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A Bulgarian November

November in the UK signifies the start of a cold, bleak winter with dull overcast skies, rain, wind and nothing to do but hole up indoors in front of the gas fire with the TV blaring in the background.

Fortunately, November in Bulgaria can be completely different. It is more akin to late autumn when the leaves fall from the trees and the bright blue sky fades to a pale hue. It is a time for brisk walks through the countryside and to prepare for Christmas and the winter months ahead.


Time to turn on the heating

Whilst the central heating has been blazing in the UK for the past two months, this is usually the first month when you need to use some form of heating in your home. If you have an open log fire or wood burner, the ambiance it creates is one of warmth and security. After a busy summer, November gives you the chance to slow down and catch up on any household and garden chores you may have neglected because of the fine weather. The beauty of this month is that you don't yet need to wear proper winter clothing and often a long-sleeved T shirt and a fleece will suffice.

Indulging in relaxing pastimes

There are no more fruit or vegetables left to pick in the garden, so you can turn your attention to country walks. If you have a dog this is the perfect time to explore those places, which were previously off limits like the beach, which is now completely deserted. It is also a great time to visit friends and take with you those jars of preserves you lovingly made during October. Many ex pats take up new hobbies during this time, things like reading and cooking are very popular and many of the new bookstores, which have sprung up in each of the country's major cities now have large sections of English books including cook books. Some ex pat communities have set up a central library for books and DVD's where you can swap material. It's also a good time to take up birdwatching as Bulgaria lies on two of the major migratory routes.

Weekend Breaks

During the summer, everyone heads for the coast to lounge in the sun and the heat inhibits the desire to do anything but relax. However, November is a good time to visit some of Bulgaria's historic towns like Veliko Tarnovo or Rousse and with the increase in low cost airlines, many people are choosing to fly to another country to explore. Flights to Poland, Austria and Italy are popular destinations, which can cost as little as 19 Euros per person on way. If the summer has left you exhausted then a trip to a Bulgarian spa resort like Sandanski will revitalise you with its powerful healing waters. Alternatively, those who live relatively close to a spa may choose to visit it on a weekly basis now. If you have a holiday home here, November is a good time to visit and explore the surroundings you live in without the crowds, but it 's best to have a car or a link with a good public transport network to do this, but remember the beach and ski resorts will still be closed so you may need to look further afield for your entertainment.

Christmas Shopping

Sending parcels home and ensuring they arrive for Christmas means a lot of organisation and careful planning. Whilst Bulgaria is devoid of the commercialism found in the west, it is still a good time to do your Christmas shopping in time to post it home. The advent of the shopping malls has significantly increased this year with most large towns having at least one. The newness of the malls and the warmth from outdoor elements makes them the ideal place to shop in comfort. They offer a wide variety of choice from clothing and jewellery to books, toys and electrical goods and the best thing of all is that they are by no means as busy as malls in the West.


Organising Paperwork

Whilst this is a chore, Bulgaria's love of bureaucracy manes that it is unavoidable. The tax year runs from January to December here and you need to make sure that you have paid your car and housing tax by the end of the year to avoid any penalties. You also need to provide proof of this in your annual tax declaration, but you have until the 31st of March to submit this to the tax authorities. November is the perfect time to do this because there is no snow and the offices of the local municipality are not overcrowded with last minute paper chasers. Additionally, if you haven't re-registered your Bulgarian company, now is a good time to do it!

Gardening

The cold but pleasant weather means it's time to take one last look at your garden and have a general tidy up. This may mean sweeping up leaves and sticks that have fallen form neighbouring trees or tidying litter that has blown into the area. If you want to do some more ambitious projects it is also a good time to tackle making a rockery or a gravel garden although it is now too cold to plant anything. It is also a good time to mend any broken fences or walls, clear out your guttering and to ensure that any exposed exterior pipes are well insulated.

Enjoy November

Most of all, this is a month in which you can relax, yet still enjoy the wonderful landscapes this country has to offer. Pale blue skies and clean, fresh air will lift your spirits and enable you to try out new things you never had time for back home.