Letter from Europe

Category: People

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Our Letter from Europe is published about once a month and reports on issues of culture and travel.

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Issue no. 2020/17

Monkeys, Men and John Murray

160 years ago this week, on Saturday 30 June 1860, the intelligentsia gathered in Oxford to hear churchmen and scientists discuss the pros and cons of Darwin’s ideas on the origin of species. Charles Darwin celebrated book had been published in November of the previous year by John Murray - the London publishing house which, apart from supporting scientific writing, was also the leading travel publisher in Victorian Britain.

Issue no. 2020/15

Chagall Centenary

Vitebsk is a provincial city. St Petersburg is about 500 km away to the north. Moscow, just slighter closer, is due east of Vitebsk. It lies today in the territory of the Republic of Belarus. In the run up to and after the Russian Revolution, Vitebsk developed into a bold hub of artistic energy and innovation – in good part due to the influence of Marc Chagall.

Issue no. 2020/13

Travels with Saint Paul

Even if you don’t have a thread of religious fibre in your body, try reading the Acts of the Apostles, and see what you make of it as a travel narrative. You may want to have a good atlas of the ancient world to hand as you follow Paul on his meandering itinerary through Lystra and Phrygia to Mysia and beyond.

Issue no. 2020/10

Voice of a Nation

Across hundreds of French railway stations, millions of travellers every day would in normal times encounter Simone Hérault, for hers is the disembodied voice which proclaims the imminent departure of the TGV to Aix-les-Bains or the regional train to Annecy.

Issue no. 2020/8

In Jung's Footsteps

The lakeshore trail from Schmerikon along the upper part of Lake Zürich leads to a house once owned by the analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, who was a master of self-isolation. Join us as we ponder on Jung's famous Tower and his thoughts on progress and modernity.

Issue no. 2018/9

Paris in the springtime

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. He was born in the town of Trier in the Moselle Valley, a place which these days seems so sedate as to be entirely devoid of revolutionary potential. But Marx had sensitive political antennae and, as a young journalist, he wrote about the terrible conditions endured by vineyard workers in the Moselle region.

Issue no. 2018/4

Votes for women

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman ever elected to the British House of Commons. Constance Georgine Gore-Booth was born into an Anglo-Irish family in 1868. Her stand on rights for women is just one dimension of the wider universal suffrage movement which emerged in Europe at the very start of the last century.

Issue no. 2017/25

Swedes in Ukraine

The Gotland village of Roma has become the cradle of memory for Sweden's historic link with the Black Sea region. The village of Gammalsvenskby in Ukraine was established by migrants from Sweden. The links betweeen Gammalsvenskby and Gotland are very much alive today.

Issue no. 2017/19

Through Romanian eyes

The Romanian aristocrat, traveller and writer Dinicu Golescu deserves to be better known outside his home region, for he rates as one of the finest travel writers of the early 19th century. His 1826 book 'Account of My Travels' is an important piece in the canon of Balkan travel writing as an account of an early Romanian encounter with the west.

Issue no. 2017/18

Frank Lloyd Wright in Europe

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright. He is often regarded as a quintessentially American architect, a man who perhaps was never really comfortable in Europe. But the great advocate of Prairie Style has a legacy in Europe, where many architects were profoundly influenced by Wright's work.

Issue no. 2017/16

Lidice shall live!

This Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the Czech Resistance's successful attempt on the life of senior Nazi administrator Reinhard Heydrich. It was an event which had terrible repercussions; the Germans retaliated with ruthless force. Those repercussions were felt most awfully in the Czech village of Lidice.

Issue no. 2017/14

Willow-herb, meadowsweet and steam

Edward Thomas' achievements as a poet and essayist were only fully recognised posthumously. For many, it is his poem about Adlestrop which sticks in the mind. But there's more to Thomas than that poem - indeed he was a very accomplished nature writer.

Issue no. 2017/13

April 1917: Lenin returns to Russia

News of the revolution in Russia reached Switzerland in March 1917, and many politically active Russian émigrés immediately decided to return home. Led by Lenin, the revolutionaries boarded a sealed carriage and travelled by train across Germany.

Issue no. 2017/8

Thoughts for the 8th of March

Today is International Women's Day (IWD). In the ecclesiastical calendar, Rome assigns 8 March to St John of God, who died on this day in 1550. He was, as it happens, a thoroughly decent guy who in the latter years of his life worked in Granada (Spain) as a printer, publisher and bookseller.

Issue no. 2017/7

City without Jews

Speculative fiction can sometimes turn out to be eclipsed by real-life events. In Hugo Bettauer's 1922 novel, Die Stadt ohne Juden, fictitious Austrian Chancellor Karl Schwertfeger signs an executive order decreeing that all Jews must leave Austria by the end of the year.

Issue no. 2016/30

Christmas 1816

One day, a learned and able writer will surely pen a spiritual geography of England, looking at the relationship between faith and landscape in that country. It is a book that just waits to be written. The story of John Henry Newman should figure centrally in that volume, for his extraordinary biography captures something of the English spirit.

Issue no. 2016/28

The Prisoner of Chillon

200 years ago, on 5 December 1816, the Scottish publisher John Murray published The Prisoner of Chillon, a poem in the romantic idiom by Lord Byron. It was inspired by a visit which Byron and Shelley had together made to the Château de Chillon that same year.

Issue no. 2016/23

Stumbling through history

As I walked deeper into the complex, surrounded on all sides by the chunky columns, I heard the animated chatter of two kids from time to time - two young English voices in a forest of memories in the very middle of Berlin. I met some Spanish children playing hide-and-seek. Soon I was alone, quite alone, in the dark heart of the memorial.

Issue no. 2016/21

Home truths

Many municipal authorities around Europe are very tolerant of the improvised structures which popped up over the last ten days here and there around towns and cities. Those in the know realised at once that it was time for Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles which starts on the fifteenth day of Tishrei.

Issue no. 2016/14

After the referendum

For millions of Brits of my generation, the EU gave an exit route, a chance to escape. It gave me a chance to feel truly European, to be truly European. It has given me the opportunity to explore other languages, other faiths, other freedoms, that would simply never have come my way.

Issue no. 2016/11

Travelling with Byron and Turner

In these days of slick PR, tourist boards and tour operators are keen to enlist the help of 'travel influencers' to promote particular destinations. Baedeker and Murray were of course among the most respected travel influencers of yesteryear, but so too were poets and artists, among them Lord Byron and JMW Turner.

Issue no. 2016/9

Deep in the Borinage

The Borinage lies on the coalfields of southern Belgium, which extend over the frontier into adjacent areas of France. Vincent van Gogh's stay in this impoverished area of southern Belgium is a chapter in the artist's life which has largely slipped below the horizon. At the time he alighted from a train at Pâturages railway station he had not yet made art his profession, but was about to begin his ministry as a pastor in the coal-mining villages of the region.

Issue no. 2016/3

A Kosovo tale

There's a touch of the wild west about Ferizaj. It has a frontier feel. When the English traveller Edith Durham travelled through Kosovo in 1908, she stopped just briefly in Ferizaj, remarking that this was a community created by the railway.

Issue no. 2015/28

100 years after Zimmerwald

The Zimmerwald Conference was a defining moment in European socialist history. There were stand-offs between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks; there were long and heated debates about how class struggle might bring an end to the First World War. Delegates came from a dozen countries - among them were Lenin and Trotsky.

Issue no. 2015/25

Life and death in Bar-le-Duc

Stanislaw Leszczynski, or King Stanislaw, lost the throne of Poland (twice as it happens), but was compensated by being awarded territory in eastern France. Thus it was that in 1735 the town of Bar-le-Duc found itself welcoming a Polish king who for 30 years was suzerain of the Duchy of Bar - a little state which rather jealously guarded its independence.

Issue no. 2015/12

The centre of the universe

It was 50 years ago that Salvador Dalí completed his celebrated La Gare de Perpignan. It is a huge oil painting which now hangs in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It celebrates Perpignan as the very centre of the universe.

Issue no. 2014/30


Today is an ordinary working day, though if history had taken a different turn, October 13 could so easily have become a national holiday in England. Many of the men and women who have occupied the English throne in the last 1000 years have aspired to sainthood. But only one of them has ever actually been canonised, namely Edward the Confessor, whose feast day is celebrated in both the Catholic and Anglican Church today.

Issue no. 2014/14

Yuri gets a ticket

Yuri overstayed the limit. So he was given a ticket. Then the authorities ushered Yuri out of town. Now he's parked outside the airport terminal. How long he'll stay there is a matter for debate. Our guess is that, as long as Russians keep flying into town, Yuri will be allowed to stay outside the airport.

