Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A wet August, but not the wettest!

Here we can see that although this last August was very wet, especially the last eight days, it was not the wettest ever - that was in 2006 (when we were happily travelling around South-Eastern Turkey).

Interesting to see that three of the wettest Augusts were in the last six years - 2004, 2010 and 2006!

The photo here shows the pavement in front of our house, just before I was setting off for a Sunday cycle..

Monday, August 30, 2010

30 Ağustos Zafer Bayramı

30 Ağustos Zafer Bayramı, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is Victory Day in Turkey today, so time to step back a year to Karadeniz and the trip we made up from Rize to Ayder, through the tea plantations, which were instigated by the great man, Ataturk.

Another piece of good news is that I have booked a stop-over in Istanbul on 29 Ekim, for my first visit to Turkey of the year! Yes!!! (Just hope I get it cleared with my boss though...)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Another baby for next door!

Now, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A baby was born to Charlotte, the lady living next door, and her husband Martijn, earlier today. His name is Julius Arthur ... and he arrived about a week later than he was expected. Congratulations to the happy parents!

The last baby born next door was Kerem, who was born 15 years ago tomorrow... HAPPY BIRTHDAY Kerem!

Kerem moved with her family away from here about twelve years ago when she was three. I was very sad to se ger and her elder brother, Yarden, not to mention their mother leave, but that's how things go in life sometimes.

Good though that they come back about once a year and we managed to catch up with them when they visted nine days ago. Kerem has grown into a lovely polite, intelligent young lady.

Party time!

First of all, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our dear friend Els who became 90 yesterday. She gave a very enjoyable party in a bar in Buitenveldert yesteday evening, with the beer and wie flowing and delicious hapje/snacks bein served.

A slightly smaller gathering than ten years ago when we all met up at a cafe in the Amstel Park but Els has always been very good at making and keeping friends with people younger than her, so there were a good 40 or so people who turned up. We spent a lot of the time talking to Jacob and Johan who have been friends for years but who we had never met.

It being a major Els party we were treated to some music in the form of a small band who played some songs from the 1930's in a Dutch folk style with a guitar and a violin. Greatly enjoyable.

And we have a date in ten years time, inshallah!

Life being the way it is, we had another major party to go to afterwards, namely Ineke and Jasper's housewarming party the other side of Amsterdam in Noord. We arrived just after the food had finished and just as it was getting dark at around 9 but just before Ineke's dear parents were leaving.

Funnily enough, four young pepole turned up all of a sudden and they were the new neighbours who hadn't been there when we had been at Ineke and Jasper's a week early. They were Norwegian studfents who had joined in during the week, the neighbours having decided to let out the house which they could not sell. Strangely, one of them works as an assitant to the mayor in the little town of Sandvika just outside Oslo, which I had visited the week before. What a small world!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dubai - my favourite character

I do not know where he was from and did not ask his name, but he sat here every day, in a spot behind my hotel near the Creek, waiting for work. I took a couple of photos of him and surprised him a day or two later by finding him back and giving him the prints. From then on we would say our Selam Aleykums and Aleykum Selams to each other, him sitting there with a friendly smile on his face.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dubai - hostel for Pakistani workers

Dubai has a very bad name of the way it treats the labourers from the Indian subcontinent. The labourers have built the tall buildings and the spotless metro system, the roads, airports, racetracks, golf courses, palm islands and so and yet are often treated like slaves. Foreced to stay in Dubai as they never earn quite enough money to pay for the trip home. Health and safety does not exist. Accidents happen, the labourers die and everything just continues. They are often forced to live in large and unsanitary compounds away from the eyes of the tourists which flock to Dubai in their millions.

However, there are some old hostels and living quarters still remaining n the old part of Dubai, such as ths, which I imagine are not too different from the places one might see back in India or Pakistan or Bangladesh. I like to think that the fishmongers and market salesmen one sees around town live in a place like this.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Now I have started, I am finding it difficult to stop. I have often wanted to combine my photos with music and now it has happened!

This is a viseo of the photos from my Bulgaria set on flickr, set to some music by Karolina Goceva (who is Macedonian but I did not have any suitable Bulgarian music).

I prefer the subtle background to this video and the photos come along a bit slower than in my Amsterdam video.

I do not make the videos myself (too much work). I pass the photos and music to this company called www.animoto.com and they do the rest. This sounds a bit like an advert, but I am quite impressed. I know the videos have their shortcomings but I also realise that to do this sort of thing yourself takes hours and a lot of patience, which I don't always have.

Hope you like it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Here is the first video:


And here is the second!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Urban horses of Plovdiv

Urban horses of Plovdiv, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fred chatting to some gypsies in Plovdiv

In the meantime, Sarkozy is kicking gypsies out of France. Can't pick on the queers or the blacks any more. Who do we have left? Muslims (they aren't a race) and gypsies (well, nobody likes them)...


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hartjesdag 2010 - the spirit of Wizzard lingers

These one's had me remembering one of my favourite bands in the 1970's, namely Wizzard. Still very famous for their annual hit ' I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday', my favourite was 'Angel Fingers', which was Number One in the late summer of 1973, already 37 years ago. They appeared on Top Of The Pops and put on a typically quirky performance, which I can still well remember. However, it seems that some idiot from the BBC destroyed the tapes of this (and other) Top Of The Pops programme, so it no longer exists. This one does though! www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ddz-rRI16k&playnext=1&vi...

Good to see Roy Wood still having an influence on the young!

Having said that, I wonder how many people in 2047 will spontaneously remember what was Number One, theirty-seven years ago?

Who knows or even cares now?

(Oh, just checked withe the BBC, it is Eminem with Recovery)

Sorry, that was the album chart, Number One single is Flo-rida with Club Can't Handle Me - obviosuly destined to become a classic - www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgM3r8xKfGE

Not impressed - I much prefer this (from two years ago - our Kosovo holiday) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re2FQZK54oA

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hartjesdag 2010 - de verkeersregelaar

Hartjesdag 2010, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

There was only one Hartjesdag this year. 'De Gemeente werkte niet mee'. One problem was the cost of safety and security. Whereas before, the organisers hired students to put on a blue and red vest and patrol the Zeedijnk area, this year, they had to hire in professional traffic regulators, who no doubt cost a lot more. Here is one of them, standing at the entrance to the Zeedijk telling his superiors that it had become less busy.

Had a wonderful afternoon with Rob and Ghislaine. A pity we were told at 10.30 already that we were no longer allowed to stand outside with our drinks, yet another sign of an over-regulated and over-planned society.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

St Stephen's Church in Nessebar

Today is the Feast of the Assumption - when Jesus' mother Mary went up to heaven. This seems to be a very big event in the Orthodox Church and most churches have some representation of this event. I had hoped to upload a series of photos I have taken of these paintings but none of them seemed to have turned out too well (bad lighting, awkward angles and not being allowed to take photos anyway inside some of these churches). So here are some images from the beautifully decorated Church of St Stephen in Nessebar (where I paid my dues to be allowed to take the pics).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Introducing Azis!

Behind Sunny Beach, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

All sorts of entertainment for the short(ish) summer season... no bandstand by the pier - but state-of-the-art music systems pumping out music to the masses!


1. Elián

I hope you didn't miss Азис (Azis), second poster from right. He's a, well... Let's say an unforgettable act. Charles, you might have seen him in your beloved Eurovision semi-finals of 2006. Enjoy!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5-3BZcv2H0&featu re=related

2. CharlesFred

I enjoyed that IMMENSELY, now I just think it is a pity we missed him last Saturday. Although I should not say that as we had a wonderful evening with two couples we had met on the beach. There was one of each: Bulgarian, Greek, Polish, Austrain, Dutch and Somali, with a number of languages available but none covering everyone, 5 English, 4 German, 2 Russian, 2 Greek, 2 Dutch, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Polish and so on...

3. CharlesFred

But where do they get these performers from? Seems like every macho country needs one or two of these types of singers/performers in their popular culture. I hope he makes it to the Eurovision finals one year! Thanks so much for finding him for me!

4. CharlesFred

Let's call it a collaboration or joint venture. More appropriate, I think. I do the original recce and you dig deeper!

I am enjoying the bag-pipes on this now: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ckvuX7jo_g&featu re=related

(not to mention Joro!)

5. Elián

(Azis is too much... I rather enjoy him. :)

6. CharlesFred

Me too!!!

So globalism works both ways. They get Kate Perry and we get Azis and so much more in return!

7. Ahmed AB (

LOL! Azis is a Bulgarian version of Lady Gaga!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rural Rhodope

Rural Rhodope, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is exactly the type of photo I most like to take. You do not see this too often, not even in rural Bulgaria. However, at the end of a day in teh fields where everyone has been either scything the grass or forking it over to dry in the sunshine, the new hay gets brought back to the village by the lucky horse or pony who has been out in the fields with them all day eating the delicious grass.

I think this pic will be going onto the cover of my Bulgaria book and it is already the lead photo of my Bulgaria set here on flickr.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What are they doing?

Rural Rhodope, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Charles Roffey Is this really what 36% of the electorate voted for? And 'green' Liberal Democrats, where are you?
Plan to sell off nature reserves risks 'austerity countryside' | Politics | The Guardian
Sweeping cuts to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' budget challenge coalition's green credentials

Ozzie Francis Díaz-Duque Terrible state of affairs. Too bad I can't vote there.

Mark Turner Liberals are puppets of the axe swinging Tories. Seen it all in the 80's but people have short memories.

AAR Offensive to say the least. They are not acting very maturely. Going for short term benefits (that too doubtful) while ignoring the long term irreversible damage that this might cause.Sad.

Lynne Doy Have just got round to reading the paper. These cuts aren't going to be reversible in better times. Aren't tories supposed to like the countryside? The Lib Dems will never recover from this coalition.

