hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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Saarbrücken
Letter from Europe

Saarland, January 1957

  • 15 Jan 2017
We walk down the lane between two villages. Each takes its name from the River Gailbach. The higher community is Obergailbach. It's a wee slip of a place. Just a couple of kilometres down the valley lies Niedergailbach which is rather larger. This ...
Magazine article

Visa News

A chance to visit Belarus without a visa, and a tweak to the visa regulations in the Russian port of Murmansk are just two of the latest changes to visa regimes in ...
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 50

Welcome to hidden europe 50. We live and work in a city where foreign nationals make an immense contribution to the local economy, to society and to the arts. Berlin is in that respect very typical of many places in Europe. In hidden europe, we ...
Milestone
Magazine article

Exploring the Ore Mountains

The Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) offer excellent possibilities for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing. But even less energetic visitors can reach remote communities in the region by local bus and train ...
Brexit
Letter from Europe

After the referendum

  • 4 Jul 2016
For millions of Brits of my generation, the EU gave an exit route, a chance to escape. It gave me a chance to feel truly European, to be truly European. It has given me the opportunity to explore other languages, other faiths, other freedoms, that ...
Magazine article

Kosovo travel notes
  

It's perfectly sensible to travel from Budapest to Thessaloniki through Kosovo. But it's unwise to attempt the journey in the reverse direction. Find out why in our notes on travelling through ...
Schnackenburg
Letter from Europe

The inner-German border at Schnackenburg

  • 15 Nov 2015
The village of Schnackenburg is on the south side of the Elbe right on the erstwhile border between East and West Germany. It is a place which has lived by borders and died by borders. It is an interesting case of a community which lost out in ...
Sarajevo
Magazine article

Slow train to Sarajevo
  

Twenty years ago this autumn, the Dayton Peace Accord brought a measure of peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Join us as we take the train from Zagreb to Sarajevo, travelling through a region which still bears the scars of ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

Liberland: Bring your wellies

  • 26 Apr 2015
Have you applied for Liberland citizenship yet? Probably not. Though by all accounts lots of folk have been begging the Liberland government to give them passports.Liberland may yet turn out to be merely a publicity stunt, but President Jedlicka ...
Letter from Europe

A grand tour of Europe

  • 11 Mar 2015
A new issue of hidden europe is published tomorrow. Not just any issue of hidden europe, but one which marks our tenth birthday. Yes, it was way back in March 2005 that we published the first-ever issue of the magazine. For ten years, we have been ...
Letter from Europe

From the Barents Sea to Gagauzia

  • 11 Nov 2014
The ebb and flow of life in Brussels, London and Paris is well covered in mainstream media. We have instead opted for the road less travelled. hidden europe 44, which is published today, carries reports from offbeat and unsung communities right ...
Church at Svanvik
Magazine article

Borderlands: the Pasvik Valley
  

Few borders divide societies which are so markedly different as the frontier between Norway's easternmost county of Finnmark and Russia's Murmansk Oblast. We take a look at life on both sides of the border in a region which was once a key part of ...
Letter from Europe

The beauty of Berlin

  • 7 Nov 2014
In the third and last of three pieces to mark the 25th anniversary of the dramatic events of November 1989 in Berlin, the editors of hidden europe reflect on the special qualities that mark their home ...
Narrow-gauge steam train
Letter from Europe

Following Faust up the Brocken

  • 31 Oct 2014
In our second article to mark 25 years since the political changes in East Germany of late 1989, we make a pilgrimage to one of Germany's most celebrated mountains: the ...
Weltzeituhr Berlin Alexanderplatz
Letter from Europe

Eastern senses

  • 23 Oct 2014
With the approaching 25th anniversary of the East German government's decision to relax restrictions on its borders, you'll surely be hearing a lot about Berlin over the coming weeks. We have our own recollections of the German Democratic Republic, ...
Edinburgh
Letter from Europe

Divided Islands and all things Scottish

  • 9 Sep 2014
Just imagine, for a moment, that Scotland really does vote yes to independence next week. Scotland will then become a new nation state, bidding for a place in European league tables of size and status. We reflect on border issues and look at how ...
Titovka roadside café
Letter from Europe

Tales from Titovka

  • 5 Sep 2014
Everyone stops at Titovka sooner or later. That's the way things are up here in the far north-west corner of Russia. The Titovka roadside café is on the highway that runs west from Murmansk towards the mining towns of Zapolyarny and ...
Park Station
Letter from Europe

Letter from Africa: Doing okay, Mama

  • 7 Aug 2014
Last month, hidden europe co-editor Nicky Gardner visited South Africa and adjacent countries. For a change we look beyond Europe, joining Nicky as she mills with the late afternoon commuter crowds at the main railway station in ...
Abandoned railway station at Nowy Lupków
Magazine article

Cross-border links in the Carpathians

New cross-border roads have enhanced communications across the Polish-Slovakian border, two countries which have greatly benefited from becoming part of the Schengen region. The new roads are good news for private motorists, but those who rely on ...
Border post at Slemence
Magazine article

A village torn in two: Slemence

The fall of the Berlin Wall was way back in 1989. But the community of Slemence remained divided until 2005. For sixty years, there was no link between the two halves of the village which lies astride the border between Ukraine and Slovakia. A new ...
School at Jungholz (Austria)
Magazine article

Divided loyalties: Jungholz

The village of Jungholz lies at an altitude of just over 1000 metres in the Alps. At this time of years, the Alpine meadows are full of wild flowers. So Jungholz is a pretty spot. But it is also exceptional in that it is a diamond-shaped piece of ...
Magazine article

One country, two entities

Several European countries are split on ethnic lines. We see the dramas being out in Ukraine just now. Belgium is even more decisively split, but happily the results are not as fractious. Shift to Bosnia and Herzegovina and we see the great game of ...
Wooden church at Ruská Bystrá
Letter from Europe

The Carpathian spirit

  • 20 Apr 2014
From villages in the Ukrainian hills above Uzhhorod west through the Bieszczady Mountains to remote communities in south-east Poland, there is a Paschal theme this Sunday morning: "Christos voskrese," it runs in Church Slavonic. "Christ has risen." ...
Winter in Bohemia
Magazine article

Into the hills: a Bohemian diversion
  

Of course one can speed across Europe on sleek, fast trains. But slow trains, the kind that dawdle along branch lines, are so much more interesting. We ride a rural rail route in northern Bohemia, where fading railway stations reveal a Habsburg ...
Magazine article

The idea of ‘good’ borders
  

The Curzon Line, which for so long marked the approximate western border of the Soviet Union is named after Lord Curzon. His Lordship has strong ideas on borders, seeing them very much as zones of demarcation. But ideas have changed since Curzon's ...
Letter from Europe

The storm

  • 28 Dec 2013
It is one of those wild sulphurous days, and the bare heath beats to the roar of the winds. The storm sweeps in from the west. The drenched heath lies low. And it survives the fierce onslaught. The forest at Froeslev is less ...
Letter from Europe

Hemingway in Hemmeres

  • 13 Dec 2013
Folk in Hemmeres make the point that theirs was the first village east of the River Our in which the Americans set foot. The truth is that several patrols made forays over the river on the evening of 11 September 1944. And it was on the railway ...
Port at Murmansk
Magazine article

New ports for the Far North
  

The harbour front at Kirkenes could be transformed if the Norwegian port became a major transit point for freight to and from Russia. The key to this happening is getting Russian-gauge railway tracks to Kirkenes. But other ports in northern Norway ...
Letter from Europe

Lastovo (Croatia)

  • 1 Jul 2013
At ten o'clock yesterday evening, well after the sun had dipped below the waters of the Adriatic, the car ferry arrived in Ubli. The little port at the south-west corner of the island of Lastovo has a hangdog sort of feel. Long before sunrise ...
Magazine article

The ghost of Beeching
  

Is cutting public transport links in rural areas and across its borders really the right way for Croatia to gear up to join the European Union this summer? We look at how the pieties of the market are playing havoc with rail services in the north ...
Magazine article

Brand power
  

The number of Russians making cross-border journeys into northern Scandinavia to go shopping leapt by over a third last year. They head for small towns in northern Finland and some even continue into Sweden to visit the world's northernmost branch ...
Letter from Europe

200 years of summer holidays

  • 24 Jul 2012
The thrice-daily local bus service from Altenberg to Teplice is a blessing for cross-border travellers. The bus crosses the mountains that define the border between Saxony and Bohemia. When we rode this route last Thursday, there were just five ...
Magazine article

The Schengen factor
  

Schengen is more than just a village on the banks of the River Moselle in Luxembourg. The Schengen programme of free movement across borders helps shape modern Europe geographies. It explains why trains now rumble by night through Hodos and why ...
Magazine article

Swiss connections: the city of Basel
  

The station departure boards at Basel are nowadays not quite so exotic as once they were. True there's still the occasional train to Minsk and Moscow, but no longer are there direct trains to Spain, Romania and England. Yet Basel's Swiss and French ...
Letter from Europe

Alpine accents

  • 31 May 2012
We have been exploring the northern ranges of the Alps this past week, criss-crossing the international border that separates the German State of Bavaria from the Austrian Tyrol. Like many of Europe's borders, this particular frontier has been ...
Letter from Europe

Across the Dardanelles

  • 24 Jan 2012
Çanakkale is a mere dot on the map, but mere dots in distant lands so often turn out to be bustling cities. And thus it is with Çanakkale, a seaport and fortress town on the east side of the Dardanelles. Çanakkale is a community of more than ...
Letter from Europe

Polish mysteries

  • 23 Nov 2011
We drifted slowly through wintry forests, past unkempt meadows and villages full of scrawny desolation. We crossed the River Odra four times. And four times I gazed down at the river's wine-dark waters from the train, watching the waters swirling ...
Tammerkoski River Tampere
Magazine article

Shaping socialist history: Tampere
  

Lenin's promise that Finland would be granted her independence after the Bolshevik Revolution was first made in Tampere. This Finnish city has a fine industrial and political heritage, as we discover when we visit a museum devoted to the life and ...
Narva-Joesuu
Magazine article

In the days of prosperity
  

The River Narva marks one of Europe's more conspicuous frontiers: that between the European Union (and the Schengen area) to the west and the Russian Federation to the east. But cultures do not always respect borders and in a visit to Narva, on the ...
Letter from Europe

Beyond the Wall

  • 13 Aug 2011
Prosaic places are so often the most interesting spots. And Lichterfelde ranks as decidedly prosaic. None of the main English-language guidebooks to Berlin so much as mention the suburb where we live and work. Tourists do not flock to Lichterfelde ...
Karelian lake
Magazine article

Songlands: a Karelian journey
  

Karelia is the land of the Kalevala, the great epic poem that so powerfully influenced the development of the Finnish national movement in the nineteenth century. We travel through the songlands of the Kalevala and look in particular at the role of ...
Valamo Monastery
Magazine article

The past is another country
  

To accompany our feature on Karelia in this issue of hidden europe magazine, we look at how Finland’s ceded eastern territories, now part of the Russian Federation, remain a potent symbol in the Finnish ...
Letter from Europe

A tale of two Eltons

  • 29 May 2011
You could easily miss Elton. The train from Dublin to Cork speeds past Elton. You hardly catch a glimpse of the cluster of houses that make up this little Irish village. When the grandly titled Great Southern and Western Railway built a line ...
Letter from Europe

The spiritual geography of Karelia

  • 24 May 2011
Are not some landscapes genuinely therapeutic? We crested wave after wave of rolling forests as we drove through Karelia last week. Writers looking to plot the spiritual geography of Europe might do well to start here, for Finnish Karelia is a ...
Letter from Europe

Szczecin (Poland)

  • 14 Mar 2011
For a spell Swedish, then German (and known as Stettin) and only since 1945 Polish, Szczecin is distant from the hubs of Polish power. Its shipyard workers played a key role in the Solidarity movement of the nineteen-eighties. But the city feels ...
Magazine article

Border assets: travels on the frontier
  

Borders have become something of a rarity in modern Europe. We can now travel by car from northern Norway to the Mediterranean without ever once having to show a passport. Political frontiers have faded, yet cultural frontiers remain. We reflect on ...
Magazine article

Crossing the lagoon
  

The Stettiner Haff or Szczecin Lagoon is one of Europe's unsung water bodies, a vast area of shallow saline water that is home to many birds. Seasonal ferry services cross the lagoon in the summer months, allowing travellers to explore this remote ...
Magazine article

Girls on the bridge
  

A line of red and green Russian border-posts skirt the Norwegian Parliament building in Oslo. Politicians turn and look, as do casual passers-by. It is a quiet reminder that Norway really does share a common land border with ...
Letter from Europe

