Articles tagged:

History

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From A to Z: Achilles to Zelensky

In this Letter from Europe we report from an island in the Black Sea that over the last 200 years has been variously controlled by the Ottomans, Romania, the Soviet Union and Ukraine. It is the place where the Greek hero Achilles allegedly dwelt after his death.

Magazine article

Free thinking: the appeal of Friedrichstadt

by Nicky Gardner

Friedrichstadt, a small town in northern Germany close to the Eider River, has a remarkable cultural history. It has been a haven for those seeking to escape religious persecution. Remonstrants and Mennonites settled here in the 1620s. There is still today in Friedrichstadt a sense of being somewhere very special.

Magazine article

There in spirit

by hidden europe

Isn’t intelligent voice radio something special? We recall a moment when it really seemed that Martin Luther might open the door and ask if he might drop in for a cuppa.

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Of mountains and memories: Slovenia’s Walk of Peace

by Rudolf Abraham

Join us on the 230 km hiking trail in western Slovenia known as the Walk of Peace. It is a chance to revisit the scenes of terrible First World War battles along and around the Izonzo Front, where the armies of Austria-Hungary confronted Italian forces. Rudolf Abraham leads us through shrapnel-scarred terrain to discover landscapes of tantalizing beauty and rich historical poignancy.

Magazine article

Fuel for the mind: Bologna and the Romantics

by Suzanne and Andrew Edwards

Stendhal, Byron, Goethe and Mary Shelley are among the many writers who made time for the Italian city of Bologna. Often overlooked in favour of Florence or Rome, Bologna’s intellectual history informs the texture of the modern city as Suzanne and Andrew Edwards discover when they visit Bologna in search of fuel for the mind.

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The Luther factor: discovering Wittenberg

by Nicky Gardner

Yadegar Asisi’s panorama in Lutherstadt Wittenberg is a very modern take on the traditional installation; it’s a very immersive experience. There is the extraordinary contrast between the business of Wittenberg streets, pictured in fine detail, and an almost meditative calm experienced by visitors to the panorama.

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The first mountain hut

The appreciation of mountains in the European imagination changed dramatically in the 18th century. Scenes which at the start of that century still invoked terror were within a hundred years reconfigured as awesome landscapes, now celebrated for their great beauty. Reportedly, the first mountain hut used for recreational purposes was iclose to the Mer de Glace, a glacier that sweeps down towards the Chamonix Valley in the French Alps.

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At the water's edge: Germany's Wadden Sea

by Paul Scraton

Within just a few centuries, the geography of the Frisian region has been reshaped by storms and tides. Paul Scraton is a regular writer for hidden europe; here he explores Germany’s Wadden Sea coastline. It’s a tale that shows the power of the sea.

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.

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Frösön Island

by hidden europe

The island of Frösön in Lake Storsjön is the perfect retreat for walks and bike rides. We follow part of the traditional pilgrimage route over Frösön, passing the most northerly rune stone in the world.

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50 years of Interrail

We know that many readers of hidden europe were quick off the mark in May this year when, to celebrate 50 years of Interrail, some passes were available for 50% off the list price. A superb offer that means that there are now thousands of people holding passes valid until next April but uncertain when and where to use them.

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From Nero to the Habsburgs: the Corinth Canal

The isthmus at Corinth is one of the most celebrated isthmuses of the classical world. It connects the Greek mainland with the huge ragged-edged peninsula known as the Peloponnese. The Ancients portaged their small boats over the narrow neck of the isthmus as a shortcut between the Ionian Sea and the Aegean, so saving a long voyage around the Peloponnese.

Magazine article

The last poet: Farewell, Pushkin

by Nicky Gardner

The last of the Soviet Union's great ocean liners outlived the Soviet Union. The MS Aleksandr Pushkin made her first visit to Tilbury (in the lower reaches of the River Thames) in April 1966. For over half a century, this classic ship was a regular visit to Tilbury. Renamed the MS Marco Polo, she arrived in Tilbury the very last time in March 2020.

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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

Adventures of the Jadran

by hidden europe

The Jadrolinija shipping routes of yesterday saw sailings from Venice to Piraeus with half a dozen stops along the way. It was possible to sail direct from Opatija to Corfu or from Venice to Rijeka. We take a look at inshore shipping down the eastern shores of the Adriatic.

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

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.

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A revolution in the hills: hydrotherapy

It was in the Czech town of Jeseník two hundred years ago that a self-taught farmer sparked a medical revolution. Like all revolutions, it was not well received by the establishment. Vincenz Priessnitz was the founder of hydrotherapy, first pioneered in 1822.

Magazine article

Ukrainians on the move

by hidden europe

Not far from Lockerbie, in the hills of southern Scotland, a corrugated iron hut was converted into a simple chapel in summer 1947. It is a remote, rural outpost of Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church.

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Fate shall smile once more

There are no silver linings in the clouds of war. These are dark times. So our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. That prompts us to reflect on one of Ukraine's most interesting cities: the Black Sea port of Odesa.

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Heathland: exploring the Lüneburger Heide

by Paul Scraton

The great heath at Lüneburg in northern Germany recalls a landscape that was once very common across many parts of Europe. Paul Scraton explores how the landscapes of the heath reflect land management practices developed over many centuries. The Lüneburger Heide still gives a welcome sense of wilderness not far from great German cities.

Magazine article

Names to ponder: memory and place in the city

Take a look as the names of streets as you explore foreign cities. We’ve noted streets named after Stalin in southern England and a road named after Tito in France’s Champagne region. These and similar street name evoke important issues about place and memory, reminding us how historical narratives evolve through time.

Magazine article

Erasing the tsar

by hidden europe

In the Russian town of Pushkin, not far from St Petersburg, there’s a district called Tsarskoye Selo – a sweep of palaces and gardens which was once the summer home of the Romanov family.

Magazine article

End of the Ice Age

by hidden europe

The last pulses of the wave of Quaternary glaciations in Europe left some distinct glacial spillways across the North European Plain. These short-lived channels were important for meltwater from a decaying ice sheet. Three of the spillways can be traced in the modern landscape of rural Brandenburg.

Magazine article

Pedal power: the caffeine fix

by Nicky Gardner

There are thousands of cafés across Europe that have made their mark in the communal psychogeography of the cycling community — places which supply a timely caffeine and calorie boost for the cyclists who have escaped the city for a day or longer. We investigate how coffee became the cyclist’s elixir.

Magazine article

In search of Tesla: the road to Smiljan

by Nicky Gardner

Nikola Tesla’s father was an Orthodox priest. Nikola was baptised in his father’s church on the day after his birth. And it is at that church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, where crowds now gather to understand more of the life and work of one of Europe’s most distinguished engineers and inventors.

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The Slaney Valley

There can be few finer spots to be, on these bright spring days, than exploring the land around the River Slaney in south-east Ireland. The lower reaches of the Slaney, from Enniscorthy down to Wexford, is a gorgeous sweep of river. But we reserve the highest category of praise for the middle reaches of the Slaney upstream from Enniscorthy.

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A Fiesole residency

With its handsome villas, lavish gardens and sweeping views over the valley of the River Arno, Fiesole developed as a fabled spot. It was a place for political intrigue, a retreat to be creative and a spot to just relax. No surprise, perhaps, that it has attracted generations of artists, scholars and writers.

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A tale of two bridges: the work of William Tierney Clark

by Duncan JD Smith

It's no coincidence that the graceful bridge that spans the River Thames in Marlow looks remarkably similar to Budapest's celebrated Széchenyi Lánchíd (Chain Bridge) over the Danube – though the latter is much larger than its English counterpart. Duncan JD Smith discovers that the reason for the similarity lies in the work of William Tierney Clark.

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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.

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A Silesian Jerusalem: visiting the calvary at Krzeszów

by Nicky Gardner

Not far from the Czech border, in the southernmost part of Polish Silesia, lies the monastery of Krzeszów (formerly known by its German name of Grüssau). It was to this quiet spot that manuscripts and books from Berlin were sent for safe keeping in the Second World War. These days, pilgrims make their way to the monastery as a place of prayer.

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A village on the polder

There’s a village on the polder which we really like. It’s called Jisp. It is one of those long straggly places where you see cloudscapes just like those in the paintings of Jacob van Ruisdael - the Dutch artist who was born in Haarlem, which is only about a dozen kilometres away to the south-west. Nowadays it comes as a great surprise to discover that Jisp was once a whaling port.

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Free ports

The current plans to create free ports around the shores of the United Kingdom made us delve into the history of the porto franco. This year marks the 600th anniversary of the sale of Livorno - the Tuscan port which Genoa sold to Florence. It paved the way for competition between Genoa and Livorno and the development of the first free ports.

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Alpine horizons

The English, like travellers from other countries, were enthralled by the scenery of the western Alps. But it wasn't until well after the Golden Age of Alpinism that mountaineers and travellers began to explore areas further east in the great Alpine chain. We look at how in the last quarter of the 19th century, the eastern Alps fired the western imagination.

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Sauntering through November

Two events: the centenary of the first-ever General Assembly of the League of Nations (held in Geneva on 15 November 1920) and the publication this week of Issue 62 of hidden europe magazine. Yes, there is a link! We look at this new issue of the magazine which includes an article on the Free State of Fiume - one of two small states created by the League of Nations in autumn 1920.

Magazine article

Exploring Baedeker's Switzerland

by Nicky Gardner

The Baedeker series of guidebooks showed a remarkable consistency in presentation over many decades from the mid-19th century. But many guides were updated every couple of years, so how far did the content change? We compare two editions of Baedeker’s Switzerland, one from 1881 and the other from 1905, and find that the changes nicely reflect new social and travel pieties.

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Who was Friedrich Oswald?

by Nicky Gardner

Friedrich Engels is not someone we would normally associate with travel writing. But, as a young man, he wrote a number of articles in the travel genre; they were all published under the nom de plume Friedrich Oswald.

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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.

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The papal states

The emergence in the eighth century of the papal states in parts of Italy and beyond heralded a geopolitical oddity which survived for over 1000 years, and of which there is the faintest echo in the current status of Vatican City - the world's smallest country.

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Berlin Tegel Airport

Few airports have quite that cool retro feel of the original hexagonal terminal at Berlin’s Tegel airport. The airport opened in 1960 and was an iconic piece of design in "the new Berlin" - that part of the city, occupied by the Western Allies, which showcased new highways and Germany's first drive-in airport. As Tegel gears up to close in autumn 2020, we explore the importance of that airport to the identity of West Berlin.

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Memorialising DH Lawrence

Vence is a delightful small town in the hills behind the French Riviera, and it was here in Vence that DH Lawrence eventually succumbed in early March 1930 to tuberculosis.But where is he buried? Join us on a journey that takes us from Provence to New Mexico - with no definite conclusion.

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Inishmurray

Inishmurray lies squat and low half a dozen kilometers off Streedagh Point in County Sligo. No one sleeps on Inishmurray these days. The island’s entire population, then numbering just a few dozen, left in 1948. Since then the buildings have crumbled and now there’s an air of quiet dereliction around Inishmurray.

Magazine article

Untold Riches

by hidden europe

Jakob Fugger the Rich was indeed very rich. But his approach to business presciently anticipated many practices which are now commonplace. We look at the life of a man who challenged business cartels and had a canny appreciation of the importance of market intelligence.

Magazine article

One Glorious Summer

by Nicky Gardner

In summer 1920, the Unovis collective of artists set off from Vitebsk for Moscow. Kasimir Malevich and his comrades were convinced they could realize the full revolutionary potential of art in the Soviet Union. But the rise of Unovis signalled change for a great champion of Vitebsk art. Marc Chagall left his home city. He never returned.

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Monkeys, Men and John Murray

160 years ago this week, on Saturday 30 June 1860, the intelligentsia gathered in Oxford to hear churchmen and scientists discuss the pros and cons of Darwin’s ideas on the origin of species. Charles Darwin celebrated book had been published in November of the previous year by John Murray - the London publishing house which, apart from supporting scientific writing, was also the leading travel publisher in Victorian Britain.

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Chagall Centenary

Vitebsk is a provincial city. St Petersburg is about 500 km away to the north. Moscow, just slighter closer, is due east of Vitebsk. It lies today in the territory of the Republic of Belarus. In the run up to and after the Russian Revolution, Vitebsk developed into a bold hub of artistic energy and innovation – in good part due to the influence of Marc Chagall.

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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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Travels with Saint Paul

Even if you don’t have a thread of religious fibre in your body, try reading the Acts of the Apostles, and see what you make of it as a travel narrative. You may want to have a good atlas of the ancient world to hand as you follow Paul on his meandering itinerary through Lystra and Phrygia to Mysia and beyond.

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Turboprops at Britain's busiest airport

Turboprops are back at London's Heathrow airport. An ATR-42 belonging to Scottish airline Loganair is flying a once-daily scheduled service to the Isle of Man on behalf of British Airways. We take a look at previous occasions when airport staff at Britain's busiest airport reckoned they were waving goodbye to the last turboprop.

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In Jung's Footsteps

The lakeshore trail from Schmerikon along the upper part of Lake Zürich leads to a house once owned by the analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, who was a master of self-isolation. Join us as we ponder on Jung's famous Tower and his thoughts on progress and modernity.

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A Tribute to Tim Robinson

A tribute to writer and cartographer Tim Robinson who passed away on 3 April. Amongst his best known publications is his Connemara Trilogy - a profoundly ambitious, yet touchingly intimate, study of a region that stands as a place apart in Ireland. His work on landscape and history has certainly influenced our own endeavours at hidden europe magazine.

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Recalling the Ragusan Republic

A powerful earthquake in 1667 destroyed most of Dubrovnik's buildings. The city was at that time the capital of the Ragusan Republic. The city was rebuilt and these days is a strong tourist magnet on the Croatian coast.

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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

Malta: The Alleys of Birgu

by Duncan JD Smith

When the Knights Hospitaller relocated from Rhodes to Malta, the community of Birgu became their de facto capital. Birgu is on a promontory on the south side of the Grand Harbour, a counterpoint to Valletta away to the north. Duncan JD Smith explores this most appealing of Maltese communities.

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Editorial hidden europe 59

by hidden europe
The shaping of history and the stories which are told about a region’s past are endlessly fascinating and that’s a running theme in this issue of hidden europe. We look at examples from Alsace and Spain and also look at how guidebooks helped, in the months after the end of the Great War in 1918, to shape emerging narratives of that conflict.
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A Tale of Two Lakes

Last year, the Azorean authorities reminded residents of the hazards of living in an archipelago where three great tectonic plates meet. This is where Eurasia meets Africa and the Americas. We recall a royal visit to the volcanic caldera of Sete Cidades on the island of São Miguel.

Magazine article

The Tribes of Galway

by Nicky Gardner
We take the pulse of early evening ceol and craic on the streets of the Irish city of Galway - where a dozen families dominated the mercantile and social life of the city for centuries. These families are often known as the tribes of Galway.
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.
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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.

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New issue: hidden europe 57

We have this year visited the Baltic twice already. It's a region of Europe that's at its best in winter, we find, and sedate Binz was the perfect place to pen the editorial for issue 57 of hidden europe which is published tomorrow. Let's take a look at this new issue of the magazine.

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In Search of the Old Believers Today

by hidden europe
The Old Believers fled from the tsarist heartland into the remotest corners of the Russian Empire. Some went to Manchuria, moving on to South America and then to Oregon and Alaska. Others found refuge back in Moscow, practising their faith in the city's cemeteries. We go in search of the Old Believers.
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The Legacy of the San Juan

by Karlos Zurutuza
On the rocky shores of Labrador (in eastern Canada) is a remote settlement which features strongly in the Basque imagination. Karlos Zurutuza explains how the whalers of Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) once dominated the whale oil trade around Newfoundland and Labrador. Now a fine replica and a great Basque whaling vessel is nearing completion at Pasaia.
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Editorial hidden europe 57

by hidden europe

Our abiding interest in hidden europe is in places and landscapes, and in the manner in which they shape the human experience. And issue no. 57 brings a hefty dose of these themes. Enjoy the read!

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Farewell to a London Ghost Train

This is the story of Paddington’s ghost train which runs for the last time today. The 11.35 to High Wycombe uses the New North Line out of Paddington towards the Chiltern Hills.

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When Empires Crumbled

The dignified commemorations marking one hundred years since the end of the First World War masked the details of what actually happened in November 1918. The aftermath of the Great War was a messy business, with conflict continuing in some areas for some years after the armistice.

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For the Love of Libraries: Leuven

by Caroline Mills
Libraries are much more than bricks and mortar, as Caroline Mills discovers during a visit to Leuven in Belgium. The vandalism of war has twice struck Leuven, with its university library set ablaze by marauding German troops in 1914 and again in 1940. Caroline recalls the tale of how her great-grandfather took the initiative in helping restore the library after the first conflagration.
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Return to Marienbad: The Ghosts of Mariánské Lázne

by Nicky Gardner
Few place names resonate in the way that Marienbad does. The celebrated spa town tucked away in the hills of Bohemia is, like many of the traditional spas of central Europe, a place apart. Today the town is known by the Czech name of Mariánské Lázne and hints of a Habsburg past are draped with a soft veneer of Soviet-style central planning and the sharp edge of modern capitalism.
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Russians in Bohemia

by hidden europe
Where would the spa towns of Bohemia be without the patronage from the great and good? The Romanov family's enthusiasm for taking the water has encouraged generations of Russians to visit the region.
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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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Paris in the springtime

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, as a young journalist, he wrote about the terrible conditions endured by vineyard workers in the Moselle region.

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The Other United States: An Island Polity

by Nicky Gardner
This is the story of the other United States, a territory which surely rates as one of the oddest polities ever to appear on the map of Europe. It had seven constituent states and existed from 1815 to 1864. It used the obol as its currency and its postage stamps featured the head of the English monarch.
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The politics of memorials

In Russia, as more widely, the question of who is honoured in statues and memorials is deeply political. So too is the question of when the first memorial is erected and how long it remains. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the feared Soviet secret police, is a good example. But what of Ivan the Terrible and Vladimir the Great?

