11 September 2017
I just got back (Saturday) from two weeks in Sofia Bulgaria, observing and certifying the acceptance testing of a contractor’s installation of a Command and Control (aka “C2”) system for the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MOD). The trip was initially scheduled for three weeks but our team finished up the work early so we scooted home early.
This was my second trip to Sofia this year – I had a whirlwind 5-day trip back in June (three days traveling, two days of meetings) to provide engineering support to a project that had been on-going for about five years.
This flight over was a three-hopper (Boston-Newark, Newark-Munich, Munich-Sofia) which took about 21 hours, counting layovers. We left on a Friday and arrived on a Saturday (flights east are cheaper overnight) so had Sunday available for travel recovery. I spent the day walking around the city with a colleague and his wife (she had joined him on the trip as a vacation for her). Got some pictures of the city as we walked around.
We stayed at the Sofia Hilton for the two weeks – a very nice hotel. My usual routine was to get up around 6:15am, shower, get dressed, and hop on the internet for an hour catching up on news and checking work and personal email. Sofia is seven hours ahead of the US’s east coast, so it was about midnight when I was connecting; I’d get the score of the day’s Red Sox game (I actually caught the end of the 19-inning game live via NESN-Go game streaming), some local and national news, etc. The team would gather in the Executive Lounge for coffee and a light breakfast, then hop a cab to the Ministry of Defence building. Cab prices in Sofia are dirt cheap – a cab for the four of us to travel the 2-3 miles to the MOD would cost 4 lev – about $2.50.
We’d get to the MOD about 9am, badge in to the building, work until 12-12:30 or so and head up to the officers’ café on the 9th floor for a hot Bulgarian-style lunch (soup and salad and a main dish) served restaurant-style (not a cafeteria), which cost us about $1.50. Then we’d work until 5:00pm or so, badge out, grab a cab (another $2.50) and head to the hotel.
Sometimes a few of us would head out to a restaurant for dinner while the others would hang around the hotel and hit the lounge or the bar for a light dinner. One night we went out with the Bulgarian Military folks we were working with to Chevermeto (ЧЕВЕРМЕТО), a cultural restaurant with traditional folk dancing and singing, Bulgarian cuisine and drinks. Lots of fun.
The weekend Saturday we stayed over four of us took a tour to a 10th century local Christian church (Boyana Church) and then took a two hour bus ride into the mountains south of Sofia to visit a 10th century orthodox monastery (Rila Monastery). Photos and video from that trip are here.
The trip home was a little more direct (SOFIA-MUNICH, MUNICH-BOSTON) but still took 16 hours with the layover. It was a long trip but was productive, successful, and educational! Glad to be back home though! I may be going back in the spring, but nothing finalized yet.