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Unattractive prefabricated apartment blocks from the post World War II Soviet era rise from the city's farther reaches. Rakovski Street, Sofia's Broadway, is lined with theaters. So are dance clubs, where a mix of Serbian and Turkish pop/rap called chalga -- and widely disdained by the intelligentsia -- attracts young nouveau riche.
On a Saturday night, the scene is just revving up when Boyanin and I pop into Sin City, one of Sofia's cavernous nightclubs featuring late-night chalga performances.
The city is full of delightful surprises, from the yellow brick roads in its historic center to the partially exposed, 1,800-year-old Roman city that lies beneath.
You can enjoy a 60-minute Bulgarian rose massage in the ruins of a 3rd-century coliseum for about , or take in an outdoor opera performance for less than .
Earlier, we'd dined at Pod Lipite, a popular eatery that serves specialties like wild boar with plums. Bulgarian meals invariably start with shopska salad -- tomatoes and cucumbers topped with grated feta cheese. It can be hours before people get around to ordering a main course, Boyanin notes."When the first Mc Donald's opened in 1994, people would stay for hours," she says. But several streets, such as Angel Kanchev, harbor small shops owned by young designers crafting one-of-a-kind clothing, jewelry and more.
Despite its centuries-old roots, Sofia didn't become a capital until 1879, a year after the Russians liberated the country from 500 years of Ottoman rule.