We have reflected on, even yearned for, so many journeys in these past months, a spell during which we have generally not ventured far from home. It’s given us a chance to rediscover English essayist William Hazlitt who nicely captured the essence of travel: “The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do, just as one pleases.”
But of course one can find that liberty close to home and walking is a fine way of cultivating that. We do rather like an amble, even sometimes a ramble, but — to paraphrase Hazlitt — when we are in rural regions we do also quite like to vegetate, and the current pandemic has certainly allowed us many opportunities to do just that. Happily, Berlin’s rural hinterland has sparsely populated landscapes of delicate beauty, places where one can just ‘be’ without any great imperative to move on.
There is a walking theme to this issue of hidden europe. We follow a coastal walk at Duino which inspired the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Elsewhere in this issue we tackle a long circular hike through Slovenia and wander through a remarkable landscape in the Metuje Valley of north-east Bohemia.
Our article on the Muslim communities in eastern Poland, western Belarus and southern Lithuania gives a glimpse of a region that is by no means as homogenously Christian as many would assume. And that’s not the only surprise in this issue, as we encounter the ghost of Machiavelli and Friedrich Engels’ alter ego. We’ll also discover how a wayward Italian playwright nudged the League of Nations into action 100 years ago this autumn, as we mark the centenary of the creation of the Free State of Fiume.
We have always relied considerably upon our loyal cohort of guest contributors, so our thanks go to Rudolf Abraham and Paul Scraton for weaving words for this issue. It is a special pleasure to welcome Kirsty Jane Falconer as a first-time contributor to hidden europe .
These are not easy times for anyone — and surely not for travel publishers. Aspects of our business have been gravely affected by the pandemic. But sales of hidden europe have held up well, and we have been humbled to receive such positive feedback from our readers over the recent months. So, as we near the end of 2020, we offer our sincere thanks to all our subscribers and our warmest best wishes for the year ahead. Stay well over these coming winter months. And enjoy the occasional walk.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries