European Heritage Days

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Next weekend the Czech Republic will take part in a European-wide event, called European Heritage Days. For two days, hundreds of historical sites, many of which are usually closed to the general public, will open their doors. It is an event that gets more and more popular by the year, and this year the organisers hope to beat last year's figures of more than half a million visitors. Nick Carey has this report.

European Heritage Days originally began in France in 1984 as an open door day for hundreds of historical monuments and sites, and following its initial success, the Council of Europe stepped in and encouraged countries throughout Europe to take part. The first European Heritage Days event with that title was held in 1991, and more than twenty countries, the Czech Republic included, took part. Ten years later there are more than thirty countries on the list, and in many of them, September 8th and 9th are set as the days where thousands of heritage sites will be open to the public across the continent, with accompanying events such as concerts and fairs.

Pavel Horak is the head of the Czech Association of Historical Sites of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, which organises the European Heritage Days event in the Czech Republic:

"This year, we will have 692 historical monuments open to the public, with 280 accompanying events. The goal is for people throughout Europe to find out more about their common heritage and become acquainted with their countries' historical monuments."

The number of people taking advantage of this unique opportunity to see sites that are usually closed to the public has increased steadily, as more and more monuments are included in the event. As many of the sites do not charge any admission fees for the two days, this, says Pavel Horak, has added to public interest:

"As it costs no money to get into a large number of the sites, public interest has grown dramatically. Last year we had more than half a million visitors, and this year we expect more, because a lot of sites will be open for the first time."

As this year's European Heritage Days has a Baroque theme, the official opening ceremony will take place on Friday in Olomouc in Northern Moravia, in part to celebrate the recent inclusion of the town's Baroque Holy Trinity column on the UNESCO world heritage list.

For more information on the list of this year's sites, check out the European Heritage Days website: European Heritage Days website.