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.

Fading Habsburg style on Lviv’s main square (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Between East and West: The Ukrainian City of Lviv

The city of Lviv, located in the western reaches of Ukraine, is in many respects a classic central European city, a place which has more in common with Wien, Trieste and Budapest than with other cities in the former Soviet Union – of which Lviv was ...
Bridge over the Inguri River leading from Georgia proper to Abkhazia (photo © Karlos Zurutuza).
Magazine article

The Mingrelian Question

The green and white stripes of the Abkhaz flag give a striking splash of colour. But the schoolteacher speaks of the Mingrelian language and culture. Karlos Zurutuza goes in search of a minority group in the Republic of Abkhazia, a small territory ...
Sinn Féin victory parade, probably after the East Clare by elections of July 1917. Countess Markievicz is shown prominently, wearing a white coat (photo: from the Keogh Photographic Collection, National Library of Ireland on The Commons).
Letter from Europe

Votes for women

  • 4 Feb 2018
Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman ever elected to the British House of Commons. Constance Georgine Gore-Booth was born into an Anglo-Irish family in 1868. Her stand on rights for women is just one dimension of the wider ...
Statue of Vladimir the Great on Borovitskaya Square in Moscow near the Kremlin (photo © Vladimir Zhuravlev / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

The politics of memorials

  • 21 Jan 2018
In Russia, as more widely, the question of who is honoured in statues and memorials is deeply political. So too is the question of when the first memorial is erected and how long it remains. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the feared Soviet ...
Strolling along the riverside promenade of Novi Becej, a small town on the shores of the River Tisa in Serbia’s Vojvodina region (photo © Laurence Mitchell).
Magazine article

A River Town out of Season

Bicycles outnumber cars in Novi Becej, a small town on the east bank of the River Tisa in the flatlands of the Vojvodina region of northern Serbia. Laurence Mitchell catches the changing moods of Novi Becej as autumn slips into ...
Ghosts on the Shore by Paul Scraton (Influx Press, 2017)
hidden europe note

Ghosts on the Shore

  • 6 Nov 2017
Nicky Gardner, co-editor of hidden europe magazine, reviews 'Ghosts on the Shore' by Paul Scraton. The book was published in June 2017 by Influx Press. It gives rare insights into Baltic landscapes and ...
Swiss style in Zermatt (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The tourist gaze: Zermatt

  • 23 Jul 2017
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

Paris sideshows in June 1867

  • 27 Jun 2017
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 ...
Shades of the past in the Hebridean blackhouse at Arnol on the Isle of Lewis (photo © hidden europe)
Letter from Europe

The Hebridean Blackhouse

  • 17 Apr 2017
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 ...
image © Tamarindarts / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

Thoughts for the 8th of March

  • 8 Mar 2017
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 ...
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

Saarland, January 1957

  • 15 Jan 2017
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 ...
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 50
  

Welcome to hidden europe 50. We live and work in a city where foreign nationals make an immense contribution to the local economy, to society and to the arts. Berlin is in that respect very typical of many places in Europe. In hidden europe, we ...
Magazine article

Socialist Architecture in Yugoslavia

In Tito's Yugoslavia, architects offered an ideological space between East and West - aligned neither to Soviet-style communism nor to the capitalist tradition. The result was some assertively different architecture, not all of it memorably ...
Odessa’s famous Potemkin steps (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The Colour of Odessa

  • 16 Jul 2016
Few European cities are so enshrined in myth, fable, stories and song as Odessa. And that's why we judged Odessa a fabulous choice for our lead feature in the new issue of hidden europe. This is an immensely likeable city, one which we visited for ...
All aboard the Sargan Eight Railway in western Serbia. The train is at Sargan Vitasi station (photo © Laurence Mitchell).
Magazine article

The Hills of Western Serbia

There are many visions of Yugoslavia's past. Laurence Mitchell visits the hills of western Serbia to learn how heritage and history fuel the imagination. It's a journey that starts and ends in Uzice and takes in the famous Sargan Eight narrow-gauge ...
The Spine of Russia is a high quality, hardcover photo book by Paul E Richardson and Mikhail Mordasov, published in July 2016. The book is a vivid portrait of modern Russian life.
Magazine article

The Berry Seller

Two new books arising from the Spine of Russia project afford a look at everyday life in the Russian Federation. In this preview of one of the books, Paul Richardson swaps notes with Igor, who is selling berries on a roadside in ...
Italian baroque style at the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Between the Steppe and the Sea

For Odessa writer Issac Babel, his home town was 'the most charming city of the Russian empire'. For many visitors today, Odessa is one of the most striking Black Sea ports. Join us as we head up the Potemkin Steps to discover ...
Young men in Prishtine, Kosovo (photo © Malik5 / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

What colour is your flag when it burns?
  

