hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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A new take on the classical villa: Robert Mallet-Stevens' Villa Cavrois at Croix (in French Flanders)
has clear echoes of Frank Lloyd Wright. The villa is one of many buildings in the Wright idiom featured in Gwyn Lloyd Jones' new book 'Travels with Frank Lloyd Wright' (photo © Rifberlin / dreamstime.com)
Letter from Europe

Frank Lloyd Wright in Europe

  • 8 Jun 2017
Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright. He is often regarded as a quintessentially American architect, a man who perhaps was never really comfortable in Europe. But the great advocate of Prairie Style has a legacy in ...
Shades of the past in the Hebridean blackhouse at Arnol on the Isle of Lewis (photo © hidden europe)
Letter from Europe

The Hebridean Blackhouse

  • 17 Apr 2017
For many visitors to the Hebrides, the traditional blackhouse is a symbol of these islands. Yet rarely is vernacular architecture so freighted with emotion, nostalgia and even ...
Classic spa architecture in the Czech town of Frantiskovy Lázne (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Hints of the East in Frantiskovy Lázne

  • 26 Mar 2017
Relaxation is compulsory in Frantiskovy Lázne, a small spa town in the far north-west corner of the Czech Republic. There are two outstanding churches, one a very fine Catholic church executed in graceful Empire style and the other a rather ...
Monument to Nikolai Gogol in Vevey on the Montreux Riviera in Switzerland. Gogol was just one of many artists who enjoyed a sojourn by Lake Geneva (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Montreux connections

  • 31 Dec 2016
If you've eaten too much over the holidays and fancy some exercise, why not join us on a walk around Lake Geneva. Let's focus on the Montreux Riviera, which sweeps softly around the north-east part of the lake. It is densely settled with ...
One of Robin Stam's 'euro bridges' in Spijkenisse. This bridge is a copy of the design featured on the ten euro banknote (photo © Roel van Deursen, licensed under CC BY 2.0).
Magazine article

Improbable Places

The last year or two have seen a flood of new books which invite readers to engage on a virtual journey exploring our planet. We take a look at a new volume called 'Atlas of Improbable Places', just published by Aurum ...
Magazine article

Socialist Architecture in Yugoslavia

In Tito's Yugoslavia, architects offered an ideological space between East and West - aligned neither to Soviet-style communism nor to the capitalist tradition. The result was some assertively different architecture, not all of it memorably ...
The Grand Hotel Zvon dominates one side of the town square in the Bohemian town of Ceské Budejovice (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The Beauty of the Square

  • 11 Jul 2016
Kings come and kings go, and even freedom goes in and out of fashion. But the appeal of the town square endures, because ultimately these are spaces that belong to the people. The square in Ceské Budejovice is no exception to that rule. Welcome to ...
A classic piece of communist architecture: on its completion in 1952, the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment building on the Moskva River in Moscow was the tallest building in Europe (photo © Leonid Andronov / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Welcome to hidden europe 48

  • 13 Mar 2016
Today's Letter from Europe reviews the contents of hidden europe 48. Publication of this new issue of the travel magazine is 15 March 2016. Copies are already available for ...
Looking west from Frankfurter Tor along Karl-Marx-Allee, Berlin. The two ceremonial towers were designed by Hermann Henselmann, who also did the initial design concept for the Alexanderplatz TV Tower in the distance (photo © Sergey Kohl /dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Understanding the socialist city
  

Progressive socialist designs for homes and cities are no longer in fashion. Yet Europe's streetscapes still attest to the grand schemes of yesteryear, when architects and planners envisaged a society that stood opposed to capitalism. We go in ...
The Karl Marx-Hof in Vienna is a fine example of politically driven architecture (photo © Marcin Łukaszewicz / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Flagship of red Vienna: Karl Marx-Hof
  

The well-being of residents, communal facilities and the affordability of housing have been the hallmarks of Vienna's social housing programmes for almost a century. Urban explorer Duncan JD Smith leads us to the 'Ringstrasse des Proletariats': ...
Magazine article

The Saxon villages of Transylvania
  

In just a few years at the end of the last century, the majority of the Saxons of Transylvania moved away from the village where their families had lived for over 500 years. Rudolf Abraham visited Romania to learn what has become of the Saxon ...
The front cover of Skylines – a new book from Aurum Press (cover courtesy of Aurum Press).
Magazine article

The makings of a city
  

'Skylines' is a book to make you think. This new title by travel writers Yolanda Zappaterra and Jan Fuscoe is a celebration of the iconic buildings which shape the skylines of some of the world's most interesting cities. We take a look at the ...
Magazine article

All change at Westbahnhof
  

Big changes are afoot at the Westbahnhof in Vienna, a station which these past months has seen crowds of refugees from Syria and elsewhere. Vienna-based writer Duncan JD Smith takes a look at how the station has changed over the ...
Letter from Europe

No train to Poland

  • 20 Sep 2015
The decision 170 years ago to build a great viaduct across the Neisse Valley was a visionary leap. Now that elegant structure needs a dose of 21st-century vision. Because what use is a graceful viaduct if it doesn't have any ...
Calvary scene from the Altötting panorama (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

The borders of reality: panoramas

Panoramas, often displayed in purpose-built circular galleries, offered virtual travel experiences long before cinema and the internet. Like all immersive technologies, panoramas raised important questions about the boundaries between subject and ...
A plea for urban renewal: the città vecchia in
Taranto (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Taranto’s broken heart
  

Hop on the slow train to Taranto with us. We ride through rural Puglia in search of Magna Graecia - clutching our copy of George Gissing's account of his visit to the same region over 100 years ...
The Forth Rail Bridge (photo © Ian Whitworth / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Setting Forth
  

One firth: three bridges. Each of the three bridges over the Firth of Forth was built in a different century. There is the 19th-century rail bridge, a 20th-century road bridge and now the new Queensferry Crossing road bridge under construction. ...
Letter from Europe

Vienna’s new railway station

  • 10 Oct 2014
Shortly after ten o’clock this morning a priest stepped forward to the podium and blessed Vienna’s new railway station. There were speeches aplenty with the statutory votes of thanks to those who have presided over planning committees and ...
Letter from Europe

Financial architecture

  • 21 Jul 2014
Well do we know that modern pieties demand that one speaks only ill of banks, but here at hidden europe we often say nice things about bankers - or, to be more precise, about the good judgement exercised from time to time by bankers as they ...
Magazine article

Kratovo: a town worth its salt

The Macedonian town of Kratovo is by-passed by most travellers exploring the southern Balkans. But guest contributor Chris Deliso took time to discover the town which was once an important mining centre. Join us as we walk over the bridges of ...
The Polish mountain resort of Zakopane is noted for its wooden buildings designed by Stanislaw Witkiewicz from 1892 until his death in 1915. But the ‘styl zakopianski’ long outlived Witkiewicz and is still seen in many new buildings inand around the Zakopane Valley (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Simply wood: a journey into the hills

The humblest homes in many villages in the Carpathians are built of wood. So, too, are the grandest buildings - almost invariably the church. Wood has its own benign beauty, and it is the carrier of tradition. We explore the wooden architecture of ...
Letter from Europe

In search of Eden

  • 14 Jun 2014
There is something very pleasing about communities which display a strong architectural coherence. In some instances, the sense of order and unity might take its spark from one striking central feature. The Italian city of Palmanova is a good ...
Letter from Europe

Into the desert

  • 21 Jan 2014
The monastery on the Isola di San Francesco del Deserto is a place apart, an island retreat in the shallow recesses of the northern lagoon well away from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It is an island where blessed solitude is punctuated by the ...
Magazine article

Alhama de Granada: Al-Andalus revisited
  

Alhama de Granada is a small town in the mountains of Andalucía, one feted by many writers in the Romantic tradition as being on a par with Granada itself. Laurence Mitchell describes the pulse of everyday life in Alhama, a place that still has its ...
Like two giant molars that guard access to the mountains: Puig Alaró (left) and Puig de s'Alcadena (right) (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Oriental dreams
  

We explore an Eden which has its apple orchards, running waters and beautiful gardens. There is even a touch of the East about this unlikely Eden. It is only the minarets that are missing on our journey past the silent monastery of Petra to a ...
St Anne's Church is now home to Exeter's thriving Orthodox community (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Of cats and creeds: an Exeter essay
  

In Exeter, the great Gothic cathedral certainly helps define the Devon city. But Exeter is also characterised by the threads of faith that criss-cross the city. We follow the call to prayer and make a pilgrimage through Exeter, along the way ...
Letter from Europe

Sally Bowles did not live in Weimar

  • 1 Sep 2013
Travelling through eastern Germany last week, we changed trains at Weimar. Does not the very name evoke all sorts of associations to fire the imagination? That edgy period when cultural horizons were redefined in a decade of divine decadence? But ...
Letter from Europe

A bridge too far

  • 25 Aug 2013
Tomorrow, a mighty stream of cars will roll over a new bridge across the River Elbe at Dresden. The bridge's opening is not being celebrated in any very public manner. For many Germans, it is a Bridge of Shame, for it is the reason why that part of ...
Magazine article

Budapest: Relax in a ruin
  

Duncan JD Smith, author of 'Only in Budapest', takes to the back streets of the Hungarian capital to visit the latest Budapest fad: a pub in a building that comes close to being a ruin. It's cheap, cheerful and lots of ...
Magazine article

History for sale
  

Many abandoned station buildings in rural Poland are finding new life as private entrepreneurs restore them to their former glory. This spring the Polish authorities are selling off a further tranche of buildings, most of them remarkable pieces of ...
Magazine article

Papal exits
  

The Holy See and the Italian Republic tussled for years over which country owned one contested section of the Passetto di Borgo. That's the name given to the elevated footpath that links the papal apartments in the Vatican with the Castel ...
Letter from Europe

The Aix Factor

  • 17 Jan 2013
The departure boards at London's St Pancras station are regaining their eclectic character of yesteryear. Cast back half a century and St Pancras had its share of trains to fire the imagination. Perhaps the most distinguished morning departure from ...
Magazine article

Russia’s wooden churches

Many books cross our desks. This year, one particular volume has struck us more than any other. Wooden Churches: Travelling in the Russian North is a remarkable volume. Superb photography by Richard Davies complemented by evocative prose by Matilda ...
A feast of Victorian Gothic at London’s St Pancras Station. The building houses the reopened station hotel, the St Pancras Renaissance (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Sanctuary: in the shadow of St Pancras
  

In 'A Tale of Two Cities', Dickens recalls the work of bodysnatchers in St Pancras Churchyard. The graveyard is in the very shadow of London's magnificently restored St Pancras station. We reflect on how the railways have reshaped the St Pancras ...
View of Riga’s Old Town with the River Daugava beyond (photo © Prescott09 / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

The art of concealment: Riga
  

The Latvian capital has long been shaped by outside influences. Every new master required the reinvention of the country's identity: what was acceptable was brought into the open and what could not be denied had to be conealed. Guest contributor ...
Letter from Europe

Letter from St Pancras

  • 2 Dec 2011
There is something quite exquisite about grand railway termini. Folk fly through them, the dash for the train diminishing the status of these great cathedrals to travel. But these are not places through which one should rush. So we lingered at St ...
Habsburg period cobbles in one of the squares in Chernivtsi (photo © Laurence Mitchell).
Magazine article

Ukraine's Bukovina region
  

The Carpathian region of south-west Ukraine has fabulous beechwoods and rural lifestyles that tell of another world – one far removed from much of modern Europe. Laurence Mitchell introduces us to Chernivtsi and to villages in the hinterland of the ...
Letter from Europe

Escape from Alcúdia

  • 10 Nov 2011
The fast ferry will speed you from Alcúdia to Ciutadella in just an hour. Too fast, perhaps, to really savour the transition between two worlds. Alcúdia has its quiet corners. Choose a sunny spring evening and the ruins of the old Roman theatre can ...
Magazine article

