Capital Capitals: Europe


So after last week’s out-of-place trivia post, which really lacked any trivia and came about as the result of a short week, a computer malfunction, fruitless efforts to fix said issue, and a resultant and unwanted need to purchase a new laptop, I will return to finish the back leg of the world capitals. I ended with a two-part post on Africa and will continue by crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. Europe is a uniqe continent in that the borders are not defined by bodies of water, causing lots of issues with trying to define where Europe ends and where Asia begins. The consensus is that Europe and Asia are separated by Russia’s Ural Mountains, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains.

Albania – Tirana – Tirana boasts an ancient past with Paleolithic tools found dating anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years old. A Roman house from the 3rd century AD was also found in the capital city of Albania.

Andorra – Andorra La Vella – Squeezed between France and Spain way up in the Pyrenees lies Europe’s high capital city, Andorra La Vella, named for the country it resides in.

Aremenia – Yerevan – Civilizations come and go; people moving in and out of cities, sometimes leaving ghost towns behind. Not Yerevan. While other towns and cities crumbled and were rebuilt, since 782 BC, Yerevan has been an occupied city, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  

Austria – Vienna – Vienna carries a great historical legacy. It is nicknamed the City of Music for its musical heritage, but it is also called the City of Dreams, since it produced the innuendo-loving psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Azerbaijan – Baku – Referred to as the “Filthy-Rich Capital of Azerbaijan” by Bloomberg news site, Baku is nearly drowning in cash that flows like the oil flowing through the city’s new pipeline. The capital city adjacent to the Caspian Sea has plans for a soccer stadium exceeding half a billion dollars and fifty man-made islands that can house over 400,000 people.

Belarus – Minsk – The recent conflict over the status of Ukraine has recently taken a diplomatic turn. The Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladmir Putin met for the first time at a summit in Belarus’ capital city.

Belgium – Brussels – The capital of Belgium. Or is it the capital of Europe? Brussels, as it turns out, is the location of all political work done under in the name of the European Union, making it the de facto capital of the EU.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Sarajevo – Bosnia & Herzegovina qualified for the World Cup this year, their first ever. Many players expressed their desire to raise awareness for the devastated country, which is still undergoing reconstruction from a war 20 years past and suffered a major rainfall and flooding that left many citizens homeless. In addition to the flooding, Sarajevo was the site of anti-government protests and riots this past year.

Bulgaria – Sofia – The city of Sofia is named after the Holy Sophia Church (or the Hagia Sophia), which is also synonymous with “Holy Wisdom”. Sophia also has pagan roots with gnostic sects worshipping Sophia as the goddess of wisdom.

Croatia – Zagreb – Zagreb is the only capital city that starts with a “Z”, which by default makes it the last capital city when arranging by alphabetical order.

Cyprus – Nicosia – Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, claiming a northern part of the Croatia’s capital city. Most of the international community (barring Turkey) does not recognize this area as Turkish though. Turkey claims northern Nicosia as the capital of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, while the rest of the world recognizes it as Cypriot lands occupied by Turkey.  

Czech Republic – Prague – Astronomy buffs can flock to Prague to celebrate the place that demoted the tiny rock to its dwarf planet status (and rightfully so!). The International Astronomical Union decided in Prague that a planet should orbit the sun, have a nearly round shape, and “clear the neighborhood” of its orbit, which Pluto has not done.

Denmark – Copenhagen – Bicyclist would find themselves right at home in Copenhagen; it is estimated that bicyclists ride 1.2 million km per day along Copenhagen’s extensive bike paths. About 37% of Copenhagen residents bike to school or work.

Estonia – Tallinn – Tallinn is at a high enough latitude that during May to July the town stays lit from 4 am to 11 pm. The city has dubbed this phenomenon of nature “White Nights” and invites visitors to enjoy the city during a time when darkness rarely completely sets in.

Finland – Helsinki – On the southern shores of Finland is Helsinki, the Nordic country’s capital. During the summer months, the city hires workers dressed in green to guide tourists to interesting sites and delicious eateries, dubbing these employees “Helsinki Helpers”.  

France – Paris – One of the most well-known capital cities in the western world, some visitors actually think too highly of it. In Japan, for example, Paris is often idealized in the media, and so when Japanese tourists vacation in Paris, they find the city not quite meeting their high expectations. Some individuals experience hallucinations, delusions, false feelings of persecution, and anxiety. This has prompted the Japanese embassy to set up a 24 hour hotline for sufferers of “Paris syndrome”.

Georgia – Atlanta – Just kidding! Don’t think I’d be as confused as that one girl on Yahoo! Answers. Hopefully, it was all in jest. The capital city of the country of Georgia is Tbilisi. Legend has it that Tbilisi was founded when the Georgian king’s hunting falcon fell and died in a hot spring. The king wished to have the hot springs for himself, and so he had the entire area deforested and named the capital city.

Germany – Berlin – After World War II, the Allies decided to split Germany into four quadrants. Berlin was also split, even though it was located in East Germany, and the French, British, and American occupied areas were known as West Berlin. West Berlin was a veritable island, surrounded on all sides by East Germany and East Berlin. Eventually, West Berlin’s borders were closed, surrounded by barb wire and guards in a single night. A real wall was later built, only to be torn down but not after at least 136 died guarding or defecting.  

Greece – Athens – Athens is known as the Cradle of Western Civilization with the Ancient Greeks forming many founding principles in Athens like democracy, Western philosophy, mathematics, theater, and even the Olympic Games. It is believed the first Olympics were held in Athens in 776 BC, returning there to restart the modern Olympics in 1896.

Hungary – Budapest – Budapest is sometimes called the City of Baths. It is the only capital city in the world to boast thermal springs, containing anywhere between 80 and 125 hot, natural spas.

Iceland – Reykjavik – Home to about 75% of the country’s population, Reykjavik (just about as hard to say as Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that erupted in 2010) consistently ranks as one of the cleanest, greenest, and safest cities in the world.

Ireland – Dublin – Stereotypically, the Irish love their pubs. And Dublin may have the oldest pub in Ireland; the Brazen Head is located at a site that has been a watering hole since 1198.

Italy – Rome – The ancient city of Rome has many claims to fame and a deep history. Its claim to geographical fame is that it is the only city in the world that has an independent country contained within it. The Vatican City is located within Rome’s city boundaries and is considered a sovereign nation.

Kosovo – Pristina – Although the name might look similar to the word “pristine”, Kosovo’s capital city is actually named after a Slavic person. The city is sometimes incorrectly cited as being named after the Serbian word prišt, which means ulcer or tumour – not a pleasant etymology for a city.

Latvia – Riga – Each year, the European Union designates a city (sometimes a few) as a “European Capital of Culture”. Along with another city, Riga holds the distinction of being 2014’s Capital of Culture, thanks to a rich history that dates back to 1201 AD.

Liechtenstein – Vaduz – Vaduz is home of the Vaduz Castle, where the reigning prince of Liechtenstein resides. The castle sits on top of a large hill in the middle of the city, enabling any city dweller to look upon its greatness from any location in the capital city.

Lithuania – Vilnius – Vilnius’ claim to fame is its rich Jewish heritage. It has often been described as the “Jerusalem of Lithuiania”, which might not be saying much without a frame of reference. Napoleon’s designation for Vilnius bolsters its status; the great French leader gave it a similar moniker, calling it the “Jerusalem of the North”.

Luxembourg – Luxembourg – Luxembourg ranks as one of the richest cities in the world with a per capita GDP exceeding $80,000. The city is also considered one of the safest cities in the world.

Macedonia – Skopje – Skopje was the location of extravagant spending in the past four years upon the implementation of Skopje 2014, an attempt to enhance the city’s historical appeal. Various statues, buildings, and bridges were built and renovated to the dismay of some taxpayers who thought the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Malta – Valletta – Il-Belt (The City, in Maltese) as it’s commonly called, or Valletta, is the second southernmost capital city in the EU, only behind Nicosia, Cyprus.

