hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

Christmas generates its own extraordinary traditions across Europe - but they differ greatly from country to country. Even the date on which the celebrations reach their apotheosis varies across the continent. In Germany, Belgium and the ...
Letter from Europe

Romania's poetic tradition is remarkably distinguished, and yet rarely acknowledged outside its country of origin. But even for those disinclined to learn Romanian, there is some fine work waiting to be found in translation - from Mihai Eminescu to ...
Letter from Europe

Alentejo is an area of Portugal which attracts few tourists. Travellers bound for the Algarve coast zip through the region on the motorway, and scarcely give Alentejo a second look. But Alentejo is home to some of Europe's largest forests of cork ...
Letter from Europe

Tomorrow, 22 November, is the Feast of St Cecilia, a saint surrounded by a strong music cult. By the time Raphael painted his L'estasi di Santa Cecilia (around 1515), musical instruments had become associated with St Cecilia. The iconography runs ...
Letter from Europe

Enthusiasts for European train travel, we have noticed, sometimes get a little edgy this time of year. It is that season when train timetables, which have served us well - or sometimes less than perfectly - for almost twelve months are suddenly ...
Letter from Europe

The experience of driving through the world's longest road tunnel is one to remember. At over 24 km long (more than 15 miles), the Lærdalstunnelen linking Aurland and Lærdal in western Norway is more than twice as long as the Mont Blanc Tunnel that ...
Letter from Europe

hidden europe has been on the road - or more correctly 'on the rails' - this past week meandering through Europe on a journey that has seen us sleeping on a Russian night train, speeding through the Channel Tunnel on Eurostar, eating pierogi in ...
Letter from Europe

To drive the main coastal road west from the French-Italian border along France's Riviera coast is an essay in chic exclusivity: Antibes, Cannes, Ste-Maxime and so on. Not quite hidden europe territory. Most travellers speed through Port Grimaud at ...
Letter from Europe

Language is one of those assets we take for granted. We speak it! Most of us somehow learn to get by in one or two other languages beyond our mother tongue. And occasionally we run across folk on our travels who have not had the chance to practice, ...
Letter from Europe

Early European travel was hugely driven by Christian virtue. Those of the truly devout who had the resources would try to visit Rome, Jerusalem or Santiago de Compostela. The fifteenth century English mystic, Margery Kempe, managed all three, and ...
Letter from Europe

Few of the passengers snoozing on the train even noticed Gornje Lezece. The train had twisted and turned through valleys where the hillsides tilted sharper and sharper, sharp screeches of wheels on ancient rails, and the wind blowing madly through ...
Letter from Europe

Viewed from the plane descending to land at Almería's airport, El Ejido is a shining sea of plastic that dazzles the eye. For mile after mile, plastic covered greenhouses and plastic cultivation tubes rely on drip feed irrigation to produce ...
Letter from Europe

Many of Berlin's prime attractions evoke the darker side of the city's past. The new monument to the murdered Jews of Europe just south of the Brandenburg Gate is the latest addition to Berlin's dark tourism repertoire. Just a short walk away is ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The old town of Tocco Caudio in southern Italy was abandoned after an earthquake in the 1980s, as was Poggioreale in western Sicily a few years ...
Letter from Europe

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is a little part of Europe outside Europe, territorial outposts of France that speak French and use the euro as their standard currency; they are vestiges of a once rich French presence in North America. With a population ...
Letter from Europe

hidden europe has been in the North Frisian islands this past week. The island of Gröde is one of ten communities known collectively as the Halligen, tiny islands that lie off the west coast of the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein. This ...
Letter from Europe

The small hilltop town of Cabris in Alpes-Maritimes is not, we would concede, normal hidden europe territory. Cabris is the archetypal French holiday town, beautiful in the winter season, but a little too crowded on these summer days. That is not ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

Reports this week of Montenegro's imminent status as Europe's newest nation state have prompted us in hidden europe to take a look at some of the smaller republics that once featured on the shores of the eastern Adriatic. Who now remembers the ...
Letter from Europe

Grodno, a historic religious and trading centre that sits comfortably on the bluffs above the Neman river. The onetime Jewish population, which one hundred years ago numbered sixty per cent of the population, was the victim of Nazi purges. An empty ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

The capacity of Ireland to create 'heritage centres' is unbounded. In a month that marks the ninetieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, it seemed good to check out the memorial to Eamon de Valera in the village of Brú Rí (Bruree in ...
Letter from Europe

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 northwest Georgia. In the upcoming issue of the ...
Letter from Europe

Edinburgh's Grid Iron Theatre Company, in conjunction with the National Theatre of Scotland, explores the 'terminal as theatre' theme in its upcoming production Roam at Edinburgh International Airport. Roam is Grid Iron's tenth anniversary ...
Letter from Europe

Western European observers of the east of our continent have had their eyes trained on Serbia and Belarus this past weekend. The Milosevic funeral in Pozarevac, a small city on the Danube plain seventy kilometres east of Belgrade, became a rallying ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

Today, 23 February, is the Festival of Terminalia - not a date that features prominently in any modern ecclesiastical calendar, but one that was laden with meaning in the Roman world. For Terminus was the deity who presided over boundary stones and ...
Letter from Europe

Walkers heading for Spain on the footpath over the 2,500 metres col at Vallcivera come up the Madriu valley during the summer season, but few notice the remains of the old forge on the bank of the river that, with its characteristic Catalan design, ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...