hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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A combination of well-kept parks and elegant buildings make Mariánské Lázně instantly appealing (photo © hidden europe).

Bohemian Waters

Here's a hidden europe briefing for first-time visitors to the Czech spa towns. Often referred to as the spa triangle, north-west Bohemia actually has more than just three spa ...
The main stret in Karolovy Vary, formerly known as Karlsbad (photo © hidden europe).

Russians in Bohemia

Where would the spa towns of Bohemia be without the patronage from the great and good? The Romanov family's enthusiasm for taking the water has encouraged generations of Russians to visit the ...
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).

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 ...
The wooden Roman Catholic church at Marcinkonys, a village in the Dzūkija National Park east of Druskininkai (photo © hidden europe).

Dzukija National Park

Great sand seas seem at home in the Sahara or Namib deserts - or even perhaps on Mars. But in southern Lithuania is a striking sandy landscape shaped largely by the winds. Dzukija National Park is a region of fossil ...
Belle époche paddle steamers ply Lake Geneva, connecting the villages along the lakeshore. Here, the historic steamer ‘La Suisse’ arrives at the station in Cully. The vessel has been in regular service for over 100 years (photo © hidden europe).

Lake Geneva By Boat

From the Bodensee in the north to Lago Maggiore in the south, Swiss lakes are blessed with a wide range of scheduled boat services. We take a look at services which ply the waters of Lake Geneva, serving over two dozen ports across the ...
Ukrainian IC train at Przemysl station bound for Lviv and Kiev (photo © hidden europe).

Lviv Rail Links

News that a new night train, aimed largely at travellers from Ukraine, will link Przemyśl with Berlin from later this year is a sure sign that Ukrainians are making the most of visa-free access to the Schengen group of nations. The new demand for ...
Atlantic Airways Airbus A319 landing at Copenhagen Airport (photo © Jens Fiskbaek / dreamstime.com).

Flights to the Faroes

Are the Faroe Islands perhaps thinking of emulating Iceland's success in attracting North Atlantic stopover traffic? Might travellers a few years hence stop off in the Faroe Islands en route from North America to the European mainland? We take a ...

Reading Matters

Russian Railways (RZD) have launched their Library for Young Travellers programme with a selection of books for kids on trains to holiday destinations across Russia. Hop aboard for fairy tales, classic novels and a wide choice of poetry by Russian ...

In from the Cold

The thrills and spills of top-class soccer are just part of the appeal of the FIFA World Cup. Sport aside, it's been a chance for visitors to feel the warmth of Russian hospitality. An amiable wolf called Zabivaka has been doing his bit to make ...

The Spinetta Report

In the future it may not be so easy to take the slow train from Sospel to Tende. Or from Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes. Jean-Cyril Spinetta's February 2018 report to President Macron is not good news for regional rail routes in France. It may be ...

Off-track

Route 45 in our Europe by Rail book links Sofia with Zagreb via Belgrade and Brod. That's just the route once followed by the Orient Express. It features in both the 1974 and 2017 versions of the film Murder on the Orient Express. But neither film ...

On a Starry Night

To walk in solitude in the company of stars is indeed something special. It's a chance to attend to the beauty of the heavens. In the Austrian village of Großmugl, the 1500-metre long Sternenweg is a gift to ...
A ship grave close to the west coast of the Swedish island of Gotland (photo © hidden europe).

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).

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 ...

Bradt Guide to Serbia

Laurence Mitchell has written a number of Bradt Guides, including titles on Norfolk (where he lives), central Asia and the Balkan region. We have been thumbing through Laurence's latest Bradt book, the 5th edition of his 'Bradt Guide to Serbia', ...
The market square in Torgau, Saxony, with the Rathaus (town hall) on the far side (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...

Rail Travel News

Two new high speed rail routes in France, extra trains through the Alps and new services to Ukraine are the headline stories in the summer 2017 rail timetables. We review what's new and what's ...
Smock mill in West Blatchington, Sussex (photo © Martin Meehan / dreamstime.com).

