Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Τι Λωζάνη, τι Κοζάνη; (What's the difference between Lausanne (Switzerland) and Kozani (Greece)? - old Greek pop song)

In the 60's in Greece there has been a hit pop song with the title 'What's the difference between Lausanne and Kozani'. I guess the lyrics author picked Lausanne for it's rhyming with Kozani when pronounced in Greek. I searched the lyrics on the net and reading them I realised that the comparison between the cities is about them both located in 'mountainous' areas 'suffering' snowfalls in the winter (so, what's the difference?). The lyrics are furthermore about a soldier serving the military (still compulsory in Greece) and moaning about his lonely and sexless life... I thought about it first time I visited Lausanne, back in 1986. A thought flashed then, like 'dream on, baby' as an imaginary answer to the songwriter, reckoning he'd never seen Lausanne before writing his lyrics. Or he might have done and the whole thing was simply a catch phrase for laughs. In any case, the song stuck and became an instant hit. However, the issue of city comparison between North and South still remains. Do indeed cities in South Europe look different than cities in the Central and Northern Europe and why?
Coming from Alexandroupolis, myself, a Greek city that grew to 75 thousand inhabitants from 15 when I used to live there, and having become utterly frustrated when I visited it after being absent for a very long time, I have a 'weak' spot when it comes to how cities are built, organised and maintained to make life pleasing and comfortable for their inhabitants. It's not sufficient to simply claim that 'the south is chaotic, dirty and disorganised', (which indeed it mostly is, not just in the streets but also inside public administration buildings, schools and universities) and that 'the north is clean, organised and disciplined under the law' (which it often is, incidentally). There is also no imaginary line separating the troubled south from the disciplined north, and it's not like crossing the line will bring you from 'heaven' to 'hell' kind of thing... It is definitely a matter of culture of the individuals living in those cities and managing them daily; it's about tradition, vision, individuals's dignity, and applicable laws. But it is also about certain quite simple policies that various nations with the proper long term vision seem to apply, whereas others (mostly in the South of Europe) don't have a clue. And their impact could be humongous. A small perturbation with immense repercussions. Like chaos theory itself...
To illustrate my argument I have included two pictures here of two cities of similar size in two representative countries of our dearest EU. One is Rethymnon, Crete, in Greece, and the second is Aalter, East Flanders, Belgium. I shot both pictures myself, a few weeks apart. Click on them for larger view and tell the difference by inspecting the two. I will only mention one policy that would make a hell of a difference to Rethymnon and would bring it much closer to order, out of its current chaos. In other words: Cables!
No cables for communications, power and TV/Internet distribution can be seen in the open in Aalter, and just like Aalter, in the town where I live and so many other Flemish towns, cities and villages. Only houses, streets and street lanterns. I am not even talking about the Rethymnon old balconies and parts of buildings that seem to be falling apart. There, they will tell you that there's is a crisis and no money for maintenance and cleanup of the towns is available. Sorry to say, I'm not buying that. As it appears, despite what they say, there's still a lot of money left in Greece, like for top branded fashion and clothing (much more conspicuous than anything I ever saw in Belgium) and driving cars. With 600 thousand inhabitants in Crete, I reckon they must have at least 300 thousand cars and pickup trucks. There's cars everywhere you turn. Appalling! I am not even talking about their larger cities. I almost went ballistic when I arrived at Anogia, a large village not far from Rethymnon, where it was almost impossible to drive around because of the hundreds of cars parked both sides of the street in ways that would render Parisian drivers into the obedient angels of car parking. Apparently, even in Crete there are initiatives for burying the cables, as I heard about Acharnes (I think), a village near Knossos, where there's an EU funded programme for doing with cables what has been the policy in Belgium for more than twenty years now.
In conclusion, Τι Λωζάνη, τι Κοζανη; I betsa, a hell of a difference between the two! For a long time still, deep into the distant future... Unless hell freezes up.

For kicks, I photoshopped out the cables and did some minor repairs and painting and that's how it comes out...At least, it looks safer now...

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