hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country is a volume where the land and landscapes of Africa stand centre stage in the plot. In his book, first published in 1948, Paton goes beyond the romantic rendering of South African landscape which was ...
Letter from Europe

The Magi set a trend by travelling in the dying wick of the year. This is the season when most folk just want to hunker down by the fire with friends and family. But it is actually a very fine time for exploring. One of the finest travel memoirs of ...
Letter from Europe

If you are in Antwerp by night on the weekend before Christmas, you might see a wondrous sight. Shortly after midnight on Saturday 19 December, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) will launch its new direct service from Antwerp to London. If ...
Letter from Europe

Four weeks from today much of Europe will awaken to new train timetables. Each year in December, new schedules come into effect across the continent. The big day this year is Sunday 14 December. We take look at a dozen positive developments worth ...
Letter from Europe

The ebb and flow of life in Brussels, London and Paris is well covered in mainstream media. We have instead opted for the road less travelled. hidden europe 44, which is published today, carries reports from offbeat and unsung communities right ...
Letter from Europe

In the third and last of three pieces to mark the 25th anniversary of the dramatic events of November 1989 in Berlin, the editors of hidden europe reflect on the special qualities that mark their home ...
Narrow-gauge steam train at the top of the Brocken in Germany’s Harz Mountains (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

In our second article to mark 25 years since the political changes in East Germany of late 1989, we make a pilgrimage to one of Germany's most celebrated mountains: the ...
Ketwurst used to be a popular East German snack. It was most associated with Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, famous for its world clock seen here (photo © Patrick Poendl / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

With the approaching 25th anniversary of the East German government's decision to relax restrictions on its borders, you'll surely be hearing a lot about Berlin over the coming weeks. We have our own recollections of the German Democratic Republic, ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

Shortly after ten o’clock this morning a priest stepped forward to the podium and blessed Vienna’s new railway station. There were speeches aplenty with the statutory votes of thanks to those who have presided over planning committees and ...
Letter from Europe

The equinox has passed and now a hint of frost dances by dawn on the more sheltered meadows. Restless stonechats are busy on the high heaths, where we stand and gaze on distant Wealden ridges fading into misty morning sunshine. This is one of ...
The Czech town of Jáchymov rates as one of the lesser spas of western Bohemia. The town also has an intriguing industrial history (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The main road drops down from the hump of the mountain in a series of sharp zigzags. Polished blue sky above, velvety green forests all around and the tacho ticking off the miles of grey tarmac below. We are on the south side on the ore-rich hills ...
The Arctic port of Vardø on Norway's Varanger Peninsula – where the locals are keen to proclaim the merits of cod! (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

A recent visit to the Arctic port of Vardø, on an island off the eastern extremity of the Varanger Peninsula, prompts us to reflect on Fridtjof Nansen’s visit to the same place in 1893. Nansen arrived in Vardø on the Fram. It was the ship's last ...
View from Calton Hill over the city of Edinburgh (photo © Shaiith / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Just imagine, for a moment, that Scotland really does vote yes to independence next week. Scotland will then become a new nation state, bidding for a place in European league tables of size and status. We reflect on border issues and look at how ...
The Titovka roadside café is a welcome spot to have a coffee and enjoy a break from the road. It is located on the E105 to Murmansk in the north-west corner of the Russian Federation (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Everyone stops at Titovka sooner or later. That's the way things are up here in the far north-west corner of Russia. The Titovka roadside café is on the highway that runs west from Murmansk towards the mining towns of Zapolyarny and ...
Unusual motive power: the 18.08 train from Salzburg to Vienna is powered by Austrian lawyers (photo © Tomnex / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Europe is full of trains with oddly inappropriate names. At least the Alhambra goes to Granada. Not so the Wawel, which nowadays does not run to Kraków at all but only to Wroclaw. Some of the most bizarre train names are actually found in Austria. ...
Letter from Europe

A couple of years ago we commented on the departure boards at the main railway station at Basel that they are "no longer bubbling with as much character as once they did." But Basel's SBB station in 2012 still had its moments, the best of which was ...
Park station in Johannesburg, South Africa (photo © Alan Gignoux / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Last month, hidden europe co-editor Nicky Gardner visited South Africa and adjacent countries. For a change we look beyond Europe, joining Nicky as she mills with the late afternoon commuter crowds at the main railway station in ...
Lakeside setting of Mantua in Italy's Lombardy region (photo © Karol Kozlovski / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Hot summer days... and we've been meandering through northern Italy. Virtually, with Shakespeare by our side. Remember Lucentio who, in The Taming of the Shrew, leaves his home city of Pisa in Tuscany? Lucentio's servant Tranio accompanies his ...
Letter from Europe

