hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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A dreich day in Castlebay on Barra in January 2018,with Kisimul Castle in the bay, the MV 'Isle of Lewis' at the quay and the mobile cinema waiting for the crowds (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Reel Fun: Scotland's Mobile Cinema

In the early days of the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks used mobile cinemas as a vehicle for political propaganda. These days, Scotland also has a mobile cinema, but here the purpose is pure entertainment. Everyone smiles when The Screen Machine ...
Old cemetery on Barra's west coast (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Barra connections

  • 16 Jan 2018
Islands breed patience – among both the living and the dead. Especially in mid-winter in Barra, when the storms can be relentless. For us, however, there is a rare pleasure in being at the mercy of the elements. One feels connected with nature in a ...
The rain goose or red-throated diver is often spotted in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (photo © Mikelane45 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

A time for birds

  • 26 Dec 2017
We have had still days over Christmas - even halcyon days for those who know their Greek mythology. It suited the rain geese. The birds are more commonly known as the red-throated diver. Elegant in water, but ungainly on land, the rain goose is ...
A ship grave close to the west coast of the Swedish island of Gotland (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Boat-shaped Graves

Lozenge-shaped graves, fashioned in the form of a ship, are a distinctive element of Bronze Age visual culture on the Baltic island of Gotland. Do these unusual graves, known as 'ship settings' have a deeper cosmological ...
Former fishing station at Grynge on the east coast of the island of Gotland. It is typical of the fishing stations that the roofs abutted onto one another (as seen here at Grynge). That gave more protection against the elements (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Fishing stations

A number of fishing stations around the coasts of the Baltic islands of Fårö and Gotland recall the heyday of the herring trade, when farmers would become fishermen for a few ...
Gorgona island, part of the Tuscan archipelago, is a prison island with a twist (photo © Cellai Stefano / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Gorgona prison island

  • 4 Nov 2017
One of Tuscany's leading winemakers, Lamberto Frescobaldi, works with the prison authorities and the inmates on Gorgona island to produce an outstanding white wine. Gorgona lies in the open seas been the coast of Tuscany and ...
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 ...
James' View, a great base for exploring the island of Barra (photo © hidden europe).
hidden europe note

James' View: a stunning holiday home in Barra

  • 10 Aug 2017
James' View is stunning. You'd barely credit that the building was once no more than a simple Hebridean dwelling. It has been transformed by owners Marion and Will into a very welcoming holiday home on Barra. It makes a perfect base for exploring ...
Hostel of the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust (GHHT) at Rhenigidale, North Harris, Scotland (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Hebridean Hostels

The Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust gives a chance for travellers to stay a while in some of the remotest communities in the Outer Hebrides. Through the work of the Trust, many casual visitors come to love these island communities. The Trust ...
The cover of hidden europe 52 shows the town of Torgau. The scene is dominated by Hartenfels Castle, the one-time residence of the Electors of Saxony (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 52
  

Welcome to hidden europe 52. Much travel writing fuels a shallow approach to travel. Fear of missing out (FEMO) makes travellers roam the globe in haste. There is, we think, a better way of engaging with places and cultures. We prefer to take ...
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 ...
Landing on the beach in Barra. The island's airport is blessed with not one, not two, but three runways (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Notes from a Hebridean island

  • 13 Apr 2017
There is a special dynamic to island life. One meets the same people day after day - but often in different contexts. We bump into people in the most unlikely spots. On the east side of Barra, a number of rocky peninsulas jut out into the Sea of ...
The island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides relies on a lifeline air link with Glasgow. Loganair's Twin Otter aircraft land on the beach at Barra (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Short hops by plane

  • 9 Jan 2017
Short hops by air over water are of course very common, generally relying on non-jet aircraft and providing lifeline air services to island communities around the coasts of Europe. A review of old airline timetables reveals that there used to be ...
The Augustinian abbey on Inchcolm - an island in the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh (photo © Creativehearts / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Buying a Scottish island

  • 1 Dec 2016
Would you ever consider buying an entire island? This autumn has seen a couple of Scottish islands on the market. For a mere two million pounds, you might consider Tanera Mòr, the largest of the Summer Isles just off the coast of north-west ...
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 ...
The crofting settlement of Northton on South Harris in Scotland's Outer Hebrides (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Only Fit For Wild Ducks

Catch the spirit of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides with Gaelic psalm singing at a country church in Lewis or Marian devotions on the Isle of Eriskay. We explore an island archipelago that has a complex mix of landscapes, of which the most distinctive is ...
CalMac's MV Loch Alainn (seen here at Eriskay) plies the Sound of Barra (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

New CalMac Contract

The network of car ferries operated by Caledonian MacBrayne is part of the fabric of island life in Scotland's Western Isles. No trip to the Hebrides is complete without a journey or two on a CalMac ferry. The company has just secured a new ...
A CalMac ferry approaching the jetty in the harbour of Castlebay, Barra (photo © Donaldford / dreamstime.com).
hidden europe note

Armadale to Ardrossan – the slow way

  • 13 Mar 2016
Here is the answer to the Scottish Slow Travel Challenge we posted in the hidden europe Notes section on 19 February. The heart of the challenge was to tell us the latest possible date on which it would be possible to leave Skye in order ...
Explore the Scottish islands and the Clyde coast with Caledonian MacBrayne. A CalMac ferry at Largs in the Firth of Clyde (photo © Robert Flynn / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Ferry links: Britain and Ireland

  • 19 Feb 2016
There is much ado in British and Irish waters these days, with so many very appealing ferry routes, but also a few services slipping from the schedules. In this Letter from Europe, we give an overview of some interesting new ...
The gardens at Alfàbia on the island of Mallorca (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Exploring Alfàbia

  • 12 Dec 2015
We wandered amid bamboo and eucalyptuses, past carob trees and citrus orchards, by pomegranates and myrtle. The gardens at Alfàbia on the island of Mallorca are one of many beautiful places we have visited as part of our work for hidden ...
The coast of Heimaey, the largest island in Iceland’s Vestmannaeyjar archipelago (photo © Milan_tesar / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Amid the waves: Heimaey

The Vestmann archipelago lies off the south coast of Iceland. A ribbon of islands, all of volcanic origin, remind us that here is a part of Europe where landscapes are still rapidly evolving. Surtsey appeared almost overnight in 1963. Phil Dunshea ...
Château d’If with the city of Marseille on the
mainland behind (photo © Dan Talson / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Offshore Provence
  

Sailing east from Marseille along the coast of Provence to the Italian border, there are some two dozen islands, many of which are overlooked by visitors to the region. Climb aboard the hidden europe private yacht (if only!) as we set sail for the ...
Seen from the coast of Laconia, Monemvasía is the perfect island fortress (photo © Duncan JD Smith)
Magazine article

Monemvasía: the Greek Gibraltar
  

In the southern Peloponnese, the island citadel of Monemvasía once enjoyed a key strategic location on major Mediterranean shipping routes. No wonder, therefore, that many have sought to secure control of the rock that is often referred to as 'the ...
The Arctic port of Vardø on Norway's Varanger Peninsula – where the locals are keen to proclaim the merits of cod! (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

The Nansen trail

  • 12 Sep 2014
A recent visit to the Arctic port of Vardø, on an island off the eastern extremity of the Varanger Peninsula, prompts us to reflect on Fridtjof Nansen’s visit to the same place in 1893. Nansen arrived in Vardø on the Fram. It was the ship's last ...
View from Calton Hill over the city of Edinburgh (photo © Shaiith / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Divided Islands and all things Scottish

  • 9 Sep 2014
Just imagine, for a moment, that Scotland really does vote yes to independence next week. Scotland will then become a new nation state, bidding for a place in European league tables of size and status. We reflect on border issues and look at how ...
Letter from Europe

Gozo threads

  • 27 Jun 2014
The island of Gozo, Malta's kid sister, is indeed a sanctuary, a place apart. All the more so during these last days of June when a sequence of Catholic feast days are the cue for village ...
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, ...
Magazine article

A question of numbers
  

'Grey gold' is the term used by Ærø councillor Carl Heide to describe the talented and still-very-active migrants whom he feels can help sustain community life on the Danish island of Ærø. For an island where deaths greatly outnumber births, and ...
The west coast of Bonaire — an island in the Caribbean that is part of the Netherlands — with a view fo the harbour at Kralendijk, the capital city of Bonaire (photo © Lidian Neeleman).
Magazine article

Dollars and cents
  

Three of the 406 municipalities that comprise the Netherlands use a currency other than the euro. Yes, there really are three municipalities where you buy Dutch pancakes with US ...
Church at Bregninge on the Danish island of Ærø (photo © Marieke van der Horst).
Letter from Europe

Springtime on Ærø

  • 7 Mar 2014
Ærø in four words: hilly, hospitable, homely, hyggelig. The Danish island is the place to be at times like this. It is mellow and calm, a small island that wants spring to come sooner rather than later. The hilltops are scattered with ancient ...
Letter from Europe

Into the desert

  • 21 Jan 2014
The monastery on the Isola di San Francesco del Deserto is a place apart, an island retreat in the shallow recesses of the northern lagoon well away from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It is an island where blessed solitude is punctuated by the ...
Letter from Europe

The Orkneys and more

  • 5 Nov 2013
There will be no boat to the remote island of North Ronaldsay this coming Thursday. The ferry from Kirkwall, the main community in the Orkney Islands, runs out to North Ronaldsay just once a week at this time of year - and that on a Friday. So the ...
Like two giant molars that guard access to the mountains: Puig Alaró (left) and Puig de s'Alcadena (right) (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Oriental dreams
  

We explore an Eden which has its apple orchards, running waters and beautiful gardens. There is even a touch of the East about this unlikely Eden. It is only the minarets that are missing on our journey past the silent monastery of Petra to a ...
A Palma-bound Ferrocarril de Sóller train at Bunyola on the island of Mallorca (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

By train to Sóller
  

The jewel in the crown of Mallorca's railways is the delightfully antiquated Ferrocarril de Sóller. Last year, it celebrated 100 years of service. It is just one of three separate railways to serve the Mediterranean ...
Letter from Europe

The Out Skerries

  • 11 Sep 2013
For the Out Skerries in Scotland's Shetland archipelago, the 'Filla' has been a veritable lifeline. This year, she marks thirty years of sterling service to the Skerries community. Launched in 1983, the Filla helped transform life on the Out ...
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 ...
La Seu Cathedral dominates the waterfront of Palma de Mallorca (photo © Elena Zarubina / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Island hopping through the Balearics
  

To understand Menorca and its history, you have to arrive at Maó by ship. There is no better way to do this than by taking the weekly sailing from Palma di Mallorca to Menorca, along the way passing the island where Hannibal was born and another ...
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 ...
The Hilligenlei car ferry arriving at Hallig Hooge (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Life on a mound: visiting Hallig Hooge
  

At the eastern margins of the North Sea, in the shallow waters hard by the German coast, are a series of islands that are seasonally flooded. Human settlement on these islands is a fragile thing. These special islands (called Halligen in German) ...
Letter from Europe

From Sylt to Samoa

  • 1 Jan 2013
We had set our sights on Samoa. But with a fierce storm closing in from the west, we decided instead to make for Zanzibar. Locally, it is the German spelling that prevails: Sansibar. The North Frisian island of Sylt may not seem the most obvious ...
Letter from Europe

The last lepers

  • 23 Nov 2012
On the hills around Vrouhas, giant wind turbines are ambassadors of modernity. Their blades lazily crest the Mediterranean breeze, each languid loop mocking the ancient stone windmills that cluster on the slopes below. The turbines provoke, so ...
Letter from Europe

Flying can still be fun

  • 11 May 2012
Flying has generally ceased to be fun. The only certainty about much modern air travel is that it will be boring. Gone are the days when Dakotas battled against headwinds and made unscheduled landings at rough airstrips in offbeat parts of Europe. ...
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

Sailing to the big island: Mingulay
  

Although the island of Mingulay in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides is long bereft of any inhabitants, it is still an evocative place. Laurence Mitchell, a regular contributor to hidden europe magazine, takes us on a tour of 'The Village' - the remnants ...
Letter from Europe

Escape from Alcúdia

  • 10 Nov 2011
The fast ferry will speed you from Alcúdia to Ciutadella in just an hour. Too fast, perhaps, to really savour the transition between two worlds. Alcúdia has its quiet corners. Choose a sunny spring evening and the ruins of the old Roman theatre can ...
Letter from Europe

Remember, remember

  • 5 Nov 2011
Many English readers will know the rhyme that recalls the failed terrorist action in 1605, when Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators tried to blow up the English Parliament. But the majority of those who gather at bonfires across England ...
Beach at Porto Santo, the second largest island in the Madeira archipelago (photo © Luisafonso / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Porto Santo: a desert island?
  

The North Atlantic island that was once home to Christopher Columbus is a mainstream tourist destination. But that did not stop Europe's media from inventively recreating it as a remote desert island to make a good news ...
Letter from Europe

Polar nights in Spitsbergen

  • 9 Feb 2011
It was unusually warm in Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen this past Sunday. The temperature peaked at minus 7 degrees Celsius. And the jazz helped give Longyearbyen a more temperate ring last weekend as the remote Arctic community, capital of the ...
Letter from Europe

Kicking off the New Year

  • 1 Jan 2011
New Year's Day. Again. Aching heads for those who took their Hogmanay revelries a little too seriously. We slipped into 2011 in a little house on the edge of a heath on one of the North Frisian islands. Yet Estonia awakens today to the euro as its ...
Letter from Europe

Winter arrives in the Baltic

  • 30 Nov 2010
It was just an hour on the train to Putbus, a little community on the Baltic island of Rügen that is impossibly grand for such a remote spot. Just four thousand souls, yet a town so full of aristocratic associations that it seems like a Baltic take ...
The former French hospital on the shore of Fáskrúðsfjörður in eastern Iceland (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Frozen assets: Iceland's eastern fjords
  

The landscape around Egilsstaðir is as desolate as the economy of much of this region. We take time out in Nielsen's, easily the cosiest café in Egilstaðir, to try and understand why folk in some of the townships of eastern Iceland are none too ...
Letter from Europe

Polling day in Iceland

  • 6 Mar 2010
Today is referendum day in Breiðdalsví­k. The town is a ramshackle sort of place on the edge of a bay of the same name. Breiðdalsvík does not really have a lot going for it. It is raw, untamed, an outback town that has something of the feel of the ...
Letter from Europe

The demons of Sylt

  • 1 Jan 2010
Sylt is a place apart. It is one of the most accessible of the North Frisian islands. Frost demons have cast a spell of hard rime over the island these past days. But neither the bitter cold nor the capers of New Year's Eve deter the walkers who ...
Letter from Europe

Airport links

  • 17 Sep 2009
Is not the journey to the airport often one of the great hassles of modern travel? Not all of us can enjoy the relaxed approach taken in the Isle of Man where narrow gauge steam trains pause on request at Ronaldsway Halt, just a short walk from the ...
Magazine article

Kastellórizo
  

we check out Greece's remotest island outpost, a place where the locals and visitors take the boat over to nearby Turkey for the Friday ...
Magazine article

Corvo

Bang in the middle of the Atlantic, equidistant from Lisbon and Newfoundland, the island of Corvo is one of the most isolated European ...
Magazine article

Svalbard links

For travellers with their ice axes and crampons at the ready, Svalbard (Spitsbergen) is about to come a whole lot closer, with a Norwegian budget airlines offering flights in 2008 to the Arctic ...
Magazine article

Calypso's isle: Gozo
  

Don't go to Gozo in the summer. Go in winter. Feel the lash of the grigal as it whips across the island and gaze as the waves churn a dozen rainbow-tinted boats in Mgarr harbour. And then, as the storm abates, watch the pale winter sunshine fall ...
Magazine article

An English Eden: Tresco

Join us as we visit an archipelago of islands in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of England. The Isles of Scilly are a remarkable outpost - lush, verdant and, at their best, almost Caribbean in ...
Letter from Europe

