Did you know, that since 1805 geographers have designated several places to be the centre of Europe? It is said, that already under the reign of Napoleon, the first of these points was fixed: in Germany, in the community of Neualbenreuth.
But in 1989, during M. Gorbachov’s visit in Vilnius, again a French institution, the French National Geographic Institute, designated a place near the Lithuanian village of Purnuškes, about 30km north of Vilnius, as the geographic centre of Europe. After re-estimation of the boundaries of the European continent the references of the geographical centre of Europe were defined as following: 54°, 54’ latitude and 25°, 19’ longitude. If you want to know, how this point was defined, you can continue reading here!
In 1992 Lithuania set aside land for the creation of a national park. Thus Europos Parkas was created, an open air museum featuring all sorts of abstract and modern sculptures expressing a unique vision of the centre of Europe, including one constructed from TV sets, which was noted as the largest sculpture in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. While Europos Parkas is not at the actual centre, its creation embodies the Lithuanian take on this honour. In 2004 the area was re-decorated in order to celebrate the EU enlargement.
Another place which claims to be the centre of Europe is the city of Suchowola in north-eastern Poland.
Slavomir Szabo from Slovakia who has travelled around Europe quite a lot, claims, that the Church of St. John near Kremnické Bane is located in the centre of Europe.
In most European countries people tried to identify the centre of their country. In some countries, we could not find an official centre, and therefore consulted maps and tried to estimate the centre. The best maps we found are offered by Worldatlas and Lonely Planet. We did our best to find as many centres of European countries as possible in:
The new geographical center of Belgium, calculated in 1990, is more in the east, in Nil-Saint-Vincent-Saint-Marti, in the commune of Walhain, in the Brabant province. It is marked by a small pyramidal monument. The exact geographic figures are: 50°38'28" latitude North and 04°40'05" longitude East.
Several places claim to be the geographical centre of Bulgaria. The town of Gabrovo is situated along the two banks of the Yantra River, at the northern foot of the Shipka Balkan Mountain, about 22km from one of these centres, which is located in Uzana, a mountain village. The geographic centre is marked with a memorial sign.
The town of Kazanluk in the gorgeous Valley of Roses at the foot of the Balkan Mountains, is another place which claims the title. Near the town you can visit the Kazanluk Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was very difficult to find a place which could be called the centre of Croatia. We contacted Tatjana Klobucar, the Croatian Spring Teacher 2005 and 2006, and she had a really interesting explanation:
There's no real geographical centre in Croatia due to the "weird" shape of the country. There is a place which was declared the centre of the coast, but none for the whole country. The way geographers measure the centre, would actually define a place in Bosnia, and that's not logical. What I actually found out is that in the so-called "Flower Square" in the capital - Zagreb - a huge globe was put up, which is supposed to be the exact spot of the 16th Meridian, and this is somehow considered a kind of geographical centre.
The spot which is considered by many as the geographical center of Cyprus is located on top of a small hill just outside the village of Dhali in the Ambeleri area.
As a matter of fact, the capital of Cyprus, Lefkosia/Nicosia is also not far from the geographical centre. It lies just to the north of the geographical centre of the island at an elevation of 160 metres. The city has a population of about 230.000, by far the biggest on the island. 195,000 people live in the government-controlled southern quarter while the rest live in the Turkish-occupied northern quarter. Unfortunately, Lefkosia has the unenviable legacy of being the last divided capital of Europe, following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The geographical centre of the Czech Republic is located in Číhošť. It was determined to be on a private meadow approximately 400m from the church which became famous 55 years ago for the aforementioned Číhošť miracle. During an advent mass on Sunday, December 11th, 1949 in the village of Číhošť in Eastern Bohemia, a 50cm long cross on the main altar moved several times from side to side. The whole event has remained a mystery until now.
Odder, a middle-sized town on the East coast of Jutland 20km south from Denmark’s second largest town, Aarhus, is considered the geographical centre of Denmark. The spot is marked by a large oak tree and a small stone.
Suure-Jaani, is located in the centre of Estonia. We could just estimate, as no official centre of this country has been nominated. It seems not to be the exact geographical centre, but the nearest town to this centre.
The tragic battle of ancient Estonians for freedom took place in the parish of Suure-Jaani on St. Matthew's Day, September 21, 1217. In the 17th century the name of the ancient village Valula was replaced by the name of Suure-Jaani in honour of St. Johannes, the guardian angel of the church. With its 1350 inhabitants and the church, graveyards and grammar school, Suure-Jaani is today a small town in the middle of Estonia and one of the centres of the neighbouring parishes. It has become a peaceful living place.
The city of Kajaani, the provincial capital of the Kainuu region, which is part of Oulu province, claims to be the geographical centre of Finland. The city was founded in 1651 by Count Per Brahe and is now home to 36,000 people.
France seems to be the only EU country where the capital city also claims to be the geographical centre. In the centre of Paris, surrounded by the rush of the Seine, lie two very different islands—l’Ile St. Louis and l’Ile de la Cité. Together they represent all the contradictions that make up Paris. The larger one—l’Ile de la Cité—is quite literally the centre of France. It is here that you find the brass marker designating Point Zéro, the exact point from which all distances in France are measured. Befittingly, the geographic centre of France lies just in front of the centre of French culture, history, and imagination—Notre-Dame de Paris.
But Paris is not the only place. There are at least three villages in the Berry region which also claim this title. Here you can see a map of the various regions of France. If you travel to southern Cher, you should not miss to visit the three villages: Vesdun (map), Bruère-Allichamps (map) and Saulzais-le-Potier (map) all have a case, although Bruère has history and mathematics on its side.
There are even six towns which claim to be the centre of Germany. This is due to the various methods which were applied in the procedure of finding the geographical centre. Five places have a common website:
Krebeck, a community near Göttingen/Niedersachsen is the only place outside Thüringen which was nominated the geogrpahical centre of Germany by the Geodätische Institut in Munich.
Flinsberg, is one of two small viellages in the county of Eichsfeld. Jens Levenhagen from the University of Bonn declared this place the geogrpahical centre of his home country in 1991.
In 1996, Norbert Glöckner from Gera, nominated Silberhausen, also in the county of Eichsfeld, as the geographical centre.
Finally, in 1997 Burkhard Happ from the Pedagocial University Erfurt claimed, that Landstreit, a village with only 12 inhabitants 10km north of the famous Wartburg, is the geographical centre.
And here is the sixth town: The "Institut für theoretische Geodäsie" in Bonn found out in 1998, that after the EU enlargement, Cölbe near Marburg in Hessen should be honoured with the title of the geographical centre of Germany.
The county of Westmeath alone boasts to be home to three exact geographical centres of Ireland: one, Hodson’s Pillar, is located on an island in Lough Ree; another is marked by a hill-tower near Glassan; and perhaps the one with the greatest claim, the Cat Stone, is to be found near Mullingar.
The latter, also called the Hill of Uisnech, aside from its geographical significance is traditionally known as Ail na Míreann, the Stone of Divisions. This point on the map once marked the convergence of Ireland’s five ancient provinces — Ulster, Leinster, Connacht, Munster and Meath. The Hill of Uisnech stands in the middle of Ireland’s prairies, or the central bog as it’s sometimes called. Once you’ve marvelled at the monolithic structure at the summit known locally as the Cat Stone — and indeed it does resemble a cat ready to pounce — a panoramic view over the very heart of Ireland is available.
There are at least three places which claim to be the geographical centre of Italy. Placed exactly in the centre of the Italian peninsula, Narni is located on a hilltop jutting into the Nera Valley on a majestic spur and crowned by a formidable papal fortress. Commanding one end of a steep gorge, it was once the gateway into Umbria, the last post before the Tiber Valley and the undefended road to Rome.
As you can read on a travertine headstone placed in the central square "S. Rufo" Rieti is the geographical centre of Italy, the "Umbilicus Italiae" as Latin people said. Of the ancient "Reate" you can see some sections of the boundary wall, in the area of the Oberdan Square, and the Roman bridge situated under the modern one built during the post-war period.
The city of Monteluco in Umbria also claims to be the geographical centre of Italy.
Apart from that, Lithuania is also home to the official geographical centre of Europe.
Ettelbrück is located near the geographic center of Luxembourg and is a busy commercial center. Ettelbrück City Hall was designed by Luxembourg architect Sosthène Weis and was built in 1906. The State Archives building is a former military hospital (built in 1857) that later accommodated the few military forces granted to Luxembourg by the Treaty of London in 1867. The building was going to be demolished in the 1960s, but it was finally decided to move the State Archives there in 1968.
The tiny village of Liya in Malta has some lovely old villas and gardens with orange groves - in fact oranges are the symbol of this village. Not many tourists come to Liya, but its Chapel - Our lady of Miracles in St. Saviours Street - is said to be built on the exact geographical centre of Malta.
Utrecht is a lively city in the geographical centre of the Netherlands. It is not only an important junction where traffic, trade, distribution and services meet and mingle, but also a true knowledge centre: apart from Utrecht University it houses important research institutes and several other institutes of higher education. With its 300,000 inhabitants, Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and with no less than one sixth of the inhabitants being students, Utrecht is a real student city.
Just outside Amersfoort, where intersecting motorways come very close to marking the geographical centre of the Netherlands, a wood of large, old trees surrounds an old family estate. The earliest "castle" dates back to about 1410, but this was a significant distance from the current "chateau" which dates back to 1923. The foundation stone for the Gardens of Op de Haar, which are situated in the middle of the wood, was laid in 1958.
The Belgen monument (near Amersfoort), dedicated to the victims of WWI, also claims to have been erected at the geographical centre of the Netherlands.
Some sources even claim, that the centre of Europe is located in Poland, in the city of Suchowola in north-eastern Poland.
The grographical centre of Romania is located in the village of Dealu Frumos (Schönberg) in Transylvania. The village is famous for its "Saxon" fortified church. Sibiu is the most important city in the area.
The geographical centre of Slovakia is the mountain range of Lubietovsky Vepor (1255m), the dominant feature of the surrounding landscape. Its range is almost 3km long and it has three peaks. Lubietovsky Vepor is also a protected area.
Slavomir Szabo from Slovakia who has travelled around Europe quite a lot, claims, that the Church of St. John near Kremnické Bane is located in the centre of Europe.
It was difficult to find the geographical centre of Slovenia. But we were supported in our research by Janja Jakoncic Faganel, the Slovenian Spring Teacher 2003, with whom our school has cooperated for years now in the project East Enlargement - West Enlargement. She helped us find the geographical centre of Slovenia which is located near the villages of Spodnja Slivna and Vace, which became famous for the remarkable Vace situla which was excavated there in 1882.
Madrid, the capital of Spain is not only the highest capital in Europe, but also one of those capitals which are really located in the geographical centre of the country. One source even claims, that the Puerta del Sol two blocks from the Plaza Callao is the exact geographic centre of Spain. Here you can also find the "kilometer 0" plaque, marking the center of the Spanish road network. It is the starting point from where all the highway distances are measured.
In 1947, the Geographic Institute of Stockholm's University College undertook to define the geographical centre of Sweden. The researchers "attached" the Swedish islands to the coast to create a model of Sweden's total land area. The centre was defined as the centre of gravity of the model and proved to be situated at Flataklocken in what is now the municipality of Ånge. Today there are an outlook tower, a cottage, windbreaks and barbecue pits. It is also possible, to obtain a Centre Certificate there. It is one of the three most sought after certificates in Sweden. The others represent visits to Smygehuk and Treriksröset, Swedens southernmost and northernmost points respectively.
Other sources mention further geographical centres:
-- One of them is Dunsop Bridge near Slaidburn.
-- Another one is the Ribble Valley, which is bounded by the fells of The Forest of Bowland to the north, the Yorkshire Dales to the east. The valley is dominated by the Pendle Hill most famous for the story of the Lancashire or Pendle Witches and their subsequent trial at Lancaster Castle in 1612. You may follow the witches' trail from Barrowford through the Pendleside villages to Lancaster. In 1652 near the hill's summit George Fox had a vision which led to the founding of the Quakers.
-- A third one is the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea.
-- A fourth one is the Borough of Blackburn, the largest settlement in East Lancashire.
The centre of Iceland is virtually a desert of volcanic debris. The geographical centre of the country is probably located a little bit north-east of the Hofsjökull, which is the third largest glacier in Iceland after Vatnajökull and Langjökull covering an area of 925 sqkm. Its highest peak reaches 1765m.
As Montenegro declared itself independent from Serbia in June 2006, we had to update this website and to find the geographical centre. Kevin Flynn, an attentive reader of this page, helped us find the right place, located between Nikšić and Kolašin: the centre of Montenegro is Kuta - a community of around 950 inhabitants (census of 2006) which lies some 14 km east of Nikšić and 34 km west of Kolašin.
Encamp is a parish of 8,200 inhabitants located in the geographic centre of Andorra. The nearby ski station of El Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig has several slopes which are considered among the best ones in the Pyrenees.
You can certainly imagine, that it was rather difficult to define centres for the mini states. We again used the maps of Lonely Planet and came to the conclusion, that the geographical centre of Liechtenstein should be somewhere near Gaflei.
The Principality of Monaco is a city state and the second-smallest country in the world (after the Vatican City), located between the Mediterranean Sea and France along the French Riviera or Côte d'Azur. Consisting mostly of the old city of Monaco and later built-up areas, it is also the most densely populated independent country in the world. We made up our minds, that the port of Monaco seems to be the centre.
San Marino claims to be the world's oldest republic still in existence, founded in AD 301 by a Christian stonemason named Marinus. Its geographical centre seems to be somewhere north-east of the Monte Titano (756m), which is also the highest mountain of San Marino. On the top of Mount Titano three wonderful towers rise: Rocca, Cesta and Montale built by the San Marino people as an effective system of fortifications linked together by the powerful walls.
The magnificent St. Peter's Basilica which now stands in the centre of Vatican City was built to replace the original structure built by Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Constantine's basilica was a remarkable piece of art, his men moved a million tons of earth in order to create a platform for the structure. Constantine went to such lengths because he believed that this was the very spot where Peter was buried, on the side of the Vatican Hill. This tradition remained strong throughout the ages but without concrete proof. Then in 1939 archaeologists discovered a whole street of Roman mausoleums under the floor of St Peter's. View a picture gallery!
The geographical centre of Albania is the city of Elbasan (English). The city is the terminus of a railroad from Durrës and a market center for the area, where tobacco, olives, fruit, grapes, cotton, grains, and vegetables are grown.
For finding the geographical centre of Belarus, we again consulted the Lonely Planet Map, and we asked Vladimir Kalinin, with whom we are working on the project Austria meets Belarus. We decided, that the village of Dudutki is the geographical centre of Belarus. The whole village is an ethnographical museum, which connects the past and the present. It is a museum of handicrafts, where a piece of clay, steel or wood is brought to life before your eyes. The museum was founded in 1993, and it covers the territory of 160 hectares. In the Dudutki museum activities and entertainment harmoniously combine nature and history.
For Trondheim patriots, the city is the centre of Norway. Trondheim is as much the technological capital today as it was the Norwegian capital centuries ago. The city around the meandering River Nidelva, the city of timber dwellings, the city of winter, the city surrounded by beautiful hills. Trondheim is situated next to a large fjord - Trondheimsfjorden (126 km long). Trøndelag is often referred to as Midt-Norge (the middle part of Norway).
The geographical centre most difficult to find was the one of Russia. As the country has changed its shape dramatically since the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the places which were nominated the centre of the Soviet Union (Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk) can no longer claim this title. Nowadays, the geographical centre must be somewhere in the Krasnoyarsk Region on the Jenissei River, between the estuaries of the Podkamennaja Tunguska River and the Upper Tunguska River. The Tunguska Region is famous for a mysterious explosion which took place there on June 30, 1908. According to scientists, the most probable reason for this phenomenon was either a comet or an asteroid.
The canton of Obwalden is located in the centre of Switzerland. The geographical centre of the country seems to be somewhere south-west of the capital, Sarnen. With its central location, Obwalden has been able to establish itself as a significant tourist location since the 19th century.
During the summer, tourists enjoy hiking and mountaineering.
© Susanne Pratscher
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