Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to host Cultural Month

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NEW YORK -- It is as old as Troy, but its democracy is a mere babe. The pride of Bulgarian tourism, the city of Plovdiv is on the visitor map in eastern Europe because of its charming old city center. This year Plovdiv will add another attraction when it hosts European Cultural Month May 28 to July 24.

The event was launched in 1991 by the European Union as a way to showcase cities in nonunion countries, encouraging them to aspire to the organization's cultural and eventually political goals.

ruinsA spokesman for the culture festival said one of its themes will be the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's collapse and the demise of the communist eastern bloc, of which Bulgaria was a member. "But we will also showcase Plovdiv's 7,000-year history and its role as a crossroads between different ethnic groups and religions," he said.

More than a dozen indoor and outdoor venues have been reserved for the event, including several museums in the Old Town and an ancient 2,500-seat theater. Key performances include an international opera and ballet festival during the first nine days of June; an international chamber music festival June 10 to 20, and an international classical guitar festival June 22 to 28. Hundreds of concerts, exhibitions, puppet shows and theatrical presentations are slated, including performances by at least 12 groups from the U.S., the spokesman said.

Two years ago Ljubljana, Slovenia, received 25,000 visitors when it hosted European Cultural Month, a number Plovdiv can easily match, he said. Plovdiv's tourist draw is its well-preserved monuments to several eras -- its Old Town was awarded a medal by Unesco for having been restored with great attention to detail. Fortifications, mosaics and monuments date to Roman times, but there are also colorful examples of Bulgarian Revival architecture and evidence of the Turkish presence over the centuries.

Currently, the city is the site of a Novotel, but there are also many small pensions that have been recently refurbished.

Friendship Ambassador Foundation in White Plains, N.Y., is custom-designing tours and will pay from 10% to 15% commission, depending on the group's size. Friendship Ambassadors. Phone: (800) 526-2908. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.faf.org

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