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Alex Sakalis

Bologna, Italy
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About Alex
Alex Sakalis is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the BBC, The Economist and The Guardian among others. He was previously the Europe Editor at openDemocracy and lives in Bologna, Italy.

Portfolio: https://alexsakalis.com/published-work/

Twitter: @alexsakalis
Instagram: @sakalisalex
Greek English Italian
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Why French progressives should vote for Macron

13 May 2024  |  www.opendemocracy.net
European progressives have failed to unite against xenophobic and nationalistic forces, a situation made evident by the French presidential election. Emmanuel Macron's advancement to the second round is a temporary relief for the EU, but his potential presidency is expected to be weak. Jean-Luc Mélenchon missed an opportunity to rally support against Marine Le Pen, and Podemos' call for abstention is criticized. The article urges French progressives to vote against Le Pen and to form a broad alliance of progressive internationalists for the upcoming legislative elections, to combat policies eroding the EU and to promote a progressive agenda.

The current and future challenges of Middle Eastern studies

04 May 2024  |  www.opendemocracy.net
Middle Eastern studies (MES) faces challenges such as politicization, diminishing funds, and ideological attacks, which may intensify under Trump's presidency. The field is criticized for lacking theoretical rigor and not serving US foreign policy. However, MES enriches academia with interdisciplinary insights and critical theories. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is moving towards activism, while the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) influences US policy. Academics debate the role of MES in representing the region and contributing to policy. The field's future may involve returning to orientalist roots, aligning with disciplinary theory, or innovatively strengthening sciences through real-world applicability.

What kind of hope is a promise?

01 May 2024  |  openDemocracy
Carlos Delclós discusses his book 'Hope is a Promise' which chronicles the rise of Podemos in Spain from the indignados movement. He emphasizes the importance of organizing in hopelessness and the role of the indignados in preventing a reactionary, fascist uprising by promoting inclusivity and action against xenophobia, racism, and sexism. Delclós also highlights the differences between Barcelona and Madrid's political slogans and the debates around political hierarchy and hegemony within Podemos. The interview touches on the challenges of representing diverse social majorities and the tension between political parties and social movements. The discussion also covers the Catalan independence movement, the role of municipal governments, and the need for social movements to set the agenda and respond to the needs of marginalized populations.

Humans of the World Forum for Democracy

The 15 parliamentary candidates DiEM25 endorses for Thursday’s UK General Election

05 Apr 2024  |  opendemocracy.net
DiEM25, a movement advocating for a Progressive International across Europe, endorses 15 parliamentary candidates for the UK general election on June 8, 2017. The endorsed candidates come from various parties including Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens, Scottish Greens, National Health Action Party, and Women's Equality Party. DiEM25's support reflects their progressive agenda for Britain and Europe, and their stance on Brexit negotiations. The movement emphasizes principled voting and transnational politics, aiming to demonstrate a European demos that rejects isolationism. The list includes politicians like Mhairi Black, Nick Clegg, and Caroline Lucas, and was decided through an internal vote by DiEM25 members across Europe.

Ingenuity and British citizenship in unpropitious times

04 Apr 2024  |  opendemocracy.net
The article discusses the challenges facing democracy and citizenship education in the UK, particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote. It highlights the marginalization and disenfranchisement of various demographic groups and the inadequacy of political debate. The Skills for Democracy event at the House of Commons, supported by MPs and featuring a panel of experts, aimed to build momentum for improving democratic skills. The event also marked the launch of 'Practical Politics' by Titus Alexander. The speakers addressed the decline in citizenship education, the need for political literacy, and the role of civil society organizations in fostering democratic participation. The article suggests that a comprehensive approach to democracy education, including campaigns and government support, is necessary to engage marginalized communities and promote inclusivity in decision-making processes.

Europe’s Most Scenic Train Ride Takes You Places You Didn’t Think a Train Could Go

01 Oct 2023  |  www.thedailybeast.com
The Bernina Express, frequently named Europe’s most scenic train ride, offers a breathtaking journey from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy. The route, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcases stunning landscapes, including glaciers, Alpine villages, and the highest railway pass in Europe. The train's history dates back to the late 19th century, with ambitious engineering feats creating a network of tunnels and viaducts. The journey highlights the seamless blend of nature and engineering, with notable stops at Pontresina, Alp Grüm, and the picturesque Poschiavo valley. The article emphasizes the train's appeal to both tourists and locals, capturing the ever-changing beauty of the landscape across seasons.

Do you want to hear the Griko language?

01 Oct 2023  |  www.ekathimerini.com
Corigliano d’Otranto in Italy's Salento region reveals a unique cultural heritage with the Griko language, closely related to Greek. Dr. Manuela Pellegrino, a native and author, explores the language's history and its modern-day reinvention. Despite its decline in daily use, Griko has found new life in cultural expressions and local identity. The Union of the Municipalities of Grecia Salentina and efforts by the Greek and Italian states have played roles in its preservation. The language's revival is intertwined with Salento's economic and cultural resurgence, making Griko a symbol of regional pride and heritage.

Does the World’s Only Gelato University Offer the Coolest Diploma in Italy?

01 Oct 2023  |  www.italymagazine.com
Bologna's Gelato University, celebrating its 20th anniversary, attracts thousands of students globally to study the art and science of gelato making. The institution, founded by the Carpigiani brothers, offers rigorous courses and is recognized for its high academic standards. The university's multicultural student body includes individuals like Jennifer Myers from Canada and Kabirat Akinola from Nigeria, both aiming to open their own gelaterias. The university is praised for its dedicated professors and progressive approach, making it a unique and influential educational institution in the world of artisan gelato.

The Italian village that's offering tourists a free holiday this summer

01 Oct 2023  |  The Telegraph
San Giovanni in Galdo, a village in southern Italy's Molise region, is offering free week-long stays in its empty houses to attract tourists and combat population decline. The initiative, called 'Regalati il Molise,' aims to revive the village and boost tourism during challenging times. Local activist Enzo Luongo, who spearheaded the project, hopes it will serve as a model for other Italian villages. The project has already garnered over 600 applications from international visitors.

The melancholic Mazzorbo area was once known as the “laguna morta” (the dead lagoon). But at the turn of the 21st century, it became the main stage for one of the wine world’s biggest stories.

Cost, crowds and climate change: Why I swapped Greek beaches for mountains this year

15 Aug 2023  |  euronews
Alex Sakalis shares his personal experience of opting for a summer vacation in the Greek mountains instead of the traditional beach holiday. He describes the beauty and tranquility of the Pindus National Park and the region of Zagori, highlighting the cooler temperatures, lack of light pollution, and authentic Greek culture. Despite the appeal, he notes that most Greeks prefer the beach, a trend influenced by historical state subsidies and media narratives. However, with recent extreme heatwaves and overcrowded beaches, some Greeks like journalist Kostas Giannakidis are discovering the charm of mountainous regions. Spiros Apergis of Aperghi Travel, who offers hiking holidays, observes a slow but growing interest in mountain tourism among Greeks. The article suggests that climate change and deteriorating conditions at the beaches may eventually lead more Greeks to explore their country's mountains.

Skinny Smugglers, a French King’s Body, and the Odd European City Home to the Other Cold War Wall

06 May 2023  |  Yahoo Sports
Gorizia, a city straddling the Italy-Slovenia border, is a unique blend of Habsburgian and Balkan influences with a complex history. In 1947, it was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia, creating a Cold War border that split houses, streets, and even a cemetery. The border was largely erased in 2004, symbolizing unity and the success of the Schengen Agreement. The city's smuggling history during the Cold War is commemorated in a museum, highlighting the lighter side of cross-border trade. Gorizia's multicultural atmosphere is evident in its architecture, culture, and cuisine. The city also houses the remains of Charles X, the penultimate King of France, making it home to one of Europe's most curious historical footnotes.

Arseny Avraamov: The forgotten Soviet genius of modern music

07 Apr 2023  |  www.bbc.com
The article by Alex Sakalis explores the life and work of Arseny Avraamov, a Soviet composer and visionary who created the Symphony of Sirens in 1922. This avant-garde musical performance used the city of Baku as an orchestra, incorporating industrial and military sounds to celebrate the October Revolution's anniversary. Avraamov's work aimed to merge politics and music, challenging traditional musical structures and creating a new form of music for the proletariat. Despite his innovative contributions to electronic music and sound editing, Avraamov was forgotten after his death in 1944, largely due to the political climate of the Soviet Union under Stalin. Interest in his work resurfaced in the 1990s, leading to reconstructions of his Symphony of Sirens and recognition of his genius in modern times.

Tresigallo: The Fascist Utopia That Became a Cultural Hub

05 Apr 2023  |  Atlas Obscura
The article explores the history and transformation of Tresigallo, an Italian village that was turned into a 'utopian city' during the Fascist era under the direction of Edmondo Rossoni. Initially a small, isolated village, Tresigallo was reimagined with grand architecture and modern amenities, aiming to improve the lives of its inhabitants. The city grew rapidly, but after World War II and the fall of Fascism, it experienced a decline. In recent decades, Tresigallo has been rediscovered and appreciated for its unique architecture, leading to efforts to repurpose its spaces and promote it as a destination for architectural and educational tourism. The town has been recognized as a 'City of Art' and is part of ATRIUM, an association of towns built under totalitarian regimes. Despite its complex past, Tresigallo is finding a new identity and purpose in the modern era.

48 Hours in Gorizia: Beauty, Intrigue and Goulash on Italy’s Balkan Borderland

21 Mar 2023  |  www.italymagazine.com
Gorizia, a city on the Italian-Slovenian border with a population of around 35,000, is known for its mix of Italian, Austrian, and Balkan influences. It has a rich history, including periods under Austrian rule, suffering during WW1 and WW2, and division during the Cold War. The city, along with Nova Gorica, will be the European Capital of Culture in 2025. Gorizia boasts Habsburg architecture, a multicultural heritage, and a unique cuisine influenced by its diverse cultural history. The article suggests visiting historical sites, museums, and enjoying the local cuisine and wine, particularly the Collio Goriziano and Ribolla Gialla. It also recommends day trips to nearby Slovenian villages and highlights where to eat and stay in Gorizia.

Ignore the haters: Milan is full of style and history

19 Feb 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
The article provides a comprehensive guide to Milan, highlighting its historical and modern attractions. It begins with the iconic Milan Cathedral and nearby landmarks such as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Museo del Novecento. The author suggests visiting the Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa and its ossuary, as well as enjoying Milan's parks, including the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli. The Fondazione Prada and the Navigli district are recommended for contemporary art and dining. Isola is described as a cool neighborhood with a mix of bourgeois and bohemian elements, featuring the Bosco Verticale and the Casa della Memoria. The article also lists various dining options, from speakeasies to Eritrean cuisine, and suggests places to stay, from hostels to luxury hotels. Finally, it recommends climbing the Duomo rooftop for panoramic city views.

The Mysteries of Greece’s Forgotten Mountain Villages

05 Jan 2023  |  New Lines Magazine
Thrace, a remote region in Greece's northeastern tip, is home to the Muslim minority, including the Pomaks in the Rhodope Mountains. The Pomaks, speaking a Slavic language, faced isolation during the Cold War, with barriers restricting movement until 1995. Xanthi, a multicultural city, contrasts with the isolated mountain villages. The article explores the cultural heritage, identity issues, and economic challenges of the region through personal stories from locals like Betoul, Kemal, Achmet, and Tzemil Chaliloglou. The Kentavros Youth Festival and the Kottani Taverna are highlighted as examples of cultural preservation and potential for regional development. The region's complex history, including the Bulgarian occupation, and the current state of education and infrastructure are also discussed.

At Greece’s northeastern tip, a land of forgotten villages and timeless traditions

05 Jan 2023  |  New Lines Magazine
The article explores the region of Thrace in Greece, focusing on the Pomak community in the Rhodope Mountains. The Pomaks, who speak a Slavic language, have a complex history of cultural identity shaped by geopolitical events, including WWII and the Cold War. The author visits Xanthi, a multicultural city, and interviews Betoul, a local who discusses the region's past isolation and its impact on development and identity. The article also covers the Kentavros Youth Festival, aimed at cultural exchange and community improvement, and the challenges faced by the Pomak language. The author's journey includes a visit to Kottani, where he experiences local hospitality and learns about the area's history and current state. The piece concludes by reflecting on Thrace's geographical and political complexities, its isolation from the political mainstream, and the warmth of its people.

Paradise at Risk: The Battle to Save Corfu's Last Virgin Ecosystem

15 Dec 2022  |  The Daily Beast
The article discusses the ongoing conflict over the development of Erimitis, a pristine ecosystem on the Greek island of Corfu. Investment firm NCH Capital purchased a portion of the land in 2013 with plans to build a tourist village, including a hotel, bungalows, villas, and a marina. Local activists, environmentalists, and regional authorities have opposed the development, fearing it would destroy the area's natural beauty and unique biodiversity. Despite legal challenges and appeals to the European Parliament, the Greek government has continued to support the project. The Save Erimitis Group, bolstered by support from expatriates and wealthy investors with ties to Corfu, has been fighting to preserve the area. The war in Ukraine has halted the development, with NCH Capital expressing interest in selling the land, potentially to conservation-minded investors.

Arseny Avraamov: The forgotten Soviet genius of modern music

03 Nov 2022  |  www.bbc.co.uk
Arseny Avraamov, a Russian composer, conducted the Symphony of Sirens in Baku in 1922, using the city's soundscape to celebrate the October Revolution's anniversary. His work, which included microtonal theory and sound editing, predated and influenced later electronic music. Despite his innovative contributions, Avraamov was marginalized by the Soviet regime and died in obscurity. Interest in his work resurfaced in the 1990s, leading to reconstructions of his Symphony and recognition of his genius.

Greece reborn: reversing the fortunes of a ghostly mountain village

12 Oct 2022  |  ca.sports.yahoo.com
Vamvakou, a mountain village in the Peloponnese, Greece, is undergoing a significant transformation thanks to the Vamvakou Revival project, funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The initiative, led by Eleni Mami and her husband Anargyros Verdilos, aims to reverse the village's decline by restoring buildings, setting up agricultural cooperatives, and installing high-speed wi-fi. The project has turned a closed school into a hi-tech cultural centre and co-working space, and aims to make Vamvakou a hub for science, technology, and eco-tourism. The population has increased from 9 to 21 since the project began, and the village recently celebrated its first birth in 30 years.

Greece reborn: reversing the fortunes of a ghostly mountain village

12 Oct 2022  |  www.theguardian.com
Vamvakou, a mountain village in the Peloponnese, Greece, is undergoing a transformation thanks to the Vamvakou Revival project. The initiative, supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, aims to prevent the village's decline by turning it into a sustainable, year-round destination. The project has seen the restoration of old stone mansions into guesthouses and homes, the reopening of the village restaurant and cafe, the establishment of agricultural cooperatives, and the installation of high-speed wi-fi. A former school has been converted into a hi-tech cultural center and co-working space. The project also focuses on eco-tourism, remote-working facilities, and a business incubator to encourage local entrepreneurship. Since the project's inception, the village's population has increased from 9 to 21, and the first child in 30 years was born there.

The forgotten Italian mountain haven that's been hiding in plain sight

27 Aug 2022  |  The Telegraph
The article highlights the lesser-known Apennine mountain range near Bologna, Italy, as a picturesque and tranquil escape from the summer heat. It details various attractions including freshwater swimming spots, unique modern architecture, historic villages, and the Etruscan city of Kainua. The region offers a blend of Bolognese and Tuscan cuisine, and hosts the renowned Porretta Soul Festival. The article emphasizes the area's natural beauty, cultural heritage, and the benefits of exploring it by car.

One of the Greatest Collections of Italian Art Is in This Tiny Mountain Town

01 Aug 2022  |  www.thedailybeast.com
The Italian region of Trentino, known for its landscapes and economy, now boasts a world-class modern art museum, MART, in the town of Rovereto. The museum, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, opened in 2002 and houses an extensive collection of 20th century Italian art, including works by futurists like Fortunato Depero and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Despite some criticism of Botta's architectural style, the museum is praised for its design and the quality of its collection, which also features international artists and special exhibitions. Visitors can experience a journey through Italian art history, from impressionism to futurism, and beyond to movements like social realism and Arte Povera.