Temple of All Religions
  

Ildar Khanov lives in a temple of his own creation. It boasts a splendid array of minarets and domes that recall many of the world’s principal religions. Not quite what you might expect to find in the suburb of a city in the Russian Federation. But ...
Magazine article

Close encounters: Brittany
  

The church enclosures of Finistère are spectacular pieces of architecture, marking progress from the material world (the village beyond the church) to a more spiritual realm. Patricia Stoughton has been exploring the far end of Brittany to unravel ...
Curves dominate the memorial to the Slovak Uprising at Banská Bystrica (photo © Kordoz / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Slovakia: a foray into modernism
  

Slovakia boasts some of the finest modernist architecture anywhere in Europe, though you would hardly know it from the guidebooks. There is something distinctly Slovakian about these buildings which, during the years that Slovakia was linked to the ...
Magazine article

Painted churches
  

The UNESCO World Heritage List features many ornately decorated churches across Europe. The List includes the painted monasteries of southern Bukovina (described elsewhere in this issue), as well as murals on churches in Switzerland, Bulgaria and ...
Magazine article

People's palaces
  

Many central and eastern European capitals boast 'palaces' that were constructed in the socialist period. While Berlin's Palace of the Republic is being demolished, other capitals are finding more creative ways of rehabilitating their 'people's ...
Magazine article

A Polish work of art: Zamosc
  

Zamosc is no ordinary Polish town. Tucked away in the country's eastern marchlands, Zamosc is picture perfect. Its central plaza gets our vote for Europe's finest town square. And the entire place turns out to have an intriguing ...
Magazine article

The Via Sacra
  

The Via Sacra is an inspired initiative that foregrounds the religious heritage of a particularly beautiful part of central Europe - the area where Bohemia (Czech Republic), Polish Silesia and the German State of Saxony ...
Magazine article

Form and function: Dessau
  

The Dessau Bauhaus was the creative focus for a galaxy of talented artists, architects and designers, among them Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Mies van der Rohe. We explore the small town of Dessau in eastern ...
Magazine article

The nymph's call to Allianoi
  

Progress always comes at a price. Not far from Turkey's Aegean coast the beautiful ruins at Allianoi are about to be flooded. Local horticulturalists demand more water for their tomato crops. But the defenders of Allianoi are not giving in easily. ...
Magazine article

Architecture of deceit
  

A new book called 'Follies of Europe: Architectural Extravanganzas' inspires us to explore Europe's architecture of deceit. We find buildings conceived with no purpose at all, and others where exterior design deludes as to the real purpose of the ...
Magazine article

Tomb of the roses
  

Gül Baba presides over Budapest with the serenity and repose of one who rests in Allah. We forsake the streets of Castle Hill in Buda, forever full of tourists, and go in search of hidden ...
Letter from Europe

Changing trains in Copenhagen

  • 24 Mar 2009
The building housing the Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen is deliciously exotic - a Taj Mahal style confection that incorporates Chinese and Moorish elements. It celebrates its centenary this year, having opened its doors in 1909 as Carstensen's Bazaar. In ...
Letter from Europe

Cultural landscapes in the Veneto

  • 6 Nov 2007
Venice may come with a constellation of superlatives, but head out into the Veneto to find a world apart. The country around Treviso, just a dozen miles inland from Venice, is classic città  diffusa territory. As if in retort to Venice's urban ...
Letter from Europe

Polish town squares

  • 17 Mar 2007
Poland has many town squares apart from Kraków's; the country boasts some of Europe's most appealing city plazas. The Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town Square) in Warsaw, a fine bit of post-war reconstruction, is as happy a square as they come: just ...
Letter from Europe

Port Grimaud (France)

  • 13 Oct 2006
To drive the main coastal road west from the French-Italian border along France's Riviera coast is an essay in chic exclusivity: Antibes, Cannes, Ste-Maxime and so on. Not quite hidden europe territory. Most travellers speed through Port Grimaud at ...