Monday, 21 April 2008

Centre of Europe 2

One of the things that strikes me here in South Bohemia is how differently one feels about going abroad. Here it is about 30 minutes' drive to Austria and Germany. Local people go shopping in Linz and the Austrians return the favour. This must make all sorts of differences to how one feels about one's own and other countries. Here we sit in the middle of Europe as I said, joined on every side to larger and often more powerful countries. It makes the perfect base to explore Europe from, but in order to do that one has to go through someone else's country, and that country will be another European country.

How very different to being British. It is not surprising that the Brits cannot see why the Czechs are so obsessed with being central Europeans and so commit the gaff I referred to in my previous post. We Brits are definitely not at the centre of Europe and are proudly geographically and mentally independent of the continent. Indeed our attitude towards Europe is extremely ambiguous at best. How different is our attitude to our border – in the UK if we want to go abroad we must cross the sea. When I stand on a British beach looking out, I am always aware that the world's doorstep lies lapping at my feet. Our boundary extends to every continent in the world; we need no permission to cross our neighbour's land first. The Czechs are obsessed with the embrace of the mysterious forest, a place of tales, fears and treasures, the Brits by the the expansive sea, dangerous, full of beauty and endless opportunity.

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