When filming in Europe we very rarely accept invitations for fancy gatherings or meals from local officials or VIPs. (In Tehran, working on our Iran special a few years ago, we even said no thanks to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who invited us to meet with him.) It just gets in the way of our work. But I love Bulgaria, so we made an exception when the US ambassador to Bulgaria, Eric Rubin, invited us for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful evening in Sofia (Bulgaria's capital) with Ambassador Rubin, his wife Nicole, and his staff. It was a more casual dinner than their norm, and we (especially my East Europe co-author, Cameron Hewitt, who's joined us for this shoot) enjoyed a fascinating evening "wonking out" with Eastern Europe experts.
While so many Americans are cynical these days about our civil servants, we came away thankful that we have smart, experienced, and hard-working people like Ambassador Rubin and his staff. They are dedicated to maintaining stability in this complicated corner of our shaky world. The thought that someone as experienced as Rubin could be replaced by a new president with a political appointment (a crony or fund-raiser) who had no previous experience or interest in that country (as often happens) is heartbreaking. Ambassador Rubin assured me that it generally happens in the nicer posts (Norway or Ireland, for example) where the cronies would enjoy living -- rather than the tougher, more challenging posts like Somalia or Pakistan. (Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, for example, was sent to Japan rather than Kuwait.)
I felt funny shooting a video in his living room. But I wanted to share with you a quick look at the evening and the lovely place where the USA entertains in Bulgaria. By the way, Ambassador Rubin is the gregarious guy with the brown shirt gesturing at the end of this clip.
This is Day 45 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.