Thoughts on Bulgaria


We had a very nice few days in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia visiting with friends. We were hosted by Bill and Kalina Mays and they showed us the best of Sofia. The picture above is from lunch at Kalina’s parents apartment. They prepared a traditional Bulgarian meal, as with all Balkan countries, it was heavy with meat. We also sampled Hristo’s homemade rakija and I learned the origin of the Šopska Salad, which is from Bulgaria. We were quite satiated and were touched by the warm hospitality. 

Owen is pictured in the hip downtown of Sofia

We were very impressed with Sofia and the city had a positive vibe, similar to Belgrade. In many ways, Bulgaria is very similar to Serbia and it could have easily been part of Yugoslavia. The Bulgars call the Macedonians brothers and they share pretty much the same language. Serbia should have closer relations to Bulgaria, as they share the same religion, a Cyrillic script, and I understood much of what was said and the Bulgars understood my Serbian. 

A good feature of the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe is plenty of public space and Sofia has many parks. The communists put people in small apartments and the city planners put in a lot of common, public space like parks and plazas. Today if makes cities like Belgrade and Sofia have many green areas spread throughout the city and enhances the community feel. 

The Russian Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia

Bill and Kalina not only treated us to fine dining and drinks, but they were tour guides for the important museums and churches of the city. Above is the main cathedral of Sofia, and it was built in honor of the Russians and others who helped the Bulgars repel the Turks. The Turks were here for a long time as well! 

I would like to thank Bill, Kalina, and their beautiful daughter Maggie for a wonderful visit! We hope to meet up again in the spring here in Belgrade. 



The Dragons Win Bulgarian Basketball Tourney

“March Madness” is a nickname referring to the end of the basketball seasons. The American universities and high schools complete their seasons in the month of  March. I am a coach of the high school boys’ basketball team at the International School of Belgrade. March Madness started a bit earlier for us as we won the basketball tourney this weekend. It was hosted by the Anglo American School of Sofia, Bulgaria. We played against four private schools in Sofia over two days of competition. Yesterday afternoon we defeated the Sofia Christian Academy in the finals, by a score of 53-49. It was a great weekend of basketball and besides having fun, we improved as a team. We are preparing for our Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) basketball championship in two weeks in Riga, Latvia. The Dragons are now 9 wins and 5 losses for the season. We have 2 more games and then we are off to Latvia on March 9th.

Ollie With the Trophy

I also made is a father-son weekend by taking Oliver on the trip. The little guy was a trooper and was patient during all of the games. We went to Burger King three times and swam in the hotel pool. He would sit on the bench next to me and draw pictures. I would then have to run him out to the school’s playground between games. He was a fan favorite there and everyone knew his name. He is a charismatic little fellow with a ton of energy! It was nice to be with him alone and not with his brother and sister. Oliver kept wanted to get food or toys to take back to Belgrade  for his big brother Owen.

Third Place in Sofia, Bulgaria Tourney

Showing Off the Medals

This weekend the ISB basketball team finished third out of six teams in Sofia, Bulgaria. We were short-handed as you can see with only 7 players making the trip. We also had 4 freshman on the tourney squad. The kids really played well and we lost to the eventual tourney champion in overtime. They played five games in two days. They used the same format as in CEESA events with a running clock, only stopping for free throws and dead balls in the last minute.

We all had a great time. It also gave me a chance to see an old friend from my village in Michigan who lives in Sofia. Overall a fantastic weekend.

MS School Girls’ Soccer Team Wins in Sofia


We had a great trip to Sofia, Bulgaria this weekend. It was my first CEESA sporting event. The Middle School boys’ and girls’ soccer teams traveled the 7 hours to visit the Anglo American School of Bulgaria. We played two games, one on Friday afternoon and the second on Saturday morning before heading back home to Belgrade.

The girls arrived in Belgrade moments before the game. After a long bus ride due to traffic on the “Ring Road” in Sofia, the girls were a bit lethargic. Yasemin however, scored the first goal of the game within seconds of the kick off. AAS then proceeded to reel off 5 unanswered goals. ISB played much better in the second half after some adjustments were made. Striker Natasa scored a goal and we ended up tieing the second half, 1-1. That was a portend of things to come.

The players then went with the host families and spent the night in Sofia. They made some good friends and saw a different way of life. That is a big part of the CEESA sport exchanges.

On Saturday morning the ISB Dragons were hungry for revenge. The combination of Yasemin as sweeper and Natasa as striker paid off as they combined for four goals. Johanna was incredible in goal making numerous stops, allowing only one goal. ISB won the game 4-1 and evened the goal differential between the two games at 6 goals apiece. A fitting end for two well played games.

All the girls showed improvement during the season. The dedication to practice and games really showed. Standouts on defense were Ana Maria and Natasha. They continually frustrated AAS by clearing the ball out of bounds. Midfielders Tamar, Charlotte, and Vanessa, although being small physically, were big in performance and really played well. ISB played both games without substitutes and a much younger team than AAS. They are to be congratulated for their fitness and teamwork.


Most Valuable Player (Girl of the Match) Yasemin G. clears the ball.
Most Valuable Player (Girl of the Match) Yasemin G. clears the ball.



I would like to thank the parents of the players, Coach Jamie Van Drunen, Athletic Director Will Clowney, and AAS Athletic Director Murray Te Huti for their efforts in making the season and the trip a big success!!!