Notes Archive: 2009

About our notes

Our Notes are published from time to time to comment on aspects of travel, culture, society and politics in and around Europe.

These are opinions and news-related items that complement both the printed magazine and our Letter from Europe and presented with that same quiet authority and perceptive insight that readers of hidden europe magazine have come to expect.

Wayward moose and reindeer

by hidden europe

We chanced on a nice yarn from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) this week when they reported on the manners of the moose who roam the Arctic wilderness around the Pasvik valley, where the territories of Norway, Finland and Russia are hopelessly intertwined.

Great travel myths

by hidden europe

We were intrigued to read a recent account in an English newspaper of a journey along "he most northerly railway in the world". The Ofoten railway from Kiruna in Sweden to Narvik in Norway is without doubt one of the most remarkable train journeys anywhere in Europe - but it surely is not the most northerly rail route in the world.

Bulgarian affairs

by hidden europe

Bulgaria is gearing up for more visitors from neighbouring countries, having just announced that from Saturday 19 December 2009 travellers from Macedonia and Serbia making short visits to Bulgaria will no longer need to secure a visa in advance.

New 2010 train timetables

by hidden europe

Europe's new 2010 train schedules take effect today, opening up lots of glorious new travel opportunities. Faster trains from the Kent coast to London are the highlight in England, while in Italy there is a veritable revolution as the 'missing link' in the country's main high speed axis is plugged.

Bananas in Iceland

by hidden europe

Bananas are big business in Iceland. There are few more popular snacks in the tundra than a nice ripe banana - which may go some way to explaining why McDonalds cut no ice in Iceland and announced in October that they will quit the country.

Christmas shopping - Faroese style

by hidden europe

It is not so very often that one hears Faroese accents in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northeast England. But the streets of the Tyneside city echoed to many voices from the remote North Atlantic islands yesterday afternoon as a friendly invasion of folk from the Faroes arrived to do their Christmas shopping.

Plans for simpler train ticketing in Europe derailed

by hidden europe

Back in the summer of 2007, a number of European rail operators founded Railteam, a promising new alliance that proudly announced that it would transform international rail ticketing in Europe - offering through fares at the press of a button between stations across Europe. Late last week, Railteam backtracked from this grand plan.

Key train to Kaliningrad axed

by hidden europe
The new EU Kaliningrad programme is designed to promote contact and understanding between Russia's Baltic exclave at Kaliningrad and the territory's EU neighbours. But sadly, just as this new programme is announced, so comes news that a key train service linking Kaliningrad and Berlin is about to be axed.

The Penguin cerise series

by hidden europe

It is interesting to see how little has been made of the half centenary this autumn of the demise of the Penguin Cerise series. The books in the Cerise series helped define in Britain the art of travel writing. So good to see that today the Guardian has also marked this literary anniversary.

European rail fares: best prices

by hidden europe

This piece is one we researched and first published in June 2009. But its message is still as valid today, which we why we think it deserves a place here. Some travellers, especially when they purchase rail tickets in North America for European journeys, pay massively over the odds. We compare ticket prices for point-to-point rail journeys in Europe and find a disturbing variety of fares on offer. Some travellers, it seems, are being ripped off.

Reindeer pay heavy price for global warming

by hidden europe

One of the key points we learnt from an article on the Sámi of Russia's Kola Peninsula is how warmer autumns are making life much harder for the locals. They rely on frozen ground to allow winter mobility in the tundra. But these days the ground does not freeze till later - sometimes not until Christmas.

Conservation versus community in Potsdam (Germany)

by hidden europe

There has been a intriguing debate rumbling on in Potsdam (Germany) these past weeks which nicely captures the dilemmas associated with heritage and conservation. We have been following events in Potsdam's Russian community. Just north of the historic and very attractive town centre is the community of Alexandrowka, a classic Russian-style village. It has a curious history.

The Italia expedition

by hidden europe

The Italia left its Milan base in mid April, under the command of Umberto Nobile. Destination: the North Pole. In late May, the pioneer aviators reached their goal. But luck was not on their side. Returning south towards Spitsbergen, the Italia was damaged in a storm and plunged onto the pack ice.