Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2007/30 posted by hidden europe on

The latest offering of our magazine visits rural Wales - where hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner reveals some of the places that have especially influenced her love of wild landscapes and remote communities. The road to Abergwesyn is something special; it is an old drovers' track now upgraded to a single strip of rough tarmac that crosses the Cambrian mountains. It is an evocative essay, one that sees a hint of Wales mirrored in a dozen countries across Europe.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

Europe is such a confusing place. However much the countries of the European Union focus on harmonisation of their economic landscapes, there remain some wonderful oddities that never fail to surprise us as we criss-cross our continent. Take restaurant menus, for example. In England they eat toad-in-the-hole, which presumably doesn't contain toads, and Bavarians like nothing more than good leberkäse (literally 'liver cheese') which has nothing whatsoever to do with cheese. In northern France we stumbled upon a chain of restaurants that feature Les Welshs on their menus. Confused? And we've not even mentioned such mythic fare as Kölsche Kaviar ('Cologne caviar), Eisbein ('icy leg'), roast beef and black pudding. In the November 2007 hidden europe (issue 17) we ponder on how the food on our dinner plates often says a lot about our identity.

The latest offering of our magazine visits rural Wales - where hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner reveals some of the places that have especially influenced her love of wild landscapes and remote communities. The road to Abergwesyn is something special; it is an old drovers' track now upgraded to a single strip of rough tarmac that crosses the Cambrian mountains. It is an evocative essay, one that sees a hint of Wales mirrored in a dozen countries across Europe. The Sabbath singing that wafts with the misty Faroese haar across the harbour at Tórshavn becomes a faint echo of an Abergwesyn Sunday. Unaccompanied male voices singing in an Orthodox church in Russia become unwitting ambassadors for Wales.

What else? Well you'll find the islands of the Venetian lagoon and Spain's Vía de la Plata in hidden europe 17, courtesy of guest contributors Michelle Lovric and Laurence Mitchell respectively. Michelle recounts how the islands away from Venice's celebrated city centre developed as exclaves for the diseased, the deranged and the deformed. La Serenissima had a knack of exiling all those who might make uncomfortable neighbours. And what of Spain? Well, that's an interesting tale to be sure, as we join Laurence on the old pilgrim trail towards Santiago de Compostela from Seville. It is a camino that tracks north from lush Andalucía into the arid Extremadura region.

Elsewhere in the new hidden europe we investigate modern Berlin architecture, eastern Belgium and the one-time microstate of Moresnet, and the Swedish island of Ven. Now there's a happy spot! Copenhagen is just thirty kilometres distant, but Ven is a haven of quiet. A good place to watch the skies, as Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe found when he arrived on Ven in 1576 with a decent stipend from the Danish king and an artificial nose. Intrigued? Well you can read about Tycho Brahe, who lived on Ven with his pet moose, in hidden europe 17. Click here to see the full table of contents of the issue.

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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.