Articles tagged:

Borders

Magazine article

Saint-Gingolph

by hidden europe

Why would I eat lunch on the Swiss side when a well-cooked plate of perch from Lake Geneva costs so much less in France? We visit Saint-Gingolph, a lakeshore village divided by an international frontier.

Magazine article

Bulgaria: cross-border links with Romania

by hidden europe

The Danube marks the shared border between Romania and Bulgaria. But, with just two bridges crossing the Danube to link the two countries, the Danube also separates Bulgaria and Romania. New ferries are however forging new connections.

Magazine article

Winter reading

by Nicky Gardner

Discover three fine books for winter reading. We delve into the first English-language biography of Joseph Roth, find Iain’s Bamforth new collection of essays is full of zest and follow Vitali Vitaliev on a romp across and along some of the world’s most curious borders.

Magazine article

The Athus factor

by hidden europe

Never heard of Athus? It's a small town in south-east Belgium through which you must route if you wish to travel by train from London to Poland's Baltic coast for just €120 return.

Magazine article

City of the Golden Fleece: Batumi, Georgia

by Laurence Mitchell

Glitzy casinos and gilded statues tell of Batumi's ambitions to become the Dubai of the Black Sea. But the Georgian city curates an important cultural legacy as the supposed home of the Golden Fleece. Guest contributor Laurence Mitchell slips over the border from Turkey into Georgia to explore Batumi.

Magazine article

Promoting Europe: the Connecting Europe Express

On 7 October 2021, a train from Lisbon arrived in Paris. The journey from the Portuguese capital had taken five weeks. The Connecting Europe Express was no ordinary train, but one which recalled the fine tradition of agit-prop trains which 100 years ago criss-crossed Russia to spread the Bolshevik message.

Magazine article

Allegro speculations

by hidden europe

No rail operator’s international operations were more brutally affected by the pandemic that those of RZD Russian Railways. Links from Russia to fourteen other European countries were suspended in March 2020, and none of those regular passenger services have yet been restored.

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Being amber

Being amber brings special privileges. The ‘reds’ are escorted by security personnel to a quarantine hotel. We ambers have it easy. We can make our own way to an agreed isolation address. And it's the theme of isolation that is very much present in the new issue of hidden europe magazine, which is published this week and is already available for sale.

Magazine article

Where Europe meets Asia

by hidden europe

Pull off the main highway just west of Ekaterinburg and you'll find a fairly new monument that purports to mark the border between Asia and Europe. The design recalls the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a nice reminder that Ekaterinburg iron was used to construct the Paris landmark.

Magazine article

Beating the border: the Catholic dioceses of the island of Ireland

by Nicky Gardner

The boundaries of ecclesiastical provinces, dioceses and parishes often show scant regard for secular administrative boundaries. We discover a French Roman Catholic diocese where the bishop’s pastoral responsibilities extend to parishes on both sides of the Atlantic. And in Ireland we see how, since the UK left the European Union in early 2020, there are now Catholic parishes which are bisected by the outer edge of the EU.

Magazine article

The D'Annunzio affair: remembering the Free State of Fiume

by Nicky Gardner

Gabriele D’Annunzio was an aviator, poet, playwright and populist who in his manner presciently anticipated the current crop of populist leaders. His ‘invasion’ of the Adriatic city of Fiume in 1919 precipitated an international crisis. One hundred years ago, in autumn 1920, the newly created League of Nations endeavoured to defuse tensions by creating the Free State of Fiume.

Blog post

A Four-Hour Train Journey for one Euro

Over the years we’ve tracked down many great-value international rail fares. We once wrote about the City Star tariff which offered extraordinarily cheap fares from Slovakia to Russia. But there is one cross-border fare in western Europe that even beats that. Have a guess where that might be.

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Just South of Bratislava

The tripoint where Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria converged was for years a no-go area. These days, you can enjoy a cross-border picnic at the very spot where the frontiers of Austria, Slovakia and Hungary meet. It’s across the fields to the east of Deutsch Jahrndorf in an area of Austria with a long-standing Croatian minority.

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Anxious Days

You are most likely, as we are, staying close to home. We have time to ponder. And that itself can be a very positive thing. Rest assured that we'll continue to reflect European lives and landscapes with our regular Letter from Europe, ever aware that in times of social distancing and self-imposed isolation it is often good to get a glimpse of life elsewhere.

Magazine article

Island Summit

by hidden europe

In October 2003, there was an unlikely standoff between Russia and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait. The status of Tuzla Island had been the subject of discussions between the presidents of the two countries just five weeks earlier.

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Visa changes: Russia and Belarus

As the United Kingdom tightens its entrance requirements, the progressive relaxation of visa regimes elsewhere in Europe is of course very welcome. In this Letter from Europe, we look at changes in visa regulations relating to Russia and Belarus.

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The Hungarian Town of Sopron

Sopron is one of those places with a sense of being in the heart of Europe. One hundred years ago, this small town in western Hungary was much in the news. Few places were so shaken by the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It's a thought we contemplate during our journey by train from Berlin to Sopron.

Magazine article

Boundary Lakes

by hidden europe
A whistle-stop tour of some of Europe's trans-boundary water bodies, from Lake Peipus to Lake Prespa and beyond.
Magazine article

Drawing a Line in the Water: The Caspian Sea

by Nicky Gardner
Is the Caspian a sea or a lake? Aristotle averred it was certainly a lake. Pliny and Strabo suggested it was a sea. No other trans-boundary body of water throws up quite the same issues as the Caspian. We take a look at international frontiers that bisect lakes (or seas!).
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The Curonian Spit

For much of its length, the Curonian Spit is about two to three kilometres wide; at points it narrows to just a few hundred metres. The sea is never far away. There is a real sense of being on the very edge of Europe. Yet, for all its remoteness, the landscape is deeply influenced by human intervention.

Magazine article

Corridor Trains

by Nicky Gardner

Corridor trains (Korridorzüge in German) have a privileged status in international law which makes provision for the trains of one country to transit another country's territory without onerous bureaucracy and border checks. With the fading of borders in Europe, the corridor train is no longer as important as once it was. We look at some examples of corridor trains past and present.

Magazine article

The Mingrelian Question

by Karlos Zurutuza
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 on the north shore of the Black Sea which has for a quarter of a century asserted its status as an independent state.
Magazine article

Peaks of the Balkans: Discovering the Lhasa of Europe

by Rudolf Abraham
The Peaks of the Balkans trail is a long-distance hiking route, in the shape of a figure-of-eight, which takes in some of the finest mountain terrain in northern Albania and adjacent parts of Kosovo and Montenegro. Rudolf Abraham describes how the trail opens up international frontiers in a region where crossing borders was until recently rarely easy.
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Mind the ice

There was talk, as we all waited to leave the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland in Harwich, as to whether there would be any trains. "It was like the blitz here last week," said one woman, who had evidently escaped the wild English weather by taking a weekend break in Rotterdam.

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Winter games on a soft border

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 which people can freely move across without let or hindrance.

Magazine article

Taking the Tram

by hidden europe
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 open.
Magazine article

Tale of a Tupolev

by hidden europe
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 relax.
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Saarland, January 1957

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 is a part of Europe where international borders have faded.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 50

by hidden europe

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 celebrate the diversity of our home continent.

Magazine article

Exploring the Ore Mountains

by hidden europe
The Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) offer excellent possibilities for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing. But even less energetic visitors can reach remote communities in the region by local bus and train services.
Magazine article

Visa News

by hidden europe
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 Europe.
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After the referendum

For millions of Brits of my generation, the EU gave an exit route, a chance to escape. It gave me a chance to feel truly European, to be truly European. It has given me the opportunity to explore other languages, other faiths, other freedoms, that would simply never have come my way.

Magazine article

Kosovo travel notes

by hidden europe

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 Kosovo.

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The inner-German border at Schnackenburg

The village of Schnackenburg is on the south side of the Elbe right on the erstwhile border between East and West Germany. It is a place which has lived by borders and died by borders. It is an interesting case of a community which lost out in German unification.

Magazine article

Eastern connections: rail links through Ukraine

by Nicky Gardner

At a very practical level, the difficult relations between Russia and Ukraine - and in particular their competing interests in Crimea - is playing itself out in train timetables. No trains have run from Ukraine's Kherson Oblast into Crimea for almost a year now. But the effects of the conflict have been felt much further afield, with rail services from Moscow to the Balkans being disrupted.

Magazine article

Slow train to Sarajevo

by Nicky Gardner

Twenty years ago this autumn, the Dayton Peace Accord brought a measure of peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Join us as we take the train from Zagreb to Sarajevo, travelling through a region which still bears the scars of war.

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No train to Poland

The decision 170 years ago to build a great viaduct across the Neisse Valley was a visionary leap. Now that elegant structure needs a dose of 21st-century vision. Because what use is a graceful viaduct if it doesn't have any trains?

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Liberland: Bring your wellies

Have you applied for Liberland citizenship yet? Probably not. Though by all accounts lots of folk have been begging the Liberland government to give them passports.Liberland may yet turn out to be merely a publicity stunt, but President Jedlicka seems to take himself seriously.

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A grand tour of 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 quietly exploring our home continent, reporting on cultures and communities that seem to us worthy of note.

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From the Barents Sea to Gagauzia

The ebb and flow of life in Brussels, London and Paris is well covered in mainstream media. We have instead opted for the road less travelled. hidden europe 44, which is published today, carries reports from offbeat and unsung communities right across Europe.

Magazine article

Borderlands: the Pasvik Valley

by Nicky Gardner

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 the Sami homeland.

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The beauty of Berlin

In the third and last of three pieces to mark the 25th anniversary of the dramatic events of November 1989 in Berlin, the editors of hidden europe reflect on the special qualities that mark their home city.

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Eastern senses

With the approaching 25th anniversary of the East German government's decision to relax restrictions on its borders, you'll surely be hearing a lot about Berlin over the coming weeks. We have our own recollections of the German Democratic Republic, many of which focus on the prosaic details of everyday life.

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Divided Islands and all things Scottish

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 Scotland stacks up against other European countries in terms of landmass and population size.

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Tales from Titovka

Everyone stops at Titovka sooner or later. That's the way things are up here in the far north-west corner of Russia. The Titovka roadside café is on the highway that runs west from Murmansk towards the mining towns of Zapolyarny and Nikel.

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Letter from Africa: Doing okay, Mama

Last month, hidden europe co-editor Nicky Gardner visited South Africa and adjacent countries. For a change we look beyond Europe, joining Nicky as she mills with the late afternoon commuter crowds at the main railway station in Johannesburg.

Magazine article

Cross-border links in the Carpathians

by Nicky Gardner

New cross-border roads have enhanced communications across the Polish-Slovakian border, two countries which have greatly benefited from becoming part of the Schengen region. The new roads are good news for private motorists, but those who rely on public transport are mourning the demise of cross-border rail routes in the same region.

Magazine article

A village torn in two: Slemence

by Nicky Gardner

The fall of the Berlin Wall was way back in 1989. But the community of Slemence remained divided until 2005. For sixty years, there was no link between the two halves of the village which lies astride the border between Ukraine and Slovakia. A new crossing point for pedestrians has eased the situation, allowing renewed contact between the two parts of the village. We take a walk through one of Europe's most unusual villages.

Magazine article

Divided loyalties: Jungholz

by Nicky Gardner

The village of Jungholz lies at an altitude of just over 1000 metres in the Alps. At this time of years, the Alpine meadows are full of wild flowers. So Jungholz is a pretty spot. But it is also exceptional in that it is a diamond-shaped piece of Austrian territory that has, bar for one point at the southernmost point of the diamond, no connection with the rest of Austria.

Magazine article

One country, two entities

by hidden europe

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 nationhood played out in a peculiarly schizophrenic way. We unpick the puzzle behind a country that has two "entities".

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The Carpathian spirit

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." In the rural valleys on the south side of the Bieszczady Mountains, territory which is part of Slovakia, you might catch this Sunday's special greeting uttered in Rusyn.

Magazine article

By the razor’s edge: western Poland

by Nicky Gardner

The Polish village of Siekierki on the east bank of the River Odra is a good spot to reflect on European borders. We visit the Western Territories, the area ceded by Germany to Poland at the end of the Second World War.

Magazine article

The idea of ‘good’ borders

by hidden europe

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 day. Across much of Europe, they have become invitations for communities on either side to collaborate.

Magazine article

Into the hills: a Bohemian diversion

by Nicky Gardner

Of course one can speed across Europe on sleek, fast trains. But slow trains, the kind that dawdle along branch lines, are so much more interesting. We ride a rural rail route in northern Bohemia, where fading railway stations reveal a Habsburg history. Join us on the slow train to Dolni Poustevna.

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The storm

It is one of those wild sulphurous days, and the bare heath beats to the roar of the winds. The storm sweeps in from the west. The drenched heath lies low. And it survives the fierce onslaught. The forest at Froeslev is less fortunate.

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Hemingway in Hemmeres

Folk in Hemmeres make the point that theirs was the first village east of the River Our in which the Americans set foot. The truth is that several patrols made forays over the river on the evening of 11 September 1944. And it was on the railway embankment that Ernest Hemingway stood to observe the American invasion of Germany in the closing months of the Second World War.

Magazine article

New ports for the Far North

by Nicky Gardner

The harbour front at Kirkenes could be transformed if the Norwegian port became a major transit point for freight to and from Russia. The key to this happening is getting Russian-gauge railway tracks to Kirkenes. But other ports in northern Norway are also developing similar plans. We look at the politics of laying tracks across frontiers.

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Lastovo (Croatia)

The little port at the south-west corner of the island of Lastovo has a hangdog sort of feel. Long before sunrise today, there was the usual morning bustle around the pier at Ubli as folk gathered for the 4.30 am ferry back to Split. During the few night-time hours that the ferry rested at the quayside at Ubli, something changed quite irrevocably on the island of Lastovo.

Magazine article

The ghost of Beeching

by Nicky Gardner

Is cutting public transport links in rural areas and across its borders really the right way for Croatia to gear up to join the European Union this summer? We look at how the pieties of the market are playing havoc with rail services in the north Balkan region.

Magazine article

Brand power

by hidden europe

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 of IKEA.

Magazine article

To Heaven's Gate: Journeys of the mind

by Nicky Gardner

The journeys never made are sometimes more deeply inscribed on the imagination than those actually undertaken. hidden europe co-editor Nicky Gardner reflects on the night train from Schwerin, a train that somehow she never quite managed to ride before it disappeared from the timetables.

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200 years of summer holidays

The thrice-daily local bus service from Altenberg to Teplice is a blessing for cross-border travellers. The bus crosses the mountains that define the border between Saxony and Bohemia. When we rode this route last Thursday, there were just five passengers on the lunchtime bus. The half-hour journey rolls back through two hundred years of history and is a link between two worlds.

Magazine article

Swiss connections: the city of Basel

by Nicky Gardner

The station departure boards at Basel are nowadays not quite so exotic as once they were. True there's still the occasional train to Minsk and Moscow, but no longer are there direct trains to Spain, Romania and England. Yet Basel's Swiss and French stations still ooze character. We follow Russian spies to the home city of Carl Gustav Jung.

Magazine article

The Schengen factor

by Nicky Gardner

Schengen is more than just a village on the banks of the River Moselle in Luxembourg. The Schengen programme of free movement across borders helps shape modern Europe geographies. It explains why trains now rumble by night through Hodos and why travellers can no longer enjoy the creatures comforts of night sleepers from England to the continent.

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Alpine accents

We have been exploring the northern ranges of the Alps this past week, criss-crossing the international border that separates the German State of Bavaria from the Austrian Tyrol. Like many of Europe's borders, this particular frontier has been pretty fluid and there are still some lovely geographical peculiarities.

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Across the Dardanelles

Çanakkale is a mere dot on the map, but mere dots in distant lands so often turn out to be bustling cities. And thus it is with Çanakkale, a seaport and fortress town on the east side of the Dardanelles. Çanakkale is a community of more than 100,000 people. Choose your vantage point on the waterfront with care, and you will be rewarded with fine views across the water to the great fortress at Kilitbahir across the west side of the Dardanelles.

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Polish mysteries

We crossed the River Odra four times. And four times I gazed down at the river's wine-dark waters from the train, watching the waters swirling under bridges, swirling through history. We stopped on a level crossing, inconveniencing no-one, for cars there were none. But that was a fine moment, sunshine tussling with midday mist and for once getting the upper hand.

Magazine article

In the days of prosperity

by Nicky Gardner

The River Narva marks one of Europe's more conspicuous frontiers: that between the European Union (and the Schengen area) to the west and the Russian Federation to the east. But cultures do not always respect borders and in a visit to Narva, on the Estonian bank of the river, we encounter a city that is very Russian in demeanour.

Magazine article

Shaping socialist history: Tampere

by Nicky Gardner

Lenin's promise that Finland would be granted her independence after the Bolshevik Revolution was first made in Tampere. This Finnish city has a fine industrial and political heritage, as we discover when we visit a museum devoted to the life and work of Lenin.

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Beyond the Wall

Prosaic places are so often the most interesting spots. And Lichterfelde ranks as decidedly prosaic. None of the main English-language guidebooks to Berlin so much as mention the suburb where we live and work. Tourists do not flock to Lichterfelde to see the great sights of a community that, fifty years ago today, awoke to find that the local train service had been disrupted by the closing of the border between East Germany and West Berlin.

Magazine article

Songlands: a Karelian journey

by Nicky Gardner

Karelia is the land of the Kalevala, the great epic poem that so powerfully influenced the development of the Finnish national movement in the nineteenth century. We travel through the songlands of the Kalevala and look in particular at the role of Orthodox religion in Karelia and more widely in Finland.

Magazine article

The past is another country

by Nicky Gardner

To accompany our feature on Karelia in this issue of hidden europe magazine, we look at how Finland’s ceded eastern territories, now part of the Russian Federation, remain a potent symbol in the Finnish imagination.

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A tale of two Eltons

You could easily miss Elton. The train from Dublin to Cork speeds past Elton. You hardly catch a glimpse of the cluster of houses that make up this little Irish village. When the grandly titled Great Southern and Western Railway built a line through the district in 1849, they judged Knocklong, just a couple of minutes up the line from Elton, as deserving of a station. So Elton, a little smaller than Knocklong, lost out.

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The spiritual geography of Karelia

Are not some landscapes genuinely therapeutic? We crested wave after wave of rolling forests as we drove through Karelia last week. Writers looking to plot the spiritual geography of Europe might do well to start here, for Finnish Karelia is a landscape full of longing and nostalgia, a region that has a very distinctive sanctity. We did not start our journey as pilgrims, yet Karelia wove its spell around us and turned us into pilgrims.

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Szczecin (Poland)

For a spell Swedish, then German (and known as Stettin) and only since 1945 Polish, Szczecin is distant from the hubs of Polish power. Its shipyard workers played a key role in the Solidarity movement of the nineteen-eighties. But the city feels its distance from Warsaw, and civic leaders in Szczecin argue that Polish regional policy has not been supportive enough of a city that has been through a tough time economically.

Magazine article

Border assets: travels on the frontier

by Nicky Gardner

Borders have become something of a rarity in modern Europe. We can now travel by car from northern Norway to the Mediterranean without ever once having to show a passport. Political frontiers have faded, yet cultural frontiers remain. We reflect on the role of borders in Europe today and note how erstwhile lines of division are now recast as assets for the future.

Magazine article

Crossing the lagoon

by hidden europe

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 area on the German-Polish border.

Magazine article

Girls on the bridge

by hidden europe

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 Russia.

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Border markers

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 wilderness that divides Poland from Belarus. It marks one of Europe's great divides: the Curzon Line.

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The last victim of the Berlin Wall

1990 was a Berlin summer dominated by the Mauerspechte - literally the 'wall peckers' - who chipped away at the Wall with chisels, often in the hope that fragments of the legacy of a divided Berlin could be sold to the tourists who were then thronging the city centre in their thousands. One of the wall peckers was Christoph-Manuel Bramböck.

Magazine article

Disquiet in Kaliningrad

by Nicky Gardner

Is it no wonder that citizens of Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad are feeling a little jittery these days? Kaliningrad's inhabitants feel that they are a long way from Moscow, and also increasingly distant from the European Union countries that border onto the Russian exclave.

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Vadsø (northern Norway)

You really know you have travelled a long way east when you get to Vadsø. The local church, which dominates the small town on the Barents Sea, is a late 1950s essay in poured concrete. But take a peek inside for a surprise. This is a Norwegian Lutheran church with an interior design that has striking Byzantine overtones. The chancel area has an almost Orthodox demeanour.

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Arctic concord

by hidden europe

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 Norway.

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Bohemian borderlands

The first town over the hills, on the Czech side of the border, is Domazlice. Just twenty minutes on the steam trains that this weekend shuttle between Furth and Domazlice. The Czech town has a fabulous elongated main square that during these festive days is filled with folksy performances: singers and dancers, bagpipes and brass bands aplenty.

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Return to Wissembourg

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 Wissembourg was the very embodiment of Gallic life, a fine introduction to a country that seemed deliciously foreign.

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Kosovo and international politics

The Kosovo issue rumbles on. Contrary to popular opinion, the question of who has recognised the would-be state and who has not is far from being a simple east versus west divide. True, Britain and the United States both gave a positive nod to Kosovo within twenty four hours of the Kosovo Assembly declaring independence on 17 February 2008. And Russia has consistently refused to recognise Kosovo.

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Bridge over the Moselle

Remich is one of those spots where it is easy to linger. It is a relaxed sort of place on the bank of the Moselle river in Luxembourg. Just across the river from Remich lies the German village of Nennig. Life in Nennig and Remich is economically intertwined, and residents of both communities move with ease across the Moselle which marks the international border.

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Defining Europe

by Nicky Gardner

Is Armenia part of Europe? Of course, we say, as we explore the boundaries of our continent. But how should we define Europe?

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Crossing the border at Boris Gleb

Boris and Gleb are as saintly a duo as Peter and Paul or Cyril and Methodius. Travel round Russia and you will come across no end of churches dedicated to Boris and Gleb. The two were in fact brothers and evidently their tender humility marked the Russian soul. That very Orthodox quality of patient forbearance of suffering is often said to be inspired by Boris and Gleb.

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Paradise lost: Nagorno Karabakh

by Nicky Gardner

The self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is not recognised by any other country. The mountain territory in the southern Caucasus is an extraordinary place, as Karlos Zurutuza found when he took the marshrutka from the Armenia capital Yerevan over the hills to Karabakh.

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By ferry to Russia

The whispers from Moscow last week that Russia will sanction visa-free travel to the country for visitors arriving and leaving on ferries is good news indeed. Cruise ship passengers have long benefitted from just such a dispensation, but only if they take part in a fully escorted tour. Hence the crowds of day trippers that are herded around St Petersburg during the cruise season.

Magazine article

Border zone: around Lake Prespa

by Christopher Deliso

At the point in the southwest Balkans where Macedonia, Albania and Greece converge lies Lake Prespa. It is an extraordinary place - brackish waters, fill of bulbous weeds that pull at your feet. In the middle of the lake is Golem Grad, an island with stark white cliffs - and thousands of snakes.

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Belgian border business: Moresnet

by Nicky Gardner

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 Venn Railway.

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Cardinal points

by hidden europe

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 extremities.

Magazine article

So where is Mukaceve

by Nicky Gardner

Ruthenia and the Rusyn language scarcely figure in our mental maps of Europe. But Rusyn life & culture are alive and well in the remote valleys of the Carpathians.

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Abkhazia - the Adler connection

If Abkhazia were more secure and better promoted, it would surely be a holiday paradise to match anywhere in the Mediterranean. The area is spectacular with serene beaches backed by meadows, orchards and vineyards with - just a little further inland - wild mountain landscapes. At this time of year, the mountains are still draped in snow, but that does not deter locals heading up into the hills to go fishing in mountain lakes.

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Campione - an Italian exclave in Switzerland

Campione is an extraordinary spot - a geopolitical oddity of the first order. The village is an exclave of Italy within the Ticino region of southern Switzerland. The conundrum that is Campione'd Italia is nicely captured in a set of old Campione d'Italia postage stamps that we purchased from a philatelic dealer in nearby Lugano.

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When the best laid plans don't quite work out

This week saw hidden europe hitchhiking through rural Hungary as we tried to mitigate the effects of a national train strike in Hungary (now into its seventh day as we write). Pity the poor passengers who left Bucharest last Saturday evening on the through train to Venice. Their sleeping cars rolled into Budapest Keleti station last Sunday afternoon.

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New links across Schengen borders

The burden of having to show a passport at a border was never an onerous one (assuming you had an EU passport of course), but it still presented a psychological barrier. Now cross-border excursions for shopping or sightseeing are becoming ever more common. And Europe's new-found enthusiasm for border hopping is mirrored in a growing range of cross-border transport links.

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Moldova

Moldova is not a country that figures much in the European imagination. Tucked away in southeast Europe, Moldova contrives to be not-quite-Balkan and not-really-Danubian. The country boasts a minimalist connection with the Danube, abutting onto the river for no more than a few hundred metres. Not quite hitting the Black Sea either. Culturally and linguistically, Moldova defies definition.

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Schengen expands

Since 1945 the Neisse valley has been split between two countries: on the west bank Germany and on the east bank Poland. History has scarcely been kind to the villages of the Neisse valley. Hard on the west bank of the river, nestling below what must today be the most easterly vineyard in all Germany, lies the Kloster St Marienthal, a thirteenth-century convent foundation of the Bohemian Queen Kunigunde.

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Pyrenean borders

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 side of the frontier. Not a lot of folk head for Cerdanya as a primary destination, but many pass through en route to ski slopes, mountain resorts and of course Andorra.

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Landswaps: Czech Republic and Slovakia

Sidonie was not the only place to change hands on that July day. Fifty kilometres away to the southwest, the hamlet of U Sabotu was ceded to Slovakia by the Czech Republic. Most of the population secured a handsome financial windfall from the Prague government, which compensated Czech citizens in U Sabotu for the inconvenience of suddenly finding themselves in a foreign country.

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Kidnapped in Berlin

Fifty-five years ago today, Lichterfelde was very much in the news on account of the fate of Walter Linse, a local lawyer who was kidnapped at his front gate - destination Moscow. Linse had made a reputation for himself in exposing abuses of the law in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

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The wandering Arctic Circle

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 and Ljubljana. Somehow these are spots that capture the spirit of a country, in a way that many capitals, often the least typical city in a country, patently do not.

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Passports please!

There is an old Russian proverb that suggests that a man consists of a body, a soul and a passport. But passports are not such an age-old institution as the proverb might imply. A hundred years ago, travellers might wander hither and thither across many parts of Europe without any formal documentation. Where a traveller did have a passport in those days, it was often just a single sheet of paper.

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The road to Petsamo

Early European travel was hugely driven by Christian virtue. Those of the truly devout who had the resources would try to visit Rome, Jerusalem or Santiago de Compostela. The fifteenth century English mystic, Margery Kempe, managed all three, and then topped off the grand trio of shrines by travelling to Bad Wilsnack near Berlin, which was then one of the premier pilgrimage sites in northern Europe.

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Contrasts in Belarus

Grodno, a historic religious and trading centre that sits comfortably on the bluffs above the Neman river. The onetime Jewish population, which one hundred years ago numbered sixty per cent of the population, was the victim of Nazi purges. An empty synagogue now stands forlorn on the bank of the river.

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Minorities around the Black Sea

The Black Sea region bristles with diaspora curiosities, and, in an earlier issue of hidden europe magazine (in July 2005), we explored Estonian villages in the breakaway province of Abkhazia in north-west Georgia. In the upcoming issue of the magazine, due out on 3 May, we feature an intriguing village in the southern Ukraine with Swedish origins. Gammalsvenskby is a name that simply means 'Old Swedish Town'.

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Terminalia: a day for borders - no tram to Poland

Today, 23 February, is the Festival of Terminalia - not a date that features prominently in any modern ecclesiastical calendar, but one that was laden with meaning in the Roman world. For Terminus was the deity who presided over boundary stones and border markers in Rome and its provinces. Nowadays, the obelisks and pillars that stand at regular intervals along most of Europe's international land borders often go unremarked by the public.

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La Brigue / Briga (French-Italian Border) - hidden europe 7

With all eyes on Turin and the Piedmont Alps this week, hidden europe escaped the glitz of the Winter Olympics and went off in search of some curiosities on the French-Italian border. It is a three hour journey down to the Mediterranean coast on the morning train that departs bang on time from Turin's monumental Porta Nuova station.

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Latin superstition in Sardinia - the Moldova-Romania border - Christmas gifts

Sardinia is a place steeped in superstition, as the English novelist DH Lawrence discovered when he rushed through the island and found it a curious place, 'lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere', as he wrote in Sea and Sardinia (1921). Blood feud in the Sardinian hills may be a thing of the past, but there remains an enigmatic quality to life in the remoter parts of this island.

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Lutepää (Estonia) - nocturnal Europe

In the picture perfect world of wooden houses and picket fences that is Lutepää (on Estonia's eastern border with Russia), every household has neatly stacked piles of wood ready for winter. The rich autumn whiff of burning wood has already eclipsed summer scents of newly mown grass, and the apples in the little orchards that surround every home are beginning to fall.

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Herr Heinrich's allotment garden at Erlengrund - hidden europe 3 preview

This is a Berlin of hot languid days. School has finished for the summer, and for the coming weeks many Berliners will spend days on end at the many lakes that surround the city. The asparagus season that started with May Day is now nearing its end, and the migrant workers from eastern Europe who have for weeks worked hard harvesting the precious white spears so cherished by Berliners are beginning to return home.

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Europe's best value flight - island hopping in the Faroes - Georgian visas

In these days of discount airlines, we all expect to travel for next to nothing, except of course when we are flying to some far flung remote spot where there is absolutely no competition. So when hidden europe checked out domestic flights in the Faroe Islands last week, we expected to have to pay the earth to travel on the once a week flight from Froðba on the island of Suðeroy, at the south of the archipelago, to Hattarvík on Fugloy, the remotest island in the Faroes.

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Visa free travel to Ukraine this summer for EU and Swiss citizens

One of the less remarked downsides of Poland entering the European Union last year was that the Poland-Ukraine border became significantly more difficult to cross for local residents — on both sides of the border. The relatively free movement of locals across the Poland-Ukraine frontier was thwarted by EU demands that the outer edge of the EU be made much more secure.

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On the banks of the Danube in Moldova - the Principality of Sealand

In Moldova there was much talk of the country being 'one of the family of Danube nations', which is sort of interesting, as Moldova's entire frontage on the Danube is only 570 metres long. You could easily stroll along the bank of the whole length of the Moldovan Danube in less than ten minutes. Pleasant it would not be, it has to be said, for the river frontage is at a premium for heavy industry.