Reverend George MacLeod, who in 1938 founded the Iona Community, would often refer to the windswept Hebridean island of Iona as “a thin place” — one where merely a tissue separates the material and spiritual worlds. In this issue of hidden europe we explore a number of ‘thin places’. We look at religious iconography in villages in Brittany and explore the threads of Jewish faith in Poland. The spectacular polychrome decoration on the interior of the wooden synagogues of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is now a matter of history. The last remaining wooden synagogues in the region were destroyed by the Nazis, who also eradicated most vestiges of Jewish life and culture in Poland. But now a new generation of creative Jews are moulding a new Jewish identity among the reminders of the Holocaust.
We have in many issues of hidden europe remarked on the fluidity of geography. It is history’s turn in this issue. We look at how history is appropriated, reworked and packaged to suit the interests of the moment. The English archaeologist Richard Hodges reminds us that historical narratives are often subverted by nationalist agendas, and in hidden europe 51 we see instances of that at Butrint in Albania and Malbork in Poland.
Such weighty matters aside, we take time out to reflect on mules and cold baths and to investigate the untold delights tucked away in the latest edition of Jízdní řád — that’s the national rail timetable of the Czech Republic. Read more on page 19.
It is our mission to report on places which pass without remark in mainstream media, and we do just that in hidden europe 51. We would wager that you have never heard of the Kene Plateau or the Emile Baudot Escarpment.
We rely considerably on the skills and insight of guest contributors, and we are pleased to have three in this issue. Patricia Stoughton and Duncan JD Smith have both written previously for hidden europe, returning to this issue with articles on Brittany (page 30) and Scotland (page 14) respectively. It is a special pleasure to welcome a new writer. Emma Levine’s feature on the crafting of filigree in Kosovo starts on page 22.
Read on, and you’ll discover an approach to Europe which questions the prevailing pieties in countries which make much of the barbarians who wait on their borders or gather just outside the city gate. Our inclination is not to build fierce defences, but rather to open the gate and talk to the barbarians. Some of the finest people we know are barbarians in spirit.
Susanne Kries & Nicky Gardner
penned on EN452 Berlin to Paris