Plzeň in the Czech Republic and Mons in Belgium are Europe's cultural capitals for 2015. Inaugurated in 1985, cultural capitals highlight the diversity and richness of European culture, while also fostering a European identity. More than 50 cities around Europe have already had the honour and since 2011 two cities from two different EU countries share the title each year. Read on to find out more about this year's cultural capitals.
Plzeň, about 90 kilometres west of Prague, boasts 170,000 inhabitants.It was first documented as early as 976 and has been a town since 1295. The city centre has been under cultural heritage preservation. One of Plzeň's claims to fame is the Pilsner beer, a type of pale lager, created in 1842.
For this year more than 600 events have been organised, ranging from concerts to exhibitions and artistic interventions.
MEP Jiří Maštálka, a Czech member of the GUE/NGL group, who lives in Plzeň, said there was a lot to discover in the town. “The world associates Pilsen mostly with famous Czech beer and engineering, but Pilsen more than deserved to become the European capital of culture," he said. "I would not hesitate to invite Pilsen's visitors to the new and modern theatre building as the 150th Pilsen’s theatre season just started. We also value traditions and local songs and dances in Pilsen, that are being brought to life by dozens of child and adult performance groups. Finally, there is the beer: we have been brewing beer in Pilsen since 1295! We gave the name to the world famous pils beer type and there is a lot to learn about beer, brewing and beer culture all around Pilsen.”
Mons (Dutch: Bergen)
Mons, which has a population of more than 93,000, gets its name from Montes for the mountain on which a Roman fortification was built. MEP Maria Arena, a Belgian member of the S&D group who was born there and studied there, said she has many dear memories from when she was living in Mons. She recommends people who visit Mons go to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The city will host many events in 2015 as part of its stint as European cultural capital. The Mons Fine Arts Museuem will show a Vincent van Gogh exhibition about his time in the region until 7 April. Just outside Mons are the buildings where the Dutch painter used to live and they are open to the public. In addition five new museums will open, such as the Mons Memorial Museum, which shows the area's history during the two world wars.