Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

Good Reads – 22/08/2014

Another week, another selection of the best European reads, brought to you by two of E&M's editors. Frances and Bettina share a few gems they've come across online, ranging from an article about British POWs in Germany during the First World War to attempts to set the most recent outbreak of the Gaza-Israel conflict in its cultural and historical context, highlighting the role of regional and international stakeholders and Europe's hypocrisy in the affair.

Frances, Sixth Sense editor


At home in enemy territory

Ever since visiting the exquisite Italian Chapel in Orkney, which was built by captured Italian soldiers during the Second World War, I have been intrigued by the fates of prisoners of war – both military and civilian. So it was with some interest that I stumbled upon Stephen Evans' recent article on the BBC website about the 5000 British citizens interned at Ruhleben on the edge of Berlin between 1914 and 1918.

These men were not soldiers, but civilians who happened to be in Germany when war broke out across Europe: everyday folk simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite many privations, they were determined to make the best of their lot and set about establishing not just order, including class and racial hierarchies, but also a degree of comfort. As Evans engagingly explains, they grew flowers in biscuit tins, organised rugby and cricket matches, put on plays and, in fact, ended up far better off than the people living in the German capital at the time. Even the name of the detention camp is somehow appropriate: roughly translated, it means "the quiet life". 

Published in Good Reads
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 00:00

A European Odyssey

European Peace Walk
Photo courtesy of Simon de Grève
European Peace Walkers en route to Italy


To mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the European Peace Walk has set up a transnational walkway along the borders of Central Europe. Since 28 July groups of walkers have been embarking daily on a 550km journey from Vienna in Austria to Trieste in Italy. E&M's Frances Jackson caught up with Peace Walk participant Simon de Grève, a 22 year old engineering graduate from Belgium, whose group set out on 29 July.

E&M: How far have you got so far?

SdG:  We arrived in Croatia today and have walked about 250km over the course of the first 11 days, so we're almost half way and there is a really good atmosphere in our group.

E&M: Why did you decide to take part in the European Peace Walk? Did your decision have anything to do with the fact that you're from Belgium, a country that was so very badly ravaged by the First World War?

SdG: I finished my degree in June and for my last 'long holidays' I wanted to do something different or special before embarking on my professional career. A Spanish Erasmus student who I met during my final internship abroad told me about a 23-day walk that she was planning to attempt in August with some friends. I found the idea of the walk a really interesting personal challenge and eventually I decided to try the adventure myself. My internship in a foreign country also opened my eyes to people from other countries and I was looking for an opportunity to find other people who might share my interests and style of life. My decision to take part in this walk thus has nothing to do with the war, only with the expectation of meeting new people and a desire to test my limits and complete a challenge.

Published in Sixth Sense
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