Finding the Center of Europe

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With Europe being such a large and popular continent, many people are keen on exploring it, and what better way to do so that to find the center of Europe? However, unfortunately finding the center of Europe on a map and travelling there isn’t quite that simple as there are many

countries and locations that claim to be the ‘center of Europe’. These include Krahule in Slovakia, Dresden and Kleinmaischeid in Germany, Frauenkirchen in Austria, Suchowola and Torun in Poland, Saaremaa in Estonia, Polotsk in Belarus, Dilove in the Ukraine and Purnuškės in Lithuania. Between these countries this spans hundreds of miles of land claiming to be the center of Europe, in fact a traveller wanting to visit all the various centres could make a great holiday and see a large sectionof Europe as a result. So how can they all have a case?

 

The reason for this uncertainty is that the center of Europe will depend on the definition of the European borders. In particular this means whether or not distant islands are included in the measure. This view has also changed historically meaning that other locations have previously been able to make the claim that they are the center of Europe. For example in 1887 geographers erected a monument in Austria-Hungary (today a part of the Ukrain) marking Dilove as the center of Europe in Latin inscriptions. This method used unknown borders for the calculation and based the center of Europe on the mid range of longitude and latitude.

Today this claim is taken less seriously with the center of Europe being contested among Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania and Austria. Perhaps the most ‘well known’ center of Europe is in Purnuškės, Lithuania which is recognised as the center of Europe in the Guinness book of records. This center of Europe was discovered by finding the center of gravity on a scale model of Europe. An impressive monument (the Geographic Centre Monument) has been erected there in 2004 and much of the surrounding area is kept as a reserve. There is also a museum nearby called the ‘Open Air Museum of the Center of Europe’ making this a great tourist spot for any one wanting to visit an impressive and recognised center of Europe.

However this claim is protested by Austria which holds the patent for the center of Europe, and Hungary which claimed to be the center based on a recent survey. Most recently Belarus has also been called the center of Europe in a report from local scientists in 2000 resulting in another, albeit much smaller monument in Polotsk. While these countries all claim to house the center of mainland Europe however, Saaremaa in Estonia claims to be the center of Europe when accounting for all of the islands from the Azores to Iceland.