As in Greece many years ago when I went there, everyone seems to think that if you are English that you support Man. Utd. assuming you like football in the first place, just because the rest of the world seems to do. I put them right immediately, saying NO! Martin Petrov ...Bolton (which is where I was born). This made a good impression and I was invited to drink at their table as a result. From then on this is how I have been known every time they saw me. On a visit to the Pools one of the staff there was wearing an Stylian Petrov Aston Villa shirt. So there is quite an English connection via the footy.
It was not just the football though. Wherever I went often someone would try to strike up a conversation. As I had learned little Bulgarian at the time, these conversations would be made up of several languages, depending on what they knew or I knew; my schoolboy French, nightschool German, English and Bulgarian. Almost everyone I, and we came across said hello, sometimes in English. I found this very comforting that they were so friendly and as a foreigner I felt at home.
There was also a familiarity that I did not expect. When I used to live in the village of Chew Moor, near Bolton when I was a boy, my mother would take me for walks on summer afternoons. We used to visit a lady who used to sell orange juice. She also used to keep pigs. We would also go to the local farm along the cobbled lane to see the cows. I think you can imagine what scents (if that is the right word) and sounds filled those langourous strolls....and Rudartsi, with the pigs down our road, clucking hens and the proud cock strutting in the pen...brought back so many memories of the village where I used to live, with the addition of goats and sheep wandering across the road and fields.
There is usually an assumption that living in the country is quiet and tranquil. Well it is much of the time. But early in the summer morning, in fact I would say too early, what I call the 'Rudartsi Chorus' would start up. Somewhere close by or maybe in the distance one of the many dogs would start barking. As is usual with dogs, once one starts, another replies until throughout the village there is a canine conversation, argument or whatever it is, which I am sure we will never understand, resounding and echoing across the valley. But as someone who has lived near a railway, before long I hardly noticed the barking, just as I never noticed the trains.
There are many stray dogs in Bulgaria, particularly in Sofia. In Rudartsi there are fewer and some are taken in from the street. Rudartsi is a village where people own summer houses, living here until the winter sets in, then returning to Sofia, and they bring their dogs with them. Owners also let their dogs wander for someone else to feed. Others are seen continuously outside restaurants longing for food. In winter it can be really hard for them. A really sorry sight and one which needs to be addressed. A controlled programme of neutering these strays is necessary and the problem will only get worse if nothing is done. I am told that provision was made for this but it never happened. This doggy below we thought was a stray. We saw him regularly covered in dust and thistles from where he had been sleeping outside. Then suddenly one day he had been groomed, probably by his owner. Then in late summer he disappeared, maybe back to Sofia.