Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2010/9 posted by hidden europe on

Evidently the world is going to end in 2012. Well, that at least was the suggestion of the young man we met on the train to Franeker, a small town in the Netherlands.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

Evidently the world is going to end in 2012. Well, that at least was the suggestion of the young man we met on the train to the Netherlands. He had all the facts at his fingertips, and explained how an unusual conjunction of the planets in December 2012 would spell doom. “And it is not by chance that this will coincide with the winter solstice,” he said. We made a mental note not to bother with a Christmas tree in 2012 and changed trains at the next station.

It was not long before we arrived at Franeker. The small town in Friesland is one of those amiable communities full of Dutch gezelligheid - just the inviting kind of place we might elect to spend our last year or two if we knew for certain that the end of the world was nigh. Franeker has gabled houses, canals, windmills, apple cake and more - a community full of homely appeal. And, all that apart, Franeker has the world's oldest functioning planetarium. It was a local wool comber with an interest in astronomy who constructed this accurate moving model of the solar system in the late eighteenth century.

Eise Eisinga had been worried by the panic in the run-up to a notable conjunction of planets in 1774, when folk in and around Franeker collectively convinced themselves that the world was going to end. Sunday 8 May 1774 came and went without the end of the world. Local eschatologists were relieved and disappointed in equal measure. So amateur astronomer Eise Eisinger decided that a little community education was in order and, in a public-spirited move, Eisinger set about converting his Franeker home into a planetarium so that his neighbours might better understand the movement of celestial bodies. Visitors to Franeker can still see Eisinger's planetarium. 21 December 2012 would be a good date to visit.

hidden europe 30

And now to another notable date. 17 March 2010. St Patrick's Day of course. But, that Irish celebration aside, today we mark the publication of a new issue of hidden europe magazine. In this thirtieth issue we visit the painted monasteries of southern Bukovina, explore Iceland's eastern fjords, delve into subterranean Budapest, think about issues of European rail privatisation and pay a visit to an outpost of Mesopotamia in Flanders. We also pay tribute to the humble suitcase, recall Slovakia's modernist architecture, discover Quaker life and spirit in the English city of York and report from Russia's Baltic exclave at Kaliningrad.

You can see the full table of contents of this latest issue of hidden europe on our website. You will find extracts from every article there too. If you would like to purchase hidden europe 30, that is easily done. Just go to our online shop where you can purchase a single issue, a subscription or back issue sets. You can also call us on +49 30 755 16 128.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe)

This article was published in Letter from Europe.

About The Authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.