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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Europe prepares for cultural boost
By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

EU flag
Ten new member states join the European Union on 1 May, each bringing with them a rich musical, artistic and literary heritage.

BBC News Online looks at what each of these countries will bring to the cultural landscape of the European community.

CYPRUS

Though Cyprus remains primarily a tourist destination, the Roman, Greek and Turkish influences that have shaped its history have left it with a diverse and fascinating cultural heritage.

The country has a rich legacy of folk music but is better known these days for its contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest - where it invariably gives "douze points" to Greece and vice versa.

Ayia Napa, the island's most popular resort, is synonymous with the clubbing scene, though its reputation has been sullied somewhat by violence and the loutish behaviour of some tourists. (Mercury Prize winner Dizzee Rascal was stabbed there in 2003.)

Concerts and plays still take place at the Roman open air theatre at Kourion.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Prague's Old Town Square
The architecture of Prague's old town is renowned across the globe
The Czech capital Prague is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe. The Czechs emerged from communism with vibrant music, theatre and art.

Writers Milan Kundera, Ivan Klima and Josef Skvorecky are the best known internationally of the new wave of Czech authors, following on from the influence of Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka. The country has a long tradition of puppet theatre which continues with Prague's Puppet Museum.

Architecturally, Prague has one of the most complete old towns in eastern Europe, and is sometimes dubbed The City of 100 Spires.

ESTONIA

Like the other two Baltic states, Estonians rallied round their folk music during Soviet times. In 1988 the Singing Revolution, which heralded the start of the downfall of the USSR, began at the Song Grounds near the capital Tallinn.

Novelist Jan Kross and poet Jaan Kaplinski are among recent Estonian writers who have won international plaudits.

Tallinn has a small but comprehensive photography museum, and another that recreates the historic old town in the days when Estonia was run by Hanseatic traders. Its Old Town is also one of the most complete in Europe, recognised by UNESCO.

Like Latvia, Estonia recently hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

HUNGARY

Robert Capa
Robert Capa was born Andrei Friedmann in Budapest in 1913
The folk culture of Hungary managed to survive decades of Soviet occupation and is once again flourishing - the Hungarians have almost no linguistic links to neighbouring countries.

In the past Hungary gave birth to musical pioneers such as Liszt and writers including poets György Somlyó and prose writers Imre Kertész, Géza Hegedus and József Darvas.

Budapest was heavily damaged during World War II but has many thermal spas and old buildings.

Outside of the city attractions include the Hungarian Museum of Photography, inspired by the exploits of Hungarian-born photojournalists Robert Capa and Brassai.

LATVIA

Riga Opera House, Latvia
The newly restored Opera House in Riga (credit In Your Pocket)
One of the three former Soviet states to be brought into the EU, the Baltic state of Latvia prides itself on the quality of its opera.

The country's formerly grand opera house - which once played host to composer Richard Wagner - has been the focus of a grand restoration programme.

Violinist Gidon Kremer is an internationally renowned player who was born in Latvia, while Karlis Rudevics - a member of the country's Roma community - is known for his translations of local poems and striking artwork based on gypsy life.

LITHUANIA

One of Lithuania's most intriguing cultural sites is the Hill of Crosses near the city of Siauliai in the north of the country. The crosses, banned in Soviet times, were often built to honour saints and placed on crossroads.

The Lithuanian art museum in the capital Vilnius has over 200,000 pieces of art from Lithuania and over the world. The Samogitia "historical ethnographic" park is a collection of museums, including one on art and another on amber.

In Kaunas, the Devil Museum includes over 2,000 satanic models from across the world.

MALTA

Malta, the smallest of the new EU states, is on the very fringes of Europe. The islands have a rich history and several ancient archaeological sites that draw many tourists.

It has also attracted such film-makers as Ridley Scott, who filmed the Russell Crowe historical blockbuster Gladiator here in 1999, and Wolfgang Petersen, who shot part of his upcoming epic Troy on the island.

Popular local writers include Francis Ebejer and Joseph Attard, while folk music remains strong, especially the style known as ghana. A folk music festival is held every year.

POLAND

Palace of Culture, Warsaw
The Palace of Culture in Warsaw houses a number of museums
Poland is the largest of the new EU countries and has a rich artistic culture - and new attractions, like the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, are putting Poland on the arts map.

In classical music, the composer Anton Gorecki became one of the biggest classical stars of the nineties, while writer Ryszard Kapuscinski - best-known for his books about the dying days of the Soviet Union and The Soccer War - is one of the most prominent new voices in Polish literature.

Several museums are housed in the Soviet-styled Palace of Culture in Warsaw.

SLOVAKIA

Slovakia is the youngest country in the EU, formed after partition from the post-communist Czechoslovakia in 1993. Slovakian culture was dominated by its Czech or Hungarian neighbours for most of the last 900 years.

Poet Pavol O Hviezdoslav was one of the leaders of a national revival of the Slovak language in the 19th Century. The Slovak Philharmonic, based in the capital Bratislava, has an international reputation.

The Slovak National Theatre has three theatres in the capital, while the Slovak National Gallery has many of the most important works by leading Slovak artist Ladislav Mednyánszky.

SLOVENIA

Damien Hirst
Damian Hirst has exhibited at the Graphic Arts Biennale in Ljubljana
Slovene culture has been re-invigorated since the break up of Yugoslavia.

Music from the group Trutamora Slovenica celebrates traditional Slovene folk music, while contemporary art is dominated by the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) and the five-strong artists' cooperative Irwin.

Held every two years, the Graphic Arts Biennale in the capital Ljubljana attracts international artists. These include British 'sensation' Damien Hirst, who exhibited there last year.




SEE ALSO:
Hirst unveils ping-pong Last Supper
11 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Garage star stabbed in Cyprus
08 Jul 03  |  Entertainment


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