If you’ve never been to Plzeň, or haven’t been in a while, now is the time to go. The city is one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2015 (the other is Mons, Belgium) and the amount of stuff happening is a bit staggering.
Says Mirka Reifová, PR and communication manager for Plzeň 2015, “Creative places and activities are emerging. It’s not just the huge number of events but gardens and cafes, more places to sit outside in the city – taking care of the public space has become much more visible. People are creating initiatives, too.”
Check out the 2015 Pilsen European Capital of Culture website for a comprehensive list of cultural activities; we’ve rounded up some of highlights here.
Final advice from Reifová: “Look for small things, find a band playing in a small pub, drink a Pilsner, you are in Plzeň and that’s enough.”
Unique City Tours
The city’s flagship Hidden City project invites people to discover Plzeň through the eyes of the residents. As web editor and social media specialist Petra Kejklíčková explains, it is very simply digital meets locals.
“The app gives you the opportunity to choose from eight different people and take a tour from their point of view – a brewer, a World War II veteran, a young child – the idea is, in a new city, you only see what’s in guidebooks, but no stories. Now you can connect with the locals.”
The app will be ready for download in April. You can already download an interactive map which offers a bit more sites and interest off the beaten path than most tourism maps. Another Hidden City project Kejklíčková recommends is the Plzeň Family Photo Album opening April 16 at DEPO2015. Organizers are collecting photos from residents of their Plzeň lives and plan two exhibitions with them.
Plzeň is playing its puppet heritage up big time this year. As always, you can visit the Muzeum Loutek for a fun history of the creatures, examine up close their beautiful craftsmanship, and leave the kids in the puppet playroom for some fun. Matěj Forman will be putting together an exhibition of current puppet making art from all over Europe and at the end of August, Carros de Foc, a Spanish troupe will be bringing eight of their massive marionettes to town. These eight meter tall creations will be walking through the streets, putting on an original show on the main square and holding evening shows in DEPO2015. Skupa’s Pilsen (September 3-6) a traditional biennial of puppet theatre will bring about three dozen foreign troupes to town for a variety of performances. And finally, for general puppet performances, check out the schedule at Divadlo Alfa.
Adolf Loos’ Apartments
‘Ornament is a crime’ interior designer Adolf Loos decorated eight apartments in Plzeň from the end of the 1920s to the mid-1930s. Three of the flats have been reconstructed and will be open for visits in April, a fourth is scheduled to be open later in the year. In the one on Klatovská you can see the living and dining rooms. The cherry wood wall paneling and other in-built furniture is original, but the furniture is carefully crafted replicas. Notice the groups of intimate spaces, lamps versus overhead lights and the wide variety of chairs – all Loos hallmarks which encourage people to sit where ever they want and choose a chair comfortable for whatever activity they are involved in. Both that flat and the one on Bendova showcase Loos’ love of extravagant materials – here notice the mahogany ceiling and gorgeous green Italian marble. You’ll see more spaces in this flat, although none of the furniture is original. Check out the bedroom which was inspired by train sleeping carriages. The bed with a ‘sofa’ space at the end isn’t original but is similar to the one that was originally there.
The Liberation Festival
The city normally schedules parades and other activities to remember the end of World War II each year. But this year, Plzeň will commemorate the 70th anniversary with a variety of important celebrations. Reifová says one highlight will be a concert by Lynyrd Skynard, their first in the Czech Republic. Ten WWII veterans are also scheduled to attend as well as General George Patton’s granddaughter, Helen, who will perform with her band and to raise funds for her Patton Foundation which supports veterans. The entire Liberation Festival runs May 1-6.
Lots of cool repurposing is happening throughout the city. Grouped under the project Imagination Factories, one of the most involved in Capital of Culture activities is DEPO2015 opening in April and slated to be one of the largest exhibition spaces in town. Already open is Papírna in part of an old paper mill along the river which has a gorgeous industrial café/bar plus hosts mainly dance performances. Moving Station, housed in a unused train station building at Jižní předměstí, is an alternative cultural center for theatre, music, dance and more.
One of the country’s best known animators, Jiří Trnka is a Plzeň son and there are a few interesting events connected to his life and work. As part of Finále Plzeň, digitized forms of his Old Czech Legends will be presented; through May 10, Trnka’s Studio, displayed at both the Gallery of the City of Pilsen and the Gallery of Jiří Trnka, will exhibit key pieces of his work and life, a concept developed by his son. And finally, for the kid in all of us, Trnka’s Garden 2 (through May 24 at the West Bohemian Museum) uses six interactive rooms to bring to life Trnka’s The Garden fairytale.
Throughout the year, you can experience a variety of new circus performances by troupes from Spain, Italy, France and more. Reifová says the performers are mostly young ensembles who are preparing new shows – some are funny, some are acrobatic. Many will be held in DEPOT2015, but also tents will be set-up around town for true life under the big top experiences. Kejklíčková says performances for all these events have been selling out fast, so plan ahead.
Tons of exhibitions are happening the entire year at venues ranging from the unique to the proper. Kejklíčková recommends the Gottfried Lindauer exhibition running from May 6-September 20 in the West Bohemian Gallery. This is actually a unique for Europe exhibition as 40 of painter Lindauer’s Maori portraits from New Zealand will be displayed here. The artist is actually a Plzeň native who moved to New Zealand in 1874. Čestmír Suška will be one of the opening exhibitors at DEPO2015 with his Restart exhibition which runs April 25 till the end of the year. The well-known sculptor has been making an exploration into working with used metal objects which will be displayed both inside and outside. Also opening in April is Domus, a group spatial installation, while in May paintings and posters by Ladislav Sutner go on display at the Gallery of the City of Pilsen.
Rock for People: European Edition
Měšťanská Beseda will host a number of musical acts this year: Al Di Meola on May 10, Suzanne Vega on July 7 and John Mayall on October 31. Bohemia Jazz Fest will offer free concerts on the main square in July and a special European edition of Rock for People will also be put together here.
The 3D Planetarium
Plzeň is home to the way cool Techmania Science Center which is great to check out any year. Newly renovated last year, go check out the country’s first 3D planetarium, and two new exhibitions, Renewable Energy and Man and Beast.