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.

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.

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.

Croatia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Croatia.

  • Croatia is located in central Europe and is one of the countries created when Yugoslavia split up. It covers about 56,000 square km and is bordered by Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  • Croatia became a kingdom in the 10th century, and during the 12th century, shared the same monarch with Hungary. After World War I, it became part of Yugoslavia and declared independence in 1991.
  • It has a population of about 4.2 million, most of who live in Zagreb, the capital and largest city.
  • Along the Adriatic coast are over 1,000 islands, of which about 50 are inhabited.Zagreb’s history dates back to Roman times, and it was designated a free Royal town in 1242. It is known for its high standard of living, many museums and historic district.
  • Split is the country’s second city, and the largest on the Croatian coast. It is known for its 1,700 year old Diocletian Palace, built as a home by the Roman emperor Diocletian.
  • Dubrovnik is one of the 10 best preserved medieval cities in the world. Its walls stretch for 2 km around the city and are 6 metres thick in places.

Flag of Croatia

  • Football is the most popular sort in Croatia, and the ongoing rivalry between Zagreb and Split is known as the Eternal Derby.
  • Chess and bridge are also popular in the country.
  • Croatian food is influenced by Turkey, Hungary and Italy. Soup is served with almost every meal and Croatia also has two well-known wine producing regions.
  • Christmas is celebrated in Croatia, although St. Nick leaves gifts in children’s shoes on December 5th. He is also said to protect sailors and fishermen when they are at sea.
  • The circle or kolo dance has been popular in Croatia for centuries. It is known for its lively music and difficult dance steps and is performed on holidays and at weddings.

Azerbaijan: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Azerbaijan.

  • Azerbaijan is a country situated between Eastern Europe and western Asia. It covers an area of about 87,000 square km and is bordered by Russia, Georgia, Iran and Armenia.
  • During the 12th century it was occupied by the Turks, and later by an Iranian Royal family.

  • It became part of the Soviet Union in 1920 and declared independence in 1991.
  • The capital, Baku is also the largest city, with a population of about 2 million. It lies almost 30 metres below sea level, making it the lowest lying capital city in the world.
  • Baku was once an important stop on the Silk Road, the ancient trading route from China to Europe. The city has one of the world’s most expensive streets and one of the tallest flagpoles.
  • Azykh cave is one of the oldest caves occupied by man. Early inhabitants of Azerbaijan painted thousands of rock paintings in the Gobustan nature park.
  • One of the world’s first oil wells was drilled near Baku, at the end of the 19th century. In 2006, a 1,768 km long oil pipeline was built across the country to Turkey.

Flag of Azerbaijan

  • About 40 percent of the country is mountainous, with the highest point at 4,466 metres.
  • There are over 8,000 rivers in the country, all of which flow in to the Caspian Sea.
  • Almost half of all the mud volcanoes in the world are in Azerbaijan. In 2001, one of these volcanoes erupted, sending flames 15 metres into the air.
  • Almost all the people in Azerbaijan are Muslims. It was the first Muslim country to allow its citizens to freely attend the opera and the theatre.
  • Black tea is the country’s official drink and is usually drunk in a pear shaped glass. Sugar lumps in tea are popular, dating from a time when rulers would use them to check for poisoned drinks.

France: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about France.

  • Covering about 640,000 square km, France is one of the largest countries in western Europe. It is separated from England by the English Channel and has both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines.

  • France is bordered by Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium. It is also bordered by two of the world’s smallest independent states, Monaco and Andorra, and has several overseas territories.
  • France is the world’s most visited country, attracting 84 million people each year. Popular destinations include the capital Paris, the Riviera, Brittany, Provence and the Loire Valley.
  • The 324 metre tall Eiffel Tower has become the symbol of France and is one of the world’s most visited monuments. It was the world’s tallest structure when built in 1889.
  • The popular art movement Impressionism had its beginnings in France. Paris is also home to the world’s greatest art museum, the Louvre, with almost 400,000 works of art.
  • France has been producing wine since Roman times, and it has some world famous wine producing areas. France is also known for its food, especially cheese which comes in over 1,000 varieties.
  • One of the most famous French men was the Emperor Napoleon. Apparently, it is illegal in France to name a pig Napoleon.

Flag of France

  • France was actually under British rule for almost 300 years when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II. Today, England and France are linked by the 40 km Channel Tunnel.
  • One of the most important events in French history was the 1789 French Revolution, when the peasants revolted. Over 20,000 people were beheaded by the guillotine, including King Louis XVI.
  • New York’s Statue of Liberty was made in France and then given to the US as a gift. The statue’s face was probably modelled on the wife of the sewing machine maker, Isaac Singer.

Lithuania: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Lithuania.

  • Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states, located in the northeast part of Europe.
  • The country covers about 65,000 square km and is bordered by Latvia, Poland and Belarus.

  • Vilnius, the largest city and the capital, has a population of about 540,000 and was European Capital of Culture in 2009. The light show marking that event could be seen from space.
  • Vilnius is also known for its old town, which is a World Heritage Site. At one time it was known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania because of its large Jewish population.
  • The Kingdom of Lithuania was established in 1253, and during the 14th century it was the largest country in Europe.
  • During World War II, Lithuania was occupied by Russia and Germany.
  • The country was the first one to declare independence from the USSR, in 1990. In 1991 Lithuania joined the United Nations and the European Union in 2004.

Flag of Lithuania

  • Lithuania claims to have the geographical centre of Europe, marked by a tall pillar.
  • The country’s highest point is less than 300 metres, and about 33 percent of it is forested.
  • Salt and bread are important to the Lithuanian people. It is customary to welcome a guest with some salt and a loaf of bread.
  • One of the most popular Lithuanian dishes is Cepelinai, made from meat and potatoes and served in an oval shaped dish. It got its name from the zeppelin – a hot air balloon.
  • Lithuania’s national bird is the stork, and the country is sometimes called the Land of Storks. Many Lithuanian children believe that the stork brought them into the world.
  • There are over 2,500 lakes in Lithuania and over 800 rivers.
  • Lithuania has the shortest coastline of all the countries that have a coastline on the Baltic Sea, just 38 km.

Czech Republic: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Czech Republic.

  • The Czech Republic, once part of the former Czechoslovakia, covers about 79,000 square km and has a population of about 10.5 million.
  • It is bordered by Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

  • Prague is the capital and largest city, with a population of about 2 million. The city is the 5th most visited in Europe, and is considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
  • Until the early 20th century, the country was known as Bohemia.
  • It became part of the Austrian Empire in 1806, was under Russian control after World War II, and became independent in 1989.
  • Prague Castle dates from the 9th century and is the world’s largest castle. The country’s president lives there and the Bohemian crown jewels are kept there in a hidden room.

Flag of the Czech Republic

  • The city’s Charles University was founded in 1348 and is one of the world’s oldest.
  • The 15th century Jewish cemetery in Prague is sometimes said to be the meeting place of secret societies.
  • The inhabitants of the Czech Republic drink more beer per person than any other country. The first brewery existed in the 12th century, and many monasteries brewed their own beer.
  • The writer, Franz Kafka is one of the most famous Czechs, and his Prague birthplace is today a museum.
  • Famous composers born in the Czech Republic include Dvorak and Mahler.
  • The Czech Republic leases about 30,000 square metres of water in Hamburg, Germany. This allows cargo to be put on Czech ships. The area will be given back to Germany in 2028.
  • Many Czechs enjoy hunting for mushrooms and truffles, especially on St. Vaclav’s day, at the end of September.
  • The Czech Republic has a long history of making puppets and puppetry performances. Many puppeteers travelled around Europe, putting on shows and telling stories. Puppets are a popular souvenir for visitors of the Czech Republic today.

Moldova: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Moldova.

  • Moldova is a small country in eastern Europe, covering about 34,000 square km.
  • It is bordered by Ukraine and Romania and has a population of about 3.5 million.

  • Chisinau is the country’s largest city and capital. It is twinned with over 12 towns and cities, including Hull, and is the country’s cultural and educational centre.
  • Because of its strategic central location, Moldova has been occupied by the Goths, Huns, Mongols and Tartars.

Flag of Moldova

  • In 1812 Moldova became a part of the Russian Empire, and became independent in 1990.
  • The Criva cave system is one of the largest and longest in the world. The caves are on several levels and there are also 20 underground lakes which are rich in minerals.
  • Moldova has a long history of wine making, and most villagers grow their own grapes and produce their own wine. National Wine Day has been celebrated each year since 1991.
  • The wine cellars at Milestii Mici are the world’s largest. The cellars are over 200 km in length and are estimated to hold almost 2 million bottles of wine.
  • Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Many Moldovans would like to be part of neighbouring Romania and about 75 percent of residents speak Romanian.
  • Saharna Monastery is one of the largest religious buildings in Moldova. It is known for its altar carved out of the rock, and a footprint in the rock, said to be that of St. Maria.
  • The Gustar music festival takes place every August, featuring music and traditional foods. The Martisor music festival takes place in spring and features musicians from many eastern European countries.
  • Despite its small size, Moldova has 2 smaller regions that consider themselves independent countries. Transnistria declared independence from the rest of the country in 1990, resulting in a 2 year civil war.