hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The birthplace of Karl Marx in Trier, Germany, which houses a museum on the life of the German philosopher (photo © Matyas Rehak / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. He was born in the town of Trier in the Moselle Valley, a place which these days seems so sedate as to be entirely devoid of revolutionary potential. But Marx had sensitive political antennae and, ...
photo © Joshua Wanyama / dreamstime.com
Letter from Europe

Winter skating on the River Doubs, which marks the frontier between France and Switzerland, is a common seasonal pastime in the Jura region. As Switzerland and France are both party to the Schengen Agreement, this is a classic "soft" border, one ...
The Champs de Mars in Paris, site of the 1867 World Fair (photo © Freesurf69 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

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 ...
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

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 ...
Private Italian operator NTV Italo offers a new weekend service from Milan to Rimini this summer (photo © Eqroy8 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

New summer train timetables kick in across Europe this month, ushering in many new rail links and interesting changes in rail services across the ...
A classic piece of communist architecture: on its completion in 1952, the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment building on the Moskva River in Moscow was the tallest building in Europe (photo © Leonid Andronov / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Today's Letter from Europe reviews the contents of hidden europe 48. Publication of this new issue of the travel magazine is 15 March 2016. Copies are already available for ...
The Ile de Bendor seen from the coast at Bandol, France (photo © Bunyos / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

It's hard to say no to pastis. Especially on the island of Bendor, off the south coast of France, where pastis is the preferred drink at almost any time of day. If you are really bold, you can get away with ordering a glass of the local Bandol ...
Letter from Europe

75 years ago this week, Hitler was on the move. Within just a few days, the Führer's train was in north-west France, in the Basque region and in Tuscany. But this was no holiday. On 23 October 1940, Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye. It was the ...
Letter from Europe

Stanislaw Leszczynski, or King Stanislaw, lost the throne of Poland (twice as it happens), but was compensated by being awarded territory in eastern France. Thus it was that in 1735 the town of Bar-le-Duc found itself welcoming a Polish king who ...
Letter from Europe

In some parts of Europe, 27 June is marked as the day of the Seven Sleepers. In Germany, the weather on Siebenschläfer is seen as indicative of what sort of summer we can expect. Stable weather on 27 June bodes well for the weeks ahead. But wild ...
London's new gateway to the Mediterranean: new direct Eurostar service from St Pancras to Marseille starts on 1 May 2015 (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

If you visit St Pancras tomorrow morning, cast your eye over the departure boards. For at 07.19 tomorrow morning something remarkable will happen. The first ever scheduled passenger train will leave London for the shores of the Mediterranean: the ...
Letter from Europe

It was 50 years ago that Salvador Dalí completed his celebrated La Gare de Perpignan. It is a huge oil painting which now hangs in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It celebrates Perpignan as the very centre of the ...
Letter from Europe

It is the season for shadows. No other week in the ecclesiastical calendar comes with such a hefty dose of liturgical theatre as that which concludes with Easter. It is a week which has its highs and lows, its exuberant periods of light balanced by ...
Eurostar trains waiting at the platforms at St Pancras station in London (photo © MorganOliver / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

It is that time of year when rail companies across Europe tweak their schedules for the upcoming summer season. Here's an overview of some of the noteworthy changes for this ...
Letter from Europe

A new issue of hidden europe is published tomorrow. Not just any issue of hidden europe, but one which marks our tenth birthday. Yes, it was way back in March 2005 that we published the first-ever issue of the magazine. For ten years, we have been ...
Letter from Europe

Clervaux has to endure being forever confused with the French town of Clairvaux. No surprise, perhaps, as the town in Luxembourg has a monastery just like its near-namesake in France. Yet the big draw in Clervaux is photography. And while Clairvaux ...
Letter from Europe

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

Four weeks from today much of Europe will awaken to new train timetables. Each year in December, new schedules come into effect across the continent. The big day this year is Sunday 14 December. We take look at a dozen positive developments worth ...
Letter from Europe

We sped from London to Brussels at lunchtime on Friday, swapping a pleasant English summer day for sultry Belgium — pausing along the way at Calais. There is always a little frisson of excitement on those rare Eurostars which stop at Calais. ...
Letter from Europe

Cast back 150 years, and Bastille Day came and went without the average Parisian taking much notice. It was not till 1880 that 14 July acquired the status of a national holiday. Thus when Miss Jemima Morrell wandered the streets of Paris on 14 July ...
Letter from Europe

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 ...
Letter from Europe

I like the 11.31. It departs at a civilised time. While others slip into communion with their laptops and smartphones, I watch. We glide gently out of St Pancras. As the track curves to the east, eyes right for a view back over St Pancras - one of ...
Letter from Europe

Those looking to depart from convention in Paris usually head for the left bank. No-one goes to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées (on the right bank) looking for revolution. But cast back one hundred years this month and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées ...
Letter from Europe

It is Good Friday again, a day that jolts much of Europe out of its regular routine. It is a day for pilgrimages - some avowedly secular, others more religious in character. Large crowds from the Saarland region of Germany will flock over the ...
Letter from Europe

Just think how good it would be if you could board a train in Milan and wake up next morning in Manchester. Forty years ago this spring, civil servants in London and European rail planners were sketching out the first tentative ideas for just such ...
Letter from Europe

The departure boards at London's St Pancras station are regaining their eclectic character of yesteryear. Cast back half a century and St Pancras had its share of trains to fire the imagination. Perhaps the most distinguished morning departure from ...
Letter from Europe

