hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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Cleaning pig's intestines at a matanza in Secastilla, Spain (photo © Kate Wilson).
Magazine article

Life and Death in Secastilla

Kate Wilson, a first-time contributor to hidden europe, reports from the village in northern Spain where she lives. This is no ordinary day, for this is el día de la matanza - the day of a ritual pig slaughter. No fun for Tia the pig, but a rich ...
Madrid's Metro Linea 1 has a disused station that has been converted into an exhibition (photo © Dariusz Szwangruber / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Platform Zero

At Augsburg station in Bavaria, there is a Platform 801, while a number of stations around Europe have a Platform 0 - among them Aarau in Switzerland and King's Cross station in London. We take a look at the Platform Zero ...
The former prison island of Cabrera - just off the south coast of Mallorca - is now a popular destination for day trips by boat from Mallorca (photo © Alexander Nikiforov / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Cabrera, a tainted paradise

  • 1 Mar 2016
In the summer of 1812, while Napoleon's Grande Armée was storming east towards Moscow, William Faden's publishing house in London was busy putting the finishing touches to a new guide to Spanish inshore waters. Among the areas covered in the pilot ...
The gardens at Alfàbia on the island of Mallorca (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Exploring Alfàbia

  • 12 Dec 2015
We wandered amid bamboo and eucalyptuses, past carob trees and citrus orchards, by pomegranates and myrtle. The gardens at Alfàbia on the island of Mallorca are one of many beautiful places we have visited as part of our work for hidden ...
Letter from Europe

Encounter at Hendaye

  • 23 Oct 2015
75 years ago this week, Hitler was on the move. Within just a few days, the Führer's train was in north-west France, in the Basque region and in Tuscany. But this was no holiday. On 23 October 1940, Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye. It was the ...
Looking towards Samos from the Turkish coastal town of Güzelcamli (photo © Brian Flaigmore / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Islands and politics

  • 11 Jul 2015
Cartographers, seafarers, poets and artists have long seen the appeal of offshore islands - and they are especially interesting when political allegiance and geography do not quite seem to agree. Perhaps the most striking political compromise with ...
Letter from Europe

The centre of the universe

  • 13 Apr 2015
It was 50 years ago that Salvador Dalí completed his celebrated La Gare de Perpignan. It is a huge oil painting which now hangs in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It celebrates Perpignan as the very centre of the ...
Eurostar trains waiting at the platforms at St Pancras station in London (photo © MorganOliver / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Europe by rail: spring news

  • 1 Apr 2015
It is that time of year when rail companies across Europe tweak their schedules for the upcoming summer season. Here's an overview of some of the noteworthy changes for this ...
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. ...
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 ...
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 ...
A Palma-bound Ferrocarril de Sóller train at Bunyola on the island of Mallorca (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

By train to Sóller
  

The jewel in the crown of Mallorca's railways is the delightfully antiquated Ferrocarril de Sóller. Last year, it celebrated 100 years of service. It is just one of three separate railways to serve the Mediterranean ...
La Seu Cathedral dominates the waterfront of Palma de Mallorca (photo © Elena Zarubina / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Island hopping through the Balearics
  

To understand Menorca and its history, you have to arrive at Maó by ship. There is no better way to do this than by taking the weekly sailing from Palma di Mallorca to Menorca, along the way passing the island where Hannibal was born and another ...
Magazine article

Beauty and the Beast
  

Just prior to the start of Lent each year, the village of Bielsa on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees welcomes a flood of visitors to its annual carnival. For a couple of days of transgression, the frenetic energy of the carnival contrasts with the ...
Letter from Europe

The fifth season

  • 8 Feb 2013
Welcome to the fifth season. Spring, summer, autumn, winter... and now the fifth season. This weekend, and the day or two thereafter, mark the culmination across Europe of fifth season frolics. It is carnival time. The normal rules of social ...
Magazine article

Time check

The second weekend in December sees new rail timetables introduced across Europe. The new schedules see a significant recasting on long distance services in the northern Balkans. Two new international night trains will link Italy with France and ...
Waiting for fried fish in Cádiz (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Fried fish in Cádiz
  

"Cádiz is pretty in a way peculiar to itself." And that's as true today as it was when a traveller penned those words 200 years ago. The most important Atlantic port in Andalucía played a key role in mediating Spain's relationship with the ...
Elvas in Portugal has just been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (photo © Inacio Pires).
Magazine article

Mining heritage
  

A new crop of European heritage has just been added to UNESCO's celebrated list of notable heritage. The newcomers to the World Heritage List include remarkable industrial villages in Flanders and Wallonie, a German opera house and a clutch of ...
Letter from Europe

Reshaping mental maps

  • 17 Jun 2012
This evening, a train will speed from Córdoba to Valencia in just a shade over three hours, marking the inauguration of another link in Spain's growing high-speed rail network. True, the new stretch of line in this case is very modest, but it is ...
Letter from Europe

Recalling Guernica

  • 26 Apr 2012
Most art lovers visiting Madrid make first for the Prado and then for the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Both have celebrated collections. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, based in a former hospital near Atocha railway station, does not attract quite the same ...
Magazine article

The mystery of Los Picaos
  

Guest contributor Diego Vivanco visits the village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra in Spain's Rioja region to see how its inhabitants mark Holy Week. He witnesses a Lenten spectacle that is both theatrical and intimate at the same ...
Letter from Europe

Charlottenburg to Cádiz

  • 12 Mar 2012
There is something rather satisfying about being up and about earlyish on a Sunday morning. Streets that would on working days be busy are happily empty. So I hopped on a train just after eight and rode west out of Berlin. This is familiar terrain. ...
Letter from Europe

Of glaciers and glacierets

  • 9 Dec 2011
The news this week, widely reported in Europe's media, that French glaciers are on the retreat prompts us to reflect on glaciers around mainland Europe. It is of course no surprise that Europe's permanent areas of snow and ice are threatened by our ...
Image © Eti Swinford
Magazine article

Botany in Paradise
  

Iain Bamforth, a first-time contributor to hidden europe, wanders through the fruit markets of his home town of Strasbourg and reflects on apples and apricots, persimmons and pomegranates. Join us on a botanical tour of ...
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

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

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

Lost maritime links

  • 5 Sep 2010
Boulogne has always knocked spots off Calais as a port-of-entry into France. The city has a particularly attractive Ville Haute (Upper Town). But sadly, not a lot of travellers from England will be visiting Boulogne this winter, for today sees the ...
Magazine article

Paths of history: transhumance in Spain
  

Southern Europe is criss-crossed by old drove routes that served the pastoral economies of yesteryear. In Spain, these routes are called canadas. They are still used by herders who practice transhumance, spending summer in the hills with their ...
Magazine article

Erronkari's claim to fame
  

The memory of Julián Gayarre, the accomplished nineteenth-century tenor, is perpetuated in his home village in the Pyrenees by a larynx preserved in formaldehyde. Karlos Zurutuza, who is a regular contributor to hidden europe, took the bus to ...
Magazine article

Sillitoe in Menton
  

Alan Sillitoe's first publications, written during the brief spell that he lived in Menton in France, were travel essays. Sillitoe died in April, having achieved a formidable reputation as a novelist. We take a look at the lesser known side of ...
Letter from Europe

Glimpses from the train

  • 6 May 2010
Are not the finest parts of many long train journeys those fleeting glimpses of a city or a country that you get just prior to arrival at your destination? There is a superb moment on the train journey through Slovakia towards Budapest, a view ...
hidden europe note

The demise of Highland Airways

  • 13 Apr 2010
A couple of recent airline bankruptcies highlight the economic vulnerability of small airports in Europe which are not served by a wide range of carriers - and indeed the social vulnerability of remote communities that depend on lifeline air ...
hidden europe note

Fantasy architecture and themed hotels

  • 14 Jan 2010
Fantasy architecture has long been common in American hotels, but it is becoming increasingly frequent on this side of the Atlantic too - and not just at Eurodisney near Paris. We look at examples from Turkey and the Canary ...
Letter from Europe

