Hungary: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Hungary.

  • Hungary is a landlocked country, located in the centre of Europe.
  • It covers about 93,000 square km and is bordered by Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Austria.

  • It has been occupied by the Celts, Romans, Huns and Slavs and has a population of about 9 and a half million.
  • About 3 million live in Budapest, the capital and largest city.
  • Budapest is situated on the River Danube, which divides it into two halves — Buda and Pest. It has the world’s second oldest underground railway, after London.

Flag of Hungary

  • Budapest’s Parliament building is one of the oldest and largest in the world. It contains 10 courtyards, 29 staircases and almost 700 rooms, most of which are never used.
  • There are over 200 cave systems under the city. The Szemlohegyi cave has mineral formations that look like grapes, bunches of flowers and vegetables.
  • The modern safety match was invented by a Hungarian, as was the telephone exchange and the ballpoint pen. One of the most popular toys ever, Rubik’s Cube, was also invented there.
  • Hungary has over 400 public baths, as well as 1500 spas, many of which are designed in Greek, Roman or Turkish style.
  • The country is also home to one of the world’s largest thermal lakes.
  • One of Hungary’s national dishes is goulash, which dates back to the 9th century. The name comes from the word for a herd of cattle, and the dish was first eaten by shepherds.
  • The right hand of Hungary’s King Stephen, who died in 1038, is kept in the Basilica of King Saint Stephen. His feast day is an important holiday and is celebrated on August 16th.
  • Hungary has won gold medals at all Summer Olympics except those in 1920 and 1984, when they did not compete.
  • Hungary has been one of the most successful countries in the sport of water polo.

Iceland: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Iceland.

  • Iceland is an island country situated in the North Atlantic Ocean.
  • It has a population of about 320,000 and is the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

  • Most Icelanders live in and around the capital, Reykjavik. Almost all the rest of the country consists of mountains, glaciers and lava fields.
  • There are 30 small islands as well as the main island.

Flag of Iceland

  • Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital city, and is one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world. Its name means ‘smoke coves’, and this is a reference to the many hot springs and geysers nearby.
  • Most Icelanders believe in elves and some builders even build roads and houses to avoid disrupting elves’ homes. They are said to cause trouble and live in rocky areas.
  • More Coca-Cola is drunk per person in Iceland than anywhere else.
  • The residents also like a drink called Brennivin, made from potatoes.
  • The Icelandic Parliament is the oldest in the world, and was established in 930 AD.
  • The country was part of Denmark for much of its history, but became independent in 1944.
  • Iceland has days (during July and August) when the sun never sets.
  • Playing golf in the midnight sun is popular, and Iceland has one of the world’s most northerly golf courses.
  • Iceland contains the most volcanic area in the world. It also has the largest waterfall and glacier in Europe.
  • Icelanders are listed by their first name in the telephone book, and everyone uses first names. The last name of Icelanders comes from the first name of their father.
  • In Iceland, the Yule Lads are said to deliver presents on Christmas Eve instead of Father Christmas. They deliver gifts to good children, and rotting potatoes to bad children.

Slovenia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Slovenia.

  • Slovenia is one of the European countries formed in 1991 when Yugoslavia split up. It covers about 20,273 square km and is bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.
  • It has been part of the Roman Empire, the Republic of Venice and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

  • During World War II, the country came under the control of Nazi Germany.
  • After the war, Slovenia became a part of Yugoslavia. It became independent in 1991, was recognized as an independent country the following year, and became a member of the European Union in 2004.

Flag of Slovenia

  • Ljubljana is the capital and largest city, with about 283,000 residents.
  • The city’s symbol is a dragon, which appears on the Dragon Bridge and symbolizes power and strength.
  • An earthquake on Easter Sunday in 1895 destroyed much of the city. It was rebuilt in the architectural style of the time, alongside the surviving Baroque buildings.
  • Slovenia has over 250 waterfalls, of which the Boka falls are one of the highest, at 106 metres.
  • The country’s highest mountain is the 2863 metre high Mt. Triglav in the Slovenian Alps.
  • The spectacular Skocjan limestone caves are a World Heritage site. A bear bone with holes in it was found in a cave near Reka, thought to be the world’s oldest musical instrument.
  • Lake Bled and the coastal city of Piran are popular tourist destinations.
  • Slovenia has the most casinos per 1,000 residents, of any European Union country.
  • The famous Lipizzan horses originate from the town of Lipica, where one of the first stud farms was established. The Lipizzan horses at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School are trained using centuries old methods.
  • For a small country, Slovenia has a lot of distinct regional cuisines – over 40.
  • Every year the country hosts a Festival of Roast Potatoes, which attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Armenia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Armenia.

  • Armenia is one of the countries created when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991. It is located at the crossroads of eastern Europe, western Asia and the Middle East.
  • The country is mountainous, with a population of about 3 million.

  • It covers an area of almost 30,000 square km and is bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
  • Armenia is often called the first Christian country, adopting Christianity in the 4th century. The Armenian Apostolic Church is said to be the world’s oldest national church.
  • Excavations have discovered the earliest known leather shoe in Armenia, which is over 5,000 years old.
  • During its history, the country has been invaded by the Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Mongols and Byzantines.
  • The country has its own unique alphabet, dating from 405 AD. Many Armenians speak at least some Russian, and English is the fastest growing language.
  • Yerevan is the capital, and one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 800 BC. It is known for its Blue Mosque, St. Gregory Cathedral and Institute of Ancient Manuscripts.
  • The 4th century Geghard Monastery is situated in a steep canyon. It has several churches carved out of the rock, as well as a spring with water said to keep skin young looking.
  • Although the 5,137 metre Mt. Ararat is in neighboring Turkey, the mountain is important to Armenia and appears on their coat of arms. It is said to be the place where Noah’s Ark came to rest.
  • Wrestling, weightlifting, judo and chess are popular sports in Armenia.
  • The country first competed in the Olympics in 1992, winning 3 gold medals with only 5 athletes.
  • The apricot is Armenia’s national fruit.
  • The Armenian soup khash, which is made from cow’s feet and herbs, can traditionally only be cooked by men, and is often eaten by  groups of men.

Georgia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the country of Georgia.

  • Georgia was once part of the Soviet Union, and is today a country in the Caucasus region of Europe.
  • It has a population of about 5 million and covers almost 70,000 square km.

  • In 1800, Georgia joined the Russian Empire, and then declared independence in 1918. However, in 1921 it again came under Russian control before becoming independent again in April, 1991.
  • The Krubera Cave in Georgia is the world’s deepest, reaching a depth of at least 2,140 metres.
  • The country’s highest mountain is Mt. Shkhara in the Caucasus range, at 5,968 metres.
  • Georgia has a 300 km coastline along the Black Sea. It was probably named because of the frequent storm clouds in the area, and the ancient Greeks called it the Inhospitable Sea.

Flag of Georgia

  • Tbilisi is the country’s capital and largest city. The name translates as ‘warm location’, and comes from a legend of a bird that fell into a hot spring and was burned.
  • The Tbilisi metro, or underground dates from the 1950s and is known for its ornate stations, many of which are among the deepest in the world.
  • Georgia is one of the world’s oldest Christian countries, adopting Christianity in 337 AD. The country also has one of the oldest Jewish populations in the world.
  • The ancient trade route known as the Silk Road once ran through Georgia.
  • Human skulls dating back at least 1.7 million years have been found in the country.
  • Wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Georgia, and different regions have different rules. Other popular sports include football (soccer), basketball, weightlifting and judo.
  • Georgians like to eat a large meal, called a supra, which can have many courses and last for hours. The head of the supra is an important position, and his task is to make sure everybody is happy.

Latvia: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Latvia.

  • Latvia is one of the 3 European Baltic states. It is located in northern Europe, covers an area of about 64,000 square km and is bordered by Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Belarus.
  • The country was controlled by the Soviet Union after World War II, and claimed its independence in 1991.

  • In 2004, Latvia joined the European Union.
  • Riga is the capital and largest city. The city is a World Heritage Site, known for its 19th century wooden buildings and for having the most Art Nouveau buildings in the world.
  • Riga Castle was built in the 14th century to protect the city, and is today the home of the country’s President. In 2013, a fire destroyed about 3,000 square metres of the castle.
  • One of Riga’s most well-known buildings is the House of the Blackheads. It was built during the 14th century as a trade guild for unmarried German merchants.

Flag of Latvia

  • Over 50 percent of Latvia is covered by forest, and a lot of the coastline is undeveloped.
  • The country’s highest point is only 311 metres high, and there are over 700 protected areas, including over 250 nature reserves.
  • Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Latvia, and tennis, football and cycling are also popular.
  • In 1935, the Latvian basketball team won the first European Basketball Championship.
  • In 2012, most of the country voted not to adopt Russian as an official second language, after Latvian.
  • Some Latvians speak the almost extinct language of Livonian, which is protected under the country’s law.
  • It rains or snows in Latvia for over half the year. The farmland often has to be drained, which provides one of the country’s main sources of employment.
  • The country has over 12,000 rivers and is home to over 27,000 plant and animal species.
  • The white wagtail has been Latvia’s national bird since 1960.

Estonia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Estonia.

  • Estonia is one of the least populous countries in Europe, with about 1.3 million people.
  • It is located on the Baltic Sea and is bordered by Russia and Latvia.

  • It has about 1,500 small islands, many of which are uninhabited. Much of Estonia is flat, and its highest point is only about 315 metres above sea level.During the 12th century, Estonia was under Danish control and under Swedish control in the 16th century. The name of the capital, Tallinn, translates as Danish castle.
  • Tallinn is also the country’s largest city, known for its picturesque and well preserved medieval old town.
  • The second city, Tartu, is known for its university and is the home of the Supreme Court.
  • Estonia became independent in 1920, although then it came under Russian control after World War II.

Flag of Estonia

  • The country became independent again during the 1990s, after the Russian takeover was declared illegal.
  • The country celebrates 2 independence days – February 24th, and August 20th, which is sometimes called the Restoration of Independence Day.
  • Estonians also celebrate Midsummer’s Day, national Flag Day and Grandparent’s Day.
  • About 50 percent of Estonia is covered by forest.
  • The country is also said to have the most meteorite craters per square km of any country in the world.
  • Estonia was the first country in the world to use an online political voting system. All Estonian schools are connected to the Internet and Skype was invented there.
  • Many people in Estonia speak Russian. However, Estonian is the country’s official language and it is thought to be one of the most difficult languages to learn.
  • Estonians like to compete in a traditional race in which people carry a person on their back as quickly as possible. The country also has an extreme sport involving standing on a swing and swinging as high as possible.

Romania: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Romania.

  • Romania is a country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Serbia and Moldova. It is the 7th most populous country in the European Union with a population of 20 million.
  • The capital and largest city is Bucharest, which became the country’s capital in 1862. It was known as Little Paris between the world wars, because of its elegant buildings.

  • Romania became a Communist country after World War II.
  • A violent revolution in 1989 was one of the few in Europe which successfully resulted in the end of Communist rule.
  • The Romanian city of Timisoara was the first in Europe to have electric street lighting, in 1889. It was also the first European city to have horse drawn trams.

Flag of Romania

  • Brasov’s Black Church has one of Europe’s largest organs, with 4,000 pipes.
  • The country is also home to one of the tallest wooden churches, the 93 metre tall Sapanta Peri monastery.
  • Bucharest’s Parliament building is one of the largest buildings in the world, covering 330,000 square metres.
  • The city also has the fourth largest mass transit network in Europe, carrying over 600,000 people each day.
  • The famous novel Dracula was inspired by the real life Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes. Bran Castle is often called Dracula’s castle and has become one of the country’s most popular attractions.
  • Romania has one of the largest populations of gypsies in Europe.
  • The Carpathian Mountains are one of the largest unspoiled regions in Europe. About 60 percent of Europe’s black bears live there, as well as 400 other species of mammal.
  • The popular toy the Rubik’s Cube was invented by a Romanian (Erno Rubik). A Romanian scientist (Nicolas C. Paulescu) was the first person to discover insulin.

Ukraine: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Ukraine.

  • Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, is the largest European country, with a population of about 44 million.
  • The country became independent after the breakup of the Soviet Union into smaller countries in 1991.

  • Ukraine declared independence from Russia in 1918, after the Russian Revolution. However, in 1922, the country helped to create the USSR and it was one of the countries most devastated by World War II.
  • The geographic centre of Europe is located in the Ukrainian town of Rahiv. It is located in the Carpathian Mountains and is also the highest town in the country.
  • Much of the country is flat and used for farming. The eastern part of the country is more industrialized, and natural resources include coal, timber, oil and natural gas.

Flag of Ukraine

  • Kiev, the capital, is known for its parks and gardens, and its World War II museum. The city also has one of the 10 busiest McDonald’s restaurants in the world.
  • Kiev has the world’s deepest subway station, at a depth of 105 metres. The station is close to the Parliament building and is said to have secret tunnels for politicians.
  • Sevastopol is the country’s second city and has always been an important naval base. Most streets in the city are named after Soviet military heroes and there are many statues.
  • The Crimean peninsula has a population of almost 2 million and is its own state. The area was the scene of a dispute over land between Russia and Ukraine, in 2014.
  • One of the world’s earliest constitutions was drawn up in Ukraine. In 1710, a Ukrainian citizen wrote a document to separate the responsibilities of the government and the ordinary people.
  • Weaving is popular in Ukraine, and many people still hand make traditional costumes. The Museum of Decorative Folk Art is one of the country’s most popular museums.

Albania: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Albania.

  • Albania is one of the smallest countries in Europe, with an area of about 28,000 square km. It borders the Adriatic Sea and the countries of Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece.

  • During the 15th century, much of Albania was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The country declared independence in 1912 and became a Communist country after World War II.
  • The Republic of Albania was established in 1991 after the Soviet Union broke up. Today the country is a member of NATO, the United Nations, the Energy Community and the World Trade Organization.
  • It has a population of about 3 million people, with most living in the capital and largest city, Tirana.
  • Much of the country is mountainous, with Mt Korab at 2,764 metres, the highest.
  • In 2011, Lonely Planet Guidebooks named Albania as number one on the top ten countries to visit. One popular destination is the coastline, which stretches for almost 500 km.
  • Albania was known as Illyria in ancient times. The inhabitants call their country Shqiperia, which means Land of the Eagles, and the Albanian flag has a two headed eagle on it.

Flag of Albania

  • Albanians shake their head to mean yes, and nod to mean no.
  • Albanian is the country’s official language although Greek is also widely spoken.
  • By the 2nd century Albania was a Christian country. The Ottomans introduced Islam into the country during the 15th century although today Albania is one of the world’s least religious countries.
  • Berat is known as the Town of a Thousand and One Windows. This World Heritage Site is famous for its decorative windows, castle and 13th century church with colourful murals.
  • Albania’s only international airport is in the capital, Tirana. In 2001 the airport was named Mother Teresa Airport, in honour of the nun whose family lived in the country at one time.