Well do we know that modern pieties demand that one speaks only ill of banks, but here at hidden europe we often say nice things about bankers - or, to be more precise, about the good judgement exercised from time to time by bankers as they ...
Letter from Europe

The island of Gozo, Malta's kid sister, is indeed a sanctuary, a place apart. All the more so during these last days of June when a sequence of Catholic feast days are the cue for village ...
Letter from Europe

'Ronaldo is certainly a big shot round here,' said the man on the slow train to Inverness. His comment distracted us from the scenery unfolding beyond the window as the train dropped down from Drumochter Summit towards the Spey Valley. We had to ...
Letter from Europe

There is something very pleasing about communities which display a strong architectural coherence. In some instances, the sense of order and unity might take its spark from one striking central feature. The Italian city of Palmanova is a good ...
Letter from Europe

There was often much ado around San Marco on Ascension Day. At least if Canaletto's celebrated paintings of Venice on the Feast of the Ascension are to be believed. The particular ceremony that caught Canaletto's attention was the annual dedication ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

Some journeys are full of ghosts. The 30-minute train ride from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland (or vice versa) is in that vein. For a generation of English travellers arriving in Holland on the boat from Harwich, the journey by train along the north ...
Greek Catholic church at Ruská Bystrá, a small community in Slovakia about six kilometres west of the border with Ukraine (© hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

From villages in the Ukrainian hills above Uzhhorod west through the Bieszczady Mountains to remote communities in south-east Poland, there is a Paschal theme this Sunday morning: "Christos voskrese," it runs in Church Slavonic. "Christ has risen." ...
Letter from Europe

Travelling through north-east Hungary earlier this month, we could so easily have missed Sárospatak. It was a drizzly Sunday afternoon and we turned off the main road merely on a whim. Sárospatak was to us little more than a name on a map. Of ...
Bach statue outside St Thomas' Church in Leipzig (© hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

March 1714 was a good month for Johann Sebastian Bach. On the second of the month, he was promoted to the plum job of Konzertmeister at the Weimar court. This was quite an achievement for a man who was only 28 years old. The terms of the new ...
Letter from Europe

Many travellers through Denmark this summer will be sorry to discover that the long-standing direct ferry from Kalundborg (on Sjælland) to Aarhus (on Jutland) has been axed. This is just one of many routes to disappear in the latest round of cuts ...
Church at Bregninge on the Danish island of Ærø (photo © Marieke van der Horst).
Letter from Europe

Ærø in four words: hilly, hospitable, homely, hyggelig. The Danish island is the place to be at times like this. It is mellow and calm, a small island that wants spring to come sooner rather than later. The hilltops are scattered with ancient ...
Letter from Europe

Wales is a place for miracles. Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is that Wales is there at all, that it has a strong cultural identity and a language that is still spoken. Wales is nothing if not tenacious. It has a knack of getting into your ...
Letter from Europe

You might believe that a garage is merely a concrete shed where you park your car overnight. But think again! Alexey doesn't have a car but his corrugated-iron garage figures mightily in his lifeworld. It is his space, a secluded reserve away from ...
Letter from Europe

Think how voices help define a city. Speeches and songs have shaped the Weimar soundscape. And they have been more varied in tone than you might expect. To be sure, the foremost exponents of Weimar classicism all pitched into the Weimar ...
Letter from Europe

Snow falls over all the city, covering the cobbles and the pathways. In the gentle stretch of parkland that lines the valley of the Ilm, snow drapes the follies and the ruins. In the middle of Weimar, statues of stern men are laced with light snow. ...
Letter from Europe

The monastery on the Isola di San Francesco del Deserto is a place apart, an island retreat in the shallow recesses of the northern lagoon well away from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It is an island where blessed solitude is punctuated by the ...
Letter from Europe

The Arctic has been much on our minds of late. Today we mark the centenary of an epic moment in polar travel. One hundred years ago today, the Karluk was wrecked in the Chukchi Sea. The ship set off from Vancouver Island in June 1913 on a voyage to ...
Letter from Europe

As Russian families gather today to celebrate Christmas (which in Orthodox Europe falls later than in the Roman calendar), they will be inclined - like families everywhere in the world - to look back to Christmas tales from yesteryear. There is ...