Articles tagged:

United Kingdom

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.

Magazine article

Out-of-town connections: The very end of the line

by Nicky Gardner

Go one step further. Stay on the train for an extra station. Or why not stay on the train to the very end of the line? You should, because often the place at the end of the line is very interesting, as we discovered when we visited Provins, the final station for the commuter trains that run east from Paris.

Magazine article

From slow boats to slow trains

by hidden europe

If you have some time to spare, don’t take the fast train when there’s a slower option. The latter will almost certainly be more interesting. We share some of our favourite slow journeys, citing examples from Calabria, Danish Jutland, Spain and Germany.

Magazine article

Literary refuges

by hidden europe

What will become of the former home of the late Jan Morris, who lived for many years at Trefan Morys with her lifelong partner Elizabeth Tickniss? Jan Morris died in 2020, but that book-laden Welsh farmhouse remains as a shrine to Jan’s creative instincts and a strong marker of her love for Wales.

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

An Essex backwater: Discovering Harwich

by Nicky Gardner

The old town of Harwich, a port in the county of Essex on England's North Sea coast, is tucked away on the end of a peninsula. Maritime connections have shaped the development of Harwich. It's a place for sea breezes, rock oysters and watching the ferries come and go.

Magazine article

Visitor mobility

by hidden europe

How far should the local travel requirements for tourists be met by a region’s regular transport infrastructure? Or does it make sense to lay on special services for seasonal visitors? We look at examples from Switzerland and Britain.

Magazine article

European ferry links: opportunities and challenges

by Nicky Gardner

Have you noticed that some ferry companies serving Britain and / or Ireland are now decidedly sniffy about carrying foot passengers? Must we really take a car with us to be permitted on some ferries? But it’s not all bad news on the ferry front since there are a number of new Baltic routes which are very pleased to take foot passengers.

Magazine article

Time for change: new rail services for 2022

Slower trains from Newcastle to Edinburgh and faster dashes from Cologne to Berlin are in the offing. New rail timetables across Europe come in effect in mid-December 2021. New night trains from Austria to France and from Switzerland to the Netherlands will start. We highlight some key changes in European rail schedules.

Magazine article

Names to ponder: memory and place in the city

Take a look as the names of streets as you explore foreign cities. We’ve noted streets named after Stalin in southern England and a road named after Tito in France’s Champagne region. These and similar street name evoke important issues about place and memory, reminding us how historical narratives evolve through time.

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

Flying the green flag: the gentle art of greenwashing

Many travel companies these days are keen to promote their green credentials. How much of it is mere tokenism and how far is the travel industry genuinely committed to tackling the climate crisis by promoting behavioural change? We explore the gentle art of greenwashing.

Blog post

Being amber

Being amber brings special privileges. The ‘reds’ are escorted by security personnel to a quarantine hotel. We ambers have it easy. We can make our own way to an agreed isolation address. And it's the theme of isolation that is very much present in the new issue of hidden europe magazine, which is published this week and is already available for sale.

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

Pedal power: the caffeine fix

by Nicky Gardner

There are thousands of cafés across Europe that have made their mark in the communal psychogeography of the cycling community — places which supply a timely caffeine and calorie boost for the cyclists who have escaped the city for a day or longer. We investigate how coffee became the cyclist’s elixir.

Magazine article

Of symbols and secrets: Freemasonry narratives

by Nicky Gardner

The symbols and rituals of Freemasonry, such as the Eye of Providence, the square and compasses, plus alleged secret handshakes and initiation rites all invite curiosity. The last decade has seen a great increase in the number of exhibitions and museums devoted to Masonic craft and traditions. The latest, due to open in the coming months, is in the Latvian capital Riga

Magazine article

From the Balkans to Nürnberg

by Nicky Gardner

What was Rebecca West doing 75 years ago this summer? West’s accomplishments as a travel writer are complemented by a fine range of other work. In the summer of 1946, West was sitting alongside Martha Gellhorn and Erika Mann at the International Military Tribunal in the German city of Nürnberg.

Magazine article

Connecting extremities: Shetland to Cornwall

by Nicky Gardner

Is the United Kingdom too compact ever to justify taking a domestic flight? With many travellers these days eager to make positive environmental choices, short flights of just an hour or two may soon become a thing of the past. But readers may be surprised to discover that Britain’s longest domestic flight extends to over five hours.

Magazine article

Landscapes of immunity

by hidden europe

There are some small populated islands off the coast of Sicily which have never recorded a single COVID infection. And, by comparison with many European countries, Iceland has consistently shown low incidence rates.

Magazine article

End of Shannon stopover

by hidden europe

It was never really efficient that wide-bodied jets would take to the sky in Dublin, and then make a brief stop at Shannon Airport near Ireland’s west coast, where Aer Lingus aircraft would share space on the tarmac with planes in Aeroflot or Cubana livery. Now it looks as though the Shannon stopover is being consigned to aviation history.

Blog post

Terminus - a 1961 documentary

The film director John Schlesinger was largely unknown when in 1960 he was persuaded by Edgar Anstey to make a documentary for British Transport Films (BTF). Terminus went on general release in 1961 and provoked a very positive response from the public. Its setting was London Waterloo station.

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

A tale of two bridges: the work of William Tierney Clark

by Duncan JD Smith

It's no coincidence that the graceful bridge that spans the River Thames in Marlow looks remarkably similar to Budapest's celebrated Széchenyi Lánchíd (Chain Bridge) over the Danube – though the latter is much larger than its English counterpart. Duncan JD Smith discovers that the reason for the similarity lies in the work of William Tierney Clark.

Blog post

Free ports

The current plans to create free ports around the shores of the United Kingdom made us delve into the history of the porto franco. This year marks the 600th anniversary of the sale of Livorno - the Tuscan port which Genoa sold to Florence. It paved the way for competition between Genoa and Livorno and the development of the first free ports.

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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.

Magazine article

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.

Blog post

Changing trains

Railway stations where passengers were able to change trains, but which could not be used to start or end a journey, were common in the past. They were often called exchange platforms or exchange stations. Few exist today, but we track down working examples at Sagliains in Switzerland and Manulla in Ireland.

Blog post

For a privileged few: travel corridors and air bridges

We thought that the concept of the air corridor had been relegated to history until it popped up again this past spring, with the plucky English reviving the idea and giving it a new twist. We look at some of the privileged places that enjoy a special travel connection with the UK during COVID-19 times.

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

Beyond the Marais: Punting Traditions

by hidden europe

From the withy boats of the Somerset Levels to the gunboats used on the Essex coast, wetlands have often fostered ingenuity among boatbuilders. Navigating shallow waters takes skill and a special kind of vessel. We survey a range of boats from the punts of Cambridge and Lusatia to the double-ended barquet of the Albufera lagoon.

Magazine article

The Map-Maker: From Brockley to València

by Nicky Gardner

We explore the work of contemporary illustrator Mike Hall who, from his base in Spain, produces many very fine maps. Creative use of tints and fonts, often complemented by an elaborate cartouche, and a bold aesthetic underpin maps which are both practical and beautiful.

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.

Blog post

The humble onion

Breton onion sellers set out from Roscoff to sell their harvest across Europe. But the preferred market was Britain where customers were prepared to pay well over the odds for the beautiful rose-tinged onions from Finistère. The Onion Johnnies, their bicycles laden with garlands of onions, were a familiar sight in southern England and Wales in the 1950s and 1960s.

Blog post

Monkeys, Men and John Murray

160 years ago this week, on Saturday 30 June 1860, the intelligentsia gathered in Oxford to hear churchmen and scientists discuss the pros and cons of Darwin’s ideas on the origin of species. Charles Darwin celebrated book had been published in November of the previous year by John Murray - the London publishing house which, apart from supporting scientific writing, was also the leading travel publisher in Victorian Britain.

Note

Liturgical adventures during Coronavirus times

Across much of Europe, church services and other faith gatherings were very limited or non-existent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. In many countries, churches remained open for private prayer, but there were some countries where churches were locked. For me, as perhaps for many others in these difficult times, the online services streamed by various congregations have been an unexpected blessing.

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Turboprops at Britain's busiest airport

Turboprops are back at London's Heathrow airport. An ATR-42 belonging to Scottish airline Loganair is flying a once-daily scheduled service to the Isle of Man on behalf of British Airways. We take a look at previous occasions when airport staff at Britain's busiest airport reckoned they were waving goodbye to the last turboprop.

Magazine article

Changing Places

by hidden europe

Had you noticed that humble Staines, a riverside town south-west of London, has changed its name? It is now called Staines-upon-Thames. Moving upmarket one might say. But the Canadian village of Swastika is resolutely resisting suggestions that a name change might be in order.

Magazine article

The Bus to Imber

by hidden europe

Bus route 23A in Wiltshire (England) is a rarity. Buses on this route, serving the village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, run on just one day each year. This year your chance to ride the Imberbus is on Saturday 15 August.

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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.

Magazine article

Admiralty Handbooks: Baedekers with a Twist

by hidden europe
Some of the best academic minds in Britain spent the Second World War writing guidebooks about far-flung places. We explore a clandestine area of professional geographical endeavour which resulted in the Naval Intelligence Guides – often called the Admiralty Handbooks.
Magazine article

New Interrail Passes

by hidden europe
Train fares are getting cheaper. As retailer Loco2 launches split tickets in the British market, travellers on longer journeys across the continent are discovering that judicious use of an Interrail pass can undercut the cost of a regular return ticket. Interrail may make sense even for just one round trip.
Blog post

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.
Magazine article

Fifth-freedom Flights

by hidden europe
You could opt for Ryanair when flying from Edinburgh to Dublin, but - if you must fly for such a short hop - why not choose a more interesting option and book with the Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines? We explore the range of fifth-freedom flights now on offer within 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.

Blog post

Farewell to a London Ghost Train

This is the story of Paddington’s ghost train which runs for the last time today. The 11.35 to High Wycombe uses the New North Line out of Paddington towards the Chiltern Hills.

Magazine article

For the Love of Libraries: Leuven

by Caroline Mills
Libraries are much more than bricks and mortar, as Caroline Mills discovers during a visit to Leuven in Belgium. The vandalism of war has twice struck Leuven, with its university library set ablaze by marauding German troops in 1914 and again in 1940. Caroline recalls the tale of how her great-grandfather took the initiative in helping restore the library after the first conflagration.
Magazine article

Corridor Trains

by Nicky Gardner

Corridor trains (Korridorzüge in German) have a privileged status in international law which makes provision for the trains of one country to transit another country's territory without onerous bureaucracy and border checks. With the fading of borders in Europe, the corridor train is no longer as important as once it was. We look at some examples of corridor trains past and present.

Magazine article

Flights to the Faroes

by hidden europe
Are the Faroe Islands perhaps thinking of emulating Iceland's success in attracting North Atlantic stopover traffic? Might travellers a few years hence stop off in the Faroe Islands en route from North America to the European mainland? We take a look at the islands' national airline, Atlantic Airways, as the carrier marks its 30th anniversary of linking the Faroes to the wider world.
Blog post

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

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

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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A tangle of detail on the rails

The art of travel writing is not about giving an overview of a country in a recitation of bland generalities. It's about capturing the essence of a place through attention to detail. Tim Parks' book Italian Ways does this wonderfully.

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Mind the ice

There was talk, as we all waited to leave the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland in Harwich, as to whether there would be any trains. "It was like the blitz here last week," said one woman, who had evidently escaped the wild English weather by taking a weekend break in Rotterdam.

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Votes for women

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman ever elected to the British House of Commons. Constance Georgine Gore-Booth was born into an Anglo-Irish family in 1868. Her stand on rights for women is just one dimension of the wider universal suffrage movement which emerged in Europe at the very start of the last century.

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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.

Magazine article

Samosas on the Terraces

by Emma Levine

Britain's Asian communities are woefully underrepresented in professional football, whether as players or on the terraces. Emma Levine returns to her home city of Bradford to report on an initiative to promote diversity on the terraces at Valley Parade Stadium.

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Railways and World Heritage

Railways have long been a component of successful World Heritage applications. In 1986, Britain made its very first successful application to UNESCO and Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire was inscribed on UNESCO's List. Yet it was not before 1998 that the first railway secured, in its own right, UNESCO recognition: the Semmering Railway through the Alps.

Blog post

The darker side of verse

It is eighty years ago this autumn that the Jewish-German poet and polemicist Ernst Lissauer died in Vienna. His sad life was a roller coaster of rant and prejudice. He was best known for his hate verse deployed against England in the First World War. We explore a lesser-known side of war poetry.

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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.

Note

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

Motifs and Motivations: a Closer Look at Europe's Banknotes

by Nicky Gardner
The trend in European banknote design is to focus less on people who have shaped a country's history in favour of key themes which help define the national narrative. But that's not a trend favoured everywhere, and in this article we look in particular at a new Scottish five pound note which celebrates the life and work of the writer Nan Shepherd.
Magazine article

Smock Mills

by hidden europe
The smock mill is a distinctive element of the Dutch cultural landscape. The functionality and simplicity of these simple mills has made them popular exports, and migrants from the Netherlands built smock mills in New England, South Africa and around the North Sea.
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Lidice shall live!

This Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the Czech Resistance's successful attempt on the life of senior Nazi administrator Reinhard Heydrich. It was an event which had terrible repercussions; the Germans retaliated with ruthless force. Those repercussions were felt most awfully in the Czech village of Lidice.

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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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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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Funding regional air services

The idea behind the UK Government's Regional Air Connectivity Fund (RACF) is that financial support for a year or two would be an incentive for airline operators to serve routes where there might otherwise be high commercial risk. We take a look at the eleven routes that received RACF support in late 2015.

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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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150 years after Agar Town

It is 150 years since the Midland Railway, which in 1866 was extending its tracks south into St Pancras, demolished a poor, working-class community which inconveniently straddled the company's proposed route to its grand new London terminus. Agar Town was tucked into the wedge of land between the Regent's Canal and the main railway line running north from King's Cross.

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Christmas 1816

One day, a learned and able writer will surely pen a spiritual geography of England, looking at the relationship between faith and landscape in that country. It is a book that just waits to be written. The story of John Henry Newman should figure centrally in that volume, for his extraordinary biography captures something of the English spirit.

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New European rail timetables for 2017

This weekend sees the launch of new railway timetables across Europe. This ritual takes place on the second weekend of December every year, with rail operators revamping service patterns and tweaking their schedules to reflect changing demand. We take a look at what the new schedules bring.

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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.

Magazine article

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.

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

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

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.
Magazine article

Catholic Oxford

by hidden europe
December 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of John Henry Newman's admittance to Trinity College, Oxford. Almost 30 years later (in 1845), Newman was accepted into the Roman Catholic Church. We take a look at Catholic Oxford.
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Escape to Hinksey

One of the many charms of Oxford is that the countryside is never far away. Indeed, seeing folk from Oxfordshire villages tumbling off the buses as they arrived in St Giles this morning, I had a sense of the country coming into Oxford.

Magazine article

Platform Zero

by Nicky Gardner
At Augsburg station in Bavaria, there is a Platform 801, while a number of stations around Europe have a Platform 0 - among them Aarau in Switzerland and King's Cross station in London. We take a look at the Platform Zero phenomenon.
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 49

by hidden europe

Welcome to the 49th issue of hidden europe magazine. In this issue we visit the Ukrainian town of Odessa, explore western Serbia, witness the vanishing art of cowbell crafting in Portugal's Alentejo region and attend the matanza in the Spanish village of Secastilla. All that and much more besides.

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After the referendum

For millions of Brits of my generation, the EU gave an exit route, a chance to escape. It gave me a chance to feel truly European, to be truly European. It has given me the opportunity to explore other languages, other faiths, other freedoms, that would simply never have come my way.

Note

In honour of Doreen Massey 1944-2016

We have this weekend heard the sad news of the death of Doreen Massey, the distinguished geographer whose ideas powerfully influenced our work at hidden europe. Her ability to challenge everything is a model for all socially committed writers, editors and publishers.

Note

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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Welcome to hidden europe 48

Today's Letter from Europe reviews the contents of hidden europe 48. Publication of this new issue of the travel magazine is 15 March 2016. Copies are already available for purchase.

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.

Magazine article

Playing the Welsh card

by Nicky Gardner

Welsh settlers landed on the Patagonian coast in 1865 to create Y Wladfa (literally 'the colony') in the Chubut Valley. Within little more than a generation, most of the Welsh migrants had moved inland or left South America altogether. But a veneer of faux-Welshness is still evident in the Chubut Valley town of Gaiman (and perhaps a touch of genuine Welshness too). Playing the Welsh card, we discover, can be a commercial asset in Patagonia.

Magazine article

From Austerlitz to Waterloo

by hidden europe

So where is the Trafalgar which gave its name to the Battle of Trafalgar? And where is the Blenheim after which Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is supposedly named? We look at a few European place names which feature larger-than-life in the historical record.

Magazine article

Scottish ferries

by hidden europe

The ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has always had a dash of Scottish spirit. But this spring CalMac is facing a challenge with a rival company bidding to take control of the lifeline ferry routes in the Hebrides and Clyde regions.

Note

The Scottish Slow Travel Challenge

Take part in the Scottish Slow Travel Challenge and win a subscription to hidden europe magazine. Devise a route from Skye to Ardrossan relying entirely on scheduled ferry and boat services. Read more about the specific travel conditions that apply.

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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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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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Selborne, naturally

For anyone with an interest in the natural world, Selborne is a place which touches the soul. Cast back 240 years, and the naturalist and writer Gilbert White was busy exploring the hollow vales and hanging woods which surrounded his home village. White observed the intimacies of the landscape, keeping detailed diaries which formed the basis for the book for which he is best remembered.

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.

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Remember Tryweryn

The Welsh phrase Cofiwch Dryweryn (Remember Tryweryn) recalls the fate of the Tryweryn Valley which was flooded to provide water for the English city of Liverpool. The new reservoir, officially opened in October 1965, meant the end for the village of Capel Celyn. It was an assault on rural Wales which left an enduring mark on national consciousness.

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Travel planning: choices... choices

The notion of pre-purchasing train tickets was generally unknown to Victorian travellers. It is only in the last generation that rail operators have started to use dynamic pricing, offering handsome discounts for travellers willing to re-purchase tickets for trains which the operator expects to be lightly loaded.

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

Railway ghosts

by hidden europe

Literary ghosts haunt the pages of mid and late 19th-century fiction - from Henry James The Turn of the Screw to Charles Dickens' The Haunted House. One of the spookiest tales of all is Dickens' The Signalman, a fine short story which may have been influenced by the train crash in which Dickens was involved in summer 1865.

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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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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.

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Pity the poor horses

by Nicky Gardner

Thomas Tilling revolutionised bus transport in London. Among his pioneering ideas was the notion of having regular bus stops along a route. But the company that bore his name was not always in the forefront of developments. In 1914 Thomas Tilling Ltd still ran London's last ever horse-drawn bus service.

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The Seven Sleepers

In some parts of Europe, 27 June is marked as the day of the Seven Sleepers. In Germany, the weather on Siebenschläfer is seen as indicative of what sort of summer we can expect. Stable weather on 27 June bodes well for the weeks ahead. But wild weather on that day indicates that rain rather than sun is in store for July and August. But folk wisdom across Europe varies from country to country, culture to culture.

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150 years since Staplehurst

A Friday afternoon. The second Friday in June. As is today. The tidal train left Folkestone just after two in the afternoon. Charles Dickens was on board the tidal train on that Friday afternoon in 1865. It should have been a routine journey through the Garden of England.

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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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From London to the Med without changing trains

If you visit St Pancras tomorrow morning, cast your eye over the departure boards. For at 07.19 tomorrow morning something remarkable will happen. The first ever scheduled passenger train will leave London for the shores of the Mediterranean: the direct Eurostar service to Marseille.

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A season of shadows

It is the season for shadows. No other week in the ecclesiastical calendar comes with such a hefty dose of liturgical theatre as that which concludes with Easter. It is a week which has its highs and lows, its exuberant periods of light balanced by dark interludes.

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A grand tour of Europe

A new issue of hidden europe is published tomorrow. Not just any issue of hidden europe, but one which marks our tenth birthday. Yes, it was way back in March 2005 that we published the first-ever issue of the magazine. For ten years, we have been quietly exploring our home continent, reporting on cultures and communities that seem to us worthy of note.

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Wastelands: Europe’s empty runways

by Nicky Gardner

Aviation is a growing industry. European airports saw over 5% growth last year. But that statistic masks the fact that ever more European airports are closing down. Quite what does one do with a disused airport?

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The London Charabanc

If you are in Antwerp by night on the weekend before Christmas, you might see a wondrous sight. Shortly after midnight on Saturday 19 December, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) will launch its new direct service from Antwerp to London. If you are expecting a comfortable overnight train with sleeping cars, think again.

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New rail services across Europe

Four weeks from today much of Europe will awaken to new train timetables. Each year in December, new schedules come into effect across the continent. The big day this year is Sunday 14 December. We take look at a dozen positive developments worth noting.

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Setting Forth

by Nicky Gardner

One firth: three bridges. Each of the three bridges over the Firth of Forth was built in a different century. There is the 19th-century rail bridge, a 20th-century road bridge and now the new Queensferry Crossing road bridge under construction. Long gone are the days when a trip from Edinburgh to Fife meant attending to the ebb and flow of the tides.

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Edwardtide

Today is an ordinary working day, though if history had taken a different turn, October 13 could so easily have become a national holiday in England. Many of the men and women who have occupied the English throne in the last 1000 years have aspired to sainthood. But only one of them has ever actually been canonised, namely Edward the Confessor, whose feast day is celebrated in both the Catholic and Anglican Church today.

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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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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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Travelling with Shakespeare

Hot summer days... and we've been meandering through northern Italy. Virtually, with Shakespeare by our side. Remember Lucentio who, in The Taming of the Shrew, leaves his home city of Pisa in Tuscany? Lucentio's servant Tranio accompanies his master.

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Financial architecture

Well do we know that modern pieties demand that one speaks only ill of banks, but here at hidden europe we often say nice things about bankers - or, to be more precise, about the good judgement exercised from time to time by bankers as they selected architects and designs for their most prestigious buildings.

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Local heroes

'Ronaldo is certainly a big shot round here,' said the man on the slow train to Inverness. His comment distracted us from the scenery unfolding beyond the window as the train dropped down from Drumochter Summit towards the Spey Valley. We had to admit that we'd never appreciated that the talented captain of Portugal's national football team had Highland connections.

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In search of Eden

There is something very pleasing about communities which display a strong architectural coherence. In some instances, the sense of order and unity might take its spark from one striking central feature. The Italian city of Palmanova is a good example.

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Travelling via the Hook

Some journeys are full of ghosts. The 30-minute train ride from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland (or vice versa) is in that vein. For a generation of English travellers arriving in Holland on the boat from Harwich, the journey by train along the north bank of the River Maas was a first glimpse of the continent.

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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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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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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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Fictional twins

by hidden europe

Do they have meerkats in Russia? Or in Market Harborough? And where exactly is Meerkovo? We go in search of Russia's most famous non-existent village.

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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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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.

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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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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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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.

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One journey, one Europe, one book

We sped from London to Brussels at lunchtime on Friday, swapping a pleasant English summer day for sultry Belgium — pausing along the way at Calais. There is always a little frisson of excitement on those rare Eurostars which stop at Calais. English travellers bound for Brussels peer out of the windows and are evidently surprised to find that Calais still exists. This is the tale of that journey. But it is also the story of one book that communicated a powerful vision of a networked, integrated Europe.

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Miss Jemima’s Swiss journal

by Nicky Gardner

In 1863, Jemima Morrell participated in the first ever escorted tour of the Alps organised by Cook. Her diary of that journey is a remarkable piece of writing - one that slices through Victorian formality. The story of what happened to that diary is as intriguing as the journey described within its pages.

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The North begins inside

"There is not much to be said for Reykjavik." That, at least, was the opinion of WH Auden when he arrived in Iceland in June 1936. A few weeks later, Irish poet Louis MacNeice joined Auden and the two men took to the hills of Iceland's wild interior on horseback

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100 years of buses

If British buses had a golden age, it was in the years just prior to the First World War. Motorised buses were changing British streetscapes. New routes were being launched every week, and suddenly a ride on a bus was an option even for those of more modest means.

