Authors

hidden europe

hidden europe

writers and editors
Frequent contributor

Articles marked as authored by hidden europe have been penned in-house by the hidden europe editors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. For articles solely written by Nicky, see her profile page.

— Articles by hidden europe —

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From A to Z: Achilles to Zelensky

by hidden europe

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

Blog post

Two decades of thinking about Europe

by hidden europe

As we reflect on two decades of researching and writing about unsung communities across Europe, we realize that we had a lot to learn about how to travel. It took courage in the early days of hidden europe to escape the tyranny of too much planning. Over time, we slowed down and came to value journeys in their own right.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 70

by hidden europe

Watching this final issue of hidden europe magazine go to press is a bittersweet moment for us. We are immensely proud of what has been achieved over two decades, but it is now time for us to move on. We pen this editorial in a café by the quayside in the Baltic port of Stralsund. The ferry to the island of Hiddensee is casting off, making a journey to Kloster with a couple of stops along the way.

Magazine article

There in spirit

by hidden europe

Isn’t intelligent voice radio something special? We recall a moment when it really seemed that Martin Luther might open the door and ask if he might drop in for a cuppa.

Magazine article

Exploring Europe by rail

by hidden europe

We never planned to write about trains. But it just sort of happened and then we developed a curious niche writing about railway journeys. Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries reflect on a serendipitous opportunity.

Magazine article

Untold tales

by hidden europe

There were the journeys planned, the journeys made, and also the journeys never made. And our list of likely topics for hidden europe just grew and grew. Whatever will happen to the untold tales?

Magazine article

The Tyre Man

by hidden europe

With the unreliability of the very first cars, motoring was a stop-go process. Bibendum, the remarkable tyre man from Michelin, was always on hand to give advice in the event of breakdown or an enforced overnight stay.

Magazine article

Saint-Gingolph

by hidden europe

Why would I eat lunch on the Swiss side when a well-cooked plate of perch from Lake Geneva costs so much less in France? We visit Saint-Gingolph, a lakeshore village divided by an international frontier.

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The first mountain hut

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 69

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

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

Ireland's coasts

by hidden europe

We are quietly in awe of how the editors and publishers ever managed to bring The Coastal Atlas of Ireland to print. This is a magnificent volume, one that draws on geography, geology and cultural studies to present an encyclopaedic account of Ireland’s coastline.

Magazine article

Bulgaria: cross-border links with Romania

by hidden europe

The Danube marks the shared border between Romania and Bulgaria. But, with just two bridges crossing the Danube to link the two countries, the Danube also separates Bulgaria and Romania. New ferries are however forging new connections.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 68

by hidden europe

In this new issue of the magazine we present articles with a focus on Sweden, France, Greece, Spain and Malta. We have a number of thematic pieces too, taking inspiration in part from rail travel which is experiencing such a welcome renaissance in many parts of Europe just now.

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

Frösön Island

by hidden europe

The island of Frösön in Lake Storsjön is the perfect retreat for walks and bike rides. We follow part of the traditional pilgrimage route over Frösön, passing the most northerly rune stone in the world.

Magazine article

Fast cats

by hidden europe

The current record for the fastest Atlantic crossing was set in 1998 by an Incat catamaran capable of carrying 600 passengers and 200 cars. That same vessel is still in day-to-day service as a ferry. We'll go in search of the Skane Jet.

Magazine article

All change for 2023: New rail links

by hidden europe

A new daily rail link from Warsaw to Lithuania, direct trains from Bordeaux to the Black Forest and new night trains from Genoa, Dresden and Stuttgart all feature in Europe’s 2023 train timetables which come into effect on Sunday 11 December 2022.

Blog post

50 years of Interrail

by hidden europe

We know that many readers of hidden europe were quick off the mark in May this year when, to celebrate 50 years of Interrail, some passes were available for 50% off the list price. A superb offer that means that there are now thousands of people holding passes valid until next April but uncertain when and where to use them.

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From Nero to the Habsburgs: the Corinth Canal

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Adventures of the Jadran

by hidden europe

The Jadrolinija shipping routes of yesterday saw sailings from Venice to Piraeus with half a dozen stops along the way. It was possible to sail direct from Opatija to Corfu or from Venice to Rijeka. We take a look at inshore shipping down the eastern shores of the Adriatic.

Magazine article

Branding Glenlivet

by hidden europe

Rarely has a beverage gained such a boost from a royal namecheck as when George IV arrived in Scotland and requested a glass of Glenlivet. At the time, the distillery at Glenlivet was an 'under-the-radar' affair operating outwith the law.

Magazine article

The Athus factor

by hidden europe

Never heard of Athus? It's a small town in south-east Belgium through which you must route if you wish to travel by train from London to Poland's Baltic coast for just €120 return.

Magazine article

Reading Celati

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

10000 steps

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 67

by hidden europe

In hidden europe 67, we go mountain hiking in Croatia's Kvarner region, ponder the relationship between mining and cultural heritage, take to the rails in Germany with a wonderful slow travel deal and discover a former Catholic seminary in the Braes of Glenlivet. We also visit both Hoek van Holland and Harwich and make tracks for an unsung delta on the Adriatic.

Blog post

Words Matter – hidden europe 66

by hidden europe

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

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

Ukrainians on the move

by hidden europe

Not far from Lockerbie, in the hills of southern Scotland, a corrugated iron hut was converted into a simple chapel in summer 1947. It is a remote, rural outpost of Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church.

Magazine article

Follow the dove

by hidden europe

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

Magazine articleFull text online

New edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide

by hidden europe

The 17th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide is published in mid-April 2022. It includes new routes through the Alps and central Europe, a completely new journey along Italy’s Adriatic coast, new Baltic region coverage and much more.

Magazine article

New Albanian bus routes

by hidden europe

So what is the best way to get from Dubrovnik to Athens? Take the bus, we say, at least for the first part of the journey. Improved bus and ferry services now make it very easy to travel from southern Croatia through Montenegro and Albania to Greece. It is a fine journey, especially if you can make time to stop off in Kotor, Tiranë and Corfu.

Magazine article

Hiking the Laugavegur

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 66

by hidden europe

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

Blog post

Fate shall smile once more

by hidden europe

There are no silver linings in the clouds of war. These are dark times. So our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. That prompts us to reflect on one of Ukraine's most interesting cities: the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Blog post

The perfect night train

by hidden europe

You’ll surely have seen that there’s a lot of hype around the return of night trains across Europe. The legitimacy of flying as a social norm was hardly questioned a decade ago. Nowadays we can no longer be oblivious to our carbon footprint. In this Letter from Europe we share what in our view constitutes the perfect night train.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 65

by hidden europe

In issue 65 of hidden europe magazine, we roam from Scotland through France and Germany to Vienna and beyond. We have whisky and cheese, thoughts on cross-border rail services, a remarkable report on the world’s first hybrid cars and disturbing news about bees in Arctic Russia.

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

Polar bees

by hidden europe

The news is not great for polar bumble bees, which are well adapted to the Arctic climate. Climate change may not bode well for these bees in the Russian North, but the prospects for adventurous butterflies are on the up.

Magazine article

Allegro speculations

by hidden europe

No rail operator’s international operations were more brutally affected by the pandemic that those of RZD Russian Railways. Links from Russia to fourteen other European countries were suspended in March 2020, and none of those regular passenger services have yet been restored.

Magazine article

Erasing the tsar

by hidden europe

In the Russian town of Pushkin, not far from St Petersburg, there’s a district called Tsarskoye Selo – a sweep of palaces and gardens which was once the summer home of the Romanov family.

Magazine article

Salers cheese

by hidden europe

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

Blog post

Watery diversions

by hidden europe

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

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Faith and identity in the Slovakian hills

by hidden europe

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

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On the edge of Burgundy: the Morvan hills

by hidden europe

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

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Reach for the planets

by hidden europe

Five or six decades ago, Romania had a sense of building the future and many citizens were eager to dance the night away in Venus or just lie on the beach at Saturn. We recall the voucher tourism of yesteryear - an era when sun, sea and socialism made natural partners.

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Being amber

by hidden europe

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

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.

Magazine article

The lure of the Orient

by hidden europe

Fifty years ago adventurous travellers were heading off from Europe to ride the Taurus Express or to explore a desert bus route which linked three capital cities.

Magazine article

End of the Ice Age

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

War trains

by hidden europe

Many railways across Europe were built to satisfy military ambition. In the hinterland of Berlin there is a railway line which was constructed quite explicitly as a military plaything. In the Nazi period, the very existence of this railway influenced the preferred location for German experiments in missile and nuclear technologies.

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Slavutych and the nuclear industry

by hidden europe

The Ukrainian city of Slavutych is a striking surviving example of a planned Soviet city underpinned by utopian principles – and even if the latter were sometimes diluted by pragmatism, there is a palpable sense of a well-designed and carefully planned community. It also is an atomgorod which offers a green setting and steady employment to its citizens.

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Terminus - a 1961 documentary

by hidden europe

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.

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The Slaney Valley

by hidden europe

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

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From Bilbao to Murmansk: A Tale of One Princess

by hidden europe

Large ferries often go through multiple incarnations and we developed a sort of vicarious attachment to the Princess Anastasia, a vessel which we saw in Bilbao in 2008, and which is now based near Murmansk where she has become part of the infrastructure for tackling the COVID pandemic.

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A Fiesole residency

by hidden europe

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

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The pleasure of the restaurant car

by hidden europe

A chance reference on twitter this week to a Tajik restaurant car that runs all the way to Moscow has prompted us to recall some unlikely meals on trains. Join us as we recall such culinary delights as apéroplättli and svícková while riding the rails in Germany.

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The waiting game

by hidden europe

hidden europe 63 is now available, featuring articles about Bulgaria, Alsace, rural Galicia and northern Italy. We also look at the prospects for slow travel in the post-COVID world. Single issues and subscriptions are available in the hidden europe online shop.

Magazine article

New night trains in 2021

by hidden europe

The privacy of a cosy compartment is part of the appeal of the overnight train. The pandemic has changed attitudes and travellers are now mightily aware of the importance of space and privacy. So it is no wonder that demand for night sleeper services has rocketed. The coming months will see new overnight trains to the Netherlands, Sweden, the Croatian coast, Lake Constance and the French Riviera.

Magazine article

Alsace grape types

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 63

by hidden europe

Is there not a measure of absurdity in all our lives today? We have discovered that it’s hardly possible to plan anything. And yet there is a certain liberation in simply not trying to plan, in just receiving with simplicity all that might come our way. This may of course be the secret of enjoying travel, as and when the day comes when we can start exploring Europe again.

Magazine article

Budapest transport

by hidden europe

The steep topography around the Hungarian capital, especially on the west bank of the Danube, meant that great ingenuity was needed in developing public transport. Examples are the famous funicular up to Buda Castle and a cog railway, both dating back to the 1870s and still well used today.

Magazine article

Where Europe meets Asia

by hidden europe

Pull off the main highway just west of Ekaterinburg and you'll find a fairly new monument that purports to mark the border between Asia and Europe. The design recalls the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a nice reminder that Ekaterinburg iron was used to construct the Paris landmark.

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.

Note

Alsace wines: a personal selection

by hidden europe

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

Blog post

Lenten cod

by hidden europe

Across southern Europe, and most particularly in Portugal, it is the season for bacalhau - the salted, dried cod which is a staple in the Portuguese diet. This much sought after version of cod is a strong Lenten tradition in many Catholic countries.

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The story of Luga Bay

by hidden europe

Luga Bay of 50 years ago looked much the same as it would have done in centuries long gone. Fishing, forestry and the extraction of peat were local staples, and the only vessels using the bay would have been those belonging to local fishermen, some of them Izhorian and others Russian. But these days Luga Bay and the community at the head of the bay, which is called Ust-Luga, are very much in the minds of Russia’s industrial magnates and energy moguls.

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A village on the polder

by hidden europe

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

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Free ports

by hidden europe

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.

Note

Switching to an .eu domain name

by hidden europe

We have switched the hidden europe domain name from hiddeneurope.co.uk to hiddeneurope.eu to clarify that we are based in the European Union. This change has been on the agenda for some time and it seemed a good moment now to implement it.

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Just an ice axe

by hidden europe

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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Breaking the Ice

by hidden europe

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

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Bats and happiness

by hidden europe

It hasn’t been an easy year. Not for us - and probably not for you. But spare a thought for bats who have endured some pretty hefty reputational damage in 2020. Bats are the only flying mammals - and among the few creatures that seem to have a perennial smile on their faces.

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Alpine horizons

by hidden europe

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

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The Gotthard revival

by hidden europe

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

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Sauntering through November

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 62

by hidden europe

We do rather like an amble, even sometimes a ramble, but when we are in rural regions we do also quite like to vegetate, and the current pandemic has certainly allowed us many opportunities to do just that. And thus maybe unsurprisingly, there is a walking theme to this issue of hidden europe. Enjoy the read.

Magazine article

The home of Esperanto

by hidden europe

Who was Dr Esperanto (Dr Hope)? He was an ophthalmologist by profession, but he is most remembered for his love of languages. The good doctor’s real name was Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof and he is best remembered as the creator of Esperanto. He came from one of Europe’s most multilingual communities: Białystok in north-east Poland.

Magazine article

Beyond the Small Homeland

by hidden europe

Mishar Tatars and Lipka Tatars have been quick to assimilate into the communities to which they migrated. We discover how they moved through the Baltic region, settling in Lithuania and Finland, with some moving on to Sweden and the United States of America.

Magazine article

Exploring Europe on foot

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

What's in a name: the Sudety story

by hidden europe

Sometimes the name of a mountain range or a region may endure for centuries, only then to be corrupted by politics. This is how it was with the Sudety Mountains which in the 1930s became conflated with the Sudetenland.

Magazine article

Wuppertal's famous son

by hidden europe

The German city of Wuppertal marks the bicentenary of the birth of Friedrich Engels this autumn. He was born in the Barmen district of Wuppertal on 28 November 1820.

Magazine article

Scandinavian ferry news

by hidden europe

The downturn in travel is being felt in Europe’s ferry industry as service frequencies are trimmed on some routes and other links are axed entirely. We take a look at how services to Norway and Sweden have fared during the pandemic.

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The Road to Uhtua

by hidden europe

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

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The papal states

by hidden europe

The emergence in the eighth century of the papal states in parts of Italy and beyond heralded a geopolitical oddity which survived for over 1000 years, and of which there is the faintest echo in the current status of Vatican City - the world's smallest country.

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A Fragment of Finland in Brazil

by hidden europe

When it was founded in 1929, the Finnish commune of Penedo in Brazil was full of idealism and hope. But with tough financial times in the late 1930s and thereafter, this one-time utopian experiment had to make compromises. Today, Penedo is a commercial hub that attracts tourists eager to catch a dose of Finland. Expect fake snow and Santa Claus.

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Berlin Tegel Airport

by hidden europe

Few airports have quite that cool retro feel of the original hexagonal terminal at Berlin’s Tegel airport. The airport opened in 1960 and was an iconic piece of design in "the new Berlin" - that part of the city, occupied by the Western Allies, which showcased new highways and Germany's first drive-in airport. As Tegel gears up to close in autumn 2020, we explore the importance of that airport to the identity of West Berlin.

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Changing trains

by hidden europe

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.

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Memorialising DH Lawrence

by hidden europe

Vence is a delightful small town in the hills behind the French Riviera, and it was here in Vence that DH Lawrence eventually succumbed in early March 1930 to tuberculosis.But where is he buried? Join us on a journey that takes us from Provence to New Mexico - with no definite conclusion.

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Beachy Head

by hidden europe

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.

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Inishmurray

by hidden europe

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

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From Norway to Silesia

by hidden europe

There are only about two dozen surviving Norwegian stave churches. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are in Norway. But curiously there's a fine example of a Norwegian stave church on the northern slopes of the Giant Mountains in south-west Poland. The church was purchased by the German Kaiser and transported from Vang in Norway to the Silesian hills in the early 1840s.

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Issue 61 of hidden europe magazine

by hidden europe

The experience of staying close to home during the Coronavirus pandemic prompted us to choose two key themes for this latest issue of hidden europe magazine: journeys and isolation. We kick off with a leisurely account of a wonderful Swiss rail journey and reflect on the future of night trains in Europe. We consider the loneliness of a remote village which for many years had only a single telephone and we touch on the isolation Marc Chagall must have felt as, one hundred years ago, he left his home town of Vitebsk for ever.

Magazine article

Untold Riches

by hidden europe

Jakob Fugger the Rich was indeed very rich. But his approach to business presciently anticipated many practices which are now commonplace. We look at the life of a man who challenged business cartels and had a canny appreciation of the importance of market intelligence.

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

Cape Verde Links

by hidden europe

Travelling around Luxembourg, one is ever aware of the influence of the Cape Verde islands. Conversely, in Cape Verde one notices the influence of Luxembourg. We explore the reciprocal relationship between the Grand Duchy and the island archipelago in the Atlantic.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 61

by hidden europe

Coronavirus seemed merely a distant threat as the last issue of hidden europe went to press on 28 February. We then spent the early part of March in Luxembourg and Switzerland, making tracks for Berlin just as much of Europe shut down due to Coronavirus. Life suddenly became quieter. We all had time to think.

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The humble onion

by hidden europe

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.

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Monkeys, Men and John Murray

by hidden europe

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.

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A Four-Hour Train Journey for one Euro

by hidden europe

Over the years we’ve tracked down many great-value international rail fares. We once wrote about the City Star tariff which offered extraordinarily cheap fares from Slovakia to Russia. But there is one cross-border fare in western Europe that even beats that. Have a guess where that might be.

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Chagall Centenary

by hidden europe

Vitebsk is a provincial city. St Petersburg is about 500 km away to the north. Moscow, just slighter closer, is due east of Vitebsk. It lies today in the territory of the Republic of Belarus. In the run up to and after the Russian Revolution, Vitebsk developed into a bold hub of artistic energy and innovation – in good part due to the influence of Marc Chagall.

