The Iron Courtain Doesn’t Fall in the Suburbs.

Hello dear travelers, I have not given you any news lately, this was due to a tiring summer session at the university. I had to study for  very fascinating but somewhat difficult exams. But I am done now and I am back.

Never the less, I have had the opportunity to make some quick trips not too far from home. One of the most surreal  experiences I had,  was my “day trip” in what seemed to be a suburb of a in Soviet  metropolis, but was actually in the outskirts of Milan.

Near  Sesto San Giovanni, a town nearby Milan, one can find what probably was intended to be an incredible project of urban upgrading that must have gone awry  along the way.  What emerged at  the end  was an amazing environment which, in it’s peculiar way, can be really  attractive from the photographic, the anthropological and urban development points of view.

In this place, somewhat isolated, I was able to identify those distinctive traits that, not too long ago, belonged to two worlds that were at the opposite ends of the Hearth.  Here instead,  these different  characteristics  have been mixed and have created a hybrid representing  what was once the Soviet society and what is now the American one.

First of all, from the point of view of the landscape, vastness is what one notices  when he arrives  there for the first time.  The streets are not many  but they are able to carry an intense flow of traffic having 3 or 4 lanes in each direction.

The sidewalks, alongside hive-looking condo,s are almost all flanked by cycling tracks (deserted) and extend as far as the eye can see.

One  is not able to  count the many buildings found there, an incredible sequel  of identical buildings differentiated only by a number, that almost frightens the  visitor with their homogenizing power: identical homes for identical  people with identical passions and habits (if any).

Counting the living units (humans)  is much easier, many apartments are empty and many houses were abandoned to their fate and have become shelters for  homeless or drug addicts.

It’ s  in these houses that I started to see the similarities  between the US and the Soviet world. In these big buildings I saw the “plans for population control made by the Management Party”, while in the large urban abandonment I saw America after the year 2008. An America in which big plans were made  and one would easily bet on the growth of those same suburbs that today, with their degradation, are filling entire cities.

This amazing area, offers to the visitor, different environments that in addition to stimulating  the creativity of a photographer  would arouse the curiosity of an anthropologist.   In the midst of several abandoned buildings (including some new ones that are not inhabited) is in fact a shopping mall opened a few months ago. A final attempt to bring life and action to the area. Pleasant from the architectural point of view, it is the only center of attraction of the area and, just like in American Malls, 90% of those  you meet  is not there to make purchases but chooses the mall as a meeting place for socializing.

From skaters to the homeless,  the only place that looked populated was the mall, despite the fact that nearby there is what vaguely looks like a park, with a literary café and a children playground.

This hybrid that in some aspects, to me, includes  the cultures of both the US and the USSR, continues to grow not only by increasing the distances between places,  one needs a car to get anywhere, but it also shows the extreme manipulation of the area.

These large agglomeration of  houses do not follow the landscape, they burst,  perpendicular to the ground creating a sense of exaggeration in the use of a land already battered by the industry created by the past economic boom.

The anthropomorphism, then reaches its climax thanks to the many hundreds of trellis that carry kilometers and kilometers of cables around the landscape and are so invasive that a protest movement has been created by the people living there, but it remains ignored by the proper authorities  to this day.

My visit was short so I could not get to know the place from a human point of view, I did not have the chance to have  a chat with locals.  Street encounters were very rare but the few faces  I saw seemed to tell good stories.

For anyone wishing to embark on this venture just go in via Ugo Tognazzi on the southern outskirts of Milan and you might be able to enjoy the two  extremes of the Iron Curtain. And if you do, please write me about your impressions, I will be happy to discuss them with you.

Be back soon, stay tuned

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