Kosovo is arguably Europe's newest country. Most nations now recognising the leadership of the territory as being a legitimate national government, though even some European Union members are still withholding recognition. Kosovo still has internal ...
Magazine article

Playing the Welsh card
  

Welsh settlers landed on the Patagonian coast in 1865 to create Y Wladfa (literally 'the colony') in the Chubut Valley. Within little more than a generation, most of the Welsh migrants had moved inland or left South America altogether. But a veneer ...
Magazine article

The Saxon villages of Transylvania
  

In just a few years at the end of the last century, the majority of the Saxons of Transylvania moved away from the village where their families had lived for over 500 years. Rudolf Abraham visited Romania to learn what has become of the Saxon ...
The centrepiece of Geneva's Mur des Réformateurs: sculptures of Beza, Calvin, Farel and Knox (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Radical assets Geneva-style

  • 30 Aug 2015
All who make their way to Geneva are struck by the sheer beauty of the city's setting. It is also a place that has always made space for radicals of all persuasions. Three hundred years after Calvin's death in 1564, the city emerged as a hotspot in ...
Lisbon’s Praca do Comércio, with the prominent statue of King José I on his charger and the triumphal arch and arcades behind. The restaurant-café Martinho da Arcada is to the right of the arch (photo © Iain Bamforth).
Magazine article

Exploring Lisbon with Pessoa

Think of writers who are intimately associated with a particular city: Kafka and Prague, Joyce and Dublin, Svevo and Trieste... or Pessoa and Lisbon. Pessoa did for Lisbon something which few other leading writers have done for their home city. He ...
The Chapel of Grace (Gnadenkapelle in German) - the centrepiece of Altötting's main square and the heart and soul of Bavaria (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Pentecost in the heart of Bavaria

  • 24 May 2015
It rained last night on the hills above the Inn Valley in Bavaria. Lucky were those pilgrims who had the luxury of a bed in one of the many small inns and guest houses which are to be found along the route of Saint James. Nourished in body if not ...
Letter from Europe

The Great Synagogue of Plzen

  • 22 Apr 2015
You might expect the most striking building in Plzen to be a brewery. But there's more to Plzen than beer. In fact the most impressive building in the Czech city is the Great Synagogue on Plzen's main ...
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 ...
Magazine article

Tall statements
  

Faith has evidently replaced politics as the motivation for some of the world's tallest sculptures. In Europe, the largest such structure is the massive statue of Jesus Christ at Swiebodzin in western ...
Letter from Europe

Remembering Taras Shevchenko

  • 9 Mar 2015
Grab your coat and come with us. This walk we'll make together is important, and this week is the time to do it. Important because, if we want to understand Ukraine, then we need to know the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. And there's no better place ...
Letter from Europe

Recalling Marianne

  • 25 Jan 2015
France has changed since our last Letter from Europe. The attacks in Paris which started on 7 January were assaults on an entire nation. For in France, more than elsewhere in Europe, the principles of liberty are more closely etched on the national ...
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 ...
Magazine article

The three pillars of Rusyn life

The fragile flame of Rusyn consciousness is flickering back to life. There is renewed interest in Rusyn art and literature. A group that endured "fifty years of Soviet silence" (Norman Davies' words) is reasserting its right to be heard. We look at ...
The Polish mountain resort of Zakopane is noted for its wooden buildings designed by Stanislaw Witkiewicz from 1892 until his death in 1915. But the ‘styl zakopianski’ long outlived Witkiewicz and is still seen in many new buildings inand around the Zakopane Valley (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Simply wood: a journey into the hills

The humblest homes in many villages in the Carpathians are built of wood. So, too, are the grandest buildings - almost invariably the church. Wood has its own benign beauty, and it is the carrier of tradition. We explore the wooden architecture of ...
Letter from Europe

Local heroes

  • 20 Jun 2014
'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

In search of Eden

  • 14 Jun 2014
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 ...
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

The Carpathian spirit

  • 20 Apr 2014
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

Sárospatak: a small town in Hungary

  • 15 Apr 2014
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 ...
Letter from Europe

Sweet Cambria

  • 1 Mar 2014
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

Reclaiming Weimar

  • 30 Jan 2014
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

Africa: East to Tzaneen

  • 22 Nov 2013
The Great North Road, a fragment of the classic Cape to Cairo route, cuts through Limpopo on its way to Beitbridge and the Zimbabwean border. A stream of buses and bakkies head north towards another Africa, their passengers barely sparing a glance ...
Magazine article

Of alkari, lace and wooden toys
  

Rudolf Abraham has over the years written about many of Croatia's most remarkable landscapes for hidden europe. Now he returns to the country in search of something more subtle: Croatia’s remarkable craft traditions and festivals. Rudolf argues ...
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 ...
Letter from Europe

Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone

  • 28 Sep 2013
It was one hundred years ago this month that WB Yeats' poem September 1913 was published in a Dublin newspaper. The poem is more than merely a lament for Irish separatist and bold Fenian John O'Leary. It is a sharp critique of the trend in Ireland ...
Letter from Europe

The Îles Malouines

  • 22 Jul 2013
Only rarely do we venture beyond the shores of Europe within our Letter from Europe. But the layered toponymy of the archipelago in the South Atlantic reveals the complicated history of settlement in the islands known today as the Falklands or ...
Letter from Europe

Lastovo (Croatia)

  • 1 Jul 2013
At ten o'clock yesterday evening, well after the sun had dipped below the waters of the Adriatic, the car ferry arrived in Ubli. The little port at the south-west corner of the island of Lastovo has a hangdog sort of feel. Long before sunrise ...
Magazine article

Beauty and the Beast
  

Just prior to the start of Lent each year, the village of Bielsa on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees welcomes a flood of visitors to its annual carnival. For a couple of days of transgression, the frenetic energy of the carnival contrasts with the ...
Magazine article

Asia in the mind
  

We start with a dubious attribution, a few words allegedly uttered by the Austrian diplomat and politician Count Metternich. And we end with the Ukrainian poet and dramatist Lesya Ukrainka in Georgia. In between, we discover that Asia is a state of ...
Magazine article

The heart of Slovenia

The essence of Slovenia is evinced in the country's rustic simplicity and natural grandeur. Jonathan Knott experiences both on a winter walk through villages that boast a close association with the poets and priests who, in the nineteenth century, ...
Letter from Europe

Look west

  • 31 Oct 2012
The West is inscribed on our imagination. It is where we watch the sunset, and thus the cardinal point that ushers in the evening, bringing promise of rest and sleep. And yet the West means other things too. For generations of Americans, the West ...
Landranger Sheet 57 sweeps from the Trossachs (above) east to the Ochils (photo © Dennis Dolkens).
Magazine article

Of maps and men: Landranger sheet 57
  

With place names like Pendicles of Collymoon and Nether Easter Offerance, Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 57 fires the imagination. Maps tell stories, as do old men in pubs. Like the Tartan traveller we met in the Tyrol who tried to persuade us ...
Habsburg period cobbles in one of the squares in Chernivtsi (photo © Laurence Mitchell).
Magazine article

Ukraine's Bukovina region
  

The Carpathian region of south-west Ukraine has fabulous beechwoods and rural lifestyles that tell of another world – one far removed from much of modern Europe. Laurence Mitchell introduces us to Chernivtsi and to villages in the hinterland of the ...
The feeding of the multitude: fish soup on the beach at Narva-Joesuu (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

In the days of prosperity
  

The River Narva marks one of Europe's more conspicuous frontiers: that between the European Union (and the Schengen area) to the west and the Russian Federation to the east. But cultures do not always respect borders and in a visit to Narva, on the ...
Letter from Europe

Reformation Day

  • 31 Oct 2011
Europe's Protestant reformers were not, on the whole, men who took kindly to statues. Indeed, thousands of statues in Catholic churches across Europe were smashed to pieces during the Reformation. So it's hard to fathom what Martin Luther would ...
The city of Ohrid, on the shores of the eponymouslake, is Macedonia’s premier tourist destination (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Quo vadis Macedonia?
  

Protecting the national narrative is a fine art in Macedonia, the south Balkan republic which neighbouring Greece insists should be referred to only as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (or FYROM for short). Join us as we try and unravel ...

