Košice surprises with its creative atmosphere
Košice’s European Capital of Culture Office advises that a number of major tourism media, for example, Budget Travel and Lonely Planet have recommended a visit to the city. There are plenty of reasons for that: six UNESCO World Heritage sites and four national parks are within a two-hour drive, and the High Tatra mountains are a stone’s throw away.
More than three hundred events, large and small, were held throughout the city during the launch of the year of culture on 19 and 20 January. The main street of the Old Town, Hlavná ulica – home to newly renovated St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral and the soon-to-be-extended Košice National Theatre – became the central venue for the festivities. St. Elizabeth’s is the largest building of its kind in Slovakia, and on the evening of 19 January its facade became the stage for a playful light show, while inside a contemporary art installation was opened and Gregorian music rang out.
The official opening ceremony was held at the theatre on the evening of 20 January and was attended by the Slovakian President, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Culture and European Commission Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth, Mrs Androulla Vassiliou. During the ceremony, Slovakians demonstrated the diversity of their culture, mixing the traditional with the unconventional, but keeping back the main surprises for the opening show. Despite the bad weather, about 40 000 people attended the show. Later, popular British band Jamiroquai played to a packed arena.
Most of the cultural programme however, focused on personal experience – Saturday morning discussions with public cultural figures and musical performances in coffee shops, small, but rich in atmosphere, etc. Demonstrating the diversity of Slovakian design, the city hosted fashion shows and meetings with designers.
One of the major Košice 2013 projects is SPOTs – Košice disused central-heating pumping stations have been transformed into open spaces where local residents can participate in creative activities. The project is more than just the tidying up of empty premises, it is establishing cultural infrastructure and open public spaces in suburban districts which have had nothing like that, thus becoming an important catalyst for building a sense of community.
This year’s other European Capital of Culture is Marseille in Francewhich launched its Capital of Culture programme on 12 and 13 January. Next year, Rīga will become a European Capital of Culture alongside Swedish city Umeå.