hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The Afsluitdijk is a symbol of Dutch engineering ingenuity. It connects Friesland with northern Holland (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

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

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 ...
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

Some journeys are full of ghosts. The 30-minute train ride from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland (or vice versa) is in that vein. For a generation of English travellers arriving in Holland on the boat from Harwich, the journey by train along the north ...
Letter from Europe

Dutch Friesland (or more properly Fryslan) is a world apart from the densely populated parts of Holland where cities rub shoulders with one another. Dutch planners ensure that a strip of open land divides Rotterdam from Den Haag, but one dyke and a ...
Letter from Europe

We map our way around Europe using antique guidebooks, just as we map our way through the year using long-obsolete ecclesiastical calendars. So we are in a small minority of Europeans who happen to know that today, 16 January, was long observed as ...
Letter from Europe

We were surprised to learn recently that the place in the world where you are most likely to experience a tornado is the Netherlands. True, those Dutch twisters don't cause quite the havoc of the big tornadoes that occasionally sweep across the US ...
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

Evidently the world is going to end in 2012. Well, that at least was the suggestion of the young man we met on the train to Franeker, a small town in the ...
Letter from Europe

While some nations have marked Armistice Day today, in many European countries the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month has a very different symbolism. At mid-morning today the Carnival season started. Now Carnival is something ...
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 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 ...