Via Transilvanica project in Romania receives The Audience Award at the European Heritage Awards 2023, in Venice

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The winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2023, the highest European honor in the field, were celebrated on the evening of 28 September 2023 at a high-level event held at the iconic Palazzo del Cinema in Lido, Venice. This year’s European Heritage Awards ceremony took place in the presence of world-renowned mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, President of Europa Nostra, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission for promoting our European way of life, who addressed the audience of approximately 700 people, and in direct connection from Brussels, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, congratulated the winners through a video message. The ceremony was the most important event of the European Cultural Heritage Summit 2023, which takes place between September 27-30, in the world heritage city of Venice. The ceremony was jointly organized by Europa Nostra and the European Commission, in partnership with the city of Venice.

The Public Choice Award 2023 – which also includes a monetary award of €10,000 – went to Via Transilvanica, ROMANIA, a remarkable project that established Romania’s longest hiking trail, spanning over 1,400 kilometres and connecting 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This impressive initiative in the category Citizens’ Engagement & Awareness-raising raised the largest number of votes, cast via an online poll with the participation of some 27,000 citizens from all over Europe.

Daniel Toda, a voter from Romania, wrote: “Via Transilvanica is truly a magnificent project encompassing outstanding nature, trails and cultural heritage. This is the adventure of a lifetime, literally a time-travel to old Europe, to villages trapped in time, monasteries and medieval castles. Via Transilvanica is a golden string that ties all these pearls into an amazing experience”.

Alin Useriu, the president of Tășuleasa Social, was present at the awards ceremony, together with the executive director of Tășuleasa Social, the writer of the Hiking Guide, Anna Szekely. He sent a message on stage, at the presentation of the Audience Award: “It is a great honor to be among the projects nominated by Europa Nostra and the European Commission. This award is the most important to us because it reflects what is meaningful to people. Hundreds of villages along the Via Transilvanica route will be convinced that they are more valuable and beautiful than they could have ever imagined. Via Transilvanica gathered the values ​​of our organization, Tășuleasa Social, which for over 23 years has the mission of protecting and promoting the heritage of our country. Now, through the 1,400 kilometers that cross Romania diagonally, we discovered together a road that unites. I thank you on behalf of all the people who made Via Transilvanica from a dream, a reality.”

During the ceremony, the five laureates of the Grand Prix and the winner of the Public Choice Award were announced. These top winners were selected from among this year’s 28 award-winning heritage achievements from 20 European countries by the Board of Europa Nostra on recommendation by an independent jury of experts.

Cecilia Bartoli, President of Europa Nostra, stated: “What a joy for me to be in Venice for this evening of celebration of the winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2023. Every year, our award winners bring hope and inspiration to us all. The variety in terms of content and geographical range of their projects, their scope and individual nature perfectly reflect the richness and diversity of our culture. And the people who devote their hearts and energy to these projects are compelling ambassadors of how to safeguard, restore and enhance Europe’s cultural heritage. My heartfelt congratulations to all the winners, particularly to the laureates of the Grand Prix and the winner of the Public Choice Award”.

The five laureates of the Grand Prix – which receive a monetary award of €10,000 each – are:

Royal Gardens of Venice, ITALY
Grand Prix laureate in category Conservation & Adaptive Reuse
Today, when the World Heritage City of Venice is facing many challenges and threats, the sensitive restoration of these Napoleonic-era gardens stands out as a shining example of how to care for the city’s heritage in a way that accurately responds to its most pressing needs. Special considerations of the current climate crisis have been woven into the design of the interventions, making this initiative an inspiring example for any city that suffers from the effects of climate change.

Deba Bridge, Gipuzkoa, SPAIN
Grand Prix laureate in category Conservation & Adaptive Reuse
The complex rehabilitation of this 19th-century stone bridge presented a very difficult technical challenge. The conservation team carried out careful research to preserve the integrity of the bridge, showing a remarkable sense of responsibility in keeping the authenticity of the construction. The intervention uncovered new knowledge to complete the project and sets a standard for future, similar projects.

ACTA VISTA, Marseille, FRANCE
Grand Prix laureate in category Education, Training & Skills
ACTA VISTA is a persuasive example of how cultural heritage can empower people who have been excluded from employment in an impactful way. It demonstrates that the restoration of heritage can serve as a pathway for radical inclusion, and that heritage has a regenerative capacity.

Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI), Dublin, IRELAND
Grand Prix laureate in category Citizens’ Engagement & Awareness-raising
The Museum of Literature Ireland is remarkable in its success in reaching out to lovers of literature and non-traditional audiences alike and in raising awareness of Ireland’s rich literary heritage. Through an exceptional programme of events, MoLI has attracted and maintained a diverse, multigenerational audience, also thanks to the potentials offered by digital transformation.

Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO), UKRAINE/INTERNATIONAL PROJECT
Grand Prix laureate in category Heritage Champions
This large network of international volunteers, mobilised by a group of leading heritage professionals, rapidly reacted to the threats to heritage generated by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and began their work in the first days of the war. Using existing digital tools, these volunteers have helped ensure that a huge amount of Ukrainian heritage assets could be safeguarded. They have also made significant efforts to digitise at-risk collections.

In his live address from Brussels, Margaritis Schinas, European Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “I’m delighted to celebrate the winners of the 2023 European Heritage Awards. Tonight brings us together to recognise best practices in the conservation of Europe’s rich, though sometimes fragile, cultural heritage. Protecting and promoting Europe’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage is a collective task for all Europeans. We are proud of our past. We shall ensure it remains a universal ‘trésor’ for everyone to enjoy.”

In a video message, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, affirmed: “I have huge appreciation for the exceptional quality of heritage projects and champions which the European Union and Europa Nostra are celebrating this year in Venice. Your achievements demonstrate that culture and heritage can play a part in improving both environmental sustainability and social cohesion.”

In a congratulatory message, Iliana Ivanova, newly appointed Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, stated: “I warmly congratulate the winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2023 for their outstanding achievements. Their passionate work vividly showcases the value of heritage for Europe. Our cultural heritage strengthens our economy, contributes to build a sense of belonging, and benefits our citizens by improving the quality and beauty of their daily lives.”

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