchase them some sheep, they would be able to breed them into a bigger herd year by year, slowly increasing their revenues. Eventually they would be able to be self-sustaining and even to repay the debts they have by me buying the sheep.

the shepherd and sheep dogs taking his sheep out to the fieldsFor now I will reflect a bit more on this possible solution, but it seems feasible and rather easy to me, since they are willing to convert themselves into shepherds. That way they would be self-sustained, and my conscience would be appeased by seeing them independent and earning their own money.

Maybe I should start to think about getting some crowd funding by people willing to invest in this project, enabling us to buy more sheep so these people can get more productive faster. That will also enable them to repay their debts earlier. And ensure a safe and worthy future for these open-handed people, despite them being poor.

Love ❤️, yann.

To swallow?

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One of the visitors overlooking the hills from the window framework

Last year I had some special guests that made me feel really privileged: a couple of swallows made a nest against one of the wooden beams that form the ceiling of my dining room. We were fully preoccupied in the process of rebuilding the house, and one façade made up of wood and windows was removed as the wood was not really up to its task any more, and the glass was old, scratched and cracked in places and consisted of only one single layer.

So while rebuilding a couple of swallows built their nest here inside, unnoticed by me or anyone else. Due to the mess, dust and ongoing works I lived in my trailer here in the yard, and I just happened to see the muddy nest when thinking about ways to remove the many layers of paint that had accumulated during the past decades on the ceiling, in order to restore the wood to its former glory.

Once new woodwork went into the façade I waited to install all the windows, for I had seen in the ingenious nest a few eggs the parents were brooding in turn while the other flew around searching for food. Week after week passed and every time I checked I saw eggs in the nest. But suddenly I discerned three eggs instead of the usual two, and I found that strange enough to open up my laptop and inform myself on the propagation behavior of swallows.

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Perched on a window frame

To my astonishment I learned that swallows are not breeding once in a season, they just keep at it nest after nest until september. When the first eggs hatch, the young help the parents out with the next generation of hatched swallows, getting food and whatever it takes to make these remarkable creatures grow until they too can fly on their own. So I had to conclude that the next few months I would not be able to put in the windows this side of my house.

That was not really a problem. The weather was warm enough, and no rain could get in. At most it was a minor nuisance. As for the dung and residues falling out of the nest, I placed a cardboard plate on the floor under it, so things were kept clean. And I must admit that even those residues were minimal. I slept on in my trailer so not to disturb them too much, but when my partner came over with her kids for the summer holidays we needed to occupy the house. The swallows seemed not to be disturbed by us walking trough the house, and I could approach them at less than half a meter distance. The chirping and singing of the swallows kept the house alive, even at night. Fortunately I had yet no cat who could have taken interest in these birds.

Now, one year later, I saw the first swallows when travelling with my motorcycle to Greece, as they resumed their migration North with the rising of the temperatures in the Northern hemisphere. I knew that soon they would come back to my house, searching for their former nest I had destroyed once they left for the South.

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Tsar Buba, the nicest cat I know, but his gentleness will not apply to birds I guess.

Yesterday I was in my kitchen, when a swallow flew right trough the open door with much noise. He/she made a tour of the dining room, flapping his/her wings in stationary flight right under the place where used to be the nest, and then proceeded again outside to join his/her partner that was communicating with him/her trough the whole process. I thought I understood they were telling each other that inside the house was no option any more. But I clearly misunderstood.

In my kitchen hangs a fly-catcher, a sticky strip gluing flies to it until death. My astonishment was big this morning when I noticed two swallow feathers sticking to the fly-catcher. Last night I left my windows open when I went to bed, so these feathers told me the swallows made a nightly reconnaissance of the premises while I was snoring away.

Now I want to avoid at all cost the swallows to build a new nest inside the house. Firstly I have a young predator named Tsar Buba hanging around in the house who will not refuse a little tasty and feathery snack, secondly I will leave the house during several weeks in the months to come while travelling, so it will be unfeasible to leave the windows wide open for the birds to come and go as they please. That would mean sure death, even if they manage to avoid the sharpened claws of the house cat.

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The façade during the rebuilding, while a storm is brewing overhead

In the end I hope they will choose a spot under the beams of my roof that are extending from the house by a meter. There they would be safe from Tsar Buba, sheltered from wind and rain, and it would allow them free passage to forage at leisure. Still I hope they will hang around, for their music is lovely, and goes on day and night.

Love ❤️, yann.

The Greek Odyssey

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Agiokampos on the island of Evia as seen from the ferryboat (GR)

As the weather is slowly improving over here, I thought it to be a good idea to visit the neighboring country, Greece. Forecasting weather during spring in this part of the world is rather like looking trough muddy water, and forecasts can change on daily basis with temperatures varying from a few degrees above zero centigrade to hot weather. But I took my chances anyway.

I had no planned nor preset route, just the wish to meet the people behind the Telaithrion Project. The project is driven by a number of people who quit their often well-paid and comfortable jobs to live in a more ecological way. To this purpose they strive to set up a self-sustaining community by harvesting fruits and vegetables of the land, trying to find a way to cultivate those in an ecological way, together with raising the awareness of the world of our task to preserve the world. Quite a huge task with many problems and setbacks, but this seems only to magnify the motivation of the participants .

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Loaded as a camel near the lake at Gurkovo (BG)

So I loaded up my bike with my clothes, camping gear, and some emergency equipment to cope with eventual setback when driving alone a motorcycle in often off-road conditions. As a bonus I added my paraglider, I would really be upset finding the perfect flying spot while traveling without having a glider with me.

Loaded as a camel, seated on my saddle between my packs, I started the journey southward on saturday the 18th of april. It was a rather sunny day with a nice temperature. My navigation system was given the initial destination of Thessalonica, and with its feature ‘curvy roads’ it took me – as advertised – via small curvy roads trough Bulgaria. Small villages, streams and rivers, lakes and mountains passed by while the engine purred satisfied between my legs.

In the southern mountain range close to the border with Greece temperatures dropped dramatically and soon enough I found the roads surrounded by thick packs of snow. Fortunately the roads themselves were mostly clear of snow and slush, but the melting snow made driving conditions on the narrow twisting roads calling for more attention. Soon enough I had to make a stop to add some layers to my outfit to keep from freezing. Meanwhile the views were superb and I felt elated. The feeling of freedom I had was unbound.

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View of the lake at Dospat (BG)

Before I realized the distance I had made that first day I crossed the Bulgarian-Greek border. The spinning wheels of my bike slowly ate the kilometers, and one hour before sunset I set to the task of looking out for a nice camping spot. Away from the small road I found myself on I saw a hill that looked promising. The temperatures had risen again and I left the road on a dirt track winding trough the mountainous area. I unloaded the motorcycle and set up my tent, and found a big stone serving as a prop to form a seat where I could spend half an hour reading before enjoying the sun setting over the valley that unfolded beneath my camping spot. Far away under me I could hear the murmur of a river carving its path trough the narrow valley. I was happy because that first day I managed to cross into Greece, haven driven some 500km while enjoying the views and the winding roads.

The camping spot that seemed so perfect at first turned out to be not so ideal during the night. The wind that was almost nonexistent when setting up camp grew in strength and my tent swayed under the force of it, waking me up over and over again during the night. After too few hours of sleep I woke up to see the sun rising again, and I was confronted with the problem of packing up my tent in the stormy wind. Fortunately it was dry and not too cold, with the sky colouring in red, yellow and blue. The wind pulled out the pegs holding my tent on the grass, and helped by some collected heavy stones I managed to pack up my gear.

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Trough the Belasica mountain range near the Greek-Bulgarian border (GR)

My hopes of fleeing the stormy wind on that blue-sky day in the valley were vain, once I reached the plains at the foot of the mountain range reaching to the Aegean Sea at Thessalonica I realized the wind would be a major factor for the rest of the day. The area that my gear presented to the cross winds made driving difficult and some people might have thought me being drunk as my bike waddled over the road from left to right under the forces of nature.

During the afternoon of that sunday the gods of the wind were appeased, and I could concentrate more on my surroundings than on fighting a battle to keep my bike straight. As the plains were uninspiring and too flat for my taste I drove on to Glyfa, a small dormant village where I hoped a ferry would operate in this season and take me to the island of Evia where the guys of The Telaithrion Project have their base.

Fortunately – as I did not check in advance – a regular ferry boat took me that same day over a half hour-trip to the island, I did not have to wait for long before the boat left the main land. Once on the island I realized that the long distance I had traveled, mainly over small curvy roads, the strong winds during past night and the first part of the day, and the lack of sleep I suffered because of those winds, had drained my energy. So I decided to look for a small hotel in Agiokampos, right where the ferry delivered me on the island. To have presented myself to the people of the ecological project that same evening in my condition would not have been very respectful as I doubted I would be an attentive listener and could hold up an intelligent and friendly conversation for a few more hours. And having spent two days on the saddle made me a bit worried about my physical and hygienic appearance when meeting the people I was looking for.

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Remnants of a not-so-distant past, anti-tank poles near the Greek-Bulgarian border (GR)

The hotel I found was right on the beachfront, a mere one hundred meters away from the quay of the boat that brought me. A quay might be a big word, it was merely a kind of small ramp on the pebble beach allowing the cars to enter and exit the ferry when moored. A shower brought refreshment and the restaurant next door filled my hungry stomach with a delicious Greek salad and a plate with freshly caught small fried fish. A few kilometers away from my ultimate goal sleep was quick to come and very deep ?

In the morning I realized my gps showed many villages with the name of ‘Agios’, so that made me wonder if I found myself in the right area. The only thing I was sure about was that I was on the right island, but the island is quite huge. Anyway, I was in no hurry and had time on my side, for I was on no schedule. My neighbours at home take care of my dogs, cat and house when I’m gone, until the day I will be back, so everything at home was covered and safe. But finding The Telaithrion Project was an adventure in itself, so I was not particularly worried.

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My first camp in the foothills of the Belasica mountain range (Macedonia, GR)

I drove the few kilometers separating my former sleeping place from the closest village of Agios, and being a stupid and stubborn male I resented asking for information and directions. Having seen some photographs of the project, I knew they had fields to cultivate away from the village, somewhere near a hilltop. So I drove trough Agios and found myself on a dirt road going up the hills. After having driven a while I was not sure any more I was going in the right direction, and overcoming my misplaced male pride I descended again towards the village. There I approached a man, who did not seem to speak anything but Greek, but took me inside a small tavern where the lady behind the furnace managed to speak some words in English. She took me back out where a fine-looking lady was called who tried to help me out, but when confronted with my question of pointing me out the right location of the project on my gps, she asked another passing English-speaking man to help me out.

This man guided me with his car to a house where he said the participants in the project spent some time every day for cooking and socializing. But unfortunately no one was present at that time. So he managed to point out another location on my gps where I probably could meet some of them, on top of a hill outside the village. I thanked my guide and left for the place he showed me. The dirt road was exactly the same I took the first time when I was stubborn and convinced I could manage on my own… It was just that I gave up two or three kilometers too soon. Thus enhancing my pride my intuition was right the first time, and simultaneously degrading my pride realizing I was a quitter for not having set trough following my hunch.

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The ferryboat from Glyfa to Agiokampos with the island of Elvia on the other side (GR)

But the place on top of the hill, with a fantastic view of the villages below, the Aegean Sea, and the mainland across it, was also empty of people. In the middle of a green patch of land with young fruit trees was erected a big dome, which I learned later would be used as a place for meditation, social events, conferences and studies. I spent some time there contemplating the views and the abundant nature, and the silence. Wandering around I saw a perfect spot to take of with my paraglider, and when looking for an eventual landing place below, if the winds would not be able to hold me up and offer me a landing at my starting place, I discerned a green valley with lots of grass, and with old green trees following a stream I could not see but hear from where I was.

Remembering the turnoff left I passed just below me on the hill I set on driving down to find that road. The dirt road was in good condition, but just before I reached that green valley the road fell down so steep I wondered if I would survive this unscathed on my bike. Unfortunately there was no way I could turn back, hampered by lack of maneuvering area and the steepness of the place when I discovered the difficulty ahead. Added to the steepness were the tracks in the road made by off road jeeps in the past, forming tracks in the mud that were now dried solid as concrete. Driving with your motorcycle in such a track is just like driving with a bicycle trough an iron tram rail in the road, it is a possible prelude for disaster. But there was no other way, I could not avoid those tracks, and would have to rely on some speed to descend trough them unharmed.

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Arrival of the ferryboat as seen from in front of my hotel (Agiokampos, GR)

To my relief, and I must admit, adding to my misplaced pride, I managed to reach the promised valley without a hassle. Once near the stream I found the perfect camping place. Away from civilization, away from people, in the middle of nature, surrounded by wonderful trees, some very old and hollow, near a clean mountain stream that could provide me with fresh water, and soft green grass to make a great bed for the night to come. In the distance I could hear the bells of a goat-herd, so the only unexpected human encounter I might have there was with a shepherd guarding his flock.

Having enjoyed a while my future camping spot, having decided where to put my tent and gear, I set off again to the task finding the people I was looking for in the first place. The steep climb trough the dried mud tracks worried me a little, but my conscience was put to sleep by my effortless victory over that part while descending. Approaching the hard part I increased my speed to some 30 km/Hr, for I knew that a lower speed would not give me the needed stability to handle those tracks in a straight line, and on top of that it was likely that my tires would lack the traction needed to manage the slope when going slower.

telaithrion dome
The dome of The Telaithrion Project behind me (Agios, GR)

Having engaged the slope in great spirits, I found my helmet slamming the earth with force when my plan was blown to hell after my rear wheel left the rut my front wheel was in, and my bike just gave up on me by getting into a low profile.. I felt a sharp pain in my right ribs when I realized I was laying on the ground, and I could hardly breathe. My ribs had connected with the earth just at a point where a thin but high wall of about 30cm, made of dried mud and pebbles and strong as concrete, divided one rut from another. Getting myself up the first thing I did was pushing the emergency stop on the bike to halt the engine. Then I checked my body for possible damage. I found none, except for the diminishing pain in my ribcage. I thought I came out fairly unharmed after all.

After a breathing pause of a few minutes I tried to get my bike up again, but with all the added weight of my gear this task was simply impossible for a man alone. Or maybe just for me alone. So I unpacked and removed my gear pack by pack from the motorcycle and laid it out on the side. Sweat was pouring down and I had to remove my jacket. Once I removed most of the gear I finally managed to get the bike on its wheels, struggling against the steep slope. Fighting the elements somehow I found myself sitting on it again, but my tires where no match for the slope, and my rear tire just spinned and spew out pebbles without moving forward an inch. I killed the engine and, positioning myself next to my bike, I slowly started skidding and sliding down in a more or less controlled way the slope.

telaithrion dome2
The dome of The Telaithrion Project and the new fruittree plantation (Agios, GR)

Once the motorcycle was on less sloping ground, I looked around and thought I found a way round to avoid those ruts. It would take some skills to manage bumps, holes and stones under the grass, and the earth was muddy in some places because of water trickling down from the hill beside. But now my ride was considerably lighter and more in balance when empty, so I got on with it. There was no chance I would try those dangerous ruts again, and there where not many other solutions. Prepared for the worst my bike handled the obstacles pretty nicely, and before I realized it brought me to a flatter spot some 50 meters away and above from where the ruts were. My ribs started to hurt, probably now the adrenalin wore off in my bloodstream, and slowly but steadily I made the trip up and down the slope to collect my gear laying next to the track. It was just then I realized I forgot to take a photograph of my fallen bike, but apparently my priorities laid elsewhere during my ordeal.

The rest of the trip back to Agios was uneventful, except for some dog getting upset with my motorcycle and snarling at the engine when handling the dirt road, but no limbs were lost nor bitten in the course of that event. Finally my luck was turning for the best when I found some people present at the house the man guiding me showed me previously. I introduced myself to a young couple of Germans, who had spent the last two weeks volunteering for the Telaithrion Project, and we talked a while before one of the permanent members of the project turned up.

camp agios
The little hidden paradise where I wanted to set up camp the third night (Agios, GR)

Manthos explained to me their goals, the workings, the projects and seminars, and the setbacks they had by last unexpected harsh winter. We also talked about finding balance in life, about politics and the monetization of society, of the greed of people and companies, and of little and big things important to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Quite a nice chat in all honesty. But the pain in my ribs was growing, and I found myself unable to breathe deeply, to cough and sneeze, and even to laugh without much pain. Some movements caused a sharp pain that took away my breath every time it happened.

When Manthos offered me to spend some time with them, as long as I wanted, and maybe help them out with some construction work on the dome I saw when I rode up the mountains, I knew I would not be of much help in my current state. I apologized. He offered me a place to rest and to be cared for, but I also politely declined, stating I really felt more comfortable being on my own when hurt or ill. “Ah, you are just like an animal” he said, “they also isolate themselves when ill to show up when completely recovered”. I never thought about this but his description seems to fit me quite right. All my life I have withdrawn when ill or wounded, not liking the company of others around me during my ordeal. Maybe I do not like others to see me suffering, or is it because I do not want to burden others with the extra care they want to give me at that moment? I don’t know, but that has been my way as long as I remember.

1
It takes some strength and agility to handle this bike off-road, especially when fully loaded up. I unfortunately lacked those skills.

So I got up on my saddle with some sharp pangs of pain, and rode back to the heavenly lush valley where I thought I would find some rest and speedy recovery. Heaven was with me during this ride, nothing happened, except for the dirt road taking some toll on my ribcage. But nothing I could not manage. The pain reminded me of a decade ago, when I fell in a stupid way – just like falling always is – and the hospital showed me three broken ribs on the ultrasonography. Except from giving me the advice to rest a lot there was not much they could do to help me.

Once arrived in the little paradise I changed into more comfortable clothing, but when I started to set up my tent the thought of sleeping on the hard ground seemed not so attractive to me any more. I doubted wether I would get much sleep that night, though the place was magical to me and offered me everything I could dream of. So I changed my mind and packed again. Slowly and painfully ? I called the KTM dealer in Sofia (BG) to set up a maintenance appointment the next day, and punched in my gps the fastest way to Sofia. As my motorcycle dealer is about a four hour drive away from my home, I thought it would be more practical to let them perform first the due maintenance on my bike before returning home.

2
My garden at home as it found it back (BG)

I left the island by boat at around 6PM, and once on the mainland my old enemy the wind was partying again and trying to push my bike off the road with strong gusts over the open plains. Once in the mountains approaching the Bulgarian border the wind appeased and let go of me. The time getting close to midnight, the tiredness and pain getting the most of me, I found a hotel not far from the border on Bulgarian territory. Well, they advertised themselves as a hotel, and it looked like an enormous hotel, probably built in the better Soviet-era when everything had to be bigger and better to extol the glory of communism. It even boasted an open-air swimming pool beating all standard olympic dimensions, but the next morning I saw it was filled with muddy water. Once I took off the bedspread I found out I would be sleeping on a mattress without sheets, so I took my sleeping bag out. But at least it was a soft mattress, way better than the floor of my tent. Getting into the sleeping bag and closing the zipper took away at least five minutes of my hard-needed sleeping time and cut my breath short several times by the sharp pangs in my ribcage, and as fate always wants it, I had to get out and back in during the night to visit the bathroom, not really adding to the quality of my rest.

tsar buba
Tsar Buba showing his happiness with me being back home (BG)

At seven AM I got out again, a bit rested, and drove on towards Sofia, enjoying the magical views of snow covered mountains, wild rivers and narrow mountain passes along the way. As long as I rode and could sit still, without too many bumps in the road (which is a rarity in Bulgaria), the ribs were not really bothering me. I took some sedatives in the morning to help appease the pain. In Sofia the garage worked fast and a few hours later I could drive on towards home where my pets, bath and bed where happily waiting for me. (Most people will be astonished reading this, as I was at first when I came to live here, but Bulgarians always fix things in record speed. Administration, while looking archaic, is easy and fast compared to other countries I lived in, especially Belgium. Rebuilding houses also, as is making appointments with instances, be it official or commercial ones).

After having been received by the howls and yelps of my excited dogs, and the infinite cuddles of Tsar Buba the cat (who even came to sit on my lap when I laid in my bath filling it with hot water and soapy bubbles – I got him out against his will when his tail and hind legs were soaked with the mounting water), I now rest, as it is the only thing I can do to save me from pain. Still it frustrates me for I see how much more work I could do in and around the house and garden. But that will have to wait.

Summed up: I was gone for four days, drove some 2000km of which about 300km were highways, it was a wonderful but due to circumstances a too short experience where I met some interesting people and learned new things. Topmost of those lessons surely is to be more humble in regard to nature, and its forces, including wind and gravity… ?

Take care, be safe, and love❤️

yann.

The Telaithrion Project: http://en.telaithrion.freeandreal.org/

Stray dogs in Bulgaria

Stray dog (unknown site)

The situation for stray dogs in Bulgaria is very precarious, the same goes for the surrounding countries. Dogs are rarely sterilized, and when owned dogs start to breed, the offspring is thrown out of a car many kilometers from their ‘home’, where they grow up in the wild, grow suspicious about humans, and in their turn breed again.

These dogs organize themselves in flocks, each with their own hierarchy. Sometimes they can become aggressive, but my experience has mostly been that they shy away from human contact. For humans here regularly hurt them by throwing sticks and stones at them, yelling at them or kicking them. Some dogs still seek contact despite the abuse, because this is their only way of getting some edible scraps once in a while. The ribs and bones sticking trough their skin tell it all.

The Pugedon project (food for stray dogs in exchange for PET bottles – Istanbul, Turkey)

That is how I met my ‘three girls’. I had a meeting with someone in town to go out to have dinner, and just when I entered town I had to slam my brakes to avoid fluffy little dogs running over the street in disarray. They were yelping and confused, running oblivious to the traffic over the main street entering town. I stopped some cars coming up and took the dogs on the side. The only thing I could do was to follow my heart and open the trunk of my car. And cancel the meeting.

So now they still are here, running around in our garden causing the (usually) harmless mischief dogs seem to enjoy. This is their home now. Every day I am confronted with many more homeless and underfed canines roaming the streets, but there’s only so much I can do, even if it breaks my heart. Of course there are official dog shelters in Bulgaria. But the name is misleading for the reality happening in those shelters. The shelters are barely financed (or the money is stolen by officials), they are heavily overpopulated, and the dogs are underfed. Sometimes abused by those who are paid to take care of them, the dogs fight regularly between each other as they are forced to survive in a limited space, and veterinarian care is scarce.

Next to those official shelters some private organisations work inside Bulgaria to cope with the problem, but they are too small to make much difference, although every difference, however small, is appreciated.

My three little girls minutes after I brought them home (sorry for the poor quality of the image) ©yannbastiaans

It is time humans stop to see and treat animals as being inferior and put on earth to serve humankind. This was what was told to us by the Catholic Church: we are a superior race, we are unique and have nothing to do with animals for we are made in God’s image, and only for us there is a place in heaven. Slowly, even in the archaic Church, the doctrines are changing, but still animals get treated in a degrading way that tells more about us, humans. When young my mentor (a Catholic missionary man) used to tell me that you had to be suspicious of people who did not respect animals, for they lacked respect for fellow men too. And my experience showed him right over and over again.

The immediate cause for me writing this post now, except for my hurts about mistreated and abandoned animals, is me Googling the name of the man who imagines himself (and sometimes acts as if) the mayor of my village, and bullies people into getting what he wants. Mister Ronnie Marynissen… Unfortunately we share the same Belgian nationality. I found a comment of him on a post in a newspaper about stray dogs in Romania (http://sofiaecho.com/2011/04/07/1071730_romania-declares-war-on-stray-dogs-report):”Since 3 years we often stay in Bulgaria where we meet the same problem. Their castration-solution is no solution. When the dogs are put back in the streets, they remain the same unhealthy problem. They must be killed, burnt or buried.” Unnecessary to mention that he got some serious flak by other readers.

The three young ladies at my doorstep now they have grown up. ©yannbastiaans

At first I thought he made a writing error by stating “they must be killed, burnt or buried” (sorry for the syntax errors but it is a literal quote), but then I had to think of the things he told me in the past back when I was still oblivious of the secret schemes he participated in. Once he told me that he would prefer to pay a local guy to shoot all the stray dogs when there were too many in the streets around his property, but that the police would be alerted by the noise. Instead he liked to feed stray dogs with juicy pieces of meat wherein he inserted a metallic pan scourer used to clean burned pots in the kitchen. Once ingested the pan scourer cannot be digested, and makes it hard for the victim to eat much, beside the infection this causes inside the stomach. At the time I thought he just made an inappropriate ‘joke’, but just now I start to see this was no joke. So no, I do not think he made a writing error, he really meant that stray dogs should be killed, burned or buried.

This realization today just gave me even more determination to fight these evil people with all I have, and as they are soon (so the rumours tell me) returning here to get their illegal goldmine back up to speed, I will contact the Bulgarian authorities to hurt and bash them in any possible way I can.

Love, Yann ❤️

The European Union

The European flag…

Iceland announced on the 12th of March 2015 that the country renounced its candidacy for membership of the European Union, for they believe membership would not be in the best interest of the country. I can imagine more governments of countries  already being member of the EU looking enviously at this, as for members there is no ready procedure to step out of this union, and many countries don’t give the impression to be wholeheartedly inside the EU.

What started as an idealistic dream has turned into a monster. If only Hitler would have known, he could have ruled all of Europe without shedding a single drop of blood. Honestly I believe we would have been off far worse in that case, but now it is not paradise either.

Corruption is omnipresent, as usual when politicians have the power. Europe did not grow up as a safe and peaceful haven for its inhabitants, where their rights are protected and the weakest are helped out of the depths of their misery. Europe became the safe haven for the rich and the multinationals, as a result of the classic story of laws made by the one percent for the one percent. The people’s only purpose is to generate taxes, and these should be maximized by every means. “The State is an institution of theft where at large tax is just a system where politicians and bureaucrats steal money from their citizens to squander it in the most disgraceful manner” (Mary Rothbart).

Sheep, goats and cows freely grazing in our village. ©yannbastiaans

As Godfrey Bloom (former member European Parliament for the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage – a party which I do not support for they are too extremist in my opinion, but a clock that doesn’t work shows the right time twice a day) said during a speech in the European Parliament during a debate about tax evasion by EU citizens, “the politicians sit here pontificating about halting tax evasion by its citizens, while everybody knows that the biggest tax evaders are the members of the European Parliament.” If you’re in need of a good laugh just watch his intervention on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOrnTfJOjpU . But he had a point.

While people are still starving of hunger and cold inside the EU, people’s rights (gay people, transgenders, the Roma, etc..) are trodden upon in different countries, the rich are allowed to evade their taxes, multinationals are officially exempted of taxes in many European countries, our parliamentarians proudly announce they have voted a new law for the phone chargers all using the same connector. Well, instead of having 7 different chargers in my drawer at home, I will now have 7 identical ones. What a progress we made! ?

The previous example sounds like a joke, but sadly it is no joke. If I wrote a book instead of a blog I could numerous ridiculous examples – enough to fill a whole chapter – of the work of our European parliament. They allocated for themselves tax exemptions not available to any other European citizen, and they move every month back and forth from Brussels to Strasbourg because countries deem their ‘honor’ and ‘prestige’ to be of more value than the many millions of taxpayers’ money wasted to move the whole circus every month from one country to another.

Hungry (by char-coal)

Here in Bulgaria I wanted to start a private project, funded by my money. Since I learnt that some two years ago a shepherd froze to death under a bridge during winter, while an old lonely woman starved at home for lack of food (and warmth), both here in the small village where I live, I vowed that this would not happen again. So I contacted the mayor to ask him if he could assign me a spacious room in the municipality building where many rooms are unused. I wanted to install a wood stove and buy wood to heat that room. I would find some women in the village willing to cook soup every day, and the small bakery would deliver bread. Every day soup and bread would be distributed to all people wanting to spend a few hours together in a warm place during a few hours. That would not be a solution but much more I cannot achieve on my own. In addition I would support a local business (the bakery), and a few women would have an income during the winter months making soup. Everybody would be a winner in the equation. The mayor was very interested, and got even more interested when I told him that I did not seek publicity so he could make it look like the municipality was running the project, and with elections coming shortly that would have been a victory at the ballot for him. But then came his question who was going to supply the food? Local women? That was officially unacceptable! Due to European laws, all food served to citizens, even when donated, has to be prepared in a kitchen approved by the health ministry for hygienic standards. So the municipality could not take part in such a program, unless I bought the soup at an officially approved kitchen. My conclusion is: the EU rather sees its citizens die of hunger and cold, than run the risk of having a food poisoning due to neglected hygienic standards in the kitchen of those women who also use it cook their daily food for their families. Can anybody explain this to me?

The countryside with no fences, where flocks freely graze ©yannbastiaans

Again, in Bulgaria: fences are rare over here. Not in the cities and villages, where every house has a fence or wall to protect their vegetable garden from the free grazing cows, horses, sheep and goats.  But once outside the conglomeration, there are no fences. There is no barbed wire. Land owners and farmers do not protect their property just for the sake of “this is mine”. Everybody is free to go wherever he wants. My astonishment was great when I drove around the countryside with my motorcycle, exploring the region. I almost fell from my bike when I saw a big plot of lush green grass, contrasting with the surrounding open fields that are dryer and traditionally used by the shepherd to let their flocks graze at leisure. I took a closer look and saw there were a bunch of cows grazing in that green field, and that field was fenced off by barbed wire. In the distance I discerned a white panel, and I drove over to read what was written on it. It said: “project of the European Union”. So some barbed wire manufacturer, probably Bekaert, persuaded a few politicians that it would be good for Bulgaria if that country were pushed by the EU to a more ‘civilized’ way of farming by sponsoring barbed wire? Now at least they can get rid of all those shepherds, the jobs of 6 shepherds can be taken over by less than one fulltime job, which really is an advancement in a region that suffers an unemployment rate of around 40%.

Europe also messes with the traditional life of its citizens. Income is very low here in Bulgaria. Most people have their own vegetable garden and keep their own animals, like poultry and goats. The vegetables are processed and stored in jars in the basement to survive winter, and the animals are slaughtered when the need for meat arises. Conform to European directives the killing of animals on private property by individuals is no longer allowed, but should be performed in an official abattoir. Beside the observation there are almost no butcheries in the countryside and thus people are confronted with a transport problem, this will cost so much to the locals here who already have the greatest difficulties surviving on their low wages. Any European parliamentarians left with some minimal touch with reality?

The distant mountains near Kotel (BG)
The Bulgarian countryside, free access for all. ©yannbastiaans

Over the years I slowly lost my faith in the European Union, where I was one of the first and foremost defenders of the European idea at the very beginning. Now I am just disillusioned and disgusted at what the politicians have done with that ideal.

Love, Yann ❤️

The Belgian Mafia (follow-up)

This is the next episode in my dealings with The Belgian Mafia in my village in Bulgaria. I found out they managed to block one of my websites where I had published an article about their behavior. Unfortunately they should have known by now that I am not the average person, the ones before me they used to deal with by bullying and threatening them until they cowered and backed off (some Belgians with a property here dare not even to visit their house during holidays).

What I tried to reach was a peaceful and elegant solution to the problem we are dealing with in our village: them packing their stuff and leaving Bulgaria without a fuss. But apparently these people do not want things to finish, even if they know they are breaking laws and harming others, because the gold mine seems far from exhausted.

So yesterday I sent mails to all email addresses I could find of Belgian authorities which deal with the administration and laws they are breaking. Pension services, health insurance administration, social services, the special investigation unit of the tax administration, etc.. About twelve mails were sent, accompanied with a file of what I know of their secret schemes. The rest is up to them to discover. I already got two answers this morning stating that the case is under enquiry, and just now I received another mail from another agency that they opened the case.

What triggered me into the decision of filing complaints was a rather disturbing phone call I received yesterday afternoon. An unknown number called me and a man started to threaten me in a mix of English and Bulgarian. My Bulgarian is far from perfect – since a few weeks I follow lessons twice a week – so I did not understand quite well what he said. But I clearly got the drift.

I will not tolerate to be threatened by anyone, especially not if this is done because I am a troublesome witness to illegal and highly immoral money-making schemes. The only way I know is forward, and I will retaliate with everything that is in my power. Yesterday I informed the Belgian authorities, next time I will go to the Bulgarian authorities because all this is happening right under their nose, and many Bulgarian laws were broken. I decided to emigrate to this country to find peace and nature, and a criminal Belgian couple which is not residing permanently here (though they are – against laws – official residents  of both Belgium and Bulgaria) but considers this to be their private gold mine, will not succeed in scaring me off.

Meanwhile life goes on, I enjoy the sun that is shining trough my windows, my dogs who are playing in the garden, and the birds who start to rehearse on their love songs. I even took out my motorbike for a small trip.

Love, Yann ❤️

Cruisin’ the country

Kostandenets moto
View over the valley (Kostandenets – BG) ©yannbastiaans

For people on a quest for freedom Bulgaria is a wonderful place to spend your life. I have to admit that for most Bulgarians this is not true. The low wages and high unemployment are a shame for the European Union, of which Bulgaria is a member state.

 

Emenkloof brug3
Bridge trough the Emen Gorge (BG) ©yannbastiaans

If you come from abroad, what little money you have can be put to good value. Not surprising if you know that the average wage here is around 200€/month. Many Bulgarians have to manage with less. The fact that everything is – in our Western eyes – cheap, reinforces that feeling of freedom. A good meal in a restaurant, drinks included, costs around 5 euros.

Silistra fort
The fortress of Silistra overseeing the Danube (BG) ©yannbastiaans

But what I really wanted to talk about is that the notion of ‘property’ here has not (yet?) evolved as it did in Western Europe. Fences and barbed wire are, outside of the conglomeration, almost non-existent. Dirt roads and paths trough the fields and woods are open to all, making it a huge open and free countryside for hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders, off-road motorcyclists and 4×4 enthusiasts. Everything is accessible, nobody will chase you away stating it is ‘private’ property.

So the youthful adventurer’s spirit came back to me when I first crossed this country from West to East. That made me decide to buy a motorcycle. To explore, to travel, to visit new places, to discover the rich culture and the great past of this country. Romans, Greek, Ottomans and Thracians all left traces of their rich culture here.

Communist congress center near the Shipka pass (BG)
Communist congress center near the Shipka pass (BG) ©yannbastiaans

Driving off-road I found an old paved road, half disappeared and overgrown, winding it’s way trough a gorge near a river where kilometers away stands an old castle. My first thought was that this was a Roman road, but I am no archeologist. Now I think this road could possible date from around the 4th century, around the time the castle and fortified town further on was built on a high rock.

Svalenik moto
Very old trail trough the valley near Svalenik (BG) ©yannbastiaans
Omurtag Mig
Mig on display at Omurtag (BG) ©yannbastiaans

Besides the rich past the nature is also overwhelming. Plains, hills and mountains roll over into each other, painted in the brown, yellow and green colors of the vast agricultural fields, or in the light green colors of the fields with grass on the hills that are grazed by the flocks of sheep, goats, horses and cows, and in the dark colors of the cool forests. High rocky cliffs protrude from valleys, and force the rivers below to cut their path trough the country.

 

 

It makes me feel young and adventurous to explore and discover. The knowledge that, despite its appearance, Bulgaria has to offer everything available in every European country, reassures me. I am talking about internet, hospitals, good restaurants, supermarkets, luxury goods, etc.. So from that point of view it maybe makes me a couch-adventurer? ?

Love, Yann ❤️

 

 

Tryavna
The old town of Tryavna (BG) ©yannbastiaans