Issue no. 2013/30

Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone

It was one hundred years ago this month that WB Yeats' poem September 1913 was published in a Dublin newspaper. The poem is more than merely a lament for Irish separatist and bold Fenian John O'Leary. It is a sharp critique of the trend in Ireland to more materialist and bourgeois values. This was a cry from the heart, a plea that Ireland might continue to make space for art and the imagination.

Issue no. 2013/17

After the flood

The waters came, and so did the European media. The water was ruthless and unsympathetic. It tore down bridges and wrecked homes. The mud and debris that came with the flood blocked culverts and drains. Lives were put on the line. So too were livelihoods as the water flooded factories, warehouses and business premises.

Issue no. 2013/12

On the march

It was one hundred years ago tomorrow that Rosa Luxemburg published some thoughts on May Day in the Leipziger Volkszeitung. Writing, as she put it, "amid the wildest orgies of imperialism," Luxemburg extolled "the brilliant basic idea of May Day" and rejoiced in the autonomous rise of proletarian masses which each year erupted on 1 May on the streets of Germany. Fast forward 20 years to 1 May 1933, and the Nazis found another use for May Day.

Issue no. 2013/8

Hidden europe 39

We head north in the latest issue of hidden europe magazine which is published next week (and is already available for purchase). Writer Philip Dunshea invites us to join him as he ventures onto Rannoch Moor. This vast wilderness can be a desperate place, in Phil's words "a ragged purgatory." And the crew of the Tegetthof surely thought much the same when their ship, stuck fast in pack ice, drifted close to Franz Josef Land in 1873.

Issue no. 1013/7

Thomas Cook: March 1873

By the end of February 1873, Thomas Cook had encircled most of the northern hemisphere. Cook and his party of circumnavigators had sailed from Liverpool in September 1872. The travellers discovered iced water, Pullman cars and Sioux warriors in the United States. They found the crossing of the Pacific happily pacific and enjoyed "a perfect bewilderment" of landscape in Japan.

Issue no. 2013/5

The fifth season

Welcome to the fifth season. Spring, summer, autumn, winter... and now the fifth season. This weekend, and the day or two thereafter, mark the culmination across Europe of fifth season frolics. It is carnival time. The normal rules of social engagement, most particularly with anyone in authority, are suspended.

Issue no. 2012/30

Britain by bus — could you write for us?

Let's speak of buses. Can we set you a challenge? Could you pen some words for us? Britain benefits from a fabulous network of local bus routes. Last year, in a collaboration with Bradt Travel Guides, we edited a volume called Bus-Pass Britain. Over forty members of the public rose to the challenge of writing with passion and enthusiasm about bus routes in England, Scotland and Wales that are in some way special. Now, we are working with Bradt on a follow-up volume for publication in 2013.

Issue no. 2012/27

From Askania-Nova to Vaduz

Another Friday morning. And a sunny September day in Liechtenstein. A little fog around dawn down in the Rhine Valley, but that will surely clear quickly. So blue skies will set the tone for the hundredth birthday of Baron Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein. Eduard von Falz-Fein was born on 14 September 1912 into quite another world. Emperor Franz Joseph I still presided over Austria-Hungary, Nicholas II ruled Russia and journalist Leon Trotsky was making his way south from Vienna to cover the developing troubles in the Balkans.

Issue no. 2012/22

The train to Tundra

Year by year, the population of Obozersky dwindles. Fifty years ago, more than 7000 people lived in this little town in the Russian Arctic. More than half have left. They took the train south and never returned. The cream and brown railway station is spick and span and, along with the Orthodox church, is one of the smartest buildings in town. Railways and religion are the mainstays of rural Russia.

Issue no. 2012/11

Recalling Guernica

Most art lovers visiting Madrid make first for the Prado and then for the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Both have celebrated collections. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, based in a former hospital near Atocha railway station, does not attract quite the same crowds as the two top-tier galleries. But with a weekend in Madrid last month, we made time for the Reina Sofia, where the big draw is Picasso's Guernica.

Issue no. 2012/7

Women on the rails

International Women's Day (IWD), which is celebrated today in many countries across the world, has been a feature of the European social landscape for more than a century. From the outset, IWD gave focus to a range of initiatives across Europe that pre-dated the designation of a special day. For example, Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragettes had already been very effectively promoting women's rights in England, while Clara Zetkin and her followers had been pursuing a similar agenda in Germany.

Issue no. 2012/1

Church etiquette

Over the recent holidays, a friend and fellow-traveller popped the 'church question'. Is it okay to slip into Mass or Evensong to enjoy the splendours of Venice's Basilica di San Marco or York's magnificent Minster when the principal intent is not worship but a wish to see the buildings' interiors? Or should the visitor more properly attend at times designated for tourists, queue as necessary and pay an admission fee if requested?

Issue no. 2011/30

Remember, remember

Many English readers will know the rhyme that recalls the failed terrorist action in 1605, when Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators tried to blow up the English Parliament. But the majority of those who gather at bonfires across England this evening probably will not have the details of Guy Fawkes' peculiar act of treason uppermost in their minds as they gaze at crossettes, spiders, horsetails and multi-break shells exploding in the night skies.

Issue no. 2011/29

Reformation Day

Europe's Protestant reformers were not, on the whole, men who took kindly to statues. Indeed, thousands of statues in Catholic churches across Europe were smashed to pieces during the Reformation. So it's hard to fathom what Martin Luther would have made of the rather ostentatious statue of himself that stands in the middle of the Rhineland city of Worms.

Issue no. 2011/17

Amina unmasked

Perhaps you, like us, were enthralled by the tales from Damascus as Amina Arraf blogged about her adventures and misadventures in the Syrian capital. Amina has of course now been exposed as an American hoaxer with a very fine imagination and a gift for writing fiction. The world's media will dissect the Amina affair, and for a while it will make us all a little more attentive to sources. Can this or that blogger be trusted? Or, for that matter, this or that travel writer?

Issue no. 2010/25

The last victim of the Berlin Wall

1990 was a Berlin summer dominated by the Mauerspechte - literally the 'wall peckers' - who chipped away at the Wall with chisels, often in the hope that fragments of the legacy of a divided Berlin could be sold to the tourists who were then thronging the city centre in their thousands. One of the wall peckers was Christoph-Manuel Bramböck.

Issue no. 2010/18

Music in Potsdam

Fernweh is a marvellous German word that is not easily translated into English. It hints of the unbearable pain of being stuck at home when in truth you would far rather be exploring a desert island on the other side of the planet.

Issue no. 2010/16

Ligurian passion

The long-standing English infatuation with the French Riviera has been well documented, but much less has been written about English affections for the coast of Liguria. Yet the influence of the Hanbury family, and other English settlers in this part of Italy, is still very evident today.

Issue no. 2010/14

The Baedeker legacy

"Kings and governments may err, but never Mr Baedeker," wrote the English humorist AP Herbert in the libretto for Offenbach's operetta La Vie Parisienne. Baedeker was the brightest star in a constellation of nineteenth-century guidebook publishers that also included such redoubtable names as John Murray and Thomas Cook.

Issue no. 2010/8

Polling day in Iceland

Today is referendum day in Breiðdalsví­k. The town is a ramshackle sort of place on the edge of a bay of the same name. Breiðdalsvík does not really have a lot going for it. It is raw, untamed, an outback town that has something of the feel of the Wild West.

Issue no. 2010/7

Origins: from Marie Curie to Tom Stoppard

It is always interesting to discover the places where famous folk were born. Who ever would have thought that Andre Agassi, the son of an Iranian-born boxer, should have first seen the light of our world in Las Vegas? hidden europe visits the home towns of Marie Curie and Tom Stoppard.

Issue no. 2010/3

Unravelling Gibraltarian identity

Marut and Mesod are both interesting men. And both are equally adamant that they are Gibraltarians. If you thought that Gibraltar was merely Cockney voices or fish and chips, think again. The territory at the southern tip of Iberia has its own very distinctive culture and identity.

Issue no. 2009/40

The Togliatti syndrome

Journalists in Togliatti (sometimes transliterated as Tolyatti), a town on the banks of the Volga, know all too well about the dangers of reporting in Russia. Tolyattinskoe obozrenie (Togliatti Review) was a minor star in Russian provincial journalism - a genuinely independent newspaper that started life as a weekly but later switched to daily publication.

Issue no. 2009/36

Yitzhak's tale (Vienna)

It was only after the old man had beaten us both at chess that he opened the worn leather satchel. He carefully took out a small bundle of papers. Removing the twine that gave the pile of documents some structure, he showed us fragments of his life - among the papers a letter from his grandmother.

Issue no. 2009/32

Celebrity tourism in the Trossachs

Celebrity tourism is nothing new. In 1847, Queen Victoria had journeyed to the Hebrides from the Clyde, using the Crinan Canal to avoid the long sea journey around the Kintyre peninsula. In so doing she encouraged thousands of other travellers to follow in her wake - the so-called Royal Route to Oban via the Crinan Canal was suddenly in vogue.

Issue no. 2009/30

Day of German Unity

It is the Day of German Unity, a public holiday on 3 October each year that recalls the unification of the two German States in October 1990. It is unsurprisingly a day that promotes reflection on both sides of the erstwhile border, with many Germans from the west of the country quite unable to understand why some of their eastern neighbours look back with obvious affection on aspects of life in the east.

Issue no. 2009/22

Kosovo and international politics

The Kosovo issue rumbles on. Contrary to popular opinion, the question of who has recognised the would-be state and who has not is far from being a simple east versus west divide. True, Britain and the United States both gave a positive nod to Kosovo within twenty four hours of the Kosovo Assembly declaring independence on 17 February 2008. And Russia has consistently refused to recognise Kosovo.

Issue no. 2009/19

A Liechtenstein moment

One of the events surrounding the twenty-fifth anniversary of women's suffrage in Liechtenstein takes place this evening in the capital Vaduz, when young Liechtenstein women have the chance to meet some of the activists who during the seventies and early eighties struggled for women's rights in their small country. hidden europe e-brief commemorates this moment in Liechtenstein history.

Issue no. 2009/16

Joseph Roth - literary connections

When the Austrian-Jewish author Joseph Roth was born in Brody in 1894, the town was a Jewish shtetl in Galicia on the eastern edge of the K & K empire - a place beyond which Viennese influence gave way to more tsarist sentiments. Joseph Roth wrote much about people and places on the margins of society.

Issue no. 2009/14

Thriving locally in a global economy

Some modern travellers jet from one end of Europe to the other, often only to find on arrival at their chosen destination that the place seems uncannily like home. The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss bemoaned the fact that everywhere was somehow becoming ever more similar.

Issue no. 2009/8

Slow travel

The Slow Food movement is well established, and there are now slow cities. But what about slow travel? Robert Louis Stevenson and Freya Stark both travelled with donkeys. They were attentive to every turn of the road on their journeys through France and Arabia respectively. But us? We pack ourselves like sardines into fragile aluminium tubes and speed through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour. Come now! That is not real travel.

Issue no. 2008/33

Greenland referendum

There has been a revolution overnight in Nuuk. In the early hours of this morning, referendum results showed that Greenlanders have voted overwhelmingly for much greater autonomy from Denmark. This is not the first time that Greenland has rocked the boat. In 1985, Greenland seceded from the European Community, and in so doing immediately halved the geographical area of the Community.

Issue no. 2008/31

Rusyn aspirations in Ukraine

Father Dymytrij Sydor is a determined man. No-one quite believed him when he asserted that he could raise the funds to build a massive new cathedral at Uzhgorod. This southwesternmost province of Ukraine is hill country, and it is home to the Rusyns - an ethnic and cultural minority who emphasise their distinct identity.

Issue no. 2008/27

Tito toponyms

The cult status surrounding Josip Broz Tito, the onetime president of Yugoslavia, shows no sign of diminishing almost thirty years after his death. The capital of Montenegro, Podgorica, was until 1992 called Titograd. And we report from the extreme southwest corner of Kosovo. Here, in the narrow mountain valleys south of Prizren, is a landscape of quite delicious beauty.

Issue no. 2008/25

South Jutland (Denmark)

Visit Jutland in Denmark and listen out for the local dialect, Sønderjysk or South Jutlandic, which some in the region feel should have the status of a minority language. In some schools in this part of Denmark, Sønderjysk is part of the regular curriculum, though always playing second fiddle to Rigsdansk (ie. standard Danish).

Issue no. 2008/22

Tykocin (Poland) - Belmonte (Portugal)

Tykocin is a gem, a town that graciously captures the awful history of a thousand former Jewish shtetls across central Europe. This was a community, like so many in the region, that was Jewish to the core. Tykocin had its heart ripped out in August 1941, when the town's Jewish population was ordered to assemble in the main square. Most were marched into the forests just south-west of Tykocin where they were murdered.

Issue no. 2008/18

Arrivals in Malta

It has been a busy couple of days in the choppy seas off the south coast of Malta. Military helicopters were out in the early hours of Thursday morning searching for over two dozen migrants from Africa whose boat capsized about forty kilometres south of the Mediterranean island. Later the same day another vessel, overladen and leaking, was escorted into Marsaxlokk Harbour in Malta. The twenty-seven Somalis aboard were all taken in custody.

Issue no. 2008/17

Immrama festival of travel writing

Lismore carries the imprint of Ireland's ecclesiastical history. The church upon which Thackeray remarked is dedicated to St Cartagh. It is set in a wonderfully textured churchyard and retains its cathedral status despite the fact that Lismore is no longer the seat of any bishop. The town is dominated by Lismore Castle, in the gardens of which Edmund Spenser is said to have wandered while penning his allegorical celebration of the virtues, The Faerie Queene.

Issue no. 2008/14

Roma gather in the Camargue

Summer has come early to northern Greece this year, and several warm sunny days with still air have left a hazy pall of pollution over Thessaloní­ki. But the hinterland of the city still packs a few surprises. Just north of the ring road is the small town of Langadhás, which this week comes alive for the feast days of Saints Constantine and Helen.

Issue no. 2008/5

Gracanica (Kosovo)

When the celebrated English travel writer Edith Durham arrived at the monastery at Gracanica one hundred years ago, she came to a place that had virtually no experience of the twentieth century. It is an episode that Durham recalls in her book High Albania. The incumbents, evidently horribly worried by Durham's unmarried condition, interrogated their visitor about the keystones of modernity.

Issue no. 2007/32

Strangers churches

In the heart of the City of London, there used to be all manner of Strangers Churches (as churches for foreigners are commonly termed). There was a Spanish church, a Scots church and a Lutheran church from Hamburg. The Dutch community at Austin Friars, established in the mid-sixteenth century, is still very active today, albeit not in their original church which was destroyed in 1940.

Issue no. 2007/24

Designing identity

Albanians have not lost their way with clothes, as anyone walking the streets of Tirana's business district at lunchtime will quickly notice. Forget notions of an obscure Balkan nation, and look more for the same stylish chic that you might see strolling around the Quadrilatero d'Oro in Milan. Albania's changed, and Edith Durham just wouldn't know what to make of it.

Issue no. 2007/19

Kidnapped in Berlin

Fifty-five years ago today, Lichterfelde was very much in the news on account of the fate of Walter Linse, a local lawyer who was kidnapped at his front gate - destination Moscow. Linse had made a reputation for himself in exposing abuses of the law in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Issue no. 2007/16

DDR nostalgia

For many older Germans who grew up in the DDR, the new order is associated with uncertainty in the labour market, consumerism and rising prices, and many look back with evident affection on some aspects of life in the DDR. Not all of course, and films like Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) act as a sharp reminder that life wasn't always quite so rosy in East Germany.

Issue no. 2007/13

Pioneer railways

Yesterday saw hidden europe in Dresden, where we joined the Sunday exodus to the city's main public park. Just an easy stroll east of the city centre, the old Volkspark (People's Park) is a classic of its kind - a place for simple pleasures, with a handsome Baroque palace, ample lakes, leafy glades, a small zoo and a miniature railway.

Issue no. 2007/7

Hav: a novel by Jan Morris

We have, as it happens, just recently read Jan Morris' newly extended edition of Hav. This is travel writing at its very best, calculated to reinvigorate even the most jaded traveller. It is precisely because Hav does not really exist that we approach the place without the usual preconceptions which colour so many of our travels. In Jan Morris' book, we find a clever intermixing of fact and fiction to create a fabulously multicultural port that reminds us of a thousand places we have never visited.

Issue no. 2006/20

Old Believers on the Ukraine-Romania border

Bila Krynytsya? It turns out that this small village in southwest Ukraine, just a stone's throw from the Romanian border, is a household name among many Russian Old Believers. From Alaska to the Danube Delta the name evokes important religious images and associations. For Bila Krynytsya, a community of no more than a couple of hundred people, most of them very elderly, is where the most widely accepted religious hierarchy of the Old Believers is nominally based.

