hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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Visitors to Warsaw can chase the ghosts of the city's Jewish past by exploring the boundaries of the former ghetto (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Out of the Shadows

Władysław Szpilman’s remarkable book The Pianist (made into a film by Roman Polanski) reveals the devastation of Jewish life in Warsaw in 1945. To accompany our feature on Jewish Warsaw we look at the city's Jewish community in the ...
Image © Boscorelli / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

Tales from the East

  • 17 Feb 2017
With mention of fairy tales and film, thoughts often turn to Disney. The cinematic adaptation of fairy tales is often judged in the west to be a peculiarly American prerogative. But central and eastern Europe have a very fine tradition of ...
Private Italian operator NTV Italo offers a new weekend service from Milan to Rimini this summer (photo © Eqroy8 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Summer excursions by train

  • 8 Jun 2016
New summer train timetables kick in across Europe this month, ushering in many new rail links and interesting changes in rail services across the ...
Moscow Belorussky railway station, the starting point for the direct service from Moscow to Sofia which connects seven capital cities. The new service launches on 13 December 2015 (photo © Victoria Demidova / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

New train services for 2016

  • 3 Dec 2015
New railway timetables kick in across much of Europe on Sunday 13 December - so here's a summary of interesting changes which we've noted in the new schedules. They include a useful new direct link from Moscow to Sofia - a journey which connects ...
Magazine article

Keeping track
  

It is that time of year when Europe prepares to introduce new train timetables. The 2016 schedules come into effect on Sunday 13 December 2015. As usual, there are winners and losers. We look at some new ...
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

Life and death in Bar-le-Duc

  • 9 Aug 2015
Stanislaw Leszczynski, or King Stanislaw, lost the throne of Poland (twice as it happens), but was compensated by being awarded territory in eastern France. Thus it was that in 1735 the town of Bar-le-Duc found itself welcoming a Polish king who ...
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 ...
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 ...
Magazine article

Tall statements
  

Faith has evidently replaced politics as the motivation for some of the world's tallest sculptures. In Europe, the largest such structure is the massive statue of Jesus Christ at Swiebodzin in western ...
The new European Solidarity Centre in the Polish city of
Gdańsk (photo © Krzysztof Janczewski / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Remembering Anna
  

Anna Walentynowicz died five years ago this spring in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of many in the Polish leadership. We recall the woman who was a welder, crane driver and political activist - a woman who quietly helped shape modern ...
Letter from Europe

A Silesian story

  • 3 Jan 2015
It was 274 years ago today that Frederick II of Prussia rode through the Schweidnitzer Gate in Breslau to claim the Silesian city for Prussia. It is a mark of Frederick's style that he was accompanied, as he ceremonially entered the city, not by ...
Letter from Europe

New rail services across Europe

  • 16 Nov 2014
Four weeks from today much of Europe will awaken to new train timetables. Each year in December, new schedules come into effect across the continent. The big day this year is Sunday 14 December. We take look at a dozen positive developments worth ...
Unusual motive power: the 18.08 train from Salzburg to Vienna is powered by Austrian lawyers (photo © Tomnex / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

A new deal for Austrian lawyers

  • 23 Aug 2014
Europe is full of trains with oddly inappropriate names. At least the Alhambra goes to Granada. Not so the Wawel, which nowadays does not run to Kraków at all but only to Wroclaw. Some of the most bizarre train names are actually found in Austria. ...
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 ...
No trains to Nowy Lupków. This remote railway station in south-east Poland was closed in 2010 when an important cross-border rail link from Slovakia was axed (photo © hidden europe).
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 ...
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 ...
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

Winter comes to Kroscienko

  • 5 Dec 2013
The winter snows have come to higher parts of the Carpathians, and already the beech woods and forests of fir are clad in white. Kroscienko, a little village in the Polish hills, is very quiet this time of year. Were it not for the fact that the ...
Magazine article

All points east
  

The new rail schedules for 2014 kick in across Europe in mid-December. Big changes are afoot as Russia rethinks its strategy for passenger services from Moscow to principal cities in the European Union. There are changes to night train services, a ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

Leaving the Tatras

  • 14 Feb 2013
I discovered yesterday that the traveller wanting to take a train out of Zakopane is hardly spoilt for choice. Early birds can opt for the 03.27 to Kraków. Then the next departure from the resort in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland is not ...
Letter from Europe

Travelling on a whim

  • 11 Aug 2012
When was the last time you just wandered? Not merely through your home community, but more widely? Just travelling without fixed intent from region to region, perhaps even across frontiers to foreign lands. Last week we explored a little of the ...
Letter from Europe

Napoleon never made it to San Marino

  • 16 Jul 2012
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 ...
Letter from Europe

All eyes on Ukraine

  • 4 Jun 2012
Just over five years ago, on a sunny day in mid-April 2007, Victor Yushchenko paid a courtesy visit to the European Commission. On the same day Victor Yanukovich addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Ukraine was in ...
Letter from Europe

From synagogue to swimming pool

  • 22 May 2012
It is tempting to scatter superlatives when it comes to Poznan. Three years ago we featured this striking Polish city in hidden europe magazine, and since then we've written frequently on Poznan for other media (most recently in the august pages of ...
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 ...
hidden europe note

Rail update: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

  • 4 May 2011
New rail timetables for the former Soviet Union come into effect later this month. There remains some uncertainty about some services, but for travellers heading east, here are a few thoughts on what to expect: the return of the Berlin to ...
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

The mystery of the mikveh
  

The mikveh (or ritual bathing pool) is a key part of Jewish culture, an intimate part of Orthodox Jewish life that is hidden from the public gaze. We take a look at mediaeval and modern mikveh'ot across ...
Magazine article

Cruise ferry update
  

Catamarans compete for space with whales and dolphins in the crowded sea lanes off the south coast of Spain. Space is tight in some European waters as more travellers embrace ferry travel and an efficient and relaxing way of getting ...
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 politics of heritage

  • 23 Jul 2010
Albi, Downe, Bikini Atoll and the Putorana Plateau are all in competition with each other next week as UNESCO gears up to announce a new round of World Heritage Sites. Securing a place on the World Heritage List can lead to a big boost in tourism ...
Letter from Europe

Now the dust is settling

  • 22 Apr 2010
Well, that was certainly an interesting week for travellers around Europe. Lots of angst for stranded souls. Rich fodder for the British tabloids as brave holidaymakers returned to English ports recounting tales of journeys from hell. Heavens, we ...
hidden europe note

Echoes of Mostar

  • 12 Apr 2010
The death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Saturday brings to mind that this is not the first time that the Head of State of a European country has died abroad in a plane ...
hidden europe note

Poland mourns

  • 11 Apr 2010
The Sunday after Easter was for years known as Low Sunday in the Roman calendar, but Pope John Paul II changed that arrangement ten years ago, when he renamed the Sunday in the Easter Octave, calling it Divine Mercy Sunday. Today is Divine Mercy ...
Letter from Europe

The legacy of Katyn

  • 10 Apr 2010
It was twenty years ago this coming Tuesday that Moscow formally acknowledged that the Soviet secret police (the NKVD) had shot thousands of officers, priests, poets and professors in the forests of Katyn. The legacy of Katyn still scars the Polish ...
Letter from Europe

Origins: from Marie Curie to Tom Stoppard

  • 21 Feb 2010
It is always interesting to discover the places where famous folk were born. Who ever would have thought that Andre Agassi, the son of an Iranian-born boxer, should have first seen the light of our world in Las Vegas? hidden europe visits the home ...
hidden europe note

Last train from Russia

  • 11 Feb 2010
Remember Mlynary? Well we have news of Mlynary, the station that has long been unusual in being served only by Russian trains, even though it is in Polish ...
hidden europe note

Polish tremors

  • 9 Feb 2010
At breakfast time this morning, an earthquake shook the town of Jaworzno in Polish Upper Silesia. Now in the general scale of seismic events, this was a mere shudder that measured 3.4 on the Richter scale. But clearly there is some subterranean ...
Letter from Europe

Train service changes for 2010

  • 12 Dec 2009
The Balkan region gets a new rail service tomorrow, with the launch of a once daily direct train between Belgrade and Sarajevo. It is a mark of how much the mood in the region has improved over recent years that routes severed during the nineties ...
hidden europe note

Key train to Kaliningrad axed

  • 30 Nov 2009
The new EU Kaliningrad programme is designed to promote contact and understanding between Russia's Baltic exclave at Kaliningrad and the territory's EU neighbours. But sadly, just as this new programme is announced, so comes news that a key train ...
Magazine article

The Cretan question
  

We look at examples of how territories and countries have been internationalised through joint administration by foreign powers. From Crete to Kosovo, Europe has had many examples of shared ...
Magazine article

Kraków and beyond
  

there is more to Kraków and its region than the Polish city's beautiful main square. hidden europe visits Kraków and a nearby 17th century religious theme ...
Magazine article

Barszcz and bigos
  

The Bailiwick of Jersey, in the Channel Islands, has long played host to many migrant communities. hidden europe explores the growing Polish influences in the ...
Magazine article

Gnome world
  

Gnomes of Europe arise! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. hidden europe checks out the sanctuaries where liberated gnomes, freed from enslavement to oppressive gardening cultures, can live in dignity and ...
Magazine article

The Polish Woodstock
  

hidden europe visits Europe's largest rock festival, Przystanek Woodstock, at Kostrzyn in Poland. Overshadowed by more well-known events, like Roskilde and Glastonbury, the Kostrzyn festival helps perpetuate a tradition inaugurated at Woodstock in ...
Magazine article

Europe's lost synagogues
  

Shoah survivors and their descendants come and stand silent in the synagogue where once an entire kehillah worshiped together. hidden europe finds out what has become of some of Europe's former ...
Magazine article

On the night train
  

After the last of the daytime express trains have left, Europe's mainline railway stations play host to night trains. These are the trains which are the stuff of poetry. We explore some of the very best which the continent has to ...
Magazine article

A Polish port: Frombork
  

In Frombork, a tiny port on Poland's Baltic coast, the ferry terminal has closed down for the winter. A lone fisherman sits at the end of the pier and looks out over the lagoon to Russia. But the town where Nicolaus Copernicus lived and worked ...
Magazine article

Peace parks

International peace parks that seek to promote conservation across national boundaries while also encouraging cooperation across borders, are becoming increasingly common. Bringing projects like the current plan for a Balkans Peace Park to fruition ...
Magazine article

Norway transposed
  

There are about two dozen remaining fine examples of Norwegian stave churches. Most are in Norway. But one of the best is, somewhat improbably, in the mountains on the Polish-Czech ...
Magazine article

Europe's fading borders
  

With the expansion of the Schengen zone to encompass nine more countries, Europe's borders are fading fast. Communities once divided by international frontiers are happily united. But there is a downside, for fading borders within the European ...
Magazine article

New Jerusalems: European sacri monti
  

With Eastertide in mind, we explore some devotional itineraries that led to New Jerusalems all over Europe. From Portugal to Poland, sacri monti (sacred mountains or calvaries) often offer very local interpretations of classic religious ...
Magazine article

Beyond the Bug: rural Ukraine
  

Dubno is ordered, a place that sits snug in the Ikva valley. Kremenetz is different. Join Jenny Robertson as she guides us through small-town Volhynia, a region of western Ukraine that lies well off the regular tourist ...
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

A Polish curiosity
  

To walk through the door of the church is to leave modern Poland and enter a space suffused with exotic incense and the rich iconography of European Orthodoxy. A note on the Polish Orthodox church in Jelenia ...
Magazine article

Poznan blues
  

Europe's city squares are being radically reshaped by the arrival of mass tourism. Thus far, Poznan's beautiful central square has resisted the pressure for change. It remains essentially a place for the locals. But change is surely in the ...
Magazine article

Tatra politics

A forgotten incident in the history of the Polish Tatra Mountains invites us to consider whether public access really can be reconciled with conservation objectives in European wilderness ...
Letter from Europe

Liberec (Czech Republic)

  • 20 Feb 2009
The Bohemian city of Liberec is much in the news this week as it hosts the Nordic World Ski Championships. Liberec has an improbably old-style hotel, called Imperial, that is an amazing throwback to the past. Its foyer still displays an old ...
Letter from Europe

Poznan - the Polish Society of Country Lovers (PTTK)

  • 21 Oct 2008
The PTTK is a venerable Polish institution. Roughly translated, its full name means the Polish Society of Country Lovers. Kick-started in the Tatra Mountains in the late nineteenth century, the society encouraged an increasingly urban populace to ...
Letter from Europe

Tykocin (Poland) - Belmonte (Portugal)

  • 4 Aug 2008
Tykocin is a gem, a town that graciously captures the awful history of a thousand former Jewish shtetls across central Europe. This was a community, like so many in the region, that was Jewish to the core. Tykocin had its heart ripped out in August ...
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

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

Hasta la victoria siempre!

  • 7 Oct 2007
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. ...
Letter from Europe

Almagro (Spain)

  • 2 Jul 2007
The last day of school is always an interesting moment to be in Poland, and hidden europe happened to be in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz a week or two back when the school year drew happily to its conclusion. By ten in the morning on a hot and ...
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

Celebrating Christmas

  • 23 Dec 2006
Christmas generates its own extraordinary traditions across Europe - but they differ greatly from country to country. Even the date on which the celebrations reach their apotheosis varies across the continent. In Germany, Belgium and 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

The train to Siberia - a Kraków curiosity

  • 12 Jun 2005
Walk the royal road south from Kraków's magnificent central square and you cannot miss the great hill of Wawel with its palace and cathedral overlooking the Wisla river. Walk up to the cathedral in the quiet of night, or at dawn on a summer ...