Authors

Nicky Gardner

Nicky Gardner

writer and editor
Frequent contributor

Nicky Gardner is editor of hidden europe and also the principal author of the magazine. Where a text is not specifically attributed to an author, it is the work of Nicky. Below, you’ll find a small selection of her articles in hidden europe magazine. Nicky also writes regularly for other media. She is co-author (with Susanne Kries) of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide, the 16th edition of which was published in late 2019.

Nicky Gardner was liberated from a life enslaved to performance indicators and business plans to become a travel writer. In fairness, travel has always been a major element of her career. Having experienced Germany as a Gastarbeiterin (guest worker) after leaving school, Nicky subsequently studied geography in Wales, and went to work in oddball corners of the globe: in the Canadian Rockies, on the fringes of the Sahara in North Africa and in a community on the edge of things in Ireland. These adventures, and a spell of consultancy in eastern Europe, paved the way for the journey that is hidden europe.

Nicky reads geography books, railway timetables and maps entirely for pleasure - and lots of real books too! She claims to have visited every inhabited island in the Hebrides, and loves nothing more than a slow meander by public transport around some unsung part of Europe. Nicky is particularly interested in issues of identity and culture in eastern Europe and the Balkans, in linguistic minorities and in island communities. Her pet loves are public libraries, Armenian food and anything coloured purple.

Nicky cannot abide suburban sprawl, supermarkets and fast trains. Nicky has since 2007 been a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Her favourite contemporary travel writers are Jan Morris, Dervla Murphy and Philip Marsden. Nicky is especially keen on historical travel writing: Edith Durham, Gertrude Bell and Isabelle Eberhardt are among her favourites. Nicky can be contacted at editors [at] hiddeneurope.eu.

— Articles by Nicky Gardner —

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Threescore and ten: reflecting on hidden europe

by Nicky Gardner

Is this perhaps the first time in publishing history that a well received and profitable magazine has carefully planned its own sunset? We always knew hidden europe would not be for ever. We saw it as a project with a start, a middle and an end. Now, with a strong sense of having said the things we wanted to say, we reflect on two decades of work celebrating European cultures and communities, and a remarkable mix of lives and landscapes.

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Seduced by islands: islandness and the île de Peilz

by Nicky Gardner

The notion of the sparsely inhabited island exerts huge appeal on the imagination. We project our hopes, our desires and our fears onto islands which then become crucibles of life, easier to mould and understand than when those same aspirations and worries are seen in the context of our normal, rather messy, lives in less confined spaces.

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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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That remarkable tower: marking time in Aarhus

by Nicky Gardner

What is a grand town hall without a clock tower? The good citizens of the Danish city of Aarhus evidently felt that their new town hall would look a little naked without a tower. Architects Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller duly obliged.

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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.

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Colophon: last words

by Nicky Gardner

Colophon was a hilltop city of the Ancient Greeks, located on what is now Turkish territory. But there’s another kind of colophon, a sort of publisher’s endnote. Because we want to end on a high note, hidden europe 70 concludes with a colophon.

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To the point: A Danish extremity

by Nicky Gardner

How did the great spit at Skagen come to claim so prominent a space in the Danish imagination? We navigate sand dunes and heathlands to visit the point where waters of the Skagerrak meet the Kattegat.

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Making waves: Havila style in Norwegian waters

by Nicky Gardner

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

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Return to Eriskay: A Hebridean community

by Nicky Gardner

Living on a small island demands a willingness to make compromises. Yet islands still have a special appeal. We make time for one of our favourite islands. Nothing much ever happens on Eriskay, and to be honest there’s not really much to see. But this outpost in the Outer Hebrides has a very special magic.

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Out-of-town connections: The very end of the line

by Nicky Gardner

Go one step further. Stay on the train for an extra station. Or why not stay on the train to the very end of the line? You should, because often the place at the end of the line is very interesting, as we discovered when we visited Provins, the final station for the commuter trains that run east from Paris.

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The city by the lake: Marking time in Östersund

by Nicky Gardner

Östersund is the only town of any size in the Swedish province of Jämtland. It’s a planned community, created as a garrison town and commercial centre in the late 18th century. We stop off in this likeable community on the east shore of Lake Storsjön.

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Off track: New life for abandoned railways

by Nicky Gardner

The wholesale closure of railway lines in some parts of Europe in the 1960s and 1970s has created an unexpected legacy: a network of green corridors which act as havens for wildlife and plants. Many now serve as foot paths and cycle routes.

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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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Changing places: Adaptive architecture

by Nicky Gardner

Would you sleep in a former abattoir that had been converted into a hotel? Or a prison? Or an asylum? We look at how hotels cope with history, drawing mainly on a lovely example of a Dutch monastery which has been transformed into a striking hotel.

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A chance to wander: Summer travels in Germany

by Nicky Gardner

Never has the chance for just wandering come with so low a price tag. We take a look at Germany's summer travel bargain: a month-long rover ticket which costs just €9 for nationwide travels and even a few cross-border excursions into Germany's neighbours.

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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.

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An Essex backwater: Discovering Harwich

by Nicky Gardner

The old town of Harwich, a port in the county of Essex on England's North Sea coast, is tucked away on the end of a peninsula. Maritime connections have shaped the development of Harwich. It's a place for sea breezes, rock oysters and watching the ferries come and go.

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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.

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A triple dose of culture: Europe’s cultural capitals

by Nicky Gardner

Can you name Europe's three capitals of culture for 2022? All three are the second-largest cities in their respective countries. Step forward Esch-sur-Alzette, Novi Sad and Kaunas. International visitors to the latter two will surely find it immensely frustrating that there are no cross-border train services to Kaunas and Novi Sad.

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European ferry links: opportunities and challenges

by Nicky Gardner

Have you noticed that some ferry companies serving Britain and / or Ireland are now decidedly sniffy about carrying foot passengers? Must we really take a car with us to be permitted on some ferries? But it’s not all bad news on the ferry front since there are a number of new Baltic routes which are very pleased to take foot passengers.

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Pure theatre: homage to Lake Lucerne

by Nicky Gardner

Swiss lakes are in a class of their own. But is there one that just has the edge over the rest? Some may cast their vote for Léman, and others will argue the case for Lugano. But for us it’s Lake Lucerne, where the lake’s unusual vaguely cruciform shape changes a boat journey into pure theatre.

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Fifty years of Interrail: the freedom to explore Europe

by Nicky Gardner

Allow yourself to be curious! Take time to wander. That’s the beauty of Interrail, the rail pass which gives travellers the freedom to explore Europe. March 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Interrail. We celebrate the first half-century of a scheme which has so dramatically shaped Europeans’ understanding of their home continent.

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More than heads on beds: metrics for sustainable tourism

by Nicky Gardner

European Travel Commission boss Luís Araújo is keen to push travellers to "adopt greener options and pay closer attention to their impact on the environment and local communities." All good, but the tourism industry also needs to do its bit, and that means nudging national tourist boards and providers of tourism services into adopting better performance metrics. Counting heads on beds is too crude a metric to support a shift to more sustainable tourism.

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Reading landscape: the glacial legacy in eastern Germany

by Nicky Gardner

Where once there was a great ice sheet, there is now a landscape of delicate beauty. The editors of hidden europe write about an area which has great personal meaning for them – the meadowlands and forests of southern Brandenburg where they have spent so much time during the pandemic.

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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.

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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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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

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From the Balkans to Nürnberg

by Nicky Gardner

What was Rebecca West doing 75 years ago this summer? West’s accomplishments as a travel writer are complemented by a fine range of other work. In the summer of 1946, West was sitting alongside Martha Gellhorn and Erika Mann at the International Military Tribunal in the German city of Nürnberg.

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Connecting extremities: Shetland to Cornwall

by Nicky Gardner

Is the United Kingdom too compact ever to justify taking a domestic flight? With many travellers these days eager to make positive environmental choices, short flights of just an hour or two may soon become a thing of the past. But readers may be surprised to discover that Britain’s longest domestic flight extends to over five hours.

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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.

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Vintage pleasures: a taste of Alsace

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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Queen of the mountains: celebrating 150 years of the Rigi rack railway

by Nicky Gardner

The slopes of the Rigi climb up above Lake Lucerne, though the mountain itself claims no great height. Its summit is at less than 2,000 metres. But the railway to the top of the Rigi claims special status as Switzerland's first mountain railway. This spring, the Rigi Railway celebrates the 150th anniversary of its opening in May 1871.

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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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Rediscovering the journey: thoughts on travel in post-COVID times

by Nicky Gardner

We suspect that slow travel may just be about to have its moment in the sun. We sense that the COVID interregnum has prompted a rethinking of travel priorities. Away with bucket lists and a culture of consumption, and let’s rediscover the appeal of the journey rather than just dashing to the destination.

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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.

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

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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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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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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In the Eye of the Beholder

by Nicky Gardner

Attitudes towards mountain landscapes have changed dramatically over the years. Alpine scenes once reviled for their bleak desolation were rehabilitated in the Romantic era. Travellers now appreciate such scenes for their grandeur and great beauty. Attitudes towards the people who lived in the hills changed too. Once widely stigmatized as uncultured primitives, they came to be praised for their moral virtue.

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Night Vision: Sleeping through Europe

by Nicky Gardner

Changing attitudes towards travel, prompted in part by a fuller appreciation of how air travel is causing climate change, are helping fuel a renaissance in rail travel across Europe. That’s as true of overnight services as it is of day trains. But new night sleeper services require dedicated carriages that will take time to build. And there are some major regulatory issues to be addressed if we are to see Europe’s night trains reaching their full potential.

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The Land of Red Gold: Luxembourg's Southern Fringe

by Nicky Gardner

Luxembourg has long been among the most multicultural of European nations. In the southernmost part of the country, the iron ore industry attracted workers from Italy and later Portugal. We explore a region of the Grand Duchy which is a world apart from the busy capital.

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Bregenz to Berne: Lands of Silk and Money

by Nicky Gardner

There’s a touch of theatre about the rail journey from Bregenz on Lake Constance to Berne in Switzerland. We feature it in hidden europe 61 as the perfect outing for those venturing nervously forth after weeks or months at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. Join us on this classic journey past lakes and mountains.

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The Map-Maker: From Brockley to València

by Nicky Gardner

We explore the work of contemporary illustrator Mike Hall who, from his base in Spain, produces many very fine maps. Creative use of tints and fonts, often complemented by an elaborate cartouche, and a bold aesthetic underpin maps which are both practical and beautiful.

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Crossing the Med: A Flight of Fancy into Pre-Jet Times

by Nicky Gardner

Staying close to home during the pandemic, we had plenty of time to explore our magnificent collection of old timetables. We look at flights in the Adriatic and Mediterranean region in the 1930s when the governing principle of civil aviation was ‘stay close to land and stop often.’

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Social Isolation Hebridean Style

by Nicky Gardner

Kenneth Mackay, the one-time postman in the village of Rhenigidale is long retired. But he is happy to chat to visitors about the life of social isolation and material deprivation which was once the norm in remote villages in the Outer Hebrides. We look at how ‘wee Kenny’ and the Schools Hebridean Society championed the idea of building a road to Rhenigidale.

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Heart and Soul: Social Housing in Augsburg

by Nicky Gardner

500 years after its foundation, the Fuggerei social housing settlement in Augsburg still keeps faith with the prescripts of its benefactor. Homes with heart, and a dash of soul, are available for an annual rent of less than one euro per year.

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Liturgical adventures during Coronavirus times

by Nicky Gardner

Across much of Europe, church services and other faith gatherings were very limited or non-existent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. In many countries, churches remained open for private prayer, but there were some countries where churches were locked. For me, as perhaps for many others in these difficult times, the online services streamed by various congregations have been an unexpected blessing.

Magazine articleFull text online

Moladh Uibhist: In Praise of Uist

by Nicky Gardner

Driving the spinal road which runs the length of South Uist can be a melancholic or an uplifting experience. Few Hebridean islands evoke such mixed responses. In this article, we explore South Uist and find an island of delicate beauty.

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Buckwheat and Honey: Enjoying Labanoras

by Nicky Gardner

Labanoras is a beautiful spot, a village in the middle of a forested regional park in eastern Lithuania. It's a place one might so easily miss. There are no great sights, no "must see" distractions. It is a perfect piece of hidden Europe.

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I'll Drink to That: Varietals and Wine Drinkers' Choices

by Nicky Gardner

Forget Pinot Grigio or Pinotage. There are plenty of much more interesting varietals out there. Have you ever tried a glass of Encruzado or Teroldego? Let's also not forget that many of Europe's finest wines are made from a mix of grape types rather than a single varietal.

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Culture Shock: Stendhal in Florence

by Nicky Gardner
Take care how many art galleries of great Baroque churches you visit in a day. Overdoing it can have dire consequences. Too many cherubs or crucifixions might induce transient paranoid psychosis or even irrevocable breakdown. Or so they say. We take a look at Stendhal Syndrome.
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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.

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The Death of Romance

by Nicky Gardner
Germany has themed tourist routes aplenty, but one of the earliest was the so-called Romantic Road, which leads from Würzburg in northern Bavaria south towards the Alps. It was hugely popular with American visitors, becoming a sort of showcase for a mock-mediaeval Germany. Bratwurst and beer aplenty, but not a mention of Germany's Nazi past.
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Making Tracks for Sweden

by Nicky Gardner

As winter slipped slowly into spring in 1917, Lenin passed through Berlin on his journey back to Russia from Switzerland. His onward route from Berlin took him by train to Sassnitz, then on by ferry to Trelleborg in Sweden. These days it's still possible to follow the route taken by Lenin, using the occasional direct trains from Berlin to Sweden.

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Changing Fortunes: Guidebooks and War

by Nicky Gardner
It's hard to imagine these days that any guidebook might ever sell 100,000 copies each month. But 100 years ago, in the second half of 1919, Michelin was managing just that. We explore how guidebooks fared in the years after the end of the First World War. As Baedeker fell into disfavour among English readers, other companies were quick to fill the gap.
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The Spirit of the Vosges

by Nicky Gardner
Join us as we discover the Vosges hills in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of eastern France. It's a region which has always been a wellspring of fine ideas, cutting a dash in the world of culture and industry. We visit a valley once settled by the Amish, learn about an illustrious tradition of printed textiles and roam through the montane heathland above the tree line.
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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.
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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 Highs and Lows of Travel: Summit Bagging Reconsidered

by Nicky Gardner
The highest points of Luxembourg, Moldova and Belarus don't feature on any lists of Europe's greatest mountains. Nicky Gardner reflects on the enduring appeal of the summit, and asks whether the lowest points in different countries might also warrant a detour. In Norway, it's possible to drive to 287 metres below sea level.
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Mind the Gap: Georges Perec and the Art of Constrained Writing

by Nicky Gardner
From 1960, an unusual clutch of Parisian writers - known as the Oulipo group - played ingenious games with language. We take a look at the work of Georges Perec who once wrote an entire novel without using the fifth letter of the alphabet. Later he published a novella where the letter 'e' was the only vowel used in the entire book.
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The Guidebook Revolution: Transforming Dreams into Reality since 1969

by Nicky Gardner
Guidebooks gather your dreams and help turn them into reality. And that's just what the English publisher Cicerone has been doing for half a century. From modest beginnings, providing guides to walks, scrambles and climbs in the hill country of northern Britain, Cicerone has expanded to become an icon in the modern guidebook market.
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40 Years of Jura Solidarity: The Village of Saint-Ursanne

by Nicky Gardner
First there was Brexit and then there was Mouxit - the latter relates to the move by the Swiss municipality of Moutier to secede from Berne Canton and join the Jura. But Mouxit has been cancelled - at least for now. But that won't dampen the festivities as Switzerland's Jura region marks 40 years of cantonal self-government.
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The View from Dún Laoghaire: Irish Links to Great Britain

by Nicky Gardner
The Anglesey Arms by the quayside has long since closed. And it's been many a long year since the last ferry left Dún Laoghaire for Britain. But this erstwhile port just down the coast from Dublin still has something of the elegance and grace that it had in the heyday of the packet steamers.
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The Taste of Tufa: Europe’s Volcanic White Wines

by Nicky Gardner
Growing vines on the tufa and lava-strewn slopes of a volcano is a real challenge. Only the hardiest grapes thrive in such extremes. Yet, for the adventurous vintners who try, there can be big rewards. The explosive minerality of hefty white volcanic wines is something very special.
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Life on the Lake: The Isola dei Pescatori

by Nicky Gardner
Late afternoon, the day trippers are leaving Isola dei Pescatori. Come sunset, the island in Lake Maggiore becomes a quieter, gentler place as the hum of motorised vessels on the lake is hushed for the day. Join us on a trip to the Borromean Islands.
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The Swiss Jura by Train

by Nicky Gardner
For first impressions of the Swiss Jura, hop on the red train which plies the narrow-gauge rail route from Glovelier to La Chaux-de-Fonds. Green landscapes aplenty, but tucked away in these hills are communities which were influential in the development of European anarchism.
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Drawing a Line in the Water: The Caspian Sea

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

by Nicky Gardner
Lithuanians are firmly asserting a confident national identity which transcends history and occupation. A key asset in the new Lithuanian narrative is the artist and composer Mikalojus Ciurlionis, who spent his childhood years in the small town of Druskininkai. It is, we discover, an appealing place with winsome wooden villas and some oddball Baltic modernist buildings.
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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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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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Reclaiming Our Rivers: Europe's Lost Waterways

by Nicky Gardner

Do not the rivers which once powered urban economies deserve more visibility in a post-industrial age? Clean rivers should surely not be hidden away in subterranean culverts. Let's bring them back to the surface and let them help with the rejuvenation of tired cityscapes.

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Summer Retreats

by Nicky Gardner
These gorgeous summer days are a chance for a change of pace. We look at the recuperative appeal of retreating to the lakes or the hills.
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Corridor Trains

by Nicky Gardner

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

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Bag Tag

by Nicky Gardner
Frequent flyers know that it's perfectly reasonable to fly from JFK to WAW via AMS. Just as they appreciate that it makes no sense at all to fly ARN to HEL via CDG. Those innocuous codes on airline baggage tags are the key to the geography of air travel and some have a dash of history too.
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Lakeside Tradition: Exploring the Lavaux Vineyards

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

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

by Nicky Gardner
New Nature Writing may not be so new after all. But it taps a vein of nostalgia, reasserting aspects of landscape and nature from which we have become detached by modernity. Whatever its history, a new cadre of nature writers are doing much to revitalise travel writing. It is part of a wider movement to rewild the English language.
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Reel Fun: Scotland's Mobile Cinema

by Nicky Gardner
In the early days of the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks used mobile cinemas as a vehicle for political propaganda. These days, Scotland also has a mobile cinema, but here the purpose is pure entertainment. Everyone smiles when The Screen Machine rolls in, bringing mobile cinema to remote, rural communities far from any modern multiplex.
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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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700 Years of Silence: Discovering the Spirit of Gotland

by Nicky Gardner

The Swedish island of Gotland has a rich variety of rural landscapes ranging from luxuriant hay meadows through ancient woodlands to parched limestone terraces. In Gotland, and also in neighbouring Fårö, the landscape is at its most performative when it reaches the sea.

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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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Exploring Europe by Train

by Nicky Gardner
New editions of Mike Ball's European Railway Atlas and our own Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide have just been published. We take a look at these two new additions to the rail traveller's armamentarium.
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Ghosts on the Shore

by Nicky Gardner

Nicky Gardner, co-editor of hidden europe magazine, reviews 'Ghosts on the Shore' by Paul Scraton. The book was published in June 2017 by Influx Press. It gives rare insights into Baltic landscapes and history.