Issue no. 2006/19

Lost communities: France, Russia and more

Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The modern world's voracious appetite for water has spelt the death knell for many communities. On Russia's Volga River, the great Rybinsk dam project in the 1940s led to the flooding of a huge area, engulfing over a hundred villages and the entire city of Mologa.

Issue no. 2006/15

European lazarets

In more recent centuries, the island of Comino, off the coast of Malta, served as an isolation hospital. The great archipelago off Finland's southwest coast includes the tiny island of Seili, which for over three centuries was a hospital, initially serving as a leper colony and later for those suffering from mental incapacity.

Issue no. 2006/12

Jan Mayen (Norway) - scrimshaw and more in the Azores

Jan Mayen has no indigenous population, and the twenty or so souls who are on the island at any one time are generally staff of the Norwegian meteorological service or military personnel. This onetime whaling station became a regular stop off point for early Arctic explorers, but the island didn't become Norwegian territory until the 1920s. Jan Mayen was the only part of Norway to remain under Norwegian control throughout World War II.

Issue no. 2006/10

Minorities around the Black Sea

The Black Sea region bristles with diaspora curiosities, and, in an earlier issue of hidden europe magazine (in July 2005), we explored Estonian villages in the breakaway province of Abkhazia in north-west Georgia. In the upcoming issue of the magazine, due out on 3 May, we feature an intriguing village in the southern Ukraine with Swedish origins. Gammalsvenskby is a name that simply means 'Old Swedish Town'.

Issue no. 2006/7

International Women's Day

While Saxony's womenfolk were treated to coffee and cake afloat, indulgence of another kind was evident in the industrial city of Perm, just west of Russia's Ural mountains. Light snow fell this afternoon on the thousands of couples gathered in Perm's main square in pursuit of a remarkable record.

Issue no. 2006/2

Swedish Lapland - racism in Russia - a tale of two ships

Minority language radio broadcasting takes a step forward in Sweden today, when a new dedicated Sámi language radio station hits the airwaves in the Lapland region of northern Sweden. The Sámi minority has always benefitted from some local language broadcasting in northern Sweden, often just a couple of hours daily, but commencing 16 January 2006, there will be 24 hour broadcasting in the Sámi language.

Issue no. 2005/19

Sighetu Marmatiei (Romania) - Sapanta cemetery

The death of Simon Wiesenthal last month is yet another reminder, if ever one were needed, that many parts of Europe cannot shed their troubled histories. Wiesenthal was born near Polish Lwow, the handsome city now known as L'viv in Ukraine. In our travels through this Carpathian region, we are so often struck by the sheer number of movers and shakers in the modern world who come from this rather forgotten corner of Europe.

Issue no. 2005/15

Wroclaw rocks! - mental maps - real maps in hidden europe 4

Solidarnosc may have lost its political edge, but the emotional ties of the movement that helped transform a nation run deep in the Polish people. So Wroclaw rocked all Friday night to the sound of music that marked the day, on 26 August 1980, when Wroclaw bus driver Tomasz Surowiec led tram and bus personnel in a strike that supported the Gdansk shipyard workers.

Issue no. 2005/12

Migrants in Lampedusa (Sicily)

The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is generally one of those 'out-of sight, out-of-mind' places, a tiny speck of Italian land that is much closer to Africa than the Italian mainland. Even the Sicilian port of Porto Empédocle is over two hundred kilometres away

Issue no. 2005/11

A thousand Europes: local media from Andalucí­a to the Arctic

When we are not on the road, the hidden europe team keeps a finger on the pulse of European affairs. Local newspapers from the Arctic to the Aegean are grist to the mill of this endeavour. Few are better than Svalbardposten, arguably the world's most northerly local newspaper. This weekly account of all that's happening in the Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen is no new upstart.

Issue no. 2005/10

Herr Heinrich's allotment garden at Erlengrund - hidden europe 3 preview

This is a Berlin of hot languid days. School has finished for the summer, and for the coming weeks many Berliners will spend days on end at the many lakes that surround the city. The asparagus season that started with May Day is now nearing its end, and the migrant workers from eastern Europe who have for weeks worked hard harvesting the precious white spears so cherished by Berliners are beginning to return home.