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 ...
Bruges Embankment in Yoshkar Ola, capital of the Mari El Republic (photo © Artyom Mirniy / dreamstime.com).

Faking Bruges

The legacy of Leonid Markelov, who in April this year stood down from the position of President of the Mari El Republic, lies in the oddball architecture of the republic's capital city of Yoshkar ...
Hostel of the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust (GHHT) at Rhenigidale, North Harris, Scotland (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...
Strasbourg's trams are going international: from April 2017 one of the city's tram lines is being extended across the border into Germany (photo © Sergij Kolesnyk / dreamstime.com).

Taking the Tram

With the success of the Schengen region, local transport links are being extended over international borders. In the coming months, new international tram routes from France to both Germany and Switzerland are due to ...
Tupolev 104 OK-LDC in the Czech border village of Petrovice (photo © hidden europe).

Tale of a Tupolev

Shoppers in the Czech border village of Petrovice are inclined to board a Tupolev 104 airplane when they want a coffee or a snack. Find out why this 60-year-old jet aircraft is a good spot to ...
Visitors to Warsaw can chase the ghosts of the city's Jewish past by exploring the boundaries of the former ghetto (photo © hidden europe).

Out of the Shadows

Władysław Szpilman’s remarkable book The Pianist (made into a film by Roman Polanski) reveals the devastation of Jewish life in Warsaw in 1945. To accompany our feature on Jewish Warsaw we look at the city's Jewish community in the ...

Catholic Oxford

December 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of John Henry Newman's admittance to Trinity College, Oxford. Almost 30 years later (in 1845), Newman was accepted into the Roman Catholic Church. We take a look at Catholic ...

Visa News

A chance to visit Belarus without a visa, and a tweak to the visa regulations in the Russian port of Murmansk are just two of the latest changes to visa regimes in ...
The Neolithic standing stones at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis attest to a long history of human settlement in the Outer Hebrides (photo © hidden europe).

Hebridean Narratives

Peter May's novels set in the Outer Hebrides communicate a strong sense of Hebridean landscapes. May is the latest in a long line of writers who have helped inscribe the islands on the public imagination. We take a look at a number of Hebridean ...
CalMac's MV Loch Alainn (seen here at Eriskay) plies the Sound of Barra (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...
End of the road: Siberia, part of the Lausitz village of Welzow (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...

Bouvet Island

Bouvet Island, at the southern end of the mid-Atlantic ridge, is 1,800 kilometres away from the nearest landmass (Antarctica) and is thus one of the remotest places on earth. The normal jumping off point for expeditions to this fragment of ...

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 ...

Recalling Tito

From Skopje to Moscow, from Sarajevo to New Delhi, the names of roads and squares recall Josep Broz Tito, who was President of Yugoslavia from 1953 until his death in 1980. But what happened to all the Tito towns in former Yugoslavia? Titograd ...

Kosovo travel notes
  

It's perfectly sensible to travel from Budapest to Thessaloniki through Kosovo. But it's unwise to attempt the journey in the reverse direction. Find out why in our notes on travelling through ...

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 ...

Mystical France
  

Scottish publisher Findhorn has always had an eye on the offbeat and alternative. Many travellers place great stock on their Camino pilgrimage guides. Now Findhorn has launched a new guide to France. We dip into the pages of Mystical ...

Scottish ferries
  

The ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has always had a dash of Scottish spirit. But this spring CalMac is facing a challenge with a rival company bidding to take control of the lifeline ferry routes in the Hebrides and Clyde ...

Ukrainian-Russian links
  

The tit-for-tat posturing between Ukraine and Russia benefits no-one trying to travel to and from Crimea - or for that matter anywhere in the border regions between the two countries. In late October 2015, air links between Russia and Ukraine were ...

Pleasure or pain
  

The notion of privation as conductive to more virtuous travel seems alien to the modern mind. Today's travellers search for five-star luxury and often look for a higher level of food, lodging and service that they experience at home. Travel has ...

Mennonite migrants
  

Over 100,000 migrants left Kyrgyzstan in the 1990s, a good number moving to Germany. Many of them were descended from Mennonites who over a century earlier had walked from the steppes of southern Russia to ...

Keeping track
  

It is that time of year when Europe prepares to introduce new train timetables. The 2016 schedules come into effect on Sunday 13 December 2015. As usual, there are winners and losers. We look at some new ...
A German ferry company will operate 22 direct sailings between late July and early October from the island of Helgoland (pictured here) to a city-centre quayside in Hamburg (photo © hidden europe).

Elbe excursions

A new ferry powered by liquefied natural gas will make its first journey from the island of Helgoland to the port of Hamburg this month. It'll be a rare chance to cruise in comfort up the River Elbe to the German port ...

Railway ghosts

Literary ghosts haunt the pages of mid and late 19th-century fiction - from Henry James The Turn of the Screw to Charles Dickens' The Haunted House. One of the spookiest tales of all is Dickens' The Signalman, a fine short story which may have been ...

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 ...
The new European Solidarity Centre in the Polish city of
Gdańsk (photo © Krzysztof Janczewski / dreamstime.com).

Remembering Anna
  

Anna Walentynowicz died five years ago this spring in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of many in the Polish leadership. We recall the woman who was a welder, crane driver and political activist - a woman who quietly helped shape modern ...
This installation on the shores of the Barents Sea recalls witch burnings in Vardø (photo © hidden europe).

The witches of Varanger
  

The 17th-century witchcraft trials in Finnmark are recalled in a striking new memorial on the shores of the Barents Sea. hidden europe visited the memorial which is pictured on the front cover of this issue of hidden ...

Russia’s eternal winter
  

They have fiddled with the clocks in Moscow. Not just in Moscow, but right across the Russian Federation. Russia has decided to move to perpetual winter – at least when it comes to time. For the clocks shall stay henceforth on winter ...

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 ...

Martinmas
  

Martinmas is a day for a fresh start, a chance to turn over a new leaf. A good day for an armistice. And a good day to kick off the Carnival ...

Crimea notes

The Ukrainian railway administration may still be advertising trains to Crimea, but not a lot of Ukrainians will be heading to the region for their summer holidays. Hoteliers in Crimea are having a lean season, but Moscow has plans to ensure that ...

One country, two entities

Several European countries are split on ethnic lines. We see the dramas being out in Ukraine just now. Belgium is even more decisively split, but happily the results are not as fractious. Shift to Bosnia and Herzegovina and we see the great game of ...
100 years old this summer: the funicular railway to the Café Diana in Karlovy Vary (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...

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 ...

Rail timetable reborn
  

The renaissance of the European Rail Timetable (ERT) is good news for rail travellers across the continent. The decision last year by Thomas Cook to scrap the title was a bitter blow. But, thanks to a new company set up by the team that compiled ...

The idea of ‘good’ borders
  

The Curzon Line, which for so long marked the approximate western border of the Soviet Union is named after Lord Curzon. His Lordship has strong ideas on borders, seeing them very much as zones of demarcation. But ideas have changed since Curzon's ...
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).

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 ...
A Palma-bound Ferrocarril de Sóller train at Bunyola on the island of Mallorca (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...

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 ...

The Caucasus dimension
  

Georgians have high hopes for the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Union - a six-month term that started this month. Georgia, like Lithuania, slipped out of the Soviet Union in 1991. The hopes in Tbilisi are that Lithania will open European ...

Hitting the buffers
  

Does the European Rail Timetable, published by Thomas Cook since 1873, have a future with a new publisher? Plans are afoot for the relaunch of a book that has defined horizons for generations of ...

History for sale
  

Many abandoned station buildings in rural Poland are finding new life as private entrepreneurs restore them to their former glory. This spring the Polish authorities are selling off a further tranche of buildings, most of them remarkable pieces of ...

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 ...

Brand power
  

The number of Russians making cross-border journeys into northern Scandinavia to go shopping leapt by over a third last year. They head for small towns in northern Finland and some even continue into Sweden to visit the world's northernmost branch ...

Hartland connections

The parish of Hartland in the north-west corner of Devon is served by no railway lines, and the endless onslaught of winds and waves have destroyed its port. Only the name, Hartland Quay, survives on maps as a reminder of the commerce and trade ...

England and Europe

Given our interests, you might have thought that we'd have pounced on The Smell of the Continent the moment it was published in 2009. The book is a witty and well-researched account of how the English discovered continental Europe in a decades ...

Time check

The second weekend in December sees new rail timetables introduced across Europe. The new schedules see a significant recasting on long distance services in the northern Balkans. Two new international night trains will link Italy with France and ...

The art of marketing
  

We fear that the slow travel tag has been appropriated by writers and publishers who see slow travel as the latest marketing opportunity. Seven years after the launch of hidden europe and three years after the publication of our Manifesto for Slow ...

Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb
  

Nicely multi-ethnic, assertively multi-confessional, the cemetery at Maragoj is a fine spot to fire the imagination of the living. The cemetery in Zagreb's northern suburbs is one of Europe's most evocative burial ...
Elvas in Portugal has just been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (photo © Inacio Pires).

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 ...
The train to nowhere: all that is left of the San Marino railway (photo © hidden europe).

Stranded in San Marino
  

San Marino may no longer have a passenger railway. It does however still have a train, thus marking out San Marino as one of two countries in Europe that have a train but no railway. The surviving train in San Marino is a graceful addition to the ...
Where faith and the sea meet: devotionaland maritime bric-a-brac in La Maison de laBeurière in Boulogne (photo © hidden europe).

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 ...
Rome being reclaimed by the elements on the west coast of Jutland, Denmark (photo © hidden europe).

Ephemeral art
  

There is a remarkable vividness about pieces of art whose days are numbered. Artists like Richard Shilling and Andy Goldsworthy have been keen advocats of what is sometimes called land art. We search for the remnants of last year's sand sculpture ...

Red Star Sofia
  

Whatever happened to the massive five-pointed red star that for many years topped the communist party headquarters in Sofia? For years, it was hidden away in a cellar, but now it greets visitors to a new museum of socialist art in the Bulgarian ...

Better prospects
  

During the 1960s and 70s, trains full of guest workers (or Gastarbeiter as the migrant workers were called in Germany) were a common site arriving in German cities. This autumn marks the fiftieth anniversary of the accord between Turkey and Germany ...

The Russian Federation
  

Kalmykia is the only political unit in Europe where Buddhism is the dominant religion. You think we jest! But it is true. We take a look at some of the lesser known republics within the European part of the Russian ...

Sharing sacred space
  

The clean lines that we think divide religions often become very blurred in the Balkan region. Thus shrines may be claimed as sacred by adherents of more than one religion. We look at the phenomenon of syncretic ...

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 ...

Temple of All Religions
  

Ildar Khanov lives in a temple of his own creation. It boasts a splendid array of minarets and domes that recall many of the world’s principal religions. Not quite what you might expect to find in the suburb of a city in the Russian Federation. But ...

Crossing the lagoon
  

The Stettiner Haff or Szczecin Lagoon is one of Europe's unsung water bodies, a vast area of shallow saline water that is home to many birds. Seasonal ferry services cross the lagoon in the summer months, allowing travellers to explore this remote ...

Girls on the bridge
  

A line of red and green Russian border-posts skirt the Norwegian Parliament building in Oslo. Politicians turn and look, as do casual passers-by. It is a quiet reminder that Norway really does share a common land border with ...
Visa-free visits to St Petersburg are now a reality: the cathedral of St Isaac in the Russian city (photo © Renewer / dreamstime.com).

