After winning the eBay auction, the seller sent us an invoice, which included the winning price, the tax and the legal expenses:
1 Bulgarian Smallholding For sale Farm House : 6800.00
2 Notary and legal fees : 441.00
3 State tax (5% of purchase price) : 340.00
TOTAL in GBP 7581.00
We’d estimated £8,000 for the total purchase so even with the fees and tax, the amount we had to pay still left us with money spare.
It was also explained to us that the legal process could be done 1 of 2 ways: either instruct a notary or give Power of Attorney to someone to complete the legalities for us, OR travel to Bulgaria and do it ourselves in person.
For us, it was a no-brainer! We wanted to SEE the country we’d just bought a house in, and go and see the property properly for ourselves!
So we decided to take the full £8,000 cash advance from the credit card and use the surplus to fund a trip to Bulgaria 🙂
We applied for the cash transfer and had to add another £152 to the amount for the fees for taking the money.
So in total, we borrowed £8,152 :O
Which was a horrifying amount to owe on a credit card, but we tried to rationalise it as funding an investment for our future and therefore not as bad as it seemed!
This took only a couple of days to come through and when the money was in my account, we did a test transfer to the Bulgarian estate agents account of £1 to make sure we had entered the correct details; the last thing we wanted if we were going to get into such a large amount of debt was to transfer the full amount to the wrong bank account and some random Bulgarian person end up with a lovely chunk of our cash and we not be able to get it back because it was our fault due to putting a digit wrong in the account details!!
So we transferred £1 to the agent and asked her to confirm she had received it.
Santander charged us flipping £25 for the privilege :O
Once she’d confirmed receipt, we transferred the rest, which was still pretty scary as we still had no genuine evidence that this wasn’t all some carefully crafted scam, and once they’d got our money, the seller would disappear LOL!
Again, it cost another £25 in ‘fees’ from Santander :/
But no, it was ALL cool and the seller was great, keeping us informed every step of the way, confirming she’d received that too, and answering all the massive lists of questions we bombarded her with as part of our blind journey into unknown territory (literally!!).
She arranged buildings insurance for us at her expense, suggested hotels for us to book, and arranged a driver (a lovely man called Milen) to meet us from the airport and be available for us during our visit to drive us where we wanted to go for a really good price too.
There were lots of arrangements to make and to make them considerably cheaper, we booked the flights for the end of September.
Buying the house in July meant flight prices were just too much to go out then so we had to search on the Skyscanner website to find much better prices, especially as our toddler Benedict was now 2 years old and so needed a seat for himself rather than just travelling on my lap for a nominal amount.
So after all that excitement and build-up, we had to wait for months before we could actually SEE what we’d bought!
Finally, the date came and we set off from Luton Airport with Wizz Air to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria 🙂
To prepare Benedict for the flight, we’d practised sitting on the sofa with a tray on his lap and a belt across him as the seatbelt, and we’d played flying on an aeroplane 🙂
We were pretty anxious though about what he’d be like during the real thing – he’d flown before a couple of times but that was as a baby.
Now he was a 2-year-old and starting to be much more vocal in his likes and dislikes, we wondered if we’d be spending 3 hours dealing with a screaming child on a plane with everybody angrily complaining and staring at us :/
We’d also bought a cheap tablet and loaded it up with educational videos, songs, apps etc that we could use if all our usual distracting and entertaining tactics failed, plus a tonne of toddler snacks to ply him with food to ward off any hangry outbursts too!
I think the weight of the toys and food we brought to keep him happy on the flight exceeded the entire luggage we’d brought for both us combined!
As it turned out, the flight was really easy and all our preparation paid off!
He knew exactly what to expect with the seatbelt and tray because we’d played that with him before, and was happy to sit in his own seat playing the aeroplane game again, using his tray for his cup of water, his snacks, the toys we’d brought, and yes, even the tablet 🙂
At one point, because we’d been up so early (3 am), he asked for some milk and soon fell asleep, so we got a good hour of not even having to stress about flying with a toddler 😉
He woke up not long before we were due to land though, and therefore was still half-asleep, cranky and grumbly when we had to get him off the plane and through immigration etc.
So we ended up having to carry HIM, plus the rucksack full of his travel supplies, and 3 cabin bags, as the pushchair was still in the hold.
Sofia Airport Terminal 1 is the smallest international airport terminal I’d ever been in!
A short walk across the tarmac, through the door into the building then up some stairs, and you’re right in front of passport control!
We were actually queueing on the stairs!
No long corridors to walk down, which was such a relief given how painful and exhausting it would have been to manage everything.
B was crying quite hard by then and squirming around trying to get out of Ian’s arms so it was hard work.
After several minutes, one of the security staff at the airport stopped one of the queues and beckoned us to come forward so we could be dealt with more quickly!
It was quite a shock to be treated so kindly and given special treatment as this has never happened at any of the UK airports in considerably longer queues.
We thanked everybody profusely and painfully manhandled the screaming, flailing toddler and all the luggage through passport control.
Literally just beyond it was the single baggage carousel and just beyond THAT was the exit!
As we waited for the pushchair I overheard a woman and her teenage daughter talking to somebody about how they had moved out to Bulgaria a couple of years from England and how they had never regretted it as it was a wonderful place to live!
So I earwigged as much as possible and then when she’d stopped chatting, went over and said “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing that you’d moved here from England. We’ve just bought a house here and are visiting to finalise the paperwork! Could you tell me more about what it’s like to live here please?”.
We then had a lovely chat all about what it was like, and especially about how to survive the cold, snowy winters (basically, chains on the car tyres, lots of wood for the stove, and laying in enough food stores to last from November until March!).
Finally. our pushchair appeared and we were able to strap B into it and get some relief from holding him.
We said goodbye to the helpful woman and I told her my name so she could look out for me on expat forums and Facebook groups if she wanted to either avoid me or make contact again!
We then walked through the Nothing to Declare gate and just on the other side was a man holding a placard with our name on (I’d always wanted to be greeted at an airport like that, so another bucket list item ticked off too!!).
This was Milen, our driver for the week.
He helped us to the taxi and loaded up our luggage whilst I got B installed with more snacks, drinks and toys handy to keep him happy for the hour and a half drive to our hotel in a town called Vratsa.
Then we set off out of the airport, passing through a Roma gypsy area right next to the airport road, before getting out onto the main road.
The scenery was stunning, despite the fact that it was very cloudy and quite foggy that day.
I had never seen such vast areas of unspoilt forest in my life :O
I tried to take photos through the car windows, but they were blurry and disappointing and didn’t capture the beauty of the pristine countryside we passed.
There were very few towns to pass through; just a few small villages with traditional Bulgarian houses, in varying degrees of repair.
There were also, as a strange contrast to the totally natural forests we were passing through, several lay-bys that were piled up with lots of dumped rubbish.
I don’t know if these are semi-official dumps, or just neglected places where passing vehicles pull over and discard their junk and no rubbish lorry ever comes along to clear them.
Either way, it was a shame to see it, but also, I had to bear in mind that I was lucky to have the privilege of coming from a much wealthier country with pretty reasonable waste removal facilities, so it wasn’t my place to judge.
I was a guest to this country and need to keep an open-mind to what I might experience…
As we drove on into the mountains more, we ended up actually driving through clouds, so the visibility was pretty poor and we didn’t get to see a huge amount of the countryside.
Eventually, we came out of the mountains and onto flatter land, and as I was following our route on Google maps, could see where Vratsa was, right at the start of another band of mountains, the Balkans.
I peered out of the windows to try and see them, but the visibility was still quite poor so it wasn’t until we were almost there that I caught my first sight of the magnificent Balkan mountains!
Again, my photos taken with a mobile from the car window were poor.
B was great throughout the journey, even though he’d been cooped up in a plane seat for three hours too.
Finally, we arrived in Vratsa and at our hotel, the Hemus Hotel.
The square it was in was overlooked and overshadowed by the first of the Balkan mountains, Vrachanski Balkan, which provided a stunning backdrop 🙂
It was breathtakingly beautiful 🙂
We arranged with Milen (who didn’t speak a word of English and we didn’t speak a word of Bulgarian) through the agent Boryana, via text messaging, that he would be picking us up outside the hotel the next morning at 8.30am for the trip up to the house and to meet Boryana for the viewing.
Then we checked into the most enormous hotel room we’d ever stayed in! The bed must have been super king-size as we had a king-size at home and it was still bigger than that!
The views out of the hotel window across the square to the mountains were gorgeous, even in the cloud.
We headed downstairs to the restaurant and ordered dinner.
Benedict had spaghetti carbonara (7.10lv, about £3.55) which we ended up eating as he didn’t want much!), Ian had chicken fillet with mozzarella (15.30lv, about £7.65) and I ordered Roquefort Chicken (10.85lv, about £5.42).
All the food was lovely, flavoursome, and well-cooked and presented.
Then we all crashed into bed as we were exhausted after being up since 3 am that morning and we had a fairly early start the next day if we had to be outside the front of the hotel by 8.30am, especially with an active toddler who would possibly be waking us up when the sun rose, and given that we were two hours ahead of the UK that would probably be the equivalent of about 4 am!
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