Dear fellow travellers
In a little over two weeks, on Friday 4 November, hidden europe 5 is published. In this upcoming issue, we muse on the term 'central Europe' which seems to have appeared in our collective lexicon. It wasn't so very long ago that there was just eastern and western Europe, but now central Europe has asserted its presence. Is it a region with boundaries, or just a state of mind? Or merely that part of Europe where dumplings feature on the menu?
We mark the anniversary of the death of Monsieur Nagelmackers, a Belgian who brought a very civilised touch to late nineteenth century travel when he founded the august Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Elsewhere in this upcoming issue we join the Tito trail in Belgrade, investigate subterranean Rome, map out an improbable link between Galway (Ireland) and Tartu (Estonia), and visit the small town of Veliky Ustyug on the Sukhona river in northern Russia. This last adventure is in pursuit of a seasonal diversion as we meet Father Frost and the Snow Maiden. Ever anxious to ensure balance, we drop off in Lapland to visit Santa Claus before continuing east to his Russian comrade.
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Some places make their mark through colour. Picture the urban landscapes of Hungarian artist Csontváry: assertive shades of crimson in his depictions of Mostar in Bosnia, vivid turquoises in his scenes of Castellammara di Stabia on the Bay of Naples and the sand shades of Sicilian heat in his Taormina pictures. Some places need no artists to communicate a vibrancy of colour. The little town of Tobermory on the island of Mull makes its mark in a thousand tourist guides to Scotland through the striking facades of just three houses on its waterfront - upfront, not-for-negotiation assertions in red, yellow and blue.
The east Icelandic port of Seyðisfjörður is another spot that distinguishes itself through judicious use of colour. This small community of some eight hundred people is for many travellers the first glimpse they get of Iceland, as it is the country's only ferry port for international traffic. Seyðisfjörður offers new arrivals a delicate palette of pastel blues, greys, and greens, offset by some handsome red and blue roofs. Even modern buildings are still built to the same wooden style introduced by Norwegian settlers, though corrugated iron is creeping in, as everywhere in Scandinavia and Iceland. In fairness, though, with careful use of colour, Seyðisfjörður makes even corrugated iron look good. Star of the Seyðisfjörður show is the town's bláa kirkjan (blue church).
The first of the winter snow was falling last evening and there was a brisk north wind as the weekly ferry to Denmark crept out of Seyðisfjörður's harbour bang on time at 6 pm. Smyril Line's Norrøna is the lifeline of the Seyðisfjörður economy, but the change to it being a freight only operation a couple of weeks back has dulled the mood in Seyðisfjörður. There will no longer be the same buzz as the Norrøna docks each week in Seyðisfjörður, now merely bringing cargo and no longer wide eyed passengers anxious to touch Icelandic soil for the first time. Fortunately, this cost cutting decision is only for the winter. It is a measure to save on crew costs on the stormy crossings between the Faroes and Iceland. All being well, Smyril Line will once again offer passenger services to Iceland from next spring.