hidden europe 70

Exploring Europe by rail

by hidden europe

Picture above: Still occasionally seen on rural branch lines, these simple Czech railcars recall travel from another era (photo © 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.

In recent years we have been ever more associated with writing about rail travel. “Ah, yes,” said a railway company executive whom we met at a rail industry conference in Amsterdam last November. “You’re the two women who write about train journeys.”

Believe us, it was not always so. In the very first issue of hidden europe, we carried an article about a train journey through the Bohemian hills. The focus was on a mushroom collector called Jiri who rides the train from Zdislava to Žandov. The article played with the intertwined themes of Jiri’s life and the stop-go progress of the ageing Czech railcar. We were genuinely uncertain whether this piece deserved space in hidden europe, but in the end we ran it as a threepager under the title ‘The Slow Train’. It was the article on which readers commented most and it was quickly syndicated for republication elsewhere. Our diffidence about publishing that piece was rooted in doubts over its literary effectiveness and a nagging worry that neither of us really knew much about trains.

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Editorial hidden europe 63

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.

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Editorial hidden europe 46

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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The warm shadow of Isabelle Eberhardt

Many years ago, I spent a long hot summer in and around a sleepy ksar on the edge of the Sahara. I read many books that summer, but it was 'Dans l’ombre chaude de l’Islam' that tugged and tugged again, urging me to return to its pages. That book was my introduction to Isabelle Eberhardt, a writer who — perhaps more than any other — has influenced my life and my thinking. This summer, so far from the desert and in a country where the most charming of all oases is my garden, I turned to Sharon Bangert’s English translation of 'Dans l’ombre chaude de l’Islam'. It appears under the Peter Owen imprint in a pocket-sized paperback.