Arabic Sicily

  • 29 Mar 2009
Wander along the Via Porta Palermo in Mazara del Vallo and you might easily think you were in North Africa. The fishing port on the southwest coast of Sicily is an extraordinary spot, a little haven of North Africa in southern Europe. It happens to ...
Letter from Europe

The Isles of Scilly (Tresco)

  • 23 Sep 2008
In the Isles of Scilly, the spectacularly beautiful scatter of islands off the coast of southwest England, equinoctial tides often make for some formidably complicated schedules for the inter-island ferry service. We visit the Isles of Scilly and ...
Letter from Europe

Arrivals in Malta

  • 29 Jun 2008
It has been a busy couple of days in the choppy seas off the south coast of Malta. Military helicopters were out in the early hours of Thursday morning searching for over two dozen migrants from Africa whose boat capsized about forty kilometres ...
Letter from Europe

Helgoland

  • 24 Mar 2008
Despite a biting north wind and some squally showers of sleet and hail, Helgolanders did what they always do on the evening of Easter Saturday: gather just before dusk for the traditional Osterfeuer (Easter fire). Helgoland (often still referred to ...
Letter from Europe

Maltese moments

  • 28 Jan 2008
The English poet Coleridge was not at all keen on Malta. 'The dreariest of all dreary islands,' he wrote in a letter back to his Lakeland home. And Byron is alleged to have described the Maltese capital, Valletta, as memorable mainly for its ...
Letter from Europe

The wandering Arctic Circle

  • 29 Apr 2007
Capital cities are hardly regular hidden europe territory but Stockholm would surely be a firm contender if ever we were pressed to pinpoint our favourite European capital. Others that would certainly make it onto the shortlist would be Luxembourg ...
Letter from Europe

The Shetland Islands

  • 14 Apr 2007
Take Da Böd, a café at Hillswick in Scotland's most northerly island group, the Shetlands. This really is the end of the road, a tiny fleck of a community on the shores of Ura Firth. There was a time when Hillswick was an outpost of the Hanseatic ...
Letter from Europe

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (France)

  • 14 Jul 2006
Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is a little part of Europe outside Europe, territorial outposts of France that speak French and use the euro as their standard currency; they are vestiges of a once rich French presence in North America. With a population ...
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

Cabris (France) - Shetland links

  • 23 Jun 2006
The small hilltop town of Cabris in Alpes-Maritimes is not, we would concede, normal hidden europe territory. Cabris is the archetypal French holiday town, beautiful in the winter season, but a little too crowded on these summer days. That is not ...
Letter from Europe

European lazarets

  • 19 Jun 2006
In more recent centuries, the island of Comino, off the coast of Malta, served as an isolation hospital. The great archipelago off Finland's southwest coast includes the tiny island of Seili, which for over three centuries was a hospital, initially ...
Letter from Europe

Jan Mayen (Norway) - scrimshaw and more in the Azores

  • 4 May 2006
Jan Mayen has no indigenous population, and the twenty or so souls who are on the island at any one time are generally staff of the Norwegian meteorological service or military personnel. This onetime whaling station became a regular stop off point ...
Letter from Europe

The 'other' Channel Islands (France) - the Barents Sea

  • 11 Nov 2005
As always at this time of year, the calm of winter isolation has settled on the Iles Chausey. Most of the population have shuttered up their houses and left Chausey for the mainland. Only the real chausias remain, less than a dozen in number. The ...
Letter from Europe

Saltholm, Denmark - Corsica - Moldova Wine Festival

  • 5 Sep 2005
The upcoming days see a couple of quirky festivals in Corsica, each marking the Catholic feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September. At Lavasina, in Corsica's northeast corner, locals gather on the beach for midnight Mass in honour of the gifted ...
Letter from Europe

Migrants in Lampedusa (Sicily)

  • 23 Jul 2005
The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is generally one of those 'out-of sight, out-of-mind' places, a tiny speck of Italian land that is much closer to Africa than the Italian mainland. Even the Sicilian port of Porto Empédocle is over two hundred ...