Reading the book Black Earth, I became aware of a village in Ukraine that was calculated and named as the geographical center of Europe in 1887: Dilove.
“Really?“ I wondered, not because I would begrudge Dilove the distinction, but because I had already visited the alleged center of Europe a few years ago, in the aptly named Europe Park in Lithuania.
The underlying calculation in this case dated from 1989.
Over a hundred years, it may be possible for a continent to grow a bit, shrink a bit or move around a bit. After all, the continental drift had been invented in the meantime. But from Ukraine to Lithuania, that’s a stretch – at least geographically. Different methods of calculation must have been used.
The first problem is to determine what Europe is. Do you do it politically? Then it would be the Habsburg Empire or the European Union. With or without candidates for accession? Will the United Kingdom suddenly be (even) less European in two years? And what is the effect of that Swiss hole in the middle of the European cheese? Do you include the islands which expand the territory of the EU all the way to Guadeloupe and New Caledonia? Aren’t French Guyana and Ceuta so obviously in South America or Africa, respectively, that they cannot be part of Europe? What about Northern Cyprus? Questions upon questions. Good that at least Germany lost everything from Samoa to the Bismarck Archipelago, for otherwise the map of the EU would be even more complicated.
But even leaving political interpretations aside, a mere geographical calculation of the center of the continent can be debated endlessly as well. Where to draw the Eastern boundary? What about Turkey? What about the Caucasus? Is Malta European or African? Do you simply connect the most outward points to determine the center? Or do you consider the boundaries of the landmasses? Possibly weighted for the product of surface times density, because an acre of Switzerland weighs more than an acre of Holland. Or do you pick the center of a circle drawn around Europe?
If you are playing around with methods and figures, you will always find some center of Europe situated in a small village hoping to benefit from Euro-centrist tourism. Because it is striking that all centers of Europe have so far been in villages in the pampas where nothing else is happening:
- Suchowola, Poland
- Stará Voda, Czech Republic
- Neualbenreuth, Germany
- Hildweinsreuth, Germany
- Dilove, Ukraine
- Krahule, Slovakia
- Purnuškės, Lithuania
- Westerngrund, Germany
- Polotsk, Belarus
- Tállya, Hungary
- Mõnnuste, Estonia
But I don’t think there is much to see at either of these places. Well, Mõnnuste at least is on the island of Saaremaa, which looks quite beautiful.