A Great Opportunity: Plovdiv as European Capital of Culture

Written by on September 24, 2016 in Bulgaria - 2 Comments

It all started in 1985, when Bulgaria was still part of the Warsaw Pact and ruled by a communist dictator. Melina Mercouri was the Greek Minister of Culture back them. He came up with the idea of the European Capital of Culture. In his honor, it was Athens’ turn first. 

Since then, 54 cities have been European Capitals of Culture, but very few in this region. Thessaloniki was the closest one to Bulgaria, when it took that role as early as 1997, when our teenage children were not even conceived yet.

Every year, two cities become European Capitals of Culture. This year, we have San Sebastián (Spain) and Wroclaw (Poland), in 2017 it will be Aarhus (Denmark) and Pafos (Cyprus), in 2018 Leeuwarden (The Netherlands) and Valletta (Malta). In 2019, the big moment will arrive for Bulgaria, when both Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv will be Capitals of Culture.

In the past 31 years, this role has made a difference indeed, boosting the cultural, social and economic development in cities. First of all, planning an event of this kind and magnitude brings people together, within the city. On top of that, the cultural aspects a city offers are being rethought and reinvented, in many cases. In some towns, which have been European Capitals of Culture, the number of museums increased. 

On top of that, cities like e.g. Essen, not exactly the most beautiful town in Germany, have improved and prettified their centers. The latter leads to more visitors, even after that year of being the Capital of Culture is over. 

Highlighting the richness of European diversity is another important aspect. This promotes mutual understanding and, at least in theory, strengthens Europe. There is yet another important aspect: This whole thing about European Capitals of Culture is a project by the European Union, an organization which is being perceived in a negative way by many, because of exaggerated regulations in Brussels, because of the refugee crisis and for many other reasons. But this is different. No sane person will see anything negative about reviving a city’s culture. This is Europe the way it should be. Exchange, partnership, culture, tourism and all.

What Plovdiv is concerned, it is already experiencing a revival, according to the Financial Times (read story), and it already offers attractive cultural events, such as concerts at the old amphitheater, or the Night Festival, which ends today. Being one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2019, is an additional chance for the second-largest city in Bulgaria, to get out of Sofia’s shadow, to be recognized more as a travel destination and to develop even further.

Culture and revival. Is this the kind of Europe we want? Is this the kind of Bulgaria we want? Definitely.

By Imanuel Marcus


Plovdiv, European Capital of Culture in 2019.
Plovdiv, European Capital of Culture in 2019.



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