Dear fellow travellers
The hidden europe team's perambulations around our continent took an improbable turn yesterday afternoon when we found ourselves in Torremolinos on Spain's Costa del Sol. Now Torrie, as the Brits affectionately call the place, is scarcely standard hidden europe territory, but the concrete costa turned out to be an anthropological opportunity of the first order. With the mid afternoon temperature hovering around 32º, and a brisk east wind whipping the empty crisp packets along the grey beach, white flesh was exposed everywhere, and most of the folk lingering in the beachfront bars seemed either very hungover, in a bad mood, or both.
hidden europe had a couple of Polish fellow travellers in tow, and it was a tough call explaining to them quite why so many tattooed English people were eating breakfast at three in the afternoon. Nor was there any easy answer to the Poles' innocent query as to whether it was traditional for the English to accompany their eggs and bacon with a two litre jug of sangria.
When Prince Sobieski, heir to the Polish throne, washed up here on the coast of Andalucia some three hundred years ago, he judged that he had landed in Paradise. Yesterday afternoon, as two women cursed each other over who had dropped the extra portion of onion rings, Torrie seemed somehow to have slipped a little since Sobieski's time.
take a spare horse, a good chronometer and a flagon of cane spirit
Accounts by early travellers make for some of our favourite en route reading, and one of the best is Hans Reichard's Conseils aux touristes (Advice to Tourists), a volume of generic travel wisdom first published in 1793, the same year as Reichard also published his Guide d'Espagne. Reichard deserves to be better known, for he criss-crossed Europe producing guides to places from Portugal to Russia, long before Louis Hachette, Karl Baedecker and John Murray, that illustrious trio of travellers who get all the credit as the first writers of guide books.
Reichard's Conseils aux touristes has always been sound in helping us prepare for our little forays around Europe. Never travel, he says, without a servant who is sober, valiant, versatile in languages and a good cook. He enjoins travellers to refine their firearm skills, and particularly commends double barrelled pistols. Reichard, not one to be constrained by airline baggage limits, stresses the importance of taking spare wooden chests for souvenirs. And don't forget crystal glasses, a reliable thermometer, an axe and a fine teapot.
His Guide d'Espagne is sparing in its praise of Andalucia. The east wind, he said, could make women mad. Yesterday afternoon, as we sat in a seafront bar in Torrie, we understood exactly what Hans Reichard meant.