Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Borders always make us think about who we are and what might lie on the other side of the frontier. To paraphrase Fernand Braudel, when we slip over the border, we change. We are suddenly foreigners. And that's a theme we play with in several articles in this issue of hidden europe.

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Borders always make us think about who we are and what might lie on the other side of the frontier. To paraphrase Fernand Braudel, when we slip over the border, we change. We are suddenly foreigners. And that’s a theme we play with in several articles in this issue of hidden europe. So we particularly explore Europe’s edgy places, the liminal zones where polities and cultures collide.

No surprise then that in hidden europe 33 we touch down thrice in the once divided city of Mostar, for the experience of the city on the River Neretva is quite intriguing. We also ponder the Baltic port city of Szczecin that has been variously Swedish and German and is now part of Poland. We all have the capacity to reinvent ourselves — and so do places. With the city’s shipyards in deep trouble, Szczecin is struggling to find a defining narrative that makes sense of its history and its present. And we skirt around the edge of Birmingham by bus, exploring the untamed liminal zones of England’s second city.

Working a couple of years ago on the Manifesto for Slow Travel (which was published in hidden europe 25), we really came to appreciate how journeys are often more interesting than destinations. So in this issue of hidden europe we present a Balkan itinerary, travelling by train from Budapest through Serbia and Bosnia to Dubrovnik on the coast of Croatia. We must admit that this is a shameless piece of self-promotion. We are so often asked “What else do you do apart from hidden europe?” Well, here is an example, as we present edited extracts from a 700 page book that explores some of Europe’s best rail routes. The book, which we edited and for which we researched and wrote many new routes, was published earlier this month by Thomas Cook Publishing. It is called Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers. You can read more about it at www.europebyrail.eu.

Finally, we offer our sincere thanks to Patricia Stoughton and Duncan JD Smith for their excellent contributions to this issue — on Breton church closes and Cologne’s illustrious sewer system respectively. Duncan has written for us before, but this is Patricia’s first outing with hidden europe.

Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries
(editors)

Szczecin, Poland
March 2011

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 33.