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Keeping loyal to Samnaun

We had assumed that the practice of diligently recording and publishing the name of visitors had long since died out until last summer we visited Samnaun. This really is one of Europe's most oddball communities. It is tucked away in the hills on the north side of the Inn Valley in Switzerland's Lower Engadine region.

Magazine article

Boat-shaped Graves

by hidden europe
Lozenge-shaped graves, fashioned in the form of a ship, are a distinctive element of Bronze Age visual culture on the Baltic island of Gotland. Do these unusual graves, known as 'ship settings' have a deeper cosmological meaning?
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Fishing stations

by hidden europe
A number of fishing stations around the coasts of the Baltic islands of Fårö and Gotland recall the heyday of the herring trade, when farmers would become fishermen for a few weeks.
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Two Peas in a Pod: Denmark's Eastern Edges

by Nicky Gardner
The Ertholm Islands (literally 'Pea Islands') are the easternmost fragments of Danish territory, even further east than Bornholm. Just two islands in this small archipelago are populated: Christiansø and Frederiksø. In the 19th century, Frederiksø served as a place of exile - a prison island.
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One shot from the Aurora

100 years ago, on the evening of 25 October 1917 (in the Russian calendar), a single blank shell was fired from the Russian cruiser Aurora. It gave the signal for the Bolsheviks to storm the Winter Palace. Was that single blank shot from the Aurora perhaps the most famous gunshot in European history?

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Swedes in Ukraine

The Gotland village of Roma has become the cradle of memory for Sweden's historic link with the Black Sea region. The village of Gammalsvenskby in Ukraine was established by migrants from Sweden. The links betweeen Gammalsvenskby and Gotland are very much alive today.

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The darker side of verse

It is eighty years ago this autumn that the Jewish-German poet and polemicist Ernst Lissauer died in Vienna. His sad life was a roller coaster of rant and prejudice. He was best known for his hate verse deployed against England in the First World War. We explore a lesser-known side of war poetry.

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Forbidden places

Next weekend, there's the chance to visit an extraordinary place in England - a village where the entire population was forcibly removed in 1943 in order to provide space on Salisbury Plain for American military manoeuvres. It's one of those places that are usually barred to the public and all the more intriguing for that.

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Islands on the Edge: Exploring Barra and Vatersay

by Nicky Gardner

The islands of Barra and Vatersay are remarkable places. They are the southernmost inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. These two Scottish islands have remained Catholic outposts in a country known for its generally Protestant ways. That's not the only unusual aspect of Barra and Vatersay, as we discover in this feature for hidden europe.

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The City by the Elbe: Torgau and the Reformation

by Nicky Gardner
This is at one level the story of a renegade monk and a runaway nun. But it's also the wider story of the Reformation in Saxony. Join us as we explore Torgau, a town on the banks of the River Elbe in eastern Germany which played second fiddle to Wittenberg in the Reformation. It is 500 years since Martin Luther kicked off a movement which was to divide the Catholic Church.
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Lutherstadt Torgau

by hidden europe
The renaming of towns to honour an individual is commonplace. Nizhny Novgorod became Gorky, in honour of the Russian writer Maxim Gorki who was born there. The town later switched back to its original name. In eastern Germany, towns have been prefixed in honour of a notable citizen. We have Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Why not Lutherstadt Torgau?
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Paris sideshows in June 1867

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 of visitors to the French capital.

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Lidice shall live!

This Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the Czech Resistance's successful attempt on the life of senior Nazi administrator Reinhard Heydrich. It was an event which had terrible repercussions; the Germans retaliated with ruthless force. Those repercussions were felt most awfully in the Czech village of Lidice.

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April 1917: Lenin returns to Russia

News of the revolution in Russia reached Switzerland in March 1917, and many politically active Russian émigrés immediately decided to return home. Led by Lenin, the revolutionaries boarded a sealed carriage and travelled by train across Germany.

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The Hebridean Blackhouse

For many visitors to the Hebrides, the traditional blackhouse is a symbol of these islands. Yet rarely is vernacular architecture so freighted with emotion, nostalgia and even misunderstanding.

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The Place by the Bay: the Butrint Story

by Nicky Gardner
One of the least frequented great classical sites in the entire Mediterranean basin is at Butrint in south-west Albania. Its roll call of illustrious visitors includes Lord Byron and Nikita Krushchev. Take care to avoid the snakes as we explore Butrint.
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Out of the Shadows

by hidden europe
Władysław Szpilman’s remarkable book The Pianist (made into a film by Roman Polanski) reveals the devastation of Jewish life in Warsaw in 1945. To accompany our feature on Jewish Warsaw we look at the city's Jewish community in the immeditate post-war years.
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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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City without Jews

Speculative fiction can sometimes turn out to be eclipsed by real-life events. In Hugo Bettauer's 1922 novel, Die Stadt ohne Juden, fictitious Austrian Chancellor Karl Schwertfeger signs an executive order decreeing that all Jews must leave Austria by the end of the year.

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Cashing in on Casanova

Were it not for a librarian, we would surely never have ventured to Duchcov. We have always held librarians, and indeed libraries, in high regard. We're of one mind with Dervla Murphy who once described Heaven as an infinite library and Eternity as a blissful opportunity to read forever.

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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.

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150 years after Agar Town

It is 150 years since the Midland Railway, which in 1866 was extending its tracks south into St Pancras, demolished a poor, working-class community which inconveniently straddled the company's proposed route to its grand new London terminus. Agar Town was tucked into the wedge of land between the Regent's Canal and the main railway line running north from King's Cross.

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Christmas 1816

One day, a learned and able writer will surely pen a spiritual geography of England, looking at the relationship between faith and landscape in that country. It is a book that just waits to be written. The story of John Henry Newman should figure centrally in that volume, for his extraordinary biography captures something of the English spirit.

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The Prisoner of Chillon

200 years ago, on 5 December 1816, the Scottish publisher John Murray published The Prisoner of Chillon, a poem in the romantic idiom by Lord Byron. It was inspired by a visit which Byron and Shelley had together made to the Château de Chillon that same year.

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

Socialist Architecture in Yugoslavia

by hidden europe
In Tito's Yugoslavia, architects offered an ideological space between East and West - aligned neither to Soviet-style communism nor to the capitalist tradition. The result was some assertively different architecture, not all of it memorably beautiful.
Magazine article

Catholic Oxford

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

Few European cities are so enshrined in myth, fable, stories and song as Odessa. And that's why we judged Odessa a fabulous choice for our lead feature in the new issue of hidden europe. This is an immensely likeable city, one which we visited for the very first time this spring but a place to which we shall surely return.

Magazine article

A Tale of Two Clarens

by Nicky Gardner
On the face of it, there is no connection between the Swiss town of Clarens (on the north shore of Lake Geneva) and the South African town of Clarens in the Free State. But the South African town took its name from the eponymous Swiss community. It was in Clarens, Switzerland, that Boer leader Paul Kruger lived in exile.
Magazine article

Bosna-gauge Railways

by hidden europe
Had the Balkan region narrow-gauge rail network survived, it would surely today be a cherished asset in promoting tourism over a wide region - in much the same way as the narrow-gauge Rhaetian Railway network has been important in attracting visitors to the Graubünden region of eastern Switzerland.
Magazine article

Between the Steppe and the Sea

by Nicky Gardner
For Odessa writer Issac Babel, his home town was 'the most charming city of the Russian empire'. For many visitors today, Odessa is one of the most striking Black Sea ports. Join us as we head up the Potemkin Steps to discover Odessa.
Magazine article

The Hills of Western Serbia

by Laurence Mitchell
There are many visions of Yugoslavia's past. Laurence Mitchell visits the hills of western Serbia to learn how heritage and history fuel the imagination. It's a journey that starts and ends in Uzice and takes in the famous Sargan Eight narrow-gauge railway.
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On Pushkin and locusts

They storm in, straight out of the Book of Revelation, and lay waste to the earth. Locusts! They do not make pleasant neighbours. Europe has been largely free of locusts in recent years – but not entirely.

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Ilya Repin and the Cossacks

A picture, so they say, is worth a thousand words, and perhaps the most famous letter in art is that which the Cossacks allegedly sent to the Turkish Sultan in 1676. If you like the work of Ilya Repin, then you'll probably share our enthusiasm for the Russian artist's gutsy painting recalling the event.

Magazine article

Finistère: land of a thousand chapels

by Patricia Stoughton

In the north-west corner of Brittany, an area known as Finistère, dozens of ancient chapels attest to the erstwhile importance of faith in the region. Celtic myth and Catholic belief underpin life and community in this remote part of France. Patricia Stoughton introduces us to the astounding richness and variety of chapels on or close to the coasts of Finistère.

Magazine article

Valletta's subterranean secrets

by Victor Paul Borg

Dive into the streets of Valletta and you'll discover one side of the Maltese capital. Climb up to the city ramparts for a very different view of Valletta. But Victor Paul Borg believes that the only way to understand the military history of Valletta is to venture underground. Join Victor as he explores a subterranean warren under the fortress capital of Malta.

Magazine article

Playing the Welsh card

by Nicky Gardner

Welsh settlers landed on the Patagonian coast in 1865 to create Y Wladfa (literally 'the colony') in the Chubut Valley. Within little more than a generation, most of the Welsh migrants had moved inland or left South America altogether. But a veneer of faux-Welshness is still evident in the Chubut Valley town of Gaiman (and perhaps a touch of genuine Welshness too). Playing the Welsh card, we discover, can be a commercial asset in Patagonia.

Magazine article

From Austerlitz to Waterloo

by hidden europe

So where is the Trafalgar which gave its name to the Battle of Trafalgar? And where is the Blenheim after which Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is supposedly named? We look at a few European place names which feature larger-than-life in the historical record.

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Cabrera, a tainted paradise

In the summer of 1812, while Napoleon's Grande Armée was storming east towards Moscow, William Faden's publishing house in London was busy putting the finishing touches to a new guide to Spanish inshore waters. Among the areas covered in the pilot guide is the island of Cabrera, off the south coast of Mallorca.

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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

Mennonite migrants

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

The Saxon villages of Transylvania

by Rudolf Abraham

In just a few years at the end of the last century, the majority of the Saxons of Transylvania moved away from the village where their families had lived for over 500 years. Rudolf Abraham visited Romania to learn what has become of the Saxon villages of the Carpathian region.

Magazine article

More than just Calvin: the Geneva story

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at a European city which has often styled itself as a place of refuge. Geneva has long taken a stand on human rights. So join us as we explore the many sides of Geneva, the Swiss city that turns out to have impeccable radical credentials.

Magazine article

Portrait of a Berlin suburb: Marienfelde

by Nicky Gardner

Refugees are the issue of the season in Germany. A suburb in the south of Berlin, very close to where hidden europe is published, has an illustrious history in welcoming refugees. We take a walk around Marienfelde, where none of the streets are paved with gold, but for over half a century new arrivals have been treated with dignity and respect.

Magazine article

All change at Westbahnhof

by Duncan JD Smith

Big changes are afoot at the Westbahnhof in Vienna, a station which these past months has seen crowds of refugees from Syria and elsewhere. Vienna-based writer Duncan JD Smith takes a look at how the station has changed over the years.

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Encounter at Hendaye

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 only face-to-face meeting of the two leaders.

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Remember Tryweryn

The Welsh phrase Cofiwch Dryweryn (Remember Tryweryn) recalls the fate of the Tryweryn Valley which was flooded to provide water for the English city of Liverpool. The new reservoir, officially opened in October 1965, meant the end for the village of Capel Celyn. It was an assault on rural Wales which left an enduring mark on national consciousness.

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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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100 years after Zimmerwald

The Zimmerwald Conference was a defining moment in European socialist history. There were stand-offs between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks; there were long and heated debates about how class struggle might bring an end to the First World War. Delegates came from a dozen countries - among them were Lenin and Trotsky.

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Longyearbyen Airport, 40 years on

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the official opening of the airport at Longyearbyen on 2 September 1975. It was an event which dramatically changed this polar outpost, making it far more accessible to the scientific community and adventurous travellers.

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Radical assets Geneva-style

All who make their way to Geneva are struck by the sheer beauty of the city's setting. It is also a place that has always made space for radicals of all persuasions. Three hundred years after Calvin's death in 1564, the city emerged as a hotspot in the development of anarchist and socialist ideas which were to make waves across Europe.

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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.

Magazine article

Secret spits and shingle: along the Suffolk shore

by Laurence Mitchell

The coast of Suffolk, where England meets the North Sea, has inspired many writers. WG Sebald saw the forlorn landscapes of the Suffolk shore as a place to sense the immense power of emptiness. In this article, Laurence Mitchell - a regular contributor to hidden europe - explores Orford Ness and other spots along the Suffolk shore.

Magazine article

The bridge to Dejima Island

by Nicky Gardner

For 200 years, Japan was largely closed to outside influences. But it was not completely isolated, for a small island in Nagasaki Harbour was occupied by Dutch traders. The island was linked by a bridge to the mainland. Cabbages and chocolate, billiards and badminton were all introduced to Japan over that bridge.

Magazine article

Pity the poor horses

by Nicky Gardner

Thomas Tilling revolutionised bus transport in London. Among his pioneering ideas was the notion of having regular bus stops along a route. But the company that bore his name was not always in the forefront of developments. In 1914 Thomas Tilling Ltd still ran London's last ever horse-drawn bus service.

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150 years since Staplehurst

A Friday afternoon. The second Friday in June. As is today. The tidal train left Folkestone just after two in the afternoon. Charles Dickens was on board the tidal train on that Friday afternoon in 1865. It should have been a routine journey through the Garden of England.

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A children's republic in the Crimea

This week marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Artek children's camp in the Crimea. Throughout post-Soviet Europe there are thousands of older people who look back with great affection to the summer holidays they enjoyed as children at Artek.

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The view from Ankerwycke

So you know, Ancient Yew, of all that came to pass in 1215? You shivered for more than a thousand winters. You gave shelter for more than a thousand summers. Did you gaze in those days over the Thames to the meadows at Runnymede?

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Pentecost in the heart of Bavaria

It rained last night on the hills above the Inn Valley in Bavaria. Lucky were those pilgrims who had the luxury of a bed in one of the many small inns and guest houses which are to be found along the route of Saint James. Nourished in body if not yet completely in soul, the small groups of pilgrims wander south towards Altötting, a small town in Bavaria which is less than a day's walk from the border with Austria.

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A Rhino called Ganda

We revisit the story of Ganda, the rhinoceros made famous in Dürer's woodcut, and look at it in the context of Renaissance royal menageries.

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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.

Magazine article

Into the Blue

by Iain Bamforth

For Swiss scientist and mountaineer HB de Saussure, the sky held "in its grandeur and its dazzling purity, an element of death and infinite sadness." Guest writer Iain Bamforth invites us to jump into the blue. Wrap up warm, and bring your cyanometer along.

Magazine article

Taranto’s broken heart

by Nicky Gardner

Hop on the slow train to Taranto with us. We ride through rural Puglia in search of Magna Graecia - clutching our copy of George Gissing's account of his visit to the same region over 100 years ago.

Magazine article

Real flying: Norway by plane

by Nicky Gardner

The consensus is that flying has become boring. But fly on small planes offering a web of scheduled services up the Norwegian coast to discover a very different take on civil aviation. Travel by plane can still be immensely enjoyable. We review flying with Widerøe, a small airline based north of the Arctic Circle at Bodø in Norway.

Magazine article

Remembering Anna

by hidden europe

Anna Walentynowicz died five years ago this spring in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of many in the Polish leadership. We recall the woman who was a welder, crane driver and political activist - a woman who quietly helped shape modern Poland.

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Remembering Taras Shevchenko

Grab your coat and come with us. This walk we'll make together is important, and this week is the time to do it. Important because, if we want to understand Ukraine, then we need to know the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. And there's no better place to read Shevchenko than overlooking the River Dnieper just downstream from Kaniv.

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Recalling Marianne

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 consciousness.

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A Silesian story

It was 274 years ago today that Frederick II of Prussia rode through the Schweidnitzer Gate in Breslau to claim the Silesian city for Prussia. It is a mark of Frederick's style that he was accompanied, as he ceremonially entered the city, not by cannons but by a number of packhorses carrying the royal tableware.

Magazine article

Setting Forth

by Nicky Gardner

One firth: three bridges. Each of the three bridges over the Firth of Forth was built in a different century. There is the 19th-century rail bridge, a 20th-century road bridge and now the new Queensferry Crossing road bridge under construction. Long gone are the days when a trip from Edinburgh to Fife meant attending to the ebb and flow of the tides.

Magazine article

The witches of Varanger

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Martinmas

by hidden europe

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

Magazine articleFull text online

Monemvasía: the Greek Gibraltar

by Duncan JD Smith

In the southern Peloponnese, the island citadel of Monemvasía once enjoyed a key strategic location on major Mediterranean shipping routes. No wonder, therefore, that many have sought to secure control of the rock that is often referred to as 'the Greek Gibraltar'.

Magazine article

Stecci: Bosnia’s mediaeval tombstones

by Rudolf Abraham

The stećci of Bosnnia and Herzegovina are remarkable tombstones with varying styles of decoration. These enigmatic stones are something that all Bosnians can identify with. They are a reminder that this is a land with its own very special sacred landscapes. Guest contributor Rudolf Abraham unravels the story of the stećci.

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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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Edwardtide

Today is an ordinary working day, though if history had taken a different turn, October 13 could so easily have become a national holiday in England. Many of the men and women who have occupied the English throne in the last 1000 years have aspired to sainthood. But only one of them has ever actually been canonised, namely Edward the Confessor, whose feast day is celebrated in both the Catholic and Anglican Church today.

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The Nansen trail

A recent visit to the Arctic port of Vardø, on an island off the eastern extremity of the Varanger Peninsula, prompts us to reflect on Fridtjof Nansen’s visit to the same place in 1893. Nansen arrived in Vardø on the Fram. It was the ship's last port-of-call in Norway on the great voyage of exploration that was to take Nansen closer to the North Pole than any earlier expedition.

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Hurtigruten ASA: business and brand

Our focus in the notes on Hurtigruten on the hidden europe website is very much on the Norwegian coastal voyage. But that is just part of a wider portfolio of activities undertaken nowadays by Hurtigruten ASA, the company founded in 1912 to develop and manage the Norwegian coastal shipping route.

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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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Travelling with Shakespeare

Hot summer days... and we've been meandering through northern Italy. Virtually, with Shakespeare by our side. Remember Lucentio who, in The Taming of the Shrew, leaves his home city of Pisa in Tuscany? Lucentio's servant Tranio accompanies his master.

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Financial architecture

Well do we know that modern pieties demand that one speaks only ill of banks, but here at hidden europe we often say nice things about bankers - or, to be more precise, about the good judgement exercised from time to time by bankers as they selected architects and designs for their most prestigious buildings.

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.

Magazine article

Silent witness: the bridge over the River Drina

by Laurence Mitchell

Ivo Andric's book The Bridge on the Drina captures four centuries of life in the town of Visegrad. The book is populated by small-town characters of various religious persuasions — Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. In the wake of the terrible conflicts of the 1990s, Visegrad is now mainly a Serb town (and thus Orthodox). Guest contributor Laurence Mitchell introduces us to Visegrad, the small town on the Drina in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Magazine article

The power of song

by Nicky Gardner

It is forty years since Pete Seeger took to stages in Moscow, the Crimea and Prague as part of a world tour. Seeger died earlier this year of course, and in this postscript to his life we look at how Seeger's music was very similar to that of the guitar poets in eastern Europe in the post-Stalin period.

Magazine article

A share in history

by Nicky Gardner

The agency that promotes tourism to the German capital is called Visit Berlin. During 2014 Visit Berlin is promoting the idea that 9 November 2014 is the night when you just must be in Berlin. Just as Notting Hill Festival and Edinburgh Hogmanay have staked their place in the global party circuit, Berlin is using the 25th anniversary of the 'fall of the Wall' to advance its case for inclusion.

Magazine article

Russian Orthodox churches on the Riviera

by hidden europe

Visitors to the Riviera are often surprised to find the striking Orthodox churches along the coast. From the red headlands of the Esterel Massif to Sanremo in Liguria, there is a hint of the east in the ecclesiastical landscape - a legacy of the history of Russian visitors to the region.

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Yuri gets a ticket

Yuri overstayed the limit. So he was given a ticket. Then the authorities ushered Yuri out of town. Now he's parked outside the airport terminal. How long he'll stay there is a matter for debate. Our guess is that, as long as Russians keep flying into town, Yuri will be allowed to stay outside the airport.

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Travelling via the Hook

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 bank of the River Maas was a first glimpse of the continent.

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Sárospatak: a small town in Hungary

Travelling through north-east Hungary earlier this month, we could so easily have missed Sárospatak. It was a drizzly Sunday afternoon and we turned off the main road merely on a whim. Sárospatak was to us little more than a name on a map. Of course we knew something of the Calvinist traditions of eastern Hungary - a part of the Habsburg realm where the ripples of the Reformation captured the local imagination.

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Music for 25 March

March 1714 was a good month for Johann Sebastian Bach. On the second of the month, he was promoted to the plum job of Konzertmeister at the Weimar court. This was quite an achievement for a man who was only 28 years old. The terms of the new appointment required that each month Bach should present a new cantata in the Schlosskirche (Palace Church) at Weimar, and the first of those performances was scheduled for 25 March - 300 years ago today.

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.

Magazine article

Second chance for the Northern Sea Route

by Nicky Gardner

Global warming means thinning Arctic ice, which is a tragedy for imperilled polar wildlife. But, for the merchant shipping industry, receding Arctic ice opens up new opportunities for exploiting the Northern Sea Route. The route from the Barents Sea to the Bering Strait is being transformed into an operational seaway.

Magazine article

Exploring New Scotland

by Nicky Gardner

In the eastern highveld, where South Africa nudges up to Swaziland, place names on maps reveal the predictable mix of isiZulu and Afrikaans influences. But there is another layer to the toponyms of the region, one that reveals a legacy of Scottish settlement in the region. We unpack the history of New Scotland which, with its capital Roburnia (named after Robert Burns), was founded 150 years ago this year.

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

Tales from the A39

by Nicky Gardner

Forget the Maserati centenary celebrations this year. 2014 marks the centenary of the Mendip Motor. Chewton Mendip was never destined to become a Detroit. But one hundred years ago this month this small Somerset village saw the launch of the Mendip Motor. We travel down the A39 to uncover this story of car production in the Mendip Hills of England.

Magazine article

Dollars and cents

by hidden europe

Three of the 406 municipalities that comprise the Netherlands use a currency other than the euro. Yes, there really are three municipalities where you buy Dutch pancakes with US dollars.

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 articleFull text online

Where God grew stones: a Mani odyssey

by Duncan JD Smith

Patrick Leigh Fermor's 1958 book on the Mani region of southern Greece helped put Mani on the map. Today it pulls the tourist crowds, yet it still retains a raw appeal. Guest contributor Duncan JD Smith dives deep into Mani to explore the otherworldly landscapes of this arid peninsula.

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Sounds of a city

Think how voices help define a city. Speeches and songs have shaped the Weimar soundscape. And they have been more varied in tone than you might expect. To be sure, the foremost exponents of Weimar classicism all pitched into the Weimar conversation: Herder, Wieland, Goethe and Schiller. But there are also some less likely threads in the soundscape of the German town.

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Reclaiming Weimar

Snow falls over all the city, covering the cobbles and the pathways. In the gentle stretch of parkland that lines the valley of the Ilm, snow drapes the follies and the ruins. In the middle of Weimar, statues of stern men are laced with light snow. A tricorne for Goethe, an icicle for Schiller.

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A polar travel centenary

The Arctic has been much on our minds of late. Today we mark the centenary of an epic moment in polar travel. One hundred years ago today, the Karluk was wrecked in the Chukchi Sea. The ship set off from Vancouver Island in June 1913 on a voyage to explore and map the Canadian Arctic.

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The Chelyuskin epic

As Russian families gather today to celebrate Christmas (which in Orthodox Europe falls later than in the Roman calendar), they will be inclined - like families everywhere in the world - to look back to Christmas tales from yesteryear. There is barely a Russian alive - of any age - who cannot recount a heroic tale or two about the bravery of the crew and passengers of the Chelyuskin, who 80 years ago endured an ice-bound Christmas in the Chukchi Sea.

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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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Farewell Madiba

Rolihlahla was born in Mvezo, moving when he was still a young lad to another village called Qunu which is further north, a little closer to the town of Mthatha. Until he went to school, Rolihlahla wore only a blanket. But on the day before school started, Rolihlahla's father took a pair of his own trousers, cut them off at the knee and insisted that his son wear them to school. Clad in his outsized trousers next day at school, Rolihlahla met his teacher, Miss Mdingane, who insisted that, now the boy was old enough to be educated, he should have a new name.

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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.

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Winter comes to Kroscienko

The winter snows have come to higher parts of the Carpathians, and already the beech woods and forests of fir are clad in white. Kroscienko, a little village in the Polish hills, is very quiet this time of year. Were it not for the fact that the road through Kroscienko leads to a border crossing with neighbouring Ukraine, there would be scarcely anyone passing through Kroscienko.

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The Orkneys and more

There will be no boat to the remote island of North Ronaldsay this coming Thursday. The ferry from Kirkwall, the main community in the Orkney Islands, runs out to North Ronaldsay just once a week at this time of year - and that on a Friday. So the crowds will probably not be flocking to North Ronaldsay on Thursday to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the island being connected to a mains electricity supply.

Magazine article

Of alkari, lace and wooden toys

by Rudolf Abraham

Rudolf Abraham has over the years written about many of Croatia's most remarkable landscapes for hidden europe. Now he returns to the country in search of something more subtle: Croatia’s remarkable craft traditions and festivals. Rudolf argues that this intangible cultural heritage is the DNA that helps define communities - and it is as deserving of protection and preservation as fine mountains, coastlines and wetlands.

Magazine article

Alhama de Granada: Al-Andalus revisited

by Laurence Mitchell

Alhama de Granada is a small town in the mountains of Andalucía, one feted by many writers in the Romantic tradition as being on a par with Granada itself. Laurence Mitchell describes the pulse of everyday life in Alhama, a place that still has its fair share of Moorish ghosts.

Magazine article

Leipzig soundscapes

by Nicky Gardner

Few European cities can rival Leipzig when it comes to musical associations. Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig, Johann Sebastian Bach had an extraordinarily productive 27 years in the city, and the roll call of great musical names continues: Clara and Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Edvard Grieg and more. We profile a city that has been to a considerable degree defined by music

Magazine article

Remembering Jacob Riis

by Nicky Gardner

The social reformer and documentary photography Jacob Riis, author of 'How the Other Half Lives' (1890), was born in the town of Ribe in Danish Jutland. Understanding Ribe is the key to understanding Jacob Riis. We take a look at how Riis described his home town in his 1909 book 'The Old Town'.

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Making waves from Ribe

Ribe no longer makes waves as once it did. The silting up of waterways has changed the local landscape. The bustle of port trade has long gone, but Ribe is still a watery place. Set in a wall on one Ribe street is an inscription that notes the birthplace of a Ribe resident of yesteryear: Jacob Riis.

