The war in Ukraine has truly shaken us. It is a country for which we have, over the years, developed a great affection. Indeed, it happens to be one of the very few countries to which we have travelled with the explicit intention of taking a real holiday — as opposed to travelling for work-related projects. But relaxation apart we have worked closely with Ukrainian colleagues, written for Ukrainian media, sung the Divine Liturgy alongside Ukrainians and clinked glasses of Nemiroff with friends. War becomes different when it’s close to home.
There are many themes to this new issue of hidden europe. One of these explores the intricate relationship between landscapes and nature on the one hand and the human experience on the other. We read in the pages that follow how the landscapes around Lake Lucerne became central in defining Swiss identity. We discover how volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have shaped Azorean identity. So many people have left the Azores with the dream of perhaps one day returning. We feature Iceland too, showcasing one of those primal landscapes which underpin the Icelandic experience.
Those thoughts bring us back to Ukraine. If you had a chance to read Vladimir Putin’s provocative essay last July on the relationship between people and territory, then you know that he believes that there’s something of the Russian soul in the lands once known as the Kievan Rus. It’s not for the first time history has been employed as an agent to justify claims on the territory of another country. Yet history is not an absolute. It is a construct, and it can be a dangerous pretext for going to war. The Romanovs in Russia saw themselves as ordained by God. Putin, quite incredibly, sees himself on a divine mission to rescue the ancient lands of Holy Rus.
In such difficult times, it is good to remind ourselves that we are not alone. Travel is a wonderful leveller, as well as a bridge between people and communities. So join us as 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 offer special thanks to our four guest contributors to this issue: Laurence Mitchell, Paul Scraton, Rudolf Abraham and Katie Featherstone. Katie contributes for the first time to hidden europe with a wonderful feature on Iceland.
We wish all our readers a spring and summer blessed by safe travels.
Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries