Articles tagged:

Food and drink

Magazine article

The Tyre Man

by hidden europe

With the unreliability of the very first cars, motoring was a stop-go process. Bibendum, the remarkable tyre man from Michelin, was always on hand to give advice in the event of breakdown or an enforced overnight stay.

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

Making waves: Havila style in Norwegian waters

by Nicky Gardner

Havila Voyages is a Norwegian shipping operator which is now bringing its own style to Norway’s coastal voyage – a very special slow travel adventure which until now has been run exclusively by Hurtigruten. With two Havila ships already in use, and two more making their debut on the coastal voyage in 2023, Havila Voyages is upping its challenge to the incumbent operator.

Magazine article

Blessings from Heaven: The journey to Scalan

by Nicky Gardner

We venture south, following Livet Water up into the Braes of Glenlivet. This area survived as an outpost of Catholicism in post-Reformation Scotland. At Scalan, on the lower flank of the Ladder Hills, a secret seminary trained priests in the 18th century until the time when a more permissive attitude to Catholicism meant that the Church could function more openly.

Magazine article

Branding Glenlivet

by hidden europe

Rarely has a beverage gained such a boost from a royal namecheck as when George IV arrived in Scotland and requested a glass of Glenlivet. At the time, the distillery at Glenlivet was an 'under-the-radar' affair operating outwith the law.

Magazine article

Wild bites: foraging in Malta

by Daiva Repeckaite

Wandering Maltese byways, we discover that each season brings its own menu of edible plants. In her first contribution to hidden europe, Daiva Repeckaite shows how foraging for wild plants reveals novel perspectives on the Maltese landscape. Amid the dry austerity, Malta has a rich variety of food there for the taking.

Magazine article

Cattle country: le pays de Salers

Cantal boasts some striking volcanic landscapes and some very fetching cows. We stop off in Salers, a handsome town in the hills which has given its name to Salers cattle and Salers cheese.

Magazine article

Salers cheese

by hidden europe

Salers de Buron is no ordinary cheese. It reflects the richness of the high pastures in France’s Cantal region. The mountain grass is interlaced with Alpine fennel, gentian, arnica, anise and liquorice.

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The pleasure of the restaurant car

A chance reference on twitter this week to a Tajik restaurant car that runs all the way to Moscow has prompted us to recall some unlikely meals on trains. Join us as we recall such culinary delights as apéroplättli and svícková while riding the rails in Germany.

Magazine article

Alsace grape types

by hidden europe

Do you know your Sylvaner from your Muscat? Your Pinot Gris from your Pinot Blanc? Here’s a quick and easy guide to the nine main varieties of grapes used in the production of various Alsace wines. We would wager that there may be one or two varietals here of which you’ve never heard.

Magazine article

Ice caves: a rare subterranean spectacle

by Nicky Gardner

The great Siberian cartographer Semyon Remezov approached the ice cave on the bank of the River Sylva with Christian reverence and a map maker's precision. We follow Remezov to Kungur in Russia to discover one of the finest European examples of a cave with perennial ice.

Magazine article

Vintage pleasures: a taste of Alsace

by Nicky Gardner

If Alsace has a regional watchword, it is balance. It is as true of Alsace’s complex history, deftly melding French and German interests, as of the region’s remarkable wines. Join us as we explore the Alsace wine route, taking in some of the villages where winemaking has for centuries been a staple in the local economy.

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Alsace wines: a personal selection

To accompany our Alsace feature in hidden europe 63 (published on 15 March 2021), here’s a selection of Alsace wines which we rate as being very drinkable and reasonable value for money. We have listed them here by grape type - for most wines from the Alsace region are labelled to show the grape type (for example Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Noir). Very few of the still wines from Alsace are made from blends of more than one type of grape. Our listings focus mainly on dry or off-dry wines from the region.

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Lenten cod

Across southern Europe, and most particularly in Portugal, it is the season for bacalhau - the salted, dried cod which is a staple in the Portuguese diet. This much sought after version of cod is a strong Lenten tradition in many Catholic countries.

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A Fragment of Finland in Brazil

When it was founded in 1929, the Finnish commune of Penedo in Brazil was full of idealism and hope. But with tough financial times in the late 1930s and thereafter, this one-time utopian experiment had to make compromises. Today, Penedo is a commercial hub that attracts tourists eager to catch a dose of Finland. Expect fake snow and Santa Claus.

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The humble onion

Breton onion sellers set out from Roscoff to sell their harvest across Europe. But the preferred market was Britain where customers were prepared to pay well over the odds for the beautiful rose-tinged onions from Finistère. The Onion Johnnies, their bicycles laden with garlands of onions, were a familiar sight in southern England and Wales in the 1950s and 1960s.

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A Taste of Heaven

Christianity is not especially sweet-toothed, though the Old Testament psalms do drip generously with honey. Shift to the New Testament and there are loaves, fishes, but not much by way of dessert. Yet by the 16th century, convents in Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula were very much into the business of producing sweets for sale to those living beyond the convent walls.

Magazine article

The Taste of Yellow: Wines of the Jura

by Nicky Gardner
Could you imagine paying more than €100,000 for a bottle of wine? Not any bottle of wine, but a bottle of vin jaune (yellow wine) from the French Jura. And a wine that was made before the French Revolution. We discover a French rarity that takes decades to reach maturity.
Magazine article

Lakeside Tradition: Exploring the Lavaux Vineyards

by Nicky Gardner
The Lavaux area in Switzerland is one of Europe's oldest winegrowing regions, a distinction which has earned for Lavaux a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The Lavaux vineyards drape the north shore of Lake Geneva at the western end of the Montreux Riviera. It is an area of immense charm, a perfect region to linger and enjoy the local Chasselas wines which take so much of their character from the local soil.
Magazine article

Between East and West: The Ukrainian City of Lviv

by Nicky Gardner
The city of Lviv, located in the western reaches of Ukraine, is in many respects a classic central European city, a place which has more in common with Wien, Trieste and Budapest than with other cities in the former Soviet Union – of which Lviv was of course a part. We report from a city which has a complex and layered history, something which makes Lviv all the more interesting.
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A Georgian Vichy

The Iranian consul's residence and the Romanov's Likani Palace are just two of many extraordinary buildings which attest to the one-time importance of Borjomi, a Georgian spa town best known for its mineral water. It's a town with a complex history which includes Romanov, Soviet and Georgian strands.

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Cully by Lake Geneva

Travelling east on the steamer from Ouchy , we are struck by how vines dominate the shoreline of Lake Geneva. At Cully we hop ashore to explore this small town in Switzerland's Lavaux region. It is the area from which Switzerland's acclaimed Chasselas wines originate.

Magazine article

Vintage Views: Railways and Wine Tourism

by Nicky Gardner
What better way to survey some of the world's great vineyards than from the comfort of a train cruising slowly through a region celebrated for its fine wines? Ideally with a glass of wine to hand! We explore opportunities for rail-wine tourism in Spain, Hungary, France, Portugal and further afield.
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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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Gorgona prison island

One of Tuscany's leading winemakers, Lamberto Frescobaldi, works with the prison authorities and the inmates on Gorgona island to produce an outstanding white wine. Gorgona lies in the open seas been the coast of Tuscany and Corsica.

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Notes from a Hebridean island

There is a special dynamic to island life. One meets the same people day after day - but often in different contexts. We bump into people in the most unlikely spots. On the east side of Barra, a number of rocky peninsulas jut out into the Sea of the Hebrides. Away to the north is Tràigh Mhòr, the bleached cockle strand where the daily plane from Glasgow lands.

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The Maastricht factor

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 mines ceased production, after a long period of decline.

Magazine article

Albania: A Tale of Two Valleys

by Laurence Mitchell
It is unlikely that great streams of tourists will be arriving in the mountains of northern Albania anytime soon. But this part of the southern Balkans now benefits from better access roads. Guest contributor Laurence Mitchell reports from two valleys in the hills often known as the Albanian Alps.
Magazine article

The Swiss Factor: From Chexbres to the Black Sea

by Nicky Gardner
Wines from the Shabo region of southern Ukraine often combine typical Black Sea region grapes (such as Saperavi) with grape types well known in western Europe. No surprise, perhaps, as it was Swiss vintners who helped found the wine industry in this area which was historically part of Bessarabia.
Magazine article

A Visit to the Old Country

by Nicky Gardner
Beside the River Elbe, just downstream from Hamburg, lies the Altes Land. It is one of Europe's most intensive areas of fruit cultivation. Apples, raspberries, cherries and plums aplenty in a region which owes much to early Dutch settlers.
Magazine article

Life and Death in Secastilla

by Kate Wilson
Kate Wilson, a first-time contributor to hidden europe, reports from the village in northern Spain where she lives. This is no ordinary day, for this is el día de la matanza - the day of a ritual pig slaughter. No fun for Tia the pig, but a rich insight into a local tradition.
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The Beauty of the Square

Kings come and kings go, and even freedom goes in and out of fashion. But the appeal of the town square endures, because ultimately these are spaces that belong to the people. The square in Ceské Budejovice is no exception to that rule. Welcome to southern Bohemia.

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A glass of pastis

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 rosé, but a call for pastis always curries favour.

