Monday, 23 December 2013


Troyan Update December 2013

Villa Vienna continues to do as hoped and that is to pay its way in the form of guests who are mainly from Belgium,France and Holland these days.

An absolute mega crop of apples and grapes this year donated to the neighbours and friends who convert the fruit into various drinks, mostly alcoholic.

Pool at Troyan

Good progress at the Pool in Troyan, we cleared the pool out and removed all the shrubs and trees growing there.
The old changing rooms have changed themselves into a utility building and garage to the buggies which we have now gathered together from various sheds and houses and are working readying them for spring.

The changing rooms have been added to the deeds thankfully so another step forward.I had to get a company to do a topographic survey and submit it to the County Council.

 I didnt have much time over in BG due to work commitments so had to move fast with the building works.

Found a great squad of builders who get stuck in and managed to get the main building works done before heading back to the UK

They also put a fence and gates up to make a compound

We found three massive septic tanks on the land so adds to the master plan to make some sort of recreation centre and possibly a camping site.

This will be the centre for Buggy off-road activities now being made ready for the spring


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Welcome to Troyan

Welcome to Troyan, central Bulgaria which is a town in the Stara Planina Mountains.Its a town I have adopted as my second home since 2003, where I live part time in a village called Terziisko, just outside Troyan.
The village ticks along like many villages where are hidden many stories and history.The area is stunningly beautiful and has very pronounced seasons with cold winters and mediterranean summers.I will attempt to backtrack to 2003 then continue in the present.

I have an old timber frame house with a converted rabbit shed which is now the main kitchen living area,which with the help of my landlady is a holiday let during the summer.We have had people from all over the world which I am kind of proud of, it wasnt an easy thing to do back in 2004, I could only stay for three months on a visa in those days which I used to work every day getting the house rennovated and everything was in Cyrillic back then so that was an added challenge.Alot still is but I understand it now a bit better.

I was chatting to my landlady about all the different nationalities weve had, English, Welsh,Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Spanish French, Belgian, German, New Zealand, Bulgarian, Botswanan, American,Gibraltarian and counting.

Most say the same things, the beauty of the  area and the welcome from the people, I think weve had four parties who now have properties around the region. 

Times have changed quickly since I first started out in Bulgaria, a new airport, loads of flights,upgrade roads and a leap into all the technologies available.
And the accession into the EU and affiliation with western europe which was slightly badly timed for the biggest banking crisis of modern times.

The thing that hasnt changed is the jaw dropping beauty and tranquility of the place, and the welcome from the people who make you feel part of the community. The Bulgarians are excellent neighbours and realise the importance of community, and very sociable people ready for an adventure.

They are very interested in why anybody would want to live in Bulgaria especially as we were the supposed rich western europeans but my neighbours at least know some of us are not. 

Bulgarians are very quiet educated people, love a discussion, however they dont have any faith in their leaders I would say across the board, they have a bit of work to do.

I was originally enticed by the property developing idea which Ive had some success with though was affected during and post 2008,  but its still a great place to invest in a holiday home or holiday letting business This is the kitchen living area. 

And one of three bedrooms  in the house which sleeps
6 -8 people.The renovation was a journey but the results were for me well worth it and was enjoyable. At the time I was only allowed a 3 month visa so went out worked 7 days a week then back home, being freelance helped me fit it all together.

The main fuel everybody uses is wood and preparing for the winter is important as it gets really cold well into sub zero temperatures. Below -20 degrees is not uncommon.
The summers are really nice and can get quite hot, although the altitude means that evenings are not too uncomfortable.

Buggy Expeditions

New to our activities and an optional extra for the rental of The Villa is Buggy Expeditions.The buggys are fun and easy to drive, road registered and can be used to explore tha many mountain tracks around the Villa......or just go to the shops. You will need an initial accompanied trip out to make sure you are safe and get accustomed to the buggy, when you are happy with the technical bits and pieces you can explore the area unaccompanied.

Below is our guide Miroslav and son

We currently have 4 buggies which are two person buggies , for the more difficult heavy duty routes we recommend that only one adult and a child rides on the bugs.
We can organise half or full day excursions with picnics or stops at watering holes and cafes. You will get much more out of a trip with a guide as the routes are often hidden away.

