Welcome to hidden europe 34. Europe specialises in stories, and there are as many different tales of Europe as there are citizens of our continent. We look at some of those stories in the pages that follow. The dominant national narrative in Macedonia is one that foregrounds a proud past, appropriating Alexander the Great and Tsar Samuil as quintessentially Macedonian figures (thus inviting quick rebukes from Greece and Bulgaria respectively). In our opening feature we question whether the stories created by Macedonia’s Orthodox majority leave enough space for the country’s Muslim minority.
As we discover later in this hidden europe, they handle the issue of religious minorities very sensibly in Finland, where the Finnish Orthodox Church enjoys an equal status to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, although only a tiny minority of Finns are actually Orthodox. Yes, there is a good dose of religion in this issue of the magazine as we travel from Karelia to Tatarstan and Croatia. But we have much else besides. Join us on a magnificent journey through Switzerland from Zürich to the shores of Lake Geneva. Then we visit a remote Arctic island, find out why Malta’s famous yellow buses have suddenly disappeared and explore a cemetery in Liguria.
We are especially indebted to our two guest contributors, Laurence Mitchell and Rudolf Abraham. Both are old hands who have written regularly for the magazine. We appreciate their well-penned words and great photography for this issue.
Thanks are due to many individuals and organisations that have helped us in researching this issue of hidden europe. In particular, we appreciate the support of Amanda Monroe and Emily Turner at the West Malling (UK) office of Rail Europe Ltd (for generous help with Swiss rail travel), and of Virpi Aittokoski and her colleagues at Visit Finland (for assistance in Finnish travel arrangements). A special thank you to Teresa Leskinen and Päivi Sturm for so generously sharing their enthusiasm for Finland’s Orthodox heritage. Both work at the Orthodox Church Museum of Finland in Kuopio. Our time in Macedonia was part of a project for the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Macedonia. Our thanks to the Paris-based consultancy bureau Groupe Planeth for involving us in that project. Many others have helped in our journeys, but we alone are responsible for the accuracy of the articles in this issue. Enjoy the read.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries