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Europe's Three Capitals of Culture Prepare for 2010

December 17, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox

Next year, Europe will have three capitals of culture in Istanbul, Turkey, Essen, Germany and Pecs, Hungary. Like the Olympics, the resulting attention often brings infrastructure projects that revitalize the local economy while showcasing creativity.

Istanbul is pulling out all the stops with a Frank Gehry-designed opera house, renovated Topkapi Palace Museum and a refurbished Atatürk Culture Center. Even the iconic Hagia Sophia has been given a major spruce-up. A dazzling cultural calendar includes such blockbuster events as a U2 360º concert on September 6. Visit or

Essen is officially a cultural capital for 2010 but the events will take place over the entire Ruhr region. This once blighted area is showcasing its achievement in transforming a vast industrial region into a hub of artistic creation and beauty. The Gasometer in Oberhausen, for example, once a gas storage tank is now a vast exhibit space hosting “Out of this World,” the world’s largest walk through recreation of our solar system, through 2010. In Mülheim, a water tank now hosts the world’s largest walk-in camera obscura, a darkened room where images from 10 miles away are projected onto a huge disk.

Other highlights of the region include the Center for International Light Art, and the Zeche Zollverein, once Germany’s largest coal mine, now a museum with coal-blackened walls. Duisberg’s Landscape Park, a former iron works, is a multi-use park where rock climbers ascend the walls of former storage bunkers, bicyclists ride down elevated paths that once served raw material-laden trains, and skin divers descend into an water-filled gas tank filled with a sunken plane and car. Lots of good hotels, restaurants and a bustling nightlife draw a diverse, hip crowd. For Ruhr 2010 events, visit or

Pecs has been multicultural since Roman times, and today bears strong traces of Turkish culture. The third European Cultural Capital, Pecs steps up to the plate with a super spectacular Spring Festival March 15-April 9, covering all the bases in music, dance and folk art. Among the headliners are American jazz musicians Pat Metheny, Bobby McFerrin and Al Di Meola, as well as the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

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