Charles Roffey Is it too late, Lynne, for them to get out of the coalition before their name becomes ever more besmirched? I wonder who they think is going to buy up the land. French water companies, Russian oligarchs and Gulf/Saudi Arabs? Sure they have a long term interest in the survival of Britian's habitats...

Monday, August 09, 2010

The holidays come to an end - on Sunny Beach

Well, here we are 50 hours later on the road back to Varna, this time in a taxi driven by a man who HAS shaved his legs and arms, he being from a younger generation and not having worked on ships.

So, two days of high impact tourism in Nessebar and neighbouring Sunny Beach.

Nessebar, on a promontary jutting out into the sea is full of old Byzantine era churches and delightful old wooden houses has given itself up for small hotels and guest houses, restaurants, cafes and street after street of souvenir shops, covering every inch of street. Busloadsof tourists come over during the day, wandering behind their tour leaders. And then in the evening, the volume is turned right up so that evry street and every restaurant is full of the tourists who had sent their day on Sunny Beach. Restaurants everywhere yet difficult to get a seat. Amazing! Good to see for the Bulgarian economy.

Sunny Beach is exactly that, a long expanse of white sand in a wide bay, Nessebar to the south. The bach is fringed by trendy beach bars and backed by streets of modern economy-style hotels, many with pools, catering for the masses who have booked a cheap summer holiday in Bulgaria.

We spent our mornings wandering around the old town and snoozing in air-conditioned comfort in our Royal Palace Hotel before making our way to the beaches of Sunny Bay at around 3, after the strongest rays of the sun had dimmed, staying until the beaches were emptying at around 8'ish. With no umbrella and not all too much sun tan cream, we thankfully avoided any sunburn.
We ended up meeting some chaps from Greece and Bulgaria, who were visiting with their friends from Austria and Poland and rhey took us out for dinner back in Sunny Beach last night. 11 pm and still impossible to get a table without waiting, the retaurant was still receiving customers at 2 in the morning. By now though, most of the bars were shut, apart from some go-go bars and late night drinking bars for the Brits, Dutch and their Bulgarian imitators. All safe, all good fun, nice fir us to experience for a night, nice for them to enjoy their week or two!

A nice way to end the holiday, especially as we didn't have to get up until midday today.

Lonely sunflower

Lonely sunflower, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We are leaving Varna now for our last stop before going home, taking a taxi down to Nessebar. We had planned to take the bus but we had just missed the 10.30 to Nessebar and the driver of the bus to Sunny Beach did not like the look of our bags ans it began to look as if we were to have a two hour and uncertain wait on our hands. Time for some quick thinking and within five minutes we were in this taxi with an english speaking ex-seaman who is married to a Russian and loves his country. He was very happy to hear about all the places we had visited. He has a few seaman's tattooes but has kept his body hair!

We drive through woods and past vineyards and sunflower fields, whilst the road signs tell us that horses and carts are not allowed on the road, which although a pity, is quite understandable.

Highlight of Varna was the archaeological museum, where they displayed many of the golden treasures of the Thracians who lived around Varna about 7,000 years ago, the pieces being the oldest examples of worked gold ever found. One of the displays was the grave of a Thracian chieftan with all the gold in place as it would have been on his body, a magnifient helmet, a golden rod, necklace, discs on his knees and a covering for his penis!.

After the Thracians came the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans. A very rich history.

Nessebar, a peninsula, also has a rich history and should feature some lovely old Bulgarian style houses and it is attached to what promises to be an extremely gaudy strip of coastline called Sunny Beach. Looking forward!

Monday, August 02, 2010

The konak in Arbanasi

The konak in Arbanasi, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We made it to Veliko tarnovo after a hellish journey, like some of the worst we have had in Africa, with the minibus getting ever fuller, women fighting to have the windows shut and so on, but we made it after not too long a journey. Dumped at a bus station, the clouds have come over, it is grey and our hostel was full, the other one too. Not a good start.

Still the friendly owner, Georgi, gives us a lift int town, fred finds a friednly lady at the Tourist Information and it all starts going right!

Had a wonderful day, wandering around the old town, having a lte lunch, taking a taxu to nearby village of Arbanasi, with its beautiful church of the nativity, with every inch painted in medieval frescoes, followed by a visit to a lovely Turkish konak, witha. Peaceful garden, the sun comes out and all of a sudden everything is wondrful.

Back at Vk, a delicious dinner followed by Don Carlos at the Castle. A tragic love story, with sub-titles in English, i have never enjoyed an opera more than when sitting high on that hill above the town, surrounded by old walls overlooking a steep valley, the town to the west, the moon and Jupiter rising in the east. Extraordinary.

Today, a lazy day, we feel, although we might visit a local monastery where an Italian cred ae filming a Chekov play. Or maybe not. That's the nice thing abiut holidays.

And we still have Sunny Beach to come, all being well!

Locations of visitors to this page