hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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The crofting settlement of Northton on South Harris in Scotland's Outer Hebrides (photo © hidden europe).

Only Fit For Wild Ducks

Catch the spirit of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides with Gaelic psalm singing at a country church in Lewis or Marian devotions on the Isle of Eriskay. We explore an island archipelago that has a complex mix of landscapes, of which the most distinctive is ...
From great novels to vintage romance, the whole world of the printed word is traded in Redu, a book town in Belgium (photo © Katrin Schönig).

Redu: that novel idea
  

Tucked away in the hill country of southern Belgium is the town of Redu. On the face of it, Redu is much the same as other towns in the Ardennes region. Except that, in Redu, the printed word is especially cherished and valued. Paul Scraton invites ...
Shades of cyan around the Mont
Blanc Massif, seen here reflected in Lac Blanc
above Chamonix, France (photo © Bogdan /
dreamstime.com).

Into the Blue
  

For Swiss scientist and mountaineer HB de Saussure, the sky held "in its grandeur and its dazzling purity, an element of death and infinite sadness." Guest writer Iain Bamforth invites us to jump into the blue. Wrap up warm, and bring your ...
Château d’If with the city of Marseille on the
mainland behind (photo © Dan Talson / dreamstime.com).

Offshore Provence
  

Sailing east from Marseille along the coast of Provence to the Italian border, there are some two dozen islands, many of which are overlooked by visitors to the region. Climb aboard the hidden europe private yacht (if only!) as we set sail for the ...
The church at Svanvik asserts Norwegian authority and identity in a region that borders onto Russia (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...
Statue in Leipzig by sculptor Stephan Balkenhol showing the young Richard Wagner overshadowed by his reputation (image © hidden europe).

Leipzig soundscapes
  

Few European cities can rival Leipzig when it comes to musical associations. Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig, Johann Sebastian Bach had an extraordinarily productive 27 years in the city, and the roll call of great musical names continues: Clara ...

Hidden Istria
  

Istria may be defined by its coastline, but the hinterland warrants a visit too. Rudolf Abraham, co-author of the new Bradt Guide to Istria, invites us to join him in a search for mediaeval frescoes, truffles and an enigmatic pillar of shame. Along ...

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 ...
Passing Hoops Inn on the A39 bus (photo © hidden europe).

Cruising the Atlantic Highway

If roads have personalities, then the A39 in south-west England is certainly one of the most memorable. It meanders from Georgian Bath to the south coast of Cornwall, taking in some of the most engaging scenery in England. For part of its length ...

The heart of Slovenia

The essence of Slovenia is evinced in the country's rustic simplicity and natural grandeur. Jonathan Knott experiences both on a winter walk through villages that boast a close association with the poets and priests who, in the nineteenth century, ...
Teetering on the brink: the capital of San Marino clusters around the summit of Mount Titano (photo © hidden europe).

La Serenissima: San Marino
  

No other country in Europe can boast so beautiful a name: La Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino. But to experience the serenity of San Marino, you really need to stay overnight in the capital, which clusters around the summit of Monte Titano. ...

Zagreb street art
  

When you paint something on the street, it is no longer your own. It becomes public property. Street art demands of artists that they 'let go', that they have the courage to relinquish ownership of their work. Rudolf Abraham takes a look at the ...
Urban style with a modern double-decker cruising through the middle of Birmingham (photo © hidden europe).

Celebrating British buses
  

Buses are experiencing a happy renaissance in Britain. The advent of concessionary bus passes to senior citizens has tempted many diehard motorists onto the top deck. In a special two-part feature for hidden europe, we look at a new book that ...
The feeding of the multitude: fish soup on the beach at Narva-Joesuu (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...
The city of Ohrid, on the shores of the eponymouslake, is Macedonia’s premier tourist destination (photo © hidden europe).

Quo vadis Macedonia?
  

Protecting the national narrative is a fine art in Macedonia, the south Balkan republic which neighbouring Greece insists should be referred to only as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (or FYROM for short). Join us as we try and unravel ...
Bright sun over a lake in Karelia (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...

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 ...

A place apart: Trieste
  

Trieste is wonderful, every bit as intriguing as the most fanciful places ever created by the Austrian novelist Joseph Roth. The Adriatic city is Austria's orphan, a one time entrepôt for the Habsburg Empire, that had to find a new role after the ...

Hungarian rhapsody
  

Sometimes we travel to really get somewhere. But occasionally a journey is worthwhile merely for its own sake. Sit back, relax, and from the comfort of a corner seat watch all the world go by on the train from Berlin to ...

A day in Domazlice
  

The small towns of southwest Bohemia, many of them just a stone's throw from the border with Bavaria, are well off most tourist trails. We visit Domazlice, a town in the hills that boasts a beautiful elongate plaza at its ...

Belarus: the making of Vitebsk

Tumbling off the train and riding the trolleybus over to the other side of the river is a fine introduction to Vitebsk. The Belarusian city is precise and orderly: Swiss efficiency colliding with Soviet style. And at the annual Slavianski Bazaar, ...

