Thursday, March 29, 2007


I just returned from Sofia, Bulgaria, and what was my first trip to Eastern Europe, so I was not quite sure what to expect.

First It goes without saying that our team of developers there is incredibly talented and dedicated. They are passionate about the work and were a pleasure to meet with. I'm grateful for the hospitality they showed me.

I was eager to taste the cuisine of Bulgaria -- though people struggled to name many dishes that are truly Bulgarian (and not, say, Turkish) other than various dishes and drinks featuring yoghurt , which I found was first discovered by the ancient Bulgars in the region. I especially enjoyed a dessert made with yoghurt, honey and walnuts.

From what I can tell the city is an interesting mix of Old World Communism attitudes and architecture and New World capitalism. It seems to be going through growing pains and trying to find its way, which it undoubtably will. There are a lot of abandonned Communist-style concrete factories and office building everywhere and new apartment buildings being built in between the ruins.

Western High-Tech is taking advantage of the skilled local workforce, with HP and Microsoft among others setting up shop recently. A gleaming new terminal at Sofia's small but substantial airport welcomes you. It's very new. Lots of stores aren't open yet.

The U.S. State Department has recently finished a new embassy in Sofia near our office - built in the new style -- set back from the road, surrounded by steel, very few windows and no doubt lots of technology. The hole dug for the foundation I'm was told was massive.

The Dow Jones office is in a small flat in an unmarked appartment building (no company name anywhere "for security reasons").

The Rule of Law is seems to an outsider somewhat arbitrary. People seem to drive and park however they wish. If you want to prevent people from parking on your sidewalk in Sofia you apparently put up steel pilons. Walking to the office was a bit of an obstacle course around parked and moving cars. And there is a bit of a laid back attitude. I was amused and scared by one of our cab drivers who was watching his TV mounted next to his steering wheel as he was driving.

Heads of companies are routinely killed in the street by precision rifle shots, I hear, because they run up debt and can't pay. This is backed up by the CIA World FactBook which states "corruption in the public administration, a weak judiciary, and the presence of organized crime remain" are the biggest economic chllenges for Bulgaria.

I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer to see the countryside. I'm told the mountains and the sea are beautiful. Ah, a reason to return.


Kandel said...

I enjoyed reading your story from Bulgaria. I was in Albania in November as part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip to talk to journalists there about covering organized crime. When you get time, check out my blog on the trip. Sounds like we had similar experiences with the traffic and the Turkish food.

John said...

Wow I was just in BG for a month. I believe you may have left out a few things though. Rakia, that is a good drink. Stray dogs and watching where you step. All roads leads to the Alexander Nevsky church. All the Ferrari and Porches for some reason in the yellow brick areas(Government area). Shopska salad and yogurt is the main Bulgarian food. Bulgaria has so many holidays as well. If you get to go back check out the city of Plovdiv. Check out my previous blog entries on Bulgaria

daniela barbosa said...

lucky you glenn- i get to visit exotic places like sunnvale ;-)

Matt said...

Sounds like a great experience and it's great to hear first-hand about the team there. Try any Shumensko? I need a review.

It's not Sofia ... but greetings from Beaufort, S.C.