hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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Jyrgalan village and the valley seen from an alpine meadow above (photo © Laurence Mitchell).
Magazine article

Another Switzerland: The Road to Jyrgalan

Rustic and homely, albeit perhaps a little frayed at the edges, the village of Jyrgalan brings to mind a parallel universe Switzerland where life has just gone a little feral. Enjoy this report from Kyrgyzstan by hidden europe author ...
Chasselas vines, with a characteristic red tinge at the top of the stems, on the Guyot vine management system at Lavaux (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Lakeside Tradition: Exploring the Lavaux Vineyards

The Lavaux area in Switzerland is one of Europe's oldest winegrowing regions, a distinction which has earned for Lavaux a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The Lavaux vineyards drape the north shore of Lake Geneva at the western end of 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 ...
An exotic spot in western Scotland: the gardens at Crarae (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

By the shores of Loch Fyne

  • 30 Apr 2018
In Victorian Scotland, the public took great interest in technology, and so the detonations at the quarry of Crarae on the west shore of Loch Fyne became something of an attraction. The regular steamer from the Clyde to Inveraray would pause at ...
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 and World Heritage

  • 29 Sep 2017
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 ...
St Giles Church at Imber on Salisbury Plain (photo © Tim.firkins licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)
Letter from Europe

Forbidden places

  • 21 Aug 2017
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

Everything but the Lorelei

  • 31 Jul 2017
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 ...
Smock mill in West Blatchington, Sussex (photo © Martin Meehan / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Smock Mills

The smock mill is a distinctive element of the Dutch cultural landscape. The functionality and simplicity of these simple mills has made them popular exports, and migrants from the Netherlands built smock mills in New England, South Africa and ...
The Afsluitdijk is a symbol of Dutch engineering ingenuity. It connects Friesland with northern Holland (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Exploring the dyke

  • 3 Apr 2017
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 ...
Roman Catholic Basilica of St Servatius at Vrijthof Square in the Old Town of Maastricht (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The Maastricht factor

  • 23 Nov 2016
Do you not find that some towns have instant appeal? That's how we feel about Maastricht, a medium-size city tucked away in the southernmost part of the Netherlands - a region called Limburg. It's forty years since the last of the Limburg coal ...
End of the road: Siberia, part of the Lausitz village of Welzow (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

News from Haidemühl

The Czech energy group EPH has taken over the lignite mining operations in eastern Germany previously managed by Swedish company Vattenfall. What does this mean for the village of Haidemühl, now abandoned for almost a decade, which sits in a area ...
Magazine article

Bosna-gauge Railways

Had the Balkan region narrow-gauge rail network survived, it would surely today be a cherished asset in promoting tourism over a wide region - in much the same way as the narrow-gauge Rhaetian Railway network has been important in attracting ...
Memorial to Father Hendrik in the Altes Land village of Steinkirchen, Germany. He was the symbolic leader of the first Dutch settlers who moved to the area in the 12th century (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

A Visit to the Old Country

Beside the River Elbe, just downstream from Hamburg, lies the Altes Land. It is one of Europe's most intensive areas of fruit cultivation. Apples, raspberries, cherries and plums aplenty in a region which owes much to early Dutch ...
Master cowbell craftsman José Louís Reis Maia at the Chocalhos Pardalinho workshop, in the village of Alcácovas, Alentejo, Portugal (photo © Rudolf Abraham).
Magazine article

And to the Bells, a Voice

The Portuguese tradition of making cowbells is an endangered rural craft. Rudolf Abraham travels to the Alentejo region of Portugal to visit a workshop where cowbells are still crafted in the traditional ...
This tower in Lago di Resia (Reschensee) in Italy’s Alto Adige region is all that remains of the old parish church of Graun-im-Vinschgau (photo © hidden europe)
Magazine article

Silent witness
  

Discover the extraordinary story of how an Italian village was sacrificed to provide hydro-electric power for Switzerland. The evacuation of Curon Venosta (or Graun-im-Vinschgau in German) was a tragedy. Today the church campanile rises serenely ...
Letter from Europe

No train to Poland

  • 20 Sep 2015
The decision 170 years ago to build a great viaduct across the Neisse Valley was a visionary leap. Now that elegant structure needs a dose of 21st-century vision. Because what use is a graceful viaduct if it doesn't have any ...
Longyearbyen Airport on Svalbard - the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic - is celebrating its 40th anniversary (photo © Splosh / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Longyearbyen Airport, 40 years on

  • 2 Sep 2015
Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the official opening of the airport at Longyearbyen on 2 September 1975. It was an event which dramatically changed this polar outpost, making it far more accessible to the scientific community and ...
Loch Lubnaig near Callander, Scotland, on an afternoon in early March (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Loch Lubnaig

  • 5 Mar 2015
We love real weather. And we had real weather aplenty on a journey through Scotland this week. Clear blue skies at Carsaig Bay with glorious views west to Jura. Great spreads of grey-white snow over Rannoch, the hills all hidden in mist. A lone ...
Magazine article

The Talgo tale
  

The story of the Talgo trains of Bosnia reveals a quite stunning waste of money. This is a country which invested in a new fleet of trains which are simply incompatible with its antiquated rail ...
The Forth Rail Bridge (photo © Ian Whitworth / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Setting Forth
  

One firth: three bridges. Each of the three bridges over the Firth of Forth was built in a different century. There is the 19th-century rail bridge, a 20th-century road bridge and now the new Queensferry Crossing road bridge under construction. ...
Narrow-gauge steam train at the top of the Brocken in Germany’s Harz Mountains (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Following Faust up the Brocken

  • 31 Oct 2014
In our second article to mark 25 years since the political changes in East Germany of late 1989, we make a pilgrimage to one of Germany's most celebrated mountains: the ...
Letter from Europe

Wealden diary

  • 26 Sep 2014
The equinox has passed and now a hint of frost dances by dawn on the more sheltered meadows. Restless stonechats are busy on the high heaths, where we stand and gaze on distant Wealden ridges fading into misty morning sunshine. This is one of ...
The Czech town of Jáchymov rates as one of the lesser spas of western Bohemia. The town also has an intriguing industrial history (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Glowing in the dark

  • 19 Sep 2014
The main road drops down from the hump of the mountain in a series of sharp zigzags. Polished blue sky above, velvety green forests all around and the tacho ticking off the miles of grey tarmac below. We are on the south side on the ore-rich hills ...
The Titovka roadside café is a welcome spot to have a coffee and enjoy a break from the road. It is located on the E105 to Murmansk in the north-west corner of the Russian Federation (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Tales from Titovka

  • 5 Sep 2014
Everyone stops at Titovka sooner or later. That's the way things are up here in the far north-west corner of Russia. The Titovka roadside café is on the highway that runs west from Murmansk towards the mining towns of Zapolyarny and ...
100 years old this summer: the funicular railway to the Café Diana in Karlovy Vary (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Escape from Carlsbad

The funicular railway to the Café Diana on the hills above the spa town of Karlovy Vary marks a birthday this summer: it was opened to the public in 1914. It remains the easy way to get a bird's-eye view of Karlovy Vary (the town often referred in ...
Colourful houses in Ærøskøbing, the capital of the Danish island of Ærø (photo © Marieke van der Horst).
Magazine article

Double act: the Danish island of Ærø
  

The Danish island of Ærø is no more than a fleck in the Baltic. Yet this beautiful island is a good place to understand Danish history. If you are ever in any doubt as to how much the sea has inflected the Danish experience, make time for Marstal, ...
Winter in the hills of northern Bohemia (photo © Tomas Simek).
Magazine article

Into the hills: a Bohemian diversion
  

Of course one can speed across Europe on sleek, fast trains. But slow trains, the kind that dawdle along branch lines, are so much more interesting. We ride a rural rail route in northern Bohemia, where fading railway stations reveal a Habsburg ...
Magazine article

Tales from the A39
  

Forget the Maserati centenary celebrations this year. 2014 marks the centenary of the Mendip Motor. Chewton Mendip was never destined to become a Detroit. But one hundred years ago this month this small Somerset village saw the launch of the Mendip ...
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

100 years of buses

  • 13 Jun 2013
If British buses had a golden age, it was in the years just prior to the First World War. Motorised buses were changing British streetscapes. New routes were being launched every week, and suddenly a ride on a bus was an option even for those of ...
Magazine article

The ghost of Beeching
  

Is cutting public transport links in rural areas and across its borders really the right way for Croatia to gear up to join the European Union this summer? We look at how the pieties of the market are playing havoc with rail services in the north ...
Letter from Europe

Leaving the Tatras

  • 14 Feb 2013
I discovered yesterday that the traveller wanting to take a train out of Zakopane is hardly spoilt for choice. Early birds can opt for the 03.27 to Kraków. Then the next departure from the resort in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland is not ...
Letter from Europe

Remembering Rachel

  • 21 Sep 2012
Wander through the industrial landscapes around Ajka and you'll see a Hungary that does not feature in the tourist brochures. Lake Balaton is just over the hills to the south. The lake stands for recreation and fun. Ajka stands for something quite ...
Elvas in Portugal has just been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (photo © Inacio Pires).
Magazine article

