English Channel: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the English Channel.

  • The English Channel is the body of water that separates the south coast of England from the north coast of France.
  • It is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world.

  • It covers about 75,000 square km and stretches for about 560 km. At its narrowest point, the Straits of Dover, a distance of only 33 km separates England and France.
  • The Channel Islands belong to the UK, although are less than 50 km from the French coast. The islands were occupied by the Germans during World War II.
  • The deepest point in the English Channel is north of Guernsey, at about 180 metres. Many weapons from the two world wars have been dumped there, including poison gas shells.
  • The first passenger ferry crossed the English Channel in 1821.
  • In 1995, a hovercraft carrying cars crossed the channel in just over 22 minutes, the fastest ever hovercraft crossing.
  • Captain Matthew Webb made the first solo swim across the English Channel in 1875, taking 21 hours, 45 minutes. He battled strong currents and was stung by jellyfish.
  • In 1988 an 11 year old boy swam the Channel in just under 12 hours. A 70 year old Australian swam across the Channel in 2014, taking just under 13 hours.
  • A French aviator, Louis Bleriot was the first person to fly across the English Channel in 1909. Bleriot did it in 37 minutes and won 1,000 pounds for his achievement.
  • The Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994 and has the longest portion under the sea of any tunnel. Plans for a tunnel under the channel were announced as far back as 1802.
  • The so-called Miracle of Dunkirk took place off the French coast in summer, 1940. Hundreds of battleships, tugs and fishing boats rescued over 338,000 Allied troops from the French beaches.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina is a small country in southeast Europe, created when Yugoslavia split up into several countries. It covers about 51,000 square km and has a population of 3.8 million.
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from the 15th to the 19th centuries. After World War I, it became part of Yugoslavia, declaring its independence in 1992.

  • It is bordered by Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro.
  • The country is mostly mountainous and forested, and is landlocked except for a 20 km coastline on the Adriatic Sea.

Flag of Bosnia-Herzegovina

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina has become one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. It has been voted a top mountain biking destination and is also popular for winter sports.
  • Medjugorje is Europe’s third most visited religious site. Mary, Mother of Jesus is said to have appeared there many times, and strange apparitions can often be seen in the sky.
  • Mostar is a popular tourist destination. Its most famous landmark is the Old Bridge, built in the 16th century, destroyed in the 1990s Bosnian War and rebuilt in 2004.
  • Sarajevo is the capital and largest city, with about 600,000 people. It was besieged for over 4 years during the Bosnian War of 1990s, one of the longest sieges of modern times.
  • The Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was killed in Sarajevo in 1914, leading to World War I.
  • It was also the first European city to have a network of electric trams, in 1885.
  • The Bosnian Pyramids are a cluster of hills about 210 metres in height. Some archaeologists believe they are man-made by people who lived in the area up to 14,000 years ago.
  • Bosnian cuisine is similar to Greek and Turkish food and uses many spices. Coffee drinking is part of daily life and Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the top 10 coffee drinking countries in the world.

Cyprus: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Cyprus.

  • Cyprus is an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, with a population of about 1.2 million. It is the most populous island in the Mediterranean, and the third largest.
  • About 40 percent of the island is under Turkish control, but is not officially recognized by most countries. The northern part controlled by Turkey is known as North Cyprus or Northern Cyprus.

  • The island’s name may have come from the cypress tree or the Latin name for copper. Cyprus’ flag is one of only two that have a map of the country on it.

Flag of Cyprus

  • Because of its strategic location, the island has been occupied at different times by Greece, Egypt, Persia and the Roman Empire.
  • It was ruled by Britain in 1878, becoming independent in 1960.
  • Britain claimed Cyprus because of its location near the Suez Canal. Britain offered to return Cyprus to Greece if Greece would help them during World War I. Greece refused.
  • People were living on the island as long ago as 10,000 BC and it has some of the world’s oldest water wells. The Neolithic village of Khirokitia is a World Heritage site.
  • Cyprus is often known as the Playground of the Gods. The Greek god of love and beauty, Aphrodite is said to have been born on the island when she stepped from the sea at Paphos.
  • Greek and Turkish are the country’s official languages, although about 90 percent of residents speak English. Many road signs are written in both Greek and English.
  • Nicosia is the capital and largest city, and one of the world’s richest cities. The dividing line between Cyprus and North Cyprus runs along Ledra Street, the main street.
  • The resort town of Paphos has catacombs dating back to the 12th century. It is also known for its monastery carved out of the cliffs, and the 13th century Paphos Castle.

Montenegro: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Montenegro.

  • Montenegro is one of the smallest countries in Europe, covering just less than 14,000 square km. It has a population of about 648,000 and borders Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • The country’s name translates as Black Mountain, from when forests covered it during medieval times. Map makers often have difficulty writing the country’s long name in such a small space.

  • During its sometimes turbulent history, Montenegro has been ruled by Byzantium, Serbia and the Ottomans. In the 1920s it was part of Yugoslavia and became independent in 2006.
  • Podgorica is the country’s capital and largest city with 30 percent of its population. Parts of the city are designed in a European style, while some areas have buildings from the Ottoman Empire.
  • Some of Europe’s most rugged mountains are in Montenegro.
  • Because of its climate, it is home to many animals and plants, including about 60 percent of all European bird species.
  • The Tara River canyon is Europe’s deepest and the second deepest in the world. It is up to 1,300 metres deep and there are over 40 waterfalls along its 80 km length.

Flag of Montenegro

  • The country has been described as one of the 50 places to see in a lifetime by National Geographic.
  • A popular tourist destination is the 300 km long Adriatic coast, with its beaches and medieval towns.
  • The 2,500 year old town of Budva is one of the oldest on the Adriatic coast. It is known for its beautiful beaches, nightlife and stone walls which enclose the old town.
  • Water polo became the country’s most popular sport, after Montenegro won the 2008 European championships. Other popular sports are football, basketball, volleyball, judo and chess.
  • Montenegrin food has been influenced by Turkey, Italy and Hungary. Bread is served with every meal, and pastries filled with cheese or meat are the most popular fast food.

Ireland: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Ireland.

  • Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland, is an island country and part of the British Isles. It is in the North Atlantic, separated from the United Kingdom by the Irish Sea.
  • About 15 percent of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland has a population of about 4.8 million.

  • Ireland is often known as the Emerald Isle, because of its green countryside. The country’s symbol is a Celtic harp, which also appears on its most famous drink, Guinness.
  • Dublin is the capital and largest city, with a population of about 1.1 million people. It is known for its Georgian buildings, literary associations and cultural venues.
  • Dublin has more open space per square km than any other European capital. Phoenix Park has been home to deer since the 17th century and is one of Europe’s largest walled city parks.
  • During Easter, 1916, many Irish rebelled against British rule in the country, in what was called the Easter Rising. Ireland’s main railway stations are named after the leaders of the rebellion.
  • St. Brendan the Navigator is one of the most important Irish saints. Some historians claim that he sailed to America in a small boat some 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus.
  • Another saint, St. Patrick, introduced Latin and the alphabet into Ireland. He is said to have banished all the snakes from the country, and is supposedly buried in Down Cathedral.

Flag of Ireland

  • During the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s and 50s, about a million Irish emigrated, mostly to America. Some claim that almost half the US presidents have had Irish ancestry.
  • The Irish are known for their wit and for being talkative. Kissing the Blarney Stone which is set into the wall at Blarney Castle is said to give people the ‘gift of the gab’.

Northern Cyprus: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Northern Cyprus.

  • Northern Cyprus is the name given to that part of the island of Cyprus occupied by Turkey. Turkey occupied the northern part of the island in 1974, following an invasion.
  • Almost no other country recognizes Northern Cyprus as its own country. Ongoing attempts by Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus to resolve the dispute have been unsuccessful.

  • Northern Cyprus occupies about 40 percent of the island, and has a population of about 300,000. Its capital is North Nicosia, the northern section of the city of Nicosia.

Flag of Northern Cyprus

  • Nicosia’s Selimiye Mosque took 150 years to build and parts of it date from the 12th century. Other landmarks in Nicosia include the 500 year old Turkish baths and the Bandabulya bazaar.
  • Northern Cyprus is known as the Island of Sun and enjoys about 340 sunny days every year. The country has been voted one of the healthiest destinations in Europe.
  • The beautiful and rugged Karpaz Peninsula is one of the island’s most scenic spots. It is home to several rare animal and plant species, as well as about 500 wild donkeys.
  • Famagusta is an ancient city, almost completely enclosed by thick stone walls. St. Paul once preached nearby and the city once had 365 churches, one for every day of the year.
  • Near Famagusta are the ruins of the Roman city of Salamis. The site has the island’s largest ampitheatre, which could seat 15,000 people, as well as baths, villas and temples.
  • Northern Cyprus was once a major centre of silk production, exporting it as far as the Middle East. Some older residents still make silk, and a silk festival takes place each summer.
  • The flag of Northern Cyprus is based on the flag of Turkey, with the colours reversed.
  • A 420 metre wide painted flag can be seen on the Kyrenia Mountains.

Greece: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Greece.

  • Greece is located in southeast Europe, at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It covers an area of 132,000 square km and is bordered by Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.

  • It is considered to be the birthplace of western civilization. Greek states in 800 and 700 BC developed advanced ideas in the arts, science, mathematics and literature.
  • Greece is a mountainous country and has the 11th longest coastline of any country, because of its many islands. There are over 2,000 Greek islands, although only about 200 are inhabited.
  • Mount Olympus is the country’s highest point at almost 3,000 metres and was the home of the Greek gods. During World War II, the Greek resistance used the mountain as a hideout.
  • Olympic Games were first held in Greece around 900 BC, in honour of the god Zeus. Winners were given olive leaf wreaths and a truce was declared so that enemy tribes could compete.
  • About 3.6 million people, 40 percent of the population, live in the capital Athens. It has been inhabited for over 7,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities.
  • The Parthenon in Athens was built as a temple in 447 BC. Sculptures from the building, known as the Elgin Marbles, are in the British Museum in London, having been taken from Greece in 1812.

Flag of Greece

  • Thessaloniki has been voted one of the world’s best party cities. Santorini, which is a volcanic island, has been voted as one of the world’s best islands.
  • Many doors, windowsills, domes and other building features in Greece are painted turquoise blue. An ancient belief is that the colour keeps evil out of the building.
  • The first Greek tragedy was performed in 534 BC and written by Thespis, from where the word thespian comes.
  • The Odyssey, written by Homer in 800 BC, is one of the world’s most famous poems.

Check out our resources on Ancient Greece.

The Netherlands: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Netherlands.

  • The Netherlands is a small country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium and Germany.
  • Almost 20 percent of the country’s land has been reclaimed from the sea, and much of it is below sea level.

  • The Netherlands has a population of about 17 million, but covers only about 41,000 square km. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
  • It has been described as being one of the world’s happiest countries, and has a very high standard of living.
  • It is known for windmills, tulips, cheese, bicycles and canals.
  • Amsterdam is the country’s capital and one of Europe’s most visited cities. It is one of the most bicycle friendly cities with almost as many bikes as residents — 1.2 million.
  • The world’s oldest stock exchange, dating from 1602 is in Amsterdam. The city has some world famous museums, including the Van Gogh Museum with 200 paintings by Vincent van Gogh.
  • All buildings in Amsterdam are built on poles sunk into a layer of sand up to 11 metres deep. The city’s Royal Palace is supported by almost 14,000 wooden poles.
  • The Dutch have very strict rules covering behavior and etiquette, although the country has a reputation for tolerating differences.

Flag of the Netherlands

  • Most Dutch people speak at least one other language.
  • The first tulips were imported from Turkey to the Netherlands. The country exports about 66 percent of all flowers and bulbs, and 25 percent of all the tomatoes.
  • The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world preparing for a rise in sea level. After flooding in 1953, work began on the Delta Project, a system of huge barriers and dams.
  • During the 17th century, the Dutch became one of the world’s great sea powers. The Dutch East Indian Company was established, and the Netherlands had colonies all over the world.

Italy: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Italy.

  • Italy, often described as shaped like a boot, is a country in southern Europe. It covers about 301,000 square km and is bordered by France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia.
  • With a population of about 61 million, it is the 5th most populous European country. It is known for its art, historic towns and cities, fine food and wine and high standard of living.

  • Rome is the largest city and capital, with almost 3 million residents. Other popular destinations include Venice, Milan, Florence, Pisa, Naples and the isle of Capri.
  • Rome was once the largest city in the world and the centre of the huge Roman Empire. Famous city landmarks include the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and St. Peter’s Cathedral.
  • The Italian city of Pompeii was completely buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The volcanic ash and gas reached a height of 33 km and killed about 16,000 people.
  • Vatican City is the world’s smallest state, covering just 108 acres and is entirely surrounded by Rome. It has its own post office, radio and TV station, stamps and currency.
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa has become a symbol of Italy. The 56 metre high tower was built during the 12th century and leans almost 4 metres from the vertical.

Flag of Italy

  • Ice cream, coffee, fruit pies and pizza all originated in Italy. The modern pizza was invented in Naples, although Italians have been eating pizza since the 10th century.
  • Some of the world’s most famous artists painted during the Italian Renaissance, including Titian, Raphael and Botticelli. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City was designed by Michelangelo.
  • Italy was the birthplace of opera, and the cello, violin and piano were invented there.
  • The country hosts the world’s oldest film festival, the Venice Film Festival, which was first held in 1932.

Slovakia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Slovakia.

  • Slovakia has a population of 5 million and is located in the heart of Europe. It covers 49,000 square km and borders Austria, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
  • During the 9th century, Slovakia became part of Moravia and later part of Hungary, then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, the Slovaks joined the Czechs to become Czechoslovakia.

  • In 1993, Slovakia became independent after Czechoslovakia split into 2 countries. The so-called ‘Velvet Divorce’ followed the end of the Communist government during the Velvet Revolution.
  • About 10 percent of the country’s population lives in Bratislava, the capital and largest city. It is the only national capital that borders two other countries — Austria and Hungary.
  • Bratislava is known for its medieval old town and for having the narrowest house in Europe. It is also famous for its fountains; over 120 of them, including one dating from 1572.
  • Kosice, Slovakia’s second city, was European Capital of Culture in 2013. It was the first place in Europe to have its own coat of arms and is known for its Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture.
  • Slovakia has over 4,000 caves, some of which are open to visitors.

Flag of Slovakia

  • The Carpathian Mountains cover most of the country, and there are 29 peaks over 2,900 metres.
  • The village of Vlkolinec is a well preserved collection of traditional wooden houses. It is a World Heritage site and has a museum showing daily life in the countryside.
  • The food of Slovakia is influenced by its surrounding countries, and deer, rabbit and wild boar are all popular. Most restaurants serve bryndza, a salty cheese made from goat’s milk.
  • Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Slovakia, and the country has ranked 8th in the world rankings.
  • In the Olympics, the country has been successful at whitewater slalom.