For those who dream of spending the rest of their lives in a small village with a calm, stress-free atmosphere with fresh air bringing a sense of relaxation after retiring, far away from the traffic jams and devastating noise of the streets and unhealthy conditions of modern life, İzmir's Seferihisar district offers the opportunity to realize their dreams by joining the “slow cities” of the world.
Cittaslow, literally “slow city,” is a movement promoting a slow and simple life by redesigning a city or a district as a way rejecting the fast-paced, homogenized world so often seen in other cities throughout the world, but at the same protecting quality of life as the official Web site describes the vision of the movement. The slow city movement, which started in Italy in 1999, also values the traditional way of doing things and attempts to help the survival of local customs, dishes and rituals.
Today 14 countries have at least one city which is designated as a slow city. In many countries, including Australia, South Korea, Spain, Holland, Germany, Scotland and Sweden, they are widespread. With Seferihisar, Turkey will also have a slow city. Seferihisar is the first municipality in Turkey applying to the movement's inspectors to join the slow city network. Although the process is ongoing, the mayor of Seferihisar, Tunç Soyer, said the district will eventually be certified as a slow city.
“The concept of a slow city is actually what many people aspire to. It opposes the standardization of cities by the norms of globalization and capitalism and celebrates the protection of traditions,” Soyer said in a phone interview with Sunday's Zaman, underlining Seferihisar's appropriateness for becoming a slow city. “When we looked at the criteria of slow cities, the characteristics of Seferihisar meet some of them and the rest will be fulfilled through initiatives we plan to carry out before the application.”
Slow cities are characterized by a kind of simple life, valuing the traditional ways of doing things. These cities stand up against the uniformity of life in the fast lane as it is lived around the world. Slow cities have less traffic, less noise and fewer crowds.
The fulfillment of 55 criteria is necessary for certification as a slow city. These criteria are categorized into six groups: environmental policy, infrastructure, quality of the urban public, encouragement of local products and local production, hospitality and slow city awareness among residents.
In evaluating the changes that would happen in Seferihisar after being deemed a slow city, Soyer underlined that with the use of technology in the decision-making process, transparency and democratic governance will improve. “Firstly, the municipality will set up a free wireless connection for all residents. And the slow city concept strictly advises democratic governance and increasing the participation of people in a transparent administration, so we have decided to broadcast the city council meetings along with the municipality council live on the Internet, so the expansion of computer usage is one of the our main goals. Computer courses will be available soon, and we encourage people to take these courses,” Soyer explained.
He also noted that in addition to computer courses the municipality would provide other educational programs to craftsmen in the district, saying, “Taxi drivers and salesmen will be trained on how to behave toward customers in a polite manner and will be provided English courses to communicate better with foreign visitors.” Explaining their purpose, he added: “With these initiatives, we aim to make Seferihisar an attractive hot spot for domestic and foreign tourists. Generally, in Turkey, tourism agencies organize mass tourism, which prevents the promotion of the city by stuffing tourists in certain hotels; however, if the slow city project goes successfully, Seferihisar would be an intensive point of tourism, which would promote the entire city.”
One of the significant characteristics of slow cities is the usage of less energy by utilizing renewable energy sources. On energy consumption, Soyer underlined that Seferihisar would use its potential for solar power. “If the necessary steps are taken, solar power can meet almost all the electricity needs of the district. For example, we will use special street lamps powered by solar power. These changes will make Seferihisar a model for Turkey in terms of making use of renewable energy sources, and at the same time, our district will attract attention for its fresh air as well as its natural beauty,” Soyer pointed out.