20 Jul 2007

Environment Correspondent Frank McDonald visits the town they’re calling the new Tirana

Once a town associated with the Gulags, Magadan – the jewel of the Okhotsk and gateway to the majestic Kolyma, has reinvented itself into a world class city full of open air cafes, Guggenheim Museums and high tech pedestrian bridges with thin white structural elements. 

The historic buildings of the central square now gleam having been cleaned using the latest guideline approved conservation techniques.

Cars are forbidden from entering the central old town. Streets are the exclusive domain of empty trams and tweed clad students chomping on organically grown carrots as they cycle their old-fashioned black bicycles to the various government sponsored academies of music.

The Annual Magadan Festival of Mime is now a must on anyone’s social calendar – the highlight this year was a piece by the Cirque de Montreal to raise awareness about the dangers of global warming.

As it happened, my visit also coincided with the Bloomsday celebrations and I was delighted to happen upon a throng of straw-hatted, Magadan David Norris look-alikes reading extracts from Ullysses in Pashtush and Basque in the People’s Square. Fabulous!

With the number currently standing at 130,000, the population of Magadan is expected to fall by over 3% before 2012 as citizens do their part to honour the Kyoto Protocol by not bothering to procreate. 

Comparisons with recent developments in Dublin are difficult to avoid. Obviously we have many lessons to learn.   

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