The stretch of coast north from Boulogne (in the direction of Calais) is a good place to reflect on England. We took a local bus along the coastal road last month, and it made for a fine ride on a perfectly clear, crisp winter day. Beach ...
Letter from Europe

Remember the ash cloud in 2010? It had a silver lining in making stranded travellers think creatively about the journeys they wanted or needed to make. And similarly with the seasonal doses of wintry weather that play havoc with rail schedules ...
Letter from Europe

The news this week, widely reported in Europe's media, that French glaciers are on the retreat prompts us to reflect on glaciers around mainland Europe. It is of course no surprise that Europe's permanent areas of snow and ice are threatened by our ...
Letter from Europe

There is much talk today about how we live in a new age of the train, and that many journeys around Europe are now much more sensibly undertaken by rail rather than air. Only too true, but such rhetoric does imply that rail travel in Europe was ...
Letter from Europe

Come on, grab your camera and join us as we explore one or two spots along the coast this Easter morning. It is a stunning spring day, the blue waters of the Mediterranean seem an even deeper blue than yesterday, and the air is so clear that we'll ...
Letter from Europe

A few days ago, we sped from London to Paris on Eurostar, a journey of some five hundred kilometres, in little over two hours. It is very fast, and always leaves us feeling just a little bit breathless. So on arrival in Paris we went as always to ...
Letter from Europe

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

Boulogne has always knocked spots off Calais as a port-of-entry into France. The city has a particularly attractive Ville Haute (Upper Town). But sadly, not a lot of travellers from England will be visiting Boulogne this winter, for today sees the ...
Letter from Europe

Albi, Downe, Bikini Atoll and the Putorana Plateau are all in competition with each other next week as UNESCO gears up to announce a new round of World Heritage Sites. Securing a place on the World Heritage List can lead to a big boost in tourism ...
Letter from Europe

A name seen or heard out of context can be a powerful provocation. Travelling through the hinterland of Munich a while back, our train paused at Dachau. At one level this was just one more railway station serving commuters in a rather overcrowded ...
Letter from Europe

The long-standing English infatuation with the French Riviera has been well documented, but much less has been written about English affections for the coast of Liguria. Yet the influence of the Hanbury family, and other English settlers in this ...
Letter from Europe

Are not the finest parts of many long train journeys those fleeting glimpses of a city or a country that you get just prior to arrival at your destination? There is a superb moment on the train journey through Slovakia towards Budapest, a view ...
Letter from Europe

"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 ...
Letter from Europe

Catamarans are in the news. Spanish operator Transcoma this week launches its new fast catamaran service between Gibraltar and the Spanish port of Algeciras and in the English Channel the Euroferries saga ...
Letter from Europe

The French TGV train is nothing new, but the afternoon service from Strasbourg to Paris last Thursday happened to feature the very engines that two years ago broke the world rail speed record. Back in April 2007, the specially modified train ...
Letter from Europe

The River Lauter bubbles happily through the town, nature is taking possession again of ancient ramparts where once the French kept watch for invaders and now this border town is a favoured destination for day trippers from Germany. But for me ...
Letter from Europe

When the Austrian-Jewish author Joseph Roth was born in Brody in 1894, the town was a Jewish shtetl in Galicia on the eastern edge of the K and K empire - a place beyond which Viennese influence gave way to more tsarist sentiments. Joseph Roth ...
Letter from Europe

Calais' modern port is a model of efficiency. We travelled with P&O Ferries across the Dover Strait, enjoying the considerable comforts on board the Pride of Burgundy. Channel crossing by boat can be a great ...
Letter from Europe

The benefits of having open borders across most of Europe are beginning to influence the pattern of weekend excursions made by Europeans living or taking holidays in frontier areas. The burden of having to show a passport at a border was never an ...
Letter from Europe

The main highway that skirts the northern fringes of Thessaloníki is no place to linger. Summer has come early to northern Greece this year, and several warm sunny days with still air have left a hazy pall of pollution over Thessaloníki. But the ...
Letter from Europe

Mid-morning saw hidden europe on the train that trundled west from Breckland across to the Fens. When the late eighteenth-century author William Gilpin travelled through Norfolk and Suffolk, he described Breckland as "an absolute desert" - this ...
Letter from Europe

In the heart of the Pyrenees, just to the east of Andorra, lies a great depression in the mountains that is a sunny oasis of fertile soils in an otherwise rather wild region. It is known as Cerdanya on the Spanish side and Cerdagne on the French ...
Letter from Europe

It is years since the blue and white sleeping cars of Russian Railways (RZD) have been seen in the Netherlands, Switzerland or Bavaria but all three look set to feature on a daily basis in the RZD schedules for 2008. A major revamping of east-west ...
Letter from Europe

The land around the Cabo de Gata really does include many classic elements of desert terrain: a nice volcanic mesa, little alluvial fans and of course sand dunes. It is a landscape that has stood in for both the American West and the Middle East on ...
Letter from Europe

At five o'clock tomorrow afternoon, the concourse at Paris Gare de L'Est will surely be as crowded as ever it is on a busy Friday. Passengers will rush through the magnificent railway station booking hall, scarcely noticing the amazing painting ...
Letter from Europe

To drive the main coastal road west from the French-Italian border along France's Riviera coast is an essay in chic exclusivity: Antibes, Cannes, Ste-Maxime and so on. Not quite hidden europe territory. Most travellers speed through Port Grimaud at ...
Letter from Europe

Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The old town of Tocco Caudio in southern Italy was abandoned after an earthquake in the 1980s, as was Poggioreale in western Sicily a few years ...
Letter from Europe

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

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

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

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 ...