Bulgaria's oldest city honored as European culture capital
Plovdiv is the oldest city in Bulgaria. It has been officially inaugurated as the European Capital of Culture for 2019.
Some 50,000 people gathered on a main square. They watched the opening show dubbed "We are all colors." It had 1,500 local and foreign artists on several stages. The entertainment included traditional Bulgarian folk dancers and 200 choir singers. It included a brass orchestra and a musical and laser spectacle.
Plovdiv is squeezed between the Balkan and the Rodopi Mountains. It is Bulgaria's second-largest city. It has survived for thousands of years. It is on the crossroads between Western Europe and the Middle East. Plovdiv is in central Bulgaria. It is 90 miles southeast of the capital, Sofia.
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 and Greek times. They date back to Roman and Byzantine times. They also 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 that belong to the many different minorities. This includes Turkish and Roma people. It includes Armenian and Greek people. It also 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 music, light and dance show. It was all performed under the motto, "Together."
Some 350 cultural events are scheduled in Plovdiv this year, including exhibitions. One exhibition features fragments of the Berlin Wall to mark 30 years since its fall. Another exhibition will have 30 short films and debates that 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 with the Italian city of 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," Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, the art director of Plovdiv 2019, told reporters.