Invading Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is one of Europe's unsung territories: a tiny Alpine principality by-passed by most travellers. We follow the route of an army of Russian soldiers that sought sanctuary in Liechtenstein in May ...

Switzerland: the Bernina connection
  

The small Swiss town of Pontresina once attracted many of Europe's literati. Today, the poets and philosophers have gone, yet Pontresina and the surrounding mountains are as exquisite as ever. The town's railway station is the jumping off point for ...

Protected by the peacock angel
  

hidden europe explores one of Europe's most remarkable diaspora communities, the Yezidis who live in the northern German town of Celle. And from Celle we travel to the Yezidi homeland in Armenia full article available in pdf ...

The freedom train
  

The legendary Akropolis Express, a train much used by migrant workers, used to run daily from Munich to Athens, passing through Kosovo. hidden europe recalls journeys on the Akropolis Express, and checks out rail travel in Kosovo today, where ...

Zeitz stopped and stared
  

On a summer's day in 1976, Oskar Brüsewitz left his home village of Rippicha shortly after breakfast, drove to the nearby market town of Zeitz and set himself alight. Zeitz stopped and stared at the pastor's protest. A sombre tale from the former ...

Istrian interludes

hidden europe explores the coast and its hinterland in Istria, nowadays part Croatia and part Slovenia. On the coast, echoes of Venetian style mingle with Habsburg elegance and Slavic confidence. Inland, we encounter the endangered cultural ...

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 ...

Potsdam's hidden history
  

Amid the parks and palaces of Potsdam (near Berlin) is an area known as the Neuer Garten ('New Garden'). For almost fifty years, part of it was an extraordinary 'forbidden city' - a place reserved for the Russian military and the KGB. hidden europe ...

Thinking about festivals

The festivalisation of culture penetrates all areas of the arts. No longer is it possible to offer a string of Mozart concerts. Nowadays it has to be a Mozart festival. hidden europe probes the issues of authenticity surrounding Europe's growing ...

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 ...

A terrible peace: Bosnia
  

The Dayton Accord may have been a sensible way of bringing a terrible war in Bosnia to an end. But what of the peace ushered in by Dayton? We examine life in Muslim communities in the Vrbas valley in central ...

City of illusions: London
  

The City of London - the very heart of the English capital - has long been a melting pot for cultures and religions. And today the area has striking contradictions in wealth and social status. We report from the city of ...

Calypso's isle: Gozo
  

Don't go to Gozo in the summer. Go in winter. Feel the lash of the grigal as it whips across the island and gaze as the waves churn a dozen rainbow-tinted boats in Mgarr harbour. And then, as the storm abates, watch the pale winter sunshine fall ...

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 ...

A Pennine portrait
  

Heptonstall is a place where gritstone ledges and neat green fields play backdrop to the moods of Pennine weather. This is Yorkshire. We visit gritty moodscapes populated by folk whom poet Ted Hughes described as "bleak as Sunday ...

An island outpost: Helgoland
  

One tiny island, a mere fleck of land in the North Sea! And yet so laden with history. Helgoland (often called Heligoland by English speakers) has been both Danish and British. Nowadays it is surely one of the most extraordinary parts of Germany. ...

Maltese arrivals
  

Away from the glitz of the tourist resorts, tucked away on the south coast of Malta, are the refugee camps that house migrants from Africa. The men and women who live in the camps are constantly reminded that there is no space for them on the ...

Eurostar: connecting the continent
  

Had you realised that you can leave London by train this afternoon, and with just a single change of train in Paris, be in Berlin, Barcelona, Venice or Munich by tomorrow morning? Crossing the English Channel today is a whole lot easier than it was ...

Of cabbages and kinder

Golzow seems like an insignificant village on the plains not far from the German-Polish border. But it is much more, for Golzow has an important place in the history of documentary film. Bryn Frank introduces us to 'the children of ...

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 ...

Rock and rituals: Roskilde

Think of Roskilde, a smallish city on the Danish island of Sjælland. Yes, the annual rock festival. Yet there is much more to Roskilde than the rituals of one of Europe's premier open air music events. It is a place that captures the very essence ...

Lakeside strategies: Bad Saarow

The hinterland of Berlin encompasses some of Europe's finest forest and lake landscapes - too often missed by visitors to the German capital. hidden europe makes an excursion to Bad Saarow, a lakeshore spa town east of Berlin, which was until 1990 ...

Belarus: Tanya's Story
  

Vetka is a small town in the southeast corner of Belarus. This community and the surrounding landscape of lakes and forests were terribly affected by the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986. Nigel Roberts, a first-time contributor to hidden ...
A Silja Line ferry docked in Helsinki harbour (photo © Dennis Dolkens / dreamstime.com).

Sea fever
  

When one time English poet laureate John Masefield extolled the lure of the ocean ("I must down to the seas again..."), he clearly didn't have Cunard's luxury Queen Elizabeth II ship or the same company's new super liner Queen Mary in ...