hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The rain goose or red-throated diver is often spotted in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (photo © Mikelane45 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

We have had still days over Christmas - even halcyon days for those who know their Greek mythology. It suited the rain geese. The birds are more commonly known as the red-throated diver. Elegant in water, but ungainly on land, the rain goose is ...
The new, 15th edition of Europe by Rail was published in late November 2017.
Letter from Europe

In a rare commercial plug for our products, we have some handsome Christmas gift ideas. For just 48 hours from the time stamp of this newsletter, we are selling signed copies of our Europe by Rail book, the fifteenth edition of which was published ...
Gorgona island, part of the Tuscan archipelago, is a prison island with a twist (photo © Cellai Stefano / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

One of Tuscany's leading winemakers, Lamberto Frescobaldi, works with the prison authorities and the inmates on Gorgona island to produce an outstanding white wine. Gorgona lies in the open seas been the coast of Tuscany and ...
Lufthansa looks set to become more dominant in German skies following the demise of its rival Air Berlin. Air Berlin operates its last flights on Friday 27 October 2017 (photo © Radarman70 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

This evening, as the prosecco glasses clink and the water salutes cascade, anyone might be forgiven for thinking that Air Berlin had just notched up some great commercial success. What is in fact being marked is the demise of an airline with flight ...
The Russian cruiser Aurora is anchored in St Petersburg and currently serves as a museum ship (photo © Marcorubino / dreamstime.com)
Letter from Europe

100 years ago, on the evening of 25 October 1917 (in the Russian calendar), a single blank shell was fired from the Russian cruiser Aurora. It gave the signal for the Bolsheviks to storm the Winter Palace. Was that single blank shot from the Aurora ...
The Semmering Railway (Austria) is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. It traverses the Austrian Alps to link Vienna with Graz and Klagenfurt (photo © Fritz Hiersche / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Railways have long been a component of successful World Heritage applications. In 1986, Britain made its very first successful application to UNESCO and Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire was inscribed on UNESCO's List. Yet it was not before 1998 that ...
From left to right: Peter Knutas, Sofia Hoas and Christina Knutas in the house of the Föreningen Svenskbyborna in Roma, Gotland (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The Gotland village of Roma has become the cradle of memory for Sweden's historic link with the Black Sea region. The village of Gammalsvenskby in Ukraine was established by migrants from Sweden. The links betweeen Gammalsvenskby and Gotland are ...
photo © Teeraporn Tirakul / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

It is eighty years ago this autumn that the Jewish-German poet and polemicist Ernst Lissauer died in Vienna. His sad life was a roller coaster of rant and prejudice. He was best known for his hate verse deployed against England in the First World ...
St Giles Church at Imber on Salisbury Plain (photo © Tim.firkins licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)
Letter from Europe

Next weekend, there's the chance to visit an extraordinary place in England - a village where the entire population was forcibly removed in 1943 in order to provide space on Salisbury Plain for American military manoeuvres. It's one of those places ...
The town of Miltenberg on the River Main (photo © Darknightsky / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

The various hill areas of central Germany, stretching from Bohemia to the River Rhine and beyond, have helped define the landscapes of the region. And last week I took time out to explore some parts of this hill country, wandering from the ...
Swiss style in Zermatt (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

There is more to Zermatt than the Matterhorn. hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner recalls an early morning walk in the Swiss ...
The Champs de Mars in Paris, site of the 1867 World Fair (photo © Freesurf69 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

There was much ado in Paris 150 years ago this month. The 'Exposition universelle de 1867' had opened at the Champs de Mars in April and had secured very positive press reviews both in France and more widely across Europe. It also drew a big crowd ...
The royal palace in Bucharest (photo © Marian Mocanu / dreamstime.com)
Letter from Europe

The Romanian aristocrat, traveller and writer Dinicu Golescu deserves to be better known outside his home region, for he rates as one of the finest travel writers of the early 19th century. His 1826 book 'Account of My Travels' is an important ...
A new take on the classical villa: Robert Mallet-Stevens' Villa Cavrois at Croix (in French Flanders)
has clear echoes of Frank Lloyd Wright. The villa is one of many buildings in the Wright idiom featured in Gwyn Lloyd Jones' new book 'Travels with Frank Lloyd Wright' (photo © Rifberlin / dreamstime.com)
Letter from Europe

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright. He is often regarded as a quintessentially American architect, a man who perhaps was never really comfortable in Europe. But the great advocate of Prairie Style has a legacy in ...
The station at Schaanwald is on the Feldkirch to Buchs railway line that cuts through Liechtenstein (© hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

A new month, and the sun shines. It's summer! And guess what? One European country has just closed down its entire rail network. For the whole month of June, not a single train will operate in ...
The memorial to the children of Lidice in the Czech village (photo by Moravice)
Letter from Europe

This Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the Czech Resistance's successful attempt on the life of senior Nazi administrator Reinhard Heydrich. It was an event which had terrible repercussions; the Germans retaliated with ruthless force. Those ...
The departure bays at Berlin's central bus station (photo © Fridolin freudenfett licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).
Letter from Europe

Berlin's central bus station opened in 1966. Tucked away on the edge of Berlin's trade-fair grounds it is one of the German capital's unsung spaces. Yet the no-frills terminus is still going strong and has seen an increase in services in recent ...
The velvety landscapes of the Cotswolds in summer have long been a magnet for poets and writers (photo © Davidmartyn / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Edward Thomas' achievements as a poet and essayist were only fully recognised posthumously. For many, it is his poem about Adlestrop which sticks in the mind. But there's more to Thomas than that poem - indeed he was a very accomplished nature ...
Lenin statue in Moscow (photo © Mjunsworth / dreamstime.com)
Letter from Europe

News of the revolution in Russia reached Switzerland in March 1917, and many politically active Russian émigrés immediately decided to return home. Led by Lenin, the revolutionaries boarded a sealed carriage and travelled by train across ...
Shades of the past in the Hebridean blackhouse at Arnol on the Isle of Lewis (photo © hidden europe)
Letter from Europe

For many visitors to the Hebrides, the traditional blackhouse is a symbol of these islands. Yet rarely is vernacular architecture so freighted with emotion, nostalgia and even ...
Landing on the beach in Barra. The island's airport is blessed with not one, not two, but three runways (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

There is a special dynamic to island life. One meets the same people day after day - but often in different contexts. We bump into people in the most unlikely spots. On the east side of Barra, a number of rocky peninsulas jut out into the Sea of ...
The Afsluitdijk is a symbol of Dutch engineering ingenuity. It connects Friesland with northern Holland (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

We crossed the Afsluitdijk last week on a long journey from Berlin to the island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Most other vehicles on the Afsluitdijk road sped along close to the speed limit. Instead of dashing over the dyke, we stopped ...
Classic spa architecture in the Czech town of Frantiskovy Lázne (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Relaxation is compulsory in Frantiskovy Lázne, a small spa town in the far north-west corner of the Czech Republic. There are two outstanding churches, one a very fine Catholic church executed in graceful Empire style and the other a rather ...
image © Tamarindarts / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

Today is International Women's Day (IWD). In the ecclesiastical calendar, Rome assigns 8 March to St John of God, who died on this day in 1550. He was, as it happens, a thoroughly decent guy who in the latter years of his life worked in Granada ...
photo © Yarchyk / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

Speculative fiction can sometimes turn out to be eclipsed by real-life events. In Hugo Bettauer's 1922 novel, Die Stadt ohne Juden, fictitious Austrian Chancellor Karl Schwertfeger signs an executive order decreeing that all Jews must leave Austria ...
Image © Boscorelli / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

With mention of fairy tales and film, thoughts often turn to Disney. The cinematic adaptation of fairy tales is often judged in the west to be a peculiarly American prerogative. But central and eastern Europe have a very fine tradition of ...
Flybe is one of the operators which applied for support from the UK Government's Regional Air Connectivity Fund (RACF) to set up new air routes (photo © Richair / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

The idea behind the UK Government's Regional Air Connectivity Fund (RACF) is that financial support for a year or two would be an incentive for airline operators to serve routes where there might otherwise be high commercial risk. We take a look at ...
Duchcov Castle in the Czech Republic, where Giacomo Casanova spent the last 13 years of his life looking after the library of Count von Waldstein (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Were it not for a librarian, we would surely never have ventured to Duchcov. We have always held librarians, and indeed libraries, in high regard. We're of one mind with Dervla Murphy who once described Heaven as an infinite library and Eternity as ...
photo © Wideonet / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

Berlin is not normally a place for liturgical theatre, at least not of the Catholic variety. But St Afra is a place apart. And the musical flourishes in this service are remarkable for their provenance. One of the great English organs of the ...
The Ludwigsplatz with the baroque Ludwigskirche in the heart of Saarbrücken, capital of the German state of Saarland (photo © Sergey Dzyuba / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

We walk down the lane between two villages. Each takes its name from the River Gailbach. The higher community is Obergailbach. It's a wee slip of a place. Just a couple of kilometres down the valley lies Niedergailbach which is rather larger. This ...
The island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides relies on a lifeline air link with Glasgow. Loganair's Twin Otter aircraft land on the beach at Barra (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Short hops by air over water are of course very common, generally relying on non-jet aircraft and providing lifeline air services to island communities around the coasts of Europe. A review of old airline timetables reveals that there used to be ...