	The principal church at New Valamo Orthodox Monastery in Finland (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

The past is another country
  

To accompany our feature on Karelia in this issue of hidden europe magazine, we look at how Finland’s ceded eastern territories, now part of the Russian Federation, remain a potent symbol in the Finnish ...
Letter from Europe

Amina unmasked

  • 16 Jun 2011
Perhaps you, like us, were enthralled by the tales from Damascus as Amina Arraf blogged about her adventures and misadventures in the Syrian capital. Amina has of course now been exposed as an American hoaxer with a very fine imagination and a gift ...
Letter from Europe

The spiritual geography of Karelia

  • 24 May 2011
Are not some landscapes genuinely therapeutic? We crested wave after wave of rolling forests as we drove through Karelia last week. Writers looking to plot the spiritual geography of Europe might do well to start here, for Finnish Karelia is a ...
Letter from Europe

Border markers

  • 11 Nov 2010
We sensed we were crossing into another world as the Moscow-bound train rumbled over the long bridge that spans the River Bug. The reed beds are full of wildfowl which are not troubled by the frequent trains that rattle overhead. This is the border ...
Letter from Europe

The Baedeker legacy

  • 1 May 2010
"Kings and governments may err, but never Mr Baedeker," wrote the English humorist AP Herbert in the libretto for Offenbach's operetta La Vie Parisienne. Baedeker was the brightest star in a constellation of nineteenth-century guidebook publishers ...
Curves dominate the memorial to the Slovak Uprising at Banská Bystrica (photo © Kordoz / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Slovakia: a foray into modernism
  

Slovakia boasts some of the finest modernist architecture anywhere in Europe, though you would hardly know it from the guidebooks. There is something distinctly Slovakian about these buildings which, during the years that Slovakia was linked to the ...
Letter from Europe

Unravelling Gibraltarian identity

  • 17 Jan 2010
Marut and Mesod are both interesting men. And both are equally adamant that they are Gibraltarians. If you thought that Gibraltar was merely Cockney voices or fish and chips, think again. The territory at the southern tip of Iberia has its own very ...
Magazine article

The European flag
  

one flag: blue background with twelve stars. It flutters above buildings in over forty European capitals. hidden europe looks at the Council of Europe ...
Magazine article

Istrian interludes

hidden europe explores the coast and its hinterland in Istria, nowadays part Croatia and part Slovenia. On the coast, echoes of Venetian style mingle with Habsburg elegance and Slavic confidence. Inland, we encounter the endangered cultural ...
Magazine article

An icon of identity: the Faroese flag
  

Fámjin is all the better for being difficult to reach. It is a tiny place, a mere pinprick on the map of the Faroes. But Fámjin has something of the Faroese soul about it, for it here that the national flag was first flown. We look at some places ...
Letter from Europe

Rusyn aspirations in Ukraine

  • 4 Nov 2008
Father Dymytrij Sydor is a determined man. No-one quite believed him when he asserted that he could raise the funds to build a massive new cathedral at Uzhgorod. This southwesternmost province of Ukraine is hill country, and it is home to the ...
Letter from Europe

The soul of Switzerland

  • 7 Jan 2008
To cross the threshold of the Wilmersdorf church today is truly to enter another world. For today, in the Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar, it is Christmas Day. The twin virtues of ardent faith and a strong sense of attachment to a diaspora ...
Letter from Europe

Designing identity

  • 28 Aug 2007
Albanians have not lost their way with clothes, as anyone walking the streets of Tirana's business district at lunchtime will quickly notice. Forget notions of an obscure Balkan nation, and look more for the same stylish chic that you might see ...
Letter from Europe

DDR nostalgia

  • 18 Jun 2007
For many older Germans who grew up in the DDR, the new order is associated with uncertainty in the labour market, consumerism and rising prices, and many look back with evident affection on some aspects of life in the DDR. Not all of course, and ...
Letter from Europe

'no music day'

  • 21 Nov 2006
Tomorrow, 22 November, is the Feast of St Cecilia, a saint surrounded by a strong music cult. By the time Raphael painted his L'estasi di Santa Cecilia (around 1515), musical instruments had become associated with St Cecilia. The iconography runs ...
Letter from Europe

Heritage centres in Ireland - the Danube delta in Romania

  • 23 Apr 2006
The capacity of Ireland to create 'heritage centres' is unbounded. In a month that marks the ninetieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, it seemed good to check out the memorial to Eamon de Valera in the village of Brú Rí (Bruree in ...