The idea isn't really new, but in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, a Mini-Europe is very appropriate. There are not necessarily the biggest sights in Europe, which are presented, but rather buildings, which show the cultural inheritance of Europe and its manifoldedness.
Mini-Europe lies at the foot of the Atomium, this landmark of Brussels, which was built for the World Exhibition 50 years ago. From the upper balls of the Atomium you have a nice view over the whole area, but the minibuildings seem to be even smaller, seen from here.
Even the area itself doesn't look too extensive, but it is much bigger in reality, than one could guess from up there. All of the buildings were constructed minutely in a scale of 1:25, so that you can get an approximate perception of their real size, when you compare those known buildings to each other.
The first item in the park is dedicated to all of Europe, as it is the Berlaymont-building, where the European Commission has its headquarters. You can find it at the Schumansquare in Brussels, named after Robert Schuman, the "father of the EU".
Included in the price for the entry is a catalogue, in which the different buildings are listed. It is a pity, that the catalogue is beneath contempt, as well as it concerns language as facts. On the other hand, even the last two countries, Bulgaria and Romania, which became EU-members only last year (2007) are represented.
On the contrary to the modern Berlaymont-building, Denmark shows an ancient European culture, the settlement of the Vikings, "Trelleborg". The fortress consists of 31 longhouses, forming a crude circle, which are surrounded by moats and walls.
Apart from this, Denmark presents the houses from Nyhavn, and the old stockmarket (both from Copenhagen).
The northern neighbour, Sweden, shows a landmark from Stockholm, the City Hall, where every 10th of December the celebrations concerning the Nobel Prize are held.
As further cultural specialities the catalogue mentions Pippi Longstocking, the Midsummer celebrations and the day of Lucia (on December 13th), as well as that twenty percent of the men use their right to get paternity leave.
The last Nordic country, Finland, has one contribution to show. The Castle of Olavinlinna is situated in the East of Finland and was used as a defensive fortress against Russia. Today there are more peaceful events on the program, because the opera-performances, which are held in summertime, build a bridge between East and West.
Norway and Iceland are not part of Mini-Europe, neither is Switzerland, because those countries are not members of the EU. In my opinion this is very right, because if most of Europe tries to work together, it is a nuisance to keep away.
Between the buildings a little "nature" is kept, an artificial canal irrigates the area and supplies the "surroundings" for buildings, that are situated at some kind of water. Miniature trains go between different cities, toy cars and boats show the traffic on streets and waterways. Sometimes there are even minitourists, admiring the sights.
While I turn to the next page in the catalogue, to see, what Estonia has to show, I again become aware of how little we know about each other. Or do you know a cultural personality from Estonia?
Can you even tell the name of any Estonian? Well, neither do I ... Instead we are flooded by US-American series and films, which causes that people soon will not be able to recognize their own bearers of culture ...
Even if the Swedes try to strengthen their influence in the region of the Baltic Sea, Tallinn was Danish from the start, when it was captured by King Valdemar in 1219. Here a part of the medieval citywall is shown, of which there still are about 4 km left.
While Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages, Latvian and Lithuanian are Indoeuropean languages. Latvia has got its name after the Latgales, who have settled here a long time ago and who were Indoeuropeans. In the title of the national anthem "God bless Latvia", one easily can see the relationship between the Latvian word for God, "Dievs" and its Latin equivalent "Deus".
One third of the population (2,3 million) lives in Riga, the capital of this country.
Latvia is represented by the Monument of Freedom, which was built in 1935 in the capital, during the first period of independency. While Latvia was a part of the Soviet Union, this monument naturally was an important symbol among the Latvian population, who nowadays represent only about 50 percent of the inhabitants. Not less than 35 percent are of Russian origin, which of course leads to internal strain.
Lithuania is the biggest of the three Baltic countries, either counting by area or by population. It seems also to be a very tolerant country. So was Vilnius, the capital, called the "Jerusalem of the West", because here different religions could thrive together. Today 98 percent of the Russians, living in Lithuania, have been naturalized, which of course almost disintegrates the problems, which their neigbours have with foreigners.
The country is represented by its university, which was founded in 1579 in the Old Town, near the Palace of the Bishops.
The neighbours of Belgium, the Netherlands, have not less than 15 buildings here - of course, friend Mammon must be satisfied as well - and probably many more tourists come from the Netherlands, than from Estonia or Austria ... I choose to show the Townhall of Maastricht - not because of Maastricht being the oldest city of the Netherlands, but because in 1991 a treaty was signed here, that was an important step for the European Union. Besides, the townhall from the 17th century is famous for another sight, the double perron. But it wasn't built of architectural or aesthetic reasons - it had its origin in the antagonism between religious and mundane leadership. Both the General States and the Prince-bishop had the right to govern in the townhall - and none of the representatives of the city should have to climb the stairs after the other. Truly, the rulers had their own headaches ... But today that is still the same, isn't it?
The windmills are traditionally as much a part of the Netherlands as are the clogs. The former are not only used for grinding grains, but even - and mainly - for drainage. And finally the position of the wings was a means of communication, not at least in times of war.
The castle of Hoensbroek, the medieval Ootmarsum, the museum village of Orvelte, the City Hall of Veere and houses from the Doelenkade in Hoorn are more examples for what the Netherlands present themselves with. By the way, did you know, that Kap Hoorn in Africa is called after this city in the Zuiderzee?
If the country of the neighbours is allowed to show 15 buildings, then it is not more than right, that Belgium, as arranging host, at least can present 16 buildings, isn't it? Here the buildings around the "Grote Markt" in the center of Brussels should be mentioned ahead of anything else, with its City Hall and the houses of the guilds. The City Hall is ornamented with 294 statues. But one has not forgotten about the flower carpet either, which is laid out on the square around the 15th of August every second year (with even numbers) and which is a very big sensation. To rebuild the Marketplace (or as the French call it: Grand Place) it took 19.000 hours of work - that is about the equivalent of 11 years working time for one person.
French fries (even if they originate from Belgium) and chocolates are other specialities from Belgium. Not less than 7,3 kg of chocolate per person are nibbled here in one year and besides of that the Belgians are the world's biggest consumers of French fries, measured per capita.
Already in 1680 the potato-sticks are mentioned for the first time. (Interestingly the Belgians use the Austrian word of aardappel, "earth-apple", for the potato, and not the (Northern)German Kartoffel.) By the way: German is an official language in Belgium, even if not many know that fact.
The manufacturing of diamonds should also be mentioned, when talking about Belgium. With Antwerp as center the country is responsible for 70% of the world's production of worked stones.
The location of the church Notre Dame de Dinant, even called Collegiale, is impressive. It is built right in front of a giant rock-formation. This wall of stone has become part of the model here, as well as the citadel on top of it, towering and guarding the city. This is why Dinant even is known as "the city of the citadel".
The Curtiushouse in Liege, the castle of Veves in Celles, the city halls of Antwerp and Leuven, the Gerbersquare in Bruges and the archcommandery in Alden Biesen are other examples, which are part of the representation of Belgium. (The archcommandery was the location of the leader of a religious order of knights.)
After jumping over the English Channel, we notice that Great Britain still has ten sites to show, mainly though the "Houses of Parliament", which are 286 m long and on the Northern side are completed by the clock-tower with the Big Ben. The clock, which weighes not less than 14 tons, has got its name after the builder Ben(jamin) Hall, who is said to have possessed a corpulent figure.
What is worse to get informed of, is that two thirds of the British press are owned by US-American or Australian media-groups.
Who could then be astonished, that the Brits are brainwashed to become anti-Europeans?
The Castle of Dover with its donjon from 1180 is one of the other buildings, that represent Great Britain. Still others are some small houses from Stratford-on-Avon (where Shakespeare was born) or the Longleat House and the Circus of Bath, which has been erected in the style of an Roman amphiteatre and which together with "The Royal Crescent" is an impressive unit. Even a jumbo-ferry lies in the water, built in the right scales.
Glendalough is situated in Ireland. Once it was an important religious centre, from where the munks went to the continent to win new souls for Christianity. There stands the St. Kevin's Church, with a small, round tower. The large, 33 meter high tower at the side was used as harbourage, when plundering hordes of Vikings came by. Not far from there, in Ballydavid, one finds a little prayers' house, looking almost like a tent. That is shown here as well. Furthermore St. Patrick's Rock is presented, where Cormac's Chapel, the first church of Ireland, had been built.
Having these traditions as a background, it is no wonder that 86% of the Irish confess that they are religious and that they participate at least once a week at a divine service. There are even regular and direct flights between Dublin and Lourdes, the place of pilgrimage in the French Pyrenees.
But we don't leave for the Pyrenees, but for Paris, where we can admire the "Arc de Triomphe". There is also the grave of the Unknown Soldier. That is quite a paradox, considering that the triumphal arc had been erected by Napoleon and that within it, there are engraved the names of 600 generals and not less than 150 of Napoleon's battles and victories ...
Of course, France is also represented by the 300 meter high Tour de Eiffel, which was built between 1887 and 1889 for the worldexhibition. But there are even newer technical achievements - the Airbus and the high velocity train Thalys, which operates on the line Brussels - Paris. Even the chapel Notre-Dame-Du-Haut near Rochamp by Le Courbusier and the castle Clos Vougeot represent France. The latter is mainly known through the wine with the same name, which is produced in up to 200.000 bottles a year.
The Royal Salt Works in Arc-Et-Senans and the "Ladies' Castle" the Castle of Chenonceau, are examples of French culture. But not at least the church of Sacre-Coeur on the Montmartre in Paris is another nice instance of that. Again this is a paradox, though: the building was started in 1875, as a reconciliation after the German-French War - and it was fulfilled in 1914, when World War I started.
France ist the biggest country in Europe, measured in area, but within the EU, the French work the least - only 1568 hours a year.
Portugal shows five buildings - among others the "Cais da Ribeira", the waterfront in Porto and the Castle of Guimarães, the craddle of Portugal, where Alfonso Henriques, the first king of the country, was born.
The Tower of Belem, standing since about 400 years in Lisbon, can also be seen at the estuary of the Tejo into the Atlantic Ocean. It was ordered to be built in 1515 by King Emanuel I and it is one of the few buildings, that have survived the earthquake of 1755. Throughout the years the tower served as jail as well as a storage for weapons.
Portugal has not only the highest average temperature in Europe, but also most hours of sunshine. And the "azulejos", the blue ornamented glazed tiles, with which, among other things, the faces of houses are clad, are typical for Portugal as well. Portugal was founded in 1143 and has the oldest borders of Europe.
But these borders even neighbour Spain shared, Spain, which is represented five times. Instructions for the building El Escorial were given by Philipp II of Habsburg, as a memory for the victory over France in the year 1557. El Escorial, situated 45 kilometres to the Northeast of Madrid, was at the same time a monastery, a residence and a mausoleum. Yet today there are all Spanish kings buried there, since Charles V of Habsburg (in Spain Carlos I). At that time Spain was through seafaring a leading power in the world, which got gold and silver in abundance from Southern America.
From Spain, there is also shown the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, an important church of pilgrimage - placed at the spot, where the remainders of the apostle Jakobus the Elder are said to having been found.
Apart from that, the windmills of la Mancha are shown, to remind of Don Quijote by Cervantes, as well as the statue of Columbus in Barcelona and the bullfighter's arena in Sevilla.
By the way: mancha is a loanword from Arabic, "manxa", which means "dry ground".
The stone temples on Malta, like here, the shown Temple of Mnajdra, are about 5500 years old and probably the oldest in the world. We don't know, which civilization has erected them, about 1000 years before the Pyramides in Egypt.
This 300 squarekilometres big island is inhabitated by 400.000 people. Those have admission to about 400 churches on the island - that is the highest density of churches in the EU. But religion has other traditions as well - between 1530 and 1798 the Orden of the Knights Hospitaller had its headquarters here.
Interestingly Italy is the country within the EU, where there falls most rain, 950 mm in a year. Could the reason, that the Italians among Europeans also spend most money for clothing, be that they get wet so often? :-)
In Venice one is even more on terms with the wet element, their gondolas are depending on it ... The Marcus Square with the Campanile and the Doge's Palace is one of the pieces shown from Italy. Until 1797 the palace was the residence of the Doges of Venice. On the two pillars on the square you can see the bronzen lion of St. Marcus, as well as the statue of St. Theodor, who is the patron saint of the city.
From Italy there is also a copy of the Vesuvius. It is the only exception, which hasn't been rebuilt in the scale of 1:25, but in 1:1000. Anyhow, it is a rather nice animation, if you stand in front of it, press the button and there comes smoke out of the top of the mountain.
Near every country's sights there is at least one button - press it and the national anthem of that country is played. Besides that, there are, as in the case of the Vesuvius, more or less well made animations. In Sevilla a bull runs in circles in the bullfighter's arena, while in Ireland there is the shepherd's dog, holding the herd together.
Of course Pisa must have its place among Italy's sights. The "Piazza del Duomo", that is the square of the cathedral, is a great visitors and tourists area - here the Leaning Tower is to be found. This bell tower was conceived wrongly at the start, because it stands on soft ground and the tower started leaning already while it was being built. The tower, with a height of 54 meters consists of 14.200 tons of white marble from Carrara - even the model is made of this marble, but weighs only 800 kg. Apart from the Campanile the baptisterium and not at least the cathedral are shown. The latter was built, when Pisa had won a battle against Palermo in 1063.
Siena, Alberobello and Vizenza are other places, that are chosen to represent Italy with buildings.

Germany has the Holstentor in Lübeck as one of its shown buildings. The Holstentor was built in 1477 and is traditionally a signboard - it was printed on the old 50-Mark-banknotes not at least.
The Germans see the doctor most of all Europeans, eleven times a year on average. They eat also most bread in the EU - every German devours 84 kilo, which makes more than 1,5 kilo a week. But they have also most museums to visit, not less than 5000 they can choose between. France has at least 4500, but Italy on third spot, only has half as many, 2500. In the cathedral of Cologne there is the biggest bell in Europe - it can play 40 different notes.

Nobody can deny that the Brandenburger Tor is part of the German, and even the European history. Of course it must be shown here as well. It was inaugurated in 1791 in its place at the end of the avenue "Unter den Linden".
More from Germany: the cathedral of Speyer - even here you could talk about historic events - the Millenniumtower in Magdeburg, the Osthofentor in Soest, the Eltz castle, the pilgrimage church in Wies, the Beethovenhaus in Bonn and the Porta Nigra in Trier, which dates back to Roman origin.
The Alphonsbridge in Luxemburg has got its name after the Grand Duke with that same name, who was head of the country at the time of the building of the bridge, in the beginning of the 20th century. At that time the stone bridge with its 84 meters of span width was a technical achievement.
The name of Luxemburg derives from "Lucilinburugh" and means "little castle". The people of Luxemburg are the most satisfied within the European Union, which is not surprising, considering that the living standard is 228 percent of the average. Even the proportion of foreigners seems to be high with its 30 percent, but the kind of foreigners is probably quite different from that of other countries.
The Artus Manor in Gdansk represents Poland. It was built in the 15th century and got its name after the legendary King Arthur of England. The outside of the house carries statues of mythological persons and heroes from the past. It was never a house of kings though, but of guilds and economic brotherhoods. Even the stock market was placed here during some time.
In front of the manor there is a landmark of the town, the well of Neptune from the 17th century. The mayor Bartholomäus Schachmann had been inspired, when on a journey in Italy and wanted to put a memorial for Neptune in his home town, as it was situated at the sea.
Poland is - contrary to Portugal - the country in Europe, which borders have changed most throughout history. In 1795 the country disappeared entirely, when Prussia, Austria and Russia divided it among themselves.
The city hall in the Old Town of Prague dates back to the year 1338 and since 1410 it has an astronomical clock. Here you can find the local time, the Sumerian time and the time passed since sunrise. Furthermore the clock has an astronomical dial and a calendar. At the start of every new hour the twelve apostles march one turn around - in front of the eyes of the interested tourists.
When the protestants threw out the legat of the Emperor through the window, the so called "Defenestrations of Prague", it meant the beginning of the Thirty Years War - as the people were not willing to return back to catholicism. Today, four hundred years later, forty percent of the population are atheists ...
"Czechia" is only accepted as a non-official form, officially the country must be named "Czech Republic". In any case the older German form "Tschechei" is forbidden, because that meant "Czech(oslovak)ia".
The Blue church or St. Elisabeth-church stands in Bratislava. This Elisabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II - and she was born in the castle of Bratislava. The church was built in 1908 in the style of Hungarian Art Nouveau. At that time Slovakia still was a part of Hungary. In Bratislava there were eleven Hungarian kings and eight queens crowned (many of them from the House of Habsburg, which ruled over Hungary as well). But the crowning happened in the St. Martin's Cathedral.
In 1918 Slovakia together with Czechia became Czechoslovakia (though between 1939 and 1945 Slovakia was independent again). In 1993 the countries were separated anew. Slovakia is a country of caves - there are more than 4450 of them. Almost all tax levels in the country are put at nineteen percent (except for medication and books). At an average age of 35,5 years, Slovakia is one of the youngest countries in Europe.
Romanian is not a Slavic, but a Romanic language. During the first three centuries after Christ, Romania was a Roman colony (Dacia). From the beginning there were three principalities, Moldavia, Walachia and Transylvania, which since the end of the 19th century are unified to one country. Romania is thus a very young country, but its area has had quite an eventful history - situated between (Austria)-Hungarian and Turkish territory.
In Minieurope the Mogosaia-palace is shown. It is about ten kilometres outside of Bucharest and is situated at the lake with the same name.
Holy John from the Rila mountains (Iwan Rilski) lived between 870 - 946. He was the first hermit in Bulgaria and founded the Rila monastery. There can't be seen very much of that any more, but the square Hreljo-tower dates back to the 14th century. Iwan Rilski is also celebrated as the patron of the Bulgarians.
Did you know, that Bulgaria was the biggest kingdom in Europe at the beginning of the 10th century? Its national holiday ist the 3rd of March, which reminds of the liberation of the Turkish rule, even if the Bulgarians themselves were Turks until the 7th century.
The triple bridge in Ljubljana spans the river Ljubljanica. The main bridge was built in 1820, while both pedestrian bridges were erected exactly a hundred years later. Ljubljana was founded by settlers from the Duchy of Bavaria at about the first millenniumshift and stood from 1278 until 1918 under the rule of the Habsburgs. The city was the capital in the Duchy of Krain.
On the Prešerensquare, which is found behind the bridge and named after the greatest Slovenian writer, France Prešeren, one finds a memorial statue of the latter, but also the Franciscan church of the Annunciation of Mary. Finally there is the Hauptmannhouse, which was restored in the style of Art Nouveau during the last century.
Slovenia became independent in 1991 for the first time in its history. In spite of that, there the Euro has most supporters in all Europe. The Lippizaner horses of the Spanish Hofreitschule in Vienna come from Slovenia.
Hungary is represented by the Széchenyi-baths in Mini-Europa. Named after the "Greatest Hungarian", István Széchenyi, the three pools hold temperatures of 27, 34 and 38 degrees Celsius. The bath was built in the Citypark of Budapest and was opened for the public in 1913.
Between 1536 and 1734 Budapest was the seat of the Turkish governour, until the Habsburgs could drive away the Turks again.
Hungary, or Magyarország in its own language, is the land of the Magyars, who came from the east into the Hungarian plains during the 9th and 10th centuries.
"Land der Berge, Land am Strome, Land der Äcker, Land der Dome" (Land of the mountains, land on the river, ...) - that is the beginning of the Austrian national anthem, which describes the country. But actually that tiny bit Austria, that is left of the Austrian Empire, consists of a multitude, which not many other countries can show.
Stift Melk stands for the cathedrals of Austria. It was founded by the dynasty of the Babenbergs, already some years before the first millenniumshift, but it got its looks of today first in the 18th century - by Jakob Prandtauer under the abbot Berthold Dietmayr.
The Kouriontheatre in Limassol has been built by the Greeks 2700 years ago. 400 years later the Romans had it rebuilt. It can take 3500 spectators.
The island of Cyprus is only partly a member of the EU, because it is divided into a Greek and a Turkish part. At the coast of this island Aphrodite was born, out of the foam of the sea. The name of Cyprus comes from Latin "cuprum", which means copper. About 4000 years ago one already produced wine here - that is probably the oldest wine of our world.
What would be more appropriate to finish this walkaround with, but Greece, the craddle of our Western civilization? But may memory not rest at the many wars against each other and the Persians, but preferably at the beginnings of science, on social, philosophical and natural landwinnings. And - as of not to forget the culture, what could suit better than a view of the Acropolis, on which the temples are ancient witnesses of human accomplishments? Thank you, Europe, princess of Egypt, abducted by Zeus to Crete, you, who have given us your name.

Copyright Bernhard Kauntz, Wolvertem 2008-2009

Back to   or to the   of  

last update: 8.2.2009 by