The European Capital of Culture programs in Pécs, southern Hungary, kicked off in January and the city awaits visitors with more than 450 programs in 2010. Pécs is one of the best venues to go to this spring.
“HUNGARY HAS TWO CAPITAL cities this year,” said Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai at the official opening press conference of the cultural year. “This is a possibility and at the same time responsibility, too. Pecs has become Hungary’s show-window for a year.” The Pecs2010 European Capital of Culture official opening programs in January attracted approximately 15,000 people from Hungary and abroad– more than ever before at an event in Pecs.
The most successful happenings have been the exhibitions and programs dealing with fine arts, and the events of the Pecs Spring Festival in March-April. Tickets had been sold out for most events in advance. With regard to popularity , it did not matter whether it was a Hungarian or an internationally renowned production – foreign and Hungarian tourists as well as the citizens of Pécs appreciated the talented Hungarian performers and programs. “Pecs is a hospitable, amicable and a cheerful city. Local people love their home town and aim to convey their feelings to tourists. We can represent the region remarkably - and not only Hungary but Slovenia and the autonomous Vojvodina province in Serbia, as well.” declared Pecs Mayor, Zsolt Pava at the press conference.
At the end of March, the international director of Essen2010 European Capital of Culture, Hans-Dietrich Schmidt, visited Pecs. “As I see it, both Pecs and the Ruhr region are still ‘construction sites’. But our most important task is that we should make everybody realize that the recent investments in progress are basically for the citizens and the communities living in these areas. They will serve them, and not only in 2010 but for many decades on.” reassured the director.
Strolling in Pecs
Besides the many cultural programs that the city offers for a year, it is worth just wandering around the streets of Pecs. The city has been able to preserve its architectural heritage of thousands of years in excellent condition. The early Christian city under the ground, the Mosque, the Minaret, the Turkish chapel, the small houses of market gardeners, the palaces decorated with Zsolnay ceramics and the relics of Bauhaus architecture all contribute to the exciting and colorful character of Pecs. Thanks to the richest Roman finds in the entire Central European region, in the year 2000, the historic center was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list of universal cultural values.
Credit must be given to the internationally renowned Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory for the beautiful frontages and roofs of buildings in Pecs richly decorated with ceramic tiles. The more than 150 years old Zsolnay products characterize the image of the city very strongly. The oeuvre of the Zsolnay family can also be seen in the museum bearing their name. Due to the cultural year, EU fund tenders created a possibility to develop one of the biggest investments in Pécs, the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter. Contracts were signed in July 2009 and the implementation began immediately. The handover takes place step-by-step, throughout 2010. Among other venues, the new building of the Pecs Gallery and the Sikorszki exhibition house will be placed there.
In public squares and on the walls of houses, one can see a special combination of op-art and street art on display – from Victor Vasarely. His name is closely associated with Pecs. This program is designed to make the Vasarely legacy more visible, accessible and livable through street actions, light paintings and in several other ways.
If you happen to visit Pecs after May 21 and walk to Dom Square, you will find the Flying Grass Carpet there by Dutch designers. Variations of it had been shown in several countries. The huge synthetic grass exhibit with unique patterns is diverse not only in its colors but also in its feel because the different parts are made of different kinds of synthetic grass. Spread out in the centre of the city, which lacks green space, it gives new meaning to public space, just as one would be in an ordinary park. People can lie down on the grass carpet, play ballgames, organize an urban picnic, or listen to a concert or a lecture.
A memorable event, such as the European cultural year in Pecs should not be forgotten and fall into oblivion without leaving a trace. Preventing that is the purpose of the Future Stone initiative. Future Stones are small pyrogranite plates made in the Zsolnay Factory for distribution at the Pecs2010 InfoPoint (7 Szechenyi Square). In return for a symbolic contribution of HUF 2010, anyone wishing to do so may draw or paint a personal message on one of these individually numbered plates. The buyer of a plate will receive a certificate confirming that he or she has left a personal trace in the borderless city. After drying, each plate is taken to the Zsolnay Factory for firing, and then they will go on public display.
Take part in festivals!
The Spring Festival in Pecs is a celebration of classical and contemporary arts. The main endeavor of the organizer Pecs Cultural Centre is to present the best of traditional cultural and artistic values of the world, Europe and Hungary. It is held until April 12 with The King’s Singers, the jazz organist Rhoda Scott, the world famous Hungarian opera singer Andrea Rost and many more.
The Fringe Festival is held on April 9-11. The festival was first held in Edinburgh, Scotland and then from 2006 in Budapest, too. The essence of the Fringe is that both well-established artists and talented amateurs seeking world fame can present their acts.
The Golden Routes program series wishes to commemorate the medieval historian and author Evliya Celebi who saw Pécs in 1663 not as a declining settlement under Turkish rule but as a ‘jewel-box’ abounding in fountains, mosques and rose gardens echoing the song of the nightingale. The two concerts, held on April 23-24, begin with the sound of the dervish flute, also mentioned by Celebi, and progress to the extremely popular Oriental melodies of today’s Istanbul.
‘Travel around the Turkish crescent’ is an all-genre art festival on May 9-29 presenting the culture of Turkey through four fields of art: photography, music, literature and film. The planned programs include dancing dervishes, Kurdish folk dance and dance house, a Sarikamis Orchestra and an Arasinda Band concert. The 21st Pecs Folk Days on May 20-22 are offering a representative sample of the traditional music of nations living in the Carpathian Basin. The festival features bands and musicians playing authentic instrumental and vocal folk music as well as productions seeking new ways of expression: world music and crossover projects. Concerts are followed by dance houses in the evenings.
Mihaly Munkacsy’s Christ Trilogy: Golgota, Ecce Homo and Christ before Pilate were transported to Pécs in March and can be seen until October. The rarity of this exhibition is that Munkacsy himself never saw all these three large pictures, portraying the suffering of Jesus Christ, next to each other.
The extremely successful travelling Mosaic exhibition from Ravenna was established by the Italian municipality and contains special copies of the worldfamous mosaics of Ravenna. The collection has been travelling all around the world since 1951. The mosaic copies fully match even the hollows and bulges that were left behind by the fingers of the makers of the original mosaics. It can be seen for a month from April 10.
Go to concerts and shows!
Ennio Marchetto is a prize-winning Italian comedian recognized all over the world. He has created his own stage language; he is “the living cartoon film”. Viewers can watch his magical metamorphoses on April 26 while listening to background music: during a show, he turns himself into over fifty different cultural icons using the tools of mimicking and dancing.
Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance on May 4 is a genuinely Irish production, an exciting and fascinating dance performance that combines traditional and modern Irish music and dance with show elements. A tale becomes animated: the Lord fights with the Evil King, and eventually triumphs with the help of a good fairy. During its ten year history, the performance has filled the Wembley Stadium in London 21 times and achieved great success all over the world.
May 9 is the Day of Open Churches. Contemporary music based on church music and traditional motives will be played in the sacred places of the different religions represented in the city. However, this time the concerts of a different religious denomination will convey the message of religious tolerance in the sacred places of each religion.
Discover the region as well!
An organic part of the touristic attractiveness of Pecs is the world-class and far-famed wine culture of South Transdanubia. The Villany-Siklos wine route is the first wine route of our country, along with its worthy partners, the Mohacs-Baly White Wine Route and the Pacs-Mecsek Wine Route.
Hungary’s first adventure park, Bikal Renaissance Adventure Estate opened its gates on April 1. On the 7.5 hectar site visitors can learn about the life of a complete medieval village in a truly interactive setting. The park’s aim is to present the historical and cultural values authentically and lively.
For further information, visit the bilingual website of the cultural year!