The opener - Issue 108 - Magazine | Monocle

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Time to techno

Zürchers might not seem the most likely to tear it up at the club yet, as we explored the city’s nightlife this month (see our Switzerland Survey from page 123), we were surprised to find a raucous techno scene. The city was something of a club hub in the heady 1990s but while techno faded elsewhere, the party in Zürich didn’t stop. Not convinced? Unesco recently listed techno music as one of Switzerland’s “cultural traditions”. Choon.

Senior service

Could old people be put to good use by placing them in streets as a way of slowing down traffic? Think this sounds a little harsh? Well, it’s already happening. This month I, this magazine’s editor, was hosting panels and doing my best “chat face” at the annual Academy of Urbanism conference in the progressive Danish city of Aarhus.

One of the people I caught up with was Giulia Vallone, a Sicilian who has ended up in Cork, Ireland, where she is the county council’s architect and urban designer. She explained that when debates come up about how to slow traffic in towns, she points out that there is a simpler and cheaper solution than road humps or bollards: senior citizens. “I tell people that in Sicily we have ice-cream stands, and old men and women sitting outside the cafés all day in their social clubs – this is enough to make people drive slowly in Sicily.” The role of life on the street in delivering security – and even traffic-calming – is real. Irish elders watch out: you may be summoned.

What we’d like to see more – or less – of in November 2017.

  1. We’ve been spending a lot of time in Lisbon lately and we need to ask: isn’t the city missing a stunning urban-swimming platform? Could energy company EDP engineer a competition to get more people in the chilly Atlantic?

  2. On the topic of urban improvement, what about some more trees for Rotterdam? Blaming the war for the lack of greenery isn’t a great excuse.

  3. If you’re looking for just the right amount of corduroy for your autumn wardrobe, The Gigi might be the label for you.

  4. Toyota’s new Tokyo taxis look handsome and sturdy and should be putting in appearances elsewhere. London could do with fewer airless Mercedes-Benz vans masquerading as black cabs.

  5. While on assignment for our Swiss survey we sampled raclette between periods at the Zug vs Davos game. Something to be introduced to the catering line-up at NHL arenas perhaps?

  6. Are we coming to the end of silly, empty names for low-cost airlines? Level? Joon? Swoop? Make it stop.

  7. Could Melbourne’s Supernormal restaurant take over some of the domestic catering on Qantas? How about it Mr Joyce?

Play your cards right

Swapping business cards used to be a way of cutting out questions and adding clarity to the moment: “Ah, you’re the CEO.” But increasingly they carry job titles that only a soothsayer can devise meaning from – and raise other questions.

What, for example, do you say when the card declares the owner to be a “Global Changemaker” and they are not, say, Vladimir Putin? (We get that he could change the world.) You can’t get away with, “Oh, that’s nice. Fancy another canapé?” Instead you are obliged to ask how exactly they are single-handedly fixing the globe. If the card said “Modest Differencemaker” we could at least have a convivial chat.

Display of force

During our visit to Iceland’s Keflavík air base, which plays host to regular air surveillance missions by Nato allies, the wide and wacky array of squadron emblems on display caught our eye. Affixed to the walls of the base’s common area, stickers bearing the emblems of past visiting units offer a crash course in nation branding.

From the predictable (soaring eagles feature heavily on US airforce badges) to the bizarre (for some reason, so do devils), the iconography doesn’t always land – but it makes for a fascinating and colourful display. And for more military markers, see 'Line of defence' in the Affairs section ahead in this issue. 

Top flight

We’ve been in and out of Lisbon a lot in recent weeks, not least to host an event for our subscribers. It’s meant a lot of visits to the airport, which we love. Here’s why: you can get from hotel lobby to gate in 20 minutes (we did it in 17 minutes one very early morning); tap flies to cool places, making the passenger mix very enjoyable to watch; the Fnac sells Monocle; and everything feels nice and Portuguese – even Starbucks offers a pastel de nata. It’s everything that a city airport should be.

New horizons

It’s always good to see national carriers waving the flag for their country when it comes to in-flight service and food, even if some menus are more exotic than others. Atlantic Airways serves a potato-and-carrot soup that is topped with a chunk of fermented lamb, which is a Faroe Islands party favourite.

It is certainly a bold, if acquired, taste. But it does go down rather well with a healthy dose of aquavit, the Scandinavian spirit).

Rising to the occasion

German watchmaker Nomos Glashütte is celebrating the 25th anniversary of four of its best-known models, including the Tangente and the Tetra. To mark the occasion the brand has created its own cake mixture – with a little help from home-baking company Kathi. The mix comes complete with a Nomos watch-face stencil and chocolate powder to give the finished cake the appearance of one the brand’s Bauhaus-inspired timepieces. This is by some margin one of the best pieces of marketing we’ve seen in years, particularly in the often strait-laced world of watchmaking.


In the taxi rank in front of a grand hotel in Lisbon, a limo driver is talking to a visitor about the city’s boom.

“We have lots of French people coming here. It’s really incredible. Supposedly we have lots of Chinese but you never see them.”
After a pause he poses a question.
“Do Chinese people ever die? I never see funeral processions. Strange.”

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