Friday 22 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 22/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Dispatch / Carlota Rebelo

The fight goes on

It’s day five of Monocle’s reporting trip to Ukraine and, so far, the sirens have been silent. But this gives a false sense of security because the country is clearly still at war. We met a Ukrainian MP for lunch close to the parliament and had to pass through numerous military checkpoints; we spoke with an ambassador in his office, the windows piled high with sandbags; and we talked with an official about Kalush Orchestra’s Eurovision entry in a room surrounded by armed guards.

In Lviv, mayor Andriy Sadovyi has been raising funds to build a rehabilitation centre. His city is host to the largest number of internally displaced people in the country (nearly half a million) and, every day, medical trains arrive with critically injured patients. “I have a duty to take care of my new citizens,” Sadovyi told Monocle. In Kyiv, while the narrative might be similar, the mood is different: the threat is greater and you sense the exhaustion in people forced to trade their regular lives for defending their country.

“In Ukraine we are fighting for family and children,” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko (pictured) told us. “We are fighting for our home.” We met the former heavyweight champion turned war leader in his office, surrounded by memorabilia and plans for projects in Kyiv pinned to the wall; they are on hold for now. “It upsets me that all the visions for modern Kyiv had to be stopped abruptly,” he said. When we asked him how he feels, he simply told us, “I’m a former boxer; you keep fighting until you win.”

Carlota Rebelo is Monocle 24’s senior producer/presenter.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Canada

Balance of power

Ontario premier Doug Ford announced plans to grant the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa extra powers this week, leading to quicker decision-making in the province’s two largest cities. As Ford (pictured, on left, with Toronto mayor John Tory) explained, the move aims to emulate “strong mayor” examples in many European and US cities. In Canada’s municipal governance structure, the mayor symbolically represents the whole city but their legal role is limited to the basic functions of a councillor, so they can’t make big decisions without majority support. Ford believes that increased mayoral authority will allow Toronto and Ottawa to build more homes to address their housing crises, as well as allowing for greater control over security measures in situations such as the trucker protests that crippled the capital in February. He is expected to table the legislation in August so these problems could begin to be addressed as soon as this summer – surely music to the ears of Torontians and Ottawans alike.

Image: Shutterstock

Books / Hong Kong

Lost for words

The Hong Kong Book Fair is back in town this week. Unlike many other trade shows around the world, it’s not business as usual – and not just because of the pandemic. Many publishers of political books were not allowed to take part due to the latest repercussions of the controversial national security law.

After showing some titles about delicate political topics last year, local publisher Hillway Culture has been prevented from participating – and its owner’s plans to organise a parallel, independent fair didn’t work out either. Publisher One of a Kind’s application was also rejected. Running until next Tuesday, the fair is one of the biggest such events across Asia. Fiction, education and history books are still flooding the halls, which are filled with enthusiastic customers. But the absence of spiky political works reads very clearly.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Brazil

Green shoots of change

Large metropolises struggling with graffiti or abandoned lots should look to São Paulo for savvy solutions. Its city hall has long been using greenery to tackle urban blight; in 2017 it planted a 3.5km-long vertical garden along one of the city’s main traffic corridors, Avenida 23 de Maio (pictured), to cover up tagging. But far from leaving it to bureaucrats or politicians to provide the only fixes, residents and developers are also taking matters into their own hands. Landscape architect Ricardo Cardim, for instance, runs the Floresta de Bolso project, an initiative that gathers groups of volunteers at weekends to help plant patches of native forest in the city. Their work, on degraded land as small as 15 sq m, is a reminder that all citizens can play a part in making their patch greener and cleaner.

For more urban fixes, grab a copy of the July/August Quality of Life issue of Monocle magazine from newsstands today.

Image: Netflix

Tourism / Switzerland

Surprise visitors

The Swiss Alpine region of the Bernese Oberland is a lure for hikers and skiers who come to explore its beautiful valleys and mountains year-round. But when thousands of South Korean tourists arrived this week looking to visit the location of a hit TV series, local infrastructure became overwhelmed. Crash Landing on You (pictured) tells the story of a South Korean businesswoman who crashes while paragliding in the mountains close to the country’s demilitarised zone.

She is rescued by a North Korean officer, with whom she falls in love. The most popular drama series on South Korean channel TVN, it was partially filmed in the village of Iseltwald in Switzerland. Crash Landing on You’s massive success came as a surprise to Swiss officials, who had to expand the region’s Postbus timetable to accommodate the extra visitors. Despite this, a Postbus spokesperson told local media, “We’re very happy to have so many visitors back after two years of disruptions due to coronavirus.”

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / Foreign Desk Explainer

A mix-up in Mali?

Earlier this month, Mali arrested 49 soldiers from Côte d’Ivoire who had arrived in the country as part of an ongoing UN mission. Andrew Mueller explains whether this was a moment of confusion or defiance.

Monocle Films / Retail

Thessaloniki revival

Greece’s second city is defiantly bouncing back from the economic crisis and welcoming an increasingly international crowd. We meet the brave residents who set up shop in the tough times and are now finding success – as well as offering reasons to be hopeful about the country’s future.


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