Bulgaria is an Eastern European country that has been hidden away from the world throughout the ages, thanks to five centuries of Ottoman rule, followed by decades under the Soviets. But that has all changed. After a rocky transition, the country has joined the European Union, opened its door and has become a prime destination for travellers.
Sofia is characterized by an intriguing balance of the old, very old, and the modern. The little traces of the communist era that remain are getting harder to spot in between the old architecture of churches, theatres, government buildings and other major sights, while the signs of the times of current post-communist unbridled capitalism are omnipresent.
You might hear the words "mutri" or "mutra" being mentioned. They refer to the mafia. There's a general frustration with the political dominance of the mafia. The mutri first appeared following the fall of communism as former wrestlers, bodyguards, and racketeers. They quickly ascended to the boardrooms of major Bulgarian corporations, and are involved in a wide range of criminal activities. The mafia and corruption are still serious problems in the country to this day.
Chalga is Bulgaria's premier pop-folk music, with its catchy tunes and silicone everything. It glamorises easy money, shady deals, luxury cars, aggressive men and promiscuous women marked by an incessant sexual and material appetite, artificial looks and submissiveness. The lyrics are in Bulgarian, but the songs have very catchy beats. Head to Student City to catch the action.