Stitched Panorama

Novi Sad, European Capital of Culture 2022

Freedom, Rainbow, Hope and Love in ‘Serbian Athens’

The shores of the River Danube are home to many charming European cities, and Novi Sad in Serbia is one, with three bridges across the water. This landmark trio will be central to the theme of Novi Sad’s year as a European Capital of Culture in 2022, when they will represent the idea of building new metaphorical bridges of cooperation and exchange between artists and organisations from Serbia’s second-largest city and the overall European artistic scene.
24. November 2021 15:04

In terms of sheer numbers, Novi Sad will present more than 1500 cultural events and 4000 local, national and international artists within eight programme arches throughout the year. During these events, more than 1700 European and world artists from over 45 countries will tell the story of “Serbian Athens” through the vision of common European values, yet challenges. Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina, earned the nickname “Serbian Athens” in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was the capital of Serbian culture.

The organisers of the 2022 project settled on the slogan “4 New Bridges”, under which they defined four programmes symbolically named after the bridges in Novi Sad, namely after values that the city wishes to develop in the context of European integrations and beliefs that it fosters and strives to share with citizens of Europe – Freedom, Rainbow, Hope and Love.

These four programmes are each further divided twice to give eight arches, or thematic units – Doček, Migrations, Future of Europe, Heroines, Fortress of Peace, the Danube Sea, Kaleidoscope of Culture and Other? Europe. “Doček” translates from Serbian as “welcome”.

Serbia, recall, is not yet a member of the European Union but is a candidate country, although the artistic concept of Novi Sad’s project next year is based on the basic values of the EU, such as human rights, multiculturalism, intercultural dialogue, environmental awareness and peace policy. The organisers say these values promote the idea of open democratic society based on contemporary humanism.

The programme arches were built by connecting these values with the history, culture and identity of Novi Sad in the eight thematic units. Major flagship projects were developed within each of the bridges, selected on the basis of their artistic and creative concept, attractiveness and compliance with the programme objectives and principles, thus becoming the most visible projects that will be implemented in the title year.

The city beach in Novi Sad – Photo: wikipedia

The other two European Capitals of Culture in 2022 will be Kaunas, which is Lithuania’s second-largest city, and Esch-sur-Alzette, which is Luxembourg’s second-largest. Each has developed its own exclusive 12-month programme. No doubt each has an apprehensive eye on the worsening coronavirus situation, after the 2020 Capitals of Culture, Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland, were badly affected by the pandemic and had to have their years extended to April 30, 2021.

Otherwise there have been no 2021 European Capitals of Culture, due to COVID-19. The title year of Novi Sad was moved from 2021 to 2022, and the title years of Timisoara in Romania and Elefsina in Greece have been moved from 2021 to 2023. The ancient Hungarian city of Veszprém will be the third European Capital of Culture in 2023, an honour that will be shared with Balaton.The city of Pécs was the first Hungarian European Capital of Culture, in 2010. Winning the title produced a cultural quarter, as well as a large concert hall and convention centre in the city, MTI recalled.

On a historical note, Novi Sad’s bridges were bombed in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999 during the Kosovo war. The Varadin Bridge, which reopened in September 2000, crosses the Danube to the Petrovaradin Fortress. It lights up at night and is nicknamed “Rainbow Bridge”.

The Sloboda (“Freedom”) Bridge became one of the symbols of Novi Sad after reopening in 2005. The public beach Strand offers some of the best views at this cable-stayed bridge, and crossing it leads to the charming Kamenicki Park.

After years of extensive reconstructions, the Zezelj Bridge (the “Bridge of Brotherhood and Unity”) reopened in 2018, and its clear white colour and unique design transformed this tied-arch bridge into one of the city’s most Instagram-friendly attractions.

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