P. G. White - 2013-01-12
Cultural tourism is on the up and up, and the European Capital of Culture 2013 title has brought the international travel lens to focus on a relatively little-known gem of Central Europe: Košice.
The fact is, Košice had a lot going for it even before its position as ECoC gave it extra momentum. A pluralistic culture; a dynamic past defined by its location near Hungary, Poland and Ukraine; dazzling landmarks; worthwhile museums; budget-friendly prices; lots to see and do nearby - especially for nature lovers - and a general aura of charm spring to mind.
Košice was awarded the ECoC title on the basis of its Interface 2013 project, characterised by four aspects of interface in the city: transformation and change, dialogue, openness and inclusiveness, and environmental protection. Their slogan? We Support Creativity.
The 2013 festivities kick off with a flurry of opening ceremonies on 19-20 January. But they are really just the beginning; the year is so full of events of every conceivable kind that it’s difficult to choose just one period for a visit.
Music is your thing? A virtually unbroken string of performances, from annual festivals to prestigious ECoC venues, are on offer in Košice this year. One highlight is the midsummer Concert of Understanding, where professional musicians, teachers and students from all over Europe who practise different genres come together for a musical dialogue. Performers from the city’s sizeable Roma community are active participants in this effort to build bridges through music.
The visual arts inspire you? Religious art, street art, Andy Warhol, mixed media: as with the other branches of the event, ‘We Support Creativity’ really makes sense here. There are participative arts programmes for inhabitants of every corner of the city, up to and including the Soviet-built council flats on the outskirts of town.
Interested in literature? Košice is celebrating the printed word in its myriad forms, and especially the work of the late writer Sándor Márai (‘What Kafka is to Prague, Márai is to Košice’). Of Márai’s sixty-some novels and diaries, many are now translated from the Hungarian and their rediscovery is creating a buzz in literary circles.
There’s also plenty of dance, theatre, photography and cinema, naturally, as well as the ‘popularisation’ and rehabilitation of public spaces, such as the SPOTs project where heat-exchange stations and other disused Soviet-era spaces are being transformed into ‘culture points on the edge’.
The city is investing in inventiveness in view of long-term change. Artistic director Vladimír Beskid defines the project’s goal as ‘the transformation and development of the city through the strong injection of culture, and the active participation of residents of the city and of the eastern Slovak region... ...creating a new “hot” cultural point on the map of Europe.’
Return flights from London Heathrow to Košice via Vienna on Austrian Airlines start at around £312. www.austrian.com/
Two direct trains daily from Budapest’s Keleti Station, 3 ½ hours. www.bahn.de
The Euro is the national currency.