Articles tagged:

Landscapes

Magazine article

Flint country: stories set in stone

by Laurence Mitchell

Laurence Mitchell introduces us to the many ways in which flint has shaped the cultural landscape of East Anglia. The distinctive stone that glistens in fields and is ground by the tides on the region’s beaches is used in many of East Anglia’s fine churches. Flint inflects the region’s history.

Blog post

The first mountain hut

The appreciation of mountains in the European imagination changed dramatically in the 18th century. Scenes which at the start of that century still invoked terror were within a hundred years reconfigured as awesome landscapes, now celebrated for their great beauty. Reportedly, the first mountain hut used for recreational purposes was iclose to the Mer de Glace, a glacier that sweeps down towards the Chamonix Valley in the French Alps.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 69

by hidden europe

In this 69th issue of hidden europe we look, possibly more than in any preceding issue, to our coastlines and inshore waters for inspiration. We visit islands off Croatian and Scottish coasts, take boat trips through Greek and Norwegian waters, stand at the point where the Skagerrak meets the Kattegat and explore Germany's Wadden Sea.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

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.

Blog post

From Nero to the Habsburgs: the Corinth Canal

The isthmus at Corinth is one of the most celebrated isthmuses of the classical world. It connects the Greek mainland with the huge ragged-edged peninsula known as the Peloponnese. The Ancients portaged their small boats over the narrow neck of the isthmus as a shortcut between the Ionian Sea and the Aegean, so saving a long voyage around the Peloponnese.

Magazine article

Conflicts of interest: Mining and World Heritage

by Nicky Gardner

UNESCO's World Heritage List includes many citations which showcase former mining activities. The extractive industries have led to the development of some of Europe's most distinctive cultural landscapes. But the recent addition of a gold mining site in Romania to the list sparks tensions between conservation and economic interests.

Magazine article

Blessings from Heaven: The journey to Scalan

by Nicky Gardner

We venture south, following Livet Water up into the Braes of Glenlivet. This area survived as an outpost of Catholicism in post-Reformation Scotland. At Scalan, on the lower flank of the Ladder Hills, a secret seminary trained priests in the 18th century until the time when a more permissive attitude to Catholicism meant that the Church could function more openly.

Magazine article

Reading Celati

by hidden europe

The Italian wordsmith Gianni Celati, who died in January this year, was not best known for his travel writing. It was for Celati a sideline in a career that mainstreamed on literature and culture. We take a look at some of Celati's work.

Magazine article

10000 steps

by hidden europe

The EU-funded EXCOVER initiative reveals how lesser-frequented regions of the Adriatic coastline have real potential to alleviate pressure in tourist hotspots. One of the EXCOVER case studies is the Po Delta region of Italy.

Magazine article

Hiking the Laugavegur

by hidden europe

For many young Icelanders, the four-day trek along the Laugvegur is a rite of passage that in summer affords a relatively safe encounter with ‘untouched nature’. It takes in terrain that has helped shape Icelandic culture, memory and identity.

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

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

Cattle country: le pays de Salers

Cantal boasts some striking volcanic landscapes and some very fetching cows. We stop off in Salers, a handsome town in the hills which has given its name to Salers cattle and Salers cheese.

Magazine article

European heathlands

by hidden europe

Dedicated teams of scientists and conservationists are working to preserve Europe’s lowland heaths. The threats to these endangered habitats are many: creeping urbanization, the conversion of traditional heathland to cropland and the planting of conifers.

Magazine article

Salers cheese

by hidden europe

Salers de Buron is no ordinary cheese. It reflects the richness of the high pastures in France’s Cantal region. The mountain grass is interlaced with Alpine fennel, gentian, arnica, anise and liquorice.

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.

Magazine article

Heathland: exploring the Lüneburger Heide

by Paul Scraton

The great heath at Lüneburg in northern Germany recalls a landscape that was once very common across many parts of Europe. Paul Scraton explores how the landscapes of the heath reflect land management practices developed over many centuries. The Lüneburger Heide still gives a welcome sense of wilderness not far from great German cities.

Blog post

On the edge of Burgundy: the Morvan hills

There is one very distinctive area in the north-west reaches of Burgundy. And that's Morvan - an upland block defined by its striking granite landscapes which communicate a sense of wilderness not encountered elsewhere in the region. We touch down in an area of France with a strong regional identity.

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.

Magazine article

A London oasis: the Walthamstow Wetlands

by Rudolf Abraham

To have the opportunity to observe a landscape through the seasons, whether an urban swath of green and blue or something more obviously exotic, is a rare and wonderful thing. Over the past year and more Rudolf Abraham has watched the Walthamstow Wetlands transform, and here he reports for us from his home patch of London.

Magazine article

End of the Ice Age

by hidden europe

The last pulses of the wave of Quaternary glaciations in Europe left some distinct glacial spillways across the North European Plain. These short-lived channels were important for meltwater from a decaying ice sheet. Three of the spillways can be traced in the modern landscape of rural Brandenburg.

Blog post

The Slaney Valley

There can be few finer spots to be, on these bright spring days, than exploring the land around the River Slaney in south-east Ireland. The lower reaches of the Slaney, from Enniscorthy down to Wexford, is a gorgeous sweep of river. But we reserve the highest category of praise for the middle reaches of the Slaney upstream from Enniscorthy.

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A Fiesole residency

With its handsome villas, lavish gardens and sweeping views over the valley of the River Arno, Fiesole developed as a fabled spot. It was a place for political intrigue, a retreat to be creative and a spot to just relax. No surprise, perhaps, that it has attracted generations of artists, scholars and writers.

Magazine article

The goat keeper: life in rural Galicia

by Amy Aed

The connections between people and the land, between people and animals, were once taken for granted. No longer! Amy Aed travels to rural Galicia and discovers simple pleasures as she spends a few weeks on a goat farm.

Magazine article

Vintage pleasures: a taste of Alsace

by Nicky Gardner

If Alsace has a regional watchword, it is balance. It is as true of Alsace’s complex history, deftly melding French and German interests, as of the region’s remarkable wines. Join us as we explore the Alsace wine route, taking in some of the villages where winemaking has for centuries been a staple in the local economy.

Magazine article

Tidal islands

by hidden europe

There are islands which never lose their island status. And then there are islands which come and go with every tide. Such fragments of land, which are only proper islands at low tide, are called drying islands or tidal islands. We look at some European examples.

Magazine article

Alsace grape types

by hidden europe

Do you know your Sylvaner from your Muscat? Your Pinot Gris from your Pinot Blanc? Here’s a quick and easy guide to the nine main varieties of grapes used in the production of various Alsace wines. We would wager that there may be one or two varietals here of which you’ve never heard.

Magazine article

Ice caves: a rare subterranean spectacle

by Nicky Gardner

The great Siberian cartographer Semyon Remezov approached the ice cave on the bank of the River Sylva with Christian reverence and a map maker's precision. We follow Remezov to Kungur in Russia to discover one of the finest European examples of a cave with perennial ice.

Note

Alsace wines: a personal selection

To accompany our Alsace feature in hidden europe 63 (published on 15 March 2021), here’s a selection of Alsace wines which we rate as being very drinkable and reasonable value for money. We have listed them here by grape type - for most wines from the Alsace region are labelled to show the grape type (for example Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Noir). Very few of the still wines from Alsace are made from blends of more than one type of grape. Our listings focus mainly on dry or off-dry wines from the region.

Blog post

A village on the polder

There’s a village on the polder which we really like. It’s called Jisp. It is one of those long straggly places where you see cloudscapes just like those in the paintings of Jacob van Ruisdael - the Dutch artist who was born in Haarlem, which is only about a dozen kilometres away to the south-west. Nowadays it comes as a great surprise to discover that Jisp was once a whaling port.

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Just an ice axe

Nicky Gardner, one of the editors of hidden europe magazine, reflects on all the good and bad things that can be done with an ice axe. Opening tins of pineapple is just the start.

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Alpine horizons

The English, like travellers from other countries, were enthralled by the scenery of the western Alps. But it wasn't until well after the Golden Age of Alpinism that mountaineers and travellers began to explore areas further east in the great Alpine chain. We look at how in the last quarter of the 19th century, the eastern Alps fired the western imagination.

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The Gotthard revival

The new Treno Gottardo rail service starts in mid-December 2020. It offers the chance to travel from Basel to Switzerland's southernmost canton of Ticino via the classic Gotthard railway. Climb aboard a panorama carriage, sit back and enjoy the Alpine views.

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Sauntering through November

Two events: the centenary of the first-ever General Assembly of the League of Nations (held in Geneva on 15 November 1920) and the publication this week of Issue 62 of hidden europe magazine. Yes, there is a link! We look at this new issue of the magazine which includes an article on the Free State of Fiume - one of two small states created by the League of Nations in autumn 1920.

Magazine article

Exploring Europe on foot

by hidden europe

A new series of guidebooks from Vertebrate Publishing invites readers to explore some of Europe’s great long walks. We review the debut title which focuses on western Europe and the Alps.

Magazine article

The Juliana Trail: Slow Travel in Slovenia

by Rudolf Abraham

Launched in late 2019, the Juliana Trail is a long-distance walking route that encircles Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia. It’s a chance to engage with the varied landscapes and communities of the Julian Alps and, by encouraging visitors to explore the region around Triglav rather than just making a dash for the summit, it helps alleviate the pressure on Slovenia’s most popular peak.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 62

by hidden europe

We do rather like an amble, even sometimes a ramble, but 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. And thus maybe unsurprisingly, there is a walking theme to this issue of hidden europe. Enjoy the read.

Blog post

Beachy Head

Poets and painters have travelled to Beachy Head, among them William Turner and Edward Lear. So there is barely a soul in England who doesn’t have a mental image of the cliffs which drop sheer down to the beach. It is also the site of many tragedies.

Magazine article

Bregenz to Berne: Lands of Silk and Money

by Nicky Gardner

There’s a touch of theatre about the rail journey from Bregenz on Lake Constance to Berne in Switzerland. We feature it in hidden europe 61 as the perfect outing for those venturing nervously forth after weeks or months at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. Join us on this classic journey past lakes and mountains.

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

In the Eye of the Beholder

by Nicky Gardner

Attitudes towards mountain landscapes have changed dramatically over the years. Alpine scenes once reviled for their bleak desolation were rehabilitated in the Romantic era. Travellers now appreciate such scenes for their grandeur and great beauty. Attitudes towards the people who lived in the hills changed too. Once widely stigmatized as uncultured primitives, they came to be praised for their moral virtue.

Blog post

By the Euganean Hills

The area where the volcanic Euganean Hills meet the plain has more than its fair share of pleasing Renaissance villas, almost all of them oozing that Palladian style which is a real feature of the Veneto. But to the left of the railway, just north of Battaglia Terme is one striking palace which bucks the Palladian trend.

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In Jung's Footsteps

The lakeshore trail from Schmerikon along the upper part of Lake Zürich leads to a house once owned by the analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, who was a master of self-isolation. Join us as we ponder on Jung's famous Tower and his thoughts on progress and modernity.

Note

A Tribute to Tim Robinson

A tribute to writer and cartographer Tim Robinson who passed away on 3 April. Amongst his best known publications is his Connemara Trilogy - a profoundly ambitious, yet touchingly intimate, study of a region that stands as a place apart in Ireland. His work on landscape and history has certainly influenced our own endeavours at hidden europe magazine.

Blog post

New and Different Eyes

We have all changed in these past weeks. We have new and different eyes. Our view of the world, our perception of our immediate surroundings, and the value we place on space and horizons have all been reengineered within the compass of a month.

Magazine article

Agrarian Reform in Spain: The Broader Picture

by hidden europe

Mussolini's draining of the Pontine Marshes was a landmark piece of colonisation politics. There have been many similar schemes around Europe – one earlier example was King Carlos III's new town programme in Andalucía in the 1760s. To accompany our feature on Franco's agrarian settlement scheme (see 'Spain's Last Settlers'), we look at the broader context for such ambitious schemes.

Magazine article

The Last Settlers: Franco's Legacy in Rural Spain

by Karlos Zurutuza
In the 1950s and 1960s, the development of new agrarian settlements became a key element of Franco's statecraft in Spain. The villages, often planted in unpromising terrain, symbolised Franquista power and ambition. Karlos Zurutuza and Andoni Lubaki, respectively a writer and photographer based in the Basque region, set out to discover the villages populated by Spain's last settlers.
Magazine article

The Spirit of the Vosges

by Nicky Gardner
Join us as we discover the Vosges hills in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of eastern France. It's a region which has always been a wellspring of fine ideas, cutting a dash in the world of culture and industry. We visit a valley once settled by the Amish, learn about an illustrious tradition of printed textiles and roam through the montane heathland above the tree line.
Blog post

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.

Magazine article

The Highs and Lows of Travel: Summit Bagging Reconsidered

by Nicky Gardner
The highest points of Luxembourg, Moldova and Belarus don't feature on any lists of Europe's greatest mountains. Nicky Gardner reflects on the enduring appeal of the summit, and asks whether the lowest points in different countries might also warrant a detour. In Norway, it's possible to drive to 287 metres below sea level.
Magazine article

The Art of Drystone Walling

by Rudolf Abraham
With the art of drystone walling recognised by UNESCO as part of Europe's cultural heritage, communities across the continent are now seeing these traditional walled boundaries in a new light. Rudolf Abraham has gone in search of drystone wall specialists from France to Slovenia and beyond.
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 58

by hidden europe

If good writing makes the reader think, even if she or he might wholly disagree with the authorial view, then a fine purpose is well served. So see what you make of our words in this new issue of hidden europe where the dominant theme is place and identity.

Magazine article

Shared High Points

by hidden europe
Germany makes much of its highest mountain, the mighty Zugspitze. The frontier between Austria and Germany bisects the mountain. But in Austria, the Zugspitze hardly counts as a significant peak. We look at the phenomenon of shared summits.
Magazine article

Sketches in Teviotdale

by hidden europe
Southern Scotland has had more than its fair share of poets, along them Rabbie Burns, Robert Davidson and James Hogg. But one Borders poet, Thomas Pringle, is far better known in South Africa than he is in his native Scotland. Born just south of Kelso in 1789, Pringle is sometimes acclaimed as 'the father of South African poetry'.
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The Japanese Garden

Berlin's suburb of Marzahn is uncompromising. Its powerful and authoritarian architecture is definitely interesting, but does not find favour with all. Not everyone likes the relentless spread of apartment blocks which sprung up in the ten years after 1977. But tucked away in the corner of a park in Marzahn is a rare European example of a Japanese Zen garden designed by Shunmyo Masuno.

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Unfolding Connemara

Clifden is an interesting example of a purposefully planned community in the outback. The town was founded just over 200 years ago in what was then one of the remotest corners of Ireland. Recently, we travelled to Clifden by bus.

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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

Rewilding the Wolf Border

by Laurence Mitchell
Time was when cartographers embellished their maps with warnings to unwary readers. "Here be dragons," was one such advisory notice. For today's travellers, many of whom rarely venture beyond the reach of broadband, there's little chance of dragons. But, as Laurence Mitchell discusses, it is still possible to get a touch of wilderness.
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.
Blog post

On the Canal

John Hollingshead's account of his 1858 journey on a cargo boat from London to Birmingham is a fine narrative celebrating slow travel; its beauty resides in the manner it captures that sense of wonder at navigating so slowly through England.

Magazine article

The Swiss Jura by Train

by Nicky Gardner
For first impressions of the Swiss Jura, hop on the red train which plies the narrow-gauge rail route from Glovelier to La Chaux-de-Fonds. Green landscapes aplenty, but tucked away in these hills are communities which were influential in the development of European anarchism.
Magazine article

Drawing a Line in the Water: The Caspian Sea

by Nicky Gardner
Is the Caspian a sea or a lake? Aristotle averred it was certainly a lake. Pliny and Strabo suggested it was a sea. No other trans-boundary body of water throws up quite the same issues as the Caspian. We take a look at international frontiers that bisect lakes (or seas!).
Magazine article

Dzukija National Park

by hidden europe
Great sand seas seem at home in the Sahara or Namib deserts - or even perhaps on Mars. But in southern Lithuania is a striking sandy landscape shaped largely by the winds. Dzukija National Park is a region of fossil dunescapes.
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The Curonian Spit

For much of its length, the Curonian Spit is about two to three kilometres wide; at points it narrows to just a few hundred metres. The sea is never far away. There is a real sense of being on the very edge of Europe. Yet, for all its remoteness, the landscape is deeply influenced by human intervention.

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By the shores of Loch Fyne

In Victorian Scotland, the public took great interest in technology, and so the detonations at the quarry of Crarae on the west shore of Loch Fyne became something of an attraction. The regular steamer from the Clyde to Inveraray would pause at Crarae so that passengers could witness the spectacle of the hillside crumbling.

Magazine article

Vintage Views: Railways and Wine Tourism

by Nicky Gardner
What better way to survey some of the world's great vineyards than from the comfort of a train cruising slowly through a region celebrated for its fine wines? Ideally with a glass of wine to hand! We explore opportunities for rail-wine tourism in Spain, Hungary, France, Portugal and further afield.
Magazine article

Wordcraft: A Wander through the World of Words

by Nicky Gardner
New Nature Writing may not be so new after all. But it taps a vein of nostalgia, reasserting aspects of landscape and nature from which we have become detached by modernity. Whatever its history, a new cadre of nature writers are doing much to revitalise travel writing. It is part of a wider movement to rewild the English language.
Magazine article

Off-track

by hidden europe
Route 45 in our Europe by Rail book links Sofia with Zagreb via Belgrade and Brod. That's just the route once followed by the Orient Express. It features in both the 1974 and 2017 versions of the film Murder on the Orient Express. But neither film was shot on location in the Balkans.
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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.

Magazine article

A River Town out of Season

by Laurence Mitchell
Bicycles outnumber cars in Novi Becej, a small town on the east bank of the River Tisa in the flatlands of the Vojvodina region of northern Serbia. Laurence Mitchell catches the changing moods of Novi Becej as autumn slips into winter.
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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.
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Willow-herb, meadowsweet and steam

Edward Thomas' achievements as a poet and essayist were only fully recognised posthumously. For many, it is his poem about Adlestrop which sticks in the mind. But there's more to Thomas than that poem - indeed he was a very accomplished nature writer.

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Exploring the dyke

We crossed the Afsluitdijk last week on a long journey from Berlin to the island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Most other vehicles on the Afsluitdijk road sped along close to the speed limit. Instead of dashing over the dyke, we stopped off here and there to learn more about its history and its future - for the Dutch dyke is back in the news.

Magazine article

The Place by the Bay: the Butrint Story

by Nicky Gardner
One of the least frequented great classical sites in the entire Mediterranean basin is at Butrint in south-west Albania. Its roll call of illustrious visitors includes Lord Byron and Nikita Krushchev. Take care to avoid the snakes as we explore Butrint.
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More than just a place on a map

I have stood on the cliffs in Ireland and looked west to Hy Brazil, that fragment of lost Atlantis which has fuelled a thousand Celtic legends. You'll search in vain for Hy Brazil on any modern map, yet this legendary land has powerfully shaped Irish literature and identity.

Magazine article

Exploring the Poprad Valley

by Nicky Gardner
A forgotten sculpture park in a Slovakian valley recalls an environmental art initiative which flourished for a generation in the last century. Join us as we travel down the Poprad Valley.
Magazine article

Hebridean Narratives

by hidden europe
Peter May's novels set in the Outer Hebrides communicate a strong sense of Hebridean landscapes. May is the latest in a long line of writers who have helped inscribe the islands on the public imagination. We take a look at a number of Hebridean narratives.
Magazine article

Exploring the Ore Mountains

by hidden europe
The Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) offer excellent possibilities for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing. But even less energetic visitors can reach remote communities in the region by local bus and train services.
Magazine article

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.
Magazine article

Albania: A Tale of Two Valleys

by Laurence Mitchell
It is unlikely that great streams of tourists will be arriving in the mountains of northern Albania anytime soon. But this part of the southern Balkans now benefits from better access roads. Guest contributor Laurence Mitchell reports from two valleys in the hills often known as the Albanian Alps.
Magazine article

Belgrade and Beyond: Cities Shaped by the Lie of the Land

by Nicky Gardner
We explore the making of a city, referring to examples from across Europe. Those cities blessed with distinctive geographical assets would do well to value them. For, in an increasingly globlised world, a strong sense of place could turn out to be a city's trump card - one that endures longer than its reputation for fine food, ritzy shopping or a lively club scene.
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Walking with friends

Summer is slipping into autumn and the leaves in forests around Berlin are already falling. We walked through mixed woodland pondering the sounds and smells of beech, oak, hazel and pine. Before long, we came to Chorin where the remarkable red-brick ruins of a 13th-century monastery are a reminder that there is more than just nature in this sparsely populated region of rural Brandenburg.

Magazine article

A Visit to the Old Country

by Nicky Gardner
Beside the River Elbe, just downstream from Hamburg, lies the Altes Land. It is one of Europe's most intensive areas of fruit cultivation. Apples, raspberries, cherries and plums aplenty in a region which owes much to early Dutch settlers.
Magazine article

Hollandries: Dredging and Draining

by hidden europe
Europe's most accomplished dredgers and drainers are the Dutch. Settlers from the Netherlands have industriously drained wetlands and coastal meadows across the continent from Bordeaux to the Baltic. We look at some of the continent's Hollandries.
Magazine article

The Nessers: exploring a Kentish edgeland

by Nicky Gardner

Dungeness Foreland offers an improbable touch of wilderness in south-east England. The great shingle spreads at Dungeness on the coast of Kent create a severe and uncompromising landscape. The Nessers are the locals who call this area home. Join us on a journey through this extraordinary outpost of England.

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Cabrera, a tainted paradise

In the summer of 1812, while Napoleon's Grande Armée was storming east towards Moscow, William Faden's publishing house in London was busy putting the finishing touches to a new guide to Spanish inshore waters. Among the areas covered in the pilot guide is the island of Cabrera, off the south coast of Mallorca.

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The Oban Sleeper

Over the next three weekends, the overnight sleeper from London which would normally run to Fort William will instead run to Oban — travelling out Friday night from London and returning from Oban on Sunday night. It is a rare experiment, but let's hope it might presage the reintroduction of regular overnight trains from London to Oban.

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The art of flying

Flying is rarely a bundle of fun. Even leaving aside the generally horrid nature of airports with their essential (but inevitably unpleasant) security checks, modern aviation practice makes few concessions to the poetics of the journey. The privilege of a window seat, however, allows the imagination to roam free as real topographies are shaped by half-remembered geography lessons. On a clear day by the window of a plane, anyone can be an explorer.

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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.

Magazine article

In from the cold: Britain’s mountain bothies

A new book by Phoebe Smith celebrates the simple British bothy. It appears as the Mountain Bothies Association marks 50 years of work looking after the bothy network which is so valued by hikers in the mountains of northern England, Scotland and Wales.

Magazine article

North from Paris: with Eurostar and Émile Zola

by Nicky Gardner

Tolstoy, Dickens and Zola all wrote about railways - but in very different ways. Zola's La Bête humaine is one of the great railway novels of European literature. The perfect read, we thought, prior to joining train driver Andy Pratt in the cab of a Eurostar train at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.

Magazine article

Revisiting the Cairngorms

by Nicky Gardner

Nan Shepherd's book The Living Mountain is often acclaimed as a prescient example of the genre now often known as New Nature Writing. We take a look at a classic text on Scottish landscapes which was first published in 1977 - more than 30 years after it was written.

Magazine article

Est: writing about East Anglia

by hidden europe

There is a certain tyranny of the horizon in the flatlands of East Anglia. The spirit of those landscapes is captured in the debut volume from Dunlin Press which is titled 'Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia'.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 46

by hidden europe

Welcome to issue 46 of hidden europe travel magazine. In this issue we walk through Lisbon and take the ferry to Iceland's Vestmannaeyjar. We also explore the Suffulk coast of England and visit the Danube wetlands and the Scottish Cairngorms.

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Secret spits and shingle: along the Suffolk shore

by Laurence Mitchell

The coast of Suffolk, where England meets the North Sea, has inspired many writers. WG Sebald saw the forlorn landscapes of the Suffolk shore as a place to sense the immense power of emptiness. In this article, Laurence Mitchell - a regular contributor to hidden europe - explores Orford Ness and other spots along the Suffolk shore.

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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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The view from Ankerwycke

So you know, Ancient Yew, of all that came to pass in 1215? You shivered for more than a thousand winters. You gave shelter for more than a thousand summers. Did you gaze in those days over the Thames to the meadows at Runnymede?

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Brittany’s Easter Island

by Patricia Stoughton

Patricia Stoughton leads us through the soft landscapes of Brittany to discover a local initiative that showcases local saints. La Vallée des Saints (Traonienn ar Sant in Breton) is a bold statement about the enduring importance of regional culture and identity.

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Loch Lubnaig

We love real weather. And we had real weather aplenty on a journey through Scotland this week. Clear blue skies at Carsaig Bay with glorious views west to Jura. Great spreads of grey-white snow over Rannoch, the hills all hidden in mist. A lone snowdrop pushing up from dead land at Kings House. These early days of March are tempting, taunting times in the hills.

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Letter from Africa: Place matters

Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country is a volume where the land and landscapes of Africa stand centre stage in the plot. In his book, first published in 1948, Paton goes beyond the romantic rendering of South African landscape which was long the tradition of English language writers such as Rider Haggard and John Buchan.

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Wealden diary

The equinox has passed and now a hint of frost dances by dawn on the more sheltered meadows. Restless stonechats are busy on the high heaths, where we stand and gaze on distant Wealden ridges fading into misty morning sunshine. This is one of Europe's finest post-industrial landscapes.

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Tales from Titovka

Everyone stops at Titovka sooner or later. That's the way things are up here in the far north-west corner of Russia. The Titovka roadside café is on the highway that runs west from Murmansk towards the mining towns of Zapolyarny and Nikel.

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Escape from Carlsbad

by hidden europe

The funicular railway to the Café Diana on the hills above the spa town of Karlovy Vary marks a birthday this summer: it was opened to the public in 1914. It remains the easy way to get a bird's-eye view of Karlovy Vary (the town often referred in older travel literature as Carlsbad). The doctors treating spa clients would naturally prefer that their patients walk rather than ride up the hillside.

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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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Into the hills: a Bohemian diversion

by Nicky Gardner

Of course one can speed across Europe on sleek, fast trains. But slow trains, the kind that dawdle along branch lines, are so much more interesting. We ride a rural rail route in northern Bohemia, where fading railway stations reveal a Habsburg history. Join us on the slow train to Dolni Poustevna.

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Tales from the A39

by Nicky Gardner

Forget the Maserati centenary celebrations this year. 2014 marks the centenary of the Mendip Motor. Chewton Mendip was never destined to become a Detroit. But one hundred years ago this month this small Somerset village saw the launch of the Mendip Motor. We travel down the A39 to uncover this story of car production in the Mendip Hills of England.

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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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Sweet Cambria

Wales is a place for miracles. Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is that Wales is there at all, that it has a strong cultural identity and a language that is still spoken. Wales is nothing if not tenacious. It has a knack of getting into your blood. And it is all the better for being difficult to grasp.

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The storm

It is one of those wild sulphurous days, and the bare heath beats to the roar of the winds. The storm sweeps in from the west. The drenched heath lies low. And it survives the fierce onslaught. The forest at Froeslev is less fortunate.

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Africa: East to Tzaneen

The Great North Road, a fragment of the classic Cape to Cairo route, cuts through Limpopo on its way to Beitbridge and the Zimbabwean border. A stream of buses and bakkies head north towards another Africa, their passengers barely sparing a glance for the passing landscape.

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Hiraethog: the hills of solitude

by Philip Dunshea

The Wikipedia entry for Mynydd Hiraethog is slim. So minimal in fact that, acre for acre, this Welsh wilderness must be the least interesting place in the British Isles. Philip Dunshea knows Mynydd Hiraethog well, having grown up in the shadow of this moorland region. In this article, Phil reflects on the lonely landscapes of the area known to English speakers as the Denbigh Moors.

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Opting for the Dutch Flyer

by Nicky Gardner

The last remaining integrated rail-sea ticket between England and the Continent is the Dutch Flyer. We recall journeys of yesteryear as we set off from London and use the Harwich-Hook ferry to reach the Netherlands.

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Making waves from Ribe

Ribe no longer makes waves as once it did. The silting up of waterways has changed the local landscape. The bustle of port trade has long gone, but Ribe is still a watery place. Set in a wall on one Ribe street is an inscription that notes the birthplace of a Ribe resident of yesteryear: Jacob Riis.

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Hidden Devon

We wandered through Devon byways, passing Kingdom's Corner to reach the River Dart at Worthy Bridge. From there it was an easy stroll down the valley towards Bickleigh. John Lean farms a handsome herd of White Park cattle here. He has 150 head of cattle on the steep slopes of the Dart. They are magnificent animals.

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Noli timere

It is again that time of year when I find my hands peppered by thorn pricks. Blackberries mark the month. Wondrous little taste bombs protected by thorns, treasure for scavengers. There's nothing common about the common blackberry: rubus fructicosis. They are the very essence of summer distilled in a single fruit.

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A Frisian journey

Dutch Friesland (or more properly Fryslan) is a world apart from the densely populated parts of Holland where cities rub shoulders with one another. Dutch planners ensure that a strip of open land divides Rotterdam from Den Haag, but one dyke and a windmill do not stack up to real countryside. Fryslan is different. There are no neat cities, no tired industrial estates. Instead there are just those black and white cows, fresh air, big skies and lots of open space.

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A bridge too far

Tomorrow, a mighty stream of cars will roll over a new bridge across the River Elbe at Dresden. The bridge's opening is not being celebrated in any very public manner. For many Germans, it is a Bridge of Shame, for it is the reason why that part of the Elbe Valley, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004,was taken off the same list just five years later.

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Delving into glacial history

Hoxne is one of a number of spots in England that are improbably prominent in Quaternary history. Big cities like Birmingham and London count for nothing in this narrative. One day an enterprising tour operator with an interest in geology might start a glacial tour of England.

Magazine article

The lost kingdom

by Nicky Gardner

A 1924 essay by Joseph Roth on an unsung railway station in Berlin fired our imagination and inspired us to take the train to Gleisdreieck - an elevated station that in Roth's day looked down on a tangled maze of railway lines and sidings. Nowadays, nature is reclaiming the industrial landscapes of yesteryear.

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Hercules in Lazio

The time is coming when residents of Rome escape the Eternal City. Rome is not a place to stay in summer. Many from Rome head north into the hills of Lazio, where Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance threads intertwine in history and culture. The lakes pull the crowds. There are three in particular, all marking the site of old volcano craters: Bolsena (with its two pretty islands), Bracciano and the much smaller Lago di Vico. The latter is just about three kilometres across, and the entire lake is quite hemmed in by the hills.

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After the flood

The waters came, and so did the European media. The water was ruthless and unsympathetic. It tore down bridges and wrecked homes. The mud and debris that came with the flood blocked culverts and drains. Lives were put on the line. So too were livelihoods as the water flooded factories, warehouses and business premises.

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Hidden europe 39

We head north in the latest issue of hidden europe magazine which is published next week (and is already available for purchase). Writer Philip Dunshea invites us to join him as he ventures onto Rannoch Moor. This vast wilderness can be a desperate place, in Phil's words "a ragged purgatory." And the crew of the Tegetthof surely thought much the same when their ship, stuck fast in pack ice, drifted close to Franz Josef Land in 1873.

Magazine article

Into the Great Unknown: Rannoch Moor

by Philip Dunshea

The Moor drags itself out to the distant horizon, a great brown smudge studded with little black lochans. Guest contributor Philip Dunshea, writing for hidden europe for the first time, invites us to brave the weather on Rannoch Moor. Maps of the Scottish Highlands can only hint of at the barren reality of this solemn wilderness.

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Tartan tactics: creating a national brand

by Nicky Gardner

An image is worth a thousand words. France is represented as a land of soft-focus vineyards while Norway is captured in a fjord. Slovenia is distilled in one island in the middle of a lake, while Scotland is evidently populated by men wearing kilts. We look at how national brands have evolved over two hundred years.

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Leaving the Tatras

I discovered yesterday that the traveller wanting to take a train out of Zakopane is hardly spoilt for choice. Early birds can opt for the 03.27 to Kraków. Then the next departure from the resort in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland is not till just after midday. Never keen on early starts, I opt for that lunchtime train, and duly arrive at the station about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

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Cruising the Atlantic Highway

by Nicky Gardner

If roads have personalities, then the A39 in south-west England is certainly one of the most memorable. It meanders from Georgian Bath to the south coast of Cornwall, taking in some of the most engaging scenery in England. For part of its length (west from Barnstaple) it is called The Atlantic Highway. We hop aboard the 319 bus to explore The Atlantic Highway, encountering along the way some the finest bus shelters around.

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The crossing

by Nicky Gardner

The satnavs tick off the passing interchanges, the passengers in the back seats are bored and the blood pressure of the drivers rises. No-one, no-one on the busy highway will ever know that a touch of heaven is just a few feet below the angry tarmac. Join us as we follow the forest path as it passes under a motorway.

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A time for following

Sometimes it is good to be led. Paul has the map. I follow. Three of us are walking: Greg, Paul and I. Paul leads us to the shores of the lake. It is a good spot to retreat from the dark-scud clouds that crowd the October skies. There is a sweet dampness in the air, the enveloping melancholy of autumn in the forest. In the skies above, we see the patterned wing-beat of geese dancing to the obliquity of the ecliptic.

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Land, sea and the frontiers of space

They are the forgotten places, the liminal zones where land meets the sea. Shingle promontories and spits rarely have the same appeal as rugged cliff coastlines or great tracts of golden sand.These forgotten wildernesses are good for military exploits. Armies can play games and scientists working in the service of the military can conduct unseen experiments. Peenemünde was perfect in that respect.

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Remembering Rachel

Wander through the industrial landscapes around Ajka and you'll see a Hungary that does not feature in the tourist brochures. Lake Balaton is just over the hills to the south. The lake stands for recreation and fun. Ajka stands for something quite different. Cast back a couple of years and an awful river of caustic red sludge poured down through Kolontár, an unsung suburb west of the centre of Ajka. Nine people died and over one hundred were injured, many of them seriously.

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Transfiguration

Last Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Orthodox calendar, was the Apple Spas. Across much of Orthodox Europe, the spoils of the new harvest were offered up at church services. No matter that the combine harvesters are still hard at work in the fields. No matter that the apples still hang heavy in the orchards. Change is in the air.

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Napoleon never made it to San Marino

hidden europe 37 is published today. More on that anon, but let's stop for a while on the edge of a Polish forest. In the very centre of the forest, we were told, is the spot where the emperors of the forest hold their court. So we went off in search of the ancient buffalo, the bison and the bear. We certainly found the bison but it is surely many a year since bear roamed the forests of Bialowieza.

Magazine article

Where the wild things are: a Polish Arcadia

by Nicky Gardner

The forest reserve at Bialowieski in Poland extends over the border into neighbouring Belarus. This great wilderness is the most important refuge for European bison. So it is no surprise that it is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It's also inscribed on the Polish heart — these border landscapes are the gateway to an imagined Arcadia which helped shape the narratives and images of Polish Romanticism.

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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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Ephemeral art

by hidden europe

There is a remarkable vividness about pieces of art whose days are numbered. Artists like Richard Shilling and Andy Goldsworthy have been keen advocats of what is sometimes called land art. We search for the remnants of last year's sand sculpture festival in the coastal community of Søndervig.

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Of glaciers and glacierets

The news this week, widely reported in Europe's media, that French glaciers are on the retreat prompts us to reflect on glaciers around mainland Europe. It is of course no surprise that Europe's permanent areas of snow and ice are threatened by our warming climate. These changes are most strikingly evident in the Alps, but perceptive observers of mountain environments notice them more widely.

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Polish mysteries

We crossed the River Odra four times. And four times I gazed down at the river's wine-dark waters from the train, watching the waters swirling under bridges, swirling through history. We stopped on a level crossing, inconveniencing no-one, for cars there were none. But that was a fine moment, sunshine tussling with midday mist and for once getting the upper hand.

Magazine article

Unforgiving stone

by Paul Hadfield

The poetry of Paul Hadfield has featured before in hidden europe. When he sent us a poem on the Whaligoe Steps in north-east Scotland, it set us thinking about some of the iconic stairways that we have encountered on our travels around Europe.

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Travelling through the Harz Mountains

The Harz Mountains barely rise to more than one thousand metres, but seen from the flatlands to the north they appear mightily impressive: great, forested humpbacks that preside over the plains. The highest point is the Brocken, at 1,141 metres the loftiest elevation anywhere in northern Germany.

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The spiritual geography of Karelia

Are not some landscapes genuinely therapeutic? We crested wave after wave of rolling forests as we drove through Karelia last week. Writers looking to plot the spiritual geography of Europe might do well to start here, for Finnish Karelia is a landscape full of longing and nostalgia, a region that has a very distinctive sanctity. We did not start our journey as pilgrims, yet Karelia wove its spell around us and turned us into pilgrims.

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Fontana Rosa (Menton)

It is more than forty years since the Ibáñez family gave Fontana Rosa to the town of Menton. Ibáñez was born in Valencia, and many of his novels are set in the Valencia region. He spent the final six years of his life in Menton, the most Italianate of the French Riviera towns, and during those last years his creative energy took a different turn. He dabbled in travel writing.

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Gerês (Portugal)

It is an odd experience to arrive in a small town before noon and find a local restaurant full of folk eating lunch. Vila do Gerês, the town where spa clients eat before noon, comes as a surprise. It is a little town in northern Portugal — faded, but still elegant, in the manner of a graceful dowager. And the hills surrounding Gerês are part of Portugal’s only national park.

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Arabia and the European Imagination

Travel and myth-making naturally go hand in hand. Arabia is a product of the European imagination. Romanticised views of the desert and rumours of ancient cities lost in great seas of sand conspire to create picture-book images of an Arabia that hardly match reality.

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Shaped by wind and waves

There is something definitive, something final, about a long spit that juts out into the sea. Be it sand or shingle, vegetated or barren, you know you have reached the end of the world when you reach the end of the spit. Tennyson said as much in his poem 'Crossing the Bar', an elegiac piece that uses the image of a sand bar to chart the boundary between life and death. Beyond the bar lies only the ocean, only the boundless deep.

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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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Just a state of mind (Ireland)

The Giant's Causeway is squeezed in between Gay Byrne and God. The latter are of course by far the two most important men in Ireland - at least that's the view of literary critic Terry Eagleton who is one of the more thoughtful commentators on all things Irish.

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Macedonian variety

It takes less than four hours to cross Macedonia by train. It is just 250 km from the border with Serbia at Tabanovce to the Greek frontier at Gevgelija. Of course Macedonia deserves more than merely four hours, but that short train journey affords a few insights into one of Europe's least known countries.

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Slow England

Cut off the main highway to Norwich, dive into the countryside through meadows full of deep green grass and you will reach Quidenham - a cluster of cottages and uneven lanes that were never meant for fast cars. Across England there are a thousand Quidenhams, each one a byway in the maze of English history.

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Geography matters!

It was way back in 1879 that a witness, testifying before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in London, declared "Geography is ruinous in its effects on the lower classes." If there is one discipline which has informed our writing in hidden europe more than any other, it is most surely geography. And travelling through England this past week, we have been struck by how geographical insight is still important.

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Winter in eastern Germany

The temperature was still around minus fifteen when we alighted just after midday from the slow train at Grunow. It was a bitterly cold winter morning, sunny and clear, with a numbing east wind. The countryside east of Berlin has a delicate beauty.

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The new age of the train

The French TGV train is nothing new, but the afternoon service from Strasbourg to Paris last Thursday happened to feature the very engines that two years ago broke the world rail speed record. Back in April 2007, the specially modified train reached a remarkable 574 kilometres per hour west of the Meuse river viaduct. We swept along the same stretch of line at a much more sedate 315 kilometres per hour.

Magazine article

Shortlisted for UNESCO

by Nicky Gardner

There are the sights which already feature on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And then there are the wannabes. We take a look at sights around Europe that are angling for one of the coveted places on the UNESCO list.

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Landsendi (Iceland)

It snowed last Tuesday night. Yes, we know you will think we are joking, but it really snowed. We were in eastern Iceland, and snow at the very start of September is a reminder of just how early winter comes to some parts of northern Europe. But a light dusting of new snow did not deter us from setting out for Landsendi, a remote headland that really does look on the map as though it might be at the very end of the world.

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Triglav (Slovenia) - the Danish Everest

It is that time of year when Slovenes take to the hills. It is perfectly possible to be Scottish and never climb Ben Nevis, just as it is easy to be German without ever having set foot on the Zugspitze - that is the mountain straddling the border between Bavaria and Austria. Its summit is the highest point in Germany.

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Time and tide: Morecambe Bay

by David Cawley

guest contributor David Cawley looks at an ancient tidal crossing in northwest England and meets Mr Cedric Robinson, the 'Queen's Guide to the Kent Sands of Morecambe Bay'

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Cultivating the soul

by Nicky Gardner

We refresh our wearied and wandering minds in two intriguing gardens. We visit a secret garden in Prague, and hidden europe reader Mervyn Benford reports on a humble Swedish postman who followed in Linnaeus' footsteps.

Magazine articleFull text online

Where towering cliffs in ocean stand: Lofoten

by Nicky Gardner

Capture the atmosphere of one of Europe's most magical landscapes with our account of two communities in the Lofoten islands in northern Norway. Nusfjord is an old fishing station that has reinvented itself through tourism. Meanwhile, the tiny hamlets that cling to the edges of Reinefjord teeter on the brink of extinction.

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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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The nymph's call to Allianoi

by Üstün Bilgen-Reinart

Progress always comes at a price. Not far from Turkey's Aegean coast the beautiful ruins at Allianoi are about to be flooded. Local horticulturalists demand more water for their tomato crops. But the defenders of Allianoi are not giving in easily. Üstün Bilgen-Reinart reports from Turkey.

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From Abisko to Kosterhavet: the centenary of European national parks

The great majority of Europe's citizens will probably not visit a national park in 2009. But for all of us, their very existence is a reassuring reminder that even in a crowded continent there is space to experience wilderness and peace. As Europe marks the centenary of its first national parks, we look at how the concept of a national park has evolved.

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Swallowed by the sea: Jordsand

by Nicky Gardner

Jordsand is no more. The island in the Wadden Sea was once German then Danish and provided valued summer grazing for livestock from Jutland. Now it has been swallowed by the waves.

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Keeping faith with the past: Iceland

by Nicky Gardner

Yes, you can go to Iceland in search of glaciers and geysers, but you can also travel north, just as William Morris did, in search of heroes and gods. These are landscapes full of eddic myth and powerful sagas. Iceland is a country that has kept faith with the past.

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Slow train to Rheinsberg (Germany)

On a beautiful spring day, the forty minute train journey from Löwenberg to Rheinsberg has to be one of the prettiest on the planet. And it was a beautiful spring day. We trundled through birch woods bursting with spring flowers, the morning sunlight sparkled on lakes and we saw lots of deer, kestrels, a buzzard and a fox who turned and watched our small train cross his territory.

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Poznan - the Polish Society of Country Lovers (PTTK)

The PTTK is a venerable Polish institution. Roughly translated, its full name means the Polish Society of Country Lovers. Kick-started in the Tatra Mountains in the late nineteenth century, the society encouraged an increasingly urban populace to make excursions out of the cities and explore the Polish countryside.

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Yorkshire (England)

The populous county of Yorkshire, hemmed in by hills and the sea, is a wonderful part of England. hidden europe was away exploring the county last week. We watched in awe as a field of gulls swooped over Whitby, we trembled with cold as a bitter wind swept down from Ingleborough and made the Ribble Valley shiver, and we wandered the streets of gritty hill villages like Heptonstall and Middlesmoor.

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Cultural landscapes in the Veneto

Venice may come with a constellation of superlatives, but head out into the Veneto to find a world apart. The country around Treviso, just a dozen miles inland from Venice, is classic città diffusa territory. As if in retort to Venice's urban perfection, the Veneto hinterland is a seemingly unending suburban sprawl - place after place uneasily suspended between a rich agrarian past and an urbanisation that has never quite been realised.

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The Iza valley (Romania)

This is a stunning time of year to be in the Maramures area of Romania. And especially in the Iza valley, where russet-gold apples hang heavy in the orchards that cluster round every village, and the fields are full of distinctive haystacks - little architectural wonders in their own right. The first hints of autumn colour tint the oak and beech trees on the hills that line each side of the valley.

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Hints of the desert

The land around the Cabo de Gata really does include many classic elements of desert terrain: a nice volcanic mesa, little alluvial fans and of course sand dunes. It is a landscape that has stood in for both the American West and the Middle East on the silver screen. Not just spaghetti westerns, but also many scenes in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. In the September 2007 issue of hidden europe magazine we shall take a look at the ways in which film directors create their own geographies.

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Salt harvesting in Piran Bay

The train had twisted and turned through valleys where the hillsides tilted sharper and sharper, sharp screeches of wheels on ancient rails, and the wind blowing madly through open carriage windows. And then, after a long climb, just on the edge of the karst, the slow train stopped. The wind dropped, and for a moment, there was just the rasping sound of a lone cicada in the distance.

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Corpus Christi - Karelian babushkas

Across much of Europe, today is a public holiday on account of the Catholic solemnity of Corpus Christi. It is a feast that comes with a heavy helping of curious cultural customs. Wander through many small towns in central Europe this afternoon, and you'll see why today is often called 'Wreath Day' (Kranzltag in German).