Mainland Western Europe

There are many countries in Europe. In this book we will split them into three different regions: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean region. Let's start by looking at the countries of Western Europe. These countries are typically near the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Climate and Terrain

Western Europe has extremes in temperatures, climates, peoples, and cultures. The reaches of Norway and Sweden are covered in frozen tundra. Countries such as Portugal and Spain have beautiful, warm beaches along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the other countries of Western Europe are covered by the Alps, one of the major mountain ranges in Europe. France and Spain are separated by the Pyrenees Mountains.

The tiny country of Monaco, which takes up less than one square mile, has a higher population density than any other country in the whole world. There are 32,543 people who call the country home, and they all live in an area that's roughly the size of Central Park in New York City! Compare that with the population density of Iceland, another Western European country. Iceland has only 7 people per square mile.

TUNDRA: The tundra is a very cold and very dry region. These areas are very cold but can be as dry as a desert. The soil in a tundra stays frozen for most of the year. This is called permafrost. Insects, birds, and caribou all live in the tundra.

Fun Fact

Archaeologists think humans came to Europe between 850,000 B.C.E. and 700,000 B.C.E., and they have even found a fossilized footprint on a beach in France that someone left 400,000 years ago.

Fjord Alert!

Western Europe is dotted with fjords. A fjord is a steep, narrow valley carved out of rocks by glaciers. In most cases, a fjord is found near the inlet of a larger body of water. Most fjords reach deeper than sea level. Fjords are found in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. The Sognefjord in Norway is one of the world's largest fjords. It reaches more than 120 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean and plunges to depths of close to 4,200 feet below sea level!

The rise and fall of the tides in a fjord are quite dramatic. Because of the high, steep walls and the fact that much of the fjord extends below sea level, the difference between high and low tides can be extreme. When the tide rises in the ocean connected to the fjord, the water rushes into the relatively small fjord. It is best to be prepared for this twice-daily event!

ALL ABOUT

the Countries of Western Europe

Country

Capital City

Andorra

Andorra la Vella

Austria

Vienna

Belgium

Brussels

Denmark

Copenhagen

Finland

Helsinki

France

Paris

Germany

Berlin

Iceland

Reykjavik

Ireland

Dublin

Liechtenstein

Vaduz

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Malta

Valletta

Monaco

Monaco

Netherlands

Amsterdam

Norway

Oslo

Portugal

Lisbon

San Marino

San Marino

Spain

Madrid

Sweden

Stockholm

Switzerland

Berne

The Great European Plain

The Great European Plain takes up more than 2,400 miles in the interior of the continent. It goes from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east, stretching through both Western and Eastern Europe. The plains are generally very flat but are interrupted by hilly forests in Germany.

The Alps

The Alps are one of the major mountain ranges in Europe. The Alps stretch from Austria to Italy and Switzerland and into France. The highest peak in the Alps is Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc (which means “white mountain”) is between France and Italy. It reaches more than 15,800 feet into the sky. This makes it the eleventh-tallest mountain the whole world.

The mountains of the Alps were carved by glaciers. These giant ice sheets carved out large basins in the mountains, changed river valleys, and smoothed the rocks there. You can still find mountain glaciers in some of the higher peaks in the Alps. The Alps are a popular tourist destination. In the summer, people enjoy hiking, climbing, and mountain biking. Popular winter sports include skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Would you like to visit the Alps? When would you go?

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