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University challenge Benji Lanyado
Benji Lanyado is a third-year student at Manchester University. This month, he visited Sofia, the Bulgarian capital.
What's special about it? Although the easy Jet effect is well and truly under way in Eastern Europe, Sofia has so far been spared the stag-do trampling suffered by the likes of Prague and Krakow. Still to burst forth from the sinewy hold of a residual communist culture (mafia-run nightclubs, etc) the Bulgarian avant-garde can be found lurking in the dimly-lit corners of the capital, intellectually battling the forces of chalga, the local Turk-tastic disco phenomenon.
Best place to stay The Art Hostel (21 Angel Kanchev, art-hostel.com, £5 per night) is as much a cultural hub as it is a bed for the night. Local bestubbled indy types flitter in and out, grumbling over shots of rakia, presumably plotting a revolution (or discussing Pete Doherty's chord progressions, you can't be sure). With a Parisian mentality and a Russian thirst for liquor, this is a base for the confused protagonists of Sofia's subculture. "We're not really an underground," explained one patron, "maybe more of a basement." Like joining a family for a few days, with seemingly never-ending parties at the weekends, this is quite possibly the coolest hostel in Europe. Price includes slap-up brekkie and complimentary resident Irish philosopher.