The remarkable thing about Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain is that it dwells on the moment, exploring a place in detail rather than roaming widely over a region. In that sense Shepherd’s writing runs counter to the modern trend to tick off places, even entire countries, on a bucket list. In a society where accumulation is encouraged, the clocking of places is a very conspicuous form of consumption.
Much travel writing fuels this shallow approach to travel. ‘Make the most of your time on Earth’ runs the tagline for Rough Guides, while fear of missing out (FEMO) makes travellers roam the globe in haste, quickly checking in at well-hyped hotspots which are trending in social media.
There is, we think, a better way of engaging with places and cultures. We prefer to take things more slowly, much in the manner favoured by the Scottish writer Nan Shepherd. In this issue of hidden europe, we take time out for small towns in Saxony and Extremadura, ponder the passing of the years by a Dutch windmill and savour the wild and windy landscapes of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.
Nan Shepherd was headstrong, even a shade subversive. We have a soft spot for subversives and this issue of hidden europe makes space for some of them. We meet land raiders who confront the wealth and privilege of absentee landlords. We report on a runaway nun who married a renegade priest called Martin Luther. There is the story of Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect who defied convention, and we report on a publishing project from Switzerland which challenges us to rethink the very nature of the book.
The geographical sweep of this issue of the magazine is as wide as ever. hidden europe 52 ranges from banknotes in Northern Ireland to streetscapes in the Mari El Republic. We explore puppetry in Prague and listen to stories from the Slovenian hills.
As ever, we are indebted to our outside contributors — we have four in this issue. Rudolf Abraham, Laurence Mitchell, Paul Scraton and Diego Vivanco have all written for hidden europe in the past and we thank them for their continuing willingness to contribute to the magazine.
If you are travelling this summer, take things slowly. A month in a small community is surely better than a whirlwind tour through a dozen countries. Slow travel reaps dividends which transcend even the longest bucket list.
Susanne Kries & Nicky Gardner