From here to God knows where.

The start of something or the end of the line?

So what in Gods name am I doing alone in Sofia Bulgaria at the age of fifty-six?   I have already said when I know I would let everyone else know.  After 3 weeks in Sofia, I am maybe 1% closer to knowing why I am here.  99% to go.  Here is the story so far as I know it.

The last 56 years have not been normal by any means.  Ups Downs and more ups and downs.  A straight line every now and again.  From working trying unsuccessfully kill a turkey for Christmas to getting picked up by a driver at Dubai airport to be taken to the 5 Star Sheraton hotel to train reservation staff.  From digging holes on the M25 motorway in London to starting a company.  Leaving school at 16 and returning at 34.  Gambling insanely for 20 years and been clean for over 20 years.

It has been over a year since I finished with my company.  I don’t think it failed.  I was able to get cheap hotel deals and sell them on to partners. An improving economy meant fewer deals.  Ironically it was not the recession that did me in. It was the recovery.

Even during the last good time, I felt it.  There would be at least one last challenge.  Even as I crisscrossed Ireland in my suit.  I never could get that work when I tried to kill the turkey for Christmas out of my head.

10 years to retirement.  The worse time possible to be out of work. I have looked for what I considered suitable work over the last year.  Most never replied.  In an age when if a person goes to the bathroom and feels the need to share it on social media I have been genuinely disappointed that about 1% of people took the time to reply.

 

Blogging or bluffing? 

So that is why I have decided to try to do something different.  Pack a bag.  Move somewhere different and tell my story as I go along.  Also to give people an idea of the places I visit. One of the hardest things about beginning a blog is getting an audience.  Everyone really starts from scratch and you do go through stages of wondering if anyone is listening.  I have researched a lot online.  Some people say you never make a living from blogging.  They usually are the people making a living from blogging.    I am not sure where this will end but I am enjoying blogging.  I think if you blog and it is a chore then that won’t work.

Why Sofia Bulgaria? 

I have always been a guy that if I like the look of something I can make a quick decision.  Not always a good decision. The last time I brought a sofa in Cork the salesperson said they had sofas from 500 to 5000 euro.  I suggested saving time we start at 500 euro.  Not long after I saw a sofa I liked.  Not far past the 500 euro sofa.  I liked it.  Much to the disappointment of the salesperson.

I had passed through Sofia for a few days in May with my good friend Dick Grant.  We did a 12 day 5 cities tour which included 2 days in Sofia.  I had a sofa moment.  I liked it.  I thought it had a bit more character then Bucharest and there were bars in Sofia.  Other than the old town I could not see 1 bar in Bucharest.  Whats that all about.

Bulgaria is cheap

Beer.  Food.  Transport.  Accommodation.  It is all very cheap compared to western Europe.  There is some bit of logic what I have done.  Ok, there is a lot of madness also but let me try to explain.

You can get a good quality apartment here for 400 euro per month.  That is 4,800 a year.  You can easily live here for 150 euro per week for 1 person.  That is 7,800 a year.  Total 12,600 Euro.

Now, let us say you have been lucky to get your kids out of your house and you rent it out for a year and that after tax you get 700 a month for your house.  That is 8,400 a year.  Now the total for a year in Bulgaria is 4,200 Euro.

If you are 2 people and allowing 150 each per week.  So that is a massive 300 euro spending each week for 2 people.  That comes to 15,600 a year.  Add in your rent of 4,800 in Bulgaria.  Total 20,400 Euro. Take off your rent you are getting for your own home 8,400.  This gives you a figure of 12,000 euro needed to live for a year in Bulgaria   The Irish state pension is 12,000.  For 2 that is 24,000 euro. You are actually saving money when you are abroad.

It is not difficult to move these days.  If anyone is looking for one of Europes biggest secrets can I suggest Las Palmas in Gran Canaria?  It is the capital in the north of the Island.  It is a city but feels like a town and has an amazing city beach.  The prices are a bit higher than Bulgaria but the above calculations still work and you can avoid winter for as long as you want.  Gran Canaria also has good airline connections to most of Europe.

Bulgarian Chalga music

The first time I saw Chalga music on television I thought I was watching a porn movie.  The train from Bucharest to Sofia stopped in the very strange frontier town of Levski in northern Bulgaria.  My friend Dick Grant and I were informed that a storm had taken down the electric lines.  We decided to stay in Levski overnight.  As we ate our dinner with a few beers this weird sound came from the television.  I thought how far the country had come from the communist days with porn being showing on a hotel T.V.  Porn music I felt had gone backwards.

I later found out it was not porn but Bulgarian Chalga music.  During communist days the state-owned radio stations were only allowed to play certain types of music.  Western music was not encouraged.  After the fall of communism in 1989 people who now had the freedom to listen to what they wanted to.  Since the mid-1980s a form of folk-pop had become popular in Yugoslavia called Turbo folk.  Some Bulgarian musicians decided to form their own version of Turbo folk.

Typical Chalga song is about a guy spending money on a  girl for sexual favours.  If you are curious click here for Chalgatube.  Don’t blame me if you do.  To be fair most Bulgarians dislike Chalga.

As I said last week I am going to do a weekly short video on places of interest in Sofia.  This week I am doing something different.  A look around my apartment and some tips for if you are going to live in another country.  For example, in Sofia, you will see many apartments online for rent.  Most are fake.  You will be asked for rent upfront as a deposit.  The apartment will not exist or the person will not own the apartment.  To see how to avoid this click here for more.

I am always looking at other bloggers to see how their travels are going.  Another one I like is the Roaming Irishman.   Great tips for travelling cheaply.

 

BEER WATCH

I have decided to play a weekly game of Russian roulette with the tram system in Sofia.  I pick at random one of the 15 lines each week.  I travel to the end of the line and go into the first bar I can find.  It is a bit weird as when I am on the journey I seem to want the areas to be bad rather than good.

 

The end of line tram 20 Sofia

The end of line tram 20 Sofia

This week I went on tram 20.  It is over 11km long.  I got off at the end and I was in the middle of nowhere.  I brushed myself down and took the next tram back 1 stop.  I saw a bar.  Ordered my beer.  Mother of God it was 0.55 cent.  This was a new record but I knew in my heart I could not put in down as a new record.  0.85 cent would have to stand. I have very low standards for my quest to find Bulgaria’s cheapest beer but this was a tin.  I have decided it has to be draft or a bottle.  I had to rule out the 0.55 beer out on a technicality.  Its a shame as I checked my beer time machine calculator and 0.55 would have taken me back to 1978.  I am still 1981 for now.  The quest continues.

Name.  I was so excited I forgot to look.

Address. Next to a couple a trees second last stop tram 20 Sofia.

Wifi.  Whats that.

This weekend I am going to leave the capital Sofia for a few days.  I am going to visit the northern city of Veliko Tarnovo.  Often known as the city of the Tsars.  It is one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria.  I am looking forward to seeing it.  More on that next week.

If you have any questions please contact and I will be more than happy to help if I can.

Join me on my journey. 

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Comments (8):

  1. Joe Kelly

    August 2, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Enjoying your blog. I plan to move to Tenerife when I get to pension age.

    Reply
    • PATRICK O Neill

      August 2, 2018 at 7:41 am

      Go for it, Joe. It is so easy. I lived 4 years in Las Palmas Gran Canaria. It is so cheap compared to home. I came across so many pensioners living a great life. Also if you are flexible you can get cheap flights home. I hope to get back to the Canaries some day. I loved it there. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  2. Richard O'Keeffe

    August 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Great read Pat, I’ve cancelled my TV licence and done away with those cheesy travel programs you know the one’s where they always end up on a cable car or sipping a stupid looking cocktails with umbrellas and dynamite fuses, not like you drinking from cans… Real stuff!! Anyway it’s a brilliant read fair play for going for it I sincerely hope your efforts are appreciated. Looking forward to your next post…have to now as I’ve no more where in the world to look forward to!!!

    Reply
  3. Richard O'Keeffe

    August 2, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Your too long out of Ireland we have become a nation of compliance, remember we are all Europeans now!

    Reply
  4. Yaya

    August 5, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this! Go for it! YOLO!

    Reply
  5. Nicka

    August 6, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Would love to visit Bulgaria soon Great post!

    Reply

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