hidden europe 5

Mapping central Europe

by Nicky Gardner


There used to be western Europe and eastern Europe - now there is central Europe too! hidden europe ponders a definition.

Isn't it odd the way that our perceptions of our continent change? Ours were helpfully reinvigorated last month by a sign at a bus station in Slovakia: 'connections throughout central Europe' it read.

Twenty years ago, there was just western Europe and eastern Europe. This was a dialectical divide that was easy to fathom. Them and us, or us and them, depending on where your a!ections lay. Suddenly central Europe has popped up. Discount airlines promote Prague, Warsaw and Budapest as central European destinations. We have to confess to being rather in favour of this new order, for, if there is such a place as central Europe, then Berlin - where hidden europe is published - surely has a very credible claim to be in the centre of things. If we are to divine who we are, then the centre is as good a place as any to start.

And is there not something rather comforting about the very notion of central Europe? A hint of the jam in the middle of a doughnut. Or the heart of an artichoke. The best bits are always at the centre. The very term evokes a fin de siècle decadence, images of a region full of coffee shops, and trains that run to time. Less generous commentators might think of dumplings and too much cabbage.