Of the 50 countries that make up the continent of Europe Russia is by far the largest, and by convention is partly in Asia. Until recently it was convenient to think of Europe in terms of ’Eastern Europeand ‘Western Europe but with a number of former Eastern bloc countries joining the European Union the political and geographic definitions of “eastand “westno longer coincide. By the generally accepted geographic definition, Europe is the second smallest of the seven continents at 10 million sq km (nearly 4 million square miles), with 40% of its landmass being in Russia. Its 50 countries, including Russia, number some 733 million inhabitants, making it the third most populous continent. After Russia, Germany has the largest population (80.5m), with France (nearly 66m) and the UK (nearly 64m) not far behind. However Europe also has some tiny “countrieslike Monaco and San Marino, both with only around a third of a million citizens, and the Vatican City state, one of the smallest in the world with fewer that one thousand.
As the first continent to go through the Industrial Revolution, Europe has had a great influence on much of the rest of the world, for good and bad. Western European countries were able to colonise and then exploit other regions of the globe, taking with them elements of European culture originating in Ancient Greece and Rome. Slavery and two World Wars on the one hand, and beneficial social and economic developments on the other, may turn out to be legacies of a long period of European dominance, which gave way first to North America and then to Asia.
So far, countries of western Europe dominate the free photo galleries of this bigfoto website, but more pictures are being added all the time. Croatia is the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world, and a glance at the natural scenic beauty and fascinating historical sites in our photos shows you why. This relatively small country of 1,000 Adriatic islands and the magical cities of Dubrovnik and Split, has no fewer than seven UNESCO listed sites. The other city in our photo collection once considered part of Eastern Europe is Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, with its historic, architecturally important old town on the Vltava River. You could easily study the development of architectural periods from the Baroque to modern in this city alone.
The European country with the most visitors a year is France a staggering 83 million tourists in 2012 made it number one in the world. Many of them took in Paris, an endlessly fascinating capital city of elegance and culture. Bigfoto’s library of free pictures reminds you that Paris offers the iconic Eiffel Tower and the nightlife of Montmartre in the same visit. But when it comes to style and cultural beauty, few countries in the world can match Italy. Venice, like a perfect film set of a historic city, takes your breath away at first sight, no matter how many times you have been there. Impossibly constructed on islands in a shallow lagoon, it offers you a break from the dominance of the motor car among some of the most glorious architecture anywhere. The best months to visit are May and October, but any time is better than not going. Rome impresses with the relatively small size of its ancient centre, the Forum. Could this really have been the hub of one of the most powerful empires on earth? The nearby Colosseum is intact enough to bring the period to life. Then there is still Florence, Pisa, magical Siena and Milan itself to see…
For natural beauty and grandeur in central Europe, the geographically small and historically neutral country called Switzerland takes some beating. The Swiss have a reputation for efficiency and quality, but it is the spectacular Alpine scenery that draws visitors again and again. What the Swiss have done, perhaps better than any other country, is to make the majestic peaks accessible to the traveller.
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