The British community in Kosharitsa, near the Black sea, brings some island habits to these warmer climes
For a dozen Britons, paradise has a name: Kosharitsa. Some four miles west of Sunny Beach, this is the village they now call home.
Most of them lived in the north of England, but didn't know one another before they came here. Now, settled for good and showing no sign of wanting to return to the UK, they consider themselves part of the local community. They've even organised an expat club which meets regularly on Thursday evenings. Its purpose, however, is not to set them apart from the rest of the villagers, but to find ways to better integrate in the local milieu.
Angela and David were among the first to come to Kosharitsa. They were fascinated by the scenery and the quiet, relaxed way of life. “Originally, we planned to buy a retirement home in Malta.” But they came to Bulgaria for a week and stayed in Sunny Beach. “It was all dunes and fewer hotels at the time. We were lucky to go to Kosharitsa and immediately fell for it. There were goats and cows grazing in the fields. The food was excellent – natural, fresher than in the supermarket. And the view was magnificent.” For two years now, they have been permanent residents of the village.
“Bulgaria was Europe's best-kept secret,” adds Julie. She and her husband Joe came on a two-week holiday in 2002, but stayed an extra week. They returned the same year and rented a villa for another 12 months. Then they bought a house and settled here. “Bulgaria has a kind of magic. There is this fantastic breeze kissing your cheek. It's a place of opportunity. I wish we'd discovered it 10 years earlier,” Julie continues. “And anything grows here,” Joe exclaims. “Where else in the world can you get such tomatoes?”
Like them, Anna and Peter first came on holiday five years ago, attracted by what they saw on A Place in the Sun. “There were almond trees around the village and only donkeys and Ladas in the streets. It was so peaceful and quiet,” says Peter. They decided to take early retirement and have been living permanently in Kosharitsa for the past two years. “I recently went to the UK for a while and I cried – I wanted to be back here,” Anna says.
“For me, it's the perfect place to be,” adds Ray. “There's no stress, the climate is excellent and the environment is good.” He came to Bulgaria on business four years ago and, like many other Brits, decided to look around for a cheap retirement home. “I've made some very good friends here,” he says. Mike, the quietest in the group, nods in agreement.
And these friends aren't all fellow Brits. “We're trying to fit in with the local community,” David says. Initially, the villagers regarded them as rather exotic. Now, the expats and their neighbours often help one another: doing simple repairs, chopping firewood or shopping. “If we'd had to buy neighbours, we wouldn't have been able to afford them. They're so good,” David sums up.
Later this month the club will be introducing something of a British institution to the village: the car boot sale. With the proceeds they hope to acquire second-hand tools and some of the crochet work which the local women make and sell to tourists in summer. “There's an orphanage in the village,” says Angela. “Perhaps we can buy toys and books or arrange a Christmas party for the children.”
Of course, life isn't all roses. There is the language barrier: “Bulgarian seems to be the most difficult language in the world”. But they have already arranged to have Bulgarian lessons with Elena who runs the restaurant where they hold their meetings and has been their “guardian angel” since they arrived.
Another difficulty is getting hold of local information in a language they understand. This is one of the reasons behind their club: to share the knowledge and experience they've acquired, often by trial and error, about such everyday matters as the whereabouts of a good butchers in Burgas or an Englishspeaking doctor in Nesebar. In this respect they say that Vagabond has helped them a lot.
Many changes have taken place since their arrival – not all of them for the better. The concrete jungle that is Sunny Beach is relentlessly advancing towards the village. The almond trees are becoming less and less as they make way for new houses. But for now, there are only a few specks of cloud in the sky. This expat community consider themselves lucky to have found their retirement paradise in Kosharitsa.