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Polish city Wroclaw to be a European culture capital

AFP , Saturday 16 Jan 2016
the cathedral in Wroclaw
the cathedral in The Cathedral Island, Wroclaw, Poland, on January 15, 2016.(photo: AFP)
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Long a symbol of Polish-German reconciliation, Poland's western city of Wroclaw will become a European culture capital this year highlighting its history at the crossroads of political upheaval in central Europe.

Formerly known as Breslau and part of Germany before the end of World War II, Wroclaw will share the limelight with fellow capital of culture San Sebastian on Spain's northern Basque coast.

Poland's fourth largest city with a population of 630,000, Wroclaw is an industrial centre and university town whose complex identity spans a millennium and includes a myriad of influences.

The central European melting pot was over the centuries part of the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, the Austrian Empire, Prussia and Germany.

The city's honour comes at a time when relations between Poland and Germany -- both EU and NATO members -- are strained over controversial legislation enacted by the new conservative government in Warsaw giving it control over the country's top court and public broadcasters.

The culture capital festivities kick off this weekend, with dancers and musicians taking to the streets to offer a polyphonic account of the city's history, directed by Chris Baldwin, who had collaborated on the London Olympics celebrations.

One way to look at the city's history is the daily life in pre-war Breslau -- its streets, restaurants, brothels -- depicted in detail by local writer Marek Krajewski in his detective novel series featuring policeman Eberhard Mock, which has been translated into 18 languages including German.

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