THIS YEAR'S European Young Geotechnical Engineers' Conference was organised by the Bulgarian Society for Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering with sponsorship from the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE).
The British Geotechnical Association was represented by the winner of the 2001 Cooling Prize Competition, Fleur Loveridge of Mott MacDonald and ICE Yorkshire Geotechnical Group paper competition winner, Michael Brown of the University of Sheffield.
A total of 37 engineers representing 19 European countries attended the conference, as well as keynote lecturers from Austria, Portugal and Hungary including the past and present vice presidents of the ISSMGE.
The event provided an opportunity to learn about and discuss the latest developments in geotechnics throughout Europe in both construction and research environments.
This balance of industry and research gave delegates insights into the working practices and day to day lives of people with varying backgrounds.
Discussions of the day's events often carried on into the early hours, helped by the fine Bulgarian red wines and local beers.
Papers were given by each delegate. Loveridge presented her work on the prediction of temporary prop loads in braced excavation (GE August 2001) as well as helping the organisers by giving a short history of Bulgaria, along with an introduction to the local geology.
Brown gave an introduction into research on the influence of loading rate on pile behaviour in fine grained soils being carried out at the University of Sheffield.
The Bulgarian society extended a very warm welcome and provided a packed programme of events including visits to the Bachkovo monastery, Plovdiv old town and Sophia.
An evening of traditional culture including local food, folk songs and dancing proved to be a particular highlight.
The delegates' enjoyment and interaction was enhanced by the conference location, the St Cyricus and Julitta monastery which lies in an isolated position in the Rhodope Mountains south of Plovdiv.
With only one road in or out, there was no escape in the evenings. This resulted in much sampling of the local customs and traditions in the monastery bar.
The British delegates found the event a rewarding and enlightening experience both technically and socially.
It was also a chance to make new friends and learn how a British geotechnical engineer would approach working in other countries.