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Hidden Devon

We wandered through Devon byways, passing Kingdom's Corner to reach the River Dart at Worthy Bridge. From there it was an easy stroll down the valley towards Bickleigh. John Lean farms a handsome herd of White Park cattle here. He has 150 head of cattle on the steep slopes of the Dart. They are magnificent animals.

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Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone

It was one hundred years ago this month that WB Yeats' poem September 1913 was published in a Dublin newspaper. The poem is more than merely a lament for Irish separatist and bold Fenian John O'Leary. It is a sharp critique of the trend in Ireland to more materialist and bourgeois values. This was a cry from the heart, a plea that Ireland might continue to make space for art and the imagination.

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The Out Skerries

For the Out Skerries in Scotland's Shetland archipelago, the 'Filla' has been a veritable lifeline. This year, she marks thirty years of sterling service to the Skerries community. Launched in 1983, the Filla helped transform life on the Out Skerries by providing a reliable link to the Shetland mainland.

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Sally Bowles did not live in Weimar

Travelling through eastern Germany last week, we changed trains at Weimar. Does not the very name evoke all sorts of associations to fire the imagination? That edgy period when cultural horizons were redefined in a decade of divine decadence? But if you are looking to understand the Weimar years of 20th-century Germany, you'll search in vain in the Thuringian city for any hint of all that is associated with those years.

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Delving into glacial history

Hoxne is one of a number of spots in England that are improbably prominent in Quaternary history. Big cities like Birmingham and London count for nothing in this narrative. One day an enterprising tour operator with an interest in geology might start a glacial tour of England.

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The Îles Malouines

Only rarely do we venture beyond the shores of Europe within our Letter from Europe. But the layered toponymy of the archipelago in the South Atlantic reveals the complicated history of settlement in the islands known today as the Falklands or Islas Malvinas.

Magazine article

Miss Jemima’s Swiss journal

by Nicky Gardner

In 1863, Jemima Morrell participated in the first ever escorted tour of the Alps organised by Cook. Her diary of that journey is a remarkable piece of writing - one that slices through Victorian formality. The story of what happened to that diary is as intriguing as the journey described within its pages.

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Hitting the buffers

by hidden europe

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

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Remembering Miss Jemima

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 1863, it was a perfectly ordinary Tuesday. Jemima and her party of fellow travellers from England dutifully followed the Parisian itinerary that had been prepared for them by Mr Thomas Cook.

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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.

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Hercules in Lazio

The time is coming when residents of Rome escape the Eternal City. Rome is not a place to stay in summer. Many from Rome head north into the hills of Lazio, where Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance threads intertwine in history and culture. The lakes pull the crowds. There are three in particular, all marking the site of old volcano craters: Bolsena (with its two pretty islands), Bracciano and the much smaller Lago di Vico. The latter is just about three kilometres across, and the entire lake is quite hemmed in by the hills.

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After the flood

The waters came, and so did the European media. The water was ruthless and unsympathetic. It tore down bridges and wrecked homes. The mud and debris that came with the flood blocked culverts and drains. Lives were put on the line. So too were livelihoods as the water flooded factories, warehouses and business premises.

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The North begins inside

"There is not much to be said for Reykjavik." That, at least, was the opinion of WH Auden when he arrived in Iceland in June 1936. A few weeks later, Irish poet Louis MacNeice joined Auden and the two men took to the hills of Iceland's wild interior on horseback

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100 years of buses

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 more modest means.

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The Russian Season in Paris

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 was the venue for some radical departures from choreographic convention. It is an extraordinary building, one that in its style presciently anticipates what later came to be known as art deco.

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On the march

It was one hundred years ago tomorrow that Rosa Luxemburg published some thoughts on May Day in the Leipziger Volkszeitung. Writing, as she put it, "amid the wildest orgies of imperialism," Luxemburg extolled "the brilliant basic idea of May Day" and rejoiced in the autonomous rise of proletarian masses which each year erupted on 1 May on the streets of Germany. Fast forward 20 years to 1 May 1933, and the Nazis found another use for May Day.

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First plans for a Channel Tunnel rail service

Forty years ago this spring, civil servants in London and European rail planners were sketching out the first tentative ideas for just such a train service. The prevailing pieties in Britain about all things European were very different in those days. The UK had opted into the European project at the start of 1973, and the following October the Westminster Parliament approved a White Paper that gave the green light to the Channel Tunnel.

Magazine article

The route to Zakopane: a journey of the spirit

by Nicky Gardner

The slow train journey from Kraków to Zakopane seems to last an eternity. The names of the forty-one stations along the way – and our train pauses at every one of them – make a wonderful litany of Polish toponyms. The route takes in a remarkable religious landscape (one that is inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List) and the valley where Lenin and other early Bolsheviks helped shape their revolutionary code. It concludes at Poland's premier mountain resort.

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Retrospect 1873: Salzburg to Vienna

by Nicky Gardner

There is a prevailing view in Salzburg that Vienna is halfway to Asia. And that is certainly the perspective with which 19th-century travellers from western Europe approached Vienna. We retrace the itinerary followed by Thomas Cook's clients in 1873 as they headed east to Vienna to attend the World Fair hosted that year in the Austrian capital.

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The Book of Hours

by Nicky Gardner

Some argue that printed timetables are obsolete in an Internet Age. But no online database has ever managed to capture the overall pattern of a train service with the fluency of the tabular format used in printed timetables. We probe the magic appeal of Bradshaw's guides and Thomas Cook's timetables and reflect on which of the two might claim the upper hand.

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Tartan tactics: creating a national brand

by Nicky Gardner

An image is worth a thousand words. France is represented as a land of soft-focus vineyards while Norway is captured in a fjord. Slovenia is distilled in one island in the middle of a lake, while Scotland is evidently populated by men wearing kilts. We look at how national brands have evolved over two hundred years.

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The Great and the Good: history distilled in Franz Josef Land

by Nicky Gardner

The maps of Franz Josef Land are a cartographic journey through the royal salons of a lost era. Here is territory where the relatives of explorers are locked in cartographic alliance with a Russian princess and the Viceroy of India. We look at the cartographic legacy of early travels to Russia's largest Arctic archipelago.

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Thomas Cook: March 1873

By the end of February 1873, Thomas Cook had encircled most of the northern hemisphere. Cook and his party of circumnavigators had sailed from Liverpool in September 1872. The travellers discovered iced water, Pullman cars and Sioux warriors in the United States. They found the crossing of the Pacific happily pacific and enjoyed "a perfect bewilderment" of landscape in Japan.

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From Sylt to Samoa

The North Frisian island of Sylt may not seem the most obvious place for a tutorial on Germany's colonial adventures. The island protects the coast of Jutland from the North Sea. It has long sandy beaches, fabulous dunescapes and lovely swathes of heath. The perfect island, some might venture. In its toponyms, Sylt recalls two other islands, both far-flung and both once coveted by Germany. The local bus that trundles out to the southern tip of Sylt stops at both Samoa and Sansibar.

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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It’s the small things that matter

by Nicky Gardner

Would you believe that a major guide book publisher really suggests that the Rhine runs from north to south through Germany? With tight budgets, some publishers are cutting corners and skimping on detail. For the Rough Guide to Germany, that means focusing in on mainstream destinations, removing from new editions those sections of the book which reflect on smaller communities across Germany. Yet it is the latter that capture much that is so appealing in Germany.

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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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Just like Elba

by Nicky Gardner

Antony Gormley's dramatic sculpture, The Angel of the North, has done wonders for south Tyneside. Will Verity do the same for Ilfracombe? But Verity's stay in the north Devon port is limited to just twenty years. And who then might take her place by the side of Ilfracombe harbour? Napoleon Bonaparte, perhaps?

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Chance encounter: Cape Flora

by Nicky Gardner

In July 1893, a remarkable chance encounter took place at Cape Flora on Northbrook Island in the Franz Josef archipelago. The Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen and his companion Fredrik Johansen, who had failed to reach the North Pole, bumped in the British expeditioner Frederick George Jackson. This serendipitous meeting almost certainly saved the lives of Nansen and Johansen. Two decades later, another equally fortuitous meeting took place at Cape Flora.

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Land, sea and the frontiers of space

They are the forgotten places, the liminal zones where land meets the sea. Shingle promontories and spits rarely have the same appeal as rugged cliff coastlines or great tracts of golden sand.These forgotten wildernesses are good for military exploits. Armies can play games and scientists working in the service of the military can conduct unseen experiments. Peenemünde was perfect in that respect.

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From Askania-Nova to Vaduz

Another Friday morning. And a sunny September day in Liechtenstein. A little fog around dawn down in the Rhine Valley, but that will surely clear quickly. So blue skies will set the tone for the hundredth birthday of Baron Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein. Eduard von Falz-Fein was born on 14 September 1912 into quite another world. Emperor Franz Joseph I still presided over Austria-Hungary, Nicholas II ruled Russia and journalist Leon Trotsky was making his way south from Vienna to cover the developing troubles in the Balkans.

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Journeys: Winter in Arabia and Summer by the Baltic

Summer in Europe might not seem a natural ally for winter in Arabia. But Freya Stark’s 'A Winter in Arabia' is a book for all seasons and all continents. It recalls Freya Stark’s second journey through the Hadhramaut region of southern Arabia (nowadays part of Yemen). Freya Stark’s first Arabian foray, in the winter of 1934–1935, ended with measles and an ignominious rescue by the Royal Air Force. The publicity in Europe which attended that rescue helped establish Freya Stark’s reputation as an intrepid explorer.

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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

Second fiddle: music in Mittenwald

by Nicky Gardner

Anton Maller is a patient man. He has to be. Creating the perfect violin takes weeks of concentrated effort. We meet Anton Maller, a master violin maker, in his home town of Mittenwald in the Alps. Mittenwald enjoys a fine reputation for the quality of its musical instruments.

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Of maps and men: Landranger sheet 57

by Nicky Gardner

With place names like Pendicles of Collymoon and Nether Easter Offerance, Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 57 fires the imagination. Maps tell stories, as do old men in pubs. Like the Tartan traveller we met in the Tyrol who tried to persuade us that Garibaldi had Scottish ancestry. From Baldy Garrow it is but a short step to Garibaldi.

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Capital affairs

by Nicky Gardner

Just over one hundred years ago, Greece was expelled from a currency union that once extended from Latin America to the Balkans. We take a look a currency unions of yesteryear, wading along the way through a medley of soldi and quattrini, blutzger and kreutzer.

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Reshaping mental maps

This evening, a train will speed from Córdoba to Valencia in just a shade over three hours, marking the inauguration of another link in Spain's growing high-speed rail network. True, the new stretch of line in this case is very modest, but it is enough to facilitate a new fast service linking the Guadalquivir Valley in Andalucía with the Gulf of Valencia. And it will help reshape the mental maps of citizens of both the Spanish Levante and Andalucía.

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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.

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Rites of penance

by hidden europe

Prompted by Diego Vivanco's report from San Vicente de la Sonsierra, hidden europe sets out to detect the origins of the religious practice of self-flagellation in Europe.

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Sanctuary: in the shadow of St Pancras

by Nicky Gardner

In 'A Tale of Two Cities', Dickens recalls the work of bodysnatchers in St Pancras Churchyard. The graveyard is in the very shadow of London's magnificently restored St Pancras station. We reflect on how the railways have reshaped the St Pancras area, pay a visit to Somers Town and savour the renaissance of the former Midland Grand station hotel, which reopened as the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.

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The art of concealment: Riga

by Neil Taylor

The Latvian capital has long been shaped by outside influences. Every new master required the reinvention of the country's identity: what was acceptable was brought into the open and what could not be denied had to be conealed. Guest contributor Neil Taylor introduces us to the high art of political camouflage.

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Zurich’s Moulage Museum

by Duncan JD Smith

Duncan JD Smith, urban explorer extraordinaire, introduces us to the world of medical moulage, a technique that was used to reproduce the physical manifestations of various diseases and dermatological conditions. Welcome to Zurich’s Moulage Museum.

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Women on the rails

International Women's Day (IWD), which is celebrated today in many countries across the world, has been a feature of the European social landscape for more than a century. From the outset, IWD gave focus to a range of initiatives across Europe that pre-dated the designation of a special day. For example, Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragettes had already been very effectively promoting women's rights in England, while Clara Zetkin and her followers had been pursuing a similar agenda in Germany.

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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.

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Ukraine's Bukovina region

by Laurence Mitchell

The Carpathian region of south-west Ukraine has fabulous beechwoods and rural lifestyles that tell of another world – one far removed from much of modern Europe. Laurence Mitchell introduces us to Chernivtsi and to villages in the hinterland of the town – places where echoes of the verse of poet Paul Celan still touch life today.

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Steaming through the Harz Mountains

by Nicky Gardner

The Harz Mountains lie astride the erstwhile border between East Germany and West Germany. The forested hills of the Harz preside over the North European Plain. The eastern portion of the Harz benefits from a legacy of East Germany: a wonderful narrow-gauge railway system. This is slow travel at its best, as we explore the Harz Mountains in autumn.

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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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An Indian summer of passenger shipping

by Nicky Gardner

We have been taking a look at some ferry timetables of yesteryear. Forty years ago, there were still regular ferry services from the Scottish port of Leith to Iceland. This, and many similar routes in north European waters, was a slow travel experience par excellence. We cast back to the days when ferries still ran to Svalbard and flit boats were still in use at many ports.

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Viking voyages: Eirik Raudes Land

by Nicky Gardner

For a brief period in the early 1930s, the Norwegian flag fluttered over two remote settlements in eastern Greenland: Myggbukta and Antarctichavn. This is the story of Eirik Raudes Land (Erik the Red Land), an upstart territory named in honour of one of the Viking World's most celebrated mediaeval scoundrels.

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Red Star Sofia

by hidden europe

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

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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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Remember, remember

Many English readers will know the rhyme that recalls the failed terrorist action in 1605, when Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators tried to blow up the English Parliament. But the majority of those who gather at bonfires across England this evening probably will not have the details of Guy Fawkes' peculiar act of treason uppermost in their minds as they gaze at crossettes, spiders, horsetails and multi-break shells exploding in the night skies.

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Reformation Day

Europe's Protestant reformers were not, on the whole, men who took kindly to statues. Indeed, thousands of statues in Catholic churches across Europe were smashed to pieces during the Reformation. So it's hard to fathom what Martin Luther would have made of the rather ostentatious statue of himself that stands in the middle of the Rhineland city of Worms.

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From Dutch tornadoes to Sussex avalanches

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 Mid-West. But the chances of someone living in the Netherlands, or for that matter southern England, having seen a tornado is pretty high.

Magazine article

Quo vadis Macedonia?

by Nicky Gardner

Protecting the national narrative is a fine art in Macedonia, the south Balkan republic which neighbouring Greece insists should be referred to only as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (or FYROM for short). Join us as we try and unravel the modern Macedonian question.

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An Arctic outpost: Victoria Island

by Nicky Gardner

The story of Victoria Island, a tiny fleck of land in the European Arctic midway between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land, is a reminder that there are better ways of conducting international diplomacy than leaving a message in a bottle.

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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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Train services of yesteryear

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 utterly dreadful for an earlier generation of travellers. We have been taking a look at European rail travel 40 years ago.

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The 313 to Botany Bay

We were having difficulty being enthusiastic about Enfield. Jack, an amiable octogenarian who is Enfield born and bred, is more positive. "Heavens," he exclaims. "You've no idea. Enfield has been important for centuries. Do you remember the Lee Enfield, for example?" asks Jack. Actually we don't, but Jack tells a plausible tale about how the rifle that was for sixty years standard issue to British troops was made in Enfield.

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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.

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Arabia and the European Imagination

Travel and myth-making naturally go hand in hand. Arabia is a product of the European imagination. Romanticised views of the desert and rumours of ancient cities lost in great seas of sand conspire to create picture-book images of an Arabia that hardly match reality.

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Issue 200: the Jardin Villemin

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 the Jardin Villemin.

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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.

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Kvarken life

While much of the world worries about the possible impact of rising sea levels on coastal communities, the Kvarken islands have the opposite problem. This archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland is still on the rebound - as it were - after having been relieved of the burden of ice that covered the region during the last Ice Age.

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The ark in the park

Zoos evoke all manner of reactions. Some commentators see them as playing a key role in maintaining biological diversity, others dismiss them as cruel and inhumane. We take a look at European zoos in their social and historical context.

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The Baedeker legacy

"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 that also included such redoubtable names as John Murray and Thomas Cook.

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The legacy of Katyn

It was twenty years ago this coming Tuesday that Moscow formally acknowledged that the Soviet secret police (the NKVD) had shot thousands of officers, priests, poets and professors in the forests of Katyn. The legacy of Katyn still scars the Polish soul, even more so today after the air crash near Katyn that claimed the lives of eighty-nine Polish politicians and officials including the Polish President.

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East of Trieste

Europe's Cold War borders were by no means ubiquitously impervious. Trieste on the Adriatic coast of Italy always had rather good links to neighbouring Yugoslavia. Earlier this week, we decided to travel east from Trieste, and found that the modern piety of open borders has done nothing to foster eastbound rail links from the port city.

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A Dutch planetarium

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 Netherlands.

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A tribute to the humble suitcase

by Nicky Gardner

The classic suitcase has been relegated to the carousel of history as travellers opt for more modern styles of luggage. But the suitcase is still replete with double-edged meaning - a symbol of freedom for some, but a reminder of unhappy exile for others.

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Keeping faith: York's Quaker community

by Nicky Gardner

The city in northern England is well known for its important role in Anglican affairs, and many visitors also recall York's association with Catholic martyrs. But York has long been home to many dissenting traditions, and the spirit of the dissenters is today embodied in the Quaker life and spirit that plays so important a role in modern York.

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An immortal mortar

by hidden europe

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

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Romania: Polish communities of the Suceava region

by Nicky Gardner

Romania is one of several countries in Europe that give guaranteed access to parliamentary seats to national minorities. One of the ethnic minorities in Romania that benefits from this scheme is the Polish community. We take a look some Polish villages in Suceava County in north-east Romania.

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A Russian diversion

by hidden europe

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

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Geography matters!

It was way back in 1879 that a witness, testifying before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in London, declared "Geography is ruinous in its effects on the lower classes." If there is one discipline which has informed our writing in hidden europe more than any other, it is most surely geography. And travelling through England this past week, we have been struck by how geographical insight is still important.