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Imaginary Wanderings: Switzerland in a Box

by Nicky Gardner
The first product from the new Swiss publisher Imaginary Wanderings sets a dauntingly high standard in terms of its look, feel and production values. And the content is equally fine. We explore the Lake Lucerne and Gotthard region in the company of Imaginary Wanderings creators Christina Ljungberg and Barbara Piatti.
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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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Motifs and Motivations: a Closer Look at Europe's Banknotes

by Nicky Gardner
The trend in European banknote design is to focus less on people who have shaped a country's history in favour of key themes which help define the national narrative. But that's not a trend favoured everywhere, and in this article we look in particular at a new Scottish five pound note which celebrates the life and work of the writer Nan Shepherd.
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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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Beware of Assassins: Life and Death in the Railway Carriage

by Nicky Gardner
The fear of being murdered on a train was once so great that affluent country squires donned old clothes to travel with the crowds in third class. It was, they judged, safer than travelling in splendid isolation in first class. We take a look at how the railway carriage changed through time.
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Exploring the Poprad Valley

by Nicky Gardner
A forgotten sculpture park in a Slovakian valley recalls an environmental art initiative which flourished for a generation in the last century. Join us as we travel down the Poprad Valley.
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Improbable Places

by Nicky Gardner
The last year or two have seen a flood of new books which invite readers to engage on a virtual journey exploring our planet. We take a look at a new volume called 'Atlas of Improbable Places', just published by Aurum Press.
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Only Fit For Wild Ducks

by Nicky Gardner
Catch the spirit of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides with Gaelic psalm singing at a country church in Lewis or Marian devotions on the Isle of Eriskay. We explore an island archipelago that has a complex mix of landscapes, of which the most distinctive is the machair - the rich grasslands on fragile dunes.
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The Swiss Factor: From Chexbres to the Black Sea

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

by Nicky Gardner
We explore the making of a city, referring to examples from across Europe. Those cities blessed with distinctive geographical assets would do well to value them. For, in an increasingly globlised world, a strong sense of place could turn out to be a city's trump card - one that endures longer than its reputation for fine food, ritzy shopping or a lively club scene.
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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.
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South to Sicily

by Nicky Gardner
The latest book from hidden europe editors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries is Europe by Rail. Catch the flavour of this new edition with our train journey from Rome to Sicily, specially adapted from the book for this issue of the magazine.
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The Memorial at Devil's Bridge

by Nicky Gardner
In wild mountain terrain just north of Andermatt in the Alps, the Russian and Swiss flags fly side by side. A nearby memorial recalls how Russian forces led by General Suvorov confronted Napoleon's army in 1799.
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A Visit to the Old Country

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

by Nicky Gardner
At Augsburg station in Bavaria, there is a Platform 801, while a number of stations around Europe have a Platform 0 - among them Aarau in Switzerland and King's Cross station in London. We take a look at the Platform Zero phenomenon.
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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.
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What colour is your flag when it burns?

by Nicky Gardner

Kosovo is arguably Europe's newest country. Most nations now recognising the leadership of the territory as being a legitimate national government, though even some European Union members are still withholding recognition. Kosovo still has internal divisions - just as there were over 100 years ago when Edith Durham first set foot in Kosovo.

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Balkan identities

by Nicky Gardner

So you think you know the key ethnic groups in Kosovo? Serbs and Albanians, to be sure. But life on the ground is more complicated. Who are the Gorani? Then there is a trio of ethnic groups who are locally referred to as the RAE community, viz. Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. We explore the ethnic mosaic of modern Kovoso.

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Understanding the socialist city

by Nicky Gardner

Progressive socialist designs for homes and cities are no longer in fashion. Yet Europe's streetscapes still attest to the grand schemes of yesteryear, when architects and planners envisaged a society that stood opposed to capitalism. We go in search of some first-class cityscapes which were the product of communist Europe.

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Silent witness

by Nicky Gardner

Discover the extraordinary story of how an Italian village was sacrificed to provide hydro-electric power for Switzerland. The evacuation of Curon Venosta (or Graun-im-Vinschgau in German) was a tragedy. Today the church campanile rises serenely from the waters of the reservoir which flooded a remote valley in the Italian Alps.

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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.

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The Nessers: exploring a Kentish edgeland

by Nicky Gardner

Dungeness Foreland offers an improbable touch of wilderness in south-east England. The great shingle spreads at Dungeness on the coast of Kent create a severe and uncompromising landscape. The Nessers are the locals who call this area home. Join us on a journey through this extraordinary outpost of England.

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The spine of Russia

by Nicky Gardner

Mikhail Mordasov is a very talented Russian photographer. Paul Richardson is a translator and writer who knows Russia well. When Mikhail and Paul decided to create a book from a long road trip across Russia, we knew something good was in the offing. Discover the Spine of Russia project.

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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.

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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.

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Eastern connections: rail links through Ukraine

by Nicky Gardner

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

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Slow train to Sarajevo

by Nicky Gardner

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

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The makings of a city

by Nicky Gardner

'Skylines' is a book to make you think. This new title by travel writers Yolanda Zappaterra and Jan Fuscoe is a celebration of the iconic buildings which shape the skylines of some of the world's most interesting cities. We take a look at the European skylines which fearture in this new book published by Aurum Press.

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No space for Marx

by Nicky Gardner

A mock Greek temple on a bluff above the River Danube turns out to be a good spot to reflect on what it means to be German. Walhalla is a national hall of fame - a sort of Bavarian version of the Panthéon in Paris.

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Heart and soul: the spirit of Altötting

by Nicky Gardner

Join us as we visit the town of Altötting in Bavaria. The remarkable success of Altötting lies in its appeal to all-comers, be they devout Catholics, loyal Bavarians or merely casual sightseers. The town, which hosts one of the leading Marian shrines in Europe, lies in glorious countryside just north of the Alps.

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North from Paris: with Eurostar and Émile Zola

by Nicky Gardner

Tolstoy, Dickens and Zola all wrote about railways - but in very different ways. Zola's La Bête humaine is one of the great railway novels of European literature. The perfect read, we thought, prior to joining train driver Andy Pratt in the cab of a Eurostar train at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.

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Revisiting the Cairngorms

by Nicky Gardner

Nan Shepherd's book The Living Mountain is often acclaimed as a prescient example of the genre now often known as New Nature Writing. We take a look at a classic text on Scottish landscapes which was first published in 1977 - more than 30 years after it was written.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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One frontier, two worlds: Crossing from Lithuania into Belarus

by Nicky Gardner

Borders have faded in modern Europe. Most travellers take Schengen freedoms for granted. But there are still rare instances of countries (like the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom) which maintain formalities. Join us a journey across the outer frontier of the European Union as we travel from Lithuania into Belarus.

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A touch of Russia

by Nicky Gardner

Europe has so many very comfortable train services, but it's really hard to trump the top-of-the-range Russian trains used on routes from Moscow to many cities in central and western Europe. For inner-EU journeys, these trains are often great value. Hop on board for Russian style.

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The road to Ishim

by Nicky Gardner

The Edinburgh Castle is a pub in the Welsh town of Holyhead (Caergybi in Welsh). The roundabout just outside that pub looks unremarkable. But it marks the very start of the road to Ishim, a route of over 5000 kilometres that spans seven countries.

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Wastelands: Europe’s empty runways

by Nicky Gardner

Aviation is a growing industry. European airports saw over 5% growth last year. But that statistic masks the fact that ever more European airports are closing down. Quite what does one do with a disused airport?

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Offshore Provence

by Nicky Gardner

Sailing east from Marseille along the coast of Provence to the Italian border, there are some two dozen islands, many of which are overlooked by visitors to the region. Climb aboard the hidden europe private yacht (if only!) as we set sail for the Côte d'Azur.

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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.

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Express bus to London?

by Nicky Gardner

There was a time when Deutsche Bahn (DB) only operated trains. Now they are emerging as serious players in the bus business. We just wonder if they have London in their sights? Their IC-Bus network is expanding and they already have a route from Düsseldorf to Antwerp. Extending it to London might be a way of delivering on DB's oft-repeated claim that it would enter the cross-Channel market.

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What next for Gagauzia?

by Nicky Gardner

It is worthwhile to keep an eye on the national elections in Moldova in late November 2014. They could provide the cue for Gagauzia to start thinking again about secession. Could Gagauzia be the next Donetsk?

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Borderlands: the Pasvik Valley

by Nicky Gardner

Few borders divide societies which are so markedly different as the frontier between Norway's easternmost county of Finnmark and Russia's Murmansk Oblast. We take a look at life on both sides of the border in a region which was once a key part of the Sami homeland.

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The Norwegian coastal voyage: one sip at a time

by Nicky Gardner

Full marks to Hurtigruten for an imaginative and varied wine list. The caveat, and it's a big caveat, is the price. For those who are not inclined to smuggle a few bottles on board as they embark on a Hurtigruten voyage, we review the company's wine list.

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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.

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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.

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A fine affair: Russians on the Riviera

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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.

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A village torn in two: Slemence

by Nicky Gardner

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

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The current state of travel writing

by Nicky Gardner

Travel writers have traditionally been fiercely independent spirits, and it was that independence which helped build trust and credibility with readers. But times are changing and a new breed of English-language writers seems to act as handmaidens of the tourism industry, weaving tales that read more like a PR blurb than dispassionate travel writing. Is there still scope for genuinely independent travel writing?

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Divided loyalties: Jungholz

by Nicky Gardner

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

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The three pillars of Rusyn life

by Nicky Gardner

The fragile flame of Rusyn consciousness is flickering back to life. There is renewed interest in Rusyn art and literature. A group that endured "fifty years of Soviet silence" (Norman Davies' words) is reasserting its right to be heard. We look at a minority which has as its cultural heartland the hill country where the territories of Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland converge.

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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.

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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.

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Double act: the Danish island of Ærø

by Nicky Gardner

The Danish island of Ærø is no more than a fleck in the Baltic. Yet this beautiful island is a good place to understand Danish history. If you are ever in any doubt as to how much the sea has inflected the Danish experience, make time for Marstal, the largest community on the island of Ærø. Then head on over to Ærøskøbing, the island capital, to appreciate the comforts of small town life.

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Bright banquets in the Elysian Vale: musings on Weimar

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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.

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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.

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Meaningful partnerships for eastern Europe

by Nicky Gardner

The worrying developments in Ukraine highlight the challenges experienced by countries eligible for support under the European Union's Eastern Partnerships (EaP) programme. Tugged in one direction by Brussels and in the other by Moscow, it is no surprise that loyalties in the region are being sorely tested.

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Into the hills: a Bohemian diversion

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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.

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Choreographing opinion

by Nicky Gardner

Did Prince Grigor Potemkin really try to fool Catherine the Great into thinking that life in Russia's Black Sea region was rosier than it really was? We think the idea of Potemkin villages is probably a myth, and that Prince Potemkin was guilty of doing no more than what PR agencies do every day - nudging opinion towards a favourable interpretion of reality. It's a fact of modern life, as common in Stockholm and Strasbourg as it is in Sochi.

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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.

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Oriental dreams

by Nicky Gardner

We explore an Eden which has its apple orchards, running waters and beautiful gardens. There is even a touch of the East about this unlikely Eden. It is only the minarets that are missing on our journey past the silent monastery of Petra to a place that is marked on our map as Orient. Join us for a magical tour of an island in the sun.

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Opting for the Dutch Flyer

by Nicky Gardner

The last remaining integrated rail-sea ticket between England and the Continent is the Dutch Flyer. We recall journeys of yesteryear as we set off from London and use the Harwich-Hook ferry to reach the Netherlands.

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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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A life less ordinary

by Nicky Gardner

Jacob Maria Mierscheid was born on 1 March 1933, so we hear. Still going strong at 80, Mierscheid is a German enigma with a knack for missing key events. Earlier this year, Mierscheid failed to show up for his own 80th birthday party. hidden europe uncovers the story of Germany's most understated politician.

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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.

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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

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Of cats and creeds: an Exeter essay

by Nicky Gardner

In Exeter, the great Gothic cathedral certainly helps define the Devon city. But Exeter is also characterised by the threads of faith that criss-cross the city. We follow the call to prayer and make a pilgrimage through Exeter, along the way meeting the city's Imam, visiting the mosque, and also discovering Exeter’s Orthodox Christian community.

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Whatever happened to the Îles Malouines?

by Nicky Gardner

Join us as we explore maps old and new of a remote island archipelago, one that was first settled by displaced French Acadians. We unravel the politics of place names in the Îles Malouines. Along the way we detour to discover Thatcher Peninsula.

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The lost kingdom

by Nicky Gardner

A 1924 essay by Joseph Roth on an unsung railway station in Berlin fired our imagination and inspired us to take the train to Gleisdreieck - an elevated station that in Roth's day looked down on a tangled maze of railway lines and sidings. Nowadays, nature is reclaiming the industrial landscapes of yesteryear.

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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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Island hopping through the Balearics

by Nicky Gardner

To understand Menorca and its history, you have to arrive at Maó by ship. There is no better way to do this than by taking the weekly sailing from Palma di Mallorca to Menorca, along the way passing the island where Hannibal was born and another island where prisoners of war were held captive.

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New ports for the Far North

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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The ghost of Beeching

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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Life on a mound: visiting Hallig Hooge

by Nicky Gardner

At the eastern margins of the North Sea, in the shallow waters hard by the German coast, are a series of islands that are seasonally flooded. Human settlement on these islands is a fragile thing. These special islands (called Halligen in German) have their own distinctive cultural landscape. Join us on a day trip in deep mid-winter to Hallig Hooge – where it happens to be dustbin day.

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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.

Magazine article

Papal exits

by Nicky Gardner

The Holy See and the Italian Republic tussled for years over which country owned one contested section of the Passetto di Borgo. That's the name given to the elevated footpath that links the papal apartments in the Vatican with the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. That path has been for centuries the exit of last resort for popes in trouble. Now the passetto is to be opened to the public.

Magazine article

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.

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.

Magazine article

The crossing

by Nicky Gardner

The satnavs tick off the passing interchanges, the passengers in the back seats are bored and the blood pressure of the drivers rises. No-one, no-one on the busy highway will ever know that a touch of heaven is just a few feet below the angry tarmac. Join us as we follow the forest path as it passes under a motorway.

Magazine article

Cruising the Atlantic Highway

by Nicky Gardner

If roads have personalities, then the A39 in south-west England is certainly one of the most memorable. It meanders from Georgian Bath to the south coast of Cornwall, taking in some of the most engaging scenery in England. For part of its length (west from Barnstaple) it is called The Atlantic Highway. We hop aboard the 319 bus to explore The Atlantic Highway, encountering along the way some the finest bus shelters around.

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The warm shadow of Isabelle Eberhardt

by Nicky Gardner

Many years ago, I spent a long hot summer in and around a sleepy ksar on the edge of the Sahara. I read many books that summer, but it was 'Dans l’ombre chaude de l’Islam' that tugged and tugged again, urging me to return to its pages. That book was my introduction to Isabelle Eberhardt, a writer who — perhaps more than any other — has influenced my life and my thinking. This summer, so far from the desert and in a country where the most charming of all oases is my garden, I turned to Sharon Bangert’s English translation of 'Dans l’ombre chaude de l’Islam'. It appears under the Peter Owen imprint in a pocket-sized paperback.

Magazine article

Ticket to ride: 40 years of InterRail

by Nicky Gardner

InterRail is far more than just a train ticket. Cast back to the nineteen seventies, and the rail pass was feted by a generation of young Europeans as the ultimate 'ticket to ride'. InterRail appealed to the wanderlust of travellers who took weeks to explore the boundaries of both Europe and themselves. Co-editor of hidden europe Nicky Gardner reflects on the early days of InterRail and notes how the scheme now appeals to Europeans of all ages.

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The Schengen factor

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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Fried fish in Cádiz

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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.

Magazine article

La Serenissima: San Marino

by Nicky Gardner

No other country in Europe can boast so beautiful a name: La Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino. But to experience the serenity of San Marino, you really need to stay overnight in the capital, which clusters around the summit of Monte Titano. Only then can you catch the flavour of another Europe, a long-forgotten Europe, composed of a myriad of small city-states. San Marino is a survivor from an earlier age.

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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.

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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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Swiss connections: the city of Basel

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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England’s favourite: the port of Boulogne

by Nicky Gardner

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

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Tussling with the elements: Jutland

by Nicky Gardner

Survival on Jutland's coast has always been a question of working with nature. Great storms have transformed the sandy coastline and entire communities have come and gone with the ebb and flow of history. We travel north along the Danish mainland's west coast and visit Europe's fogotten island of North Jutland.

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Celebrating British buses

by Nicky Gardner

Buses are experiencing a happy renaissance in Britain. The advent of concessionary bus passes to senior citizens has tempted many diehard motorists onto the top deck. In a special two-part feature for hidden europe, we look at a new book that showcases fifty great bus journeys from across Britain.

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In the days of prosperity

by Nicky Gardner

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

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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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Timing matters

by Nicky Gardner

Russia's decision this year to abandon seasonal changes of clocks has prompted much media comment. Belarus has followed Russia's example. Ukraine, after much prevarication, has opted to stick with alternating winter and summer time. In this short piece for hidden europe, we take a look at the politics and time.

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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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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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To name a train: from Easterlings to Tyrolean bacon

by Nicky Gardner

This summer marks the 80th anniversary of the launch of one of Russia’s most famous trains, the ‘Red Arrow’ fast overnight service between Moscow and St Petersburg. hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner has been taking a look at some of Europe’s most memorably named trains — and a few less memorable ones.

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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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Switzerland by train: Zürich to Lausanne

by Nicky Gardner

The Glacier Express is one of Switzerland’s most celebrated rail journeys. But it is expensive and dreadfully touristy. Travellers looking to see the best of Switzerland by train could, we think, do better. The rail journey from Zürich to Lake Geneva via Lucerne, Interlaken and Gstaad is one of our favourite Swiss excursions by train.

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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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Songlands: a Karelian journey

by Nicky Gardner

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

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The lure of the local

by Nicky Gardner

An innovative series of guidebooks to European cities and regions, produced by the Versailles-based publishing house Jonglez, prompts us to reflect on the quest for authenticity in guidebooks.

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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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Porto Santo: a desert island?

by Nicky Gardner

The North Atlantic island that was once home to Christopher Columbus is a mainstream tourist destination. But that did not stop Europe's media from inventively recreating it as a remote desert island to make a good news story.

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Orbiting Birmingham

by Nicky Gardner

Birmingham's Outer Circle bus route is a veteran among urban bus routes, dating back to the nineteen-twenties. How many Brummies who ride the Outer Circle realise that this is Europe's longest urban bus route? Probably very few. But this extraordinary bus route provides a wonderful kaleidoscope of Birmingham life as it makes a great orbit through the suburbs of England's second city.

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In search of a new role: the port city of Szczecin

by Nicky Gardner

The shipyards in Szczecin once built some the world's finest and fastest passenger liners. But today the cranes are silent, and the city of Szczecin is struggling to define its role in modern Poland. The Baltic port city is a gritty place, and all the more interesting for that.

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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.

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Europe by Rail: Balkan images

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe editors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries showcase a new book which they have edited. Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers was published in March 2011. This well-established title from Thomas Cook Publishing now has a very new look, and here the editors present extracts from a Balkan rail journey that features in the book.

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Cast in stone: the island of Rømø

by Nicky Gardner

The Danish island of Rømø is full of reminders of its erstwhile connections with the whaling industry. There are fence posts made of whalebones, and the skull of a whale stands beside the main road across the island.

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Scotland: fast ferries

by Nicky Gardner

Kintyre Express, the shipping offshoot of Scottish bus company West Coast Motors, has an ambitious plan to create a new fast ferry link between the Mull of Kintyre and the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. We take a closer look.

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Out of place, but not out of mind

by Nicky Gardner

So why does a statue of Rocky Balboa stand in a small town in northern Serbia? And why did citizens of Mostar (in Herzegovina) decide that a statue of Bruce Lee could unite their troubled town? We take a look at statues that seem improbably out of place.

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More than small change

by Nicky Gardner

You probably would have no very clear idea what currency is used in Nagorno Karabakh, no indeed whether you need to tip the barber next time you stop off for a short back and sides in deepest Chechnya. We ponder the knotty business of currencies and reflect on tipping etiquette.

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Of obstacles and opportunities: the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen

by Nicky Gardner

The Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen developed in the nineteenth century into one of the must-see sights of continental Europe, attracting such distinguished visitors as JMW Turner and John Ruskin. But the Falls are just a modest cascade, very pretty to be sure but by no means a Niagara. We explore how Schaffhausen life has been sustained by the nearby waterfalls.

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Switzerland beyond the Alps

by Nicky Gardner

Switzerland is a country of extraordinary variety, complexity and uncertainty. Jung was probably spot-on when he asserted that Switzerland's total preoccupation with itself was the only thing that precluded the country's engagement in wider European conflicts. We take a look at the other Switzerland - the country beyond the cliché images of Alps and cuckoo clocks.

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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.

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Changing horizons: new hope for Kharkiv and Kazan

by Nicky Gardner

Look at the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable and you might think there are hardly any trains in eastern Europe. Indeed, the monthly timetable, which runs to over 500 pages, typically devotes less than a dozen pages to the eastern half of the continent. We make a friendly plea for visibility on behalf of rail travellers to Kazan, Samara and Volgograd.

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Competing with the guidebook

by Nicky Gardner

Two new series of books, one from Oxygen Books in the UK and the other from Duke University Press in the USA impel us to reflect on a growing public appetite for anthologies of good literature about places in Europe.

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Old submarines come home to die: Severodvinsk

by Nicky Gardner

Severodvinsk's most famous export product is nuclear submarines. No other shipyard city in the world has as much experience as Severodvinsk in the design and construction of such vessels. This remote community on the White Sea, even further north than a place called Tundra, reveals a side of Russia not seen by many tourists.

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Hope in every snowdrift: life in the Faroe Islands

by Nicky Gardner

Many visitors to the Faroe Islands arrive on cruise ships and see little beyond the capital Tórshavn and its immediate vicinity. But to really understand the Faroes, the visitor must head for smaller communities on islands that rely on occasional ferries and helicopter services for links to the wider world. The very idea of 'remoteness' is a key factor shaping Faroese identity. We climb aboard a boat and hear a tale of men and women who had faith in the Faroes.

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Of apes and men: the Dudley story

by Nicky Gardner

Many people visit zoos to see apes, wild cats and okapi. But some visitors to Dudley Zoo in the English Midlands are drawn by quite another reason. Dudley Zoo boasts a fine collection of Constructivist buildings designed by Berthold Lubetkin and his Tecton group of architects. The Lubetkin legacy in Dudley and elsewhere in England deserves to be far better known and much more valued.

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The road to Latte

by Nicky Gardner

Border regions in Europe are always fascinating. Travel east from the French town of Menton and in no time you reach the Italian frontier. The first place of any size on the Italian side of the border is Latte di Ventimglia. We follow the road to Latte, looking at how the Italian village has been framed in the Menton imagination. In a time of cholera, Latte housed a large border internment camp. Now it is a favoured spot for discount shopping.

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Slow England

by Nicky Gardner

It takes a lot of courage to re-engineer our relationship with time, to realise that we have been seduced by speed. But a new series of books from Bradt Travel Guides encourage us to do just that by focusing in on the local. Slow travel comes of age as a major travel publisher celebrates the details of England that make every village distinctive.

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Southbound: Europe's car trains

by Nicky Gardner

In the early days of train travel, landed gentry and the well-to-do made arrangements with local rail companies to convey their horses and carriages on board the trains. Europe's car trains are the modern day incarnation of the same arrangement, a chance to take the car along when heading off on a long train journey. We take a look at some of Europe's car trains, including Europe's premier car train network operated by DB Autozug.

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The strange case of an expanding Europe

by Nicky Gardner

The compensation culture encourages delayed passengers to seek redress for the inconvenience they have suffered. Air carriers and rail companies have a neat little way of reacting to the new generation of passengers well aware of their rights. They pad out their schedules, adding in a few extra minutes here and there, so enhancing the chance of an on-time arrival and massaging their punctuality statistics.

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Shipping news

by Nicky Gardner

Ferries in European waters are usually ultra-reliable, but from time to time there is the odd mishap. Cruise ships and cargo ships are more prone to misadventure than regular ferries but no ship is immune. We take a look at a few journeys by ship that did not quite go to plan.

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A place apart: Trieste

by Nicky Gardner

Trieste is wonderful, every bit as intriguing as the most fanciful places ever created by the Austrian novelist Joseph Roth. The Adriatic city is Austria's orphan, a one time entrepôt for the Habsburg Empire, that had to find a new role after the collapse of the K&K world. Today Trieste is the place where Italy rubs shoulders with Slavic world, but still a place that has a hint of Mitteleuropa.

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Slovakia: a foray into modernism

by Nicky Gardner

Slovakia boasts some of the finest modernist architecture anywhere in Europe, though you would hardly know it from the guidebooks. There is something distinctly Slovakian about these buildings which, during the years that Slovakia was linked to the Czech Republic, became a quiet assertion of national identity.

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Disquiet in Kaliningrad

by Nicky Gardner

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

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A matter of Principalities

by Nicky Gardner

A pot-pourri of railway-related facts that you would never have guessed could ever be so interesting. We leap from Wales to Monaco, from Liechtenstein to Vatican City in search of a few railway records. Not just for geeks!

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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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Europe's railways: public or private assets?

by Nicky Gardner

Across Europe, advocates for and opponents of the privatisation of national rail networks adduce arguments to support their preferred perspective. We compare the experience of different European countries, and find that the line between private and public operators is often more blurred than is widely believed.

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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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On a wing and a prayer

by Nicky Gardner

Are we too tolerant of the aggressive new generation of low-cost airlines that are too footloose to show any real commitment to a particular airport? We look at some examples of community support for local airports that has not always reaped handsome dividends.

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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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Frozen assets: Iceland's eastern fjords

by Nicky Gardner

The landscape around Egilsstaðir is as desolate as the economy of much of this region. We take time out in Nielsen's, easily the cosiest café in Egilstaðir, to try and understand why folk in some of the townships of eastern Iceland are none too happy these days.

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Salla - in the middle of nowhere

by Nicky Gardner

There is a roar in the night as snowmobiles approach from the east. New arrivals from Russia. We look at life at a remote borderpost on Finland's eastern frontier - a place which is literally in the middle of nowhere.

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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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Northern waters: Iceland by boat

by Nicky Gardner

It is surprising how quickly Denmark recedes into nothingness, and then the Norröna is alone among the waves. We travel on Smyril Line's flagship as she sails from Denmark via the Faroe Islands to the eastern fjords of Iceland.

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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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Hungarian rhapsody

by Nicky Gardner

Sometimes we travel to really get somewhere. But occasionally a journey is worthwhile merely for its own sake. Sit back, relax, and from the comfort of a corner seat watch all the world go by on the train from Berlin to Budapest.

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Timetable interludes

by Nicky Gardner

Imagine an airport that every single week closes down for a long weekend. Or an airline that observes the sabbath, and leaves its planes grounded. Such curiosities really do exist.

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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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Shortlisted for UNESCO

by Nicky Gardner

There are the sights which already feature on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And then there are the wannabes. We take a look at sights around Europe that are angling for one of the coveted places on the UNESCO list.

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In spite of Trier

by Nicky Gardner

The birthplace of Karl Marx is, a little improbably it might seem, in the Moselle city of Trier. It is a place that nowadays seems irredeemably bourgeois. Yet Marx' legacy is superbly documented in Trier's Karl-Marx-Haus.

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A small town in Alsace: Wissembourg

by Nicky Gardner

Fountains and flowers, neatly swept alleys, French sentences flowing into Alsatian German and back again, plus the inevitable choucroute, all combine to make Wissembourg one of Europe's most appealing small towns.

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Luxembourg: Schengen realities

by Nicky Gardner

Schengen gave its name to two important European accords that paved the way for passport-free travel across much of Europe. Yet the Luxembourg village that gave its name to those treaties remains curiously unknown.

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Belarus: the making of Vitebsk

by Nicky Gardner

Tumbling off the train and riding the trolleybus over to the other side of the river is a fine introduction to Vitebsk. The Belarusian city is precise and orderly: Swiss efficiency colliding with Soviet style. And at the annual Slavianski Bazaar, Vitebsk is a city that knows how to party.

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Invading Liechtenstein

by Nicky Gardner

Liechtenstein is one of Europe's unsung territories: a tiny Alpine principality by-passed by most travellers. We follow the route of an army of Russian soldiers that sought sanctuary in Liechtenstein in May 1945.

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The city of St George: Genoa

by Nicky Gardner

The port city of Genoa commanded huge influence on account of its mercantile acumen and its early schemes for the management of public debt, which paved the way for modern banking. Today the city of St George still has the face of business.

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List mania

by Nicky Gardner

Is the Baltic the new Med? Or Bridlington the new St Tropez? Come now, we don't write about that sort of thing in hidden europe. But we do like to keep in touch with mainstream travel writing. And we find that in Britain the travel pages are full of lists.

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At the train station: Yiddish travel writing

by Nicky Gardner

Jewish passengers travelled hard class on the railways of eastern Europe one hundred years ago, enjoying none of the comforts of soft sleeping cars, but creating in the Russian train a very Jewish space - a perfect setting for Yiddish story telling.

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Over the fence: the EU's eastern neighbours

by Nicky Gardner

The European Union's Eastern Partnerships initiative is designed to smooth relations with six of the EU's ex-Soviet neighbours. Moscow perceives the initiative as the EU meddling in Russia's sphere of interest. hidden europe reports from Poland's border with Ukraine.

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Towards the Simplon

by Nicky Gardner

For those without a hint of romance in their souls, it is possible to speed through the Simplon Tunnel from Switzerland to Italy. The train takes just fifteen minutes. But the old Simplon Pass route is still there for the taking. Brig is the starting point.

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Italy: Thomas Hanbury's Garden

by Nicky Gardner

The Quaker businessman and philanthropist Thomas Hanbury was a latter-day Marco Polo. His legacy includes a remarkable garden on the Riviera coast of the Mediterranean. We visit the Hanbury Gardens at La Mortola.

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Ecclesiastical geographies

by Nicky Gardner

Church bureaucrats divide the world into dioceses. The process throws into prominence places that figure little in the secular world. Bishops preside over territories like Gor, Ombi and Sodor. hidden europe takes a look at some unusual geographical titles of European bishops.

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New lives for old ships

by Nicky Gardner

The 'Logos Hope' was once a car ferry that connected the Faroe Islands with the wider world. Now it is the largest floating bookshop on the planet. See how old ferries are redeployed to new purposes.

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Russia: the Kola Sámi

by Nicky Gardner

There is a Sámi proverb that says: "Don't try to predict today that which we shall know for sure tomorrow." So the local Sámi in Russia's Kola Peninsula will not venture any opinion on whether Sámi life has any credible future in their home region.

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Berlin connections: the Moscow to Paris express

by Nicky Gardner

On long train journeys across Europe, it is always worth checking the timetable to see if your journey includes any abnormally long halts. Passengers travelling on the direct Moscow to Paris train, for example, linger for eleven hours in Berlin.

