Western Europe Countries

Belgium

From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan center of commerce and culture. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the “Battlefield of Europe”, a reputation strengthened by both world wars. The country emerged in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution when it seceded from the Netherlands.

Atomium, Brussels

We visited Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, and Bruges in 2015 as part of Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg trip, and Ypres in 2016 as part of the northern France trip.

France

France became Europe’s dominant cultural, political, and military power in the 17th century under Louis XIV. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history’s earliest republics, and saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation’s ideals to this day.

Night time at Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy Coast

We visited Paris, Nice, and Cannes in 1984 , northern France (Lille, Honfleur, Amiens, D-day beaches, Mont St Michel, St. Malo, Chartres, and Giverny) in 2016, and Strasburg & Colmar in 2018.

Gibraltar

In 1704, Anglo-Dutch forces captured Gibraltar from Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Habsburg claim to the Spanish throne. The territory was ceded to Great Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During World War II it was an important base for the Royal Navy as it controlled the entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea, which is only 8 miles (13 km) wide at this naval choke point. It remains strategically important, with half the world’s seaborne trade passing through the strait.

Rock of Gibraltar, where we can see the Morocco and the Spanish Costa del Sol

We visited Gibraltar in 2013 as part of our Spain, Portugal and Morocco trip.

Germany

In 1871, Germany became a nation state when most of the German states  unified into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. After World War I and the revolution of 1918–19, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to the establishment of a dictatorship, World War II and the Holocaust. After the end of World War II in Europe and a period of Allied occupation, two German states were founded: West Germany, formed from the American, British, and French occupation zones, and East Germany, formed from the Soviet occupation zone. Following the Revolutions of 1989 that ended communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe, the country was reunified on 3 October 1990.

Römerberg is the old historic centre of Frankfurt, with a number of beautiful buildings, including the town hall and a church from the 14th and 15th century

We visited Munich, Dachau, Weisbaden, Koblenz, and cities along the Romantic Road in 1984, Berlin in 2009, and Frankfurt, Freiburg, Baden-Baden, Heidelburg and Dresden in 2018

Italy

Due to its central geographic location in Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has historically been home to a myriad of peoples and cultures.  In the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became the leading cultural, political and religious centre of Western civilization. The legacy of the Roman Empire is widespread and can be observed in the global distribution of civilian law, republican governments, Christianity and the Latin script.

Riomaggiore, one of the five villages (Cinque Terre)

We visited Rome and Venice in 1984, Milan in 2009, Bolzano, Dolomites, and Lake Como in 2015, Trieste in 2016, and Bologna, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Ompeii, Cinque Terre, Sorrento, Naples, and Sicily in 2017.

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked German-speaking microstate in western Europe. The country is a constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein.  It is also the smallest country to border two countries.

Town Hall, Vaduz

We visited Vaduz in 2015 as part of our Dolomites & Greece trip.

Luxembourg

The history of Luxembourg is considered to begin in 963, when count Siegfried I acquired a rocky promontory and its Roman-era fortifications known as Lucilinburhuc, ′little castle′, and the surrounding area from the Imperial Abbey of St. Maximin in nearby Trier. The present-day state of Luxembourg first emerged at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Grand-Duchy, with its powerful fortress, became an independent state under the personal possession of William I of the Netherlands with a Prussian garrison to guard the city against another invasion from France.

Peace sculpture outside the Cite Judiciaire

We visited Luxembourg City in 2015 as part of our Ireland, Belgium & Luxembourg trip.

Malta

Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British.  The country became a republic in 1974.

Breathtaking view of the Valletta Harbour

We visited Valletta, Gozo, Mdina, and Marsaxlokk in 2017 as part of our Italy, Sicily & Tunisia trip.

Monaco

Monaco has an area of 2 km2 , making it the second-smallest country in the world after the Vatican.  With 19,009 inhabitants per km², it is the most densely-populated sovereign state in the world.

Good view of Grand Prix

We visited Monte Carlo in 1984 as part of our 9-country whirlwind European trip.

Portugal

Portugal as a country was established during the Christian Reconquista against the Moors who had invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal established the first global empire, becoming one of the world’s major economic, political and military powers.

Bairro Alto neighborhood, Elevador da Gloria funicular, Lisbon

We visited Lisbon, Belem, Sintra, Lagos, Cape Sagres, and Faro in 2013 as part of our Spain, Portugal and Morocco trip.

San Marino

The country derives its name literally from Saint Marinus, a stonemason originating from the Roman colony on the island of Rab, in modern-day Croatia. In AD 257, Marinus, according to legend, participated in the reconstruction of Rimini’s city walls after their destruction by Liburnian pirates. Marinus then went on to found an independent monastic community on Monte Titano in AD 301; thus, San Marino lays claim to be the oldest extant sovereign state as well as the oldest constitutional republic.

Monument to Girolamo Gozi and defenders of freedom in San Marino

We visited San Marino in 2017 as part of our Italy, Sicily, Tunisia and Malta trip.

Spain

In the early modern period, Spain became the world’s first global empire and the most powerful country in the world, leaving a large cultural and linguistic legacy that includes +570 million Hispanophones, making Spanish the world’s second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Pretending to be a matador in the oldest bull ring in the world. The first fight took place here in 1785. Near Ronda, Spain.

We visited Barcelona in 1984, Madrid, and Valdelavilla  in 2007, and Seville, Granada, Malaga, Ronda, Algeciras, and Tarifa in  2013 as part of our Spain, Portugal and Morocco trip.

Switzerland

Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation; it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and did not join the United Nations until 2002.

Matterhorn, Zermatt

We visited Lucerne, Zurich, Zermatt, and Interlaken in 1984 as part of our 9-country whirlwind European trip, and Chur in 2015 while driving from Liechtenstein to Italy.

The Netherlands

The Kingdom of the Netherlands originated in the aftermath of French Emperor Napoleon I’s defeat in 1815, awarding rule to William, Prince of Orange and Nassau. The Kingdom of the Netherlands currently consists of four constituent countries: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. Three other Caribbean islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba) are special municipalities within the country of the Netherlands.

We visited AmsterdamZaanse Schans, and Alkmaar in 1984 as part of our 9-country whirlwind European trip.

The Vatican

Vatican City is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Established with the Lateran Treaty (1929), it is distinct from yet under “full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction” of the Holy See. With an area of 44 hectares, and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest state in the world by both area and population.

Swiss guards

We visited Vatican City in 1984 as part of our 9-country whirlwind European trip.

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