Is there not a certain pleasure in returning home? The late Roger Deakin put it nicely in the opening essay of his 2007 book Wildwood: “It’s not that I don’t like to wander,” he wrote. But for Deakin there was security and comfort in having a base. Of his own home, he observed: “Somehow I feel easier in my freewheeling knowing that this place is here.”
Deakin is one of our favourite writers. He has a wonderful capacity to be passionate, perceptive and subversive — often all at the same time. In another piece in Wildwood, Deakin introduces us to the idea of soul-books: “one you read over and over, falling in love with it more deeply each time.” Wildwood is definitely on our soul-book list. So too is Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, a book to which we offer a bouquet of praise in this issue of hidden europe (see “Revisiting the Cairngorms”).
Deakin’s ideas on being settled are interesting. It is often assumed that travel writers devote far more time to travel than ever they do to writing. The reality is that, for us at least, the balance of time is stacked very much in favour of writing. Weaving good prose takes time. In this issue of hidden europe you can see the fruits of our labours. And there’s many a good writer (beyond Roger Deakin and Nan Shepherd) who has unknowingly influenced the making of this issue of hidden europe: Charles Dickens, Fernando Pessoa and Émile Zola are just three of them.
We have rarely had a hidden europe which has focused quite so much on one country. In this case, it is the UK in the limelight, with British themes explored in no less than four articles in this issue. But we roam widely too, looking at aspirant micronations by the Danube, a Bavarian place of pilgrimage and an island off the coast of Japan which was once thoroughly Dutch in demeanour. We try to present new perspectives on well-known places and, in this hidden europe, we discover just how different the passing landscape looks from the driver’s seat at the front of a Eurostar train.
As ever, our sincere thanks go to our guest contributors. Iain Bamforth, Phil Dunshea and Laurence Mitchell have all written for hidden europe before. We are pleased to welcome them back, writing in the pages that follow about Lisbon, Heimaey (Iceland) and the coast of Suffolk respectively. We very much hope that you will enjoy this issue of hidden europe as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries
Krzewina Zgorzelecka, Poland