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""Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia

"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

""Marken is a peninsula in the IJsselmeer, the Netherlands, located in the municipality Waterland in the province North Holland. It is a former island, which nowadays is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Visible in this panaroma are the community of Grote Werf with the village of Marken in the background.
Credit: "Massimo Catarinella

A "panoramic view of Grote Werf, a community in the municipality of "Waterland, located on the "Marken peninsula in the "Netherlands. Marken is a "tourist attraction, well-known for its characteristic wooden houses. The island is connected to the mainland by a "causeway and was a separate municipality until 1991, when it was merged into Waterland.

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""The Bal des Ardents depicted in a 15th-century miniature from Froissart's Chronicles. The Duchess of Berry holds her blue skirts over a barely visible Charles VI of France as the dancers tear at their burning costumes. One dancer has leapt into the wine vat; in the gallery above, musicians continue to play.
The "Bal des Ardents was a "masquerade ball held on 28 January 1393 in "Paris at which "Charles VI of France performed in a dance with five members of the French "nobility. Four of the dancers were killed in a fire caused by a torch brought in by a spectator, Charles' brother "Louis, Duke of Orléans. King Charles and the remaining dancer, the noble knight Ogier de Nantouillet, survived. The ball was one of a number of events intended to entertain the young king, who the previous summer had suffered an attack of insanity. The event undermined confidence in Charles' capacity to rule; Parisians considered it proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility. The public's outrage forced the king and his brother Orléans, whom a contemporary chronicler accused of attempted "regicide and sorcery, into offering penance for the event.

Charles' wife, "Isabeau of Bavaria, held the ball to honor the remarriage of a "lady-in-waiting. Scholars believe it may have been a traditional "charivari, with the dancers disguised as "wild men, mythical beings often associated with demonology, that were commonly represented in medieval Europe and documented in revels of "Tudor England. The event was chronicled by contemporary writers such as "the Monk of St Denis and "Jean Froissart, and illustrated in a number of 15th-century "illuminated manuscripts by painters such as the "Master of Anthony of Burgundy. The incident later provided inspiration for a scene in "Edgar Allan Poe's short story ""Hop-Frog".

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""Victor Hugo
Credit: "Étienne Carjat

"Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the "Romantic movement who is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. He is recognized for his poetry, including "Les Contemplations and "La Légende des siècles, as well as the novels "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and "Les Misérables (1862). Though a committed "royalist when he was young, Hugo later changed his views and became a passionate supporter of "republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. His legacy has been honoured in many ways; for some years ""his portrait appeared on the 5-"franc banknote.

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""Three Countries Bridge
Credit: Photo: "Taxiarchos228

The "Three Countries Bridge is an "arch bridge which crosses the "Rhine between the "commune of "Huningue ("France) and "Weil am Rhein ("Germany), within the "Basel (Switzerland) metropolitan area. It is the world's longest single-span bridge dedicated exclusively to carrying pedestrians and cyclists. Its overall length is 248 metres (813 ft 8 in) and its main span is 229.4 metres (752 ft 7 in).Its name comes from the bridge's location between France, Germany and "Switzerland (which is about 200 metres (660 ft) distant). It was designed by the Franco-Austrian architect "Dietmar Feichtinger.

Featured biography

""Self-Portrait, 1887
"Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch "Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2100 artworks, including around 860 "oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include "landscapes, "still lifes, "portraits and "self-portraits, and are characterised by bold, symbolic colours, and dramatic, impulsive and expressive "brushwork that contributed to the foundations of "modern art. He died by suicide at 37, following years of mental illness and poverty.

Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion, and spent time as a missionary in southern Belgium. Later he drifted in ill health and solitude. He took up painting in 1881 having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother "Theo supported him financially, and the two kept up a "long correspondence by letter.

Van Gogh's early works, mostly "still lifes and depictions of "peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886 he moved to Paris where he met members of the "avant-garde, including "Emile Bernard and "Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the "Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and "local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in "Arles in the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include "olive trees, cypresses, "wheat fields and "sunflowers.

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""Cannon decorate the quayside of Balfour Harbour on Shapinsay, the round tower in the background is The Douche
"Shapinsay is one of the "Orkney Islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. There is one village on the island, "Balfour, from which "roll-on/roll-off car ferries sail to "Kirkwall on the "Orkney Mainland. "Balfour Castle, built in the "Scottish Baronial style, is one of the island's most prominent features, a reminder of the Balfour family's domination of Shapinsay during the 18th and 19th centuries; the Balfours transformed life on the island by introducing new agricultural techniques. Other landmarks include a "standing stone, an "Iron Age "broch, a "souterrain and a salt-water shower.

With an area of 29.5 square kilometres (11.4 sq mi), Shapinsay is the eighth largest island in the "Orkney archipelago. It is low-lying and fertile, consequently most of the area is given over to farming. Shapinsay has two "nature reserves and is notable for its bird life. At the 2011 census, Shapinsay had a population of 307.The economy of the island is primarily based on agriculture with the exception of a few small businesses that are largely tourism-related. Plans for the construction of a wind turbine are under consideration.

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