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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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A day in Domažlice

by Nicky Gardner

The small towns of southwest Bohemia, many of them just a stone's throw from the border with Bavaria, are well off most tourist trails. We visit Domazlice, a town in the hills that boasts a beautiful elongate plaza at its heart.

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Cerise diversions

by Nicky Gardner

Before being quietly consigned to literary history in 1959, the Penguin Cerise series brought some of the very best of the world's English language travel writing to a huge readership at affordable paperback prices. We remember an icon of publishing history.

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The Cretan question

by Nicky Gardner

We look at examples of how territories and countries have been internationalised through joint administration by foreign powers. From Crete to Kosovo, Europe has had many examples of shared suzerainty.

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East Germany: after the fall

by Nicky Gardner

Brandenburg's business corridor, an east-west strip south of Berlin, incorporates many preserves that featured in Cold War history. We take a look at some of the places outside Berlin that played the role in the political events of 1989 and thereafter.

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Celebrity tourism in the Trossachs

Celebrity tourism is nothing new. In 1847, Queen Victoria had journeyed to the Hebrides from the Clyde, using the Crinan Canal to avoid the long sea journey around the Kintyre peninsula. In so doing she encouraged thousands of other travellers to follow in her wake - the so-called Royal Route to Oban via the Crinan Canal was suddenly in vogue.

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Day of German Unity

It is the Day of German Unity, a public holiday on 3 October each year that recalls the unification of the two German States in October 1990. It is unsurprisingly a day that promotes reflection on both sides of the erstwhile border, with many Germans from the west of the country quite unable to understand why some of their eastern neighbours look back with obvious affection on aspects of life in the east.

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Essays in stone: Mérida

by David Cawley

Retirement communities tend to be rather tame places. Not so the one in Spain's Extremadura region, which guest contributor David Cawley has been exploring for hidden europe.

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Joseph Roth - literary connections

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 & K empire - a place beyond which Viennese influence gave way to more tsarist sentiments. Joseph Roth wrote much about people and places on the margins of society.

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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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Jewish legacies in southeast France

by Peter Wortsman

The vestiges of Jewish life and culture are waiting to be discovered in southeast France. From hill towns in the Dauphiné to old synagogues in Cavaillon and Carpentras, there are remnants of Les Juifs du Pape (the Pope's Jews).

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Schönefeld airport: a retrospect

by Nicky Gardner

Just imagine! A time when plane tickets had no hidden extras and could be endlessly changed without penalty. We cast our eyes back to East Germany in 1973, and recall the days when Iraqi Airways flew from Berlin to London.

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Kaliningrad conundrum

by Nicky Gardner

The Königsberg problem: start and end at the same place, and walk through the city, crossing all seven bridges once and no more. A mathematical puzzle from the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

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The Via Sacra

by Nicky Gardner

The Via Sacra is an inspired initiative that foregrounds the religious heritage of a particularly beautiful part of central Europe - the area where Bohemia (Czech Republic), Polish Silesia and the German State of Saxony converge.

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Edith Durham in Prokletije

by Rudolf Abraham

It was one hundred years ago this year that Edith Durham made the Albanian journeys that were to feature in her book "High Albania". We look at Edith Durham's adventures in the Albania-Montenegro border region.

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Of cabbages and kinder

by Bryn Frank

Golzow seems like an insignificant village on the plains not far from the German-Polish border. But it is much more, for Golzow has an important place in the history of documentary film. Bryn Frank introduces us to 'the children of Golzow'.

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The nymph's call to Allianoi

by Üstün Bilgen-Reinart

Progress always comes at a price. Not far from Turkey's Aegean coast the beautiful ruins at Allianoi are about to be flooded. Local horticulturalists demand more water for their tomato crops. But the defenders of Allianoi are not giving in easily. Üstün Bilgen-Reinart reports from Turkey.

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Form and function: Dessau

by Nicky Gardner

The Dessau Bauhaus was the creative focus for a galaxy of talented artists, architects and designers, among them Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Mies van der Rohe. We explore the small town of Dessau in eastern Germany.

Magazine article

Passionate nomads

by Nicky Gardner

Three Swiss-born women travel writers slipped from our shared literary consciousness until they were rediscovered by feminist critics. hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner finds in the writing of Isabelle Eberhardt, Annemarie Schwarzenbach and Ella Maillart a dash of inspiration for her own writing.

Magazine article

Rock and rituals: Roskilde

by Nicky Gardner

Think of Roskilde, a smallish city on the Danish island of Sjælland. Yes, the annual rock festival. Yet there is much more to Roskilde than the rituals of one of Europe's premier open air music events. It is a place that captures the very essence of Danish identity.

Magazine article

A Basque village: Urzainki connections

by Karlos Zurutuza

The tiny village of Urzainki in the Basque Pyrenees is a mere fleck on the map. But it is a place with connections. Can it really be true that this one village has a link with an erstwhile Pope, an American President, the Bronte family and a South American political leader?

Magazine article

Keeping faith with the past: Iceland

by Nicky Gardner

Yes, you can go to Iceland in search of glaciers and geysers, but you can also travel north, just as William Morris did, in search of heroes and gods. These are landscapes full of eddic myth and powerful sagas. Iceland is a country that has kept faith with the past.

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Changing horizons for Silvertown (London)

Rathbone Street market in Canning Town, just two stops up the train line from Silvertown, was the furthest most Silvertowners ever ventured. A Saturday special. Pie and mash at Mrs Olley's café followed by ice cream at Murkoff's were Canning Town treats before Silvertowners hopped back on the train for the short ride home.

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The Isles of Scilly (Tresco)

In the Isles of Scilly, the spectacularly beautiful scatter of islands off the coast of southwest England, equinoctial tides often make for some formidably complicated schedules for the inter-island ferry service. We visit the Isles of Scilly and Tresco Abbey Gardens.

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Spitsbergen and the Italia rescue

Not so many St Petersburg visitors make it over to Vasilievsky Island which sits fair and square in the Neva delta. Those that do stick in the main to the eastern end of the island with the old St Petersburg stock exchange. This one building alone, flanked by two distinctive rostral columns in deep terracotta hues, warrants the trip over to Vasilievsky. But there is something else.

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Swiss spring

May Day may still be more than a fortnight away, but Zürich takes time out today for an early spring festival. Rain looks set to put a dampener on this year's Sechseläutern. This is a peculiarly Swiss occasion. The name refers to the "six o'clock bells" and marks the time of year when, with the evenings slowly lengthening, it becomes possible still to enjoy some daylight after finishing work.

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Seaplanes make a comeback

Loch Lomond Seaplanes last week launched a new seaplane service from Glasgow to Tobermory on the Hebridean island of Mull. Predictable media frenzy of course, with hyped accounts in English newspapers of how islanders can now eat 'seaweed muesli' at home for breakfast and be in Glasgow in time for mid-morning coffee.

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Traces of Europe in the Caribbean

On 31 March each year the most American of Caribbean islands recalls its Danish past. Until 1917, St Thomas was part of the Danish West Indies. There were three main islands in the Danish West Indies: St Thomas, St John and St Croix. The capital of the island group was not Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas but the town of Christiansted on St Croix.

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Trieste connections

The slow train to Trieste hugs the Adriatic coast, giving gorgeous views of the Miramare, a fabulous folly of a fortress built on a rocky plinth by Archduke Maximilian, the younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. The train brings the traveller into the very middle of Trieste, from where it is but a stone's throw to the Serbian Orthodox church, the old synagogue and a hundred other buildings that serve as reminders that this was once Europe's most cosmopolitan port.

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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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DDR nostalgia

For many older Germans who grew up in the DDR, the new order is associated with uncertainty in the labour market, consumerism and rising prices, and many look back with evident affection on some aspects of life in the DDR. Not all of course, and films like Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) act as a sharp reminder that life wasn't always quite so rosy in East Germany.

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The Selwyn swastika

hidden europe has been on the road - or more correctly 'on the rails' - this past week meandering through Europe on a journey that has seen us sleeping on a Russian night train, speeding through the Channel Tunnel on Eurostar, eating pierogi in Poland and croissants in France. There is something inescapably dramatic about a long train journey, especially if, as we contrived to do, one takes slow trains where at all possible.

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Dark tourism in Berlin and beyond

Many of Berlin's prime attractions evoke the darker side of the city's past. The new monument to the murdered Jews of Europe just south of the Brandenburg Gate is the latest addition to Berlin's dark tourism repertoire. Just a short walk away is the Topography of Terror exhibition. For visitors who venture out of Berlin's city centre, the former Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen is a major destination.

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European lazarets

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 serving as a leper colony and later for those suffering from mental incapacity.

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Heritage centres in Ireland - the Danube delta in Romania

In a month that marks the ninetieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, it seemed good to check out the memorial to Eamon de Valera in the village of Brú Rí (Bruree in English), a wee spot just off the main road from Cork to Limerick. Predictably, the one-time simple exhibition in the village schoolhouse where de Valera said the rosary and learnt English history, a quiet homage to the man who was the only leader of the Rising not to be killed by the British, has now become a multimedia heritage centre.

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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.