Discover Guimarães and Maribor, the 2012 European capitals of culture

, by Renaud Dallet

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Discover Guimarães and Maribor, the 2012 European capitals of culture

Europe is rich and diversified by its history and culture. Guimarães, in Portugal, and Maribor, in Slovenia, are two witnesses of this. We invite you to discover these two cities, proud of their past and looking to the future.

Guimarães, true token of the Portuguese history

Originally the First Portuguese capital, now European capital of culture, Guimarães is a true historical token of the country.

Situated by mountains in northern Portugal, it has 161, 876 inhabitants, and is the country’s third city, behind Lisbon and Porto. It lies in the valley of the Ave River. On top of Latito mountain, known as the Holy Hill, sits the castle, built to protect the city during the 11th century, and Mumadonna’s monastery, another symbol of Guimarães. You can find it in the valley. The city then tops the fertile meadow that lies to the sea. The city walls, dating back from the 13th century, circle these two major landmarks. Its nickname “Cradle of Portuguese nationality” is still relevant today and is revealed through its MiddleAge architecture. UNESCO ranked the city as a World Heritage site in 2001.

The population of Guimarães is one of the youngest in Europe: 50% of the inhabitants are under 30. This influences life quality and the people living there symbolise a youth carried by an active culture and constitute a reference for 2012.

Since May 2011, Portugal is the beneficiary of an aid plan from the EU and IMF. On its side, the government reduced the funding of the Guimarães2012 project as a result of budgetary rigour and decreased funds for culture. The organisers thus had to adapt to a budget cut of about 20%, which is around 25 billions Euros. The overall budget of Guimarães2012 now culminates at 111 billion Euros and is divided in two parts: one, of 70 billions, dedicated to achieving the realisation of the necessary infrastructures and the other, of 41 billions, to the implementation of the cultural program. This last part is composed both of national and local funding (23 billions) and of structural funding (28 billions), mostly through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

IN total, 600 events have been planned for the Guimarães 2012 cultural festivities. The city organised the programme at the pace of the four seasons. The first part proposes a series of shows and indoor exhibitions in a warm atmosphere that stimulates encounters and everyone’s imagination. As for the spring’s part, period of risk and experimentation, the castle will be put forward as a metaphor of the great contemporary questions such as emigration, the future of Europe and the aspirations of the European people. Long live summer vacations! The weather will be up for partying in the streets of the city. We will celebrate life and freedom.

On 7 July, visitors and inhabitants of Guimarães are invited to celebrate the White Night. It will incorporate public spaces that are part of Guimarães’ history and integrate every interactive, commercial and cultural activity in the city. Open to all, this night will put forward contemporary creativity in all its forms. But now, it’s time to make room for autumn and the last part of the cultural program. Autumn presents a new face and thus a new city and new spaces. During this cycle, artists’ organisations will take part in debates about ways to transform the cultural strategies and policies of creation, mobility and circulation. Last but not least, to close the festivities, the inhabitants of Guimarãaes will be able to admire, on 22 December, the pluri-disciplinary show prepared by numerous Portuguese artists in order to celebrate this year, 2012, during which their city was the European capital of culture.

Maribor, the link between Austria and the Balkans

Very close to the Austrian border, Maribor is the link between Austrian and Balkans cultures.

Maribor is the second biggest city in Slovenia with 112 642 inhabitants. It developed itself at the foot off and on the green slopes of Pohorje as an important seasidedestination, especially for winter sports. It is even nicknamed the “Alpine city.”As it is located in the middle of a mountainous but also a silvicultural(wine growing) one, the city has many vineyards. There you can find, people say, the oldest vineyard in the world. Touristic farms and wine cellars are opened in order to make people discover their products. Maribor’s charm operates best when walking on the forest’s footpaths alongside the Drava, the river that is tributary to the Danube, a few minutes away from the centre of the city. The old city was witness to a glorious past. Maribor is both a modern shopping centre and one of the main tourism destinations in the country.

In November 2008, the jury and the Slovenian delegation claimed that the Maribor 2012 budget would be around 200 billions Euros, among which 143 billion would be dedicated to the infrastructure, the rest being spent on the cultural programme.

In May 2011, the situation changed: only 90 billions Euros of fundings were left, including 41,78 billions for the implementation of the programme. It was only at the end of 2011 that the budget was stabilised at 16 billions Euros, with 1,5 billions coming from the European Union. In these times of crisis, such funding wasconsidered exceptional. Despite the numerous complications in the implementation of Maribor 2012, it’s worth noting that Maribor already is the theatre of a sparkling cultural life. The festival Lent ( takes place every year in the city and is one of the richest and most important in the Balkans region. A living cultural panorama of the city will be supported by investments aimed at the renovation of historical and cultural buildings in Maribor’s partner cities: the MurskaSobota’stheatre park, the house of composer Hugo Wolf and Anton Podbevsek’s theatre in Novo Mesto. We therefore have to notice that Maribor won’t be innovative in its already existing cultural activities. Would the city have been chosen because of the Slovenia’s financial situation as well as to show the country’s vivid cultural life?

Articulated around four pillars, the programme is composed of 412 projects that take into account the cultural effervescence. It is built upon existing programmes in theatres, cinemas, art galleries and other cultural institutions. The first pillar looks for a reflexion on the key questions of our era, the problems of the future and particularly the contemporary role of the artist.

With more than 100 projects, the second pillar wants to give a new youth to the city historical centre. A wielder of old and recent history, the evolution of Maribor will be illustrated until nowadays with a central focus on lost or repressed memory.

The third pillar of the cultural programme of Maribor 2012 focuses on a long-term vision of the development of society. Based on the theory of social ecology, this perspective prioritises the realisation of concrete projects to improve the quality of life. The second direction of this polar will try to promote the insertion of minorities in the social fabric.

The fourth and last pillar of Maribor 2012 is centred on the role of information and communication technologies and is twofold. The first chapter is about presenting the programme as a whole, thanks to the internet and Radio Mars (, an online radio that will also be the virtual archive of Maribor 2012. Eventually, the second will go from communication as such to reflexion on communication. To achieve this, researchers and artists will question both the cultural production of Maribor 2012 and the culture of non-communication, the individual and collective fears. Maribor, 2012 European capital of culture will try to impose itself as the crossroad of central Europe, a place looking at social questions and progress.

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