Shuffling round the Louvre on a warm summer day, coping with airport queues, or trying to find respite from the crowds that throng the Vatican museums, you would probably agree with Garcin in Sartre's play Huis Clos that "l'enfer, c'est les autres" ("hell is other people"). Apt though that may be, we are always reminded in such situations of Edward Said's comment that in the western world we are all suffering from a "generalized condition of homelessness". Europe has become a continent of wanderers, its cities full of travellers who seem intent on securing home comforts in whatever foreign city they have chosen for this weekend's flying break. The central areas of Moscow, Madrid and Manchester are beginning to resemble each other ever more, as global brand names clamour for their share of tourists' attention and money.
It is with this search for the distinctive in mind that we have much enjoyed a series of books, published by Austrian publisher Christian Brandstätter. This handsome series of volumes, four in all thus far, focuses exclusively on aspects of cities that are unique to those communities. Very much like hidden europe in fact.