Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lines on a map

As you drive north from Bucharest, not far past Ploiesti, you pass a large ugly sign by the side of the road which indicates that you are crossing the 45th parallel. I have to confess that the first time I saw this my internal reaction was “oooh, big wow, the 45th parallel” (I think making sarcastic remarks to yourself is probably the first sign of madness). Later, though, I realized that the 45th parallel is in some cartographical respects a big deal, being exactly half way between the equator and the pole. While the sign itself will never fill me with enthusiasm (many roadside markers in Romania, this one and all county boundary markers included, are a triumph of brutalist sculpture - ugly in-your-face concrete and steel monstrosities), the fact that I cross this significant line on my world every time I go to and from the airport does serve to add a little zing to an otherwise flat and featureless section of the road.

Maybe my interest in this derives from the fact that I was born on the Greenwich Meridian. Well, I was born in a town that lies on the Greenwich Meridian, at least. I have no idea whether the hospital is on the Meridian, and I imagine it is extremely unlikely that I crossed from the Western Hemisphere into the Eastern at the same moment as I emerged from the womb. In fact, in comparison to the 0° line of longitude the 45° line of latitude is actually more impressive – being defined by its distance from the equator and the pole - actual geographically defined reference points - rather than by being on a line with the London hill where the Royal Observatory happened to be built.

I cannot, however, hold a candle to these people at The Degree Confluence Project. This is a site where people armed with hi-tech handheld GPS devices travel to the points (on land) on the earth where the lines of latitude and longitude cross, tell how they got there and take pictures of it. I cannot decide if some of the tales are exaggerated or even made up for effect, but if not then there are some seriously obsessive people out there. The person visiting one of the closest to me here - at Răstoliţa in the Mureş valley actually decided to drive there all the way from Kosovo.

Not sure what brought all this to mind today, especially since I haven’t driven down to (or back from) Bucharest since November. But anyway.

Miercurea Ciuc, in case you are wondering, is at 46:22:01N 25:48:34E. I didn’t know that off the top of my head, I got it from
this map.

3 comments:

J.K.Kelley said...

Hello,

I recently came across your blog (a few weeks ago) and have enjoyed your Csiki musings. I stay there each summer for a month as an "expat" of sorts with my Csiki boyfriend (soon to be husband).

I just wanted to let you know that you have a new reader!

Best,

JK KELLEY

Andy H said...

Thanks for the comments, JK

When your soon-to-be-wedding has taken place - where will you live? Here or there?

J.K.Kelley said...

we have married...and we have always considered our life to be lived both here and there....but we do live most of the year in the States. We were in Csik this summer, but you were off traveling. Maybe we'll catch you next summer.