It was the winter that never was! Here on the shores of the Baltic, there are hints of premature spring, while there are already reports of butterflies from Britain. We write these few lines at the seaside resort of Binz on the Baltic island of Rügen. It’s a place with architectural ambition, blessed with a fine promenade which is lined by gracious villas, many of the finest dating from the Wilhelmine period. Binz has style, just like Dún Laoghaire, a watering hole and former ferry port on the east coast of Ireland which features in this issue of hidden europe.
Dún Laoghaire is an interesting spot, and the fact that it was for almost a century called Kingstown says something about its colonial history. There are shades of empire elsewhere in this issue, with a brace of articles which explore events in the borderlands of tsarist Russia in the 19th century. We trace the history of a remarkable community of Russian Old Believers, who in 1831 purposefully left the Russian Empire to seek sanctuary in East Prussia. And we also look at the fate of a canal and a railway, both in their heyday icons of tsarist ambition, in the Belarusian borderlands.
Our abiding interest in hidden europe is in places and landscapes, and in the manner in which they shape the human experience. And this new issue brings a hefty dose of these themes. Laurence Mitchell invites us to reflect on notions of wilderness and what constitutes ‘the wild’. Basque writer Karlos Zurutuza escorts us from his native Euskal Herria across the Atlantic to discover why a small village on the rocky coast of Labrador features so strongly in the Basque national narrative. Mark Rowe captures the spirit of Orkney as he recounts how the decline of the kelp industry led to radical changes in land husbandry on the island of North Ronaldsay and the building of a remarkable wall. The last in our quartet of guest contributors in this issue is Rudolf Abraham who, in his piece on the Croatian island of Silba, introduces us to the merits of islands as places for seasonal retreat. Our warm thanks go to these four authors.
The magazine is shaped not merely by our commitment to liberal European values, but by our affection for the offbeat and the quirky. In the pages that follow you’ll discover how to get a taste of Chile on a flight from Madrid to Frankfurt, encounter some grape types which thrive on volcanic soils, touch down in a village which could well claim to be the heart of the Jura, and join us on rare diversions to Alaska and Ashgabat. We hope you’ll enjoy the read.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries
Ostseebad Binz, Island of Rügen