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Life and death in Bar-le-Duc

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 for 30 years was suzerain of the Duchy of Bar - a little state which rather jealously guarded its independence.

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Food for thought - Expo 2015

A van speeds by in the fast lane of the West Tangent ring road, bearing the inscription: 'Nutrire il pianeta, energia per la vita'. That is the Milan mantra for 2015. 'Feed the planet, energy for life'. For this year Milan hosts a Universal Exposition, an Expo, which will focus on themes of food, diet and sustainability.

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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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Hurtigruten: dinner on board

Dinner menus on Hurtigruten boats reflects the local cuisine of the particular region through which you pass on that day of your journey. It’s a great way of exploring both the cultural as well as the culinary accents of the communities along the Norwegian coast.

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Hurtigruten: frequently asked questions

Readers of hidden europe often ask us about details of the Norwegian coastal voyage. On this page we have gathered together two dozen such questions with our answers. A lot of general information on Hurtigruten is available in brochures. Our focus here is more on the details of life on board.

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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.

Magazine article

Kratovo: a town worth its salt

by Christopher Deliso

The Macedonian town of Kratovo is by-passed by most travellers exploring the southern Balkans. But guest contributor Chris Deliso took time to discover the town which was once an important mining centre. Join us as we walk over the bridges of Kratovo and find a community which is trying to reinvent itself.

Magazine article

A fine affair: Russians on the Riviera

by Nicky Gardner

Russia's love affair with the French Riviera (and the adjacent Ligurian coastal littoral to the east) has been one of Europe's defining cultural interactions of the last 200 years. We take at look at how Russian visitors have helped shape Riviera life.

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Gozo threads

The island of Gozo, Malta's kid sister, is indeed a sanctuary, a place apart. All the more so during these last days of June when a sequence of Catholic feast days are the cue for village festivities.

Magazine article

Bright banquets in the Elysian Vale: musings on Weimar

by Nicky Gardner

Can a town have too much history? That certainly seems the case with the small city of Weimar in the German State of Thuringia. The town packs a few surprises and there is even a little counterculture to offset Schiller and Goethe. We unpack the details that you don't find in the tourist brochures in this special feature on a town that is still very much 'east' Germany - and all the better for that.

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An Advent meditation

The sky takes on a different quality in the run-up to Christmas. The grey cloud-folds of Advent have rolled back, and suddenly the air is brighter, drier and clearer. The trees have been flayed by autumn. Only bare skeletons remain, their outlines haunting the December landscape. Winter is creeping over Europe, its progress marked by the candles on our Advent wreath. First one candle, then two, last Sunday a third, and today as dusk falls a full flush of four candles burning bright.

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Falling apples

The second of the spas - the Apple Spas - is marked today over much of central and eastern Europe. It coincides, as every year, with the Feast of the Transfiguration - a milestone in the ecclesiastical calendar. The Apple Spas is a day when great baskets of apples are taken to the morning celebration of the Divine Liturgy in village churches. It is a day that reminds us that a change in the seasons is not far hence.

Magazine article

Budapest: Relax in a ruin

by Duncan JD Smith

Duncan JD Smith, author of 'Only in Budapest', takes to the back streets of the Hungarian capital to visit the latest Budapest fad: a pub in a building that comes close to being a ruin. It's cheap, cheerful and lots of fun.

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Retreating into Advent

Have we lost the ability to wait, to keep vigil, to be patient? This weekend, much of Europe marks the start of Advent. In many countries this is still a season defined by quiet reflection in anticipation of Christmas. For some, these weeks in the run-up to Christmas are intimately associated with a modest level of asceticism - not as harsh as Lent, but inclining that way.

Magazine article

England and Europe

by hidden 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 following the Napoleonic Wars.

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Transfiguration

Last Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Orthodox calendar, was the Apple Spas. Across much of Orthodox Europe, the spoils of the new harvest were offered up at church services. No matter that the combine harvesters are still hard at work in the fields. No matter that the apples still hang heavy in the orchards. Change is in the air.

Magazine article

Fried fish in Cádiz

by Nicky Gardner

"Cádiz is pretty in a way peculiar to itself." And that's as true today as it was when a traveller penned those words 200 years ago. The most important Atlantic port in Andalucía played a key role in mediating Spain's relationship with the Americas. And it invented the classic fish supper.

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From synagogue to swimming pool

It is tempting to scatter superlatives when it comes to Poznan. Put simply, Poznan has a superb showpiece square. In its town hall, which dominates that central square, the city has one of the most magnificent Renaissance buildings in Europe. Poznan is a place we like a lot and one we know well - indeed we spent a long weekend there just last month. Yet, like many central European cities, Poznan struggles with its Jewish past.

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The harsh lands

After the lushness of Puglia, the fierce landscapes of Basilicata came as a firm reminder that southern Italy is not all peaches and almonds. In Puglia we had enjoyed orecchiette with broccoli and been seduced by vincotto di fichi. We had heard the chirring of crickets, picked fresh lemons, paddled in the Adriatic and tasted grilled lamb. Then last Saturday morning we moved on to Basilicata.

Magazine article

England’s favourite: the port of Boulogne

by Nicky Gardner

The port city of Boulogne has always attracted visitors from across the Channel. Tobias Smolett came and so did Charles Dickens who called the town his "favourite French watering hole", declaring it to be "every bit as good as Naples". Today, the town's ferry terminal is abandoned, but Boulogne remains a popular spot for visitors from Britain and offers a few exotic surprises.

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Less bratwurst, more Brussels

This Advent we have caught a dash of Christmas spirit in several different countries across Europe. Mulled wine comes with a variety of accents, sometimes with hints of cinnamon and citrus, elsewhere more honey and black pepper. It has been fun to wander through Christmas markets from Strasbourg to Southwark, from Brussels to Berlin, and it is also an instructive lesson in globalisation.

Magazine article

Botany in Paradise

by Iain Bamforth

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

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Escape from Alcúdia

The fast ferry will speed you from Alcúdia to Ciutadella in just an hour. Too fast, perhaps, to really savour the transition between two worlds. Alcúdia has its quiet corners. Choose a sunny spring evening and the ruins of the old Roman theatre can be very atmospheric. But for most of the budget travellers who flock to Alcúdia, visits to Roman ruins are probably not a top priority.

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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.

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Kicking off the New Year

New Year's Day. Again. Aching heads for those who took their Hogmanay revelries a little too seriously. We slipped into 2011 in a little house on the edge of a heath on one of the North Frisian islands. Yet Estonia awakens today to the euro as its beautiful kroon banknotes are consigned to currency history.

Magazine article

Drink local

by Nicky Gardner

In praise of local wines, the ones made from grapes native to the local area, rather than the big name varietals.

Magazine article

City of the Muse: Barga

by Adam J Shardlow

Barga is quintessential small town Italy. And Aristo's, the bar and café in the middle of Barga, is the quintessential bar - a spot that is amiable, intimate and safe. Guest author Adam J Shardlow lingers in Aristo's and finds a rich vein of artistic and musical life in the Tuscan town.

Magazine article

Market forces: the city of Pécs

by Amanda Wilson

What is a city that does not respect its markets and its open spaces? Cherishing communal assets does not always rest easily with the search for profit, as Amanda Wilson finds in the south Hungarian city of Pécs.

Magazine article

Atarazanas Market, Málaga

by Theresa O'Shea

"Tear it down," shouted the reformers who wanted to modernise Málaga in the mid-nineteenth century. But fortunately the old Atarazanas, once a shipyard, survived and in 1879 it opened as a public market - a focal point for Málaga life.

Magazine article

Focus on fish

by Nicky Gardner

Many a coastal community, and even one or two inland spots, have realised that there's no better way to promote trade and tourism than through a colourful display of freshly landed fish and other seafood.

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Icelandic beer

This weekend a little more beer than usual will be downed at the Café Nielsen in Egilsstaðir. For Sunday 1 March marks the twentieth anniversary of the legalisation of beer in Iceland. Until then, Icelanders had to make do with very low-alcohol beer, though it was common practice in the days of beer prohibition to throw a shot of fiery brennivín into every glass of light beer to give the brew a bit of a kick.

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Celebrating Christmas

Christmas generates its own extraordinary traditions across Europe - but they differ greatly from country to country. Even the date on which the celebrations reach their apotheosis varies across the continent. In Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, children get a foretaste of Christmas on the eve of St Nicholas (5 December), or on the feast day itself (6 December).

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Ukrainian comforts - Kraków style - Guinness in the Faroes

Stopping off in Kraków on our way back from Ukraine, we headed as often before for the Hotel Saski, a mid range place just off the square. There we were distraught to find that one of the hotel's two principal attractions has retired. The splendidly whiskered Mr Jósef Pietruska, an old style concierge with gold embroidered uniforms and a manner to match always looked as though he had graced the foyer of the Saski since it was called the Hotel de Saxe back in the 1920s.

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Sangria in Torrie - advice to travellers in the eighteenth century

Accounts by early travellers make for some of our favourite en route reading, and one of the best is Hans Reichard's Conseils aux touristes (Advice to Tourists), a volume of generic travel wisdom first published in 1793, the same year as Reichard also published his Guide d'Espagne.