Dear fellow travellers
The Christmas and New Year holidays can be a difficult time for solo travellers who find themselves perched on the margins of festivities. When Patrick Leigh Fermor - Paddy to all and sundry - walked from Holland to Turkey in the nineteen thirties, he found himself celebrating the Christmas season in that part of the middle Rhine where vineyards run right down the bank of the river. A Time of Gifts he called the volume that he wrote forty years later to recall the trip - with a nice echo of poet Louis MacNeice in the book's title. Overnight in Bingen, where the meteorological gods happily contrived to produce lots of soft fluffy snow, and then at dawn on Christmas morning, Paddy took to the road again - but not before the innkeeper's youngest daughter had given him a tangerine and a packet of cigarettes neatly wrapped in tinsel. A chance visit to a bar in the early afternoon drew many impromptu offers of hospitality. One glass of hock led to another, and Paddy awoke early on the morning of 26 December on a strange sofa with a fearsome hangover.
The Irish travel writer, Dervla Murphy, had a more edgy confrontation when she found herself in Zagreb on New Years Day 1992, as Croatia moved towards independence from Yugoslavia. Zagreb in midwinter - in a country still at war - was unremittingly drab, and Dervla Murphy was pleased when a chance encounter with a university student led to an invite to join the young student's family for dinner that evening. The Irishwoman made her way at the appointed hour to an old Habsburg mansion in the chestnut lined avenues of Zagreb's upper town (Gornji Grad). Her anticipation of a convivial evening was dulled on arrival to find five generations of a family of ardent Croatian nationalists who had festive decorations aplenty - including a life sized picture of Hitler draped with Croatia's new chequerboard flag.
Happily hidden europe slipped easily into the New Year in the sanctuary of a small island just off the North Sea coast of Denmark and Germany. We awoke this morning to find that Europe has reshaped itself a little - with Bulgaria and Romania gaining accession to the European Union as full members; a moment for which both countries have waited for more than a dozen years. And with Slovenia as of today using the euro as its currency, we are wondering how long it will be before coins with images of Slovene poet France Preseren or Lipizzaner horses start turning up in our small change.
a cartographic curiosity
With the expansion of the eurozone in mind, we have been taking a close look at the map of Europe that features on the reverse side of all euro banknotes. Curious, is it not, that the Faroe Islands are depicted on the map (even though they are not part of the EU) while Malta is not? The Isle of Man is shown, but not the Isle of Wight. This cartographic curiosity is unravelled in the January 2007 issue of hidden europe. The magazine is already available and marks another milestone in the development of hidden europe - being the first issue to be published in full colour. The table of contents with article summaries is available online (click here), and the full text of selected articles can be downloaded in pdf format - including that article on the banknote map ("more than just dots"). Elsewhere in the same issue, we feature béguinages in Belgium, hofjes in Holland and wander through an edible Eden - the Piemonte region of northwest Italy. We touch down in the Baltic port of Frombork and visit a Bulgarian village that finds itself (as of today) on the outer edge of the EU - for Rezovo lies on the Black Sea coast just a stone's throw north of the border with Turkey. Naturally, we have a few quirky excursions too - including a visit to what is surely England's most obscure motorway: the M96.
We wish all fellow travellers, wherever and however you have celebrated the start of 2007, a very happy New Year. Bonan Novjaron!
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)