A trio of cat stories

  • 16 Dec 2009
Catamarans are in the news. Spanish operator Transcoma this week launches its new fast catamaran service between Gibraltar and the Spanish port of Algeciras and in the English Channel the Euroferries saga ...
Magazine article

Taking the high road
  

France's Cime de la Bonette road is often feted as "la plus haute route d'Europe". But is this really true? We drive some of Europe's highest roads and track down the real record ...
Magazine article

Mere conventions: meridian lines
  

Meridian lines may be merely a matter of cartographic convention, but a lot of politics underpinned the selection of Greenwich as the prime meridian. We report from El Hierro in the Canary Islands, once known as Isla del Meridiano. Many old maps ...
Magazine article

Make believe: the geography of films

Film directors often morph real world geographies to suit their own purposes. Docks on the River Thames stand in for Venice, and Granada in southern Spain suddenly is given new life as a Turkish port. We look at a few examples of transposed ...
Magazine article

Spain: la vía de la plata
  

The Via de la Plata is one of Spain's ancient trading routes. It served Roman interests and then developed into one of the most important pilgrim trails to Santiago de Compostela. Laurence Mitchell heads north from Seville along the old ...
Magazine article

Doomed to die
  

La corrida (bullfighting) is as much a part of Andalucian culture as tapas and flamenco. Like it or not, bullfighting is in no rush to disappear. John Mead recounts a tale of life and death from Baza in southern ...
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 ...
Magazine article

Expo architecture
  

Expo is back in the news with Milan having just been selected to host the 2015 World Fair. At their best, Expos have served as a boost to imaginative urban regeneration. We look at the Expo legacy in various European ...
Magazine article

Rotor heaven: Europe's helicopter links
  

We take a look at commercial helicopter routes around Europe, both past and present. There are areas in Europe where helicopter services are still very much a part of the regular transport network. Examples include the Faroe Islands, the Scilly ...
Magazine article

Atarazanas Market, Málaga
  

"Tear it down," shouted the reformers who wanted to modernise Málaga in the mid-nineteenth century. But fortunately the old Atarazanas, once a shipyard, survived and in 1879 it opened as a public market - a focal point for Málaga ...
Magazine article

Dates galore: the Palmeral de Elche
  

Early Arab settlers in the Spanish Levante created at Elche a remarkable region of palm groves. Curiously, a cultural landscape that was so Arabic in inspiration now serves mainly Christian interests. We take the slow train south from Alicante and ...
Magazine article

A Basque village: Urzainki connections

The tiny village of Urzainki in the Basque Pyrenees is a mere fleck on the map. But it is a place with connections. Can it really be true that this one village has a link with an erstwhile Pope, an American President, the Bronte family and a South ...
Letter from Europe

The edge of Europe

  • 1 Dec 2008
To drive out to Malin Head in Donegal on a wild December day is real travel. Or, in Ireland's southwest corner, to be alone at the ancient fort at Dún Beag, feel the fierce wind sweep in over Slea Head and then dive for cover in one of Dingle's ...
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

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

Hints of the desert

  • 12 Aug 2007
The land around the Cabo de Gata really does include many classic elements of desert terrain: a nice volcanic mesa, little alluvial fans and of course sand dunes. It is a landscape that has stood in for both the American West and the Middle East on ...
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

Estuaries

  • 24 Jun 2007
Europe is full of fine estuaries, oftentimes ethereal spots where the waters of silty rivers mingle with the sea. Estuaries are liminal zones, places that do not quite belong to the ocean. Some of our favourite European estuaries are those ...
Letter from Europe

Remote mosques: Norway and Wales

  • 13 Feb 2007
Tromsø¸ has many charms, though they may not be quite evident at this time of the year when deep winter darkness still shrouds the town in Arctic Norway. The island town can pop a few surprises, however, for it turns out that Tromsø¸ has a small ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

El Ejido (Spain)

  • 21 Aug 2006
Viewed from the plane descending to land at Almería's airport, El Ejido is a shining sea of plastic that dazzles the eye. For mile after mile, plastic covered greenhouses and plastic cultivation tubes rely on drip feed irrigation to produce ...