Bulgaria's oldest city honored as European culture capital
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Plovdiv is the oldest city in Bulgaria. It has been officially named the European Capital of Culture for 2019.
Some 50,000 people gathered on a main square. They watched the opening show. It was dubbed "We are all colors." It had 1,500 local and foreign artists. They were on several stages. The entertainment included traditional Bulgarian folk dancers. It included 200 choir singers. It included a brass orchestra. And it included a musical and laser spectacle.
Plovdiv is squeezed between the Balkan and the Rhodope Mountains. It is Bulgaria's second-largest city. It has survived for thousands of years. It is on the crossroads. It is between Western Europe and the Middle East. Plovdiv is in central Bulgaria. It is 90 miles southeast of Sofia. Sofia is the capital.
Plovdiv claims to be the oldest continually inhabited European city. It has more than 6,000 years of history. Evidence of that can be seen in many architectural landmarks. They date back to Thracian times. They date back to Greek times. They date back to Roman times. They date back to Byzantine times. And they date back to Ottoman times.
The city is on both sides of the Maritsa River. It is also known for its ethnic diversity. It has 340,000 inhabitants. They belong to the country's many minorities. It includes Turkish people. It includes Roma people. It includes Armenian people. It includes Greek people. And it includes Jewish people. All of them have quite a strong influence on the city's vibrant cultural life.
Examples of this influence were presented during the opening show. There was music. There was a light show. There was dancing. They all were presented under the motto "Together."
Some 350 cultural events are scheduled in Plovdiv this year. They include exhibitions. One features fragments of the Berlin Wall. This year will mark 30 years since its fall. Another exhibition has 30 short films and debates. These focus on how art can foster liberty.
Plovdiv is the first Bulgarian city to become a European culture capital. It was also named among The New York Times' list of 52 places to go in 2019. It shares the 2019 culture title. It shares it with an Italian city. That city is Matera.
"This year will be a turning point for Plovdiv. We have spent four years to prepare all events. I'm sure that Plovdiv will never be the same," said Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva. She is the art director of Plovdiv 2019.