This is going to be a long read and hopefully not a painful one…
Before laying my story about the team building, I must say that this experience was special for me in every possible way.
To start with dislocating my shoulder for the 6th or 7th time, a couple of weeks before the gathering was a downer. Nevertheless I though that I could be documenting the trip by taking photos. There was a plan for a short video, but the weather conditions totally demolished the idea.
The more important part of this introduction is the fact that I had known only Avi and David prior the team gathering. I met Zlatan and Mirko before, but never had the chance to spend some quality time with neither of them. I had never seen Balázs and Sve live, but only a couple of times on a video chat. I had formed my opinion about each one of them, strictly by our work together and the work environment which was going on when I joined the crew.
FRIDAY, 30 JANUARY — GETTING TOGETHER
I arrived in SOHO at around 9:10am. Very excited about the upcoming events and definitely not ready with my tasks for friday. The plan was that Avi, Mirko and Sve would come there by 9:30am, than Zlatan would arrive around 11am from Burgas (his hometown and one of the two largest seaside cities in Bulgaria), pick me up and drive together to my place, where he could leave the car and his luggage and we then would take a cab back to SOHO. Everything happened in the exact same order.
At noon we went for lunch at a nearby place that Avi picked and we all enjoyed the food there. The guys were cool and we were already enjoying the day together, getting to know each other. At one point Balázs arrived with a cab from the airport and boy was that guy taller than I expected. As I said I had only seen him on a web camera and you don’t get full dimensions there. In any case, he was smiling and very communicative which was a positive thing, considering what was waiting for us the next day.
We continued the rest of the working day in SOHO and around 17:00h Avi went to pick up his car while Sve, Mirko and Balázs grabbed a couple of beers in a local pub. Me and Zlatan went to leave our stuff at home and picked up a car. We then picked up Mirko and set of buying some useful late minute gadgets for the next day. The list featured an SD memory card, some winter masks for the mountain and two sets of snow chains for both cars. Zlatan’s niece was born the same day, so we added up a bottle or two of whiskey to the shopping cart as matters for celebration just extended. Those tasks took some 3 hours, so me and Zlatan finally arrived at home at 9pm. We had some work to finish up, thus each one started working on his project. By 1pm Zlatan went sleeping and I had some more preparing and work to finish up.
SATURDAY, 31 JANUARY — DAY 1
Interesting day was this saturday. Our meeting was supposed to occur early in the morning, instead we met after 9am because of bad weather conditions at the Rila Lakes. David had already arrived the previous night (around midnight), so we finally got to be all together this morning. There was sun in Sofia and I was still hoping for some better weather conditions on the mountain. We set of for Borovets, so the guys could do some ski/snowboarding and the plan was to eventually reach the Rila Lakes hut later in the afternoon.
Everyone was super stocked to finally arrive on the mountain and spent a few hours of pleasant skiing/riding, and in my case getting some rest, taking photos around and having a coffee in front of the ski piste. I actually didn’t sleep at all the previous night but I was feeling happy to have finished everything before the actual trip. I didn’t ever imagine what was actually yet to come, so taking some rest wasn’t that bad.
Later in the afternoon we set of for the Rila Lakes. We parked the car near the piste and the guys checked if the lift was working.
The lift was not working.
So I reduced some luggage, based on the 1h 30min — 2h estimated walk up the mountain to the hut. Guys, this is the moment to thank you for advising me not to take the tripod with me. I was not gonna make it! :)
We reached the hut in three hours and I didn’t pack light. Some 10% before reaching the top, Sve took one of my bags as he saw that I was having real hard time continuing up the hill. Thanks for that, Sve! Have in mind that 7 laptops were climbing up the hill at the same time. I was not the only one having hard time, but I was surely not physically prepared for this exercise. Non the less, this was a real team building experience! There was a snowboard with attached bags to it, that was pulled up the mountain by Balázs, Mirko and I think Sve also pulled it. Avi and David took some stuff on them, as they were doing ski touring instead of walking. It looked very comfortable and I am also thinking of trying it next seasons, when hopefully I will have my shoulder fixed already.
Reaching the hut, I felt like Rocky climbing the steps up to victory, though I didn’t jump as the infamous Balboa, since I was barely able to move. The hut was lacking electricity the previous day, so heating was out of the question. Taking a hot shower provided an epic moment of it’s own ( though it took 10min for the hot water to actually start it’s lifeline but the wait was worth it). I took a short nap and walked up a couple of hours later to have a quick drink with the guys and we all went to bed.
SUNDAY, 1 FEBRUARY — DAY 2
The next day I saw how bad the weather could actually get and realised that we had it easy.
Everyone gathered for breakfast and we had a refreshing start of the day. Avi, David, Mirko and Balázs, decided to go for skiing/snowboarding and taking the lift back or climbing to the hut (I think that they took the lift as the weather got a little less windy by the end of the afternoon). Me, Zlatan and Sve stayed put to keep the room warm for the others. We watched half of a documentary but eventually stopped it and continued with talking and getting to know each other. At some point the rest of the crew got back from their wild adventure. Mirko and Balázs looked like they had enough action for two days. Avi and David still having energy, decided to do a second run down the mountain and do ski touring back to the hut.
