hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Magazine articles marked with the symbol are available in full-length for online reading (provided you are a subscriber to the printed magazine and have created a member account). All texts with the source "Letter from Europe" or "Notes" are available for online reading for every visitor to this website.

Berlin's Charlottenburg station will add a new departure in December 2018: the Metropol night train to Vienna and beyond (photo © Gestur Gislason / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Central Europe by Night

New rail timetables kick in across Europe on 9 December 2018. There are new direct daytime links from Bratislava to Innsbruck and Zürich, and from the Austria city of Linz to both Halle and Berlin. But the showpiece innovation is a new direct night ...
View down from Fiesole towards Florence (photo © Roman Shyshak / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Summer Retreats

These gorgeous summer days are a chance for a change of pace. We look at the recuperative appeal of retreating to the lakes or the ...
A 1950s-era West German railcar at Lichterfelde West station. This heritage railcar makes special journeys in the Berlin region, often traversing railway lines which are rarely used by passenger trains (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Tracking through Berlin

  • 10 Jun 2018
This year marks the 180th anniversary of the opening of the first railway in Prussia. This was the line from Berlin to Potsdam. So we joined fellow Berliners on a 1950s-vintage railcar that went from Lichterfelde West to Gesundbrunnen ...
The departure bays at Berlin's central bus station (photo © Fridolin freudenfett licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).
Letter from Europe

The bus biz in Berlin

  • 18 May 2017
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 ...
photo © Yarchyk / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

City without Jews

  • 28 Feb 2017
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 ...
photo © Wideonet / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

From Burton to Berlin

  • 22 Jan 2017
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 ...
Our image shows just one portion of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin; the wooded area in the background is the Tiergarten (photo © Matyas Rehak / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Stumbling through history

  • 13 Nov 2016
As I walked deeper into the complex, surrounded on all sides by the chunky columns, I heard the animated chatter of two kids from time to time - two young English voices in a forest of memories in the very middle of Berlin. I met some Spanish ...
The former monastery at Chorin in Brandenburg is a fine example of Brick Gothic architecture, made all the better by its serene setting (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Walking with friends

  • 28 Sep 2016
Summer is slipping into autumn and the leaves in forests around Berlin are already falling. We walked through mixed woodland pondering the sounds and smells of beech, oak, hazel and pine. Before long, we came to Chorin where the remarkable ...
Looking west from Frankfurter Tor along Karl-Marx-Allee, Berlin. The two ceremonial towers were designed by Hermann Henselmann, who also did the initial design concept for the Alexanderplatz TV Tower in the distance (photo © Sergey Kohl /dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Understanding the socialist city
  

Progressive socialist designs for homes and cities are no longer in fashion. Yet Europe's streetscapes still attest to the grand schemes of yesteryear, when architects and planners envisaged a society that stood opposed to capitalism. We go in ...
Issue 47 of hidden europe magazine
Letter from Europe

A new issue of the magazine: hidden europe 47

  • 12 Nov 2015
hidden europe 47 is published today. It costs just 8 euros, and for that you'll get some of the finest travel writing around. If you like our regular Letter from Europe, why not support our work by taking out a sub to the print ...
Eurostar trains waiting at the platforms at St Pancras station in London (photo © MorganOliver / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Europe by rail: spring news

  • 1 Apr 2015
It is that time of year when rail companies across Europe tweak their schedules for the upcoming summer season. Here's an overview of some of the noteworthy changes for this ...
Potsdamer Platz in the very heart of Berlin (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The view from Berlin

  • 27 Mar 2015
Our travels over the last fortnight have taken us from one end of Germany to the other. Yet strangely this is a country which neither of us really understands. One of us is a Berliner by birth, the other a Berliner by choice. The view from Berlin ...
The Russian Railways (RZD) train from Moscow to
Paris seen here in Hannover. The carriage decorated with the
RZD logo is one of the new Austrian-built sleepers introduced
on this route in January 2015 (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

A touch of Russia
  

Europe has so many very comfortable train services, but it's really hard to trump the top-of-the-range Russian trains used on routes from Moscow to many cities in central and western Europe. For inner-EU journeys, these trains are often great ...
Letter from Europe

The beauty of Berlin

  • 7 Nov 2014
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 ...
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

Eastern senses

  • 23 Oct 2014
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, ...
Painting at the East Side Gallery, a surviving fragment of the Berlin Wall (image © Anagram1 / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

A share in history

The agency that promotes tourism to the German capital is called Visit Berlin. During 2014 Visit Berlin is promoting the idea that 9 November 2014 is the night when you just must be in Berlin. Just as Notting Hill Festival and Edinburgh Hogmanay ...
The higher of the two footbridges over the River Spree shown here is often called the Mierscheid Bridge (photo © Chris Dorney / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

A life less ordinary
  

Jacob Maria Mierscheid was born on 1 March 1933, so we hear. Still going strong at 80, Mierscheid is a German enigma with a knack for missing key events. Earlier this year, Mierscheid failed to show up for his own 80th birthday party. hidden europe ...
Magazine article

The airport question
  

What new European airport welcomed its inaugural flight in April this year and has since closed its doors for a long winter break? The answer is Kassel in Germany, which gets the hidden europe wooden spoon for the biggest transport flop of the ...
Letter from Europe

From Berlin to Siberia

  • 15 Oct 2013
We have long judged the Sibirjak to be the most outlandish train in Europe, running as it does from the German capital to Saratov and beyond. There was always the thought that we could hop on that train here in Berlin and travel across the ...
Letter from Europe

One journey, one Europe, one book

  • 4 Aug 2013
We sped from London to Brussels at lunchtime on Friday, swapping a pleasant English summer day for sultry Belgium — pausing along the way at Calais. There is always a little frisson of excitement on those rare Eurostars which stop at Calais. ...
Gleisdreieck station in the southern suburbs of Berlin still has some of the antique style of Joseph Roth's day (picture © hidden europe).
Magazine article

The lost kingdom
  

A 1924 essay by Joseph Roth on an unsung railway station in Berlin fired our imagination and inspired us to take the train to Gleisdreieck - an elevated station that in Roth's day looked down on a tangled maze of railway lines and sidings. ...
Letter from Europe

After the flood

  • 24 Jun 2013
The waters came, and so did the European media. The water was ruthless and unsympathetic. It tore down bridges and wrecked homes. The mud and debris that came with the flood blocked culverts and drains. Lives were put on the line. So too were ...
Letter from Europe

On the march

  • 29 Apr 2013
It was one hundred years ago tomorrow that Rosa Luxemburg published some thoughts on May Day in the Leipziger Volkszeitung. Writing, as she put it, "amid the wildest orgies of imperialism," Luxemburg extolled "the brilliant basic idea of May Day" ...
Letter from Europe

Travel writing: the view from home

  • 10 Apr 2013
During these first days of April, we have not ventured far from home. And yet there is a tangible sense of having travelled - if not through space, then through time. Ten days ago, much of eastern Germany was still formidably wintry. The little ...
Magazine article

The crossing

The satnavs tick off the passing interchanges, the passengers in the back seats are bored and the blood pressure of the drivers rises. No-one, no-one on the busy highway will ever know that a touch of heaven is just a few feet below the angry ...
Letter from Europe

A time for following

  • 16 Oct 2012
Sometimes it is good to be led. Paul has the map. I follow. Three of us are walking: Greg, Paul and I. Paul leads us to the shores of the lake. It is a good spot to retreat from the dark-scud clouds that crowd the October skies. There is a sweet ...
Letter from Europe

Reshaping mental maps

  • 17 Jun 2012
This evening, a train will speed from Córdoba to Valencia in just a shade over three hours, marking the inauguration of another link in Spain's growing high-speed rail network. True, the new stretch of line in this case is very modest, but it is ...
Letter from Europe

Musings for May Day

  • 1 May 2012
Well, we survived Walpurgis Night. Did you? Or were you abducted by ghouls or goblins? Did you sell your soul? Across much of Europe, May is ushered in by a night of bonfires and revelry. "All a matter of keeping the witches at bay," says our ...
Letter from Europe

Charlottenburg to Cádiz

  • 12 Mar 2012
There is something rather satisfying about being up and about earlyish on a Sunday morning. Streets that would on working days be busy are happily empty. So I hopped on a train just after eight and rode west out of Berlin. This is familiar terrain. ...
Letter from Europe

Liberating public spaces

  • 19 Feb 2012
Wandering through the middle of Berlin last week, we were struck by the large number of professional photographers and film crews busily working away, each claiming a stretch of pavement to use classic Berlin scenes as the backdrop for their work. ...
Letter from Europe

Diverted via Paris

  • 5 Feb 2012
Remember the ash cloud in 2010? It had a silver lining in making stranded travellers think creatively about the journeys they wanted or needed to make. And similarly with the seasonal doses of wintry weather that play havoc with rail schedules ...
Letter from Europe

Beyond the Wall

  • 13 Aug 2011
Prosaic places are so often the most interesting spots. And Lichterfelde ranks as decidedly prosaic. None of the main English-language guidebooks to Berlin so much as mention the suburb where we live and work. Tourists do not flock to Lichterfelde ...
Letter from Europe

The Wedding Factor

  • 29 Apr 2011
The Berlin district of Wedding is blessed with the definite article and cursed with a bad reputation. Quite why locals allude to the suburb as 'der Wedding' (The Wedding) is a matter of debate. The Wedding has urban colour, a multicultural mix and ...
Letter from Europe

The last victim of the Berlin Wall

  • 29 Aug 2010
1990 was a Berlin summer dominated by the Mauerspechte - literally the 'wall peckers' - who chipped away at the Wall with chisels, often in the hope that fragments of the legacy of a divided Berlin could be sold to the tourists who were then ...
Letter from Europe

The ark in the park

  • 21 Jun 2010
Zoos evoke all manner of reactions. Some commentators see them as playing a key role in maintaining biological diversity, others dismiss them as cruel and inhumane. We take a look at European zoos in their social and historical ...
Letter from Europe

Orbiting Berlin

  • 2 Nov 2009
We took a day out on Friday to orbit Berlin. In truth we have never really been fans of motorway driving, but a gorgeous frosty autumn morning with clear skies tempted us out of suburban Berlin onto the motorway that encircles the city. At exactly ...
Budapest Keleti station (photo © Attila Vörös / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Hungarian rhapsody
  

Sometimes we travel to really get somewhere. But occasionally a journey is worthwhile merely for its own sake. Sit back, relax, and from the comfort of a corner seat watch all the world go by on the train from Berlin to ...
Magazine article

People's palaces
  

Many central and eastern European capitals boast 'palaces' that were constructed in the socialist period. While Berlin's Palace of the Republic is being demolished, other capitals are finding more creative ways of rehabilitating their 'people's ...
Magazine article

In the ghetto
  

on the margins of Berlin, several thousand Russlanddeutsche (Russian-Germans), migrants who arrived in Germany in the mid 1990s, live as an ...
Magazine article

Streetwise in the middle of Europe
  

So where does hidden europe actually come from? From a garret in Reykjaví­k perhaps? Or a basement in Kiev? No, hidden europe is produced in the very middle of Europe just a stone's throw from the erstwhile border between West Berlin and the former ...
Letter from Europe

Dark tourism in Berlin and beyond

  • 13 Aug 2006
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

By bus to Moldova

  • 9 Jul 2006
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 train to Siberia - a Kraków curiosity

  • 12 Jun 2005
Walk the royal road south from Kraków's magnificent central square and you cannot miss the great hill of Wawel with its palace and cathedral overlooking the Wisla river. Walk up to the cathedral in the quiet of night, or at dawn on a summer ...