Mining heritage
  

A new crop of European heritage has just been added to UNESCO's celebrated list of notable heritage. The newcomers to the World Heritage List include remarkable industrial villages in Flanders and Wallonie, a German opera house and a clutch of ...
Solid farmsteads are common along the west Jutland coast, and some cultivation is even possible when the dunes have been stabilised (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Tussling with the elements: Jutland
  

Survival on Jutland's coast has always been a question of working with nature. Great storms have transformed the sandy coastline and entire communities have come and gone with the ebb and flow of history. We travel north along the Danish mainland's ...
Magazine article

Agar Town
  

We remember Agar Town, an area of London that simply disappeared from the maps when in 1866 the Midland Railway edged south towards St ...
Where faith and the sea meet: devotionaland maritime bric-a-brac in La Maison de laBeurière in Boulogne (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

La Maison de la Beurière
  

Today, the steeply sloping streets behind Boulogne's Quai Gambetta no longer have the character of a closely-knit fishing community. hidden europe visits a little museum that recalls the former life of this distinctive part of the French port ...
Letter from Europe

Women on the rails

  • 8 Mar 2012
International Women's Day (IWD), which is celebrated today in many countries across the world, has been a feature of the European social landscape for more than a century. From the outset, IWD gave focus to a range of initiatives across Europe that ...
Letter from Europe

West to Reading

  • 12 Feb 2012
The fast trains from London to Reading take a mere twenty-four minutes for the journey. And First Great Western (FGW), successor to Brunel's celebrated Great Western Railway, happily still name some of their trains. Scanning the current FGW ...
Letter from Europe

Letter from St Pancras

  • 2 Dec 2011
There is something quite exquisite about grand railway termini. Folk fly through them, the dash for the train diminishing the status of these great cathedrals to travel. But these are not places through which one should rush. So we lingered at St ...
Letter from Europe

Polish mysteries

  • 23 Nov 2011
We drifted slowly through wintry forests, past unkempt meadows and villages full of scrawny desolation. We crossed the River Odra four times. And four times I gazed down at the river's wine-dark waters from the train, watching the waters swirling ...
Taking water at Eisfelder Talmühle where the Selke Valley railway connects with the Trans-Harz route (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Steaming through the Harz Mountains
  

The Harz Mountains lie astride the erstwhile border between East Germany and West Germany. The forested hills of the Harz preside over the North European Plain. The eastern portion of the Harz benefits from a legacy of East Germany: a wonderful ...
The Tammerkoski River with the Finlayson mills in the Finnish city of Tampere. The city boasts very well-preserved industrial heritage (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Shaping socialist history: Tampere
  

Lenin's promise that Finland would be granted her independence after the Bolshevik Revolution was first made in Tampere. This Finnish city has a fine industrial and political heritage, as we discover when we visit a museum devoted to the life and ...
Letter from Europe

The 313 to Botany Bay

  • 8 May 2011
We were having difficulty being enthusiastic about Enfield. Jack, an amiable octogenarian who is Enfield born and bred, is more positive. "Heavens," he exclaims. "You've no idea. Enfield has been important for centuries. Do you remember the Lee ...
Letter from Europe

Szczecin (Poland)

  • 14 Mar 2011
For a spell Swedish, then German (and known as Stettin) and only since 1945 Polish, Szczecin is distant from the hubs of Polish power. Its shipyard workers played a key role in the Solidarity movement of the nineteen-eighties. But the city feels ...
Letter from Europe

Birmingham silences

  • 20 Dec 2010
Head out along the Bristol Road and you get an eyeful of Birmingham's suburbs. Leaky ipods and restive mobiles mix with discarded newspapers and chip wrappers on the upper deck of Bus 61 that runs all the way out to Frankley. An empty Red Bull can ...
Letter from Europe

Winter in eastern Germany

  • 28 Jan 2010
The temperature was still around minus fifteen when we alighted just after midday from the slow train at Grunow. It was a bitterly cold winter morning, sunny and clear, with a numbing east wind. The countryside east of Berlin has a delicate ...
Letter from Europe

Changing horizons for Silvertown (London)

  • 29 Oct 2008
Rathbone Street market in Canning Town, just two stops up the train line from Silvertown, was the furthest most Silvertowners ever ventured. A Saturday special. Pie and mash at Mrs Olley's café followed by ice cream at Murkoff's were Canning Town ...
Letter from Europe

Cultural landscapes in the Veneto

  • 6 Nov 2007
Venice may come with a constellation of superlatives, but head out into the Veneto to find a world apart. The country around Treviso, just a dozen miles inland from Venice, is classic città  diffusa territory. As if in retort to Venice's urban ...