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The Great Plain of Central and Eastern Europe 460

land, climate, sea, level, miles and crops

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THE GREAT PLAIN OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE 460. Appearance.—Europe is the only con tinent that has a low, level plain stretching entirely across it from west to east. One can cross this plain by train from Amsterdam to Berlin, Warsaw, and Moscow. The rail road crosses the Volga River at Samara, and the Ural River at Oren burg. So vast is the I extent of this plain that one could journey 1000 miles farther to Tash kend in Asia, and still not cross a mountain. What regions does this Plain of Central and Eastern Europe touch? Whatcountriesliewholly or partly within it? The lover of hills and mountains does not like this plain. Wherever one looks all is flat—everywhere flat, level land. Here and there are villages, sheltered by shade-trees, then miles of flat, fenceless fields reaching away to the next village, and the next, and the next. For hundreds and even thousands of miles one sees nothing that stands higher than the church spires. This monotonous scene is varied only by an occasional forest, or a marsh at some place where the land is so very flat that the water will not drain away after rains.

The plain is fenceless because the land is rarely pastured. Why? (Sec. 462.) Where animals are pastured, some one watches them to keep them away from the crops.

461. Ease of travel.—It is easy to travel and to trade in a region like this. It is easy for railroads to cross level land, and where the land is level, boats can go on the rivers. The arms of the sea also help. What fraction of the way across Europe can ocean steamers sail in going to Petrograd; to the eastern end of the Mediterranean; to the eastern end of the Black Sea? Both of these far-reaching arms of the sea touch the Central Plain and receive navigable rivers that come from its very center. Navigable rivers also provide waterways all the way across the western part of the plain from the central highlands to the North and Baltic seas. The greatest river of all Europe, the muddy Volga, the Missis sippi of Europe, enables steamers to travel for hundreds of miles across central Russia and on to the Caspian Sea where they touch the shores of interior Asia. The land near

the sources of these streams is so level that canals have been built to connect the Baltic rivers with the Volga, and with those flowing to the Black Sea.

The snows of winter give one .more aid to travel. The sled, or sleigh, is easier to draw than a wagon, and it has been used for cen turies in this region for most of the heavy hauling from farm to town or river bank. In few other regions in the entire world are the natural means of transportation so easy.

462. Climate and plain is a land of the north. The climate of its western part is somewhat like that of England, or of western Washington State. In the center it is like the climate of our own Lake District, and in the east it is like that of our Northern Wheat Region. Everywhere the winter is cold and snowy. Eastward, away from the mild climate of the Atlantic Ocean, the winters become colder, and the summers hotter. (Figs. 328, 329.) The streams of Holland are frozen for only a short time each winter. Those of eastern Germany are frozen for a month longer, and those of eastern Russia for a month longer than those of Germany. The rainfall also becomes less as we go east. The western boundary of Holland has 27i inches of rain, Berlin has 23, and Orenburg, on the Ural, has only 14 inches a year. Compare this with the rainfall of our Northern Wheat Region (Fig. 158).

The crops show that it is a land of the north. Rye, oats, beets, and the potato are especially important in the northwestern part of the plain, where the climate is cool and damp. The potato is to the Germans, Danes, and Swedes what corn is to the people of Iowa and Kansas.

In the drier southeast enough summer rain falls for spring wheat (Sec. 89) and barley, which are here the main crops. In the lower Volga Basin the rainfall is uncertain; some years the crops are good and sometimes they fail, causing famine.

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