Articles tagged:

Orthodox Europe

Blog post

Faith and identity in the Slovakian hills

Next week, the Pope is visiting Slovakia and the world’s media will surely show images of His Holiness taking a leading role in what looks like an Orthodox liturgy. It prompts us to look at faith and identity in the Carpathians - the area where the Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland converge.

Magazine article

In search of Tesla: the road to Smiljan

by Nicky Gardner

Nikola Tesla’s father was an Orthodox priest. Nikola was baptised in his father’s church on the day after his birth. And it is at that church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, where crowds now gather to understand more of the life and work of one of Europe’s most distinguished engineers and inventors.

Blog post

Breaking the Ice

This weekend sees the annual ritual of the opening of the ice in anticipation of the Orthodox Feast of the Theophany on Tuesday. Often this is done by creating a hole in the shape of a cross, allowing the faithful to totally immerse themselves in icy waters.

Blog post

The Road to Uhtua

We are in search of the one-time capital city of a forgotten republic. From the turn-off on the Murmansk highway, it is 150 km of easy driving, skirting dozens of lakes, to reach the small community which in 1919 proclaimed its status as the capital of the Republic of Uhtua.

Magazine article

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'.

Magazine article

What next for Gagauzia?

by Nicky Gardner

It is worthwhile to keep an eye on the national elections in Moldova in late November 2014. They could provide the cue for Gagauzia to start thinking again about secession. Could Gagauzia be the next Donetsk?

Magazine article

A fine affair: Russians on the Riviera

by Nicky Gardner

Russia's love affair with the French Riviera (and the adjacent Ligurian coastal littoral to the east) has been one of Europe's defining cultural interactions of the last 200 years. We take at look at how Russian visitors have helped shape Riviera life.

Magazine article

Russian Orthodox churches on the Riviera

by hidden europe

Visitors to the Riviera are often surprised to find the striking Orthodox churches along the coast. From the red headlands of the Esterel Massif to Sanremo in Liguria, there is a hint of the east in the ecclesiastical landscape - a legacy of the history of Russian visitors to the region.

Blog post

An Advent meditation

The sky takes on a different quality in the run-up to Christmas. The grey cloud-folds of Advent have rolled back, and suddenly the air is brighter, drier and clearer. The trees have been flayed by autumn. Only bare skeletons remain, their outlines haunting the December landscape. Winter is creeping over Europe, its progress marked by the candles on our Advent wreath. First one candle, then two, last Sunday a third, and today as dusk falls a full flush of four candles burning bright.

Blog post

Winter comes to Kroscienko

The winter snows have come to higher parts of the Carpathians, and already the beech woods and forests of fir are clad in white. Kroscienko, a little village in the Polish hills, is very quiet this time of year. Were it not for the fact that the road through Kroscienko leads to a border crossing with neighbouring Ukraine, there would be scarcely anyone passing through Kroscienko.

Magazine article

Of cats and creeds: an Exeter essay

by Nicky Gardner

In Exeter, the great Gothic cathedral certainly helps define the Devon city. But Exeter is also characterised by the threads of faith that criss-cross the city. We follow the call to prayer and make a pilgrimage through Exeter, along the way meeting the city's Imam, visiting the mosque, and also discovering Exeter’s Orthodox Christian community.

Blog post

Falling apples

The second of the spas - the Apple Spas - is marked today over much of central and eastern Europe. It coincides, as every year, with the Feast of the Transfiguration - a milestone in the ecclesiastical calendar. The Apple Spas is a day when great baskets of apples are taken to the morning celebration of the Divine Liturgy in village churches. It is a day that reminds us that a change in the seasons is not far hence.

Blog post

Crimea connections

Foros is a place for holidays and for history. During the Soviet era, this resort at the southern tip of the Crimea was much favoured by Kremlin leaders looking for a little summer relaxation. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was at his dacha in Foros in August 1991 when the old guard in Moscow attempted to seize power. The coup failed, but it nudged the Soviet Union over the brink. Within a week, the Union was unravelling as constituent republics edged towards independence.

Blog post

Retreating into Advent

Have we lost the ability to wait, to keep vigil, to be patient? This weekend, much of Europe marks the start of Advent. In many countries this is still a season defined by quiet reflection in anticipation of Christmas. For some, these weeks in the run-up to Christmas are intimately associated with a modest level of asceticism - not as harsh as Lent, but inclining that way.

Blog post

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.

Magazine article

Russia’s wooden churches

Many books cross our desks. This year, one particular volume has struck us more than any other. Wooden Churches: Travelling in the Russian North is a remarkable volume. Superb photography by Richard Davies complemented by evocative prose by Matilda Moreton make for a winning combination. The book is truly an object to treasure, just as the churches it describes are aspects of Europe's heritage that should be treasured.

Blog post

Look west

For generations of Americans, the West told of a promising new dawn and a land of opportunity. Wild it may have been, but the settling of the West was a process that helped shape American identity. The pioneer past is even today a strong thread in the fabric of American history and culture. Urbane east coasters who may never have seen the Rockies still know the stories of the settlers and prospectors who helped colonise the land beyond the Mississippi. Shift to Russia and the concept of the West has always had mixed overtones.

Blog post

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.

Magazine article

Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb

by hidden europe

Nicely multi-ethnic, assertively multi-confessional, the cemetery at Maragoj is a fine spot to fire the imagination of the living. The cemetery in Zagreb's northern suburbs is one of Europe's most evocative burial grounds.

Magazine article

Songlands: a Karelian journey

by Nicky Gardner

Karelia is the land of the Kalevala, the great epic poem that so powerfully influenced the development of the Finnish national movement in the nineteenth century. We travel through the songlands of the Kalevala and look in particular at the role of Orthodox religion in Karelia and more widely in Finland.

Magazine article

The past is another country

by Nicky Gardner

To accompany our feature on Karelia in this issue of hidden europe magazine, we look at how Finland’s ceded eastern territories, now part of the Russian Federation, remain a potent symbol in the Finnish imagination.

Blog post

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.

Blog post

Palm Sunday

Major liturgical feasts like Palm Sunday are reminders of the calendrical divide that still splits Europe in two. The Iron Curtain may have gone (twenty years ago this autumn, according to those commentators who see the breaching of the Berlin Wall as the defining moment), and yet still there are considerable differences between the two halves of Europe. Yes, in the west it is Palm Sunday today, and Easter Sunday next week.

Blog post

Serbian Orthodox Christmas

Bitterly cold temperatures over central and eastern Europe last evening and this morning do nothing to diminish enthusiasm for the celebration of the Orthodox Christmas. While Orthodox Christmas is underway, daily demonstrations in Belgrade dilute the peaceful spirit.

Blog post

Roma gather in the Camargue

Summer has come early to northern Greece this year, and several warm sunny days with still air have left a hazy pall of pollution over Thessaloní­ki. But the hinterland of the city still packs a few surprises. Just north of the ring road is the small town of Langadhás, which this week comes alive for the feast days of Saints Constantine and Helen.

Blog post

Gracanica (Kosovo)

When the celebrated English travel writer Edith Durham arrived at the monastery at Gracanica one hundred years ago, she came to a place that had virtually no experience of the twentieth century. It is an episode that Durham recalls in her book High Albania. The incumbents, evidently horribly worried by Durham's unmarried condition, interrogated their visitor about the keystones of modernity.

Blog post

The soul of Switzerland

To cross the threshold of the Wilmersdorf church today is truly to enter another world. For today, in the Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar, it is Christmas Day. The twin virtues of ardent faith and a strong sense of attachment to a diaspora community create magnificent theatre at this Berlin outpost on the high days and holy days of the Orthodox year.

Blog post

Bosnian bridges

In territories dissected by great ravines, bridges become the very symbols of civilisation. And nowhere more so than in Bosnia. In The Bridge on the Drina, the epic Nobel Prize winning novel by Bosnian writer Ivo Andric, Mehmed Pasha's bridge over the Drina at Visegrad is the artery that sustains an entire region.

Blog post

Celebrating Christmas

Christmas generates its own extraordinary traditions across Europe - but they differ greatly from country to country. Even the date on which the celebrations reach their apotheosis varies across the continent. In Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, children get a foretaste of Christmas on the eve of St Nicholas (5 December), or on the feast day itself (6 December).

Blog post

Old Believers on the Ukraine-Romania border

Bila Krynytsya? It turns out that this small village in southwest Ukraine, just a stone's throw from the Romanian border, is a household name among many Russian Old Believers. From Alaska to the Danube Delta the name evokes important religious images and associations. For Bila Krynytsya, a community of no more than a couple of hundred people, most of them very elderly, is where the most widely accepted religious hierarchy of the Old Believers is nominally based.

Blog post

Orthodox Christmas in Cetinje - Christmastide till Candlemas - That Christmas Quiz

Cetinje, a little town that sits on a plain high in the mountains of the Republic of Crna Gora (Montenegro), is the onetime capital and still the spiritual centre of the Balkan republic that finds itself nowadays ambiguously attached to Serbia. Last evening, as on every Christmas Eve in Cetinje, people gathered at dusk for the traditional burning of Yule logs.

Blog post

Harvest festivals in eastern Europe - Lammastide - hidden europe 4: preview

Today, 19 August, is a sight to behold in Orthodox communities from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. For everywhere in this region, it is the moment to give thanks for the year's harvest, and the churches are packed for the ritual blessing of honey and apples. As always, it coincides with one of the great feasts of the Orthodox calendar, that of the Transfiguration.