The “roof of Europe” or the “extreme edge of Europe” might be more dramatic monikers. But Slovakia, without the Alps and without a sea coast, can nevertheless claim one of the continent’s geographical titles for itself: “centre of Europe” or “Stred Európy” as it’s known in Slovak.
As with many such titles, it is contested by others. Places in Lithuania and Poland claim the same honour. God knows how the statisticians work them out. Is it mainland Europe? Is it EU Europe? Is Russia included, and how much? And how exactly do you calculate a centre when, in Europe, such outlying islands as Iceland muddy the waters of calculation.
But no matter. Go to Stred Európy anyway. It’s a peaceful, buccolic spot. From the idyllic old mining town of Kremnica it’s only a 10-minute drive north on Hwy 65 through Kremnické Bane (the nearest public transport, about 3km away, with trains through Kremnica to Zvolen which is on the Bratislava line). When you come out of the woods, look for the small white church on a rise on the right, and park outside.
And there you are. It has the surreal feel of Scotland’s northwest highlands, here. The grassy, tussocky picnicking spot, the stone with the inscription (that’s the centre folks, go and pose for those pictures, all Slovaks have this on their “bucket lists” so you’ll be in good company), the beautiful whitewashed 15th-century church, the sheep everywhere (contrary to popular belief Slovakia actually has very few sheep out in the fields, and in fact very few churches like this either).
The forested hills roll away. There’s a salaš (farm that usually has good home-grown/ home-reared food for sale) nearby doing mean bryndza (sheep’s cheese). You’ve looked round lovely Kremnica, most likely, if you’re in this neck of the woods. So now come here, take some time out and have a picnic.