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 ...
photo © Yarchyk / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

City without Jews

  • 28 Feb 2017
Speculative fiction can sometimes turn out to be eclipsed by real-life events. In Hugo Bettauer's 1922 novel, Die Stadt ohne Juden, fictitious Austrian Chancellor Karl Schwertfeger signs an executive order decreeing that all Jews must leave Austria ...
The extension of the Midland Railway to St Pancras necessitated the demolishion of Agar Town. At the same time St Pancras churchyard was reduced in size. Many of the tombstones which were removed were gathered together around the oak tree pictured above (photo © David Edgar licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).
Letter from Europe

150 years after Agar Town

  • 28 Dec 2016
It is 150 years since the Midland Railway, which in 1866 was extending its tracks south into St Pancras, demolished a poor, working-class community which inconveniently straddled the company's proposed route to its grand new London terminus. Agar ...
Roman Catholic Basilica of St Servatius at Vrijthof Square in the Old Town of Maastricht (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The Maastricht factor

  • 23 Nov 2016
Do you not find that some towns have instant appeal? That's how we feel about Maastricht, a medium-size city tucked away in the southernmost part of the Netherlands - a region called Limburg. It's forty years since the last of the Limburg coal ...
Our image shows just one portion of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin; the wooded area in the background is the Tiergarten (photo © Matyas Rehak / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Stumbling through history

  • 13 Nov 2016
As I walked deeper into the complex, surrounded on all sides by the chunky columns, I heard the animated chatter of two kids from time to time - two young English voices in a forest of memories in the very middle of Berlin. I met some Spanish ...
Magazine article

Catholic Oxford

December 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of John Henry Newman's admittance to Trinity College, Oxford. Almost 30 years later (in 1845), Newman was accepted into the Roman Catholic Church. We take a look at Catholic ...
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 ...
Magazine article

Recalling Tito

From Skopje to Moscow, from Sarajevo to New Delhi, the names of roads and squares recall Josep Broz Tito, who was President of Yugoslavia from 1953 until his death in 1980. But what happened to all the Tito towns in former Yugoslavia? Titograd ...
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 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 ...
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': ...
Issue 47 of hidden europe magazine
Letter from Europe

A new issue of the magazine: hidden europe 47

  • 12 Nov 2015
hidden europe 47 is published today. It costs just 8 euros, and for that you'll get some of the finest travel writing around. If you like our regular Letter from Europe, why not support our work by taking out a sub to the print ...
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 ...
The centrepiece of Geneva's Mur des Réformateurs: sculptures of Beza, Calvin, Farel and Knox (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Radical assets Geneva-style

  • 30 Aug 2015
All who make their way to Geneva are struck by the sheer beauty of the city's setting. It is also a place that has always made space for radicals of all persuasions. Three hundred years after Calvin's death in 1564, the city emerged as a hotspot in ...
Letter from Europe

The Great Synagogue of Plzen

  • 22 Apr 2015
You might expect the most striking building in Plzen to be a brewery. But there's more to Plzen than beer. In fact the most impressive building in the Czech city is the Great Synagogue on Plzen's main ...
Potsdamer Platz in the very heart of Berlin (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The view from Berlin

  • 27 Mar 2015
Our travels over the last fortnight have taken us from one end of Germany to the other. Yet strangely this is a country which neither of us really understands. One of us is a Berliner by birth, the other a Berliner by choice. The view from Berlin ...
Letter from Europe

Recalling Marianne

  • 25 Jan 2015
France has changed since our last Letter from Europe. The attacks in Paris which started on 7 January were assaults on an entire nation. For in France, more than elsewhere in Europe, the principles of liberty are more closely etched on the national ...
Letter from Europe

The London Charabanc

  • 3 Dec 2014
If you are in Antwerp by night on the weekend before Christmas, you might see a wondrous sight. Shortly after midnight on Saturday 19 December, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) will launch its new direct service from Antwerp to London. If ...
Magazine article

Express bus to London?
  

There was a time when Deutsche Bahn (DB) only operated trains. Now they are emerging as serious players in the bus business. We just wonder if they have London in their sights? Their IC-Bus network is expanding and they already have a route from ...
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 ...
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 ...
Park station in Johannesburg, South Africa (photo © Alan Gignoux / dreamstime.com).
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 ...
Lakeside setting of Mantua in Italy's Lombardy region (photo © Karol Kozlovski / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Travelling with Shakespeare

  • 31 Jul 2014
Hot summer days... and we've been meandering through northern Italy. Virtually, with Shakespeare by our side. Remember Lucentio who, in The Taming of the Shrew, leaves his home city of Pisa in Tuscany? Lucentio's servant Tranio accompanies his ...
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 ...
Painting at the East Side Gallery, a surviving fragment of the Berlin Wall (image © Anagram1 / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

A share in history

The agency that promotes tourism to the German capital is called Visit Berlin. During 2014 Visit Berlin is promoting the idea that 9 November 2014 is the night when you just must be in Berlin. Just as Notting Hill Festival and Edinburgh Hogmanay ...
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 ...
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 ...
The 'old town' recalled in Jacob Riis’s memoirs is Ribe in Denmark, seen here in early autumn (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Remembering Jacob Riis
  

The social reformer and documentary photography Jacob Riis, author of 'How the Other Half Lives' (1890), was born in the town of Ribe in Danish Jutland. Understanding Ribe is the key to understanding Jacob Riis. We take a look at how Riis described ...
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 ...
Gleisdreieck station in the southern suburbs of Berlin still has some of the antique style of Joseph Roth's day (picture © hidden europe).
Magazine article

The lost kingdom
  

A 1924 essay by Joseph Roth on an unsung railway station in Berlin fired our imagination and inspired us to take the train to Gleisdreieck - an elevated station that in Roth's day looked down on a tangled maze of railway lines and sidings. ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

Remembering Miss Jemima

  • 14 Jul 2013
Cast back 150 years, and Bastille Day came and went without the average Parisian taking much notice. It was not till 1880 that 14 July acquired the status of a national holiday. Thus when Miss Jemima Morrell wandered the streets of Paris on 14 July ...
Letter from Europe

The Russian Season in Paris

  • 16 May 2013
Those looking to depart from convention in Paris usually head for the left bank. No-one goes to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées (on the right bank) looking for revolution. But cast back one hundred years this month and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées ...
Letter from Europe

Travel writing: the view from home

  • 10 Apr 2013
During these first days of April, we have not ventured far from home. And yet there is a tangible sense of having travelled - if not through space, then through time. Ten days ago, much of eastern Germany was still formidably wintry. The little ...
Magazine article

Parisian prayers: a litany of liturgies
  

Paris is a city that has always embraced migrants, with each new wave of arrivals bringing their own faith. Walk the streets of the French capital and you'll find faith comes in many flavours, from varying shades of Orthodox Christianity to Islam, ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

The city of spiders

  • 28 Oct 2012
This year, many of our travels have focused on ports. We have criss-crossed Europe from Calais to Cádiz, from Travemünde to Taranto. We sat under the cranes on the quayside of Bari, still as popular today with pilgrims from Russia as it was one ...
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 ...
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 ...
Magazine article

Agar Town
  

We remember Agar Town, an area of London that simply disappeared from the maps when in 1866 the Midland Railway edged south towards St ...
Letter from Europe

Liberating public spaces

  • 19 Feb 2012
Wandering through the middle of Berlin last week, we were struck by the large number of professional photographers and film crews busily working away, each claiming a stretch of pavement to use classic Berlin scenes as the backdrop for their work. ...
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 ...
The Tammerkoski River with the Finlayson mills in the Finnish city of Tampere. The city boasts very well-preserved industrial heritage (photo © hidden europe).
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 ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

The 313 to Botany Bay

  • 8 May 2011
We were having difficulty being enthusiastic about Enfield. Jack, an amiable octogenarian who is Enfield born and bred, is more positive. "Heavens," he exclaims. "You've no idea. Enfield has been important for centuries. Do you remember the Lee ...
Letter from Europe

The Wedding Factor

  • 29 Apr 2011
The Berlin district of Wedding is blessed with the definite article and cursed with a bad reputation. Quite why locals allude to the suburb as 'der Wedding' (The Wedding) is a matter of debate. The Wedding has urban colour, a multicultural mix and ...
Magazine article

