Friday, 15 June 2012

Top five municipal fountains (eastern Europe)

1. Kosice, Slovakia
A superb example of the genre: elaborate light and water patterns apparently choreographed to a soundtrack of Chopin etc in front of the most easterly (and one of the largest) Gothic churches in Europe. And the focus of both the daily promenade and civic pride - Kosiceans watch it with an avidity which can mean flippant tourists blocking the view by taking photographs are met with disapproving looks, tongue clicks and hisses - as, indeed, they probably should be.

2. Saranda, Albania
Currently under repair, as this photo shows (the man in the suit is Saranda's mayor, Stefan Cipa, who's engaged in trying to prevent the transformation of a rather lovely south Albanian port into a Costa del Sol-style tourism-ruined hell hole). Like Kosice's, this one behaves according to an elaborate rhythm - although without the musical soundtrack - and also provides a focus for the evening promenade or xhiro. The multi-coloured, all-singing, all-dancing fountain in Tirana's Rinas Park is more obvious as a watery spectacle, but personally I prefer this one. Go here  for more on the 'tourist threat' to Saranda.

3. Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Not far from the WW2 eternal flame in central Sarajevo is this other memorial - to the children who were killed during the siege in the 1990s - which is, perhaps, all the more effective because at first it appears to be just another bit of municipal fountain whimsy until you read the plaque and realise what it commemorates. The incongruity of its serious purpose opposite a huge complex of shiny glass-fronted shops and cinemas only adds to its poignancy as a memorial.

4. Brasov, Romania
Aesthetically, it's probably not one of the greatest, but the square it's in (overlooked by the famous 'black church' - so-called because it was nearly burnt down) has a gloriously relaxed atmosphere, to which this piece of optimistically angular watery architecture only adds (in a strange sort of way). It also acts as a magnet for every tourist in town: a perfect place to spot people hurriedly leafing through their copies of the Lonely Planet/Rough Guide to Romania.

5. Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
The siege of Mostar and the destruction of the famous bridge commemorated in fountain form in a park just off the former 'front line' and overlooked by gutted buildings. It's also a way off the tourist trail - possibly because its ambiguity sits uncomfortably. This bridge, after all, still has a gap in the middle. 

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