Vilnius is celebrating more than just the entry of 2009. This year it’s also one of the two European Capitals of Culture.The Lithuanian capital is the first city among the new EU member countries to receive the distinction. The idea is to bring Europeans together by nominating two cities each year to become the centre of artistic events in honour of their historic and cultural heritage. After deciding cities on the basis of a report by experts, the EU allocates a budget of 1.5 million euros. With 100 shows planned for this year and a total budget of 30 million euros, Vilnius will see the largest cultural event ever held in a Baltic country. In order to be fair, a rotation system among states is in place.
Following EU enlargement, two cities are picked from both new and older member countries. This year, replacing Liverpool and Stavanger in Norway, Vilnius along with the city of Linz in Austria have been chosen.
The Linz program aims to provide 220 events during the year with an estimated budget of 68 million euros.Like Vilnius, Linz’s festivities kicked off the year with some 130,000 people braving the cold to witness a huge firework display on the Danube. But for 2010, there will be three lucky capitals of culture, including the city of Pecs in Hungary, Essen in Germany, and the Turkish city of Istanbul.