6th May, 2011 11:30 ~ 12:20

Co-ordinates: 50°10′21″N 9°9′0″E
Irony value: 4/5
Overall verdict: Subtle

On January 1, 2007, with the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria in the European Union, the geographic centre of the European Union changed, to a wheat field in Meerholz, outside of the German town Gelnhausen, in Hesse, Germany. It’s a little bit East of Frankfurt.

I’d just finished a series of meetings in the Frankfurt area, and I had about four hours before I needed to check in for my flight back to Heathrow, so this was a ‘perfect opportunity’ to visit the point at which an EU-shaped sheet of uniform thickness and density would balance.

I got the coordinates from Wikipedia, fed them into the SatNav, and within 20 minutes I was parking by a sign pointing me down a path to the Mittelpunkt der EU.

Mittelpunkt, this way!

Every time new members join, the geographical centre of the EU must shift. In 2007 it moved about 75 miles east as Romania and Bulgaria exerted their geographical pull. Earnest columnists will no doubt have spun a deeper metaphor around this mathematical outcome, but the town of Meerholz was just thrilled to put some signs up.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the EU Mittelpunkt...and so much more.

There also appeared to be subtle undertones of friction, a frisson of Schadenfreude perhaps, between Meerholz and the neighbouring town of Hasselroth-Niedermittlau, as you can see from the English bit of the sign (below).

In your face, Hasselroth-Niedermittlau!

It’s as if the folks of Meerholz have basically erected a big “ha ha” sign to annoy their neighbours in Hasselroth-Niedermittlau.

“How do like that, huh? You thought you were the Mittelpunkt, didn’t you, huh? Well guess what? You’re not! Guess who is… Yeah, check it out coz Meerholz is the middlest in the whole fuckin’ EU, you Hasselroth-Niedermittlauer mother fukkaz! Kiss my Mittelpunkt and suck my IGN approved balls!”

That’s what they wanted to write, but in the end, they went with this.

But if you feel sorry for Hasselroth-Niedermittlau’s near-miss, then perhaps you should also spare a thought for Kleinmaischeid, which was the geographical centre of the EU from 2004, when the Union grew to 25 members, till 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria joined. Adding 10 new members in 2004 was a big deal. Not just the sheer number of new members, but including as they did many former Eastern bloc nations, it was a bold statement of intent for the EU. With that vision in mind, and with Kleinmaischeid as the new geographic centre, one can imagine the enthusiasm with which the councillors of this town approved the monument and small park next to their post office.

It’s still there. Again from Wikipedia, I got the coordinates, entered them in the SatNav, and was away. On arrival, though, I saw nothing of the monument – based on a set of navigational dividers (like a pair of compasses) – and assumed that with Kleinmaischeid no longer the geographical centre of anything, they had torn it down or converted it into a swing or something. I’d given up on finding it, and needing to get back to the airport for my flight back to Heathrow, I went back to my car.

But there it was, on the way out of the village.

The former EU Mittelpunkt. For just 3 short years from 2004 to 2007, this was the geographical centre of the EU. The George Lazenby of EU Mittelpunkts, history will, in the end, find a place for Kleinmaischeid.

With no timetable for further expansion of the EU at the moment, it looks like Meerholz could hold the title of EU-Mittelpunkt for a while yet, but Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey are all official candidates states while Albania and Serbia have applied for membership, so if any do join, the IGN may have to sharpen their pencils once more and the baton will be passed to another lucky village somewhere, probably in Bavaria.

Picnic table at the centre of the park at the centre of the EU. Lines radiating from the centre point to member-states, which are identified by two-letter ISO country codes on the base.

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