This is from a June 2008 letter
The Golden Beggar is the symbol of Kosice. He begged for a living at the same place on the main square all his “working” life. When he retired he built a fine house right behind the spot where he “worked.” The house is topped a statue of the beggar, hat in hand, in a bow toward the street. The Golden Beggar Festival of Local Television in Kosice is well named. Local media always seems the beggar in a country traditionally dominated by national or state run networks. But the development of local TV in Slovakia is a bit of democratization that seems to be working. The festival is the place for it to take its bows.
The Golden Beggar Festival serves more than Slovaks. In the morning we see screenings of the best local shows produced by stations throughout the region. In the afternoon there’s training and in the evening parties where producers meet, exchange programs, and make deals. The festival has been the catch basin for local TV stations and producers throughout the region for 14 years. It’s the place for us to meet friends we’ve worked with throughout the region. B92 from Serbia is here. It won the first Golden Beggar award. The “Golden Beggar” statuette is one of the few things they salvaged when the government raided the station and shut it down. Now B92 can’t compete for the prizes here because it’s become a national network. We had a presentation at the festival celebrating that victory.
The last pictures in this series are of some of the venues where the Golden Beggar awards ceremony were held. Kosice has many wonderful old venues, from Classic Empire to Art Nouveau.
This is from a 2004 letter.
The festival is noted for its hip parties in strange venues. This year the opening party was held under the city of Kosice. Archeologists have excavated the 15th century sewer system and opened parts of it to the public. The underground area includes sewers, passages and openings to the moat. The moat has long been filled in but the city has excavated part of the old moat (and then covered it over again with the streets that replaced the city walls.) The underground tour lets you see the foundations of the old city walls and defensive barbican. Eva, who runs the festival, lit the old sewer passages with candles and sweetened them with incense. Food tables lined some of the walls. I admit to qualms about eating dinner in a place where raw sewage flowed for more than three hundred years. I wonder how one cleans out a place like this, disinfectant, steam? Is it really possible to clean the mortar between the stones? I decided to eat from tables set in the moat along what used to be the barbican’s foundation. My blousy sleeve brushed too close to one of the candles and it caught fire. Fortunately the person next to me was drinking mineral water and not some volatile alcoholic drink. I will soon have a nice short sleeve shirt.