There’s an oft-told tale in Berlin about the days when the Kaiser resided in the palace on Museum Island in the heart of the German capital. One sunny morning, Kaiser Wilhelm I was entertaining guests in his fine palace, when he happened to note that the hour was approaching noon. Apologising to his guests for being distracted from the conversation, the Kaiser moved to the window where he stood silently for a few moments. Rejoining his guests, the German monarch explained that the latest edition of the Baedeker guide mentioned that the Kaiser habitually watched the changing of the palace guard from that particular window. “It’s written in Baedeker,” said the Kaiser, “and the people have come to expect it.”
Such slavish adherence to the prescripts of Mr Baedeker is thankfully a thing of the past. These days travel writers don’t expect anyone — neither monarchs nor mere mortals — to kowtow to their words. But if good writing makes the reader think, even if she or he might wholly disagree with the authorial view, then a fine purpose is well served. So see what you make of our words in this new issue of hidden europe where the dominant theme is place and identity. We explore how the forest has shaped the German imagination and consider whether the seaside is imbued with cultural associations which vary from one country to another.
It’s been many years since we visited Ireland, so it was good to spend time in Galway a few weeks ago. Eyre Square wasn’t quite the same without Madam Bridget, the fortune teller who for decades used to sit on a white plastic chair in the square. We were saddened to learn that she had died in 2015. But Galway still has a fabulous cast of characters and the drama of street life in the city is as legendary as ever. We report on that in this issue.
Elsewhere in hidden europe 58, we feature Romania’s national sport, admire the art of drystone walling and ponder life without the fifth letter of the alphabet. We considered having an entire issue of hidden europe without the letter e, but realised that the magazine title makes that an impossible challenge. Yet we take modest comfort from the fact that this is the first issue to include the words lipogrammatic and univocalic.
As ever, a heartfelt word of thanks to our guest contributors, of whom we have three in this issue: Emma Levine, Rudolf Abraham and Paul Scraton — all three write with the authority of Baedeker but are much more interesting.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries