Articles tagged:

Poland

Magazine article

From slow boats to slow trains

by hidden europe

If you have some time to spare, don’t take the fast train when there’s a slower option. The latter will almost certainly be more interesting. We share some of our favourite slow journeys, citing examples from Calabria, Danish Jutland, Spain and Germany.

Magazine article

All change for 2023: New rail links

by hidden europe

A new daily rail link from Warsaw to Lithuania, direct trains from Bordeaux to the Black Forest and new night trains from Genoa, Dresden and Stuttgart all feature in Europe’s 2023 train timetables which come into effect on Sunday 11 December 2022.

Magazine article

Conflicts of interest: Mining and World Heritage

by Nicky Gardner

UNESCO's World Heritage List includes many citations which showcase former mining activities. The extractive industries have led to the development of some of Europe's most distinctive cultural landscapes. But the recent addition of a gold mining site in Romania to the list sparks tensions between conservation and economic interests.

Magazine article

The Athus factor

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Time for change: new rail services for 2022

Slower trains from Newcastle to Edinburgh and faster dashes from Cologne to Berlin are in the offing. New rail timetables across Europe come in effect in mid-December 2021. New night trains from Austria to France and from Switzerland to the Netherlands will start. We highlight some key changes in European rail schedules.

Magazine article

European heathlands

by hidden europe

Dedicated teams of scientists and conservationists are working to preserve Europe’s lowland heaths. The threats to these endangered habitats are many: creeping urbanization, the conversion of traditional heathland to cropland and the planting of conifers.

Blog post

Faith and identity in the Slovakian hills

Next week, the Pope is visiting Slovakia and the world’s media will surely show images of His Holiness taking a leading role in what looks like an Orthodox liturgy. It prompts us to look at faith and identity in the Carpathians - the area where the Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland converge.

Magazine article

Of symbols and secrets: Freemasonry narratives

by Nicky Gardner

The symbols and rituals of Freemasonry, such as the Eye of Providence, the square and compasses, plus alleged secret handshakes and initiation rites all invite curiosity. The last decade has seen a great increase in the number of exhibitions and museums devoted to Masonic craft and traditions. The latest, due to open in the coming months, is in the Latvian capital Riga

Magazine article

Flashback 1971: travels of yesteryear

by Nicky Gardner

There was a time when you could travel from Turin or Trieste to Moscow or from Istanbul to Beirut or Baghdad without changing trains. We look back half a century and explore the rail journeys which were on offer in the summer of 1971. It was a time when many premium trains between major European cities carried only first-class seating, with fares which were well beyond anything that many travellers could afford.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

The home of Esperanto

by hidden europe

Who was Dr Esperanto (Dr Hope)? He was an ophthalmologist by profession, but he is most remembered for his love of languages. The good doctor’s real name was Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof and he is best remembered as the creator of Esperanto. He came from one of Europe’s most multilingual communities: Białystok in north-east Poland.

Magazine article

Eastern Crescent: Islam in the Baltic region

by Nicky Gardner

Lipka Tatars settled in the rural region south of Vilnius in the 14th century, and their descendants still reside in villages in north-east Poland, western Belarus and southern Lithuania. They are a Muslim minority in a region of Europe which is often incorrectly perceived as being homogeneously Christian. We report on Baltic Islam.

Blog post

From Norway to Silesia

There are only about two dozen surviving Norwegian stave churches. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are in Norway. But curiously there's a fine example of a Norwegian stave church on the northern slopes of the Giant Mountains in south-west Poland. The church was purchased by the German Kaiser and transported from Vang in Norway to the Silesian hills in the early 1840s.

Blog post

A Four-Hour Train Journey for one Euro

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

Magazine article

Border-hopping Rail Tariffs

by hidden europe

We delve into the high theology of rail fares, noting the phenomenon of the extra-territorial tariff point. So Aachen in Germany features in the Belgian domestic tariff, and Schaffhausen in Switzerland is a German tariff point (as well as being a Swiss one). Enjoy.

Magazine article

Marking Time: New Train Services for 2020

by Nicky Gardner

The hidden europe award for ingenuity in creating new European rail travel opportunities is awarded to Austria's state rail operator, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB). We look at what ÖBB will offer anew for 2020, and examine too what's new on the rails in Russia, Germany and elsewhere across Europe.

Magazine article

Butter Trips

by hidden europe
There once was a time when passengers would smuggle butter on trains running from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. And more recently in Germany, budget-conscious shoppers would go one a boat trip to buy cheap butter. We take a look at the duty-free trade on ferries in European waters.
Magazine article

Shared High Points

by hidden europe
Germany makes much of its highest mountain, the mighty Zugspitze. The frontier between Austria and Germany bisects the mountain. But in Austria, the Zugspitze hardly counts as a significant peak. We look at the phenomenon of shared summits.
Magazine article

Summit-level-Canals

by hidden europe
Canals which breach great drainage divides are always interesting. There's one, opened in 1992, which links the River Danube with the River Main, the latter a tributary of the Rhine. So today it's possible to travel on a ship through the very heart of Europe from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
Blog post

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.

Magazine article

Central Europe by Night

by hidden europe
New rail timetables kick in across Europe on 9 December 2018. There are new direct daytime links from Bratislava to Innsbruck and Zürich, and from the Austria city of Linz to both Halle and Berlin. But the showpiece innovation is a new direct night train from Berlin to Vienna.
Magazine article

Lviv Rail Links

by hidden europe
News that a new night train, aimed largely at travellers from Ukraine, will link Przemyśl with Berlin from later this year is a sure sign that Ukrainians are making the most of visa-free access to the Schengen group of nations. The new demand for cross-border trains means that rail links to Lviv from the EU have greatly improved over the past year.
Magazine article

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.
Blog post

Tales from the East

With mention of fairy tales and film, thoughts often turn to Disney. The cinematic adaptation of fairy tales is often judged in the west to be a peculiarly American prerogative. But central and eastern Europe have a very fine tradition of progressive cinema and a vast store of fairy tales upon which to draw.

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Summer excursions by train

New summer train timetables kick in across Europe this month, ushering in many new rail links and interesting changes in rail services across the continent.

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New train services for 2016

New railway timetables kick in across much of Europe on Sunday 13 December - so here's a summary of interesting changes which we've noted in the new schedules. They include a useful new direct link from Moscow to Sofia - a journey which connects seven capital cities.

Magazine article

Keeping track

by hidden europe

It is that time of year when Europe prepares to introduce new train timetables. The 2016 schedules come into effect on Sunday 13 December 2015. As usual, there are winners and losers. We look at some new services.

Blog post

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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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

The borders of reality: panoramas

by Nicky Gardner

Panoramas, often displayed in purpose-built circular galleries, offered virtual travel experiences long before cinema and the internet. Like all immersive technologies, panoramas raised important questions about the boundaries between subject and object.

Blog post

A grand tour of Europe

A new issue of hidden europe is published tomorrow. Not just any issue of hidden europe, but one which marks our tenth birthday. Yes, it was way back in March 2005 that we published the first-ever issue of the magazine. For ten years, we have been quietly exploring our home continent, reporting on cultures and communities that seem to us worthy of note.

Magazine article

Tall statements

by hidden europe

Faith has evidently replaced politics as the motivation for some of the world's tallest sculptures. In Europe, the largest such structure is the massive statue of Jesus Christ at Swiebodzin in western Poland.

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.

Blog post

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.

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New rail services across Europe

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

Blog post

A new deal for Austrian lawyers

Europe is full of trains with oddly inappropriate names. At least the Alhambra goes to Granada. Not so the Wawel, which nowadays does not run to Kraków at all but only to Wroclaw. Some of the most bizarre train names are actually found in Austria. 'Austria reads' is just one of them.

Magazine article

Simply wood: a journey into the hills

by Nicky Gardner

The humblest homes in many villages in the Carpathians are built of wood. So, too, are the grandest buildings - almost invariably the church. Wood has its own benign beauty, and it is the carrier of tradition. We explore the wooden architecture of that part of the Carpathian region which lies to the east of the High Tatras.

Magazine article

Cross-border links in the Carpathians

by Nicky Gardner

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

Blog post

In search of Eden

There is something very pleasing about communities which display a strong architectural coherence. In some instances, the sense of order and unity might take its spark from one striking central feature. The Italian city of Palmanova is a good example.

Magazine article

By the razor’s edge: western Poland

by Nicky Gardner

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

Magazine article

The idea of ‘good’ borders

by hidden europe

The Curzon Line, which for so long marked the approximate western border of the Soviet Union is named after Lord Curzon. His Lordship has strong ideas on borders, seeing them very much as zones of demarcation. But ideas have changed since Curzon's day. Across much of Europe, they have become invitations for communities on either side to collaborate.

Blog post

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.

Magazine article

All points east

by Nicky Gardner

The new rail schedules for 2014 kick in across Europe in mid-December. Big changes are afoot as Russia rethinks its strategy for passenger services from Moscow to principal cities in the European Union. There are changes to night train services, a new international link from Austria and much more.

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.

Magazine article

History for sale

by hidden europe

Many abandoned station buildings in rural Poland are finding new life as private entrepreneurs restore them to their former glory. This spring the Polish authorities are selling off a further tranche of buildings, most of them remarkable pieces of architecture.

Blog post

Leaving the Tatras

I discovered yesterday that the traveller wanting to take a train out of Zakopane is hardly spoilt for choice. Early birds can opt for the 03.27 to Kraków. Then the next departure from the resort in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland is not till just after midday. Never keen on early starts, I opt for that lunchtime train, and duly arrive at the station about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

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Travelling on a whim

When was the last time you just wandered? Not merely through your home community, but more widely? Just travelling without fixed intent from region to region, perhaps even across frontiers to foreign lands. Last week we explored a little of the German-Polish Baltic region. Perhaps we shall return there this week. And perhaps not. The point is not to plan, but to savour the serendipity of chance. To wander for its own sake.

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Napoleon never made it to San Marino

hidden europe 37 is published today. More on that anon, but let's stop for a while on the edge of a Polish forest. In the very centre of the forest, we were told, is the spot where the emperors of the forest hold their court. So we went off in search of the ancient buffalo, the bison and the bear. We certainly found the bison but it is surely many a year since bear roamed the forests of Bialowieza.

Magazine article

Where the wild things are: a Polish Arcadia

by Nicky Gardner

The forest reserve at Bialowieski in Poland extends over the border into neighbouring Belarus. This great wilderness is the most important refuge for European bison. So it is no surprise that it is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It's also inscribed on the Polish heart — these border landscapes are the gateway to an imagined Arcadia which helped shape the narratives and images of Polish Romanticism.

Blog post

All eyes on Ukraine

Just over five years ago, on a sunny day in mid-April 2007, Victor Yushchenko paid a courtesy visit to the European Commission. On the same day Victor Yanukovich addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Ukraine was in political turmoil and the key protagonists were busy courting the wider European policy community and international public opinion - each hoping to secure some support for their side in the embittered constitutional crisis that then divided their country.

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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.

Blog post

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.

Note

Rail update: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

New rail timetables for the former Soviet Union come into effect later this month. There remains some uncertainty about some services, but for travellers heading east, here are a few thoughts on what to expect: the return of the Berlin to Kaliningrad night train, a new link from Riga to Minsk, a direct daily train from Berlin to Ukraine and more.

Blog post

Szczecin (Poland)

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

Magazine article

Border assets: travels on the frontier

by Nicky Gardner

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

Magazine article

Crossing the lagoon

by hidden europe

The Stettiner Haff or Szczecin Lagoon is one of Europe's unsung water bodies, a vast area of shallow saline water that is home to many birds. Seasonal ferry services cross the lagoon in the summer months, allowing travellers to explore this remote area on the German-Polish border.

