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The Continent of Europe

A dream destination for most in the world, Europe has been striding on mightily leaving behind a gripping and intensely long history marked by wars, love, art and conspiracies. Through the 1990's, with the two German factions uniting and the development of the Euro in the last few years, the nations of Europe have achieved an international recognition beyond controversies of Communism which most pro-Soviet States in other continents are still at odds with. From Moscow to London, Europe has seen splashes of colour and warmth that was never imaginable after World War II. With its beautiful architecture, scenery and diversity in food, societies and the arts, no country in Europe is worth a miss.

The European continent expands from the eastern Asian divide comprising the Ural Mountains in the north-east, Ural River, the Caspian Sea, Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea in the south-east; to the coastal borders with the North Atlantic Ocean on the West. Above the African continent, it stretches up to the islands beyond the northern borders of Scandinavia.

Geography

Europe occupies the Western part of the larger land-mass called Eurasia. The European terrain varies greatly over small areas and is hard to define. The southern parts of continental Europe are relatively more mountainous. Moving north after the south central mountain ranges such as the Alps, Carpathians and Pyrenees the terrain consists of broad and low plains, which are vast towards the Eastern Europe.

Central Europe, the Italian peninsula, Spain and Portugal have their own haphazard trend of geography. For example, Central Europe lies amidst beautiful valleys, river basins and plateaus. The High ranges are also parts of Western Ireland and north-west Britain.  These interestingly continue into the western 'spine' of Norway suggesting the remaining mountain range remains below the sea. We can see the range peeping out in the form of tiny islands between the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea in the run-up into Norway.

The European continent lies mainly in the temperate latitudes. Under the influence of the Gulf Stream, which originates across the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, Europe is kept milder than other regions of the world in the same latitude zone. The Gulf Stream keeps accessible parts on West Europe warmer and wetter than are the Eastern parts which are more similar to the Russian regions in the temperate latitudes - cold and rough. A vast amount of the plains also lie under the sea towards the North.

France, Spain Italy and the other Mediterranean regions face a relatively humid summer as do some of the northern parts of England. Europe, especially in the northern regions has longer days and the sunlight can remain even after 10 pm. This is a really arresting season in the northern parts of Europe as the weather can be an authentically unique experience for tourists, especially non-Europeans.

The summer in Europe lasts from June/July - August. In the autumn though temperatures fall, certain cities can still be humid, especially towards the Mediterranean. Winter in Europe can be harsh. Some Northern parts, like Scandinavia, where winter can set in September, are hit by heavy snowfall. The eastern plains are dry and freezing, making it difficult for crops to grow. The southern parts face a milder weather but are laden with rains.

Winter lasts from November to March in most European countries. Most parts of Europe exhibit a splendid blooming of spring. The weather leaves a slight chill in the air which most people enjoy with the sun coming back. The Netherlands is popular for its flowers, especially tulips, and this is definitely a time to visit. The rest of Europe is the best time for European scenery with a lot of natural colours in full bloom. The skies are generally clear, making it the best time for sightseeing and photography.

History, people and culture:

The first Europeans to have influence over a major part of the continent were the ancient Greeks. With rich philosophical arguments, ancient Greece had its own identity in most parts of the world. The city-state, a philosophical outcome of the Greeks, and the concept of later governments in the 1700's had much in common.

With the spread of the Roman Empire to the West in the early middle ages, continuing battles with local tribes, saw a gradual perishing of the Empire in the West under the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic tribes by the end of the first millennium. The eastern side of the continent was captured by the Byzantines who fell to the crusade by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

Though into wars, Europe went through spectacular cultural, social and economic developments through the middle age and the early modern age reflected in the literature, paintings, architecture and the common culture of Europe. Britain brought the birth of Democracy. A beginning of an immense colonization across the globe was being undertaken by most of Europe. Into the modern age, the French Revolution and modernization of politics had a major influence in Europe and are the most highlighted attractions in city museums and architecture.  Most of the modern scientific base developed thereafter in Europe, with great leaps in medicine and engineering.

Most of the 20th Century history during and after the World Wars was marked by heavy bloodshed which carried into colonies. Disputes between Russia and the Euro-American alliance after they had defeated Germany and Italy in the World Wars left a divided Europe, torn between Communism and Capitalism, a political state that remained until the fall of the Berlin Wall (built through Berlin to separate Western Capitalist Germany from Eastern Communist Germany) and the gradual abolishing of Communism in Moscow in the early 1990's. Europe today is considered as the European Union (EU) with uniform economic and trade policies. The European Union was formed in 1993 by earlier establishments called European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom. The Union established a parliament, a central bank and a court. All European countries are member States of the European Union.

Europe has long been the home of western classical music. Most of the modern day culture in Europe has its roots in the political disturbance and social conservativeness of the post war decades. The central philosophical idea in most of the art from Europe has been about liberation. Europe has been renowned for world class classical, folk, jazz and rock performers throughout the twentieth century. Culturally a rich and vibrant continent, Europe has given birth to the latest genres in art.

Tourist Destinations and Night Life:

Apart from the exhilarating scenery which is lush across Europe, experiencing the diverse cultures of Europe is the best way to know the continent.

  • Oktoberfest - A major celebration in Germany. Its history dates back to the early 19th century, when the major attraction was a horse race with the backdrop of a royal wedding. An agricultural show was the event the next year, and gradually the beer flowed in over the years. Today Oktoberfest is celebrated in most countries, and six million from all over the world attend in Germany. Due to the early fall in Germany, the Oktoberfest is held in later parts of September to be able to get the warmer days.
  • Louvre Museum - Located in Paris this is the most visited museum in the world. The museum was started as Louis XIV decided to exhibit royal collection in Louvre. After the French revolution, it was preserved as a State museum to display national masterpieces. The museum offers a deep and detailed insight into French culture and history with priceless works of art.
  • Canal Grande - The beautiful stretch of water in Venice immortalized by many a pop video is often called the 'most beautiful street in the city'. Travelling along on the stretch in a hired gondola gives a sight of the rich architecture of Venice. Trips inside the city of Venice also hold great attractions.
  • Colosseum - In the centre of Rome, this ancient elliptical amphitheatre is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture. Built in 70-72 AD, this place had a capacity of 50,000 and was used for gladiator games. Most of the damage was brought about by devastating earthquakes.
  • Tower Bridge - Sometimes mistakenly referred to as the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge over Thames is an iconic symbol of England. It was opened in 1894 and has grown a good deal of history through the years. Now ready for yet another change, the Tower Bridge has been decided to be painted in blue and white under a $4 million dollar 'facelift' project.
  • Altamira "Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art" - Located in Asturias, northern Spain this is a lifetime experience showing the most valued ancient cave paintings.



The night life in European cities is known to be vibrant and open, especially amongst the glitz and glamour of London, Paris, Madrid, Munich, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Most of the world renowned DJ's and pub artists lead the music scene in Europe, making clubbing a great experience.     



Original Authors: Shampa
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 14/11/2009
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