Wish that your journey might be long! The thought comes from Greek poet Constantine Cavafy whose poem Ithaca uses a journey as a metaphor for life. A long life is surely a blessing, but so too is a long journey — though with so many travellers in a mighty hurry nowadays we do wonder if journeys are not valued in the way that once they were. The anticipation of arrival too often eclipses the pleasure of the intervening journey.
“Do not rush on your journey,” implores Cavafy. That’s a lesson we have taken to heart in hidden europe. We skip the fast train and avoid main highways, instead favouring the slow train and meandering back lanes. It is a way of handling journeys, but it’s also a way of handling life. You can read more about that in our 2009 Manifesto for Slow Travel (published in hidden europe 25).
This issue of hidden europe reveals the fruits of lingering. And the area which has particularly held our attention is that stretch of the Carpathian Mountains which marks the northern and eastern borders of Slovakia. We look in some detail at the hill country which the Rusyn people call home. In four interrelated articles we explore aspects of Carpathian life and landscapes.
Those articles look at territory which lies between 19 and 23 degrees east of Greenwich. Our guest contributors have risen to the challenge of locating their contributions between the same meridians. Our thanks to Chris Deliso and Laurence Mitchell who write respectively on Macedonia and Bosnia for this issue of hidden europe. Well are we aware that there is life west of 19ºE and east of 23ºE so we do have articles that trespass beyond those meridians. We report from Austria and deftly combine our enthusiasm for France and Russia with a feature on Russian life on the French Riviera — pausing for a rare visit to a five-star hotel (definitely not our normal hunting ground) to view a chandelier which was never delivered to the Romanovs in Russia.
We take time out to reflect on issues of ethics and integrity in travel writing. That’s a knotty issue that can only be pondered on a very long journey. It is summer so, like many Europeans, we shall be travelling. You too perhaps? Wish that your journey might be long.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries