#2 Heraklion: from the City with Walls to the Walls City

Episode 2 March 10, 2022 00:30:45
#2 Heraklion: from the City with Walls to the Walls City
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#2 Heraklion: from the City with Walls to the Walls City

Mar 10 2022 | 00:30:45


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

The second stop on our journey toward a better urban life is in Heraklion, Greece with its Vice-Mayor Yiannis Anastasakis.

Heraklion is the administrative capital of the island of Crete and the fourth largest city in Greece. Yiannis Anastasakis is Vice-Mayor of Technical Works, Daily Life & Greenery for the Municipality of Heraklion since 2019, and was before that Vice-Mayor of Technical Projects, Autopilot & European Programmes for 5 years.

In this episode, we discuss the transformations of the city for the past 20 years, the projects aiming to bring the famous landmark of the Venetian Walls of Heraklion back into the daily life of its inhabitants, as well as mobility, resilience, and urban planning.

Overview of the episode:

01:22 - Teaser: What is the one thing people do not know about Greece?

02:56 - Of the advantages of visiting your urban planning projects by foot 

03:39 - Heraklion: from the “most ugly city in Greece” to "a city under transformation"

05:57 - The Venitian Walls of Heraklion and their rehabilitation

11:47 - Of the difficulties of collaborating between different parties in the public sector

13:45 - Overcoming water scarcity with circular economy

15:12 - A few recommendations for Mayors or Project Managers undertaking similar projects

19:14 - Flip the Scriptour guest is asking the questions! 

24:58 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


Want to join us for an episode? Contact our host Tamlyn Shimizu.

And for more insights, join our Smart City Community!

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Yiannis Anastasakis 00:00:00 So we are starting to build a puzzle. We have this large new network for pedestrians within the city on the way I think, uh, we will have completed the project by the end of next May. And that's something very, very good for us, but it's not the project that I admire. It's the change of the attitude of the people. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:28 Welcome to Smart in the City - the BABLE Podcast, I am your host Tamlyn Shimizu. And really at BABLE, we aim to connect the players in the Smart City industry with high-quality information and ideas through our platform and services. This podcast is really an extension of this goal and mission to drive the change for a better urban life. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:53 So today on the journey I have with us, uh, a wonderful vice mayor here in Athens, Greece, it's beautifully, mostly sunny, I should say. And I have with us Yiannis Anastasakis. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:01:09 You did well. <laugh> Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:10 Okay. I, I did my best with, uh, with the, uh, names. So, uh, welcome to the BABLE podcast. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:01:16 It's good to be here. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:18 Thank, Yiannis Anastasakis 00:01:18 Thank you for the invitation. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:20 Yeah, our pleasure. So to start us off, I would like to, um, do a little icebreaker, I suppose. So I wonder if you can tell me maybe one thing, most people don't know about Greece. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:01:34 Ah, one thing most people don't know about Greece. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:38 There's a lot of stereotypes about Greece. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:01:40 I will tell you that we are very working people. Yeah. Everyone thinks that we have the sea and the sun and the good food. <laugh> some full, full Chlor music and we just work two or three hours per day the most, no, it's not true. Most people work very hard. And, uh, the last decade was very difficult for us because we had the, a major change in the society because of the financial problems. But I think now that after we hit the bottom, the only way is up. And, uh, we are feeling much more confident. Most of the problems are behind us and the future seems a bit brighter. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:22 Good, good. And can you, can you think of anything? So I, I think you've been around Heraklion a lot. Yes. Um, but I'm guessing that he Yiannis Anastasakis 00:02:31 Always working, let's see, always working hard, someone, someone, uh, that holds his head <laugh> and is always troubled. And that's me. Okay. I, I walk, uh, around, uh, 10 to 11 kilo. Wow. For work. I have decided to leave the car outside the Venetian walls that are the borderline of the old city mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I visit all the projects on foot Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:59 By foot. Yeah. Wow. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:03:01 That's people see me active mobility. They stop me. OK. This is the, the idea. I can see the real situation of the city. I feel the vibe of the people. It doesn't matter if you feel that you are admired or your work is, uh, well from the society. When you get door to door, you get the real pulse. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. I can tell you that <laugh> the society split. Some say very good things about our works. Some point highlight the things that are need to be done. Cause actually is a difficult city. He's a city under transformation. Okay. Okay. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:43 Yeah. And what kind of transformations Yiannis Anastasakis 00:03:47 I will, uh, give you an idea about how Heraklion looked like 20 years ago. The stereotype close to reality, I would say is that it was the most ugly city Greece <laugh> okay. That has an explanation. It had, uh, a sudden development, financial development, many people rush to habit Heraklion, no urban planning, no building licenses. And we had a chaotic situation with lacking infrastructure and too many people gathering <affirmative>, uh, like a flood. We had, uh, very little, very few monuments, still standing mm-hmm <affirmative> from the <inaudible> times with one landmark, two landmarks, the most well preserved fortification in the east, Mediterranean the Venician walls, the borderline of the old city and Cnosso, you know, the, from the, and civilization mm-hmm <affirmative> and we had to make something happen, uh, to improve our city. I think the main reason that everything started changing was the Olympic games, because although the took place in Athens, mainly some other cities were selected in, and Heraklion was included. So some big infrastructure projects took place and it was the triggering of the total change of the city. So many innovations, the rehabilitation of, uh, public buildings and, uh, the upgrade of the infrastructure took place. And I don't think there is another city with such a dramatic change in, uh, the last 20 years. Wow. So Tamlyn Shimizu 00:05:35 In Greece or in the world? Yiannis Anastasakis 00:05:36 Okay. In, in Greece. In Greece. Okay. I will try in the galaxy, the galaxy. It could be, yeah, it could be. Uh, so we are happy that we see that we have found a good pace and things are always, uh, to the better are always changing to the better Tamlyn Shimizu 00:05:57 You touched on the walls and you know, we've spoken about it previously a little bit. Um, is that the project that you're most proud of? Yiannis Anastasakis 00:06:06 This is, uh, my baby project because it's one, uh, big monument, 35 HECS that could play a multiple role. Uh, the biggest, uh, green area in the municipality, a landmark that could attract tourist interest. Yeah. One of the civilizations we have five plus one, the one is the current one. The one refers to the Venician period, very important for us. So I think it's, uh, something that we could invest in and it could reshape the city in terms of everyday life and people and the small children. Cause we have built some very large playgrounds within the walls are already enjoying it. We want to bring life with some, uh, tourist car affairs on the monument, artistic events, big concerts, excursions, uh, exhibitions, and, uh, even, uh, things that have to do with athletic events. Respecting of course the character of the area, but still everything is possible. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:07:17 And, uh, I'm happy because we exploited every funding opportunity for me, you and we have, uh, 15 million euros of projects. Wow. On the way for the monument, the main idea is to bring the open spaces closer to the people. It's safe to run, jog, take a bike tool in, uh, almost 3.5 kilometers long distance that you can see the city from the top of this, uh, monument. Cause it's so large that you are, you are about 20 meters higher on the city level. Yeah. So you can see the city, you can see the sea in the north and you can see the mainland. If you w look at the Southern park, the biggest mountain of the area. And we dedicate every open space on the walls to a different story, to the people, to the music, to the people of the mainland, to the relationship of the history relationship of the city, with the sea, uh, to the, uh, great author Nikos Kazantzakis who was buried on these walls. And you can see the landmark, a smaller landmark on the landmark, his and, uh, you can see the sign. I don't hope for mm-hmm <affirmative> I am not afraid of anything. Therefore I'm free. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:08:46 That's beautiful. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:08:47 It's very beautiful. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:08:49 I want to come visit now. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:08:51 Yes You're invited. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:08:52 Yeah. Thank you. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:08:53 So the one, uh, story is to give the open space to the people. There is a belt outside the city walls at the city level that was left intentionally blank, not trees, nothing for defensive reasons. Cause they wanted to see the guards if someone was approaching and they could aim on him, no place to hide. And we are trying to give multiple uses at this belt that circulates the wall. It's part of the monument actually. And we thought that the best thing to do is to bring the children closer to the monument. So we have places dedicated for tennis, basketball, uh, for running and some major playground playgrounds that refer to the fortification. It's not simple playgrounds. You can see castles, you it's an adventure for the children robes. And, uh, we make them feel like they're trying to conquer the Venetian world Tamlyn Shimizu 00:09:58 Power to the children. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:09:59 Yeah, of course. And uh, we have three problematic areas that need restoration and that those are different projects that are all, uh, already on the way we don't want have those kind of problems because if monument is not safe, you can talk about exploitation. And the last thing is to give specific uses in the closed areas of the walls. Cause there were, there were gates that allowed the communication of the castle with the outside world. So we give specific use. The larger gate will be dedicated to the history of the war and the city of Iraq and another smaller one that was used, unfortunately as a place where the Germans put the prisoners during the world war II, we will make it a monument, a museum of the resistance of the Cretans. And it, uh, it's an intense feeling when you are there because you can hear people, uh, screaming and be tortured. Yeah. Nothing goes away. Uh, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:11:09 But you're bringing really the, the dynamic right. Of the, of the, you know, uh, intense parts of history course together with really also the, the joy of the children on one aspect. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:11:21 I never thought of that, but you are so right. The contrast. Yeah. And this is the evolution of our species, the way we survive. Mm-hmm <affirmative> we, we live that behind without forgetting, but we are putting our hope on our children. Yeah. Providing them with some memories and some, uh, good prospects. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:11:45 Yeah. Yeah. That's beautiful. And um, so I guess to do a project like this, it, it takes a great deal of obviously planning and collaboration between different parties. Can you talk a bit about that process? Just Yiannis Anastasakis 00:11:59 The first <laugh> the first experience was very bad. Okay. Cause we had, uh, broke our relationship with the archeological authorities. They were thinking that the municipal not doing a good job, uh, concerning that monument, they, they weren't very, just to be honest. So the first thing that me and the mayor did is visiting the ministry of culture mm-hmm <affirmative> and we had six hours talking with the board of the ministry to convince them that we have good intentions and that they should give us a chance to make the master plan to materialize the master plan that we had planned for Thevenet was not an easy task. Yeah. We had to swallow a lot of insults and leave them behind to focus on the main target that was to bring the Venician walls to the city of the, to the life of the people. Yeah. There is a motto that we want to accompany our effort. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:13:02 We want to change from the city with walls, to the walls city. Mm-hmm <affirmative> we want this monument to define the city of Heraklion because it's so important for us. And it, that it, it wasn't logical that this thing was not part of inhabitants. I was 18 years old and I had been there only twice without actually knowing what this monument was for. Yeah. And now I have embraced all these opportunities. I feel very proud because that is the baseline, the foundation of the whole development that we are dreaming for the city. And it has an environmental factor, also very difficult one. Cause there is space to plant it with big trees with, uh, areas, local greens and herbs, but we need water and we don't, there's a water scarcity in Heraklion. So we are discussing, uh, with the local university, how to bring the treatment of the waste that is nearby to irrigate the Venetian walls and not the green areas in Iraq that allows us circular economy to have, uh, more intense plant planting. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:14:24 And, uh, we are thinking of creating an open school of history and of green things so that we could tell the children what the Greek, the Cretan nature is along with the history. And it's very interesting because the line development of the park allows you to create a story it's good for stereo storytelling. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that happened during that era and what you see walking from one part of the monument to the other is those kind of hairs, those kind of things that grow in Crete only. And it's interesting, cause it would be boring and maybe heavy talking only about history, but now it grew music games, some green things mm-hmm <affirmative> and we'll make it more joyful. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:15:10 Something for everyone. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:15:11 Something for everyone. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:15:12 Yeah. And what recommendation, I guess, would you make to both mayors or maybe project managers or anybody working in the city level? Um, if they wanted to do a similar type of project, maybe something you've learned along the way. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:15:27 I'm sure that, uh, everywhere, uh, it's difficult to make a big project happen, but in Greece it's much more difficult for specific reasons. It's not unusual to break the line, the continuum, the continuously, uh, in political scale, mm-hmm <affirmative> the next major don't uh, doesn't usually adapt the ideas of the previous one, but there is a paradox, big projects need more time than one term. Yeah. Four years or four and a half are not enough. So you need to invest on someone's work. We had the lack to be reelected. And me personally, I am very lucky because I am at the same position for six years straight mm-hmm <affirmative> that's has never happened before the same vice mayor dedicated to a specific sector, but I could build on my own experiences and mistakes I have learned. And I had enough time to correct my mistakes, try and error procedures find the, the good recipe with all these people, the engineers, the controlling authorities to find money. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:16:37 Because if you want to execute such a complicated project that needs much funding, you need to be patient and exploit. Every penny EU funds your own funds. We will break the stereotype to bring private sector response on the monument. That's a difficult story. Mm-hmm <affirmative> the ministry is very, very skeptical in bringing the private sector because they, they are right. In some cases there was misuse and misconduct from companies that were working close to the monument. So one needs to be patient. One needs to go two steps back to give space to other people, to other authorities. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I think that, uh, we need to be in peace with everyone in order to achieve something complicated. Mm-hmm <affirmative> otherwise, um, there's no solution. Speaker 3 00:17:35 Yeah. That's good Yiannis Anastasakis 00:17:36 Advice. And that was very difficult for me as a personality because I was, uh, very intense. Yeah. And when, when you know you are right and you're very hard working and you have such a vision, you have the anxiety to bring it to the people soon, but that's not wise. Yeah. You need to leave things mature and not have, uh, the anxiety to do it in your own term. Mm-hmm <affirmative> you invest because you want to serve the common. Good. You need to be honest with that. I'm such this mentality. Yeah. Okay. And I'm not, uh, raising myself, but that was true. Not in the beginning. The major inspired me because, uh, his almost 70 year old, very wise and experienced. And I, I saw that he was very, very, very patient with things he didn't respond in first time. He always gave some time for things to mature and to settle down. Yeah. So I tried to bring this, uh, recipe this way of thinking and acting in my own lifestyle and way of thinking. I'm very, very, uh, intense. And I think it's some somewhere in the middle. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:18:55 Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's a good lesson to learn. And I think I'm also quite, um, I want to do things fast sometimes and I have to also take that lesson to heart as well. Um, now I would go on to a little segment that we have actually a new one that I want to try. Cause I feel like you can handle it. So, um, it's called flip the script and now, you know, I've been asking you many questions and you've done a really nice way of, uh, of showing and explaining your, your vision. So can you now I guess ask me a question, huh. And then put me on the spot. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:19:35 Can you give me some basic advantages and disadvantages in, uh, living in a more organized city because of course Germany is a much more developed country. Yeah. Having solved most of the problems in the terms of infrastructure, but still the climate crisis, the floods, the overheating, the forest that are burning. Yeah. Concern also develop countries. You can see Australia, Germany, people are losing their lives. So maybe, maybe we should be more modest about what we have achieved. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:13 Yeah. Yeah. I would say that, you know, with, with Germany, I, I don't even claim really that, um, we solve many of these problems, for example, with, in the field of mobility, Germans, uh, it's really this mindset thing as well. I think it's quite a, a challenge in many places in Germany and is say to change the mindset. So this is really something that we see across the board, no matter what society, it comes down to this mindset of people. And I, I think no matter what kind of structure you have, it really comes down to working with the people and, and seeing what they really need and going down to the, to the really base of that. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:20:54 So there are still things to be done in terms of mental. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:57 Yeah, yeah. Still term, still things to be done. And then I guess with the, the difference is that I see between cultures also, and these more, more structured societies versus is a bit more chaotic. Sure. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it's a bit more chaotic here sometimes, but you also have a lot of, um, community mm-hmm <affirmative> and a lot of community spirit behind that chaos. I see it. So with these more structured ways of society, I see it as being quite, um, closed off communities, um, in many places where, you know, it's, there's walls up between the houses and there's walls up in the community. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:21:35 I, I can give you a recent example. Uh, I don't know if you heard, but there is an earthquake, uh, sequence on the way in Heraklion. Mm-hmm <affirmative> since October mm-hmm <affirmative> for two months in a row. And we had, uh, more than 1000, uh, houses and structures damaged, some completely and a complete area is the area where the new international airport is being built. As we speak is located there, people all around street and from Iraq, send aid, kids, food, blankets, clothes, so many that there was not enough space <laugh> to story. Yeah. The response of the society in terms of emergency is something that you can, and only admire the same thing happened last year. Uh, last summer with, uh, the big burning, uh, forest in Avia. And the same was some years ago during a flood in man. And again, some years ago in every natural disaster, this society has a reflex yeah. Automated because they don't trust, they don't, they didn't use to trust the state. Yeah. Cause we are not very organized. So we have to put our own effort to save ourself. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:22:56 Yeah, exactly. Like in these more structured, uh, societies, they say, ah, okay, the government's going to help. I don't need to, I don't need to give, you know, that's a generalization, I think when we had the big floods in Germany as well, you know, plenty of people also pitched in. And, um, I, I know that there was a fair amount of community efforts as well, but, um, I think it's, it's these, um, not so extremes, but uh, still you can see the differences that can Yiannis Anastasakis 00:23:23 Give you the optimist, uh, development of this, uh, stereotype. We have learned so much from the last natural disasters that the response of the state itself is perfect. They're they're quick. They give money, they, uh, set up the tens doctors, psychologists, everyone is in place within some days. Yeah. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:23:46 Wow. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:23:47 We are improving of course. And uh, the, the secretary general of, uh, that used to be the ranking of the official dealing with natural disaster is a minister. Now they have upgraded the way the state see natural are disasters. So maybe some things are delayed in Greece, but of course we are on the same path and we are gaining, uh, the lost ground because the technol, the new technology that we can adapt, help us, uh, work like, uh, a spring now are developing with seven, 8% per year after the memorandum years. So we, we can adjust that's one characteristic for the Greeks. They adjust, they adapt. Yeah. And they are very, very, uh, resilient people. We have suffered from many different things. I don't, I can and think of, uh, another nation that would be under slavery for 400 years and come out of that as a united nation. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:24:56 Yeah. It's a difficult thing to do. Yeah. Um, and so I guess we, now we ask every single person that comes on here, this question, and it is, um, of course a super varied answer, which I love. Um, so to you, what is a Smart City? Yiannis Anastasakis 00:25:14 What is a smart city? Hmm. Uh, I will be honest with you. Mm-hmm <affirmative> Heraklion is considered to be one of the Smart Cities of Europe. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, Yiannis Anastasakis 00:25:24 We have achieved that, uh, the last 10 years, maybe Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:28 Mm-hmm <affirmative> Yiannis Anastasakis 00:25:30 Practically for the residents of Heraklion, this is not true. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:35 Mm-hmm <affirmative> Yiannis Anastasakis 00:25:36 So I would consider smart a city that would make the life of the specific neighborhood easier. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:44 Yeah, Yiannis Anastasakis 00:25:44 And safer. All the other things, sensors, wifi I don't care about that. I want my city safer and more practical for the simple people. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:57 Yeah. For everyone. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:25:59 For everyone. Yeah. So maybe we have started well, and we know the terms and we have, uh, done some concrete steps towards being a Smart City. But as long as we don't provide this service, this smartness to the simple person, the simple resident, the old woman in Heraklion, I will not say that we are a Smart City. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:26:24 Yeah. And there's a spectrum, right. So you can say, okay, this is a Smart City. No, this is not a Smart City. No, you can't really say that it's it's on quite a spectrum. Right. So, okay. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:26:34 I understand. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:26:35 Yeah. But no, I, I totally agree with that. That, um, it really comes down to, are you making the lives of the citizens better? Yes. And easier. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:26:43 I would like my Smart City to send automated, uh, messages, uh, in case of an emergency. Yeah. That has been, uh, a legacy of the state. We are receiving messages. The, the first second that something happens. Yeah. Okay. That's, that's smart. Cause of COVID that's cause of the natural disasters. I want my city to do that also. Yeah. Okay. To today the heat is excessive. So the flood is coming. One simple thing that's smart. And that affects your everyday decisions. Yeah. What to, where, where to go? Where not to go. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, I want my smart city being able to give an alternative when something happens, when a problem arises. Now, the, the earthquake that took place in another municipality created two millions of euros of damages in schools for me. And I have more than five schools closed. They're not working, not, they're not operating. I didn't have, uh, an alternative to provide to the children. So if we was, if we really was a smart city, we would have a, a backup plan, a school waiting to operate in case of an emergency, we are building one mm-hmm <affirmative> with, uh, prefabricated structures and we'll keep it there. Even, uh, when a natural disaster is not happening because it'll happen. So yeah. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:28:17 We always need a backup plan. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:28:18 Yes. We need a backup school, a complete school. Yeah. With all this infrastructure. So that's something that we learn now, my city to be smart, I want to give alternative, uh, ways of moving to the people. Yeah. Okay. It's not easy. Cause we're trying to combine different and maybe, uh, contradicting interests, the soap owner, the taxi driver, the bus driver, uh, the bicycle guy, the one that runs the jokes, the disabled it's chaotic because we have so much limited space, very limited public space. So my directions to the designers is if it's too narrow, make it either the route or a one way route, because there is not enough space to create big pavements dedicated bicycle or bus lanes along with two way route. We're not, <laugh> living in a, such a good, uh, city planning city. Okay. Yeah. So out of the box and radical decisions, what can I say? I need my Smart City to help me <laugh> Tamlyn Shimizu 00:29:32 Yeah. That's, it's a good answer. So, um, yeah. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today about everything to do with urban planning, mobility and resilience. I really appreciate it. Yiannis Anastasakis 00:29:45 It was very good to be here. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:29:46 Yeah, absolutely. Our pleasure. And to all of our listeners now, you know, definitely not to miss the Venetian walls of Heraklion, if you're ever they're traveling or working in Greece. And if you want to learn more about projects and real life implementations in Smart Cities in Europe and beyond, uh, you can find more information on www.bable-smartcities.eu and become part of our community by signing up for free. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:30:16 Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban in life.

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