In June, we had our first official meeting of the European Capitals of Culture family. It was hosted by the 2023EΛΕVΣΙΣ (Eleusis 2023) team from the Greek city of Elefsina, which will be next year's European Capital of Culture. In addition to International Relations Manager Terina Slezák Barčáková, Programme Assistant Veronika Juricová was also at the meeting and wrote up the experience for all of us.
Regular meetings of past, future and current European Capitals of Culture are held in a different European city each time to maintain regular contact, establish cooperation and exchange experiences. Since winning the title (December 2021), we have become part of the European Capitals of Culture meetings for the very first time, thus joining the family. We have met with teams that we have already managed to get to know during the candidacy. But we also met a lot of new people and exchanged contacts.
The meetings are also a place of inspiration and learning. These are our top three experiences:
1. Elefsina is a small town that does not have enough places where the program could happen. Therefore, they must somehow invent and use what the city offers. For example, the former olive oil factory where they built an amphitheater and a beautiful atmosphere. We saw breathtaking acrobatic performances by Greek and French artists. We had chills long after it was over.
2. The Opening Ceremony is the biggest event of each European Capital of Culture, we can imagine it as a winter festival of culture. This year we wrote about the opening ceremony of Novi Sad, Kaunas or Esch. The ceremony is a great opportunity to involve locals and a huge promotion of the city abroad. The Eleusis 2023 team has prepared an extensive workshop on this topic. We went through the opening ceremony in terms of the artistic program, communication, production, and infrastructure and also the involvement of locals. We received a great deal of useful information that we will draw on in 2026.
3. After an interesting and exhausting walk that connected streets and places with people's stories, our program announced that the Symposium was upon us. Hungry and tired, we prayed that there would be some food. The Greeks surprised us. We arrived at an unconventional community center where several long tables had been set up with drinks and plates. The food was prepared for us by the local folklore association and the Cretan Association of Elefsina. We were served traditional dishes from the area around Crete and Epirus - feta cheese comes from these places and was complemented by other cheeses, honey, olives, snails, their traditional appetizers, as well as main dishes such as lamb with rice cooked in a lamb brine. Dining, eating and drinking, chatting, and live Greek folk songs added to the fantastic atmosphere. The locals didn't wait long and started to dance. The steps are simple, so we joined in and danced until we got tired. It made for an unforgettable evening.
Elefsina won't be the European Capital of Culture until next year, but we felt as if it was already the cultural center of Europe.
Read more about the meeting and check out pictures on Eleusis 2023 website.