Orbiting Birmingham
  

Birmingham's Outer Circle bus route is a veteran among urban bus routes, dating back to the nineteen-twenties. How many Brummies who ride the Outer Circle realise that this is Europe's longest urban bus route? Probably very few. But this ...
Letter from Europe

Birmingham silences

  • 20 Dec 2010
Head out along the Bristol Road and you get an eyeful of Birmingham's suburbs. Leaky ipods and restive mobiles mix with discarded newspapers and chip wrappers on the upper deck of Bus 61 that runs all the way out to Frankley. An empty Red Bull can ...
Magazine article

Where empires collide: Zemun, Serbia
  

The Danube has always been a natural geographic barrier in the Balkans, a watery frontier between two cultural worlds: the Habsburg to the north and the Ottoman territories to the south. Laurence Mitchell escorts us on a riverfront walk from ...
Letter from Europe

The ark in the park

  • 21 Jun 2010
Zoos evoke all manner of reactions. Some commentators see them as playing a key role in maintaining biological diversity, others dismiss them as cruel and inhumane. We take a look at European zoos in their social and historical ...
The extensive ruins of the Roman civilian settlement of Aquincum were uncovered in Óbuda during the late nineteenth century (photo © Duncan JD Smith).
Magazine article

Budapest: beneath the Hungarian capital
  

Guided by Duncan JD Smith, we dive below the streets of Budapest to unravel the history of the Hungarian capital. No other capital city in the world is so riddled with caves as Budapest. We find Roman ruins, a labyrinth from the Ottoman period and ...
Letter from Europe

Yitzhak's tale (Vienna)

  • 29 Nov 2009
It was only after the old man had beaten us both at chess that he opened the worn leather satchel. He carefully took out a small bundle of papers. Removing the twine that gave the pile of documents some structure, he showed us fragments of his life ...
Letter from Europe

Orbiting Berlin

  • 2 Nov 2009
We took a day out on Friday to orbit Berlin. In truth we have never really been fans of motorway driving, but a gorgeous frosty autumn morning with clear skies tempted us out of suburban Berlin onto the motorway that encircles the city. At exactly ...
Magazine article

Shortlisted for UNESCO
  

There are the sights which already feature on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And then there are the wannabes. We take a look at sights around Europe that are angling for one of the coveted places on the UNESCO ...
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

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

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 ...
Magazine article

Streetwise in the middle of Europe
  

So where does hidden europe actually come from? From a garret in Reykjaví­k perhaps? Or a basement in Kiev? No, hidden europe is produced in the very middle of Europe just a stone's throw from the erstwhile border between West Berlin and the former ...
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

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

Changing horizons for Silvertown (London)

  • 29 Oct 2008
Rathbone Street market in Canning Town, just two stops up the train line from Silvertown, was the furthest most Silvertowners ever ventured. A Saturday special. Pie and mash at Mrs Olley's café followed by ice cream at Murkoff's were Canning Town ...
Letter from Europe

A matter of time - Belgrade

  • 14 Oct 2008
hidden europe reports on European elections and a referendum in Jersey. We also visit Belgrade and think about the city's illustrious history - the times when the Orient Express stopped in ...
Letter from Europe

Brussels' suburbs

  • 20 May 2007
Belgium's cities brim with evident charm. Be it Bruges, Antwerp or Brussels, cityscapes bubble with multicultural vitality. Few European countries have so consummately mastered the art of café life, with Brussels in particular having fabulous cafés ...
Letter from Europe

Pioneer railways

  • 7 May 2007
Yesterday saw hidden europe in Dresden, where we joined the Sunday exodus to the city's main public park. Just an easy stroll east of the city centre, the old Volkspark (People's Park) is a classic of its kind - a place for simple pleasures, with a ...
Letter from Europe

Grodna (Belarus)

  • 19 Apr 2007
One of the places we report from in the May issue of the magazine is Grodna in Belarus - a remarkable place where a hundred years ago the streets echoed to the sounds of Yiddish voices. Today the old synagogue sits rather forlornly on a bluff ...
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

Dark tourism in Berlin and beyond

  • 13 Aug 2006
Many of Berlin's prime attractions evoke the darker side of the city's past. The new monument to the murdered Jews of Europe just south of the Brandenburg Gate is the latest addition to Berlin's dark tourism repertoire. Just a short walk away is ...