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.

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 ...
The market square in Torgau, Saxony, with the Rathaus (town hall) on the far side (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Lutherstadt Torgau

The renaming of towns to honour an individual is commonplace. Nizhny Novgorod became Gorky, in honour of the Russian writer Maxim Gorki who was born there. The town later switched back to its original name. In eastern Germany, towns have been ...
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 ...
The main street in Clarens, South Africa (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

A Tale of Two Clarens

On the face of it, there is no connection between the Swiss town of Clarens (on the north shore of Lake Geneva) and the South African town of Clarens in the Free State. But the South African town took its name from the eponymous Swiss community. It ...
Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children pose for a photo at the renovated Centre for Co-operation and Integration ‘Fidan Lahu’, funded by the OSCE, at Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje (OSCE / Hasan Sopa).
Magazine article

Balkan identities
  

So you think you know the key ethnic groups in Kosovo? Serbs and Albanians, to be sure. But life on the ground is more complicated. Who are the Gorani? Then there is a trio of ethnic groups who are locally referred to as the RAE community, viz. ...
Magazine article

From Austerlitz to Waterloo
  

So where is the Trafalgar which gave its name to the Battle of Trafalgar? And where is the Blenheim after which Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is supposedly named? We look at a few European place names which feature larger-than-life in the ...
Isaac Titsingh’s plan of the Dutch trading post on Dejima Island drawn up in 1824–1825 (the original is held by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Den Haag).
Magazine article

The bridge to Dejima Island
  

For 200 years, Japan was largely closed to outside influences. But it was not completely isolated, for a small island in Nagasaki Harbour was occupied by Dutch traders. The island was linked by a bridge to the mainland. Cabbages and chocolate, ...
The church at Svanvik asserts Norwegian authority and identity in a region that borders onto Russia (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Borderlands: the Pasvik Valley
  

Few borders divide societies which are so markedly different as the frontier between Norway's easternmost county of Finnmark and Russia's Murmansk Oblast. We take a look at life on both sides of the border in a region which was once a key part of ...
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 ...
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

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 ...
Magazine article

Hidden Istria
  

Istria may be defined by its coastline, but the hinterland warrants a visit too. Rudolf Abraham, co-author of the new Bradt Guide to Istria, invites us to join him in a search for mediaeval frescoes, truffles and an enigmatic pillar of shame. Along ...
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, ...
The shores of Cape Kolka on Latvia’s coast(photo © Dat / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Livonian culture in Latvia: Mazirbe
  

Guest author Toby Screech travels to the heartland of the Livonian minority in Latvia to visit the their annual cultural festival. Not as grand as the main Latvian event in Riga, it is an altogether more intimate affair. And it reveals that the ...
Image © Eti Swinford
Magazine article

Botany in Paradise
  

Iain Bamforth, a first-time contributor to hidden europe, wanders through the fruit markets of his home town of Strasbourg and reflects on apples and apricots, persimmons and pomegranates. Join us on a botanical tour of ...
Magazine article

From Waterlitz to Austerloo
  

Did you know you can take the train to Brathlavstan or fly to MaastrAachen? The portmanteau title of Daniela-Carmen Crasnaru’s 1998 poetry anthology Austerloo prompts us to reflect on portmanteau terms in European ...
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 ...
Magazine article

A matter of letters: Belarusian

The complex story of the Belarusian language and its flexible deployment of three different alphabets deserves to the better known. Early Belarusian texts in the Arabic script (called kitabs) are a remarkable part of Europe's cultural ...
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

Belgian border business: Moresnet

The easternmost parts of Belgium are home to a linguistic minority that rarely gets a mention in the Flemish-Walloon debate. For here the lingua franca is German. The border region is full of curiosities as we find when we visit Moresnet and the ...
Magazine article

Know your gentilics
  

Lesbians don't necessarily come from Lesbos, not everyone from Bohemia is bohemian, and Alsatians are generally dogs. A letter to the editors from a hidden europe reader prompts a few thoughts on the knotty issue of ...
Letter from Europe

Tito toponyms

  • 28 Sep 2008
The cult status surrounding Josip Broz Tito, the onetime president of Yugoslavia, shows no sign of diminishing almost thirty years after his death. The capital of Montenegro, Podgorica, was until 1992 called Titograd. And we report from the extreme ...
Letter from Europe

South Jutland (Denmark)

  • 7 Sep 2008
Visit Jutland in Denmark and listen out for the local dialect, Sønderjysk or South Jutlandic, which some in the region feel should have the status of a minority language. In some schools in this part of Denmark, Sønderjysk is part of the regular ...
Letter from Europe

Zeeland comforts

  • 23 Mar 2007
The North Sea littoral of the Netherlands is another fine part of Europe for big skies. Just think of van Ruisdael's pictures of his native Haarlem; all those cumulus clouds that seem to go on for ever. One gets a hint of the skyscapes of those old ...
Letter from Europe

Periprava (Romania)

  • 8 Dec 2006
Romania's poetic tradition is remarkably distinguished, and yet rarely acknowledged outside its country of origin. But even for those disinclined to learn Romanian, there is some fine work waiting to be found in translation - from Mihai Eminescu to ...
Letter from Europe

European Day of Languages 2006

  • 26 Sep 2006
Language is one of those assets we take for granted. We speak it! Most of us somehow learn to get by in one or two other languages beyond our mother tongue. And occasionally we run across folk on our travels who have not had the chance to practice, ...
Letter from Europe

Swedish Lapland - racism in Russia - a tale of two ships

  • 16 Jan 2006
Minority language radio broadcasting takes a step forward in Sweden today, when a new dedicated Sámi language radio station hits the airwaves in the Lapland region of northern Sweden. The Sámi minority has always benefitted from some local language ...