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Just South of Bratislava

by hidden europe

The tripoint where Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria converged was for years a no-go area. These days, you can enjoy a cross-border picnic at the very spot where the frontiers of Austria, Slovakia and Hungary meet. It’s across the fields to the east of Deutsch Jahrndorf in an area of Austria with a long-standing Croatian minority.

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Travels with Saint Paul

by hidden europe

Even if you don’t have a thread of religious fibre in your body, try reading the Acts of the Apostles, and see what you make of it as a travel narrative. You may want to have a good atlas of the ancient world to hand as you follow Paul on his meandering itinerary through Lystra and Phrygia to Mysia and beyond.

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By the Euganean Hills

by hidden europe

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

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A Taste of Heaven

by hidden europe

Christianity is not especially sweet-toothed, though the Old Testament psalms do drip generously with honey. Shift to the New Testament and there are loaves, fishes, but not much by way of dessert. Yet by the 16th century, convents in Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula were very much into the business of producing sweets for sale to those living beyond the convent walls.

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Voice of a Nation

by hidden europe

Across hundreds of French railway stations, millions of travellers every day would in normal times encounter Simone Hérault, for hers is the disembodied voice which proclaims the imminent departure of the TGV to Aix-les-Bains or the regional train to Annecy.

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Turboprops at Britain's busiest airport

by hidden europe

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.

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In Jung's Footsteps

by hidden europe

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

Note

A Tribute to Tim Robinson

by hidden europe

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

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New and Different Eyes

by hidden europe

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

Note

The Power of Pots and Pans

by hidden europe

Last night the government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti was forced to resign, making it the first government in Europe to be toppled by Coronavirus - aided by saucepans. The protest of the angry citizens of Kosovo was expressed by the noisy clamour of pots and pans banged on balconies. We take a look at how kitchenware has been deployed to deter locusts and topple governments.

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Anxious Days

by hidden europe

You are most likely, as we are, staying close to home. We have time to ponder. And that itself can be a very positive thing. Rest assured that we'll continue to reflect European lives and landscapes with our regular Letter from Europe, ever aware that in times of social distancing and self-imposed isolation it is often good to get a glimpse of life elsewhere.

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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.

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Border-hopping Rail Tariffs

by hidden europe

We delve into the high theology of rail fares, noting the phenomenon of the extra-territorial tariff point. So Aachen in Germany features in the Belgian domestic tariff, and Schaffhausen in Switzerland is a German tariff point (as well as being a Swiss one). Enjoy.

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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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Editorial hidden europe 60

by hidden europe

We are writing this editorial in Luxembourg, a diminutive Grand Duchy where there is seemingly limitless choice. Three other countries are within a half-hour drive of the capital and thanks to the splendid Schengen Agreement there is absolute freedom of mobility across those borders. Luxembourg gets a mention in the pages that follow, of course, but we also invite you to join us as we visit Scotland, Malta, Austria, Ukraine and Lithuania.

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Island Summit

by hidden europe

In October 2003, there was an unlikely standoff between Russia and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait. The status of Tuzla Island had been the subject of discussions between the presidents of the two countries just five weeks earlier.

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Legacy Railcards

by hidden europe

So you thought the idea of a discount railcard was something new? Think again - the Swiss Halbtax card was introduced in the 19th century.

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All Change in Luxembourg

by hidden europe

There is much ado in Luxembourg - a country which is getting some good press these days as it gears up to introduce free public transport. We shall be in Luxembourg next week to witness the introduction of free public transport on 1 March. And we shall follow with interest this great national experiment.

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Visa changes: Russia and Belarus

by hidden europe

As the United Kingdom tightens its entrance requirements, the progressive relaxation of visa regimes elsewhere in Europe is of course very welcome. In this Letter from Europe, we look at changes in visa regulations relating to Russia and Belarus.

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Storm Brendan

by hidden europe

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

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Scottish Island Flights

by hidden europe

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

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Unfinished business

by hidden europe
In a field near the village of Urbès in eastern France, a stretch of graceful railway viaduct stands alone in a valley. It has never been connected to any railway line. It's a poignant reminder of what might have been.
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Mapping America

by hidden europe
How did America get its name? Amerigo Vespucci, of course. But the Florentine merchant never himself suggested that the continent be named after him. It's all down to a cartographer in the Vosges.
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Editorial hidden europe 59

by hidden europe
The shaping of history and the stories which are told about a region’s past are endlessly fascinating and that’s a running theme in this issue of hidden europe. We look at examples from Alsace and Spain and also look at how guidebooks helped, in the months after the end of the Great War in 1918, to shape emerging narratives of that conflict.
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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.
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Sixty Years of Eurail

by hidden europe
2019 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of the Eurail pass. Rail Europe Inc sold the first passes in North America in 1959. We look at how Eurail helped shape perceptions of Europe for overseas visitors and see how the Eurail scheme helped catalyse Europe's Interrail scheme.
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Agrarian Reform in Spain: The Broader Picture

by hidden europe

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

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Lyria Ruffles Swiss Feathers

by hidden europe

The Franco-Swiss rail operator Lyria runs fast trains between Paris and a number of Swiss cities. It also offers the last remaining year-round direct train from Switzerland to the south of France - which is about to be axed. We take a look at Lyria's December 2019 timetable changes and review how the company's network has changed through time.

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A Tale of Two Lakes

by hidden europe

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

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Crossing the Water

by hidden europe

There are three places in Europe where passenger trains are still regularly conveyed on ferries. One of them is the Scandlines ferry that carries the regular daytime Eurocity trains from Hamburg to Copenhagen. But the days of that rail-ferry link are numbered.

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Editorial hidden europe 58

by hidden europe

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

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To the Urals and the Russian Riviera

by hidden europe
Direct trains from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to such far flung destinations as Sochi and Adler (both on the Russia's Back Sea Riviera) and to Anapa and Chelyabinsk recall the days of Soviet travel. We scan the departure boards for a few exotica.
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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.
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Butter Trips

by hidden europe
There once was a time when passengers would smuggle butter on trains running from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. And more recently in Germany, budget-conscious shoppers would go one a boat trip to buy cheap butter. We take a look at the duty-free trade on ferries in European waters.
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Shared High Points

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

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

by hidden europe

Sopron is one of those places with a sense of being in the heart of Europe. One hundred years ago, this small town in western Hungary was much in the news. Few places were so shaken by the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It's a thought we contemplate during our journey by train from Berlin to Sopron.

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The Japanese Garden

by hidden europe

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

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Unfolding Connemara

by hidden europe

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

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The German Manchester

by hidden europe

This week we travelled slowly through Lusatia, exploring communities once sustained by extensive vineyards and a thriving textile industry. The modestly sized town of Forst on the west bank of the River Neisse once styled itself as the German Manchester because of its many textile mills.

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New issue: hidden europe 57

by hidden europe

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.

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Summit-level-Canals

by hidden europe
Canals which breach great drainage divides are always interesting. There's one, opened in 1992, which links the River Danube with the River Main, the latter a tributary of the Rhine. So today it's possible to travel on a ship through the very heart of Europe from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
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In Search of the Old Believers Today

by hidden europe
The Old Believers fled from the tsarist heartland into the remotest corners of the Russian Empire. Some went to Manchuria, moving on to South America and then to Oregon and Alaska. Others found refuge back in Moscow, practising their faith in the city's cemeteries. We go in search of the Old Believers.
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Plain Sailing

by hidden europe
With new routes from Toulon to Menorca and Sicily, there's much ado in the Mediterranean ferry scene this summer. Further north, there are new year-round services between Germany and a Danish island in the Baltic and good news for foot passengers taking the boat from France to Ireland.
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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.
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Editorial hidden europe 57

by hidden europe

Our abiding interest in hidden europe is in places and landscapes, and in the manner in which they shape the human experience. And issue no. 57 brings a hefty dose of these themes. Enjoy the read!

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On the Canal

by hidden europe

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.

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The City of Music

by hidden europe

Even at this time of the year there is a lush richness in the citrus groves and chestnut woods which tumble down to the sea. We make our way through cypresses and limes towards the Villa Rufolo, the gardens of which inspired Richard Wagner.

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Letter from India

by hidden europe

We were and still are Indian novices. The subcontinent pivots around a different Heaven from Europe. So we were a little nervous when we recently visited the country. Wouldn't you be? And we were rarely in the right place at the right time. Enjoy our regular travel 'letter' which most unusually comes not from Europe but from southern India.

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When Empires Crumbled

by hidden europe

The dignified commemorations marking one hundred years since the end of the First World War masked the details of what actually happened in November 1918. The aftermath of the Great War was a messy business, with conflict continuing in some areas for some years after the armistice.

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Boundary Lakes

by hidden europe
A whistle-stop tour of some of Europe's trans-boundary water bodies, from Lake Peipus to Lake Prespa and beyond.
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Central Europe by Night

by hidden europe
New rail timetables kick in across Europe on 9 December 2018. There are new direct daytime links from Bratislava to Innsbruck and Zürich, and from the Austria city of Linz to both Halle and Berlin. But the showpiece innovation is a new direct night train from Berlin to Vienna.
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Russians in Bohemia

by hidden europe
Where would the spa towns of Bohemia be without the patronage from the great and good? The Romanov family's enthusiasm for taking the water has encouraged generations of Russians to visit the region.
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Bohemian Waters

by hidden europe
Here's a hidden europe briefing for first-time visitors to the Czech spa towns. Often referred to as the spa triangle, north-west Bohemia actually has more than just three spa towns.
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Editorial hidden europe 56

by hidden europe
It is de rigueur these days to keep oneself busy when travelling. Where once travellers would just enjoy being in a place, it’s now almost essential to have an experience. It is with this fad for hyperactivity in mind that we dedicate this issue of hidden europe to the gentle art of doing nothing.
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Dzukija National Park

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

by hidden europe
Discover a special rail tariff which offers cheap deals for travels from Slovakia to destinations in the Alps, eastern Europe and the Balkans.
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The Curonian Spit

by hidden europe

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

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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.
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Editorial hidden europe 55

by hidden europe
We take time out in hidden europe 55 to sample Switzerland’s excellent white wines made from the Chasselas grape, visit the Ukrainian city of Lviv and the Abkhaz-Georgian borderlands and explore the art of falconry in Lower Austria. We also take a walk along the Thames to savour local history and suggest that we should rediscover the rivers which have been redirected into subterranean culverts beneath the streets of European cities.
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In from the Cold

by hidden europe
The thrills and spills of top-class soccer are just part of the appeal of the FIFA World Cup. Sport aside, it's been a chance for visitors to feel the warmth of Russian hospitality. An amiable wolf called Zabivaka has been doing his bit to make visitors feel welcome.
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Lake Geneva By Boat

by hidden europe
From the Bodensee in the north to Lago Maggiore in the south, Swiss lakes are blessed with a wide range of scheduled boat services. We take a look at services which ply the waters of Lake Geneva, serving over two dozen ports across the lake.
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Lviv Rail Links

by hidden europe
News that a new night train, aimed largely at travellers from Ukraine, will link Przemyśl with Berlin from later this year is a sure sign that Ukrainians are making the most of visa-free access to the Schengen group of nations. The new demand for cross-border trains means that rail links to Lviv from the EU have greatly improved over the past year.
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Reading Matters

by hidden europe
Russian Railways (RZD) have launched their Library for Young Travellers programme with a selection of books for kids on trains to holiday destinations across Russia. Hop aboard for fairy tales, classic novels and a wide choice of poetry by Russian and international writers.
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A Georgian Vichy

by hidden europe

The Iranian consul's residence and the Romanov's Likani Palace are just two of many extraordinary buildings which attest to the one-time importance of Borjomi, a Georgian spa town best known for its mineral water. It's a town with a complex history which includes Romanov, Soviet and Georgian strands.

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Cully by Lake Geneva

by hidden europe

Travelling east on the steamer from Ouchy , we are struck by how vines dominate the shoreline of Lake Geneva. At Cully we hop ashore to explore this small town in Switzerland's Lavaux region. It is the area from which Switzerland's acclaimed Chasselas wines originate.

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Tracking through Berlin

by hidden europe

This year marks the 180th anniversary of the opening of the first railway in Prussia. This was the line from Berlin to Potsdam. So we joined fellow Berliners on a 1950s-vintage railcar that went from Lichterfelde West to Gesundbrunnen station.

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Paris in the springtime

by hidden europe

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. He was born in the town of Trier in the Moselle Valley, a place which these days seems so sedate as to be entirely devoid of revolutionary potential. But Marx had sensitive political antennae and, as a young journalist, he wrote about the terrible conditions endured by vineyard workers in the Moselle region.

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By the shores of Loch Fyne

by hidden europe

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.

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Editorial hidden europe 54

by hidden europe
In hidden europe 54 we feature a long-distance hiking trail in the Balkans, visit chess-mad Yerevan and spend a night in a castle in Austria's Burgenland region. We explore the art of salt harvesting in Lanzarote and combine our passion for wine and rail travel by reviewing some of the finest train trips through Europe's premier vine-growing regions. All this and much more besides.
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The Spinetta Report

by hidden europe
In the future it may not be so easy to take the slow train from Sospel to Tende. Or from Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes. Jean-Cyril Spinetta's February 2018 report to President Macron is not good news for regional rail routes in France. It may be overdoing it to call Spinetta the French Beeching - but the fallout from the report is worth watching.
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Off-track

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

by hidden europe
To walk in solitude in the company of stars is indeed something special. It's a chance to attend to the beauty of the heavens. In the Austrian village of Großmugl, the 1500-metre long Sternenweg is a gift to stargazers.
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A tangle of detail on the rails

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Winter games on a soft border

by hidden europe

Winter skating on the River Doubs, which marks the frontier between France and Switzerland, is a common seasonal pastime in the Jura region. As Switzerland and France are both party to the Schengen Agreement, this is a classic "soft" border, one which people can freely move across without let or hindrance.

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Votes for women

by hidden europe

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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The politics of memorials

by hidden europe

In Russia, as more widely, the question of who is honoured in statues and memorials is deeply political. So too is the question of when the first memorial is erected and how long it remains. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the feared Soviet secret police, is a good example. But what of Ivan the Terrible and Vladimir the Great?

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Barra connections

by hidden europe

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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Keeping loyal to Samnaun

by hidden europe

We had assumed that the practice of diligently recording and publishing the name of visitors had long since died out until last summer we visited Samnaun. This really is one of Europe's most oddball communities. It is tucked away in the hills on the north side of the Inn Valley in Switzerland's Lower Engadine region.

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A time for birds

by hidden europe

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

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High days, holy days and Christmas gifts

by hidden europe

In a rare commercial plug for our products, we have some handsome Christmas gift ideas. For just 48 hours from the time stamp of this newsletter, we are selling signed copies of our Europe by Rail book, the fifteenth edition of which was published late last month.

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Boat-shaped Graves

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

by hidden europe
A number of fishing stations around the coasts of the Baltic islands of Fårö and Gotland recall the heyday of the herring trade, when farmers would become fishermen for a few weeks.
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Editorial hidden europe 53

by hidden europe
Globalisation is easy to understand. The sharing economy is less so. What at one moment seems to be altruism shades quickly into greed. Connecting “I want” with “I have” seems like a smart idea, but it raises tensions. Uber tussles with the taxi lobby. But often the demarcation lines are more complicated.
Magazine article

Bradt Guide to Serbia

by hidden europe
Laurence Mitchell has written a number of Bradt Guides, including titles on Norfolk (where he lives), central Asia and the Balkan region. We have been thumbing through Laurence's latest Bradt book, the 5th edition of his 'Bradt Guide to Serbia', which was published in September 2017.
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Gorgona prison island

by hidden europe

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

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The slow demise of Air Berlin

by hidden europe

This evening, as the prosecco glasses clink and the water salutes cascade, anyone might be forgiven for thinking that Air Berlin had just notched up some great commercial success. What is in fact being marked is the demise of an airline with flight AB6210 from Munich to Berlin being Air Berlin's very last scheduled flight.

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One shot from the Aurora

by hidden europe

100 years ago, on the evening of 25 October 1917 (in the Russian calendar), a single blank shell was fired from the Russian cruiser Aurora. It gave the signal for the Bolsheviks to storm the Winter Palace. Was that single blank shot from the Aurora perhaps the most famous gunshot in European history?

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Railways and World Heritage

by hidden europe

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.

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Swedes in Ukraine

by hidden europe

The Gotland village of Roma has become the cradle of memory for Sweden's historic link with the Black Sea region. The village of Gammalsvenskby in Ukraine was established by migrants from Sweden. The links betweeen Gammalsvenskby and Gotland are very much alive today.

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The darker side of verse

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

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Everything but the Lorelei

by hidden europe

The various hill areas of central Germany, stretching from Bohemia to the River Rhine and beyond, have helped define the landscapes of the region. And last week I took time out to explore some parts of this hill country, wandering from the Thüringer Wald down to the Odenwald and Spessart.

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Rail Travel News

by hidden europe
Two new high speed rail routes in France, extra trains through the Alps and new services to Ukraine are the headline stories in the summer 2017 rail timetables. We review what's new and what's gone.
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Lutherstadt Torgau

by hidden europe
The renaming of towns to honour an individual is commonplace. Nizhny Novgorod became Gorky, in honour of the Russian writer Maxim Gorki who was born there. The town later switched back to its original name. In eastern Germany, towns have been prefixed in honour of a notable citizen. We have Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Why not Lutherstadt Torgau?
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Editorial hidden europe 52

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

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

by hidden europe
The legacy of Leonid Markelov, who in April this year stood down from the position of President of the Mari El Republic, lies in the oddball architecture of the republic's capital city of Yoshkar Ola.
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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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Paris sideshows in June 1867

by hidden europe

There was much ado in Paris 150 years ago this month. The 'Exposition universelle de 1867' had opened at the Champs de Mars in April and had secured very positive press reviews both in France and more widely across Europe. It also drew a big crowd of visitors to the French capital.

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Through Romanian eyes

by hidden europe

The Romanian aristocrat, traveller and writer Dinicu Golescu deserves to be better known outside his home region, for he rates as one of the finest travel writers of the early 19th century. His 1826 book 'Account of My Travels' is an important piece in the canon of Balkan travel writing as an account of an early Romanian encounter with the west.

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Frank Lloyd Wright in Europe

by hidden europe

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright. He is often regarded as a quintessentially American architect, a man who perhaps was never really comfortable in Europe. But the great advocate of Prairie Style has a legacy in Europe, where many architects were profoundly influenced by Wright's work.

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Lidice shall live!

by hidden europe

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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The bus biz in Berlin

by hidden europe

Berlin's central bus station opened in 1966. Tucked away on the edge of Berlin's trade-fair grounds it is one of the German capital's unsung spaces. Yet the no-frills terminus is still going strong and has seen an increase in services in recent years.

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Willow-herb, meadowsweet and steam

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

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Notes from a Hebridean island

by hidden europe

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

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Exploring the dyke

by hidden europe

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

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Hints of the East in Frantiskovy Lázne

by hidden europe

Relaxation is compulsory in Frantiskovy Lázne, a small spa town in the far north-west corner of the Czech Republic. There are two outstanding churches, one a very fine Catholic church executed in graceful Empire style and the other a rather uplifting Orthodox church dedicated to St Olga. That second church is a reminder that the Czech spa tradition has always thrived on links with the east.

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Thoughts for the 8th of March

by hidden europe

Today is International Women's Day (IWD). In the ecclesiastical calendar, Rome assigns 8 March to St John of God, who died on this day in 1550. He was, as it happens, a thoroughly decent guy who in the latter years of his life worked in Granada (Spain) as a printer, publisher and bookseller.

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Editorial hidden europe 51

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 51, published in March 2017, with articles on Jewish Warsaw, filigree crafting in Kosovo, calvaries in Brittany, Butrint in Albania and much more.

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Out of the Shadows

by hidden europe
Władysław Szpilman’s remarkable book The Pianist (made into a film by Roman Polanski) reveals the devastation of Jewish life in Warsaw in 1945. To accompany our feature on Jewish Warsaw we look at the city's Jewish community in the immeditate post-war years.
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Taking the Tram

by hidden europe
With the success of the Schengen region, local transport links are being extended over international borders. In the coming months, new international tram routes from France to both Germany and Switzerland are due to open.
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Tale of a Tupolev

by hidden europe
Shoppers in the Czech border village of Petrovice are inclined to board a Tupolev 104 airplane when they want a coffee or a snack. Find out why this 60-year-old jet aircraft is a good spot to relax.
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City without Jews

by hidden europe

Speculative fiction can sometimes turn out to be eclipsed by real-life events. In Hugo Bettauer's 1922 novel, Die Stadt ohne Juden, fictitious Austrian Chancellor Karl Schwertfeger signs an executive order decreeing that all Jews must leave Austria by the end of the year.

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Tales from the East

by hidden europe

With mention of fairy tales and film, thoughts often turn to Disney. The cinematic adaptation of fairy tales is often judged in the west to be a peculiarly American prerogative. But central and eastern Europe have a very fine tradition of progressive cinema and a vast store of fairy tales upon which to draw.

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Funding regional air services

by hidden europe

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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Cashing in on Casanova

by hidden europe

Were it not for a librarian, we would surely never have ventured to Duchcov. We have always held librarians, and indeed libraries, in high regard. We're of one mind with Dervla Murphy who once described Heaven as an infinite library and Eternity as a blissful opportunity to read forever.

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From Burton to Berlin

by hidden europe

Berlin is not normally a place for liturgical theatre, at least not of the Catholic variety. But St Afra is a place apart. And the musical flourishes in this service are remarkable for their provenance. One of the great English organs of the Victorian era does daily service in Berlin.

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Saarland, January 1957

by hidden europe

We walk down the lane between two villages. Each takes its name from the River Gailbach. The higher community is Obergailbach. It's a wee slip of a place. Just a couple of kilometres down the valley lies Niedergailbach which is rather larger. This is a part of Europe where international borders have faded.

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Short hops by plane

by hidden europe

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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Montreux connections

by hidden europe

If you've eaten too much over the holidays and fancy some exercise, why not join us on a walk around Lake Geneva. Let's focus on the Montreux Riviera, which sweeps softly around the north-east part of the lake. It is densely settled with communities like Vevey, Clarens and Montreux all nudging up against one another.

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150 years after Agar Town

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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The Prisoner of Chillon

by hidden europe

200 years ago, on 5 December 1816, the Scottish publisher John Murray published The Prisoner of Chillon, a poem in the romantic idiom by Lord Byron. It was inspired by a visit which Byron and Shelley had together made to the Château de Chillon that same year.

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Buying a Scottish island

by hidden europe

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

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The Maastricht factor

by hidden europe

Do you not find that some towns have instant appeal? That's how we feel about Maastricht, a medium-size city tucked away in the southernmost part of the Netherlands - a region called Limburg. It's forty years since the last of the Limburg coal mines ceased production, after a long period of decline.

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More than just a place on a map

by hidden europe

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

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Issue 50 of hidden europe magazine

by hidden europe

Today is special. On account of an anniversary. Today sees the publication of issue 50 of hidden europe magazine. For a niche travel magazine which appears just thrice annually, hidden europe has punched far above its weight, often covering travel stories overlooked by mainstream media.

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Stumbling through history

by hidden europe

As I walked deeper into the complex, surrounded on all sides by the chunky columns, I heard the animated chatter of two kids from time to time - two young English voices in a forest of memories in the very middle of Berlin. I met some Spanish children playing hide-and-seek. Soon I was alone, quite alone, in the dark heart of the memorial.

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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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Editorial hidden europe 50

by hidden europe

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

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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.
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New CalMac Contract

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

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

by hidden europe
A chance to visit Belarus without a visa, and a tweak to the visa regulations in the Russian port of Murmansk are just two of the latest changes to visa regimes in Europe.
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Socialist Architecture in Yugoslavia

by hidden europe
In Tito's Yugoslavia, architects offered an ideological space between East and West - aligned neither to Soviet-style communism nor to the capitalist tradition. The result was some assertively different architecture, not all of it memorably beautiful.
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News from Haidemühl

by hidden europe
The Czech energy group EPH has taken over the lignite mining operations in eastern Germany previously managed by Swedish company Vattenfall. What does this mean for the village of Haidemühl, now abandoned for almost a decade, which sits in a area designated for opencast mining?
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Election thoughts

by hidden europe

We watched the run-up, the live TV debates and the tough exchanges veering at times towards acrimony. We've followed the arguments on national security, foreign policy and the question of who has the personal authority and good judgement to lead the country. But, as Bulgaria goes to the polls today, it's still an open book as to which of the candidates will accede to the presidency.

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Home truths

by hidden europe

Many municipal authorities around Europe are very tolerant of the improvised structures which popped up over the last ten days here and there around towns and cities. Those in the know realised at once that it was time for Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles which starts on the fifteenth day of Tishrei.

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Walking with friends

by hidden europe

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

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Visiting Vatersay

by hidden europe

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

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Escape to Hinksey

by hidden europe

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.

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Art Nouveau in Subotica

by hidden europe

Within minutes of arriving in Subotica last week, we knew this was somewhere special. The town, which is close to the Hungarian frontier in northern Serbia, has a remarkable feast of art nouveau architecture and design. Indeed, no other European town of its size can boast quite the same range of art nouveau design.

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The Colour of Odessa

by hidden europe

Few European cities are so enshrined in myth, fable, stories and song as Odessa. And that's why we judged Odessa a fabulous choice for our lead feature in the new issue of hidden europe. This is an immensely likeable city, one which we visited for the very first time this spring but a place to which we shall surely return.

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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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Hollandries: Dredging and Draining

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

by hidden europe
On a lake to the east of Berlin is Europe's sole surviving example of a ferry which relies on an overhead cable to pick up electricity. The Straussee ferry is an unusual transport oddity.
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Recalling Tito

by hidden europe
From Skopje to Moscow, from Sarajevo to New Delhi, the names of roads and squares recall Josep Broz Tito, who was President of Yugoslavia from 1953 until his death in 1980. But what happened to all the Tito towns in former Yugoslavia? Titograd became Podgorica. And the others?
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Bosna-gauge Railways

by hidden europe
Had the Balkan region narrow-gauge rail network survived, it would surely today be a cherished asset in promoting tourism over a wide region - in much the same way as the narrow-gauge Rhaetian Railway network has been important in attracting visitors to the Graubünden region of eastern Switzerland.
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Bouvet Island

by hidden europe
Bouvet Island, at the southern end of the mid-Atlantic ridge, is 1,800 kilometres away from the nearest landmass (Antarctica) and is thus one of the remotest places on earth. The normal jumping off point for expeditions to this fragment of Norwegian territory is Cape Town.
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The Beauty of the Square

by hidden europe

Kings come and kings go, and even freedom goes in and out of fashion. But the appeal of the town square endures, because ultimately these are spaces that belong to the people. The square in Ceské Budejovice is no exception to that rule. Welcome to southern Bohemia.

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After the referendum

by hidden europe

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.

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On Pushkin and locusts

by hidden europe

They storm in, straight out of the Book of Revelation, and lay waste to the earth. Locusts! They do not make pleasant neighbours. Europe has been largely free of locusts in recent years – but not entirely.

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Travelling with Byron and Turner

by hidden europe

In these days of slick PR, tourist boards and tour operators are keen to enlist the help of 'travel influencers' to promote particular destinations. Baedeker and Murray were of course among the most respected travel influencers of yesteryear, but so too were poets and artists, among them Lord Byron and JMW Turner.

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Prayer and trade in Gammelstad

by hidden europe

Gammelstad is the best surviving example in northern Scandinavia of a church town. An 1854 Lapland guide gave a marvellous account of these church towns, explaining how they were improvised trading settlements which developed around parish churches.

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Deep in the Borinage

by hidden europe

The Borinage lies on the coalfields of southern Belgium, which extend over the frontier into adjacent areas of France. Vincent van Gogh's stay in this impoverished area of southern Belgium is a chapter in the artist's life which has largely slipped below the horizon. At the time he alighted from a train at Pâturages railway station he had not yet made art his profession, but was about to begin his ministry as a pastor in the coal-mining villages of the region.

Note

In honour of Doreen Massey 1944-2016

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Ilya Repin and the Cossacks

by hidden europe

A picture, so they say, is worth a thousand words, and perhaps the most famous letter in art is that which the Cossacks allegedly sent to the Turkish Sultan in 1676. If you like the work of Ilya Repin, then you'll probably share our enthusiasm for the Russian artist's gutsy painting recalling the event.

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Kosovo travel notes

by hidden europe

It's perfectly sensible to travel from Budapest to Thessaloniki through Kosovo. But it's unwise to attempt the journey in the reverse direction. Find out why in our notes on travelling through Kosovo.

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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.

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Mystical France

by hidden europe

Scottish publisher Findhorn has always had an eye on the offbeat and alternative. Many travellers place great stock on their Camino pilgrimage guides. Now Findhorn has launched a new guide to France. We dip into the pages of Mystical France.

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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.

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Editorial hidden europe 48

by hidden europe
Welcome to the 48th issue of hidden europe magazine. In this issue we visit the Belgian book town of Redu, explore the chapels of Finistère and Dungeness Foreland, and move underground to discover Malta's military history. All that and much more besides.
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Hay fever: the story of European book towns

by hidden europe

What do Wünsdorf-Waldstadt in eastern Germany, Bellprat in Catalonia and Hay-on-Wye in Wales all have in common? They all style themselves as 'book towns'. Across Europe and beyond, small towns are discovering the appeal of 'the Hay model' as they jump on the bandwagon set rolling by Richard Booth in Hay-on-Wye.

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Cabrera, a tainted paradise

by hidden europe

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

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The Scottish Slow Travel Challenge

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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A Kosovo tale

by hidden europe

There's a touch of the wild west about Ferizaj. It has a frontier feel. When the English traveller Edith Durham travelled through Kosovo in 1908, she stopped just briefly in Ferizaj, remarking that this was a community created by the railway.

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A glass of pastis

by hidden europe

It's hard to say no to pastis. Especially on the island of Bendor, off the south coast of France, where pastis is the preferred drink at almost any time of day. If you are really bold, you can get away with ordering a glass of the local Bandol rosé, but a call for pastis always curries favour.

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The art of flying

by hidden europe

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

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Exploring Alfàbia

by hidden europe

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

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Selborne, naturally

by hidden europe

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.

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New train services for 2016

by hidden europe

New railway timetables kick in across much of Europe on Sunday 13 December - so here's a summary of interesting changes which we've noted in the new schedules. They include a useful new direct link from Moscow to Sofia - a journey which connects seven capital cities.

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The inner-German border at Schnackenburg

by hidden europe

The village of Schnackenburg is on the south side of the Elbe right on the erstwhile border between East and West Germany. It is a place which has lived by borders and died by borders. It is an interesting case of a community which lost out in German unification.

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A new issue of the magazine: hidden europe 47

by hidden europe

hidden europe 47 is published today. It costs just 8 euros, and for that you'll get some of the finest travel writing around. If you like our regular Letter from Europe, why not support our work by taking out a sub to the print magazine? Find out more about the contents of this latest issue of hidden europe.

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Editorial hidden europe 47

by hidden europe

Welcome to the 47th issue of hidden europe magazine. In this issue we visit Geneva, explore villages in Transylvania, take the train from Zagreb to Sarajevo and take a look at the Berlin suburb of Marienfelde. All that and much more besides.

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Pleasure or pain

by hidden europe

The notion of privation as conductive to more virtuous travel seems alien to the modern mind. Today's travellers search for five-star luxury and often look for a higher level of food, lodging and service that they experience at home. Travel has become a way of exerting economic power and negotiating privilege. But it was not always thus.

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Mennonite migrants

by hidden europe

Over 100,000 migrants left Kyrgyzstan in the 1990s, a good number moving to Germany. Many of them were descended from Mennonites who over a century earlier had walked from the steppes of southern Russia to Kyrgyzstan.

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Keeping track

by hidden europe

It is that time of year when Europe prepares to introduce new train timetables. The 2016 schedules come into effect on Sunday 13 December 2015. As usual, there are winners and losers. We look at some new services.

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Ukrainian-Russian links

by hidden europe

The tit-for-tat posturing between Ukraine and Russia benefits no-one trying to travel to and from Crimea - or for that matter anywhere in the border regions between the two countries. In late October 2015, air links between Russia and Ukraine were severed.

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Encounter at Hendaye

by hidden europe

75 years ago this week, Hitler was on the move. Within just a few days, the Führer's train was in north-west France, in the Basque region and in Tuscany. But this was no holiday. On 23 October 1940, Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye. It was the only face-to-face meeting of the two leaders.

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Remember Tryweryn

by hidden europe

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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Jurmala, a victim of circumstance

by hidden europe

Imagine a gorgeous sweep of white quartz sand backed by low dunes and pine forest. Add in several mineral water springs of therapeutic value and an endless supply of curative mud - and there you have Jurmala's prime assets. The Latvian coastal resort is not so very far from the capital Riga.

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No train to Poland

by hidden europe

The decision 170 years ago to build a great viaduct across the Neisse Valley was a visionary leap. Now that elegant structure needs a dose of 21st-century vision. Because what use is a graceful viaduct if it doesn't have any trains?

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100 years after Zimmerwald

by hidden europe

The Zimmerwald Conference was a defining moment in European socialist history. There were stand-offs between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks; there were long and heated debates about how class struggle might bring an end to the First World War. Delegates came from a dozen countries - among them were Lenin and Trotsky.

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Longyearbyen Airport, 40 years on

by hidden europe

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the official opening of the airport at Longyearbyen on 2 September 1975. It was an event which dramatically changed this polar outpost, making it far more accessible to the scientific community and adventurous travellers.

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Radical assets Geneva-style

by hidden europe

All who make their way to Geneva are struck by the sheer beauty of the city's setting. It is also a place that has always made space for radicals of all persuasions. Three hundred years after Calvin's death in 1564, the city emerged as a hotspot in the development of anarchist and socialist ideas which were to make waves across Europe.

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Life and death in Bar-le-Duc

by hidden europe

Stanislaw Leszczynski, or King Stanislaw, lost the throne of Poland (twice as it happens), but was compensated by being awarded territory in eastern France. Thus it was that in 1735 the town of Bar-le-Duc found itself welcoming a Polish king who for 30 years was suzerain of the Duchy of Bar - a little state which rather jealously guarded its independence.

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Bohemian therapy

by hidden europe

Eight times each day, even on Sundays, a train leaves the Czech town of Karlovy Vary for the 80-minute journey through the hills to Mariánské Lázne. Both communities are celebrated stops on the European spa circuit. They both flourished in Habsburg days and both are nowadays still well known by their erstwhile German names, respectively Karlsbad and Marienbad.

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Travel planning: choices... choices

by hidden europe

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.

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Islands and politics

by hidden europe

Cartographers, seafarers, poets and artists have long seen the appeal of offshore islands - and they are especially interesting when political allegiance and geography do not quite seem to agree. Perhaps the most striking political compromise with respect to offshore islands was the arrangement between the Japanese and the Dutch during the more than 200 years when Japan pursued its sakoku (closed country) policy.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 46

by hidden europe

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

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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'.

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A station in the shadows

by hidden europe

The Gare Saint-Lazare attracted the artists. Yet Paris Gare du Nord has a grittier atmosphere. This busiest of Paris' railway termini is ultimately a station in the shadows. And therein lies its enduring appeal.

