Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Go one step further. Stay on the train for an extra station. Or why not stay on the train to the very end of the line? You should, because often the place at the end of the line is very interesting, as we discovered when we visited Provins, the final station for the commuter trains that run east from Paris.

article summary —

hidden europe co-editor Nicky Gardner has always been one to go that extra mile. Or, when it comes to trains, to go one stop further. Here she reflects on the special appeal of going the whole way to the very end of the line.

The transit maps of many European cities are powerful tools, shaping both residents’ and visitors’ perceptions of those cities. Be it the London Underground map, Berlin’s S-Bahn network or the straggly pattern of RER routes around Paris, these diagrammatic renderings of travel opportunities influence our understanding of a city and the latent possibilities of its hinterland.

Sometimes, there are places far out at the very end of metro rail routes which achieve a certain prominence in the imagination merely because they are routinely signed as a train’s final destination. In London, for example, I have never actually taken the Northern Line right out to Edgware or the District Line to Upminster, but I have seen trains bound for those destinations so very often. So Edgware and Upminster, respectively north and east of London, flourish in my imagination as possible Arcadian outposts within easy reach of London.

I did once venture to the most distant extremity of London’s Metropolitan Line. There lies the market town of Chesham, which today is the furthest one can travel from London on the Underground — although the outer reaches of the so-called Underground are very much above ground. As I recall, the journey from Liverpool Street in London to Chesham took about 75 minutes, swapping tunnels under the city for the residential suburbs so gently celebrated fifty years ago in Betjeman’s Metroland. The final stretch of the journey recalls English rural railways of yesteryear and Chesham, set by the small but beautiful River Chess, ticks all the boxes for smalltown charm. Those who know London’s edgelands better than I have confided that Chesham was a lucky strike. So I now judge it best never to go to Upminster or Edgware for fear of disappointment.

This is just an excerpt. If you are a subscriber to hidden europe magazine, you can log in to read the full text online. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 69.

About the authors

hidden europe

and manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 69.