Articles tagged:

Island communities

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From A to Z: Achilles to Zelensky

In this Letter from Europe we report from an island in the Black Sea that over the last 200 years has been variously controlled by the Ottomans, Romania, the Soviet Union and Ukraine. It is the place where the Greek hero Achilles allegedly dwelt after his death.

Magazine article

Seduced by islands: islandness and the île de Peilz

by Nicky Gardner

The notion of the sparsely inhabited island exerts huge appeal on the imagination. We project our hopes, our desires and our fears onto islands which then become crucibles of life, easier to mould and understand than when those same aspirations and worries are seen in the context of our normal, rather messy, lives in less confined spaces.

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At the water's edge: Germany's Wadden Sea

by Paul Scraton

Within just a few centuries, the geography of the Frisian region has been reshaped by storms and tides. Paul Scraton is a regular writer for hidden europe; here he explores Germany’s Wadden Sea coastline. It’s a tale that shows the power of the sea.

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Return to Eriskay: A Hebridean community

by Nicky Gardner

Living on a small island demands a willingness to make compromises. Yet islands still have a special appeal. We make time for one of our favourite islands. Nothing much ever happens on Eriskay, and to be honest there’s not really much to see. But this outpost in the Outer Hebrides has a very special magic.

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Words Matter – hidden europe 66

Here's a look at the latest issue of hidden europe magazine, published earlier this month. We roam from the Azores to the Balkans, from Iceland to southern France. In between we celebrate 50 years of Interrail and reflect on the metrics to measure how sustainable tourism might be.

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Follow the dove

by hidden europe

Look for the tell-tale Pentecostal dove that marks out the small chapels dedicated to the Holy Spirit. They are found across the Azores, each chapel the hub of a social network that underpins Azorean Catholicism.

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Summer transients: the Fjallabak community

by Katie Featherstone

Four hours drive east of Reykjavík, the Fjallabak nature reserve is home to no one, but lies deep in the hearts of many. Here in the hills of Iceland, the seasonal transients arrive in June, helping prepare the simple accommodation to welcome summer hikers. Katie Featherstome describes a season at Hrafntinnusker, a remote mountain hut on the hiking trail known as the Laugavegur.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 66

by hidden europe

In hidden europe 66 we explore the Drin Valley in Albania, the Vipava Valley in Slovenia, reflect on sustainable tourism and check out the boats in Port Grimaud. We also celebrate a special anniversary with a an article on fifty years of Interrail.

Magazine article

Wild bites: foraging in Malta

by Daiva Repeckaite

Wandering Maltese byways, we discover that each season brings its own menu of edible plants. In her first contribution to hidden europe, Daiva Repeckaite shows how foraging for wild plants reveals novel perspectives on the Maltese landscape. Amid the dry austerity, Malta has a rich variety of food there for the taking.

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Watery diversions

Making time for creative journeys has been at the heart of our work with hidden europe. So in this issue of our Letter from Europe we highlight some longish ferry routes which even allow for some sightseeing. Here are some examples from this winter’s Mediterranean shipping schedules.

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A town in the Sicilian hills: Piana degli Albanesi

by Suzanne and Andrew Edwards

To the south of Palermo in Sicily lies the town of Piana degli Albanesi. The first thing to strike the casual visitor who passes the comune’s boundary line is the customary sign announcing the name of the settlement. Underneath the Italian are the words Hora e Arbëreshëvet with the diaereses hinting at altogether different origins. Susanne and Andrew Edwards investigate Sicily’s Albanian connections.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 64

by hidden europe

Staying close to base brings its own rewards. This is the first time since the inception of the magazine (16 years ago) that we have ever carried a full feature on that rural area, just south of Berlin, which we count as our home region. All three of our guest contributors in this issue similarly write on communities and landscapes with which they have had a long engagement.

