In March 2005, we presented the very first issue of hidden europe. It carried on its front cover a picture of a remote lighthouse in the Faroe Islands. As the front cover of hidden europe 45 attests, our affection for islands has not waned in the past ten years.
It is interesting to look back at the mix of texts in that very first issue. We had a dozen articles, ranging from reports on the Albanian diaspora in Sicily and the steel towns of eastern Europe to a description of a journey by slow train through Bohemia. In a word, the mix which you find in hidden europe today is very similar to that which featured in the debut issue of the magazine.
Some things have changed. In our first issue, we reviewed air travel in eastern Europe with a table of 14 air carriers worth watching. Ten years on, it’s interesting to note that most of the airlines we listed have been consigned to aviation history.
More significantly, Europe has certainly changed in the last decade. The launch of hidden europe coincided with the tenth anniversary of the implementation of the Schengen Agreement, which since March 1995 has done so much to promote mobility across Europe. Over the last ten years, eleven new countries (including two which are not members of the European Union) have joined the Schengen group of nations.
In this issue of hidden europe we reach out to the extremities of the Schengen area, roaming from the south of Italy to the north of Norway. We venture west to Brittany and east to Lithuania. Of course, we go beyond the boundaries of Schengen, following the E22 road which — rather improbably — links Ishim in Siberia with Holyhead in Wales. We walk through the back of a wardrobe, emerging not in Narnia but in Belarus. We ride Russian trains, find out why the sky is blue and remember Anna Walentynowicz, whose dismissal from her job at the Lenin shipyards galvanised Solidarnosc into action.
We welcome five guest contributors to this issue of hidden europe. All five have written for us before, but that does not mean we take their work for granted. We are much indebted to Patricia Stoughton, Iain Bamforth, Rudolf Abraham, Duncan JD Smith and Nigel Roberts for weaving words on our behalf.
It is striking to us how the issues which inspired the very first hidden europe are as important today as ever they were. We are grateful to our subscribers for so loyally supporting a project that remains committed to mapping the peculiarities of everyday life which make Europe so interesting.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries