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""Berlin is the capital and the largest city of Germany as well as one of its 16 states.

"Europe is a "continent that comprises the westernmost part of "Eurasia. Europe is bordered by the "Arctic Ocean to the north, the "Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the "Mediterranean Sea to the south. To the east and southeast, Europe is generally considered as "separated from Asia by the "watershed divides of the "Ural and "Caucasus Mountains, the "Ural River, the "Caspian and "Black Seas, and the waterways of the "Turkish Straits. Yet the non-oceanic borders of Europe—a concept dating back to "classical antiquity—are arbitrary. The primarily "physiographic term "continent" as applied to Europe also incorporates "cultural and political elements whose discontinuities are not always reflected by the continent's current overland boundaries.

Europe covers about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi), or 2% of the Earth's surface (6.8% of land area). Politically, Europe is divided into about "fifty sovereign states of which the "Russian Federation is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population. Europe had a "total population of about 740 million (about 11% of "world population) as of 2012.

The "history of Europe covers the peoples inhabiting the "European continent from "prehistory to the present. Some of the best-known civilizations of prehistoric Europe were the "Minoan and the "Mycenaean, which flourished during the "Bronze Age until they "collapsed in a short period of time around 1200 BC. The period known as "classical antiquity began with the emergence of the city-states of "Ancient Greece. After ultimately checking the "Persian advance in Europe through the "Greco-Persian Wars in the 5th century BC, Greek influence reached its zenith under the expansive empire of "Alexander the Great, spreading throughout "Asia, Africa, and other parts of Europe. The "Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin in a vast empire based on "Roman law. By 300 AD the Roman Empire was divided into the "Western and "Eastern empires. During the 4th and 5th centuries, the "Germanic peoples of northern Europe grew in strength and repeated attacks led to the "Fall of the Western Roman Empire. AD 476 traditionally marks the end of the classical period and the start of the "Middle Ages.

The "culture of Europe is rooted in the art, architecture, music, literature, and philosophy that originated from the "European "cultural region. European culture is largely rooted in what is often referred to as its "common cultural heritage".

As a continent, the economy of Europe is currently the largest on Earth and it is the richest region as measured by assets under management with over $32.7 trillion compared to North America's $27.1 trillion in 2008. In 2009 Europe remained the wealthiest region. Its $37.1 trillion in assets under management represented one-third of the world's wealth. It was one of several regions where wealth surpassed its precrisis year-end peak. As with other continents, Europe has a large variation of wealth among its countries. The richer states tend to be in the "West; some of the "Central and Eastern European economies are still emerging from the "collapse of the Soviet Union and the "breakup of Yugoslavia.

Featured panorama

""A panoramic view of Rüdesheim am Rhein, looking towards east.
Credit: "DXR

"Rüdesheim am Rhein is a "winemaking town in the "Rhine Gorge and thereby part of the "UNESCO "World Heritage Site. It lies in the "Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis district in the "Regierungsbezirk of "Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany. It is officially known as Rüdesheim am Rhein, which distinguishes it from "Rüdesheim an der Nahe.

Featured article

""Coat of arms of the Gediminids dynasty
The "family of Gediminas is a group of family members of "Gediminas, "Grand Duke of Lithuania (ca. 1275–1341), who interacted in the 14th century. The family included the siblings, children, and grandchildren of the Grand Duke and played the pivotal role in the "history of Lithuania for the period as the "Lithuanian nobility had not yet acquired its influence. Gediminas was also the forefather of the "Gediminid dynasty, which ruled the "Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1310s or 1280s to 1572.

Gediminas' origins are unclear, but recent research suggests that "Skalmantas, an otherwise unknown historical figure, was Gediminas' grandfather or father and could be considered the dynasty's founder. Because none of his brothers or sisters had known heirs, Gediminas, who sired at least twelve children, had the advantage in establishing sovereignty over his siblings. Known for his diplomatic skills, Gediminas arranged his children's marriages to suit the goals of his foreign policy: his sons consolidated Lithuanian power within the "Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while his daughters established or strengthened alliances with the rulers of areas in modern-day "Russia, "Ukraine and "Poland.

Featured portrait

""Aviator Hélène Dutrieu seated in her airplane
Credit: "Bain News Service

"Hélène Dutrieu, shown here in her aeroplane ca. 1911, was the fourth woman in the world (the first from "Belgium) to earn a "pilot's license and reputedly the first woman to carry passengers and to fly a "seaplane. Besides being a pilot, she was a "cycling world champion, "stunt cyclist, stunt "motorcyclist, "automobile racer, wartime "ambulance driver, and director of a military "hospital.

Featured picture

""Interior viewed from the Grand Tier
Credit: "Colin

The "Royal Albert Hall is a "concert hall on the northern edge of "South Kensington, "London, which holds "the Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. It has a capacity of up to 5,272 seats. The Hall is a registered charity held in trust for the nation and receives no public or government funding.

Featured biography

""Honoré de Balzac
"Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. The "novel sequence "La Comédie Humaine, which presents a panorama of "post-Napoleonic French life, is generally viewed as his "magnum opus.

Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of "realism in "European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of "Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous writers, including the novelists "Émile Zola, "Charles Dickens, "Gustave Flaubert, "Jack Kerouac, "Akira Kurosawa and "Henry James, as well as important philosophers such as "Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his "grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was apprenticed in a "law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Featured location

""The Mendip Hills from Crook Peak, near Compton Bishop
The "Mendip Hills is a range of "limestone hills to the south of "Bristol and "Bath in Somerset, England. Running east to west between "Weston-super-Mare and "Frome, the hills overlook the "Somerset Levels to the south and the "Chew Valley and other tributaries of the "Avon to the north. The hills give their name to the local government district of "Mendip, which administers most of the area. The higher, western part of the hills, covering 198 km2 (76 sq mi) has been designated an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which gives it a level of protection comparable to a "national park.

The hills are largely formed from "Carboniferous Limestone, which is quarried at several sites. Three nationally important semi-natural habitats are characteristic of the area: "ash–"maple woodland, "calcareous grassland and "mesotrophic grassland. With their "temperate climate these support a range of flora and fauna including birds, butterflies and small mammals. The "dry stone walls that divide the pasture into fields are of botanical importance as they support important populations of the nationally scarce "wall whitlowgrass (Draba muralis).

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