While they were on their “getting out of my comfort zone” mission, we poured some whiskey and started playing the cardboard games that Mirko and Balázs had brought along. An off topic: ski touring looks like robots moving up the hill. It actually looks like walking, but more machine like than real walking so imagine a couple of colourful robots moving towards victory, crashing snow walls on the way.
Music playing, laughs were cracking, whiskey was pouring and the time we were having was awesome. The touring duo got back from their trip and joined our free spirit thing going on to finish up the day with super positive vibes. I don’t remember of a complain made from the neighbours due to great laughter, but we sure did deserve it.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2 — DAY 3
This was a crucial day. The 7 laptops that I was talking about earlier, were largely meant to do us good on Tuesday, when we had scheduled to live stream an event. The internet connection at the hut was actually pretty fast, before the internet cell froze and it completely stopped working the day before.
Monday was a sunny and clear day. There was a lot more snow than two days ago and conditions for ski/snowboarding were great. The lift was also working, so it was actually the perfect timing to act securely and re-arrange our previous plans, or actually perform plan B. We decided to spend the whole day on the mountain but first take our luggage down with the lift, while it was still functional. This meant doing the stream on Tuesday from Sofia, so we were going back to the city the same night. Zlatan and me took the lift down, renting a special luggage carriage. This was a huge relief, since the snow was actually much more than the previous two days and it would be sketchy to take everything down the mountain by walking, skiing or snowboarding. The rest of the crew hit the powder down the slope and by the view that was revealed to me and Zlatan on our way down I can imagine that they had lots of fun. You will be able to read through each one of their stories.
Comparing the weather conditions from the previous two days, Monday looked like a walk in the park. Blue sky, lots of snow, calm weather and trees everywhere…an epic feeling! Everyone being there (and I’m not talking only about us 7) had their smiles up to their ears. It was a truly awesome way to conclude the going back to the city day. We spent the whole day on the Rila Lakes and headed to Sofia in the late afternoon.
A few days back, someone came up with the idea that If our winter plans go wrong, we could do some Go-Karting. It was the exact time for this, so entering Sofia actually took us straight to the karting track. Since we are all boys, this was an awesome event for everyone. Some fresh excitement was pouring in the air, as we did the registrations and got our racing masks. It was yet again a different, fun activity that we could do together and having in mind that it was just a short burst of fun it left a significant mark for the whole five days period that we spent together (guys, I’ll get a GoPro camera next time! I kind of regret not having one throughout the whole time). Balázs and Mirko did the best time. Some of us got warning flags, but hey I think that the situation was “don’t hate the player, hate the game” kind of type. Clearly enough, we were all talking about the karting for a while after the race.
From the racing track we headed straight to the Raketa Bar. An awesome place which is not really a bar, rather a cozy restaurant with a vintage look of the times before the democratic reforms in Bulgaria. It is situated on the outlines of the Zaimov park, which in it’s own part is a beautiful place. Long story short, it was the best possible place to lower the speeds from the few days before.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3 — GOODBYE
We met at Betahaus at 9am the next morning. It is another co-working space located in Sofia, and totally different from SOHO. Here is the right moment to say that in our particular situation, doing SOHO the first day and Betahaus the last day was a good order, no matter we didn’t plan it so. The room that we spent our time in SOHO was far from anything else going on around the place and we had some time together. This in my opinion was good for a proper start of getting to know each other. Having spent already 4 days with the team, Betahaus gave each one of us the ability to find a spot and focus on getting back on track with work, after four days of total fun. It is much more spacious and we all managed to find a spot next to each other, but still having some free space around to work and think clearly. Having said that I should note that remote work is great, but having the ability to see the guys is giving me heads up and I love talking. It’s crazy how, one could say so much words in such a short time and still not have enough time to say everything. You can guess that I needed to teach myself one or two things for people to be able to bear with me. Haha.
After the stream ended, Zlatan and Avi headed to Varna (again a seaside city in Bulgaria. I still can’t decide which one I like most, but both are really nice. Specially in the summer time). The rest of us (David, Balázs, Mirko, Sve and Me), headed to a local restaurant called La Bottega. By that time I was thinking that we are going back to Betahaus and continue working. Instead the guys proposed to spend some quality time in the city, as it was the last day of our time together. I think that it was Balázs who proposed to try an interactive game, called “escape rooms”. Some of the guys had already played it in Budapest and it sounded like a very good idea. After a few calls and a quick research, three different variations appeared in Sofia.
We headed to the one called 3 Key Rooms, and on the way there we did a short downtown tour. The game was fun and we completed it for 47min, which appears to be a good time compared to previous players. I guess a good team work is of great importance to accomplish it.
From that point on, we all took on our separate tasks. David and Balázs went on a photo shooting, Mirko went to see a workshop back in Betahaus, Sve went home and I did to.
It doesn’t end here though. Balázs was flying to Budapest the next morning and David was flying to Brussels, so both had the will power to get together in the nighttime. I finished up some work at home and headed straight downtown to meet them. We went to the Roderic bar. A nice small bar, located in the heart of Sofia.
My conclusion is as follows: There were ups and downs during those five days (talking mainly about the bad weather here). No matter what was going on, the crew had a positive vibe and a never-ending thirst for new experiences. I had the chance to spend some time with each one and I wish we could do this more often. This was a great way to start the new year and although it is not the exact beginning of the year, rather the end of the first month, it surely feels like the beginning of an awesome year! Thank you for this!