Dear fellow travellers
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. It has been published in Longyearbyen for over a half century, and has even won an award as Europe's best local newspaper. To keep abreast of all the news in this outpost of northern Europe, check out the Svalbardposten website, mainly in Norwegian, on www.svalbardposten.no.
We complement our weekly helping of Arctic eccentricity from Svalbard with a daily dose of cosmopolitan Budapest with Pestiside magazine, an English language online offering from the Hungarian capital at www.pestiside.hu. Pestiside combines edgy politics and Budapest events listings with some sharp reporting on Hungarian affairs. This week in Hungary, as across much of central Europe, a dominant story has been the four days of storms that dumped over 100 mm of rain over a great swathe of central Europe from Berlin to the northern Balkans. For many in the region, this exceptional downpour evoked memories of August 2002 when similarly prolonged rainfall precipitated catastrophic flooding and loss of life in the region.
Of course, summer being summer, there's always space for quirky news stories, and Pestiside makes much of the adventures of a truck load of Hungarian pigs that made a bold bid for freedom, running rampage through the Slovak countryside when the truck taking them to market had a mishap on the motorway. Here at hidden europe it reminded us of Butch and Sundance, that publicity conscious couple of good looking pigs who roamed wild across the meadows and woods of southern England for a while in the summer of 1998 - with more than a hundred journalists on their trail.
Few of the local newspapers that regularly cross our desks are as improbable as the English language Town Crier, a weekly with a circulation of 25,000 that finds favour among the huge English community that live in Andalucía. This august journalistic endeavour, partly online at www.towncrier.es, ably imitates Britain's Daily Mail with its diet of news on assaults, house prices and the need for more police, all accompanied by some splendid advertisements for fish, chips and mushy peas.
Scotland's island communities boast a particularly fine range of local newspapers that ooze the scent of the isles. Among our favourites is the Orcadian (www.orcadian.co.uk), a weekly for the Orkney Islands with a good website. But the hidden europe award for Europe's most evocative local publication goes to The Ileach, a fortnightly newsbrief for the islands of Islay and Jura. Sadly, their website (www.ileach.co.uk) doesn't do justice to the quality of the print publication, but the paper itself is a superb read. Even if you've never been to the Scottish Hebrides, browsing The Ileach is sufficient to evoke the call of the corncrake and the heavy scent of a good peaty malt whisky.