Monday, February 04, 2008

Sofia Confidential

Been to a few places in Europe but now for something completely different. New business directions have caused me to arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria. Its among the newer outposts for outsourcing and private equity deals. I was under the impression that it would look something like Prague (which I love) but its nothing like that. The taxi ride to the city center reminded me of East Germany, 5 years before the fall of the Berlin wall! Bulgaria has had a tough history after being under Turkey for so long and then kinda under the shadows of Russia, and only recently liberated in 1989. As the country has been bombed before, its difficult to find nice dated architecture, except for some cathedrals. Coming out of the planned socialistic economy, most of the buildings are drab and bleak.

One thing though, the people seemed nice, at least the cab drivers and sales people do not even try to rip you off. Weather wise, its a killer. Its 8 degrees C in the day and -8 at night, and I said "harsh winters huh"... and they replied its spring time. Could be worse, could be in Russia.

I also have the unique feeling of probably being the only Chinese, Malaysian or even Asian in the city after walking around for half a day. Its a weird feeling. Always try the KFC of each new country I visit as its a good way to compare produce. The chickens are smaller here, and they tend to fry them much longer till they are dark brown. Chicken tastes a bit bland, like in Australia.

On the plane from Vienna to Sofia, I felt a bit like in the middle of making Bourne's Identity. Guys around me looked a lot like the gangsters in the movie. But anyway, its looking like a place moving up the ladder fast, should be using full Euro conversion within 3-4 years. People are nicer, and not as angry or rude as in Hungary or the Slovakia / Balkan belt. But still, Bulgaria is not a place for romantic escapades.

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