After Mass Grave of Skeletons Found, Some Won’t Set Foot in This Starchitect’s Library

25 Apr 2022  |  www.thedailybeast.com
In 2016, a mass grave from the seventh century B.C. was discovered during excavations for the new Greek National Library in Athens, designed by Renzo Piano. Despite some believing the site is cursed, the library is celebrated for its modern architecture and has become a symbol of hope for the city. It is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which includes the National Opera House and a park with sustainable features. The library's design is praised for its subtlety and integration with the environment, and it has been well-received by locals and tourists alike. However, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has expressed frustration with the Greek state for not fulfilling promises, including the construction of a metro station.

Review: 'Athens, City of Wisdom'

28 Mar 2022  |  greece-is.com
Bruce Clark's book 'Athens: City of Wisdom' is praised for its comprehensive exploration of Athens' history beyond the well-known Classical period, delving into the Byzantine, Frankish, and Ottoman eras. The author, Alex Sakalis, commends Clark's engaging writing style and his ability to weave short stories that are at times humorous, sad, and surreal. The review highlights Clark's success in portraying Athens as a city that has endured through a juxtaposition of contrasts, rather than a fallen city of past glories. The book is noted for its accessible narrative and the inclusion of lesser-known figures alongside prominent historical characters.

Why Is There A Bust Of Lenin In The Center Of This Italian Town?

28 Mar 2022  |  Italics Magazine
Cavriago, a small town in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, is notable for its bust of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, donated by the Soviet Embassy in Rome in 1970. The bust, originally made in Luhansk in 1922, was brought to Italy by soldiers during WWII and later returned to the Soviet Ambassador. Cavriago has a long history of left-wing political activity, including support for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. The town's connection to Lenin was commemorated by naming a square after him and placing the bust there. Despite the Communist Party's decline, Cavriago continues to celebrate its radical history.

Stranding of three whales in Corfu raises alarm over seismic testing for fossil fuels

09 Mar 2022  |  www.theguardian.com
Three Cuvier’s beaked whales were found stranded on the beaches of Corfu, Greece, raising concerns over the impact of seismic testing for oil and gas by Hellenic Petroleum. Environmental groups, including the National Resources Defense Council and OceanCare, suggest the testing could have negative effects on marine life. The incident prompted calls for a halt to seismic testing and increased awareness of the risks associated with oil and gas exploration in the Ionian Sea. Environmental oversight in Greece has been criticized, and the local tourism industry fears economic repercussions. Seismic surveys were paused following the beachings.

What happens to fascist architecture after fascism?

18 Jan 2022  |  BBC News فارسی
Bolzano, Italy, has creatively addressed its fascist architectural legacy by recontextualizing controversial monuments, such as the Victory Monument and the city's tax office, to neutralize their fascist rhetoric while preserving their historical and artistic significance. This approach has defused tensions between Italian and German-speaking communities and offers a model for other regions grappling with similar issues. The article also explores how other countries like Spain and Germany have dealt with their fascist architectural heritage, highlighting the complexities and varying approaches to such contested spaces.

Molise, the region of Italy that became famous for 'not existing'

02 Jan 2020  |  BBC News فارسی
Molise, a small region in southeastern Italy, has gained fame through an internet joke claiming it doesn't exist. Despite being an official region with elections and borders with other recognized regions, it became the subject of memes, cultural references, and even scientific parody papers. The phenomenon has sparked creativity and humor online, with references to Molise in various forms of media. Locals like journalist Enzo Luongo and entrepreneur María Laura Pace have embraced the joke, seeing it as an opportunity to promote Molise's unique culture and tourism potential. The region, historically overlooked and facing issues like depopulation, is now being marketed as an authentic, timeless place with much to offer, from ancient villages to traditional crafts like the Marinelli Bell foundry. Efforts are being made to attract tourists looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience in Italy.

DiEM25: an example of internal democracy in action

30 Mar 2017  |  www.opendemocracy.net
DiEM25, a pan-European democratic movement, has engaged in internal deliberations to determine its stance on the 2017 French Presidential Election. The movement assessed the policies of key candidates—Benoît Hamon, Emmanuel Macron, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon—highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in relation to DiEM25's New Deal for Europe. Ultimately, DiEM25 members voted to support an alliance against fascism and neoliberalism rather than rallying behind a single candidate. The text critiques the French political system and electoral process, emphasizing the need for democratic reforms and progressive internationalism.

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