Lonely Planet’s Europe book reveals an amazing list of Euroepan
superlatives, starting with the statistical stuff, there's the
world's largest country (Russia), which boasts the deepest lake
(Lake Baikal) and the longest river (Volga). There's the largest
island (Greenland); and the smallest country (the Vatican).
Andorrans have the world's highest life expectancy (83 years),
Moscow has more billionaires than any other city, and Scotland has
the highest proportion of natural redheads.
Slovenia has the oldest vine in the world, Armenia is home to the
last Caucasian leopards and Malta's megalithic temples are the
oldest freestanding structures.
And if that doesn't impress you, there's the astounding contribution
that Europe has made to global culture and science."
With that collection of superlatives, an armchair traveller sitting
down with The Europe Book is convinced to explore some more and in
this publisher's inimitable way, the journey is beautifully
illustrated with photographs from every corner of the Continent.
But this is not just a good looking coffee table tome, but
comprehensive facts and figure summary for as many countries as
there are states in America are delivered with quirky and engaging
writing, and skilfully avoids the mix of dull lists and rhapsodic
travelese often generated in this corner of the publishing world.
Broken into manageable bites, readers can graze on any given
country's landscape, history, people, marketplace, natural beauty,
ecotourism, wild things, and myths and legends, and each comes with
a grab-bibliography of film literature and architecture reference,
plus a recommendation on essential experiences.
And random facts: Andorra is "rucked and buckled" and before the
skiing boom had a population of just 6000; Moldova spends the
largest proportion of its budget on education than any country in
the world; Montenegro's people are among Europe's tallest, second
only to the Dutch . . .
The book doesn't shy from predicting how the future will unfold. In
a section called "Where now?" The Europe Book expands on the idea of
continually changing borders as its members shuffle for position.
"At its eastern limits, Europe is generally accepted as meeting Asia
at the Ural Mountains (for this book we've included the whole of
"To the south, some geographers cut Europe off at the Black Sea and
the Bosphorus, but political and cultural common ground make a more
interesting border below Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan." "On the
other flanks, the Atlantic and Mediterranean split Europe from the
Americas and Africa."
"Internally, Europe's borders have merged and diverged over the
years. Throughout history, wars and ideologies have created empires
and dynasties, unions and alliances." "It is hard to believe that
less than a lifetime ago the continent was a bloody battleground at
war with itself and the world."
"Or that a physical and symbolic wedge such as the Iron Curtain
really bisected Europe, separating East from West."
"Today the focus is on coalition, expressed by many countries'
eagerness to join the European Union. And yet not all wish to
accede, and so the borders within this peninsula continue to shift."
"There's no doubt Europe is an awe- inspiringly rich place, with
global achievements, a fascinating history and plenty to
titillate." "For any globetrotter, it's considered a must-see, a
place to be 'done' at least once. But it's rather like an onion –
its multiple layers make it simply impossible to digest in one
"More temptingly (and with less tears), it's an endless
pass-the-parcel just begging to be unwrapped time and time again, as
magical and exciting as you'd expect from the home of Father
The only logical response is to step out and buy a ticket to . . .
Now, where was that again?
The Europe Book, Lonely Planet, in hard back will cost you $79.99.
EUROPE AT A GLANCE (An
extract from The Europe Book)
POPULATION: 817.2 MILLION
AREA: 23.1 MILLION SQ KM
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: 40
SMALLEST COUNTRIES: Yes, grand things really do come in small
packages – the Vatican is the smallest country in the world,
followed by Monaco. Whether it's popes or playboys, no one can
question the influence that these countries have on the
LARGEST COUNTRY: From one extreme to another – at 17 million square
kilometres Russia is the largest country in the world.
MUSICAL HIGH NOTE: Famous for its sensational sounds, Vienna's
Staatsoper is the place to hear classical music and opera in Europe.
BEST BITE: If your smile needs a little tweak, thank Liechtenstein
for being the world's largest exporter of dentures.
BALMIEST BEACH-HOPPING: With 1400 islands, of which only 170 are
inhabited, sandy paradise is only a boat ride away in the Greek
SPOOKIEST SPOT: For serious shivers, Transylvania wins fangs down
with blood-sucking vampires, werewolves and Count Dracula himself –
make sure you don't forget your garlic!
PRETTIEST PICTURE: Thanks to mouthwatering art, beautiful buildings
and a sexy populace, Italy is unquestionably the best-looking
country in Europe.
HIGHEST MOUNTAIN: With towering twin peaks, one 5642 metres and the
other 5621 metres, Russia's Mt Elbrus is the highest mountain in
BEST UNDERWATER ACTION: Caves, tunnels, reefs, genuine wrecks, a
scuppered tugboat and marvellous marine life make Malta and Gozo's
dive spots the best in Europe.
NOISIEST COUNTRY: After Japan, Spain is the noisiest country in the
world. A quarter of all Spaniards are exposed to more than the 65
decibels deemed acceptable by the World Health Organisation. Ssssh
TALLEST GENE POOL: For tall, blonde and handsome look no further
than the Netherlands, where the average height for a man is 1.8
BRAVEST MENU CHOICE: Hakarl (rotten shark meat) served with a
welcome shot of potent brennivin (schnapps) is one of Iceland's more
curious snacks, and a bold choice in any language.
LONGEST RIVER: Europe's longest river, the Volga, flows a mighty
3700km from the Valdai Hills, northwest of Moscow, south to the
MOST MULTICULTURAL CITY: With more than 300 languages spoken every
day in London, the English capital buzzes with multiculturalism.
MOST UNASSUMING NATURAL BEAUTY: According to local legend, when God
was creating the world he saved the best bits for Georgia. With
snowcapped mountains, raging rivers, lush fauna and a medley of
national parks, who's to argue?