A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bucharest

March, 2014. I was tacking some leisure travel onto a wedding trip from San Francisco to Finland, and decided to go to Eastern Europe in the off-season to see what it was like without tourists. (In the time I spent in Prague and Budapest, I knew there was something about the East that I liked, and I suspected that I would like it even better in the winter–so maybe Bucharest?) I had in mind to deduct the trip as a business expense, and so I told myself I was looking for programmers. It turned out, the cheapest way to get to Bucharest was to fly to Sofia and take a train from there. I never miss the chance to see a new city, so I arranged to stay overnight in Sofia to check it out.

Late-night taxi from the airport to a dark street on a rainy night. No Bulgarian money. Late night beer and bready snacks at a pub that Google Maps had somehow missed. Restless sleep on an uncomfortable bed…

But in the morning I determined to find whatever tiny piece of Sofia¬† I could sink my teeth into. Searched for maker spaces in Sofia, found an address, and started walking. But when I got there, there was just a big grey apartment block. I stood outside and watched for a few minutes. When a guy with a laptop bag stepped out, I caught the door and went in. Dark stairwell. Though I couldn’t see, I climbed the first flight–nothing caught my eye. The second and the third still looked residential. I kept climbing.

Finally on a door at the sixth landing was a familiar penguin. I pushed the door open a bit. The flat must have been six hundred square feet. Just inside the door, twenty or more guys and gals sat engrossed in an informal but very thorough MySQL training session. I had found my people.

Six hours later, I had rented a flat on Oborishte for a month, and I had a list of a half-dozen people to talk to.