The striking image on the front cover of this issue of hidden europe shows a memorial on the shores of the Barents Sea recalling the terrible episodes of witch burning in northern Norway. The memorial is a remarkable piece of art in its own right, an object possessed of an eerie beauty. But it also attests to a community confronting its own history. There’s more to Vardø than witches. It is a town which once depended heavily on the Pomor trade, but the Russian Revolution put an end to that. Nowadays it’s an important fishing port. ‘Cod is great’ proclaims a bold piece of graffiti by the harbour. The witches are long gone. How long the cod will stay is a matter for debate.
Vardø tells the tale of a resilient Europe. The resilience of communities across the continent is a recurrent theme in this issue of hidden europe. It is as true of Nikel in Russia where people make good lives for themselves despite living with terrible pollution as it is of Komrat in Gagauzia where locals ponder the benefits and risks associated with secession from Moldova.
Which brings us to Scotland and the hashtag of the year: #IndyRef. We dared to hope that the Scottish people might take the plunge, but we can well understand why in the end they stepped back from the brink. So we wanted a Scotland story which played to the theme of unity — and there is no better symbol of unity than a fine bridge. We opted for a reflection on the Scottish community of Queensferry which has a new road bridge named after it. And, in the spirit of the moment, we broke our normal rule of not chasing royalty by weaving in reference to not just one but two queens.
We have a trinity of wonderful articles by outside contributors in this issue of the magazine. So our thanks go in triplicate to Duncan JD Smith, Laurence Mitchell and Rudolf Abraham for their essays on Greece, Cyprus and Bosnia & Herzegovina respectively.
Tucked away within these pages there are some unusual diversions into the world of wine — not a topic that has hitherto featured very conspicuously in hidden europe. So whether you opt for posh English fizz from Yearlstone Vineyard in Devon or a rich Tokaj from Slovakia, join us as we toast to the upcoming holidays. We wish all our readers a good break over Christmas and the New Year. We’ll meet again in early 2015 for another year of exploring hidden Europe.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries