Not for many years has our home continent revealed so many tensions and fracture lines as are evident across Europe this spring. Hungary’s razor-wire fence along its common border with the Republic of Serbia is a very stark manifestation of the new mood. The stand-off between the Russian Federation and the European Union (EU) has created a new geopolitical landscape in central and eastern Europe, while Britain’s upcoming referendum on EU membership could herald a new era of isolation for the United Kingdom — and an European Union deprived of British input.
Now that all adds up to gloom and doom, but we have some good tales to tell about Europe in this issue of hidden europe. There is news from Belgium about the enduring importance of the printed word, a report on the eerie landscapes of Dungeness Foreland on the coast of south-east England and a retrospective on the particular appeal of socialist architecture (which is by no means all uniform concrete blocks). We discover buildings that broke records in their length or their height and take time to look at what Italian architect Aldo Rossi described as “Europe’s last great street.”
Elsewhere in this issue, we venture underground in Valletta to explore Malta’s military history and we learn why Catholics in a small village in northern Italy had wet feet at Sunday Mass in July 1950.
We often have a theme which pops up more than once in an issue of hidden europe. Last time we looked at refugees. In this issue, notions of identity feature in a number of articles. No surprise perhaps, for it is often only when people are confronted by questions of allegiance that they really begin to think about who they are. So in hidden europe 48 we look at who’s who in Kosovo. Of course, ethnic identity does not confer an exclusive right to heritage, and that’s confirmed in an article which reveals the commercial advantages to playing the Welsh card in Patagonia.
We have four guest contributors in this issue, all of whom have written for us before. So our special thanks to Victor Paul Borg, Paul Scraton, Duncan JD Smith and Patricia Stoughton for their efforts in weaving words on our behalf. And, as ever, we thank our loyal subscribers for their continuing support of hidden europe. We wish all our readers safe travels over the months ahead.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries
Frantiskovy Lázne, Czech Republic