Friday. 6/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Virtuous cycle

Not long after arriving in Milan I was involved in a cycling accident. It was partly my fault; having realised that I was heading in the wrong direction, I performed a quick turnaround, crossing a central lane reserved for trams, taxis and – it turns out – mopeds, including the one that I collided with.

To cycle in this city, you need to have your wits about you. My battered single-speed Feather, a survivor of six gruelling years of living in New York, is entirely unprepared for Milan’s challenges, including the gaps in the road caused by tram tracks.

Milan isn’t Paris or Copenhagen. There isn’t a big urban commuting culture (though getting into the mountains on a racer is an entirely different matter) and no one bothers with apparently trivial accessories such as helmets or bike lights. But the city’s mayor, Giuseppe “Beppe” Sala, wants to change all of that. There are several ambitious long-term plans that will hopefully survive when he leaves office after the next election in 2026. These include the Cambio (Change) initiative, which will create four circular superhighways in Milan, extensive paths leading out to neighbouring communities and corridors through green areas. The recently launched cycle lanes in eastern Milan that run above the partially opened M4 metro line are also an excellent development.

Those plans bode well for the future but plenty of work remains to be done to transform this new infrastructure into a coherent, integrated system. For example, a recently opened lane by Dateo metro station currently joins an existing path east after crossing an intersection but the junction is marked by a high curb that no one seems to have thought of lowering. It’s small details such as this, as well as the grand gestures, that will be the key to Milan’s future as a cyclist-friendly city. That, and stopping careless newcomers from throwing themselves in front of mopeds.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Milan-based Europe editor at large.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Estonia

Asset transfer

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU has frozen the €19bn of oligarchs’ assets that are in its possession, as well as the Russian Central Bank’s estimated €300bn in foreign currency reserves. Now, as nations debate what should be done with those assets, Estonia has decided to take matters into its own hands. Tallinn has started the process of developing a legal basis for handing them over to Ukraine’s government to help rebuild the country’s war-torn cities. “Estonia wants to put pressure on other EU member states because our government sees the lack of activity in deciding how and when to use Russian frozen assets to help Ukraine,” Priit Hõbemägi, editor in chief of Estonian daily newspaper Postimees, tells The Monocle Minute. Estonia currently controls about €20m of Russian assets and a draft proposal will be presented to its government next month.

Image: Shutterstock

Trade / New Zealand & Taiwan

Flying fish

As nations across Asia gear up for 2023, Taiwanese flag-carrier China Airlines has chartered eight freight planes to transport 800 tonnes of high-value delicacies from Christchurch to Taipei in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations on 22 January. New Zealand’s produce is prized in the region; Taiwan, which celebrates Chinese New Year with vibrant pageantry and seafood-heavy dishes, is particularly fond of New Zealand’s lobsters, oysters, salmon and fresh cherries, farmed on the country’s South Island.

The freight flights, which began this week and will operate on alternate days for much of this month, will provide a sorely needed boost to the Kiwi speciality-food sector, which is still recovering from the disruptions of the pandemic. Despite the ongoing territorial conflict between Beijing and Taipei, Chinese New Year is one of most important festivals of the year for both Taiwan and China – and a rare source of agreement at a fractious time.

Image: Getty Images

Hospitality / Canada

Mild west

Nothing dampens the Canadian spirit in winter more than slushy weather and rain. Ontario’s ski slopes are struggling to open, forcing resorts to delay ski season once again after similar disappointment in 2022 and two years of pandemic restrictions. Fewer than half of the trails at the province’s 20 popular ski resorts are open, with some areas looking better suited to golf than snowboarding.

Erratic weather is not unique to Canada’s slopes; temperatures in the French Pyrenees and northern Alps have been at their warmest in 25 years, raising economic fears in mountain communities that rely on skiers to fill up their cafés and hotels every winter. Those businesses are slowly adapting: resorts in Canada and Europe are investing in snow-making equipment and some are encouraging mountain biking and hiking during longer summers. They’ll need to be nimble if they want to prevent skiing from feeling like an exotic pastime of winters gone by.

Image: Paromita Chatterjee

Culture / India

Word on the street

Kolkata’s Seagull Books has offices in London and New York but its headquarters in India (pictured) also functions as a shop for its publications. In what looks like an eclectic home with colourful artwork and vintage posters lining every wall, Seagull Books also stocks work by hundreds of celebrated authors, including Nobel laureates Peter Handke from Austria and Mo Yan from China. It hosts art, theatre and literature events too, as well as education programmes for budding publishers.

According to its founder, Naveen Kishore, the goal is to compete with publishing giants based in the West. Seagull Books is on the right track: investing in grass-roots initiatives and physical spaces is never a bad idea. Publishers in North America and Europe could benefit from taking a page out of its book.

To read the full story, pick up a copy of Monocle’s December/January double issue, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Moshe Safdie and Clothsurgeon

Architect Moshe Safdie discusses his illustrious career and latest title. Plus: we head to London’s Savile Row, where a streetwear brand is breaking the mould.

Monocle Films / Helsinki

Sisu: The art of Finnish fortitude

Finland is a swimmer’s paradise and residents take to the water year-round. In colder months the practice often involves carving a hole into ice – a demonstration of sisu, the unique Finnish concept of fortitude in the face of adversity. Monocle joins journalist Katja Pantzar on an icy dip, to explore the mindset that dates back more than 500 years. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.

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