Earth Hour unites people in Central and Eastern Europe

Posted on 31 March 2012    
This year people in the region are doing more than simply switching off their lights, taking up Earth Hour’s theme of "I Will If You Will".
© Camilla
With the official support of close to 300 cities across Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine, Earth Hour is becoming one of the biggest environmental events observed by thousands of people in Central and Eastern Europe. This year people in the region are doing more than simply switching off their lights, taking up Earth Hour’s theme of "I Will If You Will".

In Romania, Earth Hour began earlier in March when a number of cities went head to head to win the distinction of Earth Hour capital. The smallish town of Bistrita pulled in the prize with a huge pile of plastics collected by the enthusiastic citizens. During Earth Hour, WWF invited Bistrita citizens to the special event "More than one hour for the planet". During the event 1,000 children made fairy lights and dozens of lanterns were released into the air.

Earth Hour ambassador, musician Zoli Toth had pledged earlier that if 60 Romanian cities officially join Earth Hour, he will produce a unique piece of music with themes from Romanian folklore. Zoli Toth became a star in Romania overnight when in 2005, with his band SISTEM, he got the third place at the Eurovision song contest. 43 cities officially supported Earth Hour in Romania this year.

A record number of 81 cities joined Earth Hour in Hungary this year. These were the major cities of Hungary: capital Budapest, Szeged, Miskolc, Nyíregyháza and the city of Pécs which was the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2011. The main Earth Hour event took place on Lánchíd or Chain Bridge, the suspension bridge that spans the river Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest.

One hour before the lights went out Hungarian jazz singer of international fame Juli Fábián performed in front of the thousands of people who had gathered on the bridge. Mayor István Tarlós switched off the lights. During the hour of darkness, the crowds were entertained by fire-jugglers and drummers marching on the bridge.

Many celebrities joined the event in Budapest to show their support for Earth Hour. Among them were football players, actors, TV presenters and radio DJs who had also made “I will if you will” pledges. Popular TV presenter Réka Acél had challenged 200 of her Facebook friends to join Earth Hour if they want to see her completing a bike ride around the biggest lake in Central Europe – lake Balaton.

In Bulgaria, Earth Hour supporters gathered in capital Sofia for a march that left in front of the National Theatre building as soon as it plunged into darkness at 20:30. Holding candles and lanterns they walked through the city centre reaching the National Palace of Culture.

This year support for Bulgaria’s Earth Hour came from popular comic trio Vassil Vassilev-Zueka, Dimitar Rachkov and Maria Ignatova, as well as musician Kalin Velyov, tennis player Grigor Dimitrov and the financier Martin Zaimov. Earlier Kalin Velyov had promised to ride a bicycle around Sofia for a month if 2000 people promise to have candle-lit dinners twice a week for a month, while Martin Zaimov had offered to carpool twice a week in his electric car if 2000 people promise to carpool once a week for six months. A record number of 74 cities officially supported Earth Hour this year compared to 47 in 2011.

40 Ukrainian cities joined Earth Hour in 2012. Kiev, Odessa, Donetsk, Poltava, Simferopol and Kerch were among them. In capital Kiev and Odessa, Earth Hour supporters enjoyed street concerts with fire-shows and live music. Other cities – like Vinnitsa and Dnipropetrovks - orginized velo-flash mobs. City cafes showed their support by turning off their lights during Earth Hour.

In Serbia, big events were organized in capital Beograd as well as in Nis and Novi Sad, with thousands of people celebrating Earth Hour by joining street concerts and live shows. 46 cities officially supported Earth Hour this year.

Organized for the fourth time in Croatia, this year the event had as its ambassador the entire basketball team of capital Zagreb – Cedevita. Singers Ivana and Marija Husar, TV presenter Ida Prester and fashion designer Boris Banovic were also Earth Hour ambassadors. 36 cities switched off their lights this year. In Zagreb Earth Hour supporters enjoyed chorus singing, fire-juggling, stand-up comedy, drums performance and Celtic Fantasy dancing. In Dubrovnik, a UNESCO heritage site, 200 children from the historic city carried lights just like Olympic torches around the city. Split, known for the historic Palace of Diokletian, another UNESCO heritage site, also saw its city lights go off for one hour. Other major Croatian cities to join were Pula, Arena, Zadar, Osijek, Zagreb and Rijeka, where two bands played in darkness on Trsatska Gradina, the castle above the old city.

In Austria Earth Hour gained the support of both President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Werner Faymann. They switched off the lights of Vienna’s Imperial Castle, the President’s residence, and those of the administrative buildings that house the Chancellery. Niki Berlakovich, Austria’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management turned off the lights of several school buildings. Cities from Vienna to Linz and Graz to Innsbruck to part in Earth Hour this year.
This year people in the region are doing more than simply switching off their lights, taking up Earth Hour’s theme of "I Will If You Will".
© Camilla Enlarge

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