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136 minutes of theatre

The journey on Eurostar from London to Paris is pure theatre - a journey of many moods and changing landscapes. Within a minute or two of departure, London is eclipsed by darkness. Watch for tantalising shadows at Stratford, then a burst of sunshine as our train, picking up speed now, storms out of the London tunnels onto the Thames marshes.

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A season of grace

It is Good Friday again, a day that jolts much of Europe out of its regular routine. It is a day for pilgrimages - some avowedly secular, others more religious in character. Large crowds from the Saarland region of Germany will flock over the border to the French town of Bouzonville which today hosts its celebrated Good Friday market. So popular is this event that an otherwise abandoned cross-border rail route is reopened for just one day each year to allow special trains from Germany to Bouzonville and back.

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First plans for a Channel Tunnel rail service

Forty years ago this spring, civil servants in London and European rail planners were sketching out the first tentative ideas for just such a train service. The prevailing pieties in Britain about all things European were very different in those days. The UK had opted into the European project at the start of 1973, and the following October the Westminster Parliament approved a White Paper that gave the green light to the Channel Tunnel.

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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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The Book of Hours

by Nicky Gardner

Some argue that printed timetables are obsolete in an Internet Age. But no online database has ever managed to capture the overall pattern of a train service with the fluency of the tabular format used in printed timetables. We probe the magic appeal of Bradshaw's guides and Thomas Cook's timetables and reflect on which of the two might claim the upper hand.

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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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The Aix Factor

The departure boards at London's St Pancras station are regaining their eclectic character of yesteryear. Cast back half a century and St Pancras had its share of trains to fire the imagination. Perhaps the most distinguished morning departure from St Pancras in those days was the 11.20 Midland Pullman to Nottingham. This train consisted only of first-class Pullman cars, affording cushioned comfort for passengers taking a leisurely luncheon as the train cruised north to Nottingham.

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Through the Rhodopes

Septemvri might have been a railway town like Swindon. If Isambard Kingdom Brunel had not built a carriage works at Swindon on his Great Western Railway, the place would probably have remained an insignificant dot on the map halfway between London and Bristol. Like Swindon, the Bulgarian community of Septemvri was born of the railway.

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End of the line for the peace train

Europe's railway geography was reshaped last night. New timetables kicked in, bringing a host of novel travel options. Yet it is easy for rail operators to shout about new routes. These are the good news stories that everyone wants to hear. But what of the trains that are being axed, and the lines where trains are being shunted into sidings and left to rust for ever?

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A place for newly-weds

So we travelled west, just as we promised. We saw white horses and chalk downland, slipping through geology to reach a land of gorgeous place names. We sped by Huish Episcopi, skirted Burrow Mump and Dawlish Warren eventually to reach the Tamar. Brunel's mighty bridge escorted us to another land. 'Kernow a'gas dynergh' reads the sign on the railway platform at Saltash. 'Welcome to Cornwall'.

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Hartland connections

by hidden europe

The parish of Hartland in the north-west corner of Devon is served by no railway lines, and the endless onslaught of winds and waves have destroyed its port. Only the name, Hartland Quay, survives on maps as a reminder of the commerce and trade once handled here.

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England and Europe

by hidden europe

Given our interests, you might have thought that we'd have pounced on The Smell of the Continent the moment it was published in 2009. The book is a witty and well-researched account of how the English discovered continental Europe in a decades following the Napoleonic Wars.

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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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Just like Elba

by Nicky Gardner

Antony Gormley's dramatic sculpture, The Angel of the North, has done wonders for south Tyneside. Will Verity do the same for Ilfracombe? But Verity's stay in the north Devon port is limited to just twenty years. And who then might take her place by the side of Ilfracombe harbour? Napoleon Bonaparte, perhaps?

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Britain by bus — could you write for us?

Let's speak of buses. Can we set you a challenge? Could you pen some words for us? Britain benefits from a fabulous network of local bus routes. Last year, in a collaboration with Bradt Travel Guides, we edited a volume called Bus-Pass Britain. Over forty members of the public rose to the challenge of writing with passion and enthusiasm about bus routes in England, Scotland and Wales that are in some way special. Now, we are working with Bradt on a follow-up volume for publication in 2013.

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A dozen nautical miles

Only once past Foreland Point does Devon reveal her secrets. From Foreland it is a dozen nautical miles of easy cruising along the coast to Ilfracombe. But there are choices. Due west of Foreland Point lies nothing but open ocean until the rocky shores of Newfoundland. Our skipper takes the tame option and hugs the English coast, Devon unfolding along the way. Shales and sandstones, reminders of an ancient desert, a land rent asunder by the oceans and crumpled like a concertina.

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Of maps and men: Landranger sheet 57

by Nicky Gardner

With place names like Pendicles of Collymoon and Nether Easter Offerance, Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 57 fires the imagination. Maps tell stories, as do old men in pubs. Like the Tartan traveller we met in the Tyrol who tried to persuade us that Garibaldi had Scottish ancestry. From Baldy Garrow it is but a short step to Garibaldi.

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The Schengen factor

by Nicky Gardner

Schengen is more than just a village on the banks of the River Moselle in Luxembourg. The Schengen programme of free movement across borders helps shape modern Europe geographies. It explains why trains now rumble by night through Hodos and why travellers can no longer enjoy the creatures comforts of night sleepers from England to the continent.

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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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Musings for May Day

Across much of Europe, May is ushered in by a night of bonfires and revelry. "All a matter of keeping the witches at bay," says our friend Milena who lives in a small village in Bohemia. Across the Czech Republic, the vigil of May Day is the cue for pálení carodejnic (the witch burning). There are bonfires and broomsticks aplenty and folk stay up till dawn. The shift from April to May is a liminal moment in the calendrical affairs of the European continent - one of those edgy, dangerous temporal boundaries that deserve to be taken seriously.

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Across the Channel

The stretch of coast north from Boulogne (in the direction of Calais) is a good place to reflect on England. We took a local bus along the coastal road last month, and it made for a fine ride on a perfectly clear, crisp winter day. Beach communities like Wimereux and Wissant were once popular holiday spots, much favoured by English visitors.

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Sanctuary: in the shadow of St Pancras

by Nicky Gardner

In 'A Tale of Two Cities', Dickens recalls the work of bodysnatchers in St Pancras Churchyard. The graveyard is in the very shadow of London's magnificently restored St Pancras station. We reflect on how the railways have reshaped the St Pancras area, pay a visit to Somers Town and savour the renaissance of the former Midland Grand station hotel, which reopened as the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.

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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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Agar Town

by hidden europe

We remember Agar Town, an area of London that simply disappeared from the maps when in 1866 the Midland Railway edged south towards St Pancras.

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Women on the rails

International Women's Day (IWD), which is celebrated today in many countries across the world, has been a feature of the European social landscape for more than a century. From the outset, IWD gave focus to a range of initiatives across Europe that pre-dated the designation of a special day. For example, Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragettes had already been very effectively promoting women's rights in England, while Clara Zetkin and her followers had been pursuing a similar agenda in Germany.

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Liberating public spaces

The Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the modern Potsdamer Platz development are Berlin icons, all enduringly popular with those who trade in visual images. And our Berlin wander, weaving around film crews and tripods, set us thinking about the way in which the imperative to capture the scene, coupled with the demands of commerce, intrude on public spaces.

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West to Reading

The fast trains from London to Reading take a mere twenty-four minutes for the journey. And First Great Western (FGW), successor to Brunel's celebrated Great Western Railway, happily still name some of their trains. Scanning the current FGW timetable for departures from Paddington, we opt for the Cornish Riviera for the ride to Reading.

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Diverted via Paris

Remember the ash cloud in 2010? It had a silver lining in making stranded travellers think creatively about the journeys they wanted or needed to make. And similarly with the seasonal doses of wintry weather that play havoc with rail schedules across the continent. When we left London mid-morning yesterday, we thought we were pretty sure to arrive in Berlin by late evening. Little did we imagine that our roundabout journey would lead us to Paris.

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Church etiquette

Over the recent holidays, a friend and fellow-traveller popped the 'church question'. Is it okay to slip into Mass or Evensong to enjoy the splendours of Venice's Basilica di San Marco or York's magnificent Minster when the principal intent is not worship but a wish to see the buildings' interiors? Or should the visitor more properly attend at times designated for tourists, queue as necessary and pay an admission fee if requested?

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To nothingness and night

Poems enliven the passing of the old year. Germans might reverently recite lines from Goethe this evening ('Zwischen dem Alten, Zwischen dem Neuen') while the English might favour Tennyson ('Ring out the old, Ring in the new'). We opt for John Clare who angrily, provocatively, compellingly charted a changing rural England in his verse. His lines on the eve of the New Year ('Old papers thrown away, Old garments cast aside') communicate the sense of exile and a palpable disconnect with the past that were so strong a feature of Clare's life - the past fading to nothingness and night.
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Less bratwurst, more Brussels

This Advent we have caught a dash of Christmas spirit in several different countries across Europe. Mulled wine comes with a variety of accents, sometimes with hints of cinnamon and citrus, elsewhere more honey and black pepper. It has been fun to wander through Christmas markets from Strasbourg to Southwark, from Brussels to Berlin, and it is also an instructive lesson in globalisation.

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Letter from St Pancras

There is something quite exquisite about grand railway termini. Folk fly through them, the dash for the train diminishing the status of these great cathedrals to travel. But these are not places through which one should rush. So we lingered at St Pancras in London for almost an entire day, catching the changing moods of William Barlow's magnificent train shed at dusk and dawn.

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Celebrating British buses

by Nicky Gardner

Buses are experiencing a happy renaissance in Britain. The advent of concessionary bus passes to senior citizens has tempted many diehard motorists onto the top deck. In a special two-part feature for hidden europe, we look at a new book that showcases fifty great bus journeys from across Britain.

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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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Timing matters

by Nicky Gardner

Russia's decision this year to abandon seasonal changes of clocks has prompted much media comment. Belarus has followed Russia's example. Ukraine, after much prevarication, has opted to stick with alternating winter and summer time. In this short piece for hidden europe, we take a look at the politics and time.

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Plymouth to Portsmouth by boat

Devotees of unusual ferry routes will find a few gems tucked away in Brittany Ferries’ winter schedules. From next week until the end of March 2012, there will be a seasonal Plymouth to St Malo service. The service kicks off next Monday with a morning sailing at 11.30 from St Malo. The passage time is eight hours.

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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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From Dutch tornadoes to Sussex avalanches

We were surprised to learn recently that the place in the world where you are most likely to experience a tornado is the Netherlands. True, those Dutch twisters don't cause quite the havoc of the big tornadoes that occasionally sweep across the US Mid-West. But the chances of someone living in the Netherlands, or for that matter southern England, having seen a tornado is pretty high.

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Sharing sacred space

by hidden europe

The clean lines that we think divide religions often become very blurred in the Balkan region. Thus shrines may be claimed as sacred by adherents of more than one religion. We look at the phenomenon of syncretic shrines.

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From Waterlitz to Austerloo

by hidden europe

Did you know you can take the train to Brathlavstan or fly to MaastrAachen? The portmanteau title of Daniela-Carmen Crasnaru’s 1998 poetry anthology Austerloo prompts us to reflect on portmanteau terms in European geography.

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To name a train: from Easterlings to Tyrolean bacon

by Nicky Gardner

This summer marks the 80th anniversary of the launch of one of Russia’s most famous trains, the ‘Red Arrow’ fast overnight service between Moscow and St Petersburg. hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner has been taking a look at some of Europe’s most memorably named trains — and a few less memorable ones.

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The 313 to Botany Bay

We were having difficulty being enthusiastic about Enfield. Jack, an amiable octogenarian who is Enfield born and bred, is more positive. "Heavens," he exclaims. "You've no idea. Enfield has been important for centuries. Do you remember the Lee Enfield, for example?" asks Jack. Actually we don't, but Jack tells a plausible tale about how the rifle that was for sixty years standard issue to British troops was made in Enfield.

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Orbiting Birmingham

by Nicky Gardner

Birmingham's Outer Circle bus route is a veteran among urban bus routes, dating back to the nineteen-twenties. How many Brummies who ride the Outer Circle realise that this is Europe's longest urban bus route? Probably very few. But this extraordinary bus route provides a wonderful kaleidoscope of Birmingham life as it makes a great orbit through the suburbs of England's second city.

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Border assets: travels on the frontier

by Nicky Gardner

Borders have become something of a rarity in modern Europe. We can now travel by car from northern Norway to the Mediterranean without ever once having to show a passport. Political frontiers have faded, yet cultural frontiers remain. We reflect on the role of borders in Europe today and note how erstwhile lines of division are now recast as assets for the future.

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Scotland: fast ferries

by Nicky Gardner

Kintyre Express, the shipping offshoot of Scottish bus company West Coast Motors, has an ambitious plan to create a new fast ferry link between the Mull of Kintyre and the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. We take a closer look.

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Out of place, but not out of mind

by Nicky Gardner

So why does a statue of Rocky Balboa stand in a small town in northern Serbia? And why did citizens of Mostar (in Herzegovina) decide that a statue of Bruce Lee could unite their troubled town? We take a look at statues that seem improbably out of place.

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More than small change

by Nicky Gardner

You probably would have no very clear idea what currency is used in Nagorno Karabakh, no indeed whether you need to tip the barber next time you stop off for a short back and sides in deepest Chechnya. We ponder the knotty business of currencies and reflect on tipping etiquette.

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The demise of Wrexham and Shropshire

Looking back at rail journeys we made in 2010, we would say a December journey with UK operator Wrexham and Shropshire really was one of the highlights. We travelled north from London's Marylebone station on one of W&S' sleek silver and grey trains, sliding through rime-clad Chiltern countryside. So we were perturbed to find that late last month, Wrexham & Shropshire ceased operations.

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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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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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Birmingham silences

Head out along the Bristol Road and you get an eyeful of Birmingham's suburbs. Leaky ipods and restive mobiles mix with discarded newspapers and chip wrappers on the upper deck of Bus 61 that runs all the way out to Frankley. An empty Red Bull can dances beneath the seats, rolling back and forth as the bus brakes and accelerates.

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The mystery of the mikveh

by Nicky Gardner

The mikveh (or ritual bathing pool) is a key part of Jewish culture, an intimate part of Orthodox Jewish life that is hidden from the public gaze. We take a look at mediaeval and modern mikveh'ot across Europe.

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Fair fares: by train across Europe

A few days ago I travelled by train from the Berlin suburb of Lichterfelde to Ewell in England, just south of London. In total I paid 55 euros for the entire 15-hour train journey of 1393 km. Looking at the different fare components, I see that I travelled across Germany for less than one cent per kilometre.

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The road less taken

Only the British can really understand the appeal of the perfect B road. It is a road that may have pretensions, hoping one day to be upgraded to A class status. And then there are B roads that have come down in the world. Take for example the B1043 south of Peterborough through the village of Stilton (which really does have a connection with cheese).

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Lost maritime links

Boulogne has always knocked spots off Calais as a port-of-entry into France. The city has a particularly attractive Ville Haute (Upper Town). But sadly, not a lot of travellers from England will be visiting Boulogne this winter, for today sees the withdrawal of the sole remaining ferry link between England and Boulogne.

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A matter of class: changes at Eurostar

There are a few changes on Eurostar this week with the introduction of a new Standard Premier class on services linking London with Brussels and Paris. Standard Premier replaces Leisure Select as the middle tier of the three class service on Eurostar's capital city services.

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The politics of heritage

Albi, Downe, Bikini Atoll and the Putorana Plateau are all in competition with each other next week as UNESCO gears up to announce a new round of World Heritage Sites. Securing a place on the World Heritage List can lead to a big boost in tourism revenue, but not everywhere that is on the list automatically becomes hugely popular.

Magazine article

Of apes and men: the Dudley story

by Nicky Gardner

Many people visit zoos to see apes, wild cats and okapi. But some visitors to Dudley Zoo in the English Midlands are drawn by quite another reason. Dudley Zoo boasts a fine collection of Constructivist buildings designed by Berthold Lubetkin and his Tecton group of architects. The Lubetkin legacy in Dudley and elsewhere in England deserves to be far better known and much more valued.

Magazine article

Slow England

by Nicky Gardner

It takes a lot of courage to re-engineer our relationship with time, to realise that we have been seduced by speed. But a new series of books from Bradt Travel Guides encourage us to do just that by focusing in on the local. Slow travel comes of age as a major travel publisher celebrates the details of England that make every village distinctive.

Magazine article

Southbound: Europe's car trains

by Nicky Gardner

In the early days of train travel, landed gentry and the well-to-do made arrangements with local rail companies to convey their horses and carriages on board the trains. Europe's car trains are the modern day incarnation of the same arrangement, a chance to take the car along when heading off on a long train journey. We take a look at some of Europe's car trains, including Europe's premier car train network operated by DB Autozug.

Magazine article

The strange case of an expanding Europe

by Nicky Gardner

The compensation culture encourages delayed passengers to seek redress for the inconvenience they have suffered. Air carriers and rail companies have a neat little way of reacting to the new generation of passengers well aware of their rights. They pad out their schedules, adding in a few extra minutes here and there, so enhancing the chance of an on-time arrival and massaging their punctuality statistics.

Magazine article

Shipping news

by Nicky Gardner

Ferries in European waters are usually ultra-reliable, but from time to time there is the odd mishap. Cruise ships and cargo ships are more prone to misadventure than regular ferries but no ship is immune. We take a look at a few journeys by ship that did not quite go to plan.

Magazine article

Urban matchmaking

by hidden europe

Two towns, neither of them well known beyond their local regions. Herten in Germany and Dudley in England. Both are so very similar, that they seem to be places made for each other. Indulge us, while we engage in a little matchmaking.

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The ark in the park

Zoos evoke all manner of reactions. Some commentators see them as playing a key role in maintaining biological diversity, others dismiss them as cruel and inhumane. We take a look at European zoos in their social and historical context.

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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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Glimpses from the train

Are not the finest parts of many long train journeys those fleeting glimpses of a city or a country that you get just prior to arrival at your destination? There is a superb moment on the train journey through Slovakia towards Budapest, a view dominated by the huge basilica at Esztergom.

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Iceland update

While flights across much of Europe are getting back to normal after the delays of last week, we should not forget that over parts of the North Atlantic air travel still depends very much on the whim of that Icelandic volcano.

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Now the dust is settling

Well, that was certainly an interesting week for travellers around Europe. Lots of angst for stranded souls. Rich fodder for the British tabloids as brave holidaymakers returned to English ports recounting tales of journeys from hell. Heavens, we never knew that France was really that bad.

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A cloud with a silver lining

The news that about seven million air travellers across Europe have had their travel plans disrupted over the last five days has captured the headlines. But let us get this in perspective. Well over one hundred million journeys are made every day on Europe's rail network.

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The demise of Highland Airways

A couple of recent airline bankruptcies highlight the economic vulnerability of small airports in Europe which are not served by a wide range of carriers - and indeed the social vulnerability of remote communities that depend on lifeline air services.

Magazine article

On a wing and a prayer

by Nicky Gardner

Are we too tolerant of the aggressive new generation of low-cost airlines that are too footloose to show any real commitment to a particular airport? We look at some examples of community support for local airports that has not always reaped handsome dividends.

Magazine article

Keeping faith: York's Quaker community

by Nicky Gardner

The city in northern England is well known for its important role in Anglican affairs, and many visitors also recall York's association with Catholic martyrs. But York has long been home to many dissenting traditions, and the spirit of the dissenters is today embodied in the Quaker life and spirit that plays so important a role in modern York.

Magazine article

Europe's railways: public or private assets?

by Nicky Gardner

Across Europe, advocates for and opponents of the privatisation of national rail networks adduce arguments to support their preferred perspective. We compare the experience of different European countries, and find that the line between private and public operators is often more blurred than is widely believed.

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Martin's dream: the end of Varsity Express

Young Martin wanted nothing more than to fly. Five years ago he launched Alpha One Airways. In 2005, the media were seduced by Martin's youthful entrepreneurialism and rag to riches appeal. But Baby Branson's first venture was a flop - and so was his second, Varsity Express.

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Music for the nation

Quite how we came to spend yesterday afternoon listening to a score or more national anthems from across Europe is a long tale - and one that need not detain us here. But it made us realise just how uninspiring is the music that accompanies many such anthems.

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False starts and flying starts

Today's the day. 1st March. St David's Day. And the day on which three start-up companies were due to launch new transport links in or around the British Isles.

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New flights to northern Europe

A look at two carriers and their new routes to northern European destinations: Atlantic Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle. Atlantic offers links to the Faroe Islands and Norwegian is launching new routes to Finland.

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The Eurostar review

The independent review of Eurostar's less than perfect performance in the pre-Christmas period makes for interesting reading. It was published this morning. Apparently, some journalists, commenting on the review panel's conclusions, are getting utterly confused about one little detail.

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Polish tremors

At breakfast time this morning, an earthquake shook the town of Jaworzno in Polish Upper Silesia. Now in the general scale of seismic events, this was a mere shudder that measured 3.4 on the Richter scale. But clearly there is some subterranean rumbling under Poland these days, for today's quake comes just three days after a much larger rumble near Legnica in western Poland.

Blog post

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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Passing Brompton Road

The phrase "Passing Brompton Road" was as familiar to users of the Piccadilly Line tube trains in London a hundred years ago as is the announcement "Mind the Gap" today. But why Brompton Road?

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Code-sharing between DB and Eurostar

Today saw an interesting new development on the Deutsche Bahn (DB) website. Suddenly a handful of new trains have appeared - they all bear the prefix EST, suggesting a Eurostar service.

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The Euroferries saga

In the middle of last month we reported in our regular e-brief about Euroferries, the would-be cross Channel shipping operator that has yet to make a single crossing on its much publicised Ramsgate to Boulogne route. Now the saga continues.

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Varsity Express - a new regional airline in the UK

The news that a new air carrier called Varsity Express is due to launch scheduled air services from Oxford to Edinburgh in March will evoke memories of ill-fated Alpha One which five years ago promised to launch another Varsity link - from Oxford to Cambridge.

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I don't care what the weatherman says

Much of northern Europe has endured some pretty wintry weather these past couple of weeks. Last night, temperatures plummeted to below minus 30 degrees Celsius over a large area of northern Scandinavia and northwest Russia.

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A trio of cat stories

Catamarans are in the news. Spanish operator Transcoma this week launches its new fast catamaran service between Gibraltar and the Spanish port of Algeciras and in the English Channel the Euroferries saga continues.

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New 2010 train timetables

Europe's new 2010 train schedules take effect today, opening up lots of glorious new travel opportunities. Faster trains from the Kent coast to London are the highlight in England, while in Italy there is a veritable revolution as the 'missing link' in the country's main high speed axis is plugged.

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Christmas shopping - Faroese style

It is not so very often that one hears Faroese accents in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northeast England. But the streets of the Tyneside city echoed to many voices from the remote North Atlantic islands yesterday afternoon as a friendly invasion of folk from the Faroes arrived to do their Christmas shopping.

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Plans for simpler train ticketing in Europe derailed

Back in the summer of 2007, a number of European rail operators founded Railteam, a promising new alliance that proudly announced that it would transform international rail ticketing in Europe - offering through fares at the press of a button between stations across Europe. Late last week, Railteam backtracked from this grand plan.

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European rail fares: best prices

This piece is one we researched and first published in June 2009. But its message is still as valid today, which we why we think it deserves a place here. Some travellers, especially when they purchase rail tickets in North America for European journeys, pay massively over the odds. We compare ticket prices for point-to-point rail journeys in Europe and find a disturbing variety of fares on offer. Some travellers, it seems, are being ripped off.

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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

Timetable interludes

by Nicky Gardner

Imagine an airport that every single week closes down for a long weekend. Or an airline that observes the sabbath, and leaves its planes grounded. Such curiosities really do exist.

Magazine article

Cerise diversions

by Nicky Gardner

Before being quietly consigned to literary history in 1959, the Penguin Cerise series brought some of the very best of the world's English language travel writing to a huge readership at affordable paperback prices. We remember an icon of publishing history.

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Celebrity tourism in the Trossachs

Celebrity tourism is nothing new. In 1847, Queen Victoria had journeyed to the Hebrides from the Clyde, using the Crinan Canal to avoid the long sea journey around the Kintyre peninsula. In so doing she encouraged thousands of other travellers to follow in her wake - the so-called Royal Route to Oban via the Crinan Canal was suddenly in vogue.

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Ferry updates

September will not be remembered as an easy month for ferry operators in the waters around the British Isles. With the end of the peak summer season, many ferry operators look to their books and ponder how (or even whether) they can survive the leaner winter season ahead. Two car ferry routes in northwest Ireland are struggling with financial uncertainty.

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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.

Magazine article

Ecclesiastical geographies

by Nicky Gardner

Church bureaucrats divide the world into dioceses. The process throws into prominence places that figure little in the secular world. Bishops preside over territories like Gor, Ombi and Sodor. hidden europe takes a look at some unusual geographical titles of European bishops.

Magazine article

New lives for old ships

by Nicky Gardner

The 'Logos Hope' was once a car ferry that connected the Faroe Islands with the wider world. Now it is the largest floating bookshop on the planet. See how old ferries are redeployed to new purposes.

Magazine article

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'

Magazine article

Island antics

by Nicky Gardner

from Sicily to Scotland's Orkney Islands: hidden europe explores how two island communities will spend New Year's Day

Magazine article

Les Minquiers

by Nicky Gardner

hidden europe explores a scatter of islands off the French coast - the most southerly outposts of the British Isles

Magazine article

Cutting edge

by hidden europe

A fine collection of lawnmowers attests to the collective obsession of the English to secure the perfect lawn.

Magazine article

Loch Fyne histories

by Paul Hadfield

Prose and poetry evoke echoes of the past on the shores of Loch Fyne in western Scotland. hidden europe walks the loch shore to the ruins of the old powdermills at Furnace, while Paul Hadfield weaves a web of family history.

Magazine article

Essays in glass

by hidden europe

Never heard of a fosterito? Then you have probably never been to Bilbao! hidden europe explores some unusual street architecture.

Magazine article

London: Vauxhall pleasures

by Nicky Gardner

For most Londoners, Vauxhall is just a formidably busy traffic intersection on the wrong side of the river. hidden europe discovers that Vauxhall is a place with interesting connections.

Magazine article

Trains stop only on request: Berney Arms

by Nicky Gardner

In hidden europe 10, we carried an account of an unusually remote railway station in Scotland. That prompted us to check out other isolated spots - so we made a special journey to find the only railway station in England that is totally inaccessible by motor vehicle.

Magazine article

Taking the slow boat

by Nicky Gardner

A few words in praise of slow coastal shipping services that hop from port to port. Surely a more romantic way to travel than to endure the thud, thud, thud of a modern catamaran.

Magazine article

In splendid isolation: Scotland

by Nicky Gardner

Tarbet is a spot that is about to be consigned to history. And that's a pity, because Tarbet was a sanctuary - a wee spot that teetered on the edge of being. We report from some of Scotland's remotest communities.

Magazine article

Rest-stops for the soul

by Nicky Gardner

There is little that is religious about modern mass travel. But seaports, railway stations, airports and even motorway service areas have chapels and churches that address the needs of travellers.

Magazine article

On the night train

by Nicky Gardner

After the last of the daytime express trains have left, Europe's mainline railway stations play host to night trains. These are the trains which are the stuff of poetry. We explore some of the very best which the continent has to offer.

Magazine article

Turbulent waters

by Nicky Gardner

Freight boats that take passengers, new routes and change aplenty as hidden europe reviews what's new in Europe's shipping schedules for 2007.

Magazine article

Remembering Cheryl Summerbee

by Nicky Gardner

Cheryl Summerbee deserves to be better known. hidden europe takes a sideways look at one of the more intriguing characters to have emerged from a campus novel. Conceived by David Lodge in Small World, Cheryl works at London's Heathrow Airport. Or rather, she used to work there.

Magazine article

Beckoning rocks: the Elie chain walk

by James Carron

The coast of Fife, just over the water from Edinburgh, is scarcely wild country. But it is home to one of Britain's most engaging coastal excursions - the Elie chain walk. More a scramble than a walk, the route allows the sure-footed to skirt the cliffs of Kincraig Point.

Magazine article

Without let or hindrance: passports of yesteryear

by Nicky Gardner

The Russian writer Anton Chekhov travelled around Russia with nothing more than his university diploma as evidence of his identity and good character. Nineteenth-century Englishmen, if they had a passport at all, often opted for a Belgian or French one! We examine the history of the world's most travelled document.

Magazine article

Mapping routes: some unusual waymarks

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at the European places that don't figure on regular maps. They may be nodal points of railway geography, air navigation beacons or just part of local folk geography - like a roundabout just outside London called the Scilly Isles. Enjoy our foray into psycho-geography.

Magazine article

Labours of love: allotment gardens

by Nicky Gardner

Albert Einstein was once famously reprimanded for allowing weeds to run rampant on his Berlin allotment. hidden europe contrasts two very different allotment cultures in Germany and in England.

Magazine article

Squirrel shades

by hidden europe

Most of Europe has red squirrels. But there are exceptions. In England, squirrels are generally grey - and just occasionally black. We report on the black squirrels of Letchworth.

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Double enigma

by Nicky Gardner

Who cracked the code? We look at two street sculptures, one in England and the other in Poland that tell a tale of mathematical ingenuity.

Magazine article

Make believe: the geography of films

by Nicky Gardner

Film directors often morph real world geographies to suit their own purposes. Docks on the River Thames stand in for Venice, and Granada in southern Spain suddenly is given new life as a Turkish port. We look at a few examples of transposed geography.

Magazine article

The road to Abergwesyn

by Nicky Gardner

The tides in the Mawddach estuary never come too early. Nor too late. The rain never beats too hard on the road to Abergwesyn. hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner celebrates the communities in rural Wales where she once lived.

Magazine article

Enough to make you eat your words

by Nicky Gardner

Ever been completely fazed by a foreign menu? Are there shepherds in shepherd's pie in England? And do they really eat toads in Yorkshire? We look at how the food on our plate says a lot about national identity.

Magazine article

Cartographic visions of a changing Europe

by Nicky Gardner

Successive editions of The Times Atlas of the World (over 112 years) reveal a changing Europe. In the newly published 2007 edition, the continent seems somehow tamer than it did in 1895. But there are also some innovations in the new edition!

Magazine article

Polar exploration: years to remember

by Nicky Gardner

2008 is a big year for polar anniversaries. Among those polar milestones is the eightieth anniversary of the death of Roald Amundsen, who lost his life while trying to rescue another veteran of polar exploration.

Magazine article

A time for gifts

by Nicky Gardner

An assassin's gun in a museum in the Albanian capital, a fireplace in the Bavarian Alps and some oak trees with pure Nazi pedigree are among the more unusual gifts that we uncover in this quirky perspective on gift-giving.

Magazine article

City of illusions: London

by Nicky Gardner

The City of London - the very heart of the English capital - has long been a melting pot for cultures and religions. And today the area has striking contradictions in wealth and social status. We report from the city of illusions.

Magazine article

Temples of pleasure

by Nicky Gardner

Many modern shopping centres are parodies of the elegant glazed arcades that were, in many nineteenth-century European cities, focal points for shopping and relaxation. From Brussels to Milan, Cardiff to Genoa the arcaded gallery became a byword for style. Many of the best still survive.

Magazine article

Slow travel: Europe by train

by Nicky Gardner

Had you realised that it is not compulsory to take the fast train? Comb the timetables, and you still find the lazy slowcoach of a train that dawdles from one country station to the next. We celebrate the delights of the slow train.

Magazine article

Train times

by hidden europe

A good train timetable is a book to cherish. So when the British authorities decided that printing a national train timetable was a waste of time and money, we were distraught. Fortunately, a latter-day Bradshaw has stepped in to fill the gap.

Magazine article

London's cherished ghost: Crystal Palace

by Tim Locke

"To me this is a poignant place evoking a very lost Victorian London." Tim Locke returns to the south London suburb where he was born to look for traces of the capital's most cherished ghost: the Crystal Palace which burnt down in 1936.

Magazine article

A Pennine portrait

by Nicky Gardner

Heptonstall is a place where gritstone ledges and neat green fields play backdrop to the moods of Pennine weather. This is Yorkshire. We visit gritty moodscapes populated by folk whom poet Ted Hughes described as "bleak as Sunday rose-gardens".

Magazine article

The heart of nations

by hidden europe

"We may no longer be officially the centre of England" says a lady in Meriden in the English Midlands. "But we are undoubtedly at the heart of the country." Join us as we ponder on the heart of nations.

Magazine article

Snickelways

by hidden europe

What were once back streets of iniquity in the English city of York are now important elements in the cityscape - little lanes and alleys that, for those in the know, provide valuable short cuts.

Magazine article

Rotor heaven: Europe's helicopter links

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at commercial helicopter routes around Europe, both past and present. There are areas in Europe where helicopter services are still very much a part of the regular transport network. Examples include the Faroe Islands, the Scilly Isles, Isole Tremiti in the Adriatic and the Gulf of Finland.

Magazine article

Eurostar: connecting the continent

by Nicky Gardner

Had you realised that you can leave London by train this afternoon, and with just a single change of train in Paris, be in Berlin, Barcelona, Venice or Munich by tomorrow morning? Crossing the English Channel today is a whole lot easier than it was when Jean Blanchard made the journey by balloon in 1785.

Magazine article

Flying to Fair Isle

by hidden europe

To fly to the Scottish island of Fair Isle (midway between the Shetlands and the Orkney Islands) is to have one of the most extraordinary flying experiences on offer in Europe.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

In her element

by Nicky Gardner

There has been a paucity of women writers celebrating the Welsh landscape. For too long the narrative has been dominated by English writers - mainly men! A new book restores the balance.

Magazine article

The search for Franklin

by Nicky Gardner

About twenty clairvoyants, mediums and spiritualists were closely involved in the search for Franklin's lost expedition. The ghostly tale of Louisa Coppin is just one part of this improbable story.

Magazine article

Of turrets and towers

by Nicky Gardner

From radio towers in Moscow, to the ancient pigeon towers of Isfahan, towers are things to be celebrated and explored. We look at some of Europe's finest, and take a close look at towers along the route of the Great Western Railway from London to Penzance.

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Shipping news

by hidden europe

There are new shipping routes aplenty for the 2009 summer season. We take a look at what's new in the world of European ferries, with many developments in the North Sea, Baltic and Mediterranean markets.

Magazine article

Britain's weakest links

by Nicky Gardner

What do the English railway stations at Denton, Reddish South, Pilning and Teesside Airport have in common? The answer is that they have virtually no trains. Ghost trains, ghost stations and more as we review Britain's weakest links.

Magazine article

Architecture of deceit

by Nicky Gardner

A new book called 'Follies of Europe: Architectural Extravanganzas' inspires us to explore Europe's architecture of deceit. We find buildings conceived with no purpose at all, and others where exterior design deludes as to the real purpose of the building.

Magazine article

More than a streetcar

by hidden europe

Inter-municipal tram routes still survives here and there in Europe. We survey examples from the Ruhr region of Germany, Bohemia, the Isle of Man and England.

Magazine article

Northern palms

by hidden europe

Scourie Lodge in northwest Scotland may claim to have the most northerly palm trees in the world, but we think they are wrong. We travel north up the Norwegian coast in search of palm trees that seemingly defy geography.

Magazine article

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.

Magazine article

Night boat to Holland

by Nicky Gardner

To walk aboard the Pride of Rotterdam as she prepares to leave Hull for the overnight crossing to Holland is to engage with a piece of maritime history. The flag of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company still flies on the ships of P&O Ferries.

Magazine article

Focus on fish

by Nicky Gardner

Many a coastal community, and even one or two inland spots, have realised that there's no better way to promote trade and tourism than through a colourful display of freshly landed fish and other seafood.

Magazine article

Sea fever

by Nicky Gardner

When one time English poet laureate John Masefield extolled the lure of the ocean ("I must down to the seas again..."), he clearly didn't have Cunard's luxury Queen Elizabeth II ship or the same company's new super liner Queen Mary in mind.

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Hidden Argyll

It was exactly a hundred years ago that Patrick Gillies published his perceptive account about Argyll in western Scotland. Gillies looked at the finer details in the Argyll landscape. He visited outposts like the Slate Islands, then as now rather off the beaten track and by-passed by most travellers and discovered hidden Argyll.

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Channel crossings

Calais' modern port is a model of efficiency. We travelled with P&O Ferries across the Dover Strait, enjoying the considerable comforts on board the Pride of Burgundy. Channel crossing by boat can be a great pleasure.

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Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia is patron saint of Siracusa, the island fortress city on the Sicilian coast, where Lucia was born in the late third century. The story tells of her being martyred in her home city at the tender age of twenty. Of course, Santa Lucia's feast is marked in Siracusa, but it is to northern Europe that we must look for the most demonstrative expression of the cult of light associated with Santa Lucia.

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Changing horizons for Silvertown (London)

Rathbone Street market in Canning Town, just two stops up the train line from Silvertown, was the furthest most Silvertowners ever ventured. A Saturday special. Pie and mash at Mrs Olley's café followed by ice cream at Murkoff's were Canning Town treats before Silvertowners hopped back on the train for the short ride home.

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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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The Hogsmill Valley (southern England)

The Hogsmill is scarcely one of Europe's great rivers, yet even this diminutive stream that trickles through London's southern suburbs bubbles with history. Cheam and Nonsuch were villages on the road to chic Epsom, famous nowadays for its racecourse on the windy downs above the town. Amid the suburbs that lace the fringes of the capital is watery Ewell.

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Western Europe by train

Mid-morning saw hidden europe on the train that trundled west from Breckland across to the Fens. When the late eighteenth-century author William Gilpin travelled through Norfolk and Suffolk, he described Breckland as "an absolute desert" - this sandy heathland was doubtless the very antithesis of the idealised picturesque landscapes of which Gilpin was so fond.

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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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Strangers churches

In the heart of the City of London, there used to be all manner of Strangers Churches (as churches for foreigners are commonly termed). There was a Spanish church, a Scots church and a Lutheran church from Hamburg. The Dutch community at Austin Friars, established in the mid-sixteenth century, is still very active today, albeit not in their original church which was destroyed in 1940.

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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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'no music day'

Tomorrow, 22 November, is the Feast of St Cecilia, a saint surrounded by a strong music cult. By the time Raphael painted his L'estasi di Santa Cecilia (around 1515), musical instruments had become associated with St Cecilia. The iconography runs deep, and from Verona to Oxford there are pictures, stained glass windows and statues of St Cecilia with musical instruments. Pipe organs seem to be her speciality, but we've spotted St Cecilia with everything from violins to flutes.

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The Selwyn swastika

hidden europe has been on the road - or more correctly 'on the rails' - this past week meandering through Europe on a journey that has seen us sleeping on a Russian night train, speeding through the Channel Tunnel on Eurostar, eating pierogi in Poland and croissants in France. There is something inescapably dramatic about a long train journey, especially if, as we contrived to do, one takes slow trains where at all possible.

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Lost communities: France, Russia and more

Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The modern world's voracious appetite for water has spelt the death knell for many communities. On Russia's Volga River, the great Rybinsk dam project in the 1940s led to the flooding of a huge area, engulfing over a hundred villages and the entire city of Mologa.

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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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Airports by night - April Fool's day

Edinburgh's Grid Iron Theatre Company, in conjunction with the National Theatre of Scotland, explores the 'terminal as theatre' theme in its upcoming production Roam at Edinburgh International Airport. Roam is Grid Iron's tenth anniversary production and breaks new ground for an experimental theatre company that has a penchant for unusual settings. Previous Grid Iron performances have been staged in Debenham's department store in Edinburgh, and in the old mortuary in the Irish city of Cork.

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Estonian ice routes - Icarus Reincarnate

A full week of cold weather over much of northern Europe has brightened the winter prospects for Scotland's ski resorts and for inhabitants of some of Estonia's offshore islands. Where winters are cold enough - by no means every year – some of Estonia's islands secure a temporary road link to the mainland through use of an ice road.

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A thousand Europes: local media from Andalucí­a to the Arctic

When we are not on the road, the hidden europe team keeps a finger on the pulse of European affairs. Local newspapers from the Arctic to the Aegean are grist to the mill of this endeavour. Few are better than Svalbardposten, arguably the world's most northerly local newspaper. This weekly account of all that's happening in the Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen is no new upstart.