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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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Elbe excursions

by hidden europe

A new ferry powered by liquefied natural gas will make its first journey from the island of Helgoland to the port of Hamburg this month. It'll be a rare chance to cruise in comfort up the River Elbe to the German port city.

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The Seven Sleepers

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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A children's republic in the Crimea

by hidden europe

This week marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Artek children's camp in the Crimea. Throughout post-Soviet Europe there are thousands of older people who look back with great affection to the summer holidays they enjoyed as children at Artek.

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The view from Ankerwycke

by hidden europe

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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Pentecost in the heart of Bavaria

by hidden europe

It rained last night on the hills above the Inn Valley in Bavaria. Lucky were those pilgrims who had the luxury of a bed in one of the many small inns and guest houses which are to be found along the route of Saint James. Nourished in body if not yet completely in soul, the small groups of pilgrims wander south towards Altötting, a small town in Bavaria which is less than a day's walk from the border with Austria.

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A Rhino called Ganda

by hidden europe

We revisit the story of Ganda, the rhinoceros made famous in Dürer's woodcut, and look at it in the context of Renaissance royal menageries.

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Liberland: Bring your wellies

by hidden europe

Have you applied for Liberland citizenship yet? Probably not. Though by all accounts lots of folk have been begging the Liberland government to give them passports.Liberland may yet turn out to be merely a publicity stunt, but President Jedlicka seems to take himself seriously.

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The Great Synagogue of Plzen

by hidden europe

You might expect the most striking building in Plzen to be a brewery. But there's more to Plzen than beer. In fact the most impressive building in the Czech city is the Great Synagogue on Plzen's main thoroughfare.

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The centre of the universe

by hidden europe

It was 50 years ago that Salvador Dalí completed his celebrated La Gare de Perpignan. It is a huge oil painting which now hangs in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It celebrates Perpignan as the very centre of the universe.

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A season of shadows

by hidden europe

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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The view from Berlin

by hidden europe

Our travels over the last fortnight have taken us from one end of Germany to the other. Yet strangely this is a country which neither of us really understands. One of us is a Berliner by birth, the other a Berliner by choice. The view from Berlin lends no advantage when its comes to reviewing the affairs of Germany.

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A grand tour of Europe

by hidden 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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Editorial hidden europe 45

by hidden europe

Welcome to the forty-fifth issue of hidden europe travel magazine. In this issue we reach out to the extremities of the Schengen area, roaming from the south of Italy to the north of Norway. We venture west to Brittany and east to Lithuania.

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Tall statements

by hidden europe

Faith has evidently replaced politics as the motivation for some of the world's tallest sculptures. In Europe, the largest such structure is the massive statue of Jesus Christ at Swiebodzin in western Poland.

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Remembering Anna

by hidden europe

Anna Walentynowicz died five years ago this spring in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of many in the Polish leadership. We recall the woman who was a welder, crane driver and political activist - a woman who quietly helped shape modern Poland.

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Remembering Taras Shevchenko

by hidden europe

Grab your coat and come with us. This walk we'll make together is important, and this week is the time to do it. Important because, if we want to understand Ukraine, then we need to know the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. And there's no better place to read Shevchenko than overlooking the River Dnieper just downstream from Kaniv.

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Loch Lubnaig

by hidden europe

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

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Letter from Europe: Ten years on

by hidden europe

Ten years ago this week we launched our e-newsletter. Letter from Europe was never intended to be more than a minor diversion. To paraphrase George Eliot in Middlemarch, "the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts."

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From MoMA to Luxembourg

by hidden europe

Clervaux has to endure being forever confused with the French town of Clairvaux. No surprise, perhaps, as the town in Luxembourg has a monastery just like its near-namesake in France. Yet the big draw in Clervaux is photography. And while Clairvaux marks the 900th anniversary of the foundation of its monastery, Clervaux also has an anniversary to celebrate in 2015.

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Food for thought - Expo 2015

by hidden europe

A van speeds by in the fast lane of the West Tangent ring road, bearing the inscription: 'Nutrire il pianeta, energia per la vita'. That is the Milan mantra for 2015. 'Feed the planet, energy for life'. For this year Milan hosts a Universal Exposition, an Expo, which will focus on themes of food, diet and sustainability.

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Recalling Marianne

by hidden europe

France has changed since our last Letter from Europe. The attacks in Paris which started on 7 January were assaults on an entire nation. For in France, more than elsewhere in Europe, the principles of liberty are more closely etched on the national consciousness.

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A Silesian story

by hidden europe

It was 274 years ago today that Frederick II of Prussia rode through the Schweidnitzer Gate in Breslau to claim the Silesian city for Prussia. It is a mark of Frederick's style that he was accompanied, as he ceremonially entered the city, not by cannons but by a number of packhorses carrying the royal tableware.

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Letter from Africa: Place matters

by hidden europe

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

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A Christmas journey

by hidden europe

The Magi set a trend by travelling in the dying wick of the year. This is the season when most folk just want to hunker down by the fire with friends and family. But it is actually a very fine time for exploring. One of the finest travel memoirs of the last century is Patrick Leigh Fermor's account of his journey on foot from Hook of Holland to the Marches of Hungary in the winter of 1933.

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The London Charabanc

by hidden europe

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

by hidden 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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From the Barents Sea to Gagauzia

by hidden europe

The ebb and flow of life in Brussels, London and Paris is well covered in mainstream media. We have instead opted for the road less travelled. hidden europe 44, which is published today, carries reports from offbeat and unsung communities right across Europe.

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The witches of Varanger

by hidden europe

The 17th-century witchcraft trials in Finnmark are recalled in a striking new memorial on the shores of the Barents Sea. hidden europe visited the memorial which is pictured on the front cover of this issue of hidden europe.

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Russia’s eternal winter

by hidden europe

They have fiddled with the clocks in Moscow. Not just in Moscow, but right across the Russian Federation. Russia has decided to move to perpetual winter – at least when it comes to time. For the clocks shall stay henceforth on winter time.

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The Talgo tale

by hidden europe

The story of the Talgo trains of Bosnia reveals a quite stunning waste of money. This is a country which invested in a new fleet of trains which are simply incompatible with its antiquated rail infrastructure.

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Martinmas

by hidden europe

Martinmas is a day for a fresh start, a chance to turn over a new leaf. A good day for an armistice. And a good day to kick off the Carnival season.

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The beauty of Berlin

by hidden europe

In the third and last of three pieces to mark the 25th anniversary of the dramatic events of November 1989 in Berlin, the editors of hidden europe reflect on the special qualities that mark their home city.

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Eastern senses

by hidden europe

With the approaching 25th anniversary of the East German government's decision to relax restrictions on its borders, you'll surely be hearing a lot about Berlin over the coming weeks. We have our own recollections of the German Democratic Republic, many of which focus on the prosaic details of everyday life.

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Edwardtide

by hidden europe

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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Vienna’s new railway station

by hidden europe

Shortly after ten o’clock this morning a priest stepped forward to the podium and blessed Vienna’s new railway station. There were speeches aplenty with the statutory votes of thanks to those who have presided over planning committees and management boards. And there was music too: ‘Mamma Mia’ filled the concourse.

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Wealden diary

by hidden europe

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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Glowing in the dark

by hidden europe

The main road drops down from the hump of the mountain in a series of sharp zigzags. Polished blue sky above, velvety green forests all around and the tacho ticking off the miles of grey tarmac below. We are on the south side on the ore-rich hills that separate eastern Germany from the Czech Republic.

Note

Hurtigruten: dinner on board

by hidden europe

Dinner menus on Hurtigruten boats reflects the local cuisine of the particular region through which you pass on that day of your journey. It’s a great way of exploring both the cultural as well as the culinary accents of the communities along the Norwegian coast.

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The Nansen trail

by hidden europe

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

Note

Hurtigruten ASA: business and brand

by hidden europe

Our focus in the notes on Hurtigruten on the hidden europe website is very much on the Norwegian coastal voyage. But that is just part of a wider portfolio of activities undertaken nowadays by Hurtigruten ASA, the company founded in 1912 to develop and manage the Norwegian coastal shipping route.

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Hurtigruten: the Norwegian coastal voyage

by hidden europe

To our mind, the Norwegian coastal voyage is one of Europe’s finest slow travel adventures.The Hurtigruten vessels which ply the Norwegian coast provide essential links to ports along the way. The pure simplicity of the timetable allows travellers to create their own itineraries, confident in the knowledge that another Hurtigruten ship will be along in 24 hours.

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Hurtigruten: frequently asked questions

by hidden europe

Readers of hidden europe often ask us about details of the Norwegian coastal voyage. On this page we have gathered together two dozen such questions with our answers. A lot of general information on Hurtigruten is available in brochures. Our focus here is more on the details of life on board.

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Divided Islands and all things Scottish

by hidden europe

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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Tales from Titovka

by hidden europe

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

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A new deal for Austrian lawyers

by hidden europe

Europe is full of trains with oddly inappropriate names. At least the Alhambra goes to Granada. Not so the Wawel, which nowadays does not run to Kraków at all but only to Wroclaw. Some of the most bizarre train names are actually found in Austria. 'Austria reads' is just one of them.

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The Aurora fades

by hidden europe

A couple of years ago we commented on the departure boards at the main railway station at Basel that they are "no longer bubbling with as much character as once they did." But Basel's SBB station in 2012 still had its moments, the best of which was the departure early each evening of the Aurora - the night train to Copenhagen. Now the Aurora looks set to fade from the timetables.

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Travelling with Shakespeare

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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.

Magazine article

One country, two entities

by hidden europe

Several European countries are split on ethnic lines. We see the dramas being out in Ukraine just now. Belgium is even more decisively split, but happily the results are not as fractious. Shift to Bosnia and Herzegovina and we see the great game of nationhood played out in a peculiarly schizophrenic way. We unpick the puzzle behind a country that has two "entities".

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Editorial hidden europe 43

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 43. “Do not rush on your journey,” implores Cavafy. That’s a lesson we have taken to heart in hidden europe. We skip the fast train and avoid main highways, instead favouring the slow train and meandering back lanes. It is a way of handling journeys, but it’s also a way of handling life. This issue of hidden europe reveals the fruits of lingering.

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Crimea notes

by hidden europe

The Ukrainian railway administration may still be advertising trains to Crimea, but not a lot of Ukrainians will be heading to the region for their summer holidays. Hoteliers in Crimea are having a lean season, but Moscow has plans to ensure that Crimean resorts are not completely empty in 2014.

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Escape from Carlsbad

by hidden europe

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

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Russian Orthodox churches on the Riviera

by hidden europe

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

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Gozo threads

by hidden europe

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

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Local heroes

by hidden europe

'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

by hidden europe

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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Much ado about the Ascension

by hidden europe

There was often much ado around San Marco on Ascension Day. At least if Canaletto's celebrated paintings of Venice on the Feast of the Ascension are to be believed. The particular ceremony that caught Canaletto's attention was the annual dedication of the Venetian Republic to the Adriatic.

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Yuri gets a ticket

by hidden europe

Yuri overstayed the limit. So he was given a ticket. Then the authorities ushered Yuri out of town. Now he's parked outside the airport terminal. How long he'll stay there is a matter for debate. Our guess is that, as long as Russians keep flying into town, Yuri will be allowed to stay outside the airport.

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Travelling via the Hook

by hidden europe

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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The Carpathian spirit

by hidden europe

From villages in the Ukrainian hills above Uzhhorod west through the Bieszczady Mountains to remote communities in south-east Poland, there is a Paschal theme this Sunday morning: "Christos voskrese," it runs in Church Slavonic. "Christ has risen." In the rural valleys on the south side of the Bieszczady Mountains, territory which is part of Slovakia, you might catch this Sunday's special greeting uttered in Rusyn.

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Sárospatak: a small town in Hungary

by hidden europe

Travelling through north-east Hungary earlier this month, we could so easily have missed Sárospatak. It was a drizzly Sunday afternoon and we turned off the main road merely on a whim. Sárospatak was to us little more than a name on a map. Of course we knew something of the Calvinist traditions of eastern Hungary - a part of the Habsburg realm where the ripples of the Reformation captured the local imagination.

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Music for 25 March

by hidden europe

March 1714 was a good month for Johann Sebastian Bach. On the second of the month, he was promoted to the plum job of Konzertmeister at the Weimar court. This was quite an achievement for a man who was only 28 years old. The terms of the new appointment required that each month Bach should present a new cantata in the Schlosskirche (Palace Church) at Weimar, and the first of those performances was scheduled for 25 March - 300 years ago today.

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Ship Talk: From the Kattegat to the Crimea

by hidden europe

Many travellers through Denmark this summer will be sorry to discover that the long-standing direct ferry from Kalundborg (on Sjælland) to Aarhus (on Jutland) has been axed. This is just one of many routes to disappear in the latest round of cuts to Europe's ferry networks. Meanwhile we have also been watching a Russian ferry operator who promotes a new Black Sea ferry route from Ukraine to Georgia.

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Editorial hidden europe 42

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 42. More than half a century after his death, Robert Schuman still makes good reading. His work in the early 1950s to create “a gathering of European nations” was rooted in ideals for a Europe that wanted to look to the future rather than the past. The ideals which Schuman valued were freedom, equality, solidarity and peace.

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A question of numbers

by hidden europe

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

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Dollars and cents

by hidden europe

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

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Rail timetable reborn

by hidden europe

The renaissance of the European Rail Timetable (ERT) is good news for rail travellers across the continent. The decision last year by Thomas Cook to scrap the title was a bitter blow. But, thanks to a new company set up by the team that compiled the timetable in Thomas Cook days, the ERT is back.

Magazine article

The idea of ‘good’ borders

by hidden europe

The Curzon Line, which for so long marked the approximate western border of the Soviet Union is named after Lord Curzon. His Lordship has strong ideas on borders, seeing them very much as zones of demarcation. But ideas have changed since Curzon's day. Across much of Europe, they have become invitations for communities on either side to collaborate.

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Springtime on Ærø

by hidden europe

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

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Sweet Cambria

by hidden europe

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

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Defending Mother Russia

by hidden europe

You might believe that a garage is merely a concrete shed where you park your car overnight. But think again! Alexey doesn't have a car but his corrugated-iron garage figures mightily in his lifeworld. It is his space, a secluded reserve away from the family where Alexey takes an hour out every evening. Today, on the holiday devoted to those who have defended Russia, the menfolk of the country expect a few extra privileges - even if they have never actually gone to war.

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Sounds of a city

by hidden europe

Think how voices help define a city. Speeches and songs have shaped the Weimar soundscape. And they have been more varied in tone than you might expect. To be sure, the foremost exponents of Weimar classicism all pitched into the Weimar conversation: Herder, Wieland, Goethe and Schiller. But there are also some less likely threads in the soundscape of the German town.

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Reclaiming Weimar

by hidden europe

Snow falls over all the city, covering the cobbles and the pathways. In the gentle stretch of parkland that lines the valley of the Ilm, snow drapes the follies and the ruins. In the middle of Weimar, statues of stern men are laced with light snow. A tricorne for Goethe, an icicle for Schiller.

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Into the desert

by hidden europe

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

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A polar travel centenary

by hidden europe

The Arctic has been much on our minds of late. Today we mark the centenary of an epic moment in polar travel. One hundred years ago today, the Karluk was wrecked in the Chukchi Sea. The ship set off from Vancouver Island in June 1913 on a voyage to explore and map the Canadian Arctic.

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The Chelyuskin epic

by hidden europe

As Russian families gather today to celebrate Christmas (which in Orthodox Europe falls later than in the Roman calendar), they will be inclined - like families everywhere in the world - to look back to Christmas tales from yesteryear. There is barely a Russian alive - of any age - who cannot recount a heroic tale or two about the bravery of the crew and passengers of the Chelyuskin, who 80 years ago endured an ice-bound Christmas in the Chukchi Sea.

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The storm

by hidden europe

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

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An Advent meditation

by hidden europe

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

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Farewell Madiba

by hidden europe

Rolihlahla was born in Mvezo, moving when he was still a young lad to another village called Qunu which is further north, a little closer to the town of Mthatha. Until he went to school, Rolihlahla wore only a blanket. But on the day before school started, Rolihlahla's father took a pair of his own trousers, cut them off at the knee and insisted that his son wear them to school. Clad in his outsized trousers next day at school, Rolihlahla met his teacher, Miss Mdingane, who insisted that, now the boy was old enough to be educated, he should have a new name.

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Hemingway in Hemmeres

by hidden europe

Folk in Hemmeres make the point that theirs was the first village east of the River Our in which the Americans set foot. The truth is that several patrols made forays over the river on the evening of 11 September 1944. And it was on the railway embankment that Ernest Hemingway stood to observe the American invasion of Germany in the closing months of the Second World War.

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Winter comes to Kroscienko

by hidden europe

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

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Africa: East to Tzaneen

by hidden europe

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

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The Orkneys and more

by hidden europe

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.

Magazine article

The airport question

by hidden europe

What new European airport welcomed its inaugural flight in April this year and has since closed its doors for a long winter break? The answer is Kassel in Germany, which gets the hidden europe wooden spoon for the biggest transport flop of the year.

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Editorial hidden europe 41

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 41, in which we sweep from Wales to Croatia, from southern Spain to eastern Germany. It is a Europe that is a wondrous place, a place with real and imagined territories.

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By train to Sóller

by hidden europe

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

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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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Making waves from Ribe

by hidden europe

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

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Hidden Devon

by hidden europe

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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From Berlin to Siberia

by hidden europe

We have long judged the Sibirjak to be the most outlandish train in Europe, running as it does from the German capital to Saratov and beyond. There was always the thought that we could hop on that train here in Berlin and travel across the continent, through the Ural Mountains, and on into Asia. Yet in December this year, the Sibirjak will be axed.

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Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone

by hidden europe

It was one hundred years ago this month that WB Yeats' poem September 1913 was published in a Dublin newspaper. The poem is more than merely a lament for Irish separatist and bold Fenian John O'Leary. It is a sharp critique of the trend in Ireland to more materialist and bourgeois values. This was a cry from the heart, a plea that Ireland might continue to make space for art and the imagination.

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Noli timere

by hidden europe

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

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A Frisian journey

by hidden europe

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

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The Out Skerries

by hidden europe

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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Sally Bowles did not live in Weimar

by hidden europe

Travelling through eastern Germany last week, we changed trains at Weimar. Does not the very name evoke all sorts of associations to fire the imagination? That edgy period when cultural horizons were redefined in a decade of divine decadence? But if you are looking to understand the Weimar years of 20th-century Germany, you'll search in vain in the Thuringian city for any hint of all that is associated with those years.

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A bridge too far

by hidden europe

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

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Falling apples

by hidden europe

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

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Delving into glacial history

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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The Îles Malouines

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 40

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 40, in which we sweep from Georgia to Sweden, from Istria to the French capital and explore Norway's Arctic ports, Britain's rarest bus and the pleasures of Berlin's Gleisdreieck station.

Magazine article

The Caucasus dimension

by hidden europe

Georgians have high hopes for the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Union - a six-month term that started this month. Georgia, like Lithuania, slipped out of the Soviet Union in 1991. The hopes in Tbilisi are that Lithania will open European doors for other ex-Soviet states.

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Hitting the buffers

by hidden europe

Does the European Rail Timetable, published by Thomas Cook since 1873, have a future with a new publisher? Plans are afoot for the relaunch of a book that has defined horizons for generations of travellers.

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Maltese connections

by hidden europe

Virtu Ferries have until recently enjoyed a monopoly in the market from Malta to Italy, but a new ferry route launched this summer brings some competition.

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Remembering Miss Jemima

by hidden europe

Cast back 150 years, and Bastille Day came and went without the average Parisian taking much notice. It was not till 1880 that 14 July acquired the status of a national holiday. Thus when Miss Jemima Morrell wandered the streets of Paris on 14 July 1863, it was a perfectly ordinary Tuesday. Jemima and her party of fellow travellers from England dutifully followed the Parisian itinerary that had been prepared for them by Mr Thomas Cook.

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Lastovo (Croatia)

by hidden europe

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

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Hercules in Lazio

by hidden europe

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

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After the flood

by hidden europe

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

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The North begins inside

by hidden europe

"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

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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The Russian Season in Paris

by hidden europe

No-one goes to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées (on the right bank) looking for revolution. But cast back one hundred years this month and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was the venue for some radical departures from choreographic convention. It is an extraordinary building, one that in its style presciently anticipates what later came to be known as art deco.

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On the march

by hidden europe

It was one hundred years ago tomorrow that Rosa Luxemburg published some thoughts on May Day in the Leipziger Volkszeitung. Writing, as she put it, "amid the wildest orgies of imperialism," Luxemburg extolled "the brilliant basic idea of May Day" and rejoiced in the autonomous rise of proletarian masses which each year erupted on 1 May on the streets of Germany. Fast forward 20 years to 1 May 1933, and the Nazis found another use for May Day.

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That long, cold winter

by hidden europe

The European winter that is now — all too belatedly — being eclipsed by spring has seemed painfully long. Yet curiously, it has not been exceptionally cold. Across much of Europe, March was chilly by the standards of the average March, but it broke very few records for absolute minima. And a biting north-east wind made some areas feel much colder than the thermometer suggested.

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Travel writing: the view from home

by hidden europe

During these first days of April, we have not ventured far from home. And yet there is a tangible sense of having travelled - if not through space, then through time. Ten days ago, much of eastern Germany was still formidably wintry. The little pond in front of our scriptorium was so thick with ice that it was a skating rink for the cats who prowl by dusk.It seems this year, the journey from winter has a dose of drama about it.

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A season of grace

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Hidden europe 39

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Brand power

by hidden europe

The number of Russians making cross-border journeys into northern Scandinavia to go shopping leapt by over a third last year. They head for small towns in northern Finland and some even continue into Sweden to visit the world's northernmost branch of IKEA.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 39

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 39, in which we sweep from the Pyrenees to the Tatra Mountains, from Rannoch Moor in Scotland to Russia's Arctic outpost of Franz Josef Land. Ghosts of Habsburg days haunt the pages of hidden europe 39. [full text available online]

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History for sale

by hidden europe

Many abandoned station buildings in rural Poland are finding new life as private entrepreneurs restore them to their former glory. This spring the Polish authorities are selling off a further tranche of buildings, most of them remarkable pieces of architecture.

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Asia in the mind

by hidden europe

We start with a dubious attribution, a few words allegedly uttered by the Austrian diplomat and politician Count Metternich. And we end with the Ukrainian poet and dramatist Lesya Ukrainka in Georgia. In between, we discover that Asia is a state of mind – a place of the imagination that always lies away to the east.

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Small is beautiful: the view from the Vatican

by hidden europe

Rarely has the Vatican been so much in the spotlight as over the last week or two. The dog days of a papacy have never in recent times been quite so clearly defined as they were in February 2013. Benedict’s announcement on 12 February ushered in 16 days of preparations for that moment last Thursday evening when the Pope stepped back from office. Important ecclesiastic business was immediately shelved. We find it interesting what business was still transacted in the second half of February.

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Thomas Cook: March 1873

by hidden europe

By the end of February 1873, Thomas Cook had encircled most of the northern hemisphere. Cook and his party of circumnavigators had sailed from Liverpool in September 1872. The travellers discovered iced water, Pullman cars and Sioux warriors in the United States. They found the crossing of the Pacific happily pacific and enjoyed "a perfect bewilderment" of landscape in Japan.

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Leaving the Tatras

by hidden europe

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

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The fifth season

by hidden europe

Welcome to the fifth season. Spring, summer, autumn, winter... and now the fifth season. This weekend, and the day or two thereafter, mark the culmination across Europe of fifth season frolics. It is carnival time. The normal rules of social engagement, most particularly with anyone in authority, are suspended.

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A time for blessings

by hidden europe

Today is Candlemas Eve, definitively marking the end of the Christmas season in western Europe. Modern custom in secular Europe is often to dismantle Christmas decorations well before the Epiphany, but in many churches across the continent cribs and Christmas trees remain in place until just before Candlemas, the feast which falls tomorrow (2 February).

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The Aix Factor

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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From Sylt to Samoa

by hidden europe

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

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The ghost of Christmas past

by hidden europe

Okay, so the Mayans are getting the blame for their miscalculations. But the upside is that we can all enjoy another Christmas here on planet earth - and thus all that comes with the Feast of the Nativity. For a lot of homebound earthlings, tied to their televisions, that means a marathon of movie reruns.

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End of the line for the peace train

by hidden europe

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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Crimea connections

by hidden europe

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

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Retreating into Advent

by hidden europe

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

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The last lepers

by hidden europe

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

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Just published: hidden europe 38

by hidden europe

The focus in hidden europe is often on remoter parts of Europe, but we do reserve a little of our energy for reporting from well-trodden terrain. Napoleon, while enjoying the hospitality of the English Admiralty after the Battle of Waterloo, evidently spent a few days cruising the coast of Devon. And he was by all accounts much impressed with what he saw. "Quel bon pays," he exclaimed, going on to remark that Devon looked quite like Elba. It was that remark which sent us scurrying off to south-west England to find out if it was indeed like Napoleon's island of exile.

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A place for newly-weds

by hidden europe

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'.

Magazine article

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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Time check

by hidden europe

The second weekend in December sees new rail timetables introduced across Europe. The new schedules see a significant recasting on long distance services in the northern Balkans. Two new international night trains will link Italy with France and Germany respectively.

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Look west

by hidden europe

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

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The city of spiders

by hidden europe

This year, many of our travels have focused on ports. We have criss-crossed Europe from Calais to Cádiz, from Travemünde to Taranto. We sat under the cranes on the quayside of Bari, still as popular today with pilgrims from Russia as it was one hundred years ago. Oceans and quays, slow boats and fast ferries, tramp ships and cruise liners, sea breezes and trade winds, charts and compasses have all helped shape the cultures and coastal landscapes of maritime Europe.

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A time for following

by hidden europe

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

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Britain by bus — could you write for us?

by hidden europe

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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Land, sea and the frontiers of space

by hidden europe

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

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Remembering Rachel

by hidden europe

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

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From Askania-Nova to Vaduz

by hidden europe

Another Friday morning. And a sunny September day in Liechtenstein. A little fog around dawn down in the Rhine Valley, but that will surely clear quickly. So blue skies will set the tone for the hundredth birthday of Baron Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein. Eduard von Falz-Fein was born on 14 September 1912 into quite another world. Emperor Franz Joseph I still presided over Austria-Hungary, Nicholas II ruled Russia and journalist Leon Trotsky was making his way south from Vienna to cover the developing troubles in the Balkans.

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A dozen nautical miles

by hidden europe

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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Transfiguration

by hidden europe

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

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The Baltic, Switzerland, and a hint of Islam

by hidden europe

In our last Letter from Europe, we extolled the merits of spontaneity in travel. This week we returned to the Baltic, following an itinerary the precise trajectory of which was determined only by the rolling of dice. (Unwary travellers inclined to imitate our method might note that there is a high chance of ending up in a benighted cul-de-sac, where they might spend weeks rolling dice to secure their eventual escape). Chance took us from Kiel to Eutin, a small town in Holstein that had somehow escaped our attention.

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Journeys: Winter in Arabia and Summer by the Baltic

by hidden europe

Summer in Europe might not seem a natural ally for winter in Arabia. But Freya Stark’s 'A Winter in Arabia' is a book for all seasons and all continents. It recalls Freya Stark’s second journey through the Hadhramaut region of southern Arabia (nowadays part of Yemen). Freya Stark’s first Arabian foray, in the winter of 1934–1935, ended with measles and an ignominious rescue by the Royal Air Force. The publicity in Europe which attended that rescue helped establish Freya Stark’s reputation as an intrepid explorer.

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Travelling on a whim

by hidden europe

When was the last time you just wandered? Not merely through your home community, but more widely? Just travelling without fixed intent from region to region, perhaps even across frontiers to foreign lands. Last week we explored a little of the German-Polish Baltic region. Perhaps we shall return there this week. And perhaps not. The point is not to plan, but to savour the serendipity of chance. To wander for its own sake.

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Bookmark: A Sentimental Journey

by hidden europe

The travel narratives of yesteryear line our shelves, and it was really no more than chance that last week we looked again at Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey. Some might venture that in shelving it in the travel section of our modest library we have erred. It is more a work of sentimental fiction than a travelogue sensu stricto. 244 years after its initial publication, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy is still a fine read.

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The train to Tundra

by hidden europe

Year by year, the population of Obozersky dwindles. Fifty years ago, more than 7000 people lived in this little town in the Russian Arctic. More than half have left. They took the train south and never returned. The cream and brown railway station is spick and span and, along with the Orthodox church, is one of the smartest buildings in town. Railways and religion are the mainstays of rural Russia.

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200 years of summer holidays

by hidden europe

The thrice-daily local bus service from Altenberg to Teplice is a blessing for cross-border travellers. The bus crosses the mountains that define the border between Saxony and Bohemia. When we rode this route last Thursday, there were just five passengers on the lunchtime bus. The half-hour journey rolls back through two hundred years of history and is a link between two worlds.

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Slow is better: the real value of InterRail

by hidden europe

“InterRail isn’t the same as in the early days,” came the cry after our 40th-birthday bouquet in honour of InterRail published in hidden europe 37. Several correspondents have contacted us with stories of how InterRail and Eurail have lost their gloss. Many hold against the scheme that there are too many supplements nowadays — unlike forty years ago, when you could just hop on any train and travel where you wanted. But is this true? It's time to put the record straight.

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Napoleon never made it to San Marino

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Stranded in San Marino

by hidden europe

San Marino may no longer have a passenger railway. It does however still have a train, thus marking out San Marino as one of two countries in Europe that have a train but no railway. The surviving train in San Marino is a graceful addition to the landscape of the mountainous republic in the Apennines. It is perched on an old railway bridge.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 37

by hidden europe

Our journeys during the first half of 2012 have taken us to a dozen European countries. Sometimes alone, but more often together, we have travelled these past months by train, bus and boat from Calais to Cádiz.

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The art of marketing

by hidden europe

We fear that the slow travel tag has been appropriated by writers and publishers who see slow travel as the latest marketing opportunity. Seven years after the launch of hidden europe and three years after the publication of our Manifesto for Slow Travel, we take a look at how slow travel is evolving.

Magazine article

Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb

by hidden europe

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

Magazine article

Mining heritage

by hidden europe

A new crop of European heritage has just been added to UNESCO's celebrated list of notable heritage. The newcomers to the World Heritage List include remarkable industrial villages in Flanders and Wallonie, a German opera house and a clutch of colourful Swedish farmhouses.

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A duo of diarchies

by hidden europe

Europe boasts an engaging mix of microstates, some less acknowledged internationally than others. The mainland of western Europe numbers five independent nation states that are all among the smallest in the world. In Andorra and San Marino, we have the world's two remaining diarchies - nations that are presided over by two individuals who share the role of head of state.

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The naming of sons

by hidden europe

You probably don't chart your progress through the year with an ecclesiastical calendar. We do, but in truth we cannot really recommend it as a sensible way of confronting modernity. Today, in that part of Europe which favours Rome over Constantinople, is St John's Day - more precisely, the Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist. The Orthodox communions will wait another 13 days before giving a little festive cheer for St John.

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Reshaping mental maps

by hidden europe

This evening, a train will speed from Córdoba to Valencia in just a shade over three hours, marking the inauguration of another link in Spain's growing high-speed rail network. True, the new stretch of line in this case is very modest, but it is enough to facilitate a new fast service linking the Guadalquivir Valley in Andalucía with the Gulf of Valencia. And it will help reshape the mental maps of citizens of both the Spanish Levante and Andalucía.

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All eyes on Ukraine

by hidden europe

Just over five years ago, on a sunny day in mid-April 2007, Victor Yushchenko paid a courtesy visit to the European Commission. On the same day Victor Yanukovich addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Ukraine was in political turmoil and the key protagonists were busy courting the wider European policy community and international public opinion - each hoping to secure some support for their side in the embittered constitutional crisis that then divided their country.

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Alpine accents

by hidden europe

We have been exploring the northern ranges of the Alps this past week, criss-crossing the international border that separates the German State of Bavaria from the Austrian Tyrol. Like many of Europe's borders, this particular frontier has been pretty fluid and there are still some lovely geographical peculiarities.

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From synagogue to swimming pool

by hidden europe

It is tempting to scatter superlatives when it comes to Poznan. Put simply, Poznan has a superb showpiece square. In its town hall, which dominates that central square, the city has one of the most magnificent Renaissance buildings in Europe. Poznan is a place we like a lot and one we know well - indeed we spent a long weekend there just last month. Yet, like many central European cities, Poznan struggles with its Jewish past.

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Flying can still be fun

by hidden europe

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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Opening of new Berlin airport delayed

by hidden europe

Berlin’s much vaunted new airport, already much delayed, was due eventually to open on 3 June. But the announcement this week that the airport (dubbed BER in IATA-speak) will not now open until later in 2012 threatens to pay havoc with summer travel plans. The whole airport saga has dragged on for years with contractors squabbling and an evident lack of clear leadership. But after delays last year, the 3 June opening date seemed very firm and few Berliners had any inkling that there would now be further problems.

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Musings for May Day

by hidden europe

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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Recalling Guernica

by hidden europe

Most art lovers visiting Madrid make first for the Prado and then for the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Both have celebrated collections. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, based in a former hospital near Atocha railway station, does not attract quite the same crowds as the two top-tier galleries. But with a weekend in Madrid last month, we made time for the Reina Sofia, where the big draw is Picasso's Guernica.

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The harsh lands

by hidden europe

After the lushness of Puglia, the fierce landscapes of Basilicata came as a firm reminder that southern Italy is not all peaches and almonds. In Puglia we had enjoyed orecchiette with broccoli and been seduced by vincotto di fichi. We had heard the chirring of crickets, picked fresh lemons, paddled in the Adriatic and tasted grilled lamb. Then last Saturday morning we moved on to Basilicata.

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Across the Channel

by hidden europe

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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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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Rites of penance

by hidden europe

Prompted by Diego Vivanco's report from San Vicente de la Sonsierra, hidden europe sets out to detect the origins of the religious practice of self-flagellation in Europe.

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La Maison de la Beurière

by hidden europe

Today, the steeply sloping streets behind Boulogne's Quai Gambetta no longer have the character of a closely-knit fishing community. hidden europe visits a little museum that recalls the former life of this distinctive part of the French port city.

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Ephemeral art

by hidden europe

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

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Charlottenburg to Cádiz

by hidden europe

There is something rather satisfying about being up and about earlyish on a Sunday morning. Streets that would on working days be busy are happily empty. So I hopped on a train just after eight and rode west out of Berlin. This is familiar terrain. Charlottenburg looks, as ever, faded but interesting. We sweep out of the city, passing the Olympic Stadium, glimpses here and there of empty parks.

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Women on the rails

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Across the Dardanelles

by hidden europe

Çanakkale is a mere dot on the map, but mere dots in distant lands so often turn out to be bustling cities. And thus it is with Çanakkale, a seaport and fortress town on the east side of the Dardanelles. Çanakkale is a community of more than 100,000 people. Choose your vantage point on the waterfront with care, and you will be rewarded with fine views across the water to the great fortress at Kilitbahir across the west side of the Dardanelles.

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Frisian waves

by hidden europe

We map our way around Europe using antique guidebooks, just as we map our way through the year using long-obsolete ecclesiastical calendars. So we are in a small minority of Europeans who happen to know that today, 16 January, was long observed as the Feast of St Marcellus. Quite what happened to St Marcellus we don't know, but it seems he was ousted from his January perch by this or that papal reform sometime in the last century.

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Church etiquette

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe
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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Brussels: the past is another country

by hidden europe

In most European capitals these young migrants make little imprint on the cultural life of the city. But as we said last week, when we wrote on the matter of Christmas markets, Brussels does thing differently. The Belgian capital has a radical demeanour and a willingness to engage with gritty, difficult topics. The unconventional inflects everyday life in Brussels.

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Less bratwurst, more Brussels

by hidden europe

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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Of glaciers and glacierets

by hidden europe

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

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Letter from St Pancras

by hidden europe

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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Polish mysteries

by hidden europe

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

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Slow travel with hidden europe 35

by hidden europe

Slow travel can be quite hard work. It takes time of course, but it also requires a certain mindset. And we have tried to bring that mindset to every page in the latest issue of hidden europe magazine which is published today. hidden europe 35 is an adventure that takes in the nerve ends of Europe.

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Better prospects

by hidden europe

During the 1960s and 70s, trains full of guest workers (or Gastarbeiter as the migrant workers were called in Germany) were a common site arriving in German cities. This autumn marks the fiftieth anniversary of the accord between Turkey and Germany that prompted on of the largest migrations of workers in recent European history.

Magazine article

Red Star Sofia

by hidden europe

Whatever happened to the massive five-pointed red star that for many years topped the communist party headquarters in Sofia? For years, it was hidden away in a cellar, but now it greets visitors to a new museum of socialist art in the Bulgarian capital.

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Plymouth to Portsmouth by boat

by hidden europe

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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Escape from Alcúdia

by hidden europe

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

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Remember, remember

by hidden europe

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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Reformation Day

by hidden europe

Europe's Protestant reformers were not, on the whole, men who took kindly to statues. Indeed, thousands of statues in Catholic churches across Europe were smashed to pieces during the Reformation. So it's hard to fathom what Martin Luther would have made of the rather ostentatious statue of himself that stands in the middle of the Rhineland city of Worms.

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The other Germany

by hidden europe

My brief was to take the pulse of eastern Germany on the 21st anniversary of her union (in October 1990) with her bigger neighbour to the west. Thus was a new and larger Germany born. Twenty-first birthdays have symbolic rather than any legal meaning, but in many cultures there is still a sense of 'coming-of-age' at 21. And this week, all sixteen states in the reunified Germany had a day off work to mark this happy occasion.

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Branding the skies

by hidden europe

It is rare that we write about planes, but a few days ago we stumbled on a list of airlines that have been consigned to aviation history. What struck us was the pure poetry embedded in this sad litany: Flying Finn, Styrian Spirit, Magic Blue, Arc Air, Air Andalucía and Amber Air. Some names seemed a little ill-judged to carry the hopes and ambitions of a new airline's promoters. Was not Atlantis Airways destined from the outset to be lost for ever?

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Travelling through the Harz Mountains

by hidden europe

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

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Report from Kalmykia

by hidden europe

The steppes on the drive east from the capital are parched and dry. Vehicles are few and far between. They are in the main old Soviet-era jeeps and trucks, the progress of each one marked by a trail of dust that hangs heavy in the afternoon air.This is the land of the saiga, an endangered antelope with a beautiful bulbous nose that lives on the feather grass steppes of Kalmykia.

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Happy birthday, Ukraine

by hidden europe

Over the last couple of days, we have heard Shche ne vmerla Ukraina sung with just a little more gusto, a shade more passion, than is perhaps the norm. Hot on the heels of one of the most colourful Orthodox feasts of the year - when great baskets of apples were blessed at altars across the country - comes the twentieth anniversary of Ukrainian independence.

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Beyond the Wall

by hidden europe

Prosaic places are so often the most interesting spots. And Lichterfelde ranks as decidedly prosaic. None of the main English-language guidebooks to Berlin so much as mention the suburb where we live and work. Tourists do not flock to Lichterfelde to see the great sights of a community that, fifty years ago today, awoke to find that the local train service had been disrupted by the closing of the border between East Germany and West Berlin.

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From Dutch tornadoes to Sussex avalanches

by hidden europe

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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Ramadan in the Far North

by hidden europe

Ramadan, the annual month of prayer and fasting for the world's Muslim population, is just starting, so it is worth sparing a thought for Muslims who live in Europe's northern regions. To refrain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset is a tough challenge, though one doubtless made easier when underpinned by a firm faith. But with Ramadan moving forward towards mid-summer each year, the issue of an appropriate fasting regime for Muslims in Europe's polar regions is a very real one.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 34

by hidden europe

Europe specialises in stories, and there are as many different tales of Europe as there are citizens of our continent. We look at some of those stories in this latest issue of hidden europe magazine.

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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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Malta: end of the road

by hidden europe

They call it progress. In early July, Malta’s splendid fleet of heritage yellow buses was replaced by modern vehicles run by transport conglomerate Arriva.

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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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Temple of All Religions

by hidden europe

Ildar Khanov lives in a temple of his own creation. It boasts a splendid array of minarets and domes that recall many of the world’s principal religions. Not quite what you might expect to find in the suburb of a city in the Russian Federation. But this is Russia with a twist, for Ildar Khanov lives in Tatarstan.

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The Russian Federation

by hidden europe

Kalmykia is the only political unit in Europe where Buddhism is the dominant religion. You think we jest! But it is true. We take a look at some of the lesser known republics within the European part of the Russian Federation.

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Train to Narva

by hidden europe

Platform Four in Tallinn station: the train to Narva rests in the sunshine. An odd selection of shopping bags, magazines and items of clothing scattered on plastic seats are evidence of people having made a claim on a particular space on the train. One person has left an umbrella, another a melon and a third seat is occupied by a plastic chimpanzee. Their respective owners stand on the platform until it is evident that the train is about to depart.

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Train services of yesteryear

by hidden europe

There is much talk today about how we live in a new age of the train, and that many journeys around Europe are now much more sensibly undertaken by rail rather than air. Only too true, but such rhetoric does imply that rail travel in Europe was utterly dreadful for an earlier generation of travellers. We have been taking a look at European rail travel 40 years ago.

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Village life in Jamel

by hidden europe

These fine summer days are a time to explore the rural hinterland of Germany's Baltic coast. There is a delicate beauty in the undulating country behind the old port city of Wismar. And there's a touch of history too with ancient dolmens and menhirs hidden away in the forest. Near the tiny village of Jamel is a megalithic passage grave. Yet Jamel itself hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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Amina unmasked

by hidden europe

Perhaps you, like us, were enthralled by the tales from Damascus as Amina Arraf blogged about her adventures and misadventures in the Syrian capital. Amina has of course now been exposed as an American hoaxer with a very fine imagination and a gift for writing fiction. The world's media will dissect the Amina affair, and for a while it will make us all a little more attentive to sources. Can this or that blogger be trusted? Or, for that matter, this or that travel writer?

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A tale of two Eltons

by hidden europe

You could easily miss Elton. The train from Dublin to Cork speeds past Elton. You hardly catch a glimpse of the cluster of houses that make up this little Irish village. When the grandly titled Great Southern and Western Railway built a line through the district in 1849, they judged Knocklong, just a couple of minutes up the line from Elton, as deserving of a station. So Elton, a little smaller than Knocklong, lost out.

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The spiritual geography of Karelia

by hidden europe

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

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The 313 to Botany Bay

by hidden europe

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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Rail update: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

by hidden europe

New rail timetables for the former Soviet Union come into effect later this month. There remains some uncertainty about some services, but for travellers heading east, here are a few thoughts on what to expect: the return of the Berlin to Kaliningrad night train, a new link from Riga to Minsk, a direct daily train from Berlin to Ukraine and more.

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The Wedding Factor

by hidden europe

The Berlin district of Wedding is blessed with the definite article and cursed with a bad reputation. Quite why locals allude to the suburb as 'der Wedding' (The Wedding) is a matter of debate. The Wedding has urban colour, a multicultural mix and crowded streets that are in sharp contrast to the sedate Berlin norm. The Wedding, a little shady and run-down, is gritty territory, rather like Pantin in Paris or Brixton in London.

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Russian life on the Riviera

by hidden europe

Come on, grab your camera and join us as we explore one or two spots along the coast this Easter morning. It is a stunning spring day, the blue waters of the Mediterranean seem an even deeper blue than yesterday, and the air is so clear that we'll be able to see right along the coast to Cap Ferrat and beyond. "Christos voskres." Yes, that's a phrase we shall certainly hear a lot today, especially as the Orthodox and Western celebrations of Easter coincide this year.

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Fontana Rosa (Menton)

by hidden europe

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

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Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers

by hidden europe

Readers of our e-brief have often asked us what else we do apart from hidden europe, so please indulge us as we give an example. Last year Thomas Cook Publishing, a company with which we always had enjoyed amiable relations, contracted us to take a long-standing Thomas Cook book and give it an entire new look. The result is 'Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers' which was published last month.

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Travels through Macedonia

by hidden europe

We journeyed through Macedonia last week. We stayed at the country's only World Heritage Site at Ohrid and then hugged the Albanian border as we travelled north through Debar to Tetovo. This is territory that has long fascinated travel writers and our journey picked up elements of itineraries followed by Edith Durham and Rebecca West.

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The cruellest month (Sweden)

by hidden europe

"April is the cruellest month," wrote TS Eliot. Not so in southern Sweden, where March can be much crueller than April. This is the season when winter's icy hold on forests and lakes is challenged by slowly rising temperatures. Thick lake ice turns to milky cream, while the thaw makes forests utterly impenetrable.

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The Centovalli Railway

by hidden europe

Domodossola has sleek trains aplenty. There are great expresses that purr north through the Simplon Tunnel into Switzerland or slide south towards Milan, hugging the west side of Lago Maggiore along the way. But lovers of great scenery and unusual trains head down into the concrete zone, there in the subterranean depths of Domodossola railway station to board the little train that rattles east across the valley and climbs into the hills beyond.

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Szczecin (Poland)

by hidden europe

For a spell Swedish, then German (and known as Stettin) and only since 1945 Polish, Szczecin is distant from the hubs of Polish power. Its shipyard workers played a key role in the Solidarity movement of the nineteen-eighties. But the city feels its distance from Warsaw, and civic leaders in Szczecin argue that Polish regional policy has not been supportive enough of a city that has been through a tough time economically.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 33

by hidden europe

Borders always make us think about who we are and what might lie on the other side of the frontier. To paraphrase Fernand Braudel, when we slip over the border, we change. We are suddenly foreigners. And that's a theme we play with in several articles in this issue of hidden europe.

Magazine article

Crossing the lagoon

by hidden europe

The Stettiner Haff or Szczecin Lagoon is one of Europe's unsung water bodies, a vast area of shallow saline water that is home to many birds. Seasonal ferry services cross the lagoon in the summer months, allowing travellers to explore this remote area on the German-Polish border.

Magazine article

Girls on the bridge

by hidden europe

A line of red and green Russian border-posts skirt the Norwegian Parliament building in Oslo. Politicians turn and look, as do casual passers-by. It is a quiet reminder that Norway really does share a common land border with Russia.

Magazine article

By ferry to Russia

by hidden europe

There is one very good reason for travelling by ferry to the Russian city of St Petersburg. For a short stay, ferry travellers are generally exempt from Russia's otherwise strict visa rules. So no surprise perhaps that St Peter Line, which already operates ferries from Helsinki to St Petersburg, is now adding new routes from Stockholm and Tallinn.

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Gerês (Portugal)

by hidden europe

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

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Polar nights in Spitsbergen

by hidden europe

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

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The demise of Wrexham and Shropshire

by hidden europe

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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Arabia and the European Imagination

by hidden europe

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

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Shaped by wind and waves

by hidden europe

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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Crossing the Kiel Canal

by hidden europe

If you like three dimensional landscapes, then Germany's most northerly state of Schleswig-Holstein is probably not for you. The hills are there, but you have to look hard to see them. We took a local train across Schleswig-Holstein last Sunday on a route that happily included the Rendsburg bridge.

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Kicking off the New Year

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Winter arrives in the Baltic

by hidden europe

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

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Just a state of mind (Ireland)

by hidden europe

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

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Issue 200: the Jardin Villemin

by hidden europe

A few days ago, we sped from London to Paris on Eurostar, a journey of some five hundred kilometres, in little over two hours. It is very fast, and always leaves us feeling just a little bit breathless. So on arrival in Paris we went as always to the Jardin Villemin.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 32

by hidden europe

The Europe of the imagination is an intriguing continent, one which we explore a little in this issue of hidden europe as we envisage a Switzerland without the Alps and try to unravel quite why it is that Berlin is well beyond the comfort zone of many who have been brought up and live in Germany's western Bundesländer. We also ponder the demise of the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable and explore communities along some of Europe's great rivers: the Sava, the Danube and the Rhine.

Magazine article

Superstitious minds

by hidden europe

If you happen to know a good source of peewit's hearts, please let us know. We explore some of the zanier superstitions that we have run across on our travels across Europe.

Magazine article

Sea and Sardinia

by hidden europe

'There's nothing to see in Nuoro,' wrote DH Lawrence when he and his wife Frieda visited Sardinia in January 1921. 'Happy is the town that has nothing to show,' opined the English writer. We follow the Lawrences on their winter journey by sea to Sardinia.

Magazine article

Polish connections

by hidden europe

A quick review of recent and upcoming changes to Polish train services, as a new rural rail route linking Poland with the Czech Republic opens for business.

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Cruise ferry update

by hidden europe

Catamarans compete for space with whales and dolphins in the crowded sea lanes off the south coast of Spain. Space is tight in some European waters as more travellers embrace ferry travel and an efficient and relaxing way of getting around.

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Fair fares: by train across Europe

by hidden 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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Border markers

by hidden europe

We sensed we were crossing into another world as the Moscow-bound train rumbled over the long bridge that spans the River Bug. The reed beds are full of wildfowl which are not troubled by the frequent trains that rattle overhead. This is the border wilderness that divides Poland from Belarus. It marks one of Europe's great divides: the Curzon Line.

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The road less taken

by hidden europe

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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By train through Albania

by hidden europe

The railway platform at Tirana was as full as it ever gets. That meant all of half a dozen people waiting for the dawn train to Pogradec, among them an English gricer and a Polish twitcher. The latter had travelled across Europe to catch a glimpse of rare birds and was bound for Lake Ohrid.

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Lost maritime links

by hidden europe

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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Flashback: tragedy in Berlin

by hidden europe

Twenty years ago this summer, each new week seemed to bring another momentous political event as the two German States edged towards Union. But a tragic incident overshadowed the Unification Treaty signed on 31 August 1990.

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A matter of class: changes at Eurostar

by hidden europe

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 last victim of the Berlin Wall

by hidden europe

1990 was a Berlin summer dominated by the Mauerspechte - literally the 'wall peckers' - who chipped away at the Wall with chisels, often in the hope that fragments of the legacy of a divided Berlin could be sold to the tourists who were then thronging the city centre in their thousands. One of the wall peckers was Christoph-Manuel Bramböck.

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Fourth class over the border

by hidden europe

Chernivtsi's distinctive green-domed railway station gives a hint of the city it serves. It is a stylish station, one that well befits what is a gem among Ukrainian cities. Of course, for many travellers Chernivtsi is merely a place to change trains. There are connections far and wide. But the most interesting train of the day from Chernivtsi is the morning train to Moldova.

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The politics of heritage

by hidden europe

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.

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Kvarken life

by hidden europe

While much of the world worries about the possible impact of rising sea levels on coastal communities, the Kvarken islands have the opposite problem. This archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland is still on the rebound - as it were - after having been relieved of the burden of ice that covered the region during the last Ice Age.

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George Behrend RIP

by hidden europe

We were saddened to see the news this week about the death of the writer George Behrend on Monday evening. He was always very enthusiastic about our work with hidden europe, although perhaps a tad surprised to find two women writing about his pet topic, viz. railways.

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Top brass

by hidden europe

The brass band is alive and well in the Faroe Islands and is just one aspect of the varied musical life of the remote North Atlantic archipelago. hidden europe presents a pot pourri of musical notes from the Faroes.

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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.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 31

by hidden europe

In this issue of hidden europe we take the pulse of rural life in the Faroe Islands, join a cattle drove along the canadas in Spain, visit a small community in the Basque country and explore Trieste, that most curiously un-Italian of Italian cities. We also recall the legacy of Georgian-born architect Berthold Lubetkin, take the boat to an island in the Gulf of Bothnia and cross from France into Italy on the trail of Alan Sillitoe.

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Sillitoe in Menton

by hidden europe

Alan Sillitoe's first publications, written during the brief spell that he lived in Menton in France, were travel essays. Sillitoe died in April, having achieved a formidable reputation as a novelist. We take a look at the lesser known side of Sillitoe's writing, namely his travel prose.

Magazine article

The Mixdorf maze

by hidden europe

Full marks to the Ragower Mühle, a mill in the beautiful Schlaube valley near Berlin, for having created what we think is the first maze in Europe explicitly designed with wheelchair users in mind. Would only that the access route through the Brandenburg forests to reach the maze near Mixdorf were not so formidably rutted and bumpy.

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From Austerlitz to Solferino

by hidden europe

A name seen or heard out of context can be a powerful provocation. Travelling through the hinterland of Munich a while back, our train paused at Dachau. At one level this was just one more railway station serving commuters in a rather overcrowded part of Bavaria. But the single word Dachau, innocuously proclaimed with an onboard announcement on our train, unleashed such a flurry of thoughts and emotions.

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Macedonian variety

by hidden europe

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

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The ark in the park

by hidden europe

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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Music in Potsdam

by hidden europe

Fernweh is a marvellous German word that is not easily translated into English. It hints of the unbearable pain of being stuck at home when in truth you would far rather be exploring a desert island on the other side of the planet.

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Just imagine

by hidden europe

Communities across Polissya are this week celebrating Chernobyl Days, the festival that marks the renaissance of the Chernobyl region since it was resettled in June 2040. Polissya now boasts Europe's largest national park, a region of remarkable biodiversity with more bear, wolves and bison than any other area of Europe.

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Travelling without an ice bucket

by hidden europe

Our quest to travel light is of course a fruitless whim. We like the idea of strolling down to our nearest mainline station and hopping on a night train to the other side of Europe with no more than a light day sack. But it never happens.

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Slow England

by hidden europe

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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Railway diplomacy

by hidden europe

We would not suggest using rail timetables as a definitive indicator of the state of relations between neighbouring states. But it is interesting that train schedules are often altered very quickly when there is a downturn in relations.

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Ligurian passion

by hidden europe

The long-standing English infatuation with the French Riviera has been well documented, but much less has been written about English affections for the coast of Liguria. Yet the influence of the Hanbury family, and other English settlers in this part of Italy, is still very evident today.

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Deutsche Bahn summer rail pass

by hidden europe

We see that this summer the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) are offering rail passes that give unlimited rail travel anywhere within Germany. The passes are valid for use for either 175 hours or for a full month in the period from 13 June until 31 August.

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Glimpses from the train

by hidden europe

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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Ryanair's magic kingdom

by hidden europe

Vatry is a nice enough spot, a village with its own aiport in the middle of nowhere. Yet Ryanair obviously judges that Vatry might be just the place where Paris-bound Scandinavians might like to land.

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The Baedeker legacy

by hidden europe

"Kings and governments may err, but never Mr Baedeker," wrote the English humorist AP Herbert in the libretto for Offenbach's operetta La Vie Parisienne. Baedeker was the brightest star in a constellation of nineteenth-century guidebook publishers that also included such redoubtable names as John Murray and Thomas Cook.

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Polar dawns (Polyarnye Zori)

by hidden europe

Polar dawns come in different shades, often with streaks of rare beauty lacing the skies. Not so in Polyarnye Zori, a town in northern Russia whose very name means 'polar dawns'. Most of the time a giant cloud hangs over Polyarnye Zori, while kids dive into the warm water outfall of the local nuclear power plant.

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Iceland update

by hidden europe

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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No care in customer care with Air Berlin

by hidden europe

Airlines all over Europe are proclaiming how zealous they have been in looking after their passengers over the past days. Yet well do we all know that many European airlines have behaved in a quite despicable manner towards their customers.

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Now the dust is settling

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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.

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Echoes of Mostar

by hidden europe

The death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Saturday brings to mind that this is not the first time that the Head of State of a European country has died abroad in a plane crash.

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Poland mourns

by hidden europe

The Sunday after Easter was for years known as Low Sunday in the Roman calendar, but Pope John Paul II changed that arrangement ten years ago, when he renamed the Sunday in the Easter Octave, calling it Divine Mercy Sunday. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and Poland is mourning the death of those who died in yesterday's plane crash.

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The legacy of Katyn

by hidden europe

It was twenty years ago this coming Tuesday that Moscow formally acknowledged that the Soviet secret police (the NKVD) had shot thousands of officers, priests, poets and professors in the forests of Katyn. The legacy of Katyn still scars the Polish soul, even more so today after the air crash near Katyn that claimed the lives of eighty-nine Polish politicians and officials including the Polish President.

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Europiccola (Little Europe)

by hidden europe

If the essence of Europe is distilled in any one city, then Trieste must surely be a strong candidate for the distinction. James Joyce rather affectionately described the place as Europiccola (Little Europe). East meets West in this outpost of central Europe on the Adriatic.

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East of Trieste

by hidden europe

Europe's Cold War borders were by no means ubiquitously impervious. Trieste on the Adriatic coast of Italy always had rather good links to neighbouring Yugoslavia. Earlier this week, we decided to travel east from Trieste, and found that the modern piety of open borders has done nothing to foster eastbound rail links from the port city.

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Sleeping through France

by hidden europe

We had a visitor from Russia a while back who expressed surprise that rail passengers in western Europe make long daytime hops by train without having a place to take an afternoon nap. True indeed, but that seems set to change with the French railway operator SNCF now proposing to use night train stock on some daytime services in France.

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Culture capitals

by hidden europe

We have been taking a look at which cities around Europe have enjoyed capital of culture status. Including this year's trio of cities that hold the title, there have thus far been over forty cities which have received the European accolade.

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A Dutch planetarium

by hidden europe

Evidently the world is going to end in 2012. Well, that at least was the suggestion of the young man we met on the train to Franeker, a small town in the Netherlands.

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Editorial hidden europe 30

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 30! In this issue of hidden europe magazine we visit the painted monasteries of Rumania, explore Iceland's eastern fjords, delve into subterranean Budapest, think about rail privatisation and discover York's Quaker community.

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Painted churches

by hidden europe

The UNESCO World Heritage List features many ornately decorated churches across Europe. The List includes the painted monasteries of southern Bukovina (described elsewhere in this issue), as well as murals on churches in Switzerland, Bulgaria and Germany - not to mention the fabulous painted churches of the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus.

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A Russian diversion

by hidden europe

The Imperial Russian Standard, with the double-headed eagle so intimately associated with the Romanovs, still hangs in the living room of a wooden lodge on the bank of a river in southern Finland. We visit the former holiday home of the Russian tsars.

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Viva football

by hidden europe

World Cup year! Again! We shall be eagerly following the 2010 Viva World Cup as teams from Padania, Gozo, Lapland, Monaco and other small territories compete for football supremacy.

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An immortal mortar

by hidden europe

It is a little known fact that the entire course of European history has been shaped by mortars and pestles. We unravel a little tale from Venice that highlights why the mortar deserves pride of place in any good culinary armamentarium.

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Martin's dream: the end of Varsity Express

by hidden europe

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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The Black Sea Riviera by train

by hidden europe

Europe has Rivieras aplenty. For many travellers, the word Riviera evokes images of the French coast from St Raphael to Menton. But we should not forget the Black Sea, which has along its north coast a Riviera style coastline that is surely the match of its Mediterranean namesakes.

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Music for the nation

by hidden europe

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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Lamb soup galore

by hidden europe

Lamb soup is a staple in some parts of Europe, but utterly unknown elsewhere. In Iceland, lamb soup has the status of a national dish. That lamb soup was once judged to be the perfect remedy for dysentery was new to us.

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Polling day in Iceland

by hidden europe

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

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News from Banat

by hidden europe

Each new monthly edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable is an invitation to start planning new journeys. This book, so full of facts, is also a glorious treasure chest of entertaining diversions. And a quick glance at this latest issue shows that the train service from Kikinda to Jimbolia has been suspended.

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Online flight information: Zugu and Harefares

by hidden europe

Meta-search engines and route indexing services for tracking down flight connections are becoming ever more popular. They are the focus of much uncritical media attention. Devotees of such sites argue that a good flight meta-search engine or route indexer can save travellers a lot of time by providing information on flight options. But how reliable is that information?

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Portoroz airport reopens

by hidden europe

The little airstrip at Portoroz in Slovenia has never featured prominently in Europe's flight schedules. The airfield is south of the town of Portoroz, and built on water meadows near the Dragonja river. But Portoroz airport is back in the news, as it is about to reopen for scheduled flights.

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Origins: from Marie Curie to Tom Stoppard

by hidden europe

It is always interesting to discover the places where famous folk were born. Who ever would have thought that Andre Agassi, the son of an Iranian-born boxer, should have first seen the light of our world in Las Vegas? hidden europe visits the home towns of Marie Curie and Tom Stoppard.

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New flights to northern Europe

by hidden 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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Cheap fares with twitter

by hidden europe

The Irish long distance bus company Bus Eireann is offering special fares to users of Twitter. But we are happy to reveal the details here so that readers of the hidden europe notes can benefit from this splendid offer.

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The Buchenhorst brigade

by hidden europe

You have surely never heard of Buchenhorst. Nor had we until yesterday. It is a tiny community deep in the forests of western Pomerania. And it was here that our train ground to a halt en route to the Baltic port of Stralsund yesterday.

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The Eurostar review

by hidden europe

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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Last train from Russia

by hidden europe

Remember Mlynary? Well we have news of Mlynary, the station that has long been unusual in being served only by Russian trains, even though it is in Polish territory.

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A Maltese hero

by hidden europe

Most places across Europe have their local heroes, men and women who command enormous respect for their contribution to their own communities. And today Malta marks the centenary of the birth of just such a man: Mikiel Azzopardi (Dun Mikiel).

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Polish tremors

by hidden europe

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.

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Smyril Line evaluates Risavika

by hidden europe

Risavika on the coast of Norway has experienced mixed fortunes in recent years. The port serves nearby Stavanger, the city that is the service hub for the Norwegian offshore oil industry. It now looks as if Smyril Line is tempted to add Risavika as a scheduled stop on its regular run between Denmark and the Faroe Islands operated by the MS Norröna.

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Geography matters!

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Winter in eastern Germany

by hidden europe

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

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Luxembourg: anything but boring

by hidden europe

The self-image of communities and even whole countries is always deserving of study. We never would have thought that Luxembourg feared it was boring and monotonous. To us, it seems vibrant, varied, chic and charming.

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The Euroferries saga

by hidden europe

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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Voting in the centre of Europe

by hidden europe

It is bitterly cold today in Dilove, a tiny village in the Tysa valley in Ukraine. As folk gather outside the village's recently restored wooden church after the morning liturgy, they wonder whether it really is worth bothering to vote. Ukraine has national elections today.

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Unravelling Gibraltarian identity

by hidden europe

Marut and Mesod are both interesting men. And both are equally adamant that they are Gibraltarians. If you thought that Gibraltar was merely Cockney voices or fish and chips, think again. The territory at the southern tip of Iberia has its own very distinctive culture and identity.

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Fantasy architecture and themed hotels

by hidden europe

Fantasy architecture has long been common in American hotels, but it is becoming increasingly frequent on this side of the Atlantic too - and not just at Eurodisney near Paris. We look at examples from Turkey and the Canary Islands.

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Europe's cold spell: the facts

by hidden europe

As Europe shivers through a protracted cold spell, it is interesting to note which cities around the continent have had to endure the coldest days. Of course we are all affected by the chilly weather, but the local media coverage of wintry weather bears no relation at all to the absolute conditions. A look at the facts.

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By train beyond Europe: from Turkey to Syria

by hidden europe

The Toros Express has always been an optimistic name for the train that links Istanbul with Aleppo in Syria. And in the last year or two it has run only irregularly. But last Friday a new regular train service was launched across the border between Gaziantep (Turkey) and Aleppo.

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A question of words: Malta

by hidden europe

This weekend Valletta hosts the big street festival that regularly marks the end of the Christmas season. Under the banner Citta Magica, there will be music and performances aplenty, and the streets of Valletta will be full of visitors from across the Maltese islands.

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Celebrating the Epiphany: 20 C+M+B 10

by hidden europe

If you have ever travelled extensively through continental Europe, you will surely have noticed chalk inscriptions on door lintels. These chalk marks are intimately associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, which is celebrated today (6 January).

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Argyll and the Isles

by hidden europe

It was an amiable distraction over Christmas and the New Year to browse news media from across Europe, all dutifully reporting on the best of the dying year. But one tires eventually of reading accounts of the top ten books and places of 2009. So full marks to www.forargyll.com for their initiative in highlighting the corporate scoundrels who have most conspicuously ill-served the Argyll and the Isles region of western Scotland in 2009.

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The demons of Sylt

by hidden europe

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

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The Togliatti syndrome

by hidden europe

Journalists in Togliatti (sometimes transliterated as Tolyatti), a town on the banks of the Volga, know all too well about the dangers of reporting in Russia. Tolyattinskoe obozrenie (Togliatti Review) was a minor star in Russian provincial journalism - a genuinely independent newspaper that started life as a weekly but later switched to daily publication.

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Wayward moose and reindeer

by hidden europe

We chanced on a nice yarn from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) this week when they reported on the manners of the moose who roam the Arctic wilderness around the Pasvik valley, where the territories of Norway, Finland and Russia are hopelessly intertwined.

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Great travel myths

by hidden europe

We were intrigued to read a recent account in an English newspaper of a journey along "he most northerly railway in the world". The Ofoten railway from Kiruna in Sweden to Narvik in Norway is without doubt one of the most remarkable train journeys anywhere in Europe - but it surely is not the most northerly rail route in the world.

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Bulgarian affairs

by hidden europe

Bulgaria is gearing up for more visitors from neighbouring countries, having just announced that from Saturday 19 December 2009 travellers from Macedonia and Serbia making short visits to Bulgaria will no longer need to secure a visa in advance.

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A trio of cat stories

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Train service changes for 2010

by hidden europe

The Balkan region gets a new rail service tomorrow, with the launch of a once daily direct train between Belgrade and Sarajevo. It is a mark of how much the mood in the region has improved over recent years that routes severed during the nineties are now being restored.

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The feast of St Nicholas

by hidden europe

St Nicholas is the ultimate all-purpose saint. His patronage extends to virgins, sailors, children and pawnbrokers. And he is patron saint of Bari in Italy, where the local fishing community makes much of the feast.

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Bananas in Iceland

by hidden europe

Bananas are big business in Iceland. There are few more popular snacks in the tundra than a nice ripe banana - which may go some way to explaining why McDonalds cut no ice in Iceland and announced in October that they will quit the country.

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Christmas shopping - Faroese style

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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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Key train to Kaliningrad axed

by hidden europe
The new EU Kaliningrad programme is designed to promote contact and understanding between Russia's Baltic exclave at Kaliningrad and the territory's EU neighbours. But sadly, just as this new programme is announced, so comes news that a key train service linking Kaliningrad and Berlin is about to be axed.
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Yitzhak's tale (Vienna)

by hidden europe

It was only after the old man had beaten us both at chess that he opened the worn leather satchel. He carefully took out a small bundle of papers. Removing the twine that gave the pile of documents some structure, he showed us fragments of his life - among the papers a letter from his grandmother.

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The Penguin cerise series

by hidden europe

It is interesting to see how little has been made of the half centenary this autumn of the demise of the Penguin Cerise series. The books in the Cerise series helped define in Britain the art of travel writing. So good to see that today the Guardian has also marked this literary anniversary.

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Vadsø (northern Norway)

by hidden europe

You really know you have travelled a long way east when you get to Vadsø. The local church, which dominates the small town on the Barents Sea, is a late 1950s essay in poured concrete. But take a peek inside for a surprise. This is a Norwegian Lutheran church with an interior design that has striking Byzantine overtones. The chancel area has an almost Orthodox demeanour.

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European rail fares: best prices

by hidden europe

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

by hidden europe

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.

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Reindeer pay heavy price for global warming

by hidden europe

One of the key points we learnt from an article on the Sámi of Russia's Kola Peninsula is how warmer autumns are making life much harder for the locals. They rely on frozen ground to allow winter mobility in the tundra. But these days the ground does not freeze till later - sometimes not until Christmas.

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Conservation versus community in Potsdam (Germany)

by hidden europe

There has been a intriguing debate rumbling on in Potsdam (Germany) these past weeks which nicely captures the dilemmas associated with heritage and conservation. We have been following events in Potsdam's Russian community. Just north of the historic and very attractive town centre is the community of Alexandrowka, a classic Russian-style village. It has a curious history.

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Orbiting Berlin

by hidden europe

We took a day out on Friday to orbit Berlin. In truth we have never really been fans of motorway driving, but a gorgeous frosty autumn morning with clear skies tempted us out of suburban Berlin onto the motorway that encircles the city. At exactly 200 kilometres, the Berliner Ring is the longest orbital motorway in Europe, beating even London's infamous M25 to the record.

Magazine article

All a matter of time

by hidden europe

How many time zones in mainland Europe? The answer is six. All a matter of astronomy, you might think. And to some extent that is true. But the way we set our clocks is often as much a matter of politics as a respect for astronomy.

Magazine article

Arctic concord

by hidden europe

Cross-border confidence is the Barents Sea region has this year prompted a raft of new initiatives fascillitating contact between Norway and Russia. hidden europe reports from the town of Kirkenes in northeast Norway.

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Editorial hidden europe 29

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 29! In this issue of hidden europe magazine we take the boat to Iceland, spend a day in the Czech town of Domazlice, travel from Berlin to Budapest by train, visit Crete's Lasithi Plateau and spare a thought for the old Penguin cerise series.

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Cyprus links

by hidden europe

A range of new shipping links now gives Cyprus new status as a stepping stone to ports in the eastern Mediterranean. We report on new services from Cyprus to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.

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Celebrity tourism in the Trossachs

by hidden europe

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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Levoca (Slovakia)

by hidden europe

Levoca is picture perfect, a community that deserves to be far better known. As it surely will, for this summer Levoca secured inclusion on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. The historic centre of Levoca reflects late medieval Saxon colonisation of an area that was then under the protection of the Kingdom of Hungary.

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Day of German Unity

by hidden europe

It is the Day of German Unity, a public holiday on 3 October each year that recalls the unification of the two German States in October 1990. It is unsurprisingly a day that promotes reflection on both sides of the erstwhile border, with many Germans from the west of the country quite unable to understand why some of their eastern neighbours look back with obvious affection on aspects of life in the east.

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Ferry updates

by hidden europe

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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The Italia expedition

by hidden europe

The Italia left its Milan base in mid April, under the command of Umberto Nobile. Destination: the North Pole. In late May, the pioneer aviators reached their goal. But luck was not on their side. Returning south towards Spitsbergen, the Italia was damaged in a storm and plunged onto the pack ice.

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Cross-border traffic: missing links

by hidden europe
Investments in cross-border roads in remote and rural areas of the European Union are much to be welcomed. But where are the bus services that should be plying those routes to connect communities across borders?
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A matter of letters: Belarusian

by hidden europe
The complex story of the Belarusian language and its flexible deployment of three different alphabets deserves to the better known. Early Belarusian texts in the Arabic script (called kitabs) are a remarkable part of Europe's cultural heritage.
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Orbiting Zagreb

by hidden europe
Pluto must be very small and very far away. And so it is in Davor Preis' ingenious model of the solar system that invisibly orbits Zagreb and its suburbs.
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Ukraine: Askania-Nova

by hidden europe
A nineteenth-century nature reserve on the dry steppes of southern Ukraine was a pioneering example of early nature conservation in Europe. The feathery grasses still dance to the local winds at Askania-Nova.
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Editorial hidden europe 28

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Welcome to hidden europe 28. The issue contains articles on the Belarusian city of Vitebsk, Zagreb's literary ghosts, the Italian port city of Genoa, the Luxembourg village of Schengen and the small French town of Wissembourg.

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Airport links

by hidden europe

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

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Editorial hidden europe 27

by hidden europe

Welcome to issue no. 27 which contains articles on Liguria's Hanbury Gardens, the Georgian town of Akhaltsikhe, subterranean Vienna, the Sami of the Kola Peninsula, a quest for the elixir of youth and more.

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Norway by plane

by hidden europe

A small Norwegian airline called Widerøe operates flights into some of Europe's remotest communities. The company's Explore Norway Ticket allows travellers to hop from one small airport to another.

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The island of Gavdos

by hidden europe

We take a look at one of Europe's remotest outposts. The island of Gavdos is south of Crete in the Libyan Sea. The fact that George Bush and Colin Powell have both visited is a measure of the strategic importance of Gavdos.

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A submarine secret

by hidden europe

The Norwegian Depression is not a state of mind. It is actually a submarine valley off the coast of Norway. We explain more in this short note.

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Landsendi (Iceland)

by hidden europe

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

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Vorarlberg (Austria)

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Alighting from the train at Bregenz station in Austria, the traveller instantly has a sense of being in a place that takes recreation seriously. The station architecture is memorably bizarre with its turquoise-green platform canopies and the spiral walkways that decant new arrivals onto the lakefront. Bregenz lies on the eastern shore of Lake Constance (the Bodensee in German) and is the most un-Austrian of Austrian cities.

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Bohemian borderlands

by hidden europe

The first town over the hills, on the Czech side of the border, is Domazlice. Just twenty minutes on the steam trains that this weekend shuttle between Furth and Domazlice. The Czech town has a fabulous elongated main square that during these festive days is filled with folksy performances: singers and dancers, bagpipes and brass bands aplenty.

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Triglav (Slovenia) - the Danish Everest

by hidden europe

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

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Return to Wissembourg

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The River Lauter bubbles happily through the town, nature is taking possession again of ancient ramparts where once the French kept watch for invaders and now this border town is a favoured destination for day trippers from Germany. But for me Wissembourg was the very embodiment of Gallic life, a fine introduction to a country that seemed deliciously foreign.

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Kosovo and international politics

by hidden europe

The Kosovo issue rumbles on. Contrary to popular opinion, the question of who has recognised the would-be state and who has not is far from being a simple east versus west divide. True, Britain and the United States both gave a positive nod to Kosovo within twenty four hours of the Kosovo Assembly declaring independence on 17 February 2008. And Russia has consistently refused to recognise Kosovo.

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Vitebsk (Belarus)

by hidden europe

Every year since 1992, the city of Vitebsk in Belarus has hosted an extravagant festival of music, art and culture known as the Slavianski Bazaar. The old centre of Vitebsk has been handsomely restored, and the city on the banks of the Western Dvina always charms the crowds who attend Vitebsk's week-long festival in July each year. It is the town where Marc Chagall was born.

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Bridge over the Moselle

by hidden europe

Remich is one of those spots where it is easy to linger. It is a relaxed sort of place on the bank of the Moselle river in Luxembourg. Just across the river from Remich lies the German village of Nennig. Life in Nennig and Remich is economically intertwined, and residents of both communities move with ease across the Moselle which marks the international border.

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A Liechtenstein moment

by hidden europe

One of the events surrounding the twenty-fifth anniversary of women's suffrage in Liechtenstein takes place this evening in the capital Vaduz, when young Liechtenstein women have the chance to meet some of the activists who during the seventies and early eighties struggled for women's rights in their small country. hidden europe e-brief commemorates this moment in Liechtenstein history.

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Where to buy rail tickets for travel in Europe

by hidden europe

hidden europe reviews options for purchasing rail tickets for travelling in Europe. We cast around on the Internet, and made a host of phone calls, just to compare how much agents in the UK and USA would charge for those five itineraries. And for comparison we checked out the cheapest price then available on the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) website for the same five trips. The results make for a frightening read.

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Under the wires

by hidden europe

Arriving at Lviv airport recently, the hidden europe team was pleasantly surprised to find that trolleybuses are still a regular sight on the streets of the Ukrainian city. This prompted us to track down Europe's longest trolleybus route.

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Editorial hidden europe 3

by hidden europe

welcome to hidden europe 3 which features articles on Europe's exclaves and enclaves, Estonians in Georgia, Aromanian Vlachs, the Latvian port of Ventspils, La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Jura and more.

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Editorial hidden europe 4

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 4. This issue of hidden europe magazine features articles on the Soca Valley of Slovenia, a Jewish sect in Ukraine, Morecambe Bay, the European spa tradition, the Lough Foyle ferry service and more.

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Overnight luxury

by hidden europe

As we report in railscan, many overnight trains have been axed, but, especially within the CIS countries, there remain a few hidden gems. Ukraine is a good place to start.

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Islands for sale

by hidden europe

A while back we were contacted by one of those property companies that trade on the internet. Most unusually, it had Slovenian islands for sale.

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Landfall in Iceland

by hidden europe

It is difficult to go to Reykjavík without getting a big dose of Icelandic history. Icelanders will proudly tell you the tale of Ingólfur Arnarson who gets a lot of credit all over Iceland for putting the country on the map in the late ninth century.

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Editorial hidden europe 6

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 6. Join us as we explore the Albanian village of Lin, Sardinia's ethnic diversity, Mount Athos, the Dhle Diely in Bratislava and the Ukrainian Polish border.

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The European flag

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one flag: blue background with twelve stars. It flutters above buildings in over forty European capitals. hidden europe looks at the Council of Europe flag.

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Editorial hidden europe 5

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 5, which features Tallinn and rural Estonia, the Polish city of Wroclaw, follows the Tito trail in Belgrade, maps central Europe and visits Father Frost in Russia.

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Hidden charges

by hidden europe

"taxes, fees and charges extra" say the airline advertisements in tiny print, as they hawk low price flights across Europe. But what is included in taxes, fees and charges? And who levies these extras?

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Crossing the border at Boris Gleb

by hidden europe

Boris and Gleb are as saintly a duo as Peter and Paul or Cyril and Methodius. Travel round Russia and you will come across no end of churches dedicated to Boris and Gleb. The two were in fact brothers and evidently their tender humility marked the Russian soul. That very Orthodox quality of patient forbearance of suffering is often said to be inspired by Boris and Gleb.

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Tallinn's last Soviet soldier

by hidden europe

Tallinn's Bronze Soldier highlights the difficulties of rendering recent history. Visitors to Potsdam, a city in the former German Democratic Republic very close to Berlin, will find many informative notices that unravel the story of the old Hohenzollern palaces that litter the Potsdam landscape. For those interested in architecture, landscape design and imperial history, the park and palaces in and around Sanssouci are magnificent.

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Editorial hidden europe 7

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 7. This issue of hidden europe travel magazine covers articles on Yezidi in Germany, the Teschen area of Austrian Silesia, Novi Pazar in southern Serbia, Europe's highest road and Merida in Spain.

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Barszcz and bigos

by hidden europe

The Bailiwick of Jersey, in the Channel Islands, has long played host to many migrant communities. hidden europe explores the growing Polish influences in the island.

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The way to Philadelphia

by hidden europe

Philadelphia is decidedly un-American! Because this Philadelphia is not the great city on the Delaware river; instead, it lies in a very rural part of eastern Germany, close by the Turkish Mountains and just a stone's throw from New Boston.

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Endgame

by hidden europe

It is World Cup year. Football is everywhere. Even at the very end of Europe, in Azerbaijan, where we run across the tale of a great Azeri football hero.

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What's in a number?

by hidden europe

An essay inspired by the Pope's telephone number! The politics of dialling codes that somehow contrive to associate Greenland with Africa.

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Editorial hidden europe 8

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 8. We feature articles on two villages in Macedonia, Oskar Brüsewitz in Zeitz, the Akropolis Express in Kosovo, the Italian town of Barga, and Portmeirion in Wales.

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Banking on poets

by hidden europe

Nineteenth century poets often nurtured the flower of national consciousness; today they are rewarded with pride of place on many European banknotes.

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Ethnic enclaves

by hidden europe

Migrant communities are often some of the most intriguing in Europe. We look at Senegalese settlers in Lombardy and Vietnamese entrepreneurs in Berlin.

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Cutting edge

by hidden europe

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

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Joseph Roth - literary connections

by hidden europe

When the Austrian-Jewish author Joseph Roth was born in Brody in 1894, the town was a Jewish shtetl in Galicia on the eastern edge of the K & K empire - a place beyond which Viennese influence gave way to more tsarist sentiments. Joseph Roth wrote much about people and places on the margins of society.

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Editorial hidden europe 9

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 9. This issue explores the Georgian Military Highway, discovers Istria, reports on Adriatic small states, and follows the old postal route of the Aland Islands.

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Calculating train fares

by hidden europe

For those who tire of trying to get staff at their local station to reveal the train fare to Istanbul, hidden europe has the perfect solution: a website with a reliable railway fare calculator.

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Editorial hidden europe 10

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 10, in which we visit townships in Spitsbergen, Europe's lost synagogues, Prague's African community, coal mines in Lusatia, the island of Sylt and go bagging tripoints.

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Editorial hidden europe 11

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 11. This issue of hidden europe travel magazine visits Abkhazia on the Caucasus, reports on chess boxing, London's Vauxhall pleasures, the Trakai in Lithuania, Berney Arms railway station and slow travel.

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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.

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Unsung Brussels

by hidden europe

Les Marolles is a place of smoky bars, tiny shops and rich dialects. hidden europe alights from the train at Brussels' Gare La Chapelle to explore the city's most intriguing district.

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Autobahn affairs

by hidden europe

Motorways come and motorways go! Yes, some routes really do disappear - like the A862 in Germany. And there are rumours that the days of the M10 in southern England are numbered.

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Dice to Europanto?

by hidden europe

Do you speak Europanto? It's not so hard to learn. To speakare Europanto, tu basta mixare alles wat tu know in extranges linguas. We take a look at one of Europe's lesser known languages.

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Latvian border links

by hidden europe

Latvia's eastern borders mark the outer edge of the European Union. We look at a couple of frontier oddities in the areas where Latvia borders on to Belarus and Russia.

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Forbidden zones

by hidden europe

A note on the territories where foreigners may not tread: the closed cities and proscribed zones of the Russian Federation.

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Editorial hidden europe 13

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 13 in which we explore the Bernina railway in Switzerland, the Banat region of Serbia, churches for travellers, Nagorno Karabakh, the Vojvodina and remote communities in Scotland.

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Turtle notes

by hidden europe

More on turtles! We like turtles. This time, we report from the Karpas peninsula of northern Cyprus. The waters around the peninsula are home to both green turtles and loggerhead turtles.

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Editorial hidden europe 12

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 12. The issue features articles on Potsdam's hidden history, the hofjes of Haarlem, the Polish port of Frombork, European night trains and communal living in beguinages.

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By ferry to Russia

by hidden europe

The whispers from Moscow last week that Russia will sanction visa-free travel to the country for visitors arriving and leaving on ferries is good news indeed. Cruise ship passengers have long benefitted from just such a dispensation, but only if they take part in a fully escorted tour. Hence the crowds of day trippers that are herded around St Petersburg during the cruise season.

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Estonian links

by hidden europe

A round-up of Estonian connections: planes, boats, trains and buses. We focus on what's new for the current spring season.

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A European map

by hidden europe

A new edition of a map published by the European Union prompts us to reflect on what might make a good map of Europe.

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Peace parks

by hidden europe

International peace parks that seek to promote conservation across national boundaries while also encouraging cooperation across borders, are becoming increasingly common. Bringing projects like the current plan for a Balkans Peace Park to fruition demands not just environmental understanding but also a hefty dose of political acumen.

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Summer feasts

by hidden europe

Pilgrimages to national shrines often catch the pulse of a nation. hidden europe highlights a few summer feasts.

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Seaplanes and helicopters

by hidden europe

Yes, flying between major airports may have become boring, but there are still interesting ways to fly in some parts of Europe. We check out a few scheduled flights by helicopter and seaplane.

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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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Editorial hidden europe 14

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 14. In this issue we visit the border zone around Lake Prespa, Grodna in Belarus, discover the soul of Estonia in Saaremaa and think about festivals and the festivalisation of culture.

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Editorial hidden europe 15

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 15. Join us to explore the Lofoten Islands in Norway, the Svaneti in the high Caucasus range of Georgia, the night train to Narvik and fireworks frenzy in Malta.

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Icons or eyesores

by hidden europe

Most visitors look to Prague for a feast of Gothic and baroque. But what of the city's modern architecture? Prague boasts what is probably the finest cubist interior anywhere in the world. We visit the Grand Café Orient.

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Alchemy in Brussels

by hidden europe

The Grand Place in Brussels seem the epitome of peace. But does it house some hidden messages? Some say that a great cosmic tussle finds expression in the architecture. A Masonic tale from the Belgian capital.

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Palindromic puzzles

by hidden europe

Surely the most bizarrely eccentric article we have ever published. We take a look at European communities with palindromic place names. From Eye to Eze and Sarras to Serres!

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Editorial hidden europe 16

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 16, which explores the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, windmills in Andalucia, MS Lofoten boat in northern Norway, the Sorbs of Lusatia and the Narva river region.

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Iskenderun

by hidden europe

We stop off at an unusual Turkish port, a place where Melkites and Maronites once lived alongside Jews, Chaldeans and Anglicans. It is as cosmopolitan as ever today.

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International rail tickets

by hidden europe

Until May this year, it was perfectly possible to buy a through ticket from continental train stations to London using cross-channel ferries. No more, but a new initative from Railteam offers the prospect of a new generation of through tickets.

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Robocop R BOT 101

by hidden europe

R BOT 101 is a robot. He never loses his cool, nor can he be bribed. But otherwise he is much the same as the human police officers who pound the beat in the Russian city of Perm. Meet a Russian electronic cop!

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Svalbard links

by hidden europe

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

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Editorial hidden europe 17

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 17. hidden europe magazine visits islands in the Venetian lagoon, takes the road to Abergwesyn, explores European borders in Moresnet, defines literary cartography and travels pilgrim paths in Spain.

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Devoutly Bosnian

by hidden europe

Supernatural revelation or mere stunt? The small town of Medugorje in western Herzegovina is the focus for some extraordinary devotional antics, as Catholics flock to the mountain valley where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared.

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Crossing the Urals

by hidden europe

What about the most northerly railway route across the Ural Mountains? Way up north in the Nenets regions, the train to Labytnangi makes the Trans-Siberian route over the Urals seem rather tame.

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Cardinal points

by hidden europe

One travel guide claims that Finisterre is the most westerly point on the European mainland. This is in fact wrong, just as other points that lay claim to special status as geographical extremities are often spurious. We map Europe's extremities.

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Editorial hidden europe 18

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 18. This issue of hidden europe travel magazine covers articles on sworn virgins in Albania, the Vrbas valley Bosnia, the city of London. new lakes in Lusatia and more besides.

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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.

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Norway transposed

by hidden europe

There are about two dozen remaining fine examples of Norwegian stave churches. Most are in Norway. But one of the best is, somewhat improbably, in the mountains on the Polish-Czech border.

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Border rites

by hidden europe

Okay, there is the Latin or Roman Church in western Europe and the Orthodox Church in eastern Europe. Easy to remember! But what happens at the boundaries?

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Publishers look east

by hidden europe

Lonely Planet and Rough Guides may be mainstays in the guidebook market, but for more offbeat destinations in Europe, look to Bradt Guides for coverage of places that other publishers just do not reach.

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Editorial hidden europe 20

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Welcome to hidden europe 20. The issue contains articles on the island of Helgoland (Heligoland), England's Pennines, the mountains of Montenegro, South Ossetia, local markets in Hungary Pecs and European charity stamps.

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A dog's life

by hidden europe

Chtenia: Readings from Russia is a new themed literary journal that features good Russian writing, old and new, in translation. If it lives up to the promise of its first issue, which focuses on canine tales from Russia, it will be a huge success.

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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.

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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.

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Worth a detour

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Many classic guide book publishers, going back to nineteenth century, have used star ratings to grade sights. But is Antibes really only "interesting" and not "worth a detour"?

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Editorial hidden europe 21

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Welcome to hidden europe 21. This issue of the travel magazine features Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, Atarazanas market in Málaga, camps of migrants from Africa in Malta, Moldova, the River Thames and more.

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Harefares or hare-brained

by hidden europe

Route indexing services seem to be all the rage with many new websites offering advice on who flies where, and each claiming to be better than its rivals. Harefares invited us to cast an eye over their website, which they claim is the most complete for the continent. It turned out to be sorely wanting.

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The exotic Baltic

by hidden europe

The best chicken soup this side of the Volga? Look to a Kazakh restaurant in Vilnius! The Baltic States are not just meat and potato country. You'll find exotic restaurants aplenty from Uzbek to Armenian, Georgian to Azeri.

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Editorial hidden europe 22

by hidden europe

Welcome to hidden europe 22. The issue features the Moselle valley, Velebit mountain on the coast of Croatia, Transdniestr, an article on checking airline routes on the web and more.

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Alpiniøya (Spitsbergen)

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The name of a tiny island off the coast of Nordaustlandet in Spitzbergen is a tribute to an extraordinary series of expeditions conducted in 1928 by members of the Alpini, the elite mountain brigade of the Italian army. A report from Alpiniøya.