Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2012/20 posted by hidden europe on

Hidden europe 37 is published today. You can review the full table of contents with summaries and extracts from every article on our website. More on that anon, but let's stop for a while on the edge of a Polish forest. In the very centre of the forest, we were told, is the spot where the emperors of the forest hold their court. So we went off in search of the ancient buffalo, the bison and the bear. We certainly found the bison but it is surely many a year since bear roamed the forests of Bialowieza.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

hidden europe 37 is published today. You can review the full table of contents with summaries and extracts from every article on our website. More on that anon, but let's stop for a while on the edge of a Polish forest.

In the very centre of the forest, we were told, is the spot where the emperors of the forest hold their court. So we went off in search of the ancient buffalo, the bison and the bear. We certainly found the bison but it is surely many a year since bear roamed the forests of Bialowieza.

This forest wilderness in eastern Poland is inscribed both on the UNESCO World Heritage List and on the Polish imagination. The great Romantic epic of Polish life is Pan Tadeusz. The book is a wonderful portrait of an idealised rural Poland in 1811 and 1812. It concludes with the gentlefolk drinking to the health of Napoleon Bonaparte. And the forests of Bialowieza stand centre stage in the book - they are lush, green, damp and drip with nostalgia, thus making the perfect symbol of a lost Arcadia. So a visit to Bialowieska Forest is, for many Poles, in the nature of a pilgrimage.

Bialowieska Forest is just one of the oddball spots featured in the new issue of hidden europe magazine - not all of which were personally visited by Napoleon. The French military leader did not, for example, travel to San Marino. We did, using the international bus service from nearby Rimini in Italy. Napoleon stayed down on the coast and instead despatched a mathematician to San Marino as his emissary. Monsieur Monge won the hearts of the citizens of San Marino. He praised the Sammarinese for their republican values and promised that Napoleon would respect their liberty.

The Sammarinese spirit came to the rescue of Garibaldi in 1849, when the mountainous territory offered sanctuary to the leader of Italy's Republican Army. But it is in quite another context that Garibaldi gets a mention in hidden europe 37. We think a Tartan informant in the Tyrol was pulling our leg when he told us that Garibaldi really had Scottish ancestry. It was a nice tale, wholly without foundation we think. But Scotland does boast a Garibaldi link. The Italian agitator and leader evidently had a soft spot for William Wallace, one-time Guardian of Scotland. Garibaldi even supported building a monument to Wallace on a crag above the Forth Valley at the southern edge of the Highlands. So we consulted our maps, found the Wallace Monument, and discovered a feast of fabulous place names in the country around. Did you know that there's a scatter of houses by the Forth that has the wonderful name Pendicles of Collymoon? Now that would be a great postal address.

hidden europe 37 has its fair share of personalities, Napoleon and Garibaldi among them. We meet Europe's friendliest policeman, Davide Battistini, in San Marino, and we visit master violin maker Anton Maller at his workshop in the Alps. We escort our readers from the aforementioned Pendicles to the Princes' Isles in the Sea of Marmara. We have a fish supper in Cádiz and sleep in a bandstand in Arctic Norway. There are train journeys aplenty, not to mention lots of bison and well-penned prose.

Ah, yes… those train journeys. We kick off the new issue of hidden europe with a slow train into that Polish forest and end with a train stranded in San Marino. Along the way, we celebrate forty years of InterRail with an article that looks at a rail pass that helped shape a generation of young Europeans.

Buying the magazine

If you have read our Letter from Europe for years, but never actually seen the print magazine, why not just invest in the new issue published today. Just €7 (and, if you live outside Europe, a €2 supplement for postage) will ensure that a copy of hidden europe is winging its way to you in the next post. We think you will be mightily impressed. Just as the people of San Marino were when Napoleon's mathematician told them that their tiny republic combined the many virtues of ancient Athens, Thebes and Rome.

You can order hidden europe 37 here and review the table of contents here. You can also read the full text of the article on InterRail online.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)

This article was published in Letter from Europe.

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.