Magazine article

The mystery of the mikveh

by Nicky Gardner

The mikveh (or ritual bathing pool) is a key part of Jewish culture, an intimate part of Orthodox Jewish life that is hidden from the public gaze. We take a look at mediaeval and modern mikveh'ot across Europe.

Magazine article

Polish connections

by hidden europe

A quick review of recent and upcoming changes to Polish train services, as a new rural rail route linking Poland with the Czech Republic opens for business.

Magazine article

Cruise ferry update

by hidden europe

Catamarans compete for space with whales and dolphins in the crowded sea lanes off the south coast of Spain. Space is tight in some European waters as more travellers embrace ferry travel and an efficient and relaxing way of getting around.

Blog post

Border markers

We sensed we were crossing into another world as the Moscow-bound train rumbled over the long bridge that spans the River Bug. The reed beds are full of wildfowl which are not troubled by the frequent trains that rattle overhead. This is the border wilderness that divides Poland from Belarus. It marks one of Europe's great divides: the Curzon Line.

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The politics of heritage

Albi, Downe, Bikini Atoll and the Putorana Plateau are all in competition with each other next week as UNESCO gears up to announce a new round of World Heritage Sites. Securing a place on the World Heritage List can lead to a big boost in tourism revenue, but not everywhere that is on the list automatically becomes hugely popular.

Blog post

Now the dust is settling

Well, that was certainly an interesting week for travellers around Europe. Lots of angst for stranded souls. Rich fodder for the British tabloids as brave holidaymakers returned to English ports recounting tales of journeys from hell. Heavens, we never knew that France was really that bad.

Note

Echoes of Mostar

The death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Saturday brings to mind that this is not the first time that the Head of State of a European country has died abroad in a plane crash.

Note

Poland mourns

The Sunday after Easter was for years known as Low Sunday in the Roman calendar, but Pope John Paul II changed that arrangement ten years ago, when he renamed the Sunday in the Easter Octave, calling it Divine Mercy Sunday. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and Poland is mourning the death of those who died in yesterday's plane crash.

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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.

Magazine article

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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Origins: from Marie Curie to Tom Stoppard

It is always interesting to discover the places where famous folk were born. Who ever would have thought that Andre Agassi, the son of an Iranian-born boxer, should have first seen the light of our world in Las Vegas? hidden europe visits the home towns of Marie Curie and Tom Stoppard.

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Last train from Russia

Remember Mlynary? Well we have news of Mlynary, the station that has long been unusual in being served only by Russian trains, even though it is in Polish territory.

Note

Polish tremors

At breakfast time this morning, an earthquake shook the town of Jaworzno in Polish Upper Silesia. Now in the general scale of seismic events, this was a mere shudder that measured 3.4 on the Richter scale. But clearly there is some subterranean rumbling under Poland these days, for today's quake comes just three days after a much larger rumble near Legnica in western Poland.

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Train service changes for 2010

The Balkan region gets a new rail service tomorrow, with the launch of a once daily direct train between Belgrade and Sarajevo. It is a mark of how much the mood in the region has improved over recent years that routes severed during the nineties are now being restored.

Note

Key train to Kaliningrad axed

The new EU Kaliningrad programme is designed to promote contact and understanding between Russia's Baltic exclave at Kaliningrad and the territory's EU neighbours. But sadly, just as this new programme is announced, so comes news that a key train service linking Kaliningrad and Berlin is about to be axed.
Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

Cross-border traffic: missing links

by hidden europe
Investments in cross-border roads in remote and rural areas of the European Union are much to be welcomed. But where are the bus services that should be plying those routes to connect communities across borders?
Magazine article

Kraków and beyond

by Nicky Gardner

there is more to Kraków and its region than the Polish city's beautiful main square. hidden europe visits Kraków and a nearby 17th century religious theme park

Magazine article

Teschen talk

by Nicky Gardner

we make a midwinter journey through an outpost of the former Habsburg empire, the area that was once Austrian Silesia

Magazine article

Barszcz and bigos

by hidden europe

The Bailiwick of Jersey, in the Channel Islands, has long played host to many migrant communities. hidden europe explores the growing Polish influences in the island.

Magazine article

Gnome world

by Nicky Gardner

Gnomes of Europe arise! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. hidden europe checks out the sanctuaries where liberated gnomes, freed from enslavement to oppressive gardening cultures, can live in dignity and peace.

Magazine article

Not quite...goodbye, Lenin!

by Nicky Gardner

The former Russian leader may have slumped in the popularity stakes in recent years, but that doesn't mean that all the tributes to Lenin have disappeared. We explore a few Lenin museums.

Magazine article

Europe's lost synagogues

by Nicky Gardner

Shoah survivors and their descendants come and stand silent in the synagogue where once an entire kehillah worshiped together. hidden europe finds out what has become of some of Europe's former synagogues.

Magazine article

The Polish Woodstock

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe visits Europe's largest rock festival, Przystanek Woodstock, at Kostrzyn in Poland. Overshadowed by more well-known events, like Roskilde and Glastonbury, the Kostrzyn festival helps perpetuate a tradition inaugurated at Woodstock in the USA in 1969.

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Grave encounters

by Nicky Gardner

The symbolism of a grave often eclipses the transient mortal whose remains are interred therein. We visit some of Europe's more interesting graveyards.

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A Polish port: Frombork

by Nicky Gardner

In Frombork, a tiny port on Poland's Baltic coast, the ferry terminal has closed down for the winter. A lone fisherman sits at the end of the pier and looks out over the lagoon to Russia. But the town where Nicolaus Copernicus lived and worked turns out to have a rare off-season appeal.

Magazine article

On the night train

by Nicky Gardner

After the last of the daytime express trains have left, Europe's mainline railway stations play host to night trains. These are the trains which are the stuff of poetry. We explore some of the very best which the continent has to offer.

Magazine article

Peace parks

by hidden europe

International peace parks that seek to promote conservation across national boundaries while also encouraging cooperation across borders, are becoming increasingly common. Bringing projects like the current plan for a Balkans Peace Park to fruition demands not just environmental understanding but also a hefty dose of political acumen.

Magazine article

Summer feasts

by hidden europe

Pilgrimages to national shrines often catch the pulse of a nation. hidden europe highlights a few summer feasts.

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Double enigma

by Nicky Gardner

Who cracked the code? We look at two street sculptures, one in England and the other in Poland that tell a tale of mathematical ingenuity.

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A question of balance: Bydgoszcz

by Nicky Gardner

Bydgoszcz is a gritty sort of place. You'll still scuff your shoes on the dust as you walk through town on the footpath that hugs the bank of the Brda river. But Bydgoszcz is all the better for having never quite been tamed.

Magazine article

Europe's fading borders

by Nicky Gardner

With the expansion of the Schengen zone to encompass nine more countries, Europe's borders are fading fast. Communities once divided by international frontiers are happily united. But there is a downside, for fading borders within the European heartland are creating some formidable frontiers further east in Europe.

Magazine article

Norway transposed

by hidden europe

There are about two dozen remaining fine examples of Norwegian stave churches. Most are in Norway. But one of the best is, somewhat improbably, in the mountains on the Polish-Czech border.

Magazine article

A Polish work of art: Zamosc

by Nicky Gardner

Zamosc is no ordinary Polish town. Tucked away in the country's eastern marchlands, Zamosc is picture perfect. Its central plaza gets our vote for Europe's finest town square. And the entire place turns out to have an intriguing history.

Magazine article

Beyond the Bug: rural Ukraine

by Jenny Robertson

Dubno is ordered, a place that sits snug in the Ikva valley. Kremenetz is different. Join Jenny Robertson as she guides us through small-town Volhynia, a region of western Ukraine that lies well off the regular tourist trails.

