WE'VE GOT MAIL

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Great topics, excellent layout and high-class pictures/illustrations. I was amazed about the amount of inside information (that you can only get in Bulgarian which I don't speak yet) and the fact that Vagabond is a very interactive magazine with a lot of contests and forums, directed to both Bulgarians and foreigners.

Hardly any other European country can boast with a magazine with a concept like yours, at such a high level in both style and diversity.

Congratulations and keep on like that!

Jerry Schu, Luxembourg-Sofia

Dear Vagabond,

My wife and I were avid readers of your magazine whilst we lived in Bulgaria, but due to family reasons we have recently returned to the UK after two and a half years in Bulgaria.

We got quite used to the some of the quirky ways and traditions of the Bulgarian people and even some of the ways businesses operated, but my main gripe is with the way the real estate companies function. When we first went house hunting in 2005 we let various agencies know of our requirements for the right property. These included the price range, the size and state of the property, and most important to us, the location. But did these agencies listen? No is the answer. We went over three times on viewing trips and spent many wasted hard earned £££s, hours in the back of agents' cars travelling hundreds of kilometres viewing properties that just did not even come close to our requirements.

We wanted to be within about 17 km of Sandanski but were shown properties close to Gotse Delchev, some 60 km away and due to the roads. Then there were the properties up in the mountains past Popina Laka, yes, they were close to the 17 km distance we specified, but again the state of the mountain roads meant a very slow and precarious drive, not to mention that the area was not accessible in the winter due to snow! One agent told us that there would be no problem with winter access and that the community lived in all year round. Wrong! After we eventually moved over in 2006 we went up there in March to have a look and could not get within about 2 km as my large and capable 4x4 was stuck in the snow!

The other thing is that houses we saw in 2005 are still being advertised for sale some three years later. I know that some of the houses take a long time to sell but not all. I revisited the web site of the agents we eventually bought from and was dismayed to find that the house we had bought in November 2005 was still up for sale, even though we had owned it for nearly two years and had subsequently sold it to another British couple in 2007. I contacted the company via email but as yet have no reply, no surprise there then.

Why do these companies show you totally inappropriate properties which don't even come close to your requirements and why do they continue to advertise properties that they know are no longer on the market? Surely under the EU umbrella they are guilty of misrepresentation or some other breach of EU regulations. These companies really give Bulgarian real estate a bad name when it comes to dealing with the British buying public and when you challenge them about being shown inappropriate properties they just appear to make an excuse and shrug it off.

I am sure that a very large majority of your readers have similar tale to tell. What can be done to put a stop to this?

Thomas Singleton, ex resident of Harsovo and Laskarevo, near Sandanski

Dear Vagabond,

This summer holiday I was driving to Varna with my husband and I noticed the billboards with an adorable new born infant, in foetal position with the slogan, Iskam bebe. This aroused my curiosity and I asked my husband what this was all about. I was informed it was part of a drive to encourage Bulgarians to have more children. That got me thinking. Which sane person in this place would want kids? The system can hardly cope with the kids it already has. Screw Iskam bebe! Iskam kindergarten for my four year old son!

My son is a victim of the highlt efficient Bulgarian education system. We did like every good law abiding Bulgarian citizen does early in February and registered via the Internet, so my little one could go to kindergarten. But because I am not connected, or my uncle'scousin's aunty is not the Who of Whosville, he did not manage to get a place, even though several other children managed to get in, regardless if they were in the correct group or even on the waiting list. The universe works in mysterious ways in these parts of the world.

So we duly investigated the private option. Expensive is all I have to say. My theory is... some ministers, somewhere, have purposely created a shortage of kindergarten places, so plebs, like us, have send our precious little ones to their private establishments. I actually wonder who owns these schools? And I would like to see how much profit they make? Is the Iskam bebe campaign a way to ensure these private kindergartens have future clients?

So if we follow the billboards advice of Iskam bebe, what is actually going to happen to these kids when they have to be educated? It is just another example of the great foresight this government has, but at least they put a new coat of paint on the slide in the park next to the kindergarten... so I know they really care.

Trudy Leonie Haralampiev, Zimbabwe

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