Top Tips to Survive a Bulgarian Winter
Anyone facing a winter here for the first time will hopefully find these tips useful but for veterans of the coldest season, you’ll know all about how to get ready for winter. Nothing really prepares you for what’s in store when the real winter comes so as long as you’re warm and have enough food, the rest is easy! From my own experience, no two winters here have been the same: from minus 25 for days on end, to more milder years with clear blue skies and crisp, white snow – as opposed to ice rinks on the roads. So, here are some top tips to survive a Bulgarian winter.
1. Keeping Warm
- If you haven’t ordered your wood, it’s time you did! Ordering wood too late in the year makes it more expensive and doesn’t leave much time for the wood to dry out so will be more difficult for it to burn.
- If you don’t know the last time your chimney petchka (wood burner) flutes were cleaned, it might be a good time to dismantle them and have a thorough clean up.
- Alternatives to use alongside burning your wood are sunflower brickets which can usually be found from local suppliers.
- To help keep the fire going, use a combination of wood with brickets before you go to bed, that way it’ll keep the fire going for longer and easier to reignite in the morning.
- It’s also good to have some logs and kindling somewhere dry close to the house, or even better, inside, in case you wake up to a big snowfall through the night and have to dig yourself out to replenish your wood supply!
2. Stock Up
- In the weeks leading up to the winter months, start over-buying your essentials to ensure your larders are fully stocked.
- If you have pets, ensure you have enough food for them too!
- Include candles and batteries on your shopping list! It can be common for the electricity to go off, even in cities, but it usually comes back on within a few hours although it can be longer in some situations.
- Village shops will usually open as normal for your basics if you do run out of anything.
- Enjoy the rewards from the year’s garden supplies to indulge yourself some hearty dinners.
- Most of the time public transport runs as normal but if you’re driving a vehicle, you should be changing your wheels to snow tyres (November to March).
- Carry snow chains, blankets and make sure you have enough fuel to keep your engine running if you end up getting stuck anywhere.
- Generally speaking, most of the main village roads are snow ploughed and the main routes should be relatively clear.
- For pedestrians, beware of thawing icicles and snowy rooftop landslides falling from above!
- If snow arrives too early, look out for broken branches falling too as the trees can’t withstand the weight.
- Otherwise driving in Bulgaria is the same as normal 😉
4. Water Works
- If you’re not planning on spending a winter here but have a house, then water should be drained from tanks and pipes so they don’t freeze and when the weather thaws, you won’t find yourself with burst pipes.
- Top tips include pouring salt down the toilet and/or cistern, and you could even use anti-freeze down your drains.
- If temperatures are extreme, keep taps on a slow drip to stop them freezing.
- You should also check your roof for broken tiles and possible leaks.
- Cover your water meter with old rags to make sure it doesn’t crack under the cold.
5. Everything else!
- Clearing your garden and using the dead wood for kindling is a great way of recycling but make sure you bring in any plants that won’t withstand the cold.
- If you’re a keen gardener, you can plant your winter produce such as onions, garlic and winter lettuces which will all survive a severe winter and be ready to eat come Springtime.
- Keep a snow shovel close to your door – you never know if you’re going to be 2 foot under when you wake up!
- Don’t leave keys in doors in case they freeze and keep WD40 handy for frozen locks.
- Listen out for rats, pine martins and other rodents living in your attics; this time of the year is prime for them coming in out of the cold.
- Use wood ash to spread around paths and driveways; it’ll help with slippery areas and also to thaw out the snow quicker but it might be better to salt on pathways around your house as you and your animals will be constantly be bringing in ash footprints!
It’s not all doom and gloom! Head to one of Bulgaria’s ski resorts such as Bansko, Borovets or Pamporovo to have yourself a winter holiday. Or, alternatively, stay indoors and warm yourself in front of the fire with a few glasses of rakia to keep the winter chills away!
Anything I’ve missed? Feel free to send in your top tips to survive a Bulgarian winter in the box below.