Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Welcome to issue no. 27 which contains articles on Liguria's Hanbury Gardens, the Georgian town of Akhaltsikhe, subterranean Vienna, the Sami of the Kola Peninsula, a quest for the elixir of youth and more.

article summary —

Welcome to another issue of hidden europe magazine.

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The great Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins celebrated unkempt spaces. "Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet," he wrote in his poem Inversnaid. And, as always in hidden europe, we take in some pretty untamed spaces in this new issue of the magazine. We include articles about a remote corner of Georgia, the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia, an island outpost of Europe in the Libyan Sea and the Simplon Pass in Switzerland.

Yet Europe is not all wilderness. So we complement our travels to the outback with tamer explorations. Our opening feature looks at the Hanbury Gardens on the coast of Liguria (Italy). The gardens were created by Thomas Hanbury, a nineteenth-century Quaker who had a fine eye for landscape. Great gardens are long term projects, and the tussle with the weeds at the Hanbury Gardens is unending. Gerard Manley Hopkins would have been pleased.

Hopkins was a deeply religious poet and, by chance more than design, religion pops up a lot in this issue of hidden europe. Not only is there Thomas Hanbury’s garden, which is replete with religious metaphor, but we delve into Europe’s ecclesiastical geography and ponder why the Bishop of Diokleia has his episcopal seat in Oxford. And we take a look at Europe's Islamic architecture, noting how the spirit of Arabia deeply influenced the development of the Venetian cityscape. Venice is uncannily eastern in aspect; are not many of its finest buildings essays in pure fantasy? "Opium couldn’t build such a place," wrote Charles Dickens.

We have two outside contributors to this issue of hidden europe. Laurence Mitchell has written regularly for us, and we are always pleased to welcome him back. Duncan Smith’s article on subterranean Vienna marks his first piece for hidden europe. It is a thoughtful foray beneath the streets of the Austrian capital. To both Duncan and Laurence our sincere thanks for putting pen to paper for hidden europe.

As ever, we are much indebted to Collins Bartholomew Ltd for permission to reproduce extracts from their various atlases. A fuller note about map and photo credits appears on the inside back cover of this issue.

Nicky SC Gardner & Susanne Kries

Schaanwald, Liechtenstein
June 2009

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.

This article was published in hidden europe 27.