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Switzerland: the Bernina connection

by Nicky Gardner

The small Swiss town of Pontresina once attracted many of Europe's literati. Today, the poets and philosophers have gone, yet Pontresina and the surrounding mountains are as exquisite as ever. The town's railway station is the jumping off point for the Bernina pass route to Tirano - arguably the finest train route from Switzerland to Italy.full article available online

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Baltic limits

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe reflects on the suitability of the term Baltic states for describing Latvia, Lituania and Estonia

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Against all odds

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe checks out two improbable examples of cultural resilience: Estonians in Georgia and Aromanian Vlachs in northern Greece

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

Island antics

by Nicky Gardner

from Sicily to Scotland's Orkney Islands: hidden europe explores how two island communities will spend New Year's Day

Magazine article

Kastellórizo

by Nicky Gardner

we check out Greece's remotest island outpost, a place where the locals and visitors take the boat over to nearby Turkey for the Friday market

Magazine article

Branding places

by Nicky Gardner

what's in a name? A lot of tourist euros, if the name has the right ring to it. hidden europe checks out the current fad for branding places.

Magazine article

The train from Kazakhstan

by Nicky Gardner

we report on the only train that provides a direct link between anywhere in Asia and the European Union: the weekly train from Astana in Kazakhstan to Berlin's Lichtenberg station

Magazine article

Les Minquiers

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe explores a scatter of islands off the French coast - the most southerly outposts of the British Isles

Magazine article

In the ghetto

by Nicky Gardner

on the margins of Berlin, several thousand Russlanddeutsche (Russian-Germans), migrants who arrived in Germany in the mid 1990s, live as an underclass

Magazine article

Taking the high road

by Nicky Gardner

France's Cime de la Bonette road is often feted as "la plus haute route d'Europe". But is this really true? We drive some of Europe's highest roads and track down the real record holders

Magazine article

Defining Europe

by Nicky Gardner

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

Magazine article

Protected by the peacock angel

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe explores one of Europe's most remarkable diaspora communities, the Yezidis who live in the northern German town of Celle. And from Celle we travel to the Yezidi homeland in Armeniafull article available in pdf format

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

Gammalsvenskby: a Swedish village in Ukraine

by Nicky Gardner

Yes, there really is a village in the south of Ukraine that once was a thriving island of Swedish language, culture and religion. hidden europe visits Gammalsvenskby and finds very palpable evidence of the village's Swedish past.full article available online

Magazine article

Drink local

by Nicky Gardner

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

Magazine article

Cultivating the soul

by Nicky Gardner

We refresh our wearied and wandering minds in two intriguing gardens. We visit a secret garden in Prague, and hidden europe reader Mervyn Benford reports on a humble Swedish postman who followed in Linnaeus' footsteps.

Magazine article

Zeitz stopped and stared

by Nicky Gardner

On a summer's day in 1976, Oskar Brüsewitz left his home village of Rippicha shortly after breakfast, drove to the nearby market town of Zeitz and set himself alight. Zeitz stopped and stared at the pastor's protest. A sombre tale from the former DDR.

Magazine article

The freedom train

by Nicky Gardner

The legendary Akropolis Express, a train much used by migrant workers, used to run daily from Munich to Athens, passing through Kosovo. hidden europe recalls journeys on the Akropolis Express, and checks out rail travel in Kosovo today, where trains run under the aegis of the United Nations.

Magazine article

Public alley 438

by Nicky Gardner

Fergal is of Europe yet not in Europe. He cannot recall with any certainty exactly why he spends each winter in Public Alley 438. But he does! hidden europe encounters a hint of Donegal in Boston's Back Bay district.

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

Hidden cavities

by Nicky Gardner

The Etruscans did it and so did mediaeval Christians. Teeth and toothache have long been stimuli for travel. We explore the current fad for dental tourism, and alight upon Sopron in Hungary and Kobarid in Slovenia.

Magazine article

A Welsh encounter

by Nicky Gardner

On the eightieth anniversary of the formal inauguration of Clough Williams-Ellis' impish architectural experiment at Portmeirion in Wales, we remember a chance encounter with the architect at his home at Plas Brondanw.

Magazine article

Corvo

by Nicky Gardner

Bang in the middle of the Atlantic, equidistant from Lisbon and Newfoundland, the island of Corvo is one of the most isolated European communities.

Magazine article

That half a rood of sand

by Nicky Gardner

The delineation of international borders within shared waters is never easy. In Lough Foyle, where Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland both have territorial interests, the two parties have left the border undefined. hidden europe reader Bill McStay explains why.

Magazine article

Istrian interludes

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe explores the coast and its hinterland in Istria, nowadays part Croatia and part Slovenia. On the coast, echoes of Venetian style mingle with Habsburg elegance and Slavic confidence. Inland, we encounter the endangered cultural traditions of Croatia's Istro-Romanian community.

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

Frisian shores: the island of Sylt

by Nicky Gardner

On the tidal flats that surround the North Frisian island of Sylt there are millions of lugworms. On the island itself there is a peculiar sub-species of homo sapiens. hidden europe explores both!

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.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

London: Vauxhall pleasures

by Nicky Gardner

For most Londoners, Vauxhall is just a formidably busy traffic intersection on the wrong side of the river. hidden europe discovers that Vauxhall is a place with interesting connections.

Magazine article

Trains stop only on request: Berney Arms

by Nicky Gardner

In hidden europe 10, we carried an account of an unusually remote railway station in Scotland. That prompted us to check out other isolated spots - so we made a special journey to find the only railway station in England that is totally inaccessible by motor vehicle.

Magazine article

Taking the slow boat

by Nicky Gardner

A few words in praise of slow coastal shipping services that hop from port to port. Surely a more romantic way to travel than to endure the thud, thud, thud of a modern catamaran.

Magazine article

Shifting territories: Märket Reef

by Nicky Gardner

A little border curiosity from a rocky reef in the Baltic: Märket is a mere speck of land, shared by two countries - Finland and Sweden. Yet it is a household name among many radio operators.

Magazine article

The seven wonders of Europe

by Nicky Gardner

It is hard to gaze in awe at a monument so often photographed, so relentlessly packaged and promoted, as the Eiffel Tower or the castle at Neuschwanstein in Bavaria (with its turrets and Disney-like trappings). hidden europe ponders on just what it takes to qualify as a potential wonder of the world.

Magazine article

Rest-stops for the soul

by Nicky Gardner

There is little that is religious about modern mass travel. But seaports, railway stations, airports and even motorway service areas have chapels and churches that address the needs of travellers.

Magazine article

Arrivals

by Nicky Gardner

The finest arrivals are moments to savour. hidden europe recalls a few memorable arrivals: by train in Istanbul, by boat in Venice, by plane in L'viv (Ukraine) and by car in Newmarket (England).

Magazine article

Paradise lost: Nagorno Karabakh

by Nicky Gardner

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

Magazine article

Turbulent waters

by Nicky Gardner

Freight boats that take passengers, new routes and change aplenty as hidden europe reviews what's new in Europe's shipping schedules for 2007.

Magazine article

Potsdam's hidden history

by Nicky Gardner

Amid the parks and palaces of Potsdam (near Berlin) is an area known as the Neuer Garten ('New Garden'). For almost fifty years, part of it was an extraordinary 'forbidden city' - a place reserved for the Russian military and the KGB. hidden europe explores this area through the eyes of one woman.

Magazine article

Another kind of Chernobyl

by Nicky Gardner

Pesticides, dioxins and nickel processing are among the worst culprits in some of Europe's environmental black spots. hidden europe reports from a few places that lie off most travellers' itineraries.

Magazine article

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

A land of many tongues: Vojvodina

by Nicky Gardner

The Vojvodina region of northern Serbia is one of the most culturally complex regions of Europe. We investigate the patchwork quilt of peoples and languages that make up Vojvodina - an area the size of Wales with no less than six official languages.

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

Mere conventions: meridian lines

by Nicky Gardner

Meridian lines may be merely a matter of cartographic convention, but a lot of politics underpinned the selection of Greenwich as the prime meridian. We report from El Hierro in the Canary Islands, once known as Isla del Meridiano. Many old maps and charts reference longitude against the Ferro meridian - which skirted the western coast of El Hierro.

Magazine article

Communal living: béguinages

by Nicky Gardner

In Belgium, as elsewhere in northern Europe, there are some remarkable béguinages - reminders of an important social movement dating back to the 13th century. Today, these courtyards are havens of quiet that attest to the capacity of women in the mediaeval period to take control of their own lives.

Magazine article

Remembering Cheryl Summerbee

by Nicky Gardner

Cheryl Summerbee deserves to be better known. hidden europe takes a sideways look at one of the more intriguing characters to have emerged from a campus novel. Conceived by David Lodge in Small World, Cheryl works at London's Heathrow Airport. Or rather, she used to work there.

Magazine article

On the edge: Rezovo (Bulgaria)

by Nicky Gardner

With Bulgaria joining the European Union on 1 January 2007, hidden europe drops in one of the countries more unusual communities - the tiny village of Rezovo that lies right on the Turkish border.

Magazine article

In splendid isolation: Scotland

by Nicky Gardner

Tarbet is a spot that is about to be consigned to history. And that's a pity, because Tarbet was a sanctuary - a wee spot that teetered on the edge of being. We report from some of Scotland's remotest communities.

Magazine article

More than just dots

by Nicky Gardner

Why do the Faroe Islands feature on the map of Europe shown on the euro banknotes even though the archipelago is not part of the EU? And yet Malta, a fully paid-up member, is not shown on the map. We ponder one of Europe's great cartographic curiosities.

Magazine article

What makes a country?

by Nicky Gardner

World history is daintily decorated with picturesque polities that were nipped in the bid by greater powers. But modern Europe still has some remarkable small territories. San Marino, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Faroe Islands and the Principality of Monaco. We examine some of the badges of nationhood.

Magazine article

Without let or hindrance: passports of yesteryear

by Nicky Gardner

The Russian writer Anton Chekhov travelled around Russia with nothing more than his university diploma as evidence of his identity and good character. Nineteenth-century Englishmen, if they had a passport at all, often opted for a Belgian or French one! We examine the history of the world's most travelled document.

Magazine article

Mapping routes: some unusual waymarks

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at the European places that don't figure on regular maps. They may be nodal points of railway geography, air navigation beacons or just part of local folk geography - like a roundabout just outside London called the Scilly Isles. Enjoy our foray into psycho-geography.

Magazine article

Thinking about festivals

by Nicky Gardner

The festivalisation of culture penetrates all areas of the arts. No longer is it possible to offer a string of Mozart concerts. Nowadays it has to be a Mozart festival. hidden europe probes the issues of authenticity surrounding Europe's growing festival calendar.

Magazine article

Marne-la-Vallée: pure fantasy

by Nicky Gardner

There is more to Marne-la-Vallée than Eurodisney. This Paris suburb boasts some remarkable architecture. Forget the rides at Eurodisney! Instead discovery fantasy of another kind in Les Espaces d'Abraxas.

Magazine article

Island in the sun

by Nicky Gardner

Fidel Castro once gave an island off the coast of Cuba to the German Democratic Republic. We unravel the tale of Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann, a wee dot on the Caribbean map that might plausibly be the last remaining piece of land belonging to the GDR.

Magazine article

What's in a name: the island of Jan Mayen

by Nicky Gardner

The naming of places is a sure way of imprinting an identity upon them - as we found when we started poring over old maps of the Arctic island of Jan Mayen. Modern maps give the place a very Scandinavian demeanour. But it was not always so.

Magazine article

Ruhnu: another Eiffel tower

by Nicky Gardner

Sure, the Eiffel tower! But not the famous Parisian landmark. We visit another tower designed by Monsieur Eiffel. This one is on the Estonian island of Ruhnu.

Magazine article

Speed dining: train fare

by Nicky Gardner

It is possible to happily munch one's way round Europe. Train restaurant cars sometimes offer a few surprises. We review train dining from Finland to Hungary, Scotland to Switzerland.

Magazine article

Labours of love: allotment gardens

by Nicky Gardner

Albert Einstein was once famously reprimanded for allowing weeds to run rampant on his Berlin allotment. hidden europe contrasts two very different allotment cultures in Germany and in England.

Magazine article

Arctic artefacts: rubbish or heritage?

by Nicky Gardner

When does the detritus of an early expedition or of a pioneering industrial settlement in the Arctic become worthy of preservation? We ponder the issues of heritage conservation in Europe's polar regions.

Magazine articleFull text online

Where towering cliffs in ocean stand: Lofoten

by Nicky Gardner

Capture the atmosphere of one of Europe's most magical landscapes with our account of two communities in the Lofoten islands in northern Norway. Nusfjord is an old fishing station that has reinvented itself through tourism. Meanwhile, the tiny hamlets that cling to the edges of Reinefjord teeter on the brink of extinction.

Magazine article

Night train to Narvik

by Nicky Gardner

It is all a matter of watching the birch trees get smaller and the snow get deeper. Twenty hours on the train from Stockholm to northern Norway affords some moments of quiet reflection.

Magazine article

Divided by a common border: the Narva river region

by Nicky Gardner

Rivers are often the great links between nations. Not so the Narva River which divides Russia from Estonia. We review life in this border region and look at how the Saimaa Canal, on the frontier between Finland and Russia, might offer a good model for the Narva river area.

Magazine article

Cartographic visions of a changing Europe

by Nicky Gardner

Successive editions of The Times Atlas of the World (over 112 years) reveal a changing Europe. In the newly published 2007 edition, the continent seems somehow tamer than it did in 1895. But there are also some innovations in the new edition!

Magazine article

Silk maps

by Nicky Gardner

During the Second World War, aircrew on British planes were issued with a silk scarf that had a map of the area for which they were bound. We look at how map scarves are making a comeback.

Magazine article

In the spirit of Che Guevara: Marinaleda

by Nicky Gardner

Few towns and villages in Europe will mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara in October. But they surely will in Marinaleda, a small town in southern Spain where the cult of Che is alive and well.

Magazine article

From alpha to omega: European alphabets

by Nicky Gardner

Travel around Europe and you will come across runic texts in Scandinavia and Scotland's Orkney islands, Glagolitic inscriptions in Croatia and Hebrew texts on synagogues across the continent. We explore how alphabets often become an emblem of identity.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

Uskok outposts: where Croatia meets Slovenia

by Nicky Gardner

Living on the old military frontier at the edge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Uskoks made a decent living. They are still there. Nowadays their homeland is where Croatia abuts onto Slovenia. Join us as we visit a few Uskok villages.

Magazine article

Make believe: the geography of films

by Nicky Gardner

Film directors often morph real world geographies to suit their own purposes. Docks on the River Thames stand in for Venice, and Granada in southern Spain suddenly is given new life as a Turkish port. We look at a few examples of transposed geography.

Magazine article

Tilting at windmills: from La Mancha to Andalucí­a

by Nicky Gardner

God never intended travellers to reach the land of tapas, sherry, flamenco and Carmen without a struggle. Join us as we head south through Spain for Andalucía, first crossing Don Quixote country (La Mancha) and then taking Despenaperros Pass through the Sierra Morena.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

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

The road to Abergwesyn

by Nicky Gardner

The tides in the Mawddach estuary never come too early. Nor too late. The rain never beats too hard on the road to Abergwesyn. hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner celebrates the communities in rural Wales where she once lived.

Magazine article

Evoking a sense of place: literary cartography

by Nicky Gardner

Real travel does not always mean going to far-flung and exotic places. Is it not more a question of seeing the world differently? We take a look at how places acquire meaning and, along the way, reflect on the literary cartography that lies at the heart of hidden europe.

Magazine article

In search of the Water Man: the Sorbs of Lusatia

by Nicky Gardner

If you venture out to where the Sorbs live, around the River Spree upstream from Berlin, watch out for the Water Man. He is small, grey and hideous, and may even try to lure you to a horrid death by drowing. We explore the Sorb communities of Lusatia.

Magazine article

Enough to make you eat your words

by Nicky Gardner

Ever been completely fazed by a foreign menu? Are there shepherds in shepherd's pie in England? And do they really eat toads in Yorkshire? We look at how the food on our plate says a lot about national identity.

Magazine article

Building the future: Berlin's Hansa Quarter

by Nicky Gardner

A visit to the showpiece urban developments of the mid-1950s in both halves of Berlin is one of the city's great free attractions. We look at the legacy of the West Berlin 1957 Interbau exhibition and compare it with Karl-Marx-Allee in East Berlin.

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

Temples of pleasure

by Nicky Gardner

Many modern shopping centres are parodies of the elegant glazed arcades that were, in many nineteenth-century European cities, focal points for shopping and relaxation. From Brussels to Milan, Cardiff to Genoa the arcaded gallery became a byword for style. Many of the best still survive.

Magazine article

Calypso's isle: Gozo

by Nicky Gardner

Don't go to Gozo in the summer. Go in winter. Feel the lash of the grigal as it whips across the island and gaze as the waves churn a dozen rainbow-tinted boats in Mgarr harbour. And then, as the storm abates, watch the pale winter sunshine fall over honey-coloured basilicas.

Magazine article

Slow travel: Europe by train

by Nicky Gardner

Had you realised that it is not compulsory to take the fast train? Comb the timetables, and you still find the lazy slowcoach of a train that dawdles from one country station to the next. We celebrate the delights of the slow train.

Magazine article

Polar exploration: years to remember

by Nicky Gardner

2008 is a big year for polar anniversaries. Among those polar milestones is the eightieth anniversary of the death of Roald Amundsen, who lost his life while trying to rescue another veteran of polar exploration.

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

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.

Magazine article

Life in Lovas

by Nicky Gardner

Take one village, a seemingly pleasant and unassuming place not far from the Danube. Look more closely, and there is more to life in Lovas than first meets the eye.

Magazine article

Lost at sea: a Frisian tale

by Nicky Gardner

There are two sides to Sylt. The east has soggy edges as tidal flats and salt marshes separate Sylt from the German and Danish mainland. The other side can be wild and treacherous, a place where shrapnel spray pounds the beach and bodies are washed ashore.

Magazine article

Helsinki by tram

by Nicky Gardner

Public transport is often a fine way to get a feel for a foreign city. We take a look at a circular tram route in Helsinki that takes in most of the city's main sights.

Magazine article

A time for gifts

by Nicky Gardner

An assassin's gun in a museum in the Albanian capital, a fireplace in the Bavarian Alps and some oak trees with pure Nazi pedigree are among the more unusual gifts that we uncover in this quirky perspective on gift-giving.

Magazine article

An icon of identity: the Faroese flag

by Nicky Gardner

Fámjin is all the better for being difficult to reach. It is a tiny place, a mere pinprick on the map of the Faroes. But Fámjin has something of the Faroese soul about it, for it here that the national flag was first flown. We look at some places that enshrine icons of national identity.

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

City of illusions: London

by Nicky Gardner

The City of London - the very heart of the English capital - has long been a melting pot for cultures and religions. And today the area has striking contradictions in wealth and social status. We report from the city of illusions.

Magazine article

A terrible peace: Bosnia

by Nicky Gardner

The Dayton Accord may have been a sensible way of bringing a terrible war in Bosnia to an end. But what of the peace ushered in by Dayton? We examine life in Muslim communities in the Vrbas valley in central Bosnia.

Magazine article

From coal to tourism: creating new landscapes

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at an extraordinary landscape regeneration programme that is bringing new life to a former industrial region in eastern Germany. Where once coal was king, now new lakes are being created to promote tourism. And what about the mighty F60?

Magazine article

An island outpost: Helgoland

by Nicky Gardner

One tiny island, a mere fleck of land in the North Sea! And yet so laden with history. Helgoland (often called Heligoland by English speakers) has been both Danish and British. Nowadays it is surely one of the most extraordinary parts of Germany. We visit Germany's only "Hochseeinsel".

Magazine article

A Pennine portrait

by Nicky Gardner

Heptonstall is a place where gritstone ledges and neat green fields play backdrop to the moods of Pennine weather. This is Yorkshire. We visit gritty moodscapes populated by folk whom poet Ted Hughes described as "bleak as Sunday rose-gardens".

Magazine article

Not just face value: European charity stamps

by Nicky Gardner

Micro-donations to charity have been a feature of European postage stamps for over a century. Letter-writers have supported athletes, orphans and unemployed intellectuals - as well as clothing naked Swedish soldiers - by buying charity stamps.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

Know your gentilics

by Nicky Gardner

Lesbians don't necessarily come from Lesbos, not everyone from Bohemia is bohemian, and Alsatians are generally dogs. A letter to the editors from a hidden europe reader prompts a few thoughts on the knotty issue of gentilics.

