Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Center of Europe, Part 1

Perhaps it was a geographer with too much time on his hands who determined the Rugby, North Dakota, was at the absolute center of the North American continent. And it must have been another who determined that the geographic center of Europe was a spot 20 minutes' drive north of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Looking at the map, you may wonder about this determination, considering that Vilnius is a good 2,500 miles from Lisbon, but you must consider all of Scandinavia and Russia to the Urals in the calculation.
Nevertheless, on June 9 - a bright and windy Monday afternoon - we reached the marker just off a two-lane road and in the middle of a golf course. Golf is not exactly a popular sport in Lithuania. What the course was doing there, I don't know, and there was no one around to ask.

A few miles away is Europe Park, 135 acres where paths wind among tall pines and clearings where sculpture has been placed. The park was founded in 1991 by Lithuanian sculptor Ginntaras Karosas shortly after his country became independent from the Soviet Union. The goal of this outdoor museum is to give "artistic significance to the geographic center of Europe." More than 100 works by sculptors from 32 countries are exhibited there. The bronze sculpture shown here is "Electricity," by Lithuanian artist Evaldas Pauza.

It's electricity, by the way, that's at the root of Lithuania's most perplexing problem. More on that tomorrow.

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