By ferry to Russia
  

There is one very good reason for travelling by ferry to the Russian city of St Petersburg. For a short stay, ferry travellers are generally exempt from Russia's otherwise strict visa rules. So no surprise perhaps that St Peter Line, which already ...

Sea and Sardinia
  

'There's nothing to see in Nuoro,' wrote DH Lawrence when he and his wife Frieda visited Sardinia in January 1921. 'Happy is the town that has nothing to show,' opined the English writer. We follow the Lawrences on their winter journey by sea to ...

Cruise ferry update
  

Catamarans compete for space with whales and dolphins in the crowded sea lanes off the south coast of Spain. Space is tight in some European waters as more travellers embrace ferry travel and an efficient and relaxing way of getting ...

Sillitoe in Menton
  

Alan Sillitoe's first publications, written during the brief spell that he lived in Menton in France, were travel essays. Sillitoe died in April, having achieved a formidable reputation as a novelist. We take a look at the lesser known side of ...

The Mixdorf maze
  

Full marks to the Ragower Mühle, a mill in the beautiful Schlaube valley near Berlin, for having created what we think is the first maze in Europe explicitly designed with wheelchair users in mind. Would only that the access route through the ...

Top brass
  

The brass band is alive and well in the Faroe Islands and is just one aspect of the varied musical life of the remote North Atlantic archipelago. hidden europe presents a pot pourri of musical notes from the ...

Urban matchmaking
  

Two towns, neither of them well known beyond their local regions. Herten in Germany and Dudley in England. Both are so very similar, that they seem to be places made for each other. Indulge us, while we engage in a little ...

Painted churches
  

The UNESCO World Heritage List features many ornately decorated churches across Europe. The List includes the painted monasteries of southern Bukovina (described elsewhere in this issue), as well as murals on churches in Switzerland, Bulgaria and ...

A Russian diversion
  

The Imperial Russian Standard, with the double-headed eagle so intimately associated with the Romanovs, still hangs in the living room of a wooden lodge on the bank of a river in southern Finland. We visit the former holiday home of the Russian ...
photo © Jostein Hauge / dreamstime.com

Viva football
  

World Cup year! Again! We shall be eagerly following the 2010 Viva World Cup as teams from Padania, Gozo, Lapland, Monaco and other small territories compete for football ...

An immortal mortar
  

It is a little known fact that the entire course of European history has been shaped by mortars and pestles. We unravel a little tale from Venice that highlights why the mortar deserves pride of place in any good culinary ...

Arctic concord
  

Cross-border confidence is the Barents Sea region has this year prompted a raft of new initiatives fascillitating contact between Norway and Russia. hidden europe reports from the town of Kirkenes in northeast ...

All a matter of time
  

How many time zones in mainland Europe? The answer is six. All a matter of astronomy, you might think. And to some extent that is true. But the way we set our clocks is often as much a matter of politics as a respect for ...

Cyprus links
  

A range of new shipping links now gives Cyprus new status as a stepping stone to ports in the eastern Mediterranean. We report on new services from Cyprus to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and ...

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 ...

The island of Gavdos
  

We take a look at one of Europe's remotest outposts. The island of Gavdos is south of Crete in the Libyan Sea. The fact that George Bush and Colin Powell have both visited is a measure of the strategic importance of ...

Norway by plane
  

A small Norwegian airline called Widerøe operates flights into some of Europe's remotest communities. The company's Explore Norway Ticket allows travellers to hop from one small airport to ...

Overnight luxury
  

As we report in railscan, many overnight trains have been axed, but, especially within the CIS countries, there remain a few hidden gems. Ukraine is a good place to ...

Landfall in Iceland

It is difficult to go to Reykjavík without getting a big dose of Icelandic history. Icelanders will proudly tell you the tale of Ingólfur Arnarson who gets a lot of credit all over Iceland for putting the country on the map in the late ninth ...

Under the wires
  

Arriving at Lviv airport recently, the hidden europe team was pleasantly surprised to find that trolleybuses are still a regular sight on the streets of the Ukrainian city. This prompted us to track down Europe's longest trolleybus ...

Hidden charges
  

"taxes, fees and charges extra" say the airline advertisements in tiny print, as they hawk low price flights across Europe. But what is included in taxes, fees and charges? And who levies these ...

Endgame
  

It is World Cup year. Football is everywhere. Even at the very end of Europe, in Azerbaijan, where we run across the tale of a great Azeri football ...

The way to Philadelphia
  

Philadelphia is decidedly un-American! Because this Philadelphia is not the great city on the Delaware river; instead, it lies in a very rural part of eastern Germany, close by the Turkish Mountains and just a stone's throw from New ...

Autobahn affairs
  

Motorways come and motorways go! Yes, some routes really do disappear - like the A862 in Germany. And there are rumours that the days of the M10 in southern England are ...

Unsung Brussels
  

Les Marolles is a place of smoky bars, tiny shops and rich dialects. hidden europe alights from the train at Brussels' Gare La Chapelle to explore the city's most intriguing ...

Turtle notes
  

More on turtles! We like turtles. This time, we report from the Karpas peninsula of northern Cyprus. The waters around the peninsula are home to both green turtles and loggerhead ...

Dice to Europanto?
  

Do you speak Europanto? It's not so hard to learn. To speakare Europanto, tu basta mixare alles wat tu know in extranges linguas. We take a look at one of Europe's lesser known ...

Peace parks

International peace parks that seek to promote conservation across national boundaries while also encouraging cooperation across borders, are becoming increasingly common. Bringing projects like the current plan for a Balkans Peace Park to fruition ...

Squirrel shades
  

Most of Europe has red squirrels. But there are exceptions. In England, squirrels are generally grey - and just occasionally black. We report on the black squirrels of ...

Icons or eyesores
  

Most visitors look to Prague for a feast of Gothic and baroque. But what of the city's modern architecture? Prague boasts what is probably the finest cubist interior anywhere in the world. We visit the Grand Café ...

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 ...

Robocop R BOT 101

R BOT 101 is a robot. He never loses his cool, nor can he be bribed. But otherwise he is much the same as the human police officers who pound the beat in the Russian city of Perm. Meet a Russian electronic ...

International rail tickets

Until May this year, it was perfectly possible to buy a through ticket from continental train stations to London using cross-channel ferries. No more, but a new initative from Railteam offers the prospect of a new generation of through ...

Iskenderun

We stop off at an unusual Turkish port, a place where Melkites and Maronites once lived alongside Jews, Chaldeans and Anglicans. It is as cosmopolitan as ever ...

Alchemy in Brussels
  

The Grand Place in Brussels seem the epitome of peace. But does it house some hidden messages? Some say that a great cosmic tussle finds expression in the architecture. A Masonic tale from the Belgian ...

Crossing the Urals
  

What about the most northerly railway route across the Ural Mountains? Way up north in the Nenets regions, the train to Labytnangi makes the Trans-Siberian route over the Urals seem rather ...

Devoutly Bosnian
  

Supernatural revelation or mere stunt? The small town of Medugorje in western Herzegovina is the focus for some extraordinary devotional antics, as Catholics flock to the mountain valley where the Virgin Mary is said to have ...

Norway transposed
  

There are about two dozen remaining fine examples of Norwegian stave churches. Most are in Norway. But one of the best is, somewhat improbably, in the mountains on the Polish-Czech ...

Train times
  

A good train timetable is a book to cherish. So when the British authorities decided that printing a national train timetable was a waste of time and money, we were distraught. Fortunately, a latter-day Bradshaw has stepped in to fill the ...

Publishers look east
  

Lonely Planet and Rough Guides may be mainstays in the guidebook market, but for more offbeat destinations in Europe, look to Bradt Guides for coverage of places that other publishers just do not ...

