Europe has three Capitals of Culture in 2023: Elefsina (Eleusis) in Greece, Veszprém in Hungary and Timișoara in Romania

Ancient marble column in Eleusis. Photo: Carole Raddato / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

As usual, the editors of looked up what they have to offer in terms of natural stone

Elefsina was not only known in ancient times as Eleusis, but was famous along the Mediterranean and considered one of the holy places in Greece. It is located about 21 km from the present capital Athens and is one of its suburbs. There are plenty of ruins to see on an excavation site, and with them you can dive into the ancient mysteries of Eleusis, even coming close to accessing the underworld in a grotto.

These mysteries were about the seasons, and about the goddess Demeter. She was responsible for fertility and life and had Persephone as her daughter, whom Hades, the god of the underworld (and also of minerals and mineral resources), abducted and carried off to his subterranean realm.

Demeter searched for her for a long time and without success, forgetting her tasks, so that it became winter on earth and people suffered hunger.

Relief in Pentelic marble from 440-430 BC found in Eleusis. It depicts a scene from the mystery ritual: Demeter (left) holding a scepter offers ears of wheat to Triptolemos (center), son of the Eleusian king Keleos, to bestow on mankind. At right Persephone, holding a torch, blessing Triptolemos with her right hand. Source:  <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

At the end of the long story, she brought back the daughter, and (almost) everything became good again – spring came. However, since then the cycle in nature must repeat itself year after year (whereas the Greeks knew only 3 seasons).

In the ancient Mysteries these events were re-enacted and symbolically kept going. The celebrations are depicted on numerous stone reliefs. Among others, they can be found in the Archaeological Museum of the city or in the National Museum in Athens.

At the heart of the Capital of Culture is a modern mystery, namely the faith of the present in change. Elefsina has experienced this: in the 19th century it had an economic heyday as an industrial city by the sea, after which it suffered economic decline and environmental degradation.

The Capital of Culture program aims to show culture as a path to change. “Secrets of transition“ is the motto.

Fortress of Veszprém. Photo: Mesüge / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a> Outcrop over Veszprém. Photo: Teemeah / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

Veszprém is located quite in the center of Hungary. It is one of the oldest cities in the country and was built on 5 hills. The castle is situated on one of them. Countless legends circle around the city, such as the one that the parachute was invented here: a certain Faustus Verancsis, local celebrity and inventor, had stood on the fortification and thought of a quick way to his sweetheart in the town below.

Picturesque in terms of natural stone is the cobblestone throughout the old town. The well-kept buildings show Gothic, Baroque and Neo-Romanesque styles. A picturesque rocky spur is Benedek Hill, today an elongated lookout point. Ancient tombs are carved into the rock.

A geological peculiarity in the vicinity is Badacsony, a table mountain with volcanic origin and after all 437 m high. Famous in the surroundings is Lake Balaton (Lake Balaton), the largest inland lake in Europe. It has only a small depth, so its water temperature in summer can be close to a bathtub. In the past, it used to freeze over regularly and completely in winter.

Marketplace Timișoara with its Roman Orthodox Cathedral Photo: Hospodarz / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

Timișoara is located in the west of Romania in a very fertile area and is the third largest city in the country. The varied architecture, the influences of the Viennese Baroque and the multitude of parks have earned Timișoara the reputation of “Little Vienna“ and the “City of Parks.“

The fortress with bastions with stone cladding are well worth a visit.

European Capitals of Culture

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(20.04.2023, USA: 04.20.2023)