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Beating the border: the Catholic dioceses of the island of Ireland

by Nicky Gardner

The boundaries of ecclesiastical provinces, dioceses and parishes often show scant regard for secular administrative boundaries. We discover a French Roman Catholic diocese where the bishop’s pastoral responsibilities extend to parishes on both sides of the Atlantic. And in Ireland we see how, since the UK left the European Union in early 2020, there are now Catholic parishes which are bisected by the outer edge of the EU.

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Inishmurray

Inishmurray lies squat and low half a dozen kilometers off Streedagh Point in County Sligo. No one sleeps on Inishmurray these days. The island’s entire population, then numbering just a few dozen, left in 1948. Since then the buildings have crumbled and now there’s an air of quiet dereliction around Inishmurray.

Magazine article

Social Isolation Hebridean Style

by Nicky Gardner

Kenneth Mackay, the one-time postman in the village of Rhenigidale is long retired. But he is happy to chat to visitors about the life of social isolation and material deprivation which was once the norm in remote villages in the Outer Hebrides. We look at how ‘wee Kenny’ and the Schools Hebridean Society championed the idea of building a road to Rhenigidale.

Magazine article

Moladh Uibhist: In Praise of Uist

by Nicky Gardner

Driving the spinal road which runs the length of South Uist can be a melancholic or an uplifting experience. Few Hebridean islands evoke such mixed responses. In this article, we explore South Uist and find an island of delicate beauty.

Magazine article

Malta: The Alleys of Birgu

by Duncan JD Smith

When the Knights Hospitaller relocated from Rhodes to Malta, the community of Birgu became their de facto capital. Birgu is on a promontory on the south side of the Grand Harbour, a counterpoint to Valletta away to the north. Duncan JD Smith explores this most appealing of Maltese communities.

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Storm Brendan

Brendan’s arrival had been much touted. He didn’t come as a surprise. Days prior to his arrival there was talk of Brendan. There was a run on lettuces and toilet rolls here on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. People like to stock up on the essentials when there’s a big storm coming.

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Scottish Island Flights

It will already be dark today long before Loganair's flight LM247 takes off from Stornoway around 17.30. Sunday's flight marks the last direct service from any of the Scottish islands to London. Those direct flights to London represented a much vaunted opportunity for the Outer Hebrides.

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A Tale of Two Lakes

Last year, the Azorean authorities reminded residents of the hazards of living in an archipelago where three great tectonic plates meet. This is where Eurasia meets Africa and the Americas. We recall a royal visit to the volcanic caldera of Sete Cidades on the island of São Miguel.

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New issue: hidden europe 57

We have this year visited the Baltic twice already. It's a region of Europe that's at its best in winter, we find, and sedate Binz was the perfect place to pen the editorial for issue 57 of hidden europe which is published tomorrow. Let's take a look at this new issue of the magazine.

Magazine article

Both Sides of the Dyke: A Visit to North Ronaldsay

by Mark Rowe
When the kelp industry collapsed at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the islanders of North Ronaldsay did something extraordinary. They built a sturdy stone wall right around the island. Find out why in this feature by Mark Rowe, a first-time contributor to hidden europe.
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Reel Fun: Scotland's Mobile Cinema

by Nicky Gardner
In the early days of the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks used mobile cinemas as a vehicle for political propaganda. These days, Scotland also has a mobile cinema, but here the purpose is pure entertainment. Everyone smiles when The Screen Machine rolls in, bringing mobile cinema to remote, rural communities far from any modern multiplex.
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The Other United States: An Island Polity

by Nicky Gardner
This is the story of the other United States, a territory which surely rates as one of the oddest polities ever to appear on the map of Europe. It had seven constituent states and existed from 1815 to 1864. It used the obol as its currency and its postage stamps featured the head of the English monarch.
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Barra connections

Islands breed patience – among both the living and the dead. Especially in mid-winter in Barra, when the storms can be relentless. For us, however, there is a rare pleasure in being at the mercy of the elements. One feels connected with nature in a way which is harder to discern in Berlin.

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A time for birds

We have had still days over Christmas - even halcyon days for those who know their Greek mythology. It suited the rain geese. The birds are more commonly known as the red-throated diver. Elegant in water, but ungainly on land, the rain goose is feted for her ability to anticipate a coming storm.

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Two Peas in a Pod: Denmark's Eastern Edges

by Nicky Gardner
The Ertholm Islands (literally 'Pea Islands') are the easternmost fragments of Danish territory, even further east than Bornholm. Just two islands in this small archipelago are populated: Christiansø and Frederiksø. In the 19th century, Frederiksø served as a place of exile - a prison island.
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Boat-shaped Graves

by hidden europe
Lozenge-shaped graves, fashioned in the form of a ship, are a distinctive element of Bronze Age visual culture on the Baltic island of Gotland. Do these unusual graves, known as 'ship settings' have a deeper cosmological meaning?
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Fishing stations

by hidden europe
A number of fishing stations around the coasts of the Baltic islands of Fårö and Gotland recall the heyday of the herring trade, when farmers would become fishermen for a few weeks.
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Gorgona prison island

One of Tuscany's leading winemakers, Lamberto Frescobaldi, works with the prison authorities and the inmates on Gorgona island to produce an outstanding white wine. Gorgona lies in the open seas been the coast of Tuscany and Corsica.

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Forbidden places

Next weekend, there's the chance to visit an extraordinary place in England - a village where the entire population was forcibly removed in 1943 in order to provide space on Salisbury Plain for American military manoeuvres. It's one of those places that are usually barred to the public and all the more intriguing for that.

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James' View: a stunning holiday home in Barra

James' View is stunning. You'd barely credit that the building was once no more than a simple Hebridean dwelling. It has been transformed by owners Marion and Will into a very welcoming holiday home on Barra. It makes a perfect base for exploring the island.

Magazine article

Hebridean Hostels

by hidden europe
The Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust gives a chance for travellers to stay a while in some of the remotest communities in the Outer Hebrides. Through the work of the Trust, many casual visitors come to love these island communities. The Trust maintains hostels on Harris, Berneray and South Uist.
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 52

by hidden europe
Welcome to hidden europe 52. Much travel writing fuels a shallow approach to travel. Fear of missing out (FEMO) makes travellers roam the globe in haste. There is, we think, a better way of engaging with places and cultures. We prefer to take things mor
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Islands on the Edge: Exploring Barra and Vatersay

by Nicky Gardner

The islands of Barra and Vatersay are remarkable places. They are the southernmost inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. These two Scottish islands have remained Catholic outposts in a country known for its generally Protestant ways. That's not the only unusual aspect of Barra and Vatersay, as we discover in this feature for hidden europe.

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The Hebridean Blackhouse

For many visitors to the Hebrides, the traditional blackhouse is a symbol of these islands. Yet rarely is vernacular architecture so freighted with emotion, nostalgia and even misunderstanding.

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Notes from a Hebridean island

There is a special dynamic to island life. One meets the same people day after day - but often in different contexts. We bump into people in the most unlikely spots. On the east side of Barra, a number of rocky peninsulas jut out into the Sea of the Hebrides. Away to the north is Tràigh Mhòr, the bleached cockle strand where the daily plane from Glasgow lands.

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Short hops by plane

Short hops by air over water are of course very common, generally relying on non-jet aircraft and providing lifeline air services to island communities around the coasts of Europe. A review of old airline timetables reveals that there used to be many more such services, including many very short hops across lakes or estuaries. We take a look at some of them.

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Buying a Scottish island

Would you ever consider buying an entire island? This autumn has seen a couple of Scottish islands on the market. For a mere two million pounds, you might consider Tanera Mòr, the largest of the Summer Isles just off the coast of north-west Scotland.

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Editorial hidden europe 50

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 50. We live and work in a city where foreign nationals make an immense contribution to the local economy, to society and to the arts. Berlin is in that respect very typical of many places in Europe. In hidden europe, we celebrate the diversity of our home continent.

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Only Fit For Wild Ducks

by Nicky Gardner
Catch the spirit of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides with Gaelic psalm singing at a country church in Lewis or Marian devotions on the Isle of Eriskay. We explore an island archipelago that has a complex mix of landscapes, of which the most distinctive is the machair - the rich grasslands on fragile dunes.
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New CalMac Contract

by hidden europe
The network of car ferries operated by Caledonian MacBrayne is part of the fabric of island life in Scotland's Western Isles. No trip to the Hebrides is complete without a journey or two on a CalMac ferry. The company has just secured a new contract for operating links to some of the remotest communities in the Hebrides.
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Visiting Vatersay

There was a time when cattle from Vatersay being taken to market had to swim across the bay to Barra; more than once the tide and waves claimed the lives of animals. This is a part of Europe where life has never been easy. Yet the island of Vatersay in Scotland's Western Isles is in many ways interesting.

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Armadale to Ardrossan – the slow way

Here is the answer to the Scottish Slow Travel Challenge we posted in the hidden europe Notes section on 19 February. The heart of the challenge was to tell us the latest possible date on which it would be possible to leave Skye in order to arrive at Ardrossan at or before noon on May Day.

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Ferry links: Britain and Ireland

There is much ado in British and Irish waters these days, with so many very appealing ferry routes, but also a few services slipping from the schedules. In this Letter from Europe, we give an overview of some interesting new developments.

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Exploring Alfàbia

We wandered amid bamboo and eucalyptuses, past carob trees and citrus orchards, by pomegranates and myrtle. The gardens at Alfàbia on the island of Mallorca are one of many beautiful places we have visited as part of our work for hidden europe.

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Amid the waves: Heimaey

by Philip Dunshea

The Vestmann archipelago lies off the south coast of Iceland. A ribbon of islands, all of volcanic origin, remind us that here is a part of Europe where landscapes are still rapidly evolving. Surtsey appeared almost overnight in 1963. Phil Dunshea reports from Heimaey, the only island in the Vestmannaeyjar with a permanent population.

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Offshore Provence

by Nicky Gardner

Sailing east from Marseille along the coast of Provence to the Italian border, there are some two dozen islands, many of which are overlooked by visitors to the region. Climb aboard the hidden europe private yacht (if only!) as we set sail for the Côte d'Azur.

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Monemvasía: the Greek Gibraltar

by Duncan JD Smith

In the southern Peloponnese, the island citadel of Monemvasía once enjoyed a key strategic location on major Mediterranean shipping routes. No wonder, therefore, that many have sought to secure control of the rock that is often referred to as 'the Greek Gibraltar'.

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The Nansen trail

A recent visit to the Arctic port of Vardø, on an island off the eastern extremity of the Varanger Peninsula, prompts us to reflect on Fridtjof Nansen’s visit to the same place in 1893. Nansen arrived in Vardø on the Fram. It was the ship's last port-of-call in Norway on the great voyage of exploration that was to take Nansen closer to the North Pole than any earlier expedition.

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Divided Islands and all things Scottish

Just imagine, for a moment, that Scotland really does vote yes to independence next week. Scotland will then become a new nation state, bidding for a place in European league tables of size and status. We reflect on border issues and look at how Scotland stacks up against other European countries in terms of landmass and population size.

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Gozo threads

The island of Gozo, Malta's kid sister, is indeed a sanctuary, a place apart. All the more so during these last days of June when a sequence of Catholic feast days are the cue for village festivities.

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Double act: the Danish island of Ærø

by Nicky Gardner

The Danish island of Ærø is no more than a fleck in the Baltic. Yet this beautiful island is a good place to understand Danish history. If you are ever in any doubt as to how much the sea has inflected the Danish experience, make time for Marstal, the largest community on the island of Ærø. Then head on over to Ærøskøbing, the island capital, to appreciate the comforts of small town life.

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A question of numbers

by hidden europe

'Grey gold' is the term used by Ærø councillor Carl Heide to describe the talented and still-very-active migrants whom he feels can help sustain community life on the Danish island of Ærø. For an island where deaths greatly outnumber births, and where young adults often move away, the challenge of maintaining a viable community is uppermost on the local agenda.

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Dollars and cents

by hidden europe

Three of the 406 municipalities that comprise the Netherlands use a currency other than the euro. Yes, there really are three municipalities where you buy Dutch pancakes with US dollars.

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Springtime on Ærø

Ærø in four words: hilly, hospitable, homely, hyggelig. The Danish island is the place to be at times like this. It is mellow and calm, a small island that wants spring to come sooner rather than later. The hilltops are scattered with ancient passage graves, burial mounds and cairns.

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Into the desert

The monastery on the Isola di San Francesco del Deserto is a place apart, an island retreat in the shallow recesses of the northern lagoon well away from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It is an island where blessed solitude is punctuated by the Liturgy of the Hours. Franciscan monks have prayed on San Francesco del Deserto for eight centuries, their chants shaping a soundscape that otherwise is dominated by bird song, the breeze running through avenues of cypresses and the ripple of water.

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The Orkneys and more

There will be no boat to the remote island of North Ronaldsay this coming Thursday. The ferry from Kirkwall, the main community in the Orkney Islands, runs out to North Ronaldsay just once a week at this time of year - and that on a Friday. So the crowds will probably not be flocking to North Ronaldsay on Thursday to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the island being connected to a mains electricity supply.

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Oriental dreams

by Nicky Gardner

We explore an Eden which has its apple orchards, running waters and beautiful gardens. There is even a touch of the East about this unlikely Eden. It is only the minarets that are missing on our journey past the silent monastery of Petra to a place that is marked on our map as Orient. Join us for a magical tour of an island in the sun.

Magazine article

By train to Sóller

by hidden europe

The jewel in the crown of Mallorca's railways is the delightfully antiquated Ferrocarril de Sóller. Last year, it celebrated 100 years of service. It is just one of three separate railways to serve the Mediterranean island.

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The Out Skerries

For the Out Skerries in Scotland's Shetland archipelago, the 'Filla' has been a veritable lifeline. This year, she marks thirty years of sterling service to the Skerries community. Launched in 1983, the Filla helped transform life on the Out Skerries by providing a reliable link to the Shetland mainland.

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The Îles Malouines

Only rarely do we venture beyond the shores of Europe within our Letter from Europe. But the layered toponymy of the archipelago in the South Atlantic reveals the complicated history of settlement in the islands known today as the Falklands or Islas Malvinas.

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Island hopping through the Balearics

by Nicky Gardner

To understand Menorca and its history, you have to arrive at Maó by ship. There is no better way to do this than by taking the weekly sailing from Palma di Mallorca to Menorca, along the way passing the island where Hannibal was born and another island where prisoners of war were held captive.

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Lastovo (Croatia)

The little port at the south-west corner of the island of Lastovo has a hangdog sort of feel. Long before sunrise today, there was the usual morning bustle around the pier at Ubli as folk gathered for the 4.30 am ferry back to Split. During the few night-time hours that the ferry rested at the quayside at Ubli, something changed quite irrevocably on the island of Lastovo.

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Life on a mound: visiting Hallig Hooge

by Nicky Gardner

At the eastern margins of the North Sea, in the shallow waters hard by the German coast, are a series of islands that are seasonally flooded. Human settlement on these islands is a fragile thing. These special islands (called Halligen in German) have their own distinctive cultural landscape. Join us on a day trip in deep mid-winter to Hallig Hooge – where it happens to be dustbin day.

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From Sylt to Samoa

The North Frisian island of Sylt may not seem the most obvious place for a tutorial on Germany's colonial adventures. The island protects the coast of Jutland from the North Sea. It has long sandy beaches, fabulous dunescapes and lovely swathes of heath. The perfect island, some might venture. In its toponyms, Sylt recalls two other islands, both far-flung and both once coveted by Germany. The local bus that trundles out to the southern tip of Sylt stops at both Samoa and Sansibar.

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The last lepers

On the hills around Vrouhas, giant wind turbines are ambassadors of modernity. Their blades lazily crest the Mediterranean breeze, each languid loop mocking the ancient stone windmills that cluster on the slopes below. The turbines provoke, so visitors and locals are all more inclined to gaze out to sea, where the fortified island of Spinalonga dominates the view to the south. Here was one of Europe's last leper communities, a colony of outcasts who were exiled to a barren island just off the coast of Crete.

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Islands of exile: Istanbul’s ‘Princes’ Isles

by Laurence Mitchell

Not quite Europe and not quite Asia, the Princes' Isles in the Sea of Marmara south of Istanbul have long been a place of sanctuary for exiles and minorities. Laurence Mitchell escorts us to the islands where Leon Trotsky lived for some years and wrote his 'History of the Russian Revolution'.

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Flying can still be fun

Flying has generally ceased to be fun. The only certainty about much modern air travel is that it will be boring. Airports from Omsk to Omaha are nowadays all very much the same and all equally uninspiring. All that said, it is always interesting to browse the summer flight schedules and find that there are a few parts of Europe where scheduled air services still make a very fine contribution to life in remote communities. And there are many examples where a plane bridges a gap between places that are otherwise unlinked by surface transport.

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Sailing to the big island: Mingulay

by Laurence Mitchell

Although the island of Mingulay in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides is long bereft of any inhabitants, it is still an evocative place. Laurence Mitchell, a regular contributor to hidden europe magazine, takes us on a tour of 'The Village' - the remnants of the once turf-roofed blackhouses that the islanders called home.

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Tussling with the elements: Jutland

by Nicky Gardner

Survival on Jutland's coast has always been a question of working with nature. Great storms have transformed the sandy coastline and entire communities have come and gone with the ebb and flow of history. We travel north along the Danish mainland's west coast and visit Europe's fogotten island of North Jutland.

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Escape from Alcúdia

The fast ferry will speed you from Alcúdia to Ciutadella in just an hour. Too fast, perhaps, to really savour the transition between two worlds. Alcúdia has its quiet corners. Choose a sunny spring evening and the ruins of the old Roman theatre can be very atmospheric. But for most of the budget travellers who flock to Alcúdia, visits to Roman ruins are probably not a top priority.

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Remember, remember

Many English readers will know the rhyme that recalls the failed terrorist action in 1605, when Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators tried to blow up the English Parliament. But the majority of those who gather at bonfires across England this evening probably will not have the details of Guy Fawkes' peculiar act of treason uppermost in their minds as they gaze at crossettes, spiders, horsetails and multi-break shells exploding in the night skies.

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Porto Santo: a desert island?

by Nicky Gardner

The North Atlantic island that was once home to Christopher Columbus is a mainstream tourist destination. But that did not stop Europe's media from inventively recreating it as a remote desert island to make a good news story.

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Polar nights in Spitsbergen

It was unusually warm in Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen this past Sunday. The temperature peaked at minus 7 degrees Celsius. And the jazz helped give Longyearbyen a more temperate ring last weekend as the remote Arctic community, capital of the Svalbard archipelago, celebrated its annual Polar Jazz festival.

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Kicking off the New Year

New Year's Day. Again. Aching heads for those who took their Hogmanay revelries a little too seriously. We slipped into 2011 in a little house on the edge of a heath on one of the North Frisian islands. Yet Estonia awakens today to the euro as its beautiful kroon banknotes are consigned to currency history.

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Winter arrives in the Baltic

It was just an hour on the train to Putbus, a little community on the Baltic island of Rügen that is impossibly grand for such a remote spot. Just four thousand souls, yet a town so full of aristocratic associations that it seems like a Baltic take on Chatsworth or Versailles.

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Frozen assets: Iceland's eastern fjords

by Nicky Gardner

The landscape around Egilsstaðir is as desolate as the economy of much of this region. We take time out in Nielsen's, easily the cosiest café in Egilstaðir, to try and understand why folk in some of the townships of eastern Iceland are none too happy these days.

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Polling day in Iceland

Today is referendum day in Breiðdalsví­k. The town is a ramshackle sort of place on the edge of a bay of the same name. Breiðdalsvík does not really have a lot going for it. It is raw, untamed, an outback town that has something of the feel of the Wild West.

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The demons of Sylt

Sylt is a place apart. It is one of the most accessible of the North Frisian islands. Frost demons have cast a spell of hard rime over the island these past days. But neither the bitter cold nor the capers of New Year's Eve deter the walkers who march the beach at dawn.

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Airport links

Is not the journey to the airport often one of the great hassles of modern travel? Not all of us can enjoy the relaxed approach taken in the Isle of Man where narrow gauge steam trains pause on request at Ronaldsway Halt, just a short walk from the island's airport.

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Kastellórizo

by Nicky Gardner

we check out Greece's remotest island outpost, a place where the locals and visitors take the boat over to nearby Turkey for the Friday market

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Corvo

by Nicky Gardner

Bang in the middle of the Atlantic, equidistant from Lisbon and Newfoundland, the island of Corvo is one of the most isolated European communities.

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Svalbard links

by hidden europe

For travellers with their ice axes and crampons at the ready, Svalbard (Spitsbergen) is about to come a whole lot closer, with a Norwegian budget airlines offering flights in 2008 to the Arctic archipelago.

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Calypso's isle: Gozo

by Nicky Gardner

Don't go to Gozo in the summer. Go in winter. Feel the lash of the grigal as it whips across the island and gaze as the waves churn a dozen rainbow-tinted boats in Mgarr harbour. And then, as the storm abates, watch the pale winter sunshine fall over honey-coloured basilicas.

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An English Eden: Tresco

by Nicky Gardner

Join us as we visit an archipelago of islands in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of England. The Isles of Scilly are a remarkable outpost - lush, verdant and, at their best, almost Caribbean in demeanour.

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Arabic Sicily

Wander along the Via Porta Palermo in Mazara del Vallo and you might easily think you were in North Africa. The fishing port on the southwest coast of Sicily is an extraordinary spot, a little haven of North Africa in southern Europe. It happens to be the place where Arab forces first landed in Sicily during their invasion in 827 AD, marking the start of a period of Arabic influence that is still detectable in Sicily today.

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The Isles of Scilly (Tresco)

In the Isles of Scilly, the spectacularly beautiful scatter of islands off the coast of southwest England, equinoctial tides often make for some formidably complicated schedules for the inter-island ferry service. We visit the Isles of Scilly and Tresco Abbey Gardens.

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Arrivals in Malta

It has been a busy couple of days in the choppy seas off the south coast of Malta. Military helicopters were out in the early hours of Thursday morning searching for over two dozen migrants from Africa whose boat capsized about forty kilometres south of the Mediterranean island. Later the same day another vessel, overladen and leaking, was escorted into Marsaxlokk Harbour in Malta. The twenty-seven Somalis aboard were all taken in custody.

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Helgoland

Despite a biting north wind and some squally showers of sleet and hail, Helgolanders did what they always do on the evening of Easter Saturday: gather just before dusk for the traditional Osterfeuer (Easter fire). Helgoland (often still referred to by its erstwhile English name Heligoland) is an extraordinary place, an impressive lump of deep red sandstone that juts out of the North Sea.

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Maltese moments

The English poet Coleridge was not at all keen on Malta. 'The dreariest of all dreary islands,' he wrote in a letter back to his Lakeland home. And Byron is alleged to have described the Maltese capital, Valletta, as memorable mainly for its 'yells, bells and smells'. Yet in our book the Maltese islands have more going for them than the Romantic poets ever recognised. Forget the concrete jungle of the modern tourist resorts.

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The wandering Arctic Circle

Capital cities are hardly regular hidden europe territory but Stockholm would surely be a firm contender if ever we were pressed to pinpoint our favourite European capital. Others that would certainly make it onto the shortlist would be Luxembourg and Ljubljana. Somehow these are spots that capture the spirit of a country, in a way that many capitals, often the least typical city in a country, patently do not.

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The Shetland Islands

Take Da Böd, a café at Hillswick in Scotland's most northerly island group, the Shetlands. This really is the end of the road, a tiny fleck of a community on the shores of Ura Firth. There was a time when Hillswick was an outpost of the Hanseatic League, and the name of the café, Da Böd (The Booth in English) recalls the old trading post of the Hanse.

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Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (France)

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is a little part of Europe outside Europe, territorial outposts of France that speak French and use the euro as their standard currency; they are vestiges of a once rich French presence in North America. With a population of some six thousand, mainly on the largest island (Saint-Pierre), the islands have long since abandoned their over-reliance on fishing to create a more diverse economy that fosters agriculture and tourism.

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By bus to Moldova

hidden europe has been in the North Frisian islands this past week. The island of Gröde is one of ten communities known collectively as the Halligen, tiny islands that lie off the west coast of the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein. This week the sea lavender is in bloom, great foamy sprays of blue that line the beaches just above the high water mark.

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Cabris (France) - Shetland links

The small hilltop town of Cabris in Alpes-Maritimes is not, we would concede, normal hidden europe territory. Cabris is the archetypal French holiday town, beautiful in the winter season, but a little too crowded on these summer days. That is not to deny its undoubted charm: purple bougainvillea tumbles over the garden walls, and in the lanes that lead off the Montée André Gide there are beautiful umbrella pines, twisted olives and heaps of wild lavender.

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European lazarets

In more recent centuries, the island of Comino, off the coast of Malta, served as an isolation hospital. The great archipelago off Finland's southwest coast includes the tiny island of Seili, which for over three centuries was a hospital, initially serving as a leper colony and later for those suffering from mental incapacity.

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Jan Mayen (Norway) - scrimshaw and more in the Azores

Jan Mayen has no indigenous population, and the twenty or so souls who are on the island at any one time are generally staff of the Norwegian meteorological service or military personnel. This onetime whaling station became a regular stop off point for early Arctic explorers, but the island didn't become Norwegian territory until the 1920s. Jan Mayen was the only part of Norway to remain under Norwegian control throughout World War II.

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Latin superstition in Sardinia - the Moldova-Romania border - Christmas gifts

Sardinia is a place steeped in superstition, as the English novelist DH Lawrence discovered when he rushed through the island and found it a curious place, 'lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere', as he wrote in Sea and Sardinia (1921). Blood feud in the Sardinian hills may be a thing of the past, but there remains an enigmatic quality to life in the remoter parts of this island.

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The 'other' Channel Islands (France) - the Barents Sea

As always at this time of year, the calm of winter isolation has settled on the Iles Chausey. Most of the population have shuttered up their houses and left Chausey for the mainland. Only the real chausias remain, less than a dozen in number. The ferry from Granville on the coast of Normandy that brings in so many summer visitors has dropped back to its winter schedule with just two crossings a week.

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Saltholm, Denmark - Corsica - Moldova Wine Festival

The upcoming days see a couple of quirky festivals in Corsica, each marking the Catholic feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September. At Lavasina, in Corsica's north-east corner, locals gather on the beach for midnight Mass in honour of the gifted Madonna who allegedly regularly intervenes in village affairs for the general good of the community.

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Migrants in Lampedusa (Sicily)

The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is generally one of those 'out-of sight, out-of-mind' places, a tiny speck of Italian land that is much closer to Africa than the Italian mainland. Even the Sicilian port of Porto Empédocle is over two hundred kilometres away

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Europe's best value flight - island hopping in the Faroes - Georgian visas

In these days of discount airlines, we all expect to travel for next to nothing, except of course when we are flying to some far flung remote spot where there is absolutely no competition. So when hidden europe checked out domestic flights in the Faroe Islands last week, we expected to have to pay the earth to travel on the once a week flight from Froðba on the island of Suðeroy, at the south of the archipelago, to Hattarvík on Fugloy, the remotest island in the Faroes.