Europe: How the West Is One
The continent of Europe, although often considered small, is actually comprised of 45 countries. Over half of these are members of the economic organization called the European Union, one-quarter use the euro as their currency, a handful share the same languages, and each one has a unique history and culture. In this section are sites that will provide an informative background to the countries that comprise Europe, lending inspiration even to the seasoned Euro-traveler.
- For a list of the countries that comprise Europe, consult Aneki, an online almanac, which provides a simple list along with brief facts on each country.
- On many travel sites, Europe is sometimes designated as either Eastern Europe or Western Europe, though politically speaking these terms are increasingly passé. They were used primarily during the Cold War to describe the "Iron Curtain" separating the Soviet-controlled "East," including the countries now referred to as the Balkans, from the "West," which includes nations such as France, Spain, and Germany. It's just as easy to divide Europe into western, northern, central, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean, but in truth many of these designations overlap.
- The European Union is primarily an economic partnership between, as of January, 2008, 27 European countries. Other candidates are currently in negotiation. The EU application process requires adherence to the Copenhagen criteria, a set of rules that essentially requires a secular and democratic government, among other stipulations. Explore Europa (a "portal to the EU") for a simple list and map that profiles EU countries and current candidates.
- The Euro currency, which was another step toward integrating EU members, began in 2002. But not all EU countries use the Euro. Those who do are: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. Three other countries-England, Sweden, and Denmark-still use their own currency but also accept the Euro. [current as of January, 2008]
- The links accompanying the travel guidebooks we recommend in this section will take you to each book's page on Amazon.com, where you'll be able to read professional and customer reviews and purchase the book. All of these books can, of course, be purchased from other bookstores online and off.
It's good to be well informed about the history and culture of the countries you'll be visiting in ... read more »
This section highlights sites to get you from here to there, specific to the type of vacation ... read more »
Accommodation choices in Europe are vast and varied, from high-class hotels to quick and easy ... read more »