Dear fellow travellers
Levoca hoped for an Indian summer this past week. Instead it had a mixture of sunshine and rain. But Wednesday and Thursday were glorious, both days beautifully sunny with visitors lingering for hours in the town's pavement cafés. Gorgeous architecture and good music make for a winning combination and over these past few days folk in Levoca enjoyed both as the town in the Slovak hills celebrated its annual music festival.
Levocské babie leto (or Indian Summer in Levoca) brought a constellation of good musicians to Levoca in an eclectic programme that swept from Alkan to Zemlinsky with many German composers along the way: Schumann, Mendelssohn and more. But at heart this was a central European musical experience (think Haydn, Bartók and Martinu) just as Levoca itself is the quintessential central European small town.
Levoca is picture perfect, a community that deserves to be far better known. As it surely will, for this summer Levoca secured inclusion on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. The historic centre of Levoca reflects late medieval Saxon colonisation of an area that was then under the protection of the Kingdom of Hungary.
The parish church of St Jakub is home to much wonderful polychromatic wood carving in the Gothic tradition, while the church walls are embellished with a series of murals proclaiming the seven Christian virtues. Outside the church is a decorative pillory, where women of ill repute were apparently once caged and left on public display - evidence, perhaps, that Levoca's city fathers took to heart the narrative of those murals in their local church.
All in all, this is a remarkable urban ensemble and one which this week echoed to a fine range of music. Indian Summer in Levoca runs under the banner: 'Without music, life would be a mistake.' It is a witty reference to Nietzsche, who curiously is more remembered for having once famously proclaimed that 'Life is worthless.' Anyone enjoying this week's Indian Summer in Levoca would surely have disagreed.
news of hidden europe authors
Karlos Zurutuza is an interesting man. Over the last three years he has written half a dozen features for hidden europe, often seeking out spots where few travellers dare venture. Among Karlos' articles for us are essays on Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. So it was very good to see Karlos in the news last week when he travelled from his native Basque region to London to collect an award for his reports for various media on Balochistan. Earlier this year, Karlos travelled extensively in Iran and Pakistan, filing reports for the world's media on the forgotten war in Balochistan where for over six decades the Baloch people have been struggling to create an independent homeland.
There is sadder news to report on another hidden europe contributor. Christopher Portway wrote a splendid piece for us in 2006 on a remote community in Albania. We were distressed to learn recently of Chris' death at London's Chelsea Hospital where he lived as a Chelsea Pensioner. He was a remarkable man. He endured a spell at Auschwitz and also at Stalag VIII where he was sent to work in coal mines. Curiously, he did not start to write until much later in life and during thirty years as an author had about a dozen books published. He will be remembered particularly for his downbeat and unassuming style, qualities nicely evidenced in the feature he penned for hidden europe.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe)