Updates from IBD: Postcard from Bulgaria—A Cultural Immersion

Здравейте отново! (Hello again!)

Despite the ongoing rain, chilly temperatures, and occasional thunderstorms, our spirits have not been dampened (even though our original plans to drive to the world-famous Sunny Beach and the Black Sea resort town of Varna had to be scrapped) and we have made the best of the situation here.

Last weekend people in Bulgaria enjoyed a four-day long weekend—celebrating the culture as well as the graduation of many of the youngsters. We got a first-hand look at how families and friends here celebrate a high school graduation—and let me tell you, it is quite boisterous—with lots of family gatherings, parties, dances, and honking cars speeding down the avenues…

To take advantage of the long weekend, we took a series of day trips outside of the capital city of Sofia…

The first one took us to Rila Monastery. We rented a Renault Symbol and drove for a couple of hours to the famous 10th century establishment, which is located northeast of Sofia. The Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical, and architectural monuments. 

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We ran into tourist groups from many parts of the world and as you can see, it is a majestic place and blends harmoniously with the Rila Mountains…Image 

During this visit we also got a pleasant surprise–we ate some of the best/freshest donuts that we’ve had in a long time!

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…and yes, we were all fascinated with the machine itself!

The next day we set out to Veliko Turnovo, a city in north central Bulgaria. Due to the inclement weather we mostly did a driving tour of the town–stopping from time to time to take some pictures and capture the beautiful scenery. Again we saw amazing architecture and old churches that have withstood the test of Father Time–including the ruins from the fortress Tsarevets. We also found an abandoned structure that has been covered in graffiti…and decided to take this fun group picture:

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Finally, our third day trip took us to a small (ancient) museum town called Koprivshtica:Image

We drove along narrow streets and cobblestone roads (the rain created a lot of potholes along the way!), visited an old mansion that is now a museum (only costs 1 Leva to enter!), and had some delicious Bulgarian food at a family restaurant called Dyado Liben (food pictures below).

These day trips provided a great bonding experience for all of us—from singing random songs in the car (we didn’t have our own CDs and radio reception was spotty in the countryside!) while eating ice cream, to discussing similarities and differences in culture, customs, and political systems of Brazil, South Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. I have definitely learned a lot from my three amazing teammates over the course of this trip and we all have gotten to know each other a lot better.

Last week we also got a chance to meet with a distinguished alumnus of Berkeley-Haas, Mr. Istvan Polony (MBA Class of 2001) in Sofia. Mr. Polony, a Hungarian native, has been active in the telecommunications sector in Bulgaria for a few years and just recently served as the CEO at Blizoo Media and Broadband (formerly CableTel-Eurocom). He provided a lot of valuable insights for our team on Bulgaria’s ICT (internet and communications technology) sector—its competitiveness, core competencies—and how this new Sofia Tech Park can help grow this sector further.Image

We’re continuing to work on our final presentation for the Ministry of the Economy, Energy, and Tourism. We will be presenting everything on Thursday afternoon and we’re expecting a large and diverse audience. We sincerely hope that our presentation will help trigger a meaningful and constructive dialogue not only between our team and the Ministry, but also among the different stakeholder groups for the Sofia Tech Park.

This is the home stretch of our IBD journey and it’s hard to believe that it’s almost over! We’d like to end this post by indulging you in some of the food pictures that we’ve taken (both traditional and non-traditional dishes)…enjoy!Image

From Maraia Fusion Bar and Diner near the Ministry building 

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From a small French establishment in Sofia

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Amazing combo salad from Dyado Liben!

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We have come to love the traditional Bulgarian bread!

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One hearty meal!

Finally–IBD Team Bulgaria recorded a short video during one of our weekend outings–sharing some of our thoughts about the experiences here. You can see the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtuzSbO-AFE&feature=youtu.be

До следващия път! (Until next time!)

Hassam Hussain, Seung Ho Song, Danilo Tavares, and Benny Du

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