Southward passage along Meridian 18 East
The story takes us from the north in the Swedish capital of Stockholm to
the Southern Italian-Roman port of Brindisi (Brundisium). The peculiarity
of this locus, which by angular measure of geographic coordinate remains at
constant eastward displacement from London, is that it passes from places
associated very much with Western civilization to areas surrounded by the
mysteries of Eastern European history.
- We are in Stockholm - the center of power of Protestant Scandinavia which
exerted its influence on Europe so greatly in 17-th century. To the east
we have St. Petersburg, to the west Oslo and Kopenhagen.
- On the southern shore of the Baltic Sea we enter Poland in the
Danzig-Gdańsk region, or East Pomerania. The German Prussia originated east
of here with the capital in Kœnisgberg. This region, inhabited for centuries by
both Poles and Germans, extends south to the town of
Bydgoszcz located in the sharp turn of the lower Vistula.
South of here we enter the area associated with the origins of Poland as a nation
in 10th century.
- Moving further to the south of Poland we pass the boundary between Upper and
Lower Silesia at Opole on the river Oder. Silesia is a region where Poles and Germans lived
under various political arrangements. The ancient Polish capital of Cracow
is east of Silesia.
- We leave Poland and cross into Moravia and lower Slovakia with the
capital in Bratislava, reaching the waters of the River Danube, flowing
from the German heartlands eastward to the Black Sea. The path of the 18-th
meridian leads halfway between Vienna and Budapest - the power center of
the sub-Carpathian Central Europe. From there the Slavs were dominated by
Germanic influence and led into opposing the Ottoman
Turks from the east and south. Poland and Austria were allies against the
Turks when the latter presented danger, with the Poles bringing a crucial victory
at Vienna in 1683. A century later Austria took part in partitions of
Poland partnering with Russia and Prussia.
- In southwest Hungary we reach Pécs, one of the oldest outposts of
Roman Christianity in Eastern Europe and one of the oldest universities in
Europe. Crossing the Drava River we go into Croatia.
- Traveling through the short span of Croat land to the banks of the
Sava River we cross at Slavonski Brod into Bosnia.
- Our southward passage takes us through the middle of the country of Bosnia which
enjoyed religious and political diversity and tolerance for most of its history
despite being the westernmost
point of the Ottoman empire in Europe during its ascendancy and decline.
In recent times Bosnia suffered enormously
in conflagrations caused by communist, fascist and nationalist ideologies.
We pass near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo and
go on to the ancient port of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik used to be a republic
competing with Venice in trade and political influence.
- Now we sail across the Adriatic to Brindisi - in Roman times the port of Brundisium
and an ancient center of commerce with Eastern Mediterranean.
Thus the straight southward line between Stockholm and Brindisi, two points firmly planted in
the familiar Western civilization, takes us through areas steeped in an aura of mystery.
The mystery is created by the Anglo-American perspective, now projected with great force on the
whole world, in which Europe begins in England and ends somewhere along the Berlin-Vienna-Rome line
- the line of Iron Curtain.
Public domain map adapted from collections of
University of Texas Libraries