Magazine article

Expo architecture

by Nicky Gardner

Expo is back in the news with Milan having just been selected to host the 2015 World Fair. At their best, Expos have served as a boost to imaginative urban regeneration. We look at the Expo legacy in various European cities.

Magazine article

Polar quest: the 1928 Nobile expedition

by Nicky Gardner

It was eighty years ago this spring that Umberto Nobile embarked on the airship Italia. His destination? The North Pole! Read about an expedition that was to prompt the biggest rescue effort in the history of polar exploration.full article available in pdf format

Magazine article

National tipples

by Nicky Gardner

When did you last see a bottle of Unicum for sale outside Hungary? We try out a few drinks that are inexorably associated with a particular region: from Kvint to kvass, from Irn-Bru to Almdudler.

Magazine article

In praise of limestone

by Nicky Gardner

A new edition of Helen Martin's book on the Lot region of southwest France is much to be welcomed. Textured prose that nicely evokes a sense of the region's limestone landscapes. Get a flavour of this new edition.

Magazine article

From Prussia to Russia: Kaliningrad

by Nicky Gardner

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Baltic port of Kaliningrad found itself strangely isolated from the rest of Russia. Hemmed in by the European Union, the city of Kaliningrad is rethinking its role in the modern world. It is a remarkable city in a remarkable region.

Magazine article

Maltese arrivals

by Nicky Gardner

Away from the glitz of the tourist resorts, tucked away on the south coast of Malta, are the refugee camps that house migrants from Africa. The men and women who live in the camps are constantly reminded that there is no space for them on the island.

Magazine article

Rediscovering our rivers: The Thames experience

by Nicky Gardner

London has rediscovered its river as the Thames develops into a low-carbon highway through the very heart of the city. The 'sweet Thames', which TS Eliot mourned as being the preserve of rats and rattling bones, is regaining its former vitality. Even commuters travel to work by boat these days.

Magazine article

Rotor heaven: Europe's helicopter links

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at commercial helicopter routes around Europe, both past and present. There are areas in Europe where helicopter services are still very much a part of the regular transport network. Examples include the Faroe Islands, the Scilly Isles, Isole Tremiti in the Adriatic and the Gulf of Finland.

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

Wrong turn at Koblenz: the Moselle valley

by Nicky Gardner

If Mary Shelley's judgement is to be trusted, the Moselle possesses only "an inferior beauty". Which is a bit harsh on a valley that hidden europe views as one of the finest in all Europe. The Moselle valley boasts Karl Marx's birthplace, a village called Schengen and much more besides!

Magazine article

Eurostar: connecting the continent

by Nicky Gardner

Had you realised that you can leave London by train this afternoon, and with just a single change of train in Paris, be in Berlin, Barcelona, Venice or Munich by tomorrow morning? Crossing the English Channel today is a whole lot easier than it was when Jean Blanchard made the journey by balloon in 1785.

Magazine article

City credentials

by Nicky Gardner

Is Tromsø really the Paris of the North? Or does the title more properly belong to St Petersburg? And the Rome of the North: Is that Cologne, Prague or the Glasgow suburb of Springburn?

Magazine article

Belarus: a new Bradt Guide

by Nicky Gardner

Nigel Roberts' new guidebook to Belarus, just published by Bradt Travel Guides, is authoritative and insightful. We review the first ever English language guide for travellers visiting Europe's least known country.

Magazine article

Piety and community: the Moravian Brethren

by Nicky Gardner

Cast your eye over the cemetery at Herrnhut to find out why this small community in eastern Saxony exerts so powerful a pull on members of the Moravian Church around the world. hidden europe explores the origins and influence of the Moravian Brethren.

Magazine article

Geography matters: exploring the placeless brand

by Nicky Gardner

There was a time when train companies had names that told you where their trains might run. The Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway, for example. Ditto airlines. Siberia Airlines served Siberia. But modern brands defy geography and pretend to be placeless. A pity perhaps, because in our book geography matters!

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In her element

by Nicky Gardner

There has been a paucity of women writers celebrating the Welsh landscape. For too long the narrative has been dominated by English writers - mainly men! A new book restores the balance.

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All change: 2009 rail schedules

by Nicky Gardner

It is often said that Europe is experiencing a new "age of the train" as travellers rediscover the pleasures of rail travel. We take a look at what the 2009 timetables have to offer.

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An English Eden: Tresco

by Nicky Gardner

Join us as we visit an archipelago of islands in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of England. The Isles of Scilly are a remarkable outpost - lush, verdant and, at their best, almost Caribbean in demeanour.

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Exploring the European Arctic

by Nicky Gardner

An earlier generation of Arctic explorers engaged with the landscape in a manner we have lost. Speed has eclipsed understanding. We take time out to feel the pulse of Europe's Arctic environments.

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Footnotes to history: lost microstates

by Nicky Gardner

We have all heard of Europe's microstates: Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, etc. But who now remembers the microstates of history? The Banat Republic, Carnaro, North Ingria and the Bavarian Soviet Republic.

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Election special

by Nicky Gardner

Tired of McCain and Obama? Fed up with Sarah Palin's take on foreign policy? We have the perfect antidote with a hidden eruope round up of elections from Iceland to Malta, the Czech Republic to Azerbaijan.

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Children of the Russian century

by Nicky Gardner

Berlin's most extraordinary cemetery is tucked away in the northwest corner of the city. It is a place where the Mentzels and Morgensterns rub shoulders with Molokans and Old Believers.

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A first class surprise

by Nicky Gardner

The view from the carriage window may be identical in first class, but sometimes it makes good economic sense to travel in style. There are many instances in rail journeys across Europe where first class travel may actually be cheaper than second class.

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Of turrets and towers

by Nicky Gardner

From radio towers in Moscow, to the ancient pigeon towers of Isfahan, towers are things to be celebrated and explored. We look at some of Europe's finest, and take a close look at towers along the route of the Great Western Railway from London to Penzance.

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Spitting distance from the Baltic

by Nicky Gardner

The Curonian Spit is a delicate concave arch, a narrow thread of land that divides the Baltic from the Courland Lagoon. We travel from Lithuania into Russia through one of Europe's most intriguing landscapes.

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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.

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The search for Franklin

by Nicky Gardner

About twenty clairvoyants, mediums and spiritualists were closely involved in the search for Franklin's lost expedition. The ghostly tale of Louisa Coppin is just one part of this improbable story.

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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.

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East is East: Oleg's story

by Nicky Gardner

About ten years ago, significant numbers of poor people from Estonia were persuaded to travel to Switzerland to take part in medical trials. One of them was Oleg.

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Lakeside strategies: Bad Saarow

by Nicky Gardner

The hinterland of Berlin encompasses some of Europe's finest forest and lake landscapes - too often missed by visitors to the German capital. hidden europe makes an excursion to Bad Saarow, a lakeshore spa town east of Berlin, which was until 1990 divided by a wall.

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Britain's weakest links

by Nicky Gardner

What do the English railway stations at Denton, Reddish South, Pilning and Teesside Airport have in common? The answer is that they have virtually no trains. Ghost trains, ghost stations and more as we review Britain's weakest links.

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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.

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Tomb of the roses

by Nicky Gardner

Gül Baba presides over Budapest with the serenity and repose of one who rests in Allah. We forsake the streets of Castle Hill in Buda, forever full of tourists, and go in search of hidden Budapest.

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Europe's sweeter side

by Nicky Gardner

If you do not have Lithuanian ancestors, don't even think of trying to make sakotis, the spiky punk-style confection that is Lithuania's trademark dessert. We make a diversion through the sweeter side of Europe.

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Dates galore: the Palmeral de Elche

by Nicky Gardner

Early Arab settlers in the Spanish Levante created at Elche a remarkable region of palm groves. Curiously, a cultural landscape that was so Arabic in inspiration now serves mainly Christian interests. We take the slow train south from Alicante and stop off at Elche.

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Night boat to Holland

by Nicky Gardner

To walk aboard the Pride of Rotterdam as she prepares to leave Hull for the overnight crossing to Holland is to engage with a piece of maritime history. The flag of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company still flies on the ships of P&O Ferries.

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Architecture of deceit

by Nicky Gardner

A new book called 'Follies of Europe: Architectural Extravanganzas' inspires us to explore Europe's architecture of deceit. We find buildings conceived with no purpose at all, and others where exterior design deludes as to the real purpose of the building.

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Swallowed by the sea: Jordsand

by Nicky Gardner

Jordsand is no more. The island in the Wadden Sea was once German then Danish and provided valued summer grazing for livestock from Jutland. Now it has been swallowed by the waves.

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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.

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A manifesto for slow travel

by Nicky Gardner

Slow travel is about making conscious choices, and not letting the anticipation of arrival undermine the pleasure of the journey. By choosing to travel slowly, we reshape our relationship with place and with the communities through which we pass on our journeys. In 2009 we launched our 'Manifesto for slow travel'. You can read the full text here.

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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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Rallying support for the nation

by Nicky Gardner

In western Europe, long distance car rallies of the inter-war years came to symbolise glitz and glamour. Just think of the Monte Carlo rally. Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union the car rally became an important tool in the building of socialism. We look at how sport blends imperceptibly into propaganda.

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From Plopsaland to Preventorium: Belgium's coastal tram

by Nicky Gardner

Belgium's coastal tram (De Kusttram) is the longest tram route in the world. Running the entire length of the Belgian coast, the tram blends surrealism, fantasy and the utterly mundane. Join us for moules et frites, and lots of gnomes too, as we ride the coastal tram from Plopsaland to Preventorium.full article available in pdf format

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Focus on fish

by Nicky Gardner

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

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So where is Mukaceve

by Nicky Gardner

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

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Sea fever

by Nicky Gardner

When one time English poet laureate John Masefield extolled the lure of the ocean ("I must down to the seas again..."), he clearly didn't have Cunard's luxury Queen Elizabeth II ship or the same company's new super liner Queen Mary in mind.

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Eriskay 1935

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe explores a little moment in cinematic history that led to a Hebridean island getting its first proper road

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The slow train

by Nicky Gardner

evoking the flavour of a hot summer afternoon in the Bohemian hills, hidden europe takes the slow train from Liberec to Decí­n