Cardinal points

One travel guide claims that Finisterre is the most westerly point on the European mainland. This is in fact wrong, just as other points that lay claim to special status as geographical extremities are often spurious. We map Europe's ...

Worth a detour
  

Many classic guide book publishers, going back to nineteenth century, have used star ratings to grade sights. But is Antibes really only "interesting" and not "worth a ...

Snickelways
  

What were once back streets of iniquity in the English city of York are now important elements in the cityscape - little lanes and alleys that, for those in the know, provide valuable short ...

The heart of nations
  

"We may no longer be officially the centre of England" says a lady in Meriden in the English Midlands. "But we are undoubtedly at the heart of the country." Join us as we ponder on the heart of ...

A dog's life
  

Chtenia: Readings from Russia is a new themed literary journal that features good Russian writing, old and new, in translation. If it lives up to the promise of its first issue, which focuses on canine tales from Russia, it will be a huge ...

The exotic Baltic
  

The best chicken soup this side of the Volga? Look to a Kazakh restaurant in Vilnius! The Baltic States are not just meat and potato country. You'll find exotic restaurants aplenty from Uzbek to Armenian, Georgian to ...

Harefares or hare-brained
  

Route indexing services seem to be all the rage with many new websites offering advice on who flies where, and each claiming to be better than its rivals. Harefares invited us to cast an eye over their website, which they claim is the most complete ...

In praise of birches
  

Pause and listen, in the rustles of a late summer breeze stirring the majestic birch, for an echo of the Russian soul. Russians have a very special relationship with the birch tree. Find out ...

Blessed bread
  

The rituals of religion take a strange turn in the Savoie village of Bramans in the French Alps. We report on the significance of the pain bénit (blessed bread) festival that is held in Bramans on 15 August each ...

Greenland banknotes
  

This autumn the population of Greenland has a referendum that could usher in full self-government for the island nation. Greenland is confidently asserting its very distinctive identity - and a new set of banknotes are just part of the ...

A noble commune
  

If the demeanour and bearing of folk waiting at the bus stop in Velika Gorica looks that little bit more distinguished than in other towns in Croatia, it is merely that there is more blue blood in Velika Gorica than anywhere else in the region. ...

Alpiniøya (Spitsbergen)
  

The name of a tiny island off the coast of Nordaustlandet in Spitzbergen is a tribute to an extraordinary series of expeditions conducted in 1928 by members of the Alpini, the elite mountain brigade of the Italian army. A report from ...

A Polish curiosity
  

To walk through the door of the church is to leave modern Poland and enter a space suffused with exotic incense and the rich iconography of European Orthodoxy. A note on the Polish Orthodox church in Jelenia ...

Latvia's Liv minority
  

A remote coastal area of northern Latvia is at the heart of a modest revival of Liv culture. The Liv community of Latvia have their own language and way of life and are one the Baltic region's most distinctive cultural ...

Pomor visa fiasco
  

Way up north near the Barents Sea, Norway borders onto Russia. The Norwegian port of Kirkenes depends heavily on good links with its Russian hinterland. But all is not well in this Arctic ...

Northern palms
  

Scourie Lodge in northwest Scotland may claim to have the most northerly palm trees in the world, but we think they are wrong. We travel north up the Norwegian coast in search of palm trees that seemingly defy ...

Radishes in Hesselø

As long as the radishes grown on Hesselø remain red and white, so shall the island be forever Danish. At least that is the perspective of one of the island's last remaining residents. Hesselø is a little remnant of Denmark that is coveted by Sweden ...

Shipping news

There are new shipping routes aplenty for the 2009 summer season. We take a look at what's new in the world of European ferries, with many developments in the North Sea, Baltic and Mediterranean ...

Tatra politics

A forgotten incident in the history of the Polish Tatra Mountains invites us to consider whether public access really can be reconciled with conservation objectives in European wilderness ...