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Feature 27 Dec 17

Balkan Cities to Party Their Way Into 2018

Across the region, New Year’s Eve will be celebrated with public concerts and fireworks and more.

BIRN team
Belgrade, Bucharest, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Sofia, Skopje, Tirana
Last year's public celebration in Belgrade. Photo: Beta

Belgrade’s weeklong party:

The city that has been proclaimed one of world’s best for nightlife is building on its reputation with public New Year’s parties that started a week before December 31.

As a warm-up, the city organised a series of concerts on Republic Square from December 25-29.

Some of the acts set to perform include blues gurus Texas Flood, hip-hop stars THC La Familia, Prti BG, and Bwana, indie rock legends Kanda Kodza i Nebojsa, and DJs Kristijan Molnar and Danijel Cehranov.

With the last working day of 2017 on Friday, December 29, it only makes sense to throw a party a day or two early.

Skopje Cancels New Year Party Over Pollution:

Faced with the problem of high levels of air pollution, which is particularly pronounced during winter, the Macedonian capital Skopje this year has decided to cancel the usual New Year’s Eve celebration on the main Macedonia Square.

Instead, Mayor Petre Silegov said that the city will donate the 50,000 euros planned for the celebration to the Skopje Institute for Lung Diseases, calling also on companies that traditionally sponsor the event to do the same.

The only alternative for partygoers will be a smaller celebration that will take place at the nearby Jadran Square, organized by the Skopje municipality of Centar. It will offer musical numbers from Macedonian artists such as pop singer Tamara Todevska as well as pop rock bands Next Time and Eye Cue.

The festive season will also be boosted by a series of events that traditionally take place in the wake of New Year’s Eve. These include a bazar of handicraft items, a race of Santa Clauses through Skopje streets and musical shows for children.


Part one of the New Year’s celebration will take place on the Sava River Promenade, the new pedestrian area of the Belgrade Waterfront complex, located right on the river.

The concert, no doubt aimed at throwing a positive light on the controversial project, will feature popular Serbian rock bands Orthodox Celts and Nicim Izazvan.

Foreign tourists in Belgrade with a taste for traditional Irish music should check this one out because, although home grown, Orthodox Celts are known for doing an amazing job at interpreting Irish folk classics in a hard rock style and their shows are always fun.

The party continues the next day with city officials putting on a curtain raiser to set the mood for the main event on Sunday.

This gig in front of parliament and features well-known musicians and bands, most notably the rock band Van Gogh, who, having been around since the mid-1980s, and have had more hits over the years than you can count on both hands.

For those who don’t like rock on a cold winter’s night and prefer warmer, pop sounds, former Yugoslav band Zana will offer a retrospective of their best hits, old and new.

The third act for the night is Zeljko Samardzic, pop singer and the king of International Women’s Day concerts who authored songs that work just as well in intimate, smoky pubs as they do in large arenas

When Sunday finally arrives, so does the biggest party. For those who decide to ditch the clubs and bars and don’t have a private party to go to, Belgrade has something special.

Instead of the has-been international act that people might reluctantly turn up for, the city has gone ultra-populist, offering shows by two of the biggest musical acts in these parts – Riblja Corba and Aca Lukas.

Riblja Corba could be said to be the most popular rock band of former Yugoslavia and has been filling stadiums for the better part of 40 years.

Aca Lukas is equally huge and popular, but in different circles. If he isn’t the king, he’s certainly royalty when it comes to Serbian folk and the supreme ruler of Belgrade “splav” culture.

In fact, his pseudonym, Lukas, [his real name is Aleksandar Vuksanovic] comes from the name of the splav he cut his teeth on back in the day, one of the first and most popular floating discos in the city.

While it may seem like the two main acts are polar opposites, Serbian pop culture and music actually intertwine to a big extent and there’s a real possibility that 80 per cent of Riblja Corba fans know the words to every Aca Luka hit and vice versa.

If none of that floats your splav, there’s one more party on December 31, with a different vibe. Jazz and classical fans will get to send off 2017 at the Sava Centre, where top orchestras and soloists will play popular pieces in an event called, with a wink, “Classy Celebration of New Year.” Admission is free.

If you have any energy left on January 1, check out the traditional event called “Open Heart Street” in Svetogorska, a charity event for children [and everyone else] with music, shows, candy, costumes, magicians, clowns and street food.

Thousands to Gather for Sofia Concert:

Traditionally, citizens of Sofia welcome in the New Year at the Alexander Batemberg Square in the centre of the Bulgarian capital.

The concert, named “Stage under the Stars” will be held for the 19th time by the Sofia municipality and Bulgarian National television from 10pm on December 31 to 1am on January 1. Popular pop, jazz and folk singers will entertain those brave enough to celebrate the New Year in the chilly open air.

Every year, around 20,000 people visit the open-air concert, which is watched by around 1 million viewers who prefer to celebrate it at home.

The New Year’s celebrations will continue on January 1 with a classical music concert, “The Spirit of Europe”, the opening event of the program of Bulgaria’s EU Presidency, which starts in January for a six-month period. Classical music from all European countries will be featured in the program of the concert.

Three-day Celebrations in Bosnian Cities:

Visitors coming to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo will have a chance to enjoy three days of public music events in the centre of the city.

On 30 December, the youth philharmonic will hold a concert in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo’s main pedestrian zone.

Zdravko Colic, a famous regional pop singer, will hold a concert on 31 December and organisers hope to break the record from last year, when 70,000 visitors welcomed in the New Year in the open air in Sarajevo.

On January 1, the party continues in Sarajevo with a concert by Crvena Jabuka, a rock/pop band well known from former Yugoslavia who have promised lot of fun in Sarajevo’s main Ferhadija street.

Banja Luka, the centre of Republika Srpska, the mainly Serbian entity of Bosnia, will also organise three days of concerts featuring popular pop singers from Serbia.

On the Winter Olympic mountain of Jahorina, nearby Sarajevo, regional pop singer Zeljko Joksimovic will have a concert for all of those who want to enter 2018 on the mountain.

Montenegro Musters Regional Music Stars:

Several towns, including the capital, Podgorica, expect large crowds for the New Year celebrations in Montenegro.

Tourist authorities in the main holiday resort of Budva hope their town will be sold out for New Year’s Eve and expect 30,000 visitors.

The resort will stage a central celebration on the town square for New Year’s Eve and on January 1 and 2, with fireworks and a few local and regional stars on the stage, such as Zeljko Joksimovic, Parni Valjak, Sergej Cetkovic and more.

The main squares in the capital, Podgorica, have been decorated for Christmas and New Year celebrations since early December as the city is gearing up for the New Year Eve's celebration with the main stage on the Independence Square.

Local artists Nenad Knezevic Knez and Zorana Kalezic will perform there on December 31.

Other coastal towns, such as Bar, Kotor, Tivat and Herceg Novi are also ready to rock into the New Year with fireworks and concerts on their main squares.

Regional pop and folk stars such as Petar Graso, Haris Dzinovic, Bajaga i instruktori, Severina and many others will be performing on December 31 and January 1.

Tirana to Welcome 2018 with Fireworks:

In the last days of the year, Tirana has a tight schedule of activities culminating with the celebratory New Year’s Eve concert on the main revamped Skenderbej Square.

A Christmas village is already set up there, selling winter drinks and traditional crafts. For adrenaline seekers, rollercoasters and rides are also available on the square.

On December 16 the Italian sculptor and painter, Giampaolo Talani opened his exposition “Rotte Traverse” [“Broken Crosses”] in the history museum, while his wall projections on Mother Teresa Square will stay lit until January 6.

On December 24 a gala concert of the tenor Kastriot Tusha was held at the square featuring well-known Albanian opera singers and musicians.

As the year ends, Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj will deliver the mayor’s traditional message from the Skenderbej Square while a festival of fireworks will follow.

Tensions Put Dampener on Romanian celebrations:

Bucharest City Hall has not given out any details on what it has prepared for the capital’s residents and tourists, but has said that a concert and a fireworks show will take place on George Enescu Square, starting 7pm on December 31.

However, visitors deciding to spend the night between 2017 and 2018 in Bucharest should know it is going to be politically tense.

The event, “Hit Revelion 2018”, was initially due to take place in Victoriei Square, in front of the government headquarters, but City Hall changed the location after anti-corruption protesters dismantled the stage and vendor stands early in December.

Activists have been gathering on the square for almost a year to protest over moves by the ruling party to amend justice laws, which protesters say threaten the judiciary’s independence.

After protesters and security forces clashed on November 30, when City Hall employees tried to set up a stage and a Christmas fair, the Bucharest Mayor gave up the initiative and announced a New Year’s Eve concert on George Enescu Square instead.

The schedule has still to be decided, but most pubs in the city’s historical neighbourhood are organizing parties and tickets for many venues still available.

Public parties and fireworks will also take place in Romania’s largest cities, such as Cluj Napoca and Sibiu in Transylvania or in Iasi, in eastern Moldavia.

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