Bulgaria. What a fantastic place.
First off, the food is fantastic. Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering anything off the menu, and everything is good and full of protein. Even the yogurt is so much better: it is the high protein thick European kind, not the starchy type proliferating on supermarket shelves in the US.
The city of Sofia is beautiful. The downtown is very walkable. Of note is the main boulevard, Vitosha (think W. Broadway in Soho), which is lined with boutiques. At night, Vitosha is canopied with evenly spaced Christmas lights. It is a fun place to hang out after double workouts. Even the old communist buildings are not as soulless looking, in contrast, as the lanes of identical high rises in Bucharest.
The people are great. After initally reserved greetings, most Bulgarians seemed to warm-up easily and were very easy-going and layed-back. .. so easy going. This is, ofcourse, in contrast to 40+ hours a week working in the Boston area, where every thing is rush-rush-get-out-of-my-way-stop-holding-up-traffic-rush-rush.
And then there is weightlifting. Would there be any better place to train for competitive weightlifting. Bulgaria is weightlifting’s Mecca. Bulgaria is home of how many world, Olympic, and European champions? It is home of the elusive “Bulgarian training system”. This is what brings me to the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation earlier this month.
Ivan and I arrived at a federal looking building on Vasil Levski, home to Bulgaria’s sports’ federations. At the end of a U-shaped (maybe L shaped) hall on the 4th floor is the weightlifting federation’s office. We meet with General Secretary Tenev. We walk into an office, about the size of my kitchen and living room. On the back wall is a large trophy case completely full with gleaming metallic cups and medals.
Instantaneously, I think back to the times I have visited the USAW office during my numerous National JR Squad training camps at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The magnitude of the Bulgarian team’s acheivements hit me — so many championships. I can’t help to think that I never saw as an exuberant collection of team trophies back at the US OTC. More so, it is a feeling of admiration and respect for the accomplishments of Bulgarian Weightlifting and inspiration for what can be.
We sit at a large oblong conference table. Initially, Tenev seems formal, reserved, professional. Svetalina, a lawyer of the consulting company hired by the federation, translates the conversation for us. A highlight of the conversation is Ivan remarking “Weightlifting is the universal language” and Tenev agreeing with animation, no translation needed. We leave with training details, promotional posters, and our first of many great experiences in Bulgaria. I have only good things to say about the federation and General Secretary Tenev.