Border markers

  • 11 Nov 2010
We sensed we were crossing into another world as the Moscow-bound train rumbled over the long bridge that spans the River Bug. The reed beds are full of wildfowl which are not troubled by the frequent trains that rattle overhead. This is the border ...
Letter from Europe

The last victim of the Berlin Wall

  • 29 Aug 2010
1990 was a Berlin summer dominated by the Mauerspechte - literally the 'wall peckers' - who chipped away at the Wall with chisels, often in the hope that fragments of the legacy of a divided Berlin could be sold to the tourists who were then ...
KD Avia plane
Magazine article

Disquiet in Kaliningrad
  

Is it no wonder that citizens of Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad are feeling a little jittery these days? Kaliningrad's inhabitants feel that they are a long way from Moscow, and also increasingly distant from the European Union countries ...
Letter from Europe

Vadsø (northern Norway)

  • 24 Nov 2009
You really know you have travelled a long way east when you get to Vadsø. The local church, which dominates the small town on the Barents Sea, is a late 1950s essay in poured concrete. But take a peek inside for a surprise. This is a Norwegian ...
Magazine article

Arctic concord
  

Cross-border confidence is the Barents Sea region has this year prompted a raft of new initiatives fascillitating contact between Norway and Russia. hidden europe reports from the town of Kirkenes in northeast ...
Letter from Europe

Bohemian borderlands

  • 16 Aug 2009
The first town over the hills, on the Czech side of the border, is Domazlice. Just twenty minutes on the steam trains that this weekend shuttle between Furth and Domazlice. The Czech town has a fabulous elongated main square that during these ...
Letter from Europe

Return to Wissembourg

  • 30 Jul 2009
The River Lauter bubbles happily through the town, nature is taking possession again of ancient ramparts where once the French kept watch for invaders and now this border town is a favoured destination for day trippers from Germany. But for me ...
Letter from Europe

Kosovo and international politics

  • 24 Jul 2009
The Kosovo issue rumbles on. Contrary to popular opinion, the question of who has recognised the would-be state and who has not is far from being a simple east versus west divide. True, Britain and the United States both gave a positive nod to ...
Letter from Europe

Bridge over the Moselle

  • 7 Jul 2009
Remich is one of those spots where it is easy to linger. It is a relaxed sort of place on the bank of the Moselle river in Luxembourg. Just across the river from Remich lies the German village of Nennig. Life in Nennig and Remich is economically ...
Letter from Europe

Crossing the border at Boris Gleb

  • 10 Jun 2009
Boris and Gleb are as saintly a duo as Peter and Paul or Cyril and Methodius. Travel round Russia and you will come across no end of churches dedicated to Boris and Gleb. The two were in fact brothers and evidently their tender humility marked the ...
Magazine article

Paradise lost: Nagorno Karabakh
  

The self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is not recognised by any other country. The mountain territory in the southern Caucasus is an extraordinary place, as Karlos Zurutuza found when he took the marshrutka from the Armenia capital ...
Letter from Europe

By ferry to Russia

  • 19 May 2009
The whispers from Moscow last week that Russia will sanction visa-free travel to the country for visitors arriving and leaving on ferries is good news indeed. Cruise ship passengers have long benefitted from just such a dispensation, but only if ...
Golem Grad
Magazine article

Border zone: around Lake Prespa
  

At the point in the southwest Balkans where Macedonia, Albania and Greece converge lies Lake Prespa. It is an extraordinary place - brackish waters, fill of bulbous weeds that pull at your feet. In the middle of the lake is Golem Grad, an island ...
Magazine article

Belgian border business: Moresnet

The easternmost parts of Belgium are home to a linguistic minority that rarely gets a mention in the Flemish-Walloon debate. For here the lingua franca is German. The border region is full of curiosities as we find when we visit Moresnet and the ...
Magazine article

Cardinal points

One travel guide claims that Finisterre is the most westerly point on the European mainland. This is in fact wrong, just as other points that lay claim to special status as geographical extremities are often spurious. We map Europe's ...
Letter from Europe

Abkhazia - the Adler connection

  • 5 Mar 2009
If Abkhazia were more secure and better promoted, it would surely be a holiday paradise to match anywhere in the Mediterranean. It was a favourite with Soviet leaders. The area is spectacular with serene beaches backed by meadows, orchards and ...
Letter from Europe

Campione - an Italian exclave in Switzerland

  • 1 Feb 2009
Campione is an extraordinary spot - a geopolitical oddity of the first order. The village is an exclave of Italy within the Ticino region of southern Switzerland. The conundrum that is Campione'd Italia is nicely captured in a set of old Campione ...
Letter from Europe

When the best laid plans don't quite work out

  • 20 Dec 2008
This week saw hidden europe hitchhiking through rural Hungary as we tried to mitigate the effects of a national train strike in Hungary (now into its seventh day as we write). Pity the poor passengers who left Bucharest last Saturday evening on the ...
Letter from Europe

New links across Schengen borders

  • 14 Jul 2008
The benefits of having open borders across most of Europe are beginning to influence the pattern of weekend excursions made by Europeans living or taking holidays in frontier areas. The burden of having to show a passport at a border was never an ...
Letter from Europe

Moldova

  • 15 Mar 2008
Moldova is not a country that figures much in the European imagination. Tucked away in southeast Europe, Moldova contrives to be not-quite-Balkan and not-really-Danubian. The country boasts a minimalist connection with the Danube, abutting onto the ...
Letter from Europe

Schengen expands

  • 20 Dec 2007
Since 1945 the Neisse valley has been split between two countries: on the west bank Germany and on the east bank Poland. History has scarcely been kind to the villages of the Neisse valley. Hard on the west bank of the river, nestling below what ...
Letter from Europe

Pyrenean borders

  • 12 Dec 2007
In the heart of the Pyrenees, just to the east of Andorra, lies a great depression in the mountains that is a sunny oasis of fertile soils in an otherwise rather wild region. It is known as Cerdanya on the Spanish side and Cerdagne on the French ...
Letter from Europe

Landswaps: Czech Republic and Slovakia

  • 25 Jul 2007
Sidonie was not the only place to change hands on that July day. Fifty kilometres away to the southwest, the hamlet of U Sabotu was ceded to Slovakia by the Czech Republic. Most of the population secured a handsome financial windfall from the ...
Letter from Europe

Kidnapped in Berlin

  • 8 Jul 2007
Fifty-five years ago today, Lichterfelde was very much in the news on account of the fate of Walter Linse, a local lawyer who was kidnapped at his front gate - destination Moscow. Linse had made a reputation for himself in exposing abuses of the ...
Letter from Europe

The wandering Arctic Circle

  • 29 Apr 2007
Capital cities are hardly regular hidden europe territory but Stockholm would surely be a firm contender if ever we were pressed to pinpoint our favourite European capital. Others that would certainly make it onto the shortlist would be Luxembourg ...
Letter from Europe

Passports please!

  • 23 Jan 2007
There is an old Russian proverb that suggests that a man consists of a body, a soul and a passport. But passports are not such an age-old institution as the proverb might imply. A hundred years ago, travellers might wander hither and thither across ...
Letter from Europe

The road to Petsamo

  • 19 Sep 2006
Early European travel was hugely driven by Christian virtue. Those of the truly devout who had the resources would try to visit Rome, Jerusalem or Santiago de Compostela. The fifteenth century English mystic, Margery Kempe, managed all three, and ...
Letter from Europe

Contrasts in Belarus

  • 16 May 2006
Grodno, a historic religious and trading centre that sits comfortably on the bluffs above the Neman river. The onetime Jewish population, which one hundred years ago numbered sixty per cent of the population, was the victim of Nazi purges. An empty ...
Letter from Europe

Minorities around the Black Sea

  • 19 Apr 2006
The Black Sea region bristles with diaspora curiosities, and, in an earlier issue of hidden europe magazine (in July 2005), we explored Estonian villages in the breakaway province of Abkhazia in northwest Georgia. In the upcoming issue of the ...
Letter from Europe

Terminalia: a day for borders - no tram to Poland

  • 23 Feb 2006
Today, 23 February, is the Festival of Terminalia - not a date that features prominently in any modern ecclesiastical calendar, but one that was laden with meaning in the Roman world. For Terminus was the deity who presided over boundary stones and ...
Letter from Europe

Lutepää (Estonia) - nocturnal Europe

  • 15 Sep 2005
In the picture perfect world of wooden houses and picket fences that is Lutepää (on Estonia's eastern border with Russia), every household has neatly stacked piles of wood ready for winter. The rich autumn whiff of burning wood has already eclipsed ...