Places on the margins are invariably interesting. And the Ukrainian city of Lviv has always been geographically and culturally distant from the centres of political influence. In Lviv’s case, the seat of government has shifted dramatically: from Vienna to Warsaw, from Moscow to Kiev. It is a city which has survived occupation, population shifts, boom and depression. On our first visit, we were not quite sure what to make of it. But returning to Lviv in March this year, as winter slipped slowly into spring, we discovered a city of immense charm, one which we feature in this issue of hidden europe.
The Austrian writer and journalist Joseph Roth described Lviv as “a city of blurred boundaries.” We like blurred boundaries. They make places more interesting, even though those places may not always make for comfortable living. Around the northern rim of the Black Sea, the boundaries of language, culture and identity are especially fuzzy, as Karlos Zurutuza discovered when he went in search of the Mingrelians. It is a while since Karlos has written for hidden europe, so we are especially gratified that he has taken up his pen again on our behalf. Thanks, Zuru!
A warm welcome too to the other three guest contributors in this issue of hidden europe . Rudolf Abraham, Duncan JD Smith and Patricia Stoughton have all written for us before and in this issue they contribute essays on Austria, London and Brittany respectively. Elsewhere in this issue we take time out to sample Switzerland’s excellent white wines made from the Chasselas grape, explain why Finland once claimed to have Europe’s longest railway tunnel and suggest that we should better value the rivers which have been redirected beneath the streets of European cities. There is something redemptive about the sound of running water, and urban waterways surely deserve to be seen and heard rather than being buried away in subterranean culverts.
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We wish all our readers happy summer travels. We shall be back with issue 56 of hidden europe in the autumn.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries