As the designated 'European Capitals of Culture,' two little known cities -- Mons, Belgium and Pilsen, in the Czech Republic -- will host year-long festivals, art exhibits and concerts in a bid to live up to their new status and raise their tourism profile.
Designated years in advance by the European Union, the program is meant to raise a city’s visibility on an international scale and offer destinations the chance to highlight their rich, cultural offerings and diversity. This year, Mons and Pilsen share the spotlight and will throw hundreds of activities, shows, and exhibits between them over the next 12 months.
One of the most highly anticipated events out of Mons, Belgium is the Van Gogh exhibition, which focuses, not on his years as a painter, but his former life as a preacher for the poor mining community of the Borinage, south of Mons. The exhibit takes visitors through this crucial period, when Van Gogh decides to abandon his career as a preacher to become a painter.
Highlights out of Pilsen include a circus-themed festival, with a major show in November involving seven troupes from France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, and a nine-week ode to all things Baroque in the summer, including period music, theater, fireworks and gastronomy.
Pilsen is located in the northwest of the country. The opening ceremony for Pilsen is scheduled for January 17 while the opening festivities for Mons are scheduled for January 24. For the calendar of events, visit http://www.plzen2015.cz/en and http://www.mons2015.eu/en.