Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2013/34 posted by hidden europe on

There will be no boat to the remote island of North Ronaldsay this coming Thursday. The ferry from Kirkwall, the main community in the Orkney Islands, runs out to North Ronaldsay just once a week at this time of year - and that on a Friday. So the crowds will probably not be flocking to North Ronaldsay on Thursday to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the island being connected to a mains electricity supply.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

Unusually, for our Letter from Europe, we have a mix of items today. Let's start in the Orkney Islands, a small archipelago of islands off the north coast of Scotland.

Island communities

There will be no boat to the remote island of North Ronaldsay this coming Thursday. The ferry from Kirkwall, the main community in the Orkney Islands, runs out to North Ronaldsay just once a week at this time of year - and that on a Friday. So the crowds will probably not be flocking to North Ronaldsay on Thursday to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the island being connected to a mains electricity supply. Reliable power is now taken almost for granted as a mainstay of island life. Almost for granted, but not entirely. There are times when supplies are cut, so the island residents still have generators available for emergencies. Power failures are common in winter storms, but can occur at any time of year. The mains power was, for example, cut in the last week of July this year.

Flick a switch and a house-full of electrical appliances spring to life. Cast back thirty years ago, though, and things were different on North Ronaldsay. Electric gadgets were few and far between, and most households only ran their generators in the evenings. Vacuum cleaning was an evening task, not something for daytime, and the sudden arrival of mains power on 7 November 1983 did not change habits of a lifetime.

Islands rely on effective infrastructure. For many in North Ronaldsay, one ferry a week, supplemented by Loganair flights, is just not enough. The island has relied on dedicated men and women to provide medical services. Island GP Kevin Woodbridge moved to North Ronaldsay in 1977, when it had a simple crofting economy with no mains power. Dr Woodbridge retired this spring. Island communities are very fragile entities.

hidden europe 41

A new issue of hidden europe has just been published. We take in a few islands as usual. Rudolf Abraham, a regular contributor to the magazine, escorts us to the Croatian islands of Pag and Hvar to explore their lace-making traditions. You can see some of Rudolf's amazing images in that article. And it turns out that Rudolf is in the limelight this week, having on Sunday received the 2013 Photographer of the Year Award from the British Guild of Travel Writers. Included in Rudolf's winning portfolio are images that we have been privileged to publish in hidden europe.

One surprise in the new hidden europe is that the Balearic island of Mallorca gets an outing in the magazine. "Surely that's not very hidden," we hear you cry. When we visited Mallorca in late September, we were ourselves a little sceptical as to whether it offered anything for hidden europe. But we were surprised, and we think that, when you read the article, you will be too. Mallorca turned out to be a lot of fun.

Elsewhere in the new issue, we talk to the Imam of Exeter, listen to Mahler's Ninth Symphony in Leipzig, and discover why one of Europe's newest airports has closed its doors just six months after opening. We also have a thoughtful article on a small town in Andalucía called Alhama de Granada and a seductively beautiful piece of prose that captures the spirit of an unsung upland in Wales: Mynydd Hiraethog.

The full table of contents of this latest issue is available online on our website - and you can order hidden europe 41 in our online shop. As we are taking some time out for a holiday, orders placed in the coming days will be despatched on Wednesday 20 November.

European Rail Timetable

We have some very good news. Regular readers of the magazine will recall how we have, over the years, extolled the delights of the monthly European Rail Timetable. Thomas Cook published the timetable from 1873 until August this year. But the decision of Thomas Cook to close their publishing division spelt the end for the book. Now it has been announced that a new company, created by members of the timetable team at Thomas Cook, will revive the European Rail Timetable from early 2014. You can read more on this development in European Rail News.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)

Posted in Moments
This article was published in Letter from Europe.

About The Authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.