Dear fellow travellers
Iwona and Lidia wouldn't be at all out of place in a chic bar in Manhattan or Manchester. On the slow train to Kolobrzeg that trundles through northern Poland, they are a tad conspicuous. Iwona says I can call her Yvonne, and takes out a neat folder from a small jacquard backpack that was clearly made more for city streets than for rural Poland. Yvonne's folder reveals a handsome collection of press cuttings and photos of a petite auburn woman in her early thirties. And that's how I first heard about Agnieszka Rylik, the Polish southpaw who has put the Baltic port of Kolobrzeg on the sporting map.
Seaside Kolobrzeg has more to offer than sand and spa cures. Enter Agnieszka Rylik, onetime world kickboxing champion and later a junior welterweight world champion in women's pro boxing. Lidia tells me animatedly all about Agnieszka Rylik. Undefeated in her first dozen bouts, Rylik punched for Poland in Las Vegas, only there to suffer the first ever defeat of her professional career. Lidia and Yvonne say their heroine's reputation is untarnished in Polish eyes, even as Rylik slips down the championship tables. They assure me in serious hushed tones that it's just a matter of time before the world title is repatriated to the Baltic town where it rightfully belongs. Sporting heroes like Rylik are often critically important in unsung communities across Europe - just think of Zinédine Zidane's associations with La Castellane in Marseille's Quartiers Nord, or George Best and Belfast (where the famous footballer remarkably managed to transcend traditional tribal loyalties).
Hasta la victoria siempre!
In hidden europe 16 (September 2007), we took the pulse of a small town in southern Spain that remains a remarkable bastion of radical thought and practice. Marinaleda still packs a punch on the socialist circuit as the town's mayor and citizens take absentee landlords to task and highlight the effects of war on ordinary people. Just the sort of place that Che Guevara would have loved! It was forty years ago this week that Che was murdered in Bolivia, but he is still much respected in some parts of Europe. In Irish Republican circles, for example, Che stands alongside Bobby Sands and Nelson Mandela as a very positive role model. No surprise, therefore, that a new mural that pays homage to Che Guevara will grace the streets of Republican Derry this week. Cuban dignitaries will be in town, including the Cuban ambassador to Dublin, Noelle Carrillo. The Cuban flag will flutter alongside the Irish flag at Free Derry corner.
Che's star still shines brightly in many other parts of Europe. We've run across little homages to the Latin American revolutionary on shop shutters in Barcelona, in graffiti in Sicily and at the intriguingly named Che Guevara High School for Political Leadership in Tiraspol, the capital of the self-styled Trans-Dniester Republic, which is doing its best to secure independence from Moldova.
You can read and download the full text of selected articles from hidden europe magazine at www.hiddeneurope.co.uk. You will also find excerpts of every article ever published in the magazine, a good search facility, and the full text of well over eighty back issues of our regular e-news. You find our e-news archive here. The next issue of the magazine will be published on 5 November.