Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Welcome to hidden europe 5, which features Tallinn and rural Estonia, the Polish city of Wroclaw, follows the Tito trail in Belgrade, maps central Europe and visits Father Frost in Russia.

article summary —

Welcome to another issue of hidden europe! Some journey... some Europe, we have to observe as we make our way from Lapland to Lazio, Belgium to Belgrade. We visit Liège to mark the centenary of the death of a man who transformed European travel. And we unravel the tale of a newly listed World Heritage Site, as we track down the Struve Geodetic Arc. This is a magnificent accomplishment of nineteenth century surveying that spans Europe from Arctic Norway to the Danube delta. History pops up again as we explore the curious way in which the modern Polish city of Wroclaw carries the legacy of not just its own history, but that of Lviv in Ukraine. All that, plus a double dose of Estonia.

We have a first this time, as we bring readers a flavour of contemporary European writing from two distinguished poets - one from the island of Malta and the other from Poland's Baltic shores - who both evoke the spirit of their native landscapes. For this we are much indebted to the journal Orient Express. That editor Fiona Sampson has been prepared to collaborate with us we count as a rare privilege. To her, and to poets Marzanna Bogumila Kielar and Immanuel Mifsud, our sincere thanks.

In this issue of hidden europe we ponder the geographies of the mind. Where is the 'centre' of Europe? And is there anything to 'central Europe' beyond a whiff of stale cabbage and sedate coffee shops? In anticipation of coming winter, we make a seasonal diversion to northern Russia in search of Father Frost. And, for those who want to hedge their bets in matters appertaining to winter gift givers, we plot a route from Santa Claus' workshop in Lapland to the palace where his Russian comrade lives with the Snow Maiden. Elsewhere in hidden europe 5, we visit subterranean Rome and a Titoesque Belgrade. For these two contributions we thank Adam J Shardlow and Laurence Mitchell respectively.

There are many others who deserve our thanks: Pekka Tätilä, Chief Engineer of the National Land Survey of Finland; Jean Meillassoux, Directeur Général of Wagons-Lits Diffusion; the Vologda Oblast Government in northern Russia; Ciara O'Mahoney and Fionnáin Nestor of Ireland West Tourism; Kathryn Kelly (Collins Bartholomew Publishers - www.collinsbartholomew.com) and photographer Mervyn Benford. Finally, our thanks to the woman in a cottage on the shores of Lake Peipsi in Estonia (photo page 3) who reminded us why it is always worth exploring a little more!

Nicky SC Gardner & Susanne Kries

Berlin, Germany
23 October 2005

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 5.