Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

So what of the more humdrum phases of our professional lives? Here is a snapshot from the last couple of weeks.

article summary —

Susanne Kries and Nicky Gardner reflect on the realities of lives spent researching, thinking and writing. The text recounts a typical spell - a few days in the first half of November 2009.

You think you have an image of what our lives are like? Endless days spent drifting effortlessly from one sun-drenched resort to the next, perhaps. Or, if you know us better, you might imagine another scenario. Endless days on slow trains as we make our way from one dreary industrial outpost to another.

Surprise, surprise but neither is true. Yes, we do travel, but we spend far more time quietly working away at our desks in Berlin. In the past months we have made forays to various parts of Europe: to Liechtenstein and Liguria, to Belarus and Bohemia and to Iceland, Alsace, Luxembourg and Provence – in every single case travelling by train and / or boat. We do fly from time to time, but sparingly.

So what of the more humdrum phases of our professional lives? Here’s a snapshot from the last couple of weeks. Good writing takes time. During this past fortnight we have worked on a number of projects. They have included:

  • finishing a 3500 word feature (with a selection of images) on Russian Berlin for Russian Life magazine that, all being well, should be published early in 2010
  • responding to a short-notice request from a German magazine for an article on Switzerland, supplying the text for the client within 48 hours
  • completing a 1750 word assignment on Quaker thought in landscape design for an Italian publication
  • publishing the twenty-ninth issue of hidden europe magazine, for which all but one text was researched and written in-house - and we handled the design, layout and distribution ourselves
  • travelling to England (train again) for a meeting with a British publisher to define the scope for a writing project in 2010
  • preparing a paper for a project that seeks to revive rail services in a region where at present there are only abandoned lines and rusting carriages
  • making many changes to our website and publishing two issues of the regular hidden europe e-brief
  • meeting our regular deadlines for contributions to other websites (for example two new short pieces for EuroCheapo.com)
  • working on an article on Europe’s ‘Highways of the Sea’ due for submission to a Brussels business and politics magazine later this month
  • reviewing a large pile of would-be contributions to hidden europe, responding to enquiries and comments from readers and dealing with orders for the magazine.

There is always a time lag between writing and publication. So the past couple of weeks have seen pieces we wrote a while back appear in print, among them the articles in the latest issue of hidden europe. Other newly published work included:

  • our chapters (with both text and images supplied by us) in the new Great Train Journeys of the World book just published by Time Out Guides.
  • a feature published by New Statesman to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall
  • a great yarn from the Faroe Islands, first published in the Sunday Sun on 1 November, but subsequently picked up by other media
  • text and images on Vitebsk, the town in Belarus where Marc Chagall was born, featured in the November issue of E!Sharp magazine.

So there we are. A week (or two) in the life of hidden europe. And despite all that, we still managed to find time to have lunch in Strasbourg, eat curry in London’s Brick Lane, enjoy pierogi in Potsdam and circumnavigate Berlin on the city’s orbital motorway.

This article was published in What we do.