The Fleet, Miroslav also hires out Quad bikes for those who prefer that kind of vehicle

for more info email

Sunday, 8 January 2012

lets build


The first challenge in Bulgaria came in 2004 in the Autumn, to get Villa Vienna up and running and learn about the local builders, materials and traditions.
There were undoubtedly going to be lessons learnt, firstly I needed a plan, which I had in mind to convert the old barn on the back of the house into a kitchen living space.
The roof needed re tiling so first job was to strip off all the tiles.At this point I knew one person in Bulgaria.
Soon I had a crew on board recruited through the meter reader who happened to speak Spanish,we re roofed the barn and put a concrete floor down.
With the help of a translator I ordered a kitchen, and found a glass workshop for the windows.
In the meantime we made the doorway into the main building which was not without a few moments of concern, the hole was getting bigger as the boulders had to be taken out were quite big.
The kitchen was installed late November at which point my visa ran out so headed back home, leaving a few jobs for the builders.

I chose the same three months the next year, September, October and November to return and carry on.The builders did a great job of the other downstairs room but were reluctant to finish the house as they were staying there.

On this visit building work was mixed with furnishing and getting the place ready for letting.

The final bits and pieces are always tricky in any type of building work, needs a dogged approach which luckily I posses having worked in construction all my life, but it never gets any easier.

lessons learnt

The project went well really, its sometimes very hard to find what you want in Bulgaria and had to compromise on several things one of which was the kitchen worktops.
The builders have all the same traits as all builders but by and large are honest although do like a discussion, anything or anybody turns up its lets all have a chat time which is OK if they are on a price, suppose it would be a bit irritating if on a day rate.

And of course the odd what am I doing in the middle of Bulgaria fixing a shed moment


The second house began straight after the first for a number of reasons, I wanted to keep the builders on board and also get as much work done before the impending accession to the EU as I felt the prices of everything would rise quickly,including the properties I had invested in which due to the banking collapse hasnt been as spectacular as it once looked like it would be, nevertheless once stabilised and the EU money filtering in I think will be worthwhile.Once BG gets the hang of claiming all the subsidies and grants there will be a steady improvement I feel, already hugely noticeable in the road network improvements. 


On to 2006 and a different prospect of a modern house, not so much a renovation but re ignition of a project already underway but not finished. The inside was a labyrinth of rooms, I could only guess what they were intended for but the layout had to be redesigned altogether.

In many ways this was alot easier then renovating an old house but no less satisfying. I initially had the original builder on board who I wanted to keep but he decided he had enough and went back to Sofia.
Having a builder is a bit like a marriage the honeymoon period when the job is fresh and new then the middle bit and finally the not so exiting period.

I enrolled another team and formed my own team of me and a labourer which is very useful because its necessary to be on site daily and more productive than just supervising.They would do the external insulation,reroofing and the internal walls and ceilings. My section was the raised decking and the oak flooring downstairs, keeping the site tidy and requisitioning materials.

There are two strategies I always employ with a job, one is dont ever pay more than the work completed to date and negotiate a finishing bonus with the builder for each element.
Secondly do one activity at a time in any one area, this keeps the finances, materials and method in order.Thats not to say you cant have more than one activity,for instance have the builders on the roof and the plumber doing the first fix inside the house.

On this build I didnt even discuss the next activity with the builder to keep things packaged. Otherwise builders being builders go for the easiest bits of everything overlap all the finances and disappear.

I actually dont think it takes any longer to build in this way, and its certainly less stressful.




following on from the modern house was the present work in progress which I can see as my ultimate permanent residence, which I aim to incorporate a few alternative ideas such as solar power, a thermal store and a rocket mass heater.I aim to build a winter thermal pod annexed to the rear of the house.

This house has all the charm and original features which I like, but also a very practical distribution of spaces

The house was built at the turn of the century and has a good structure of timber and stone. I am insulating the house on the inside to keep the external facade intact.

If any of the properties interest you or you need some project management email at