Coronavirus seemed merely a distant threat as the last issue of hidden europe went to press on 28 February. We then spent the early part of March in Luxembourg and Switzerland, making tracks for Berlin just as much of Europe shut down due to Coronavirus. By the time hidden europe 60 was published, Europe had changed immeasurably.
Life suddenly became quieter. We all had time to think. For us, as perhaps for many others, there was a new moral urgency as we reflected on what kind of Europe might emerge after the pandemic. Perhaps people really will fly less, make more time for slower journeys and celebrate the local. We do hope that will indeed be the case.
As writers and editors committed to working in the field of travel, the pandemic has posed some special challenges. Fortunately, we had planned ahead — and of course we are grateful to our guest contributors Rudolf Abraham and Paul Scraton for having put pen to paper on our behalf. Both Rudolf and Paul have written for us before, and it’s a special pleasure to have their work in the following pages.
We know that many of our readers spent long COVID days reflecting on past journeys or planning future forays. So we have two twin themes in this issue of hidden europe : journeys and isolation. We kick off with a leisurely account of a wonderful Swiss rail journey — just the kind of outing about which we’ve all been dreaming these past weeks. And there’s more on rail journeys as we reflect on the future of night trains in Europe. We consider the loneliness of a village which for many years had only a single telephone and we touch on the isolation Marc Chagall must have felt as, one hundred years ago, he left his home town of Vitebsk for ever.
Communities are the antidote to isolation, so we make space in this issue for an article on a social housing experiment which was initiated 500 years ago.
We have a boatbuilder and a map-maker in these pages, flights of fancy in a pre-jet age, and we discover why there’s a link between Luxembourg and a small island in Cape Verde. We also visit a former iron ore mining area where now silent smelters and rolling mills have been incorporated into a university complex.
Well are we aware that postal deliveries of hidden europe have been greatly delayed in some countries as mail services have struggled during the pandemic. If your copy is delivered a little later than usual, our sincere apologies.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries