11 October 2012

The Furthest We've Gone...

Yesterday we reached the geographic zenith of the trip.  This bridge - crossed in the far reaches of Lappish Norway, on our way from one part of Finland to another - sits at 70°198947 N. The name of this place is Tana Bru.  There were a few low buildings, a store, leafless trees, grey skies, the swift Tana river and a small, wet pull off where we could park.  From there, our road turned back down towards the equator.
The experience had us thinking about the other extreme points of the trip, where we'd been the furthest east, west and south.  Here's our little cartography project.
It seems that we always reach these geographic extremes during cloudy, dismal weather.  It was a cold, windy day on the southern coast of Cyprus when we walked the Limassol shoreline, at 34°664911 N.  There were stacks of unused beach chairs and faded signs for "ombrellas," a few fishermen, rocky sand, strip clubs and blank holiday apartments.  Cyprus certain can feel like the sunny south, but in those earliest days of March we had no desire to swim.  From the beach, it's about two hundred and forty miles south to Port Fuad, Egypt.
Looking for lighthouses and glaciers, we rounded the western tip of Iceland's Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is the furthest west we reached in our westernmost country (-23°973541 E).  The Azores are more westerly, but we don't intend to go.
The land out on the Snæfellsnes was dominated by volcanic rock and bright-green grass.  The waterside cliffs were full of bird nests, the air was full of mist.  It's a land of myth, and the local volcano was chosen by Jules Verne as the entry point into the center of the earth.
More than three thousand miles east, on the polluted shores of the Caspian sea, Baku was our other longitudinal extreme.  Oil derricks and harbor cranes hung in the sky, the city was gnawing itself to pieces.  Azerbaijan isn't a pretty place, and the Caspian was tar black in the January light.
The culture there is as much Asian as European, a mixture of Islam, Russia and its own independent fire.  Taking a night train overland through the dessert from Georgia, we awoke to grey scrub and brown earth.  The sea and the city, when we got there, seemed like the last place on earth.
As nearly as we can figure it, we reached 49°887371 E.
So, if these were our poles, where was the middle?  After some quick calculations, it seems that the east-west, north-south midpoint of our trip lands at 52°431929 N, 12°956915 E, which is about ten miles west of Berlin.
We've actually been to one (dubiously accurate) geographic center of Europe, in the Belarusian town of Polotsk.  It didn't feel like the middle, though.  Berlin seems much more accurate, even if our methods are a little unscientific.

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