Brits move to Bulgaria as unemployment chases locals

Brits move to Bulgaria as unemployment chases locals

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DRYANOVO: British families are buying houses and settling down in the picturesque region of Dryanovo in central Bulgaria as local inhabitants escape abroad in search of work. At the foot of the Balkan mountains that give their name to this part of southeastern Europe, former army pilot Keith Davis and his wife Angela have made a traditional house in the village of Gostilitsa near Dryanovo their home.

Under Bulgarian law, only foreign enterprises, as opposed to individuals, can buy land so the Davises founded a company called Outdoor Adventure and they hope to set up an adventure sports school and have horses for hire. “It is a beautiful country. We sought to live in a place that is more natural, more unspoiled, where people are not corrupted by Western values,” Angela said as, surrounded by her three dogs, she went about restoring faded pictures on an old chest.

The couple will have to wait to use the diving pool they had built however, as the old infrastructure more often than not fails to bring running water to their place. “When we have running water, we do not have electricity and vice versa,” Scottish gallery owner Joice McGlone added with a smile rather than a frown. She and her husband Peter believe they have found a home away from home in their house with a vast courtyard and a panoramic view high up in Gostilitsa.

But the spot reserved for the McGlones’ pool is also waiting for better days and Peter has had to buy plastic containers to fetch water from a nearby spring for daily household use. Their Bulgarian neighbour, Desislava Dianova, is happy to be able to practice her English and make her young son learn the language. They are helping the McGlones renovate their house and keep an eye on the property while the Scottish couple is away.

“Foreigners bought more than 70 houses here, mostly the British, but also Italians and one Belgian who runs a biodiesel farm,” according to village administration official Diana Stefanova. A government report released Thursday showed that 1,152 British nationals applied for long-term stay permits in 2005, half as many as the year before.

“Interest in buying property in Bulgaria dates back to two or three years ago as a result of more competitive prices than in Spain, Portugal and Croatia,” said Julian Georgiev, a co-owner of the Bulgarian-British company SimpliBulgaria, which is now building a complex of holiday houses outside the village of Gesha. The houses are built in a traditional Bulgarian Renaissance style but British owners can still feel at home with separate hot and cold water taps on sinks rather than the usual single tap.

“We are responding to a worldwide trend of growing interest in eco tourism. Investment project analyses in Europe show that prices for this type of tourism are two times higher than for traditional seaside vacations,” according to Georgiev. Some 200 workers are helping to build the complex and between 60 and 70 people will then work in it, which does not count for nothing in a region with 12 to 13 per cent unemployment. In the regional centre of Dryanovo, employment is suffering from lowered production capacity at the waggon manufacturing plant, formerly the town’s main employer.

“Many people have sought work abroad… but we are counting on tourism to reverse the trend,” Mayor Daniel Dankov said. “One out of ten inhabitants is in Greece, Spain, Italy or the United States,” according to Iliana, who also used to work in Greece as a caretaker for elderly people, but who has come back to care of her grandchildren. And for Vassil, a plumber who spends half the year working in Italy, especially in the vineyards, going abroad has made a great difference. “What I earn here is not enough to live on so I go with my wife and son, who has to skip school. In two years, the work abroad earned us enough to renovate our house and buy a car,” he said.

Source – AFP