Today (21 December) 16 historically and culturally important sites around Europe have been recommended to receive the European Heritage Label (EHL). The label celebrates the cultural diversity of the continent and highlights a sense of a shared European belonging. A series of information and educational activities related to the sites will also be organized.
The sites have been selected by an independent panel set up by the European Commission, and are spread across ten member states. They include sites in Germany (Sites of the Peace of Westphalia in Münster and Osnabrück; Hambach Castle); Greece (the Heart of Ancient Athens); Spain (Archive of the Crown of Aragon; Residencia de Estudiantes); France (Abbey of Cluny; Robert Schuman's House); Hungary (Pan European Picnic Memorial Park); Italy (Museo Casa Alcide De Gasperi); Lithuania (Kaunas of 1919-1940); Poland (Union of Lublin; the 3 May Constitution of 1791; the historic Gdańsk Shipyard; Portugal (General Library of the University of Coimbra, Charter of Law of Abolition of the death Penalty); and Slovenia (Franja Partisan Hospital). The Commission will formally nominate the sites in February 2015. More information about the EHL and the sites can be found here.
10 cities competing for the 2020 #EuropeanCapitalOfSmartTourism title
Ten European cities have been shortlisted for the 2020 European Capital of Smart Tourism competition (presented in alphabetical order): Bratislava (Slovakia), Breda (The Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany), Gothenburg (Sweden), Karlsruhe (Germany), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Málaga (Spain), Nice (France), Ravenna (Italy) and Torino (Italy). The finalist cities were selected from a total of 35 applications from across 17 EU Member States.
Last year, Helsinki and Lyon won the inaugural competition and the two cities jointly hold the titles of European Capitals of Smart Tourism in 2019.
This is the second edition of the competition to award two cities as the European Capitals of Smart Tourism in 2020. The two winning cities will benefit from communication and branding support for a year. This will include; a promotional video, a purpose-built sculpture for their city centres, as well as bespoke promotional actions.
Moreover, four awards will also be handed out in recognition of achievements in the individual categories of the competition (Accessibility, Sustainability, Digitalisation and Cultural Heritage and Creativity).
All winning cities will be announced and awarded at an Awards Ceremony, which is taking place as part of the European Tourism Forum in Helsinki on 9-10 October 2019.
In the first stage of the competition, an independent panel of experts evaluated the applications. All finalist cities demonstrated excellence across the four competition categories combined.
In the second stage, representatives of the 10 finalist cities will travel to Helsinki to present their candidatures and the programme of activities planned for 2020 in front of the European Jury. The European Jury will meet on 8 October 2019 and select two cities to become European Capitals of Smart Tourism in 2020.
The selection of the most innovative projects, ideas and initiatives, submitted by cities to the last year’s competition can be found in the Compendium of Best Practices, the go-to guide to smart tourism in the EU. For all the latest news on the European Capital of Smart Tourism, sign up to the newsletter, or follow on Facebook or Twitter.
#Koezio for indoor adventure
They say good news travels far and news about one of the newer and more exciting visitor attractions in Brussels has stretched a long way – as far as Canada and Thailand.
The indoor adventure park Koezio, located at the thriving Docks Bruxel shopping and leisure complex, sees about 150,000 visitors pass through its doors each year.
Some participants, acting on recommendations by hotels, Trip Advisor and Visit Brussels (and keen to get the experience for themselves) have even come from as far away as Canada and Thailand.
The centre has proved a big hit since it became the first Koezio to open outside its heartland in France.
Headquartered in Lille, in northern France, the Brussels centre was the fourth to open (there are also two in Paris) and it now attracts participants –known as “agents” – from all over Belgium.
First, an explanation for first-time visitors. Koezio (it is pronounced as Ko-wa-ze-o) is a place quite unlike any other you have probably visited. It offers “training as a special agent” in a converted 3,200 square metre space.
For two hours, your endurance, intelligence, courage and team spirit are challenged to complete the “journey” through what are called four districts: a mysterious labyrinth, a machine room with giant modules, an escape room and finally a dizzying trail at 12 metres heigh.
It’s the type of test that James Bond author Ian Fleming himself might have appreciated.
No need to be fearful though: what matters here is ‘being together’ and increasing cohesion – the invented word Koezio is derived from cohesion - within a group. Koezio is accessible for both young and old and from 2 players upwards.For safety reasons you must be 1 metre 40cm in height and anyone under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Worth pointing out that you do not have to be super fit or an athlete.
The fun starts on arrival with the “secret agent” subterfuge. This is when you are given your very own “secret code” allowing access to the park. On arrival, you enter your “secret code” details on a touch-screen monitor before changing into freshly laundered overalls which is when you are let loose on the course for the next couple of hours.
Seven teams of up to 5 players are allowed entry every 15 minutes, with the idea being that the park does not get overcrowded.
The idea is to clock up as many points as you can. So called “elite agents” can score up to 600,000 points but the average per visit is about 330,000.
Unlike other escape games in Brussels and elsewhere, the idea here is all about working as a team, not against each other. The emphasis for the “secret agents” is on team work and co-operation. At the end, each participant/team is give a detailed print out of their score and performance.
For a small supplement, you can also take a special camera into the park to film the whole adventure (the images can later be downloaded on to a USB stick). Koezio is great for a family visit but is also ideal location for team building exercises.
Kjell Materman, its communication manager, says the Brussels site has become particular popular for companies whose members can meet up in a private room for a “discover my team” chat before the adventure starts. The centre, built on what used to be a fabrics factory dating to the mid-1800s, also has meeting rooms, a dining room and a lounge for an aperitif or meal or drink after your “mission”.
Kjell, who used to work at The Parlamentarium in Brussels said: “We are also seeing more and more tourists who may have been sent on the recommendation of others.”
There are special discounts if you book online and reductions for schools and youth clubs. Try also to have a go on the virtual reality game at the entrance.
The Brussels centre is not as large as in Lille (which has two “missions”) but, because of clever designing, has a similar layout.
The first Koezio opened in Lille in 2006 and so successful has the concept proved that a fifth one will open in Lyon this summer with plans for others in London, the Netherlands and Spain.
This go ahead company has invested a lot in spreading the word about Koezio and, as the visitor figures, this policy is paying off.Beware that weekends are particularly popular so best to book then.
Transport links are great as the site is situated on two tramlines which whisk you into central Brussels in just 10 minutes. There is a huge car park nearby and, from the summer,there are also river tours on the nearby Brussels Canal.
Another great reason to pay a visit right now is that the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken are currently open to the public until 10 May.
Whatever time of year you come here, though, you are sure of great fun.
Eat your heart out James Bond!
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#CannesFilmFestival - Ken Loach up for Palme d'Or prize
British filmmaker Ken Loach's new movie will premiere at Cannes next month, in what the film festival's director Thierry Fremaux has described as a "highly political" year, writes the BBC.
Loach, 82, who won the Palme d'Or prize in 2016 with I, Daniel Blake, returns this year with Sorry We Missed You.
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was notably absent from the line-up.
But the Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio film could still be added later.
"We can hope that some films may join us that we are all waiting on before 14 May," said Fremaux.
Reports last month suggested that Tarantino's latest effort could potentially premiere exactly 25 years to the day since the same director's Pulp Fiction played on the Croisette,
Loach's new film is an indictment of the gig economy and looks at issues such as zero hours contracts.
Sci-fi drama, Little Joe - which is directed by Austrian Jessica Hausner and, like Loach's film, is backed by BBC and BFI funding - also makes the cut.
Another veteran director; the reclusive Terrence Malick, will premiere his World War II story, A Hidden Life, about a German conscientious objector guillotined by the Nazis in 1943.
For a second year running, there are no Netflix films showing at the festival due to an ongoing dispute about the streaming service's effect on cinema.
Some French distributors want Netflix to be forced to release its films in cinemas and not just online.
Elsewhere, a new film about Argentine football icon Diego Maradonna will premiere, out of competition, at the French Riviera event, which runs from 14-25 May.
The movie, from the director of the Ayrton Senna and Amy Winehouse documentary films, contains more than 500 hours of never-before-seen footage from the controversial star's archive.
As previously announced, the Elton John biopic Rocketman will also debut on 16 May, two weeks before its release in the US.
The film, directed by Dexter Fletcher - who stepped into the Bohemian Rhapsody breach after director Bryan Singer was fired from the Freddie Mercury biopic - will star Taron Egerton.
Egerton told the BBC last month that Sir Elton gave his blessing to portray him at his worst as well as his best.
The French festival - billed as 'The Olympics of cinema' will open with a screening of Jim Jarmusch's zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die, which contains a star-studded cast including Bill Murray, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez, as well as Tilda Swinton and Tom Waits.
Director Agnes Varda, who died last month, was honoured on the official poster for the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, with an image of her making her first film La Pointe Courte in 1954.
The full line-up for this year's festival is available on the official Cannes website.
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