Magazine article

New Jerusalems: European sacri monti

by Nicky Gardner

With Eastertide in mind, we explore some devotional itineraries that led to New Jerusalems all over Europe. From Portugal to Poland, sacri monti (sacred mountains or calvaries) often offer very local interpretations of classic religious landscapes.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

Poznan blues

by Nicky Gardner

Europe's city squares are being radically reshaped by the arrival of mass tourism. Thus far, Poznan's beautiful central square has resisted the pressure for change. It remains essentially a place for the locals. But change is surely in the offing.

Magazine article

A Polish curiosity

by hidden europe

To walk through the door of the church is to leave modern Poland and enter a space suffused with exotic incense and the rich iconography of European Orthodoxy. A note on the Polish Orthodox church in Jelenia Góra.

Magazine article

Tatra politics

by hidden europe

A forgotten incident in the history of the Polish Tatra Mountains invites us to consider whether public access really can be reconciled with conservation objectives in European wilderness areas.

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Liberec (Czech Republic)

The Bohemian city of Liberec is much in the news this week as it hosts the Nordic World Ski Championships. Liberec has an improbably old-style hotel, called Imperial, that is an amazing throwback to the past. Its foyer still displays an old communist era map of a united Czechoslavakia, and the interior furnishings look like something straight out of a Soviet film set.

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Poznan - the Polish Society of Country Lovers (PTTK)

The PTTK is a venerable Polish institution. Roughly translated, its full name means the Polish Society of Country Lovers. Kick-started in the Tatra Mountains in the late nineteenth century, the society encouraged an increasingly urban populace to make excursions out of the cities and explore the Polish countryside.

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Tykocin (Poland) - Belmonte (Portugal)

Tykocin is a gem, a town that graciously captures the awful history of a thousand former Jewish shtetls across central Europe. This was a community, like so many in the region, that was Jewish to the core. Tykocin had its heart ripped out in August 1941, when the town's Jewish population was ordered to assemble in the main square. Most were marched into the forests just south-west of Tykocin where they were murdered.

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New links across Schengen borders

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

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Schengen expands

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

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Hasta la victoria siempre!

Seaside Kolobrzeg has more to offer than sand and spa cures. Enter Agnieszka Rylik, onetime world kickboxing champion and later a junior welterweight world champion in women's pro boxing. Lidia tells me animatedly all about Agnieszka Rylik. Undefeated in her first dozen bouts, Rylik punched for Poland in Las Vegas, only there to suffer the first ever defeat of her professional career.

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Almagro (Spain)

The last day of school is always an interesting moment to be in Poland, and hidden europe happened to be in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz a week or two back when the school year drew happily to its conclusion. By ten in the morning on a hot and humid Friday, all the tables outside a favoured café were full, as Bydgoszcz youth set about celebrating the end of another school year. Bydgoszcz is one of those unsung Polish cities, the sort of spot where few tourists stop.

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Polish town squares

Poland has many town squares apart from Kraków's; the country boasts some of Europe's most appealing city plazas. The Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town Square) in Warsaw, a fine bit of post-war reconstruction, is as happy a square as they come: just large enough to still catch the evening sun, but not so big as to overwhelm the visitor. And a good place to linger and feel a Warsaw morning develop.

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Celebrating Christmas

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

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Terminalia: a day for borders - no tram to Poland

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

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Wroclaw rocks! - mental maps - real maps in hidden europe 4

Solidarnosc may have lost its political edge, but the emotional ties of the movement that helped transform a nation run deep in the Polish people. So Wroclaw rocked all Friday night to the sound of music that marked the day, on 26 August 1980, when Wroclaw bus driver Tomasz Surowiec led tram and bus personnel in a strike that supported the Gdansk shipyard workers.

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Ukrainian comforts - Kraków style - Guinness in the Faroes

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

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The train to Siberia - a Kraków curiosity

Walk the royal road south from Kraków's magnificent central square and you cannot miss the great hill of Wawel with its palace and cathedral overlooking the Wisla river. Walk up to the cathedral in the quiet of night, or at dawn on a summer morning, and chances are that you may find one or two people sitting in silent meditation that may last some hours.