Moldova – Chișinău – The largest city in Moldova does not have a clear origin for its name. Some believe that the city is named after the Romanian expression for “new spring” since it was built around a small spring. Others argue that the Hungarians named it “small Jenő”, referring to nearby Hungarian tribes.

Monaco – Monaco – Monaco is another one of those rare cities that are also countries, making itself act as its capital city. It’s only about the size of New York’s Central Park, but it attracts a diverse group of residents; 80% of Monaco dwellers are not native born.  

Montenegro – Podgorica – Podgorica is Serbian for “under the Gorica”. A Gorica is a small hill and refers to the city’s tree-covered peak that overlooks the city center.

The Netherlands – Amsterdam – Although often recognized in American pop culture for its “coffee shops”, Amsterdam has much more to be proud of, like its claim to having the most museums in the world per square mile. Even the airport has a museum in it.

Norway – Oslo – Norway gained independence from Denmark in 1814, instituting Oslo as its capital. The Nobel Peace Prize, despite being awarded in honor of the Swedish Alfred Nobel, is awarded every year in Oslo City Hall.

Poland – Warsaw – Since World War II, Warsaw has been known as the Phoenix City. It was quickly destroyed by Germany’s blitzkrieg attack but was rebuilt with equally swift zeal by Warsaw citizens.  

Portugal – Lisbon – There have been a few de facto capital cities on these lists, but Portugal’s capital might be the oldest. Lisbon has been capital since its foundation in 1147, but no official documents grant Lisbon capital status.

Romania – Bucharest – Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament attracts many tourists mostly due to its massiveness. The building is the largest administrative building in the world with over 3.5 million square feet of floor space that is only filled up to 30% occupancy.

Russia – Moscow – You’ll find no shortage of taxis in Moscow. It’s Russian tradition for drivers to offer rides to strangers in exchange for a few rubles. Even hitchhikers can’t escape Moscow’s tradition and may be coerced into giving up something for a ride. Legislation in 2011 attempted to curb this potentially dangerous convention with varying success.

San Marino – San Marino – The tiny micro-nation completely surrounded by Italy has a capital city of the same name. For some time, the City of San Marino was the only city in San Marino, and so much of the nation’s history is shared with the city.

Serbia – Belgrade – Another ancient city with over 7000 years of history, Belgrade has been called many names and seen many struggles. Cities in the same location have been razed 44 times, and the city has been the focus point of over 115 wars.

Slovakia – Bratislava – Although it is located is Slovakia, Bratislava borders Hungary to the south and Austria to the west, making it the only capital city in the world to border two other independent countries.

Slovenia – Ljubljana – The Ljubljana Dragon, present on the city’s coat of arms and flag, is believed to be the source of the Earth’s fertility once slayed. Ljubljana is rife with marshes in surrounding regions, which is believed to be where this legend originates.

Spain – Madrid – Madrid is home to the elite professional soccer club Real Madrid. Real Madrid was voted the best club of the century winning by a landslide in a polling through FIFA World Magazine.

Sweden – Stockholm – The municipality of Stockholm, the largest in Scandinavia, was the site of the Norrmalmstorg robbery, where bank employees were held captive in a bank vault for six days. At some point during the heist, the employees allied with the robbers, rejecting government assistance and defending the robbers. Hence, Stockholm syndrome was coined.

Switzerland – Bern – Bern is the Bundesstadt of Switzerland, the Federal City, not the Hauptstadt, or capital city because Switzerland is another one of those unique countries that never officially named their capital city

Turkey – Ankara – Located in central Turkey, Ankara is world famous for Angora goats, which produce the soft, silky wool known as mohair.

Ukraine – Kiev – There’s been no shortage of Kiev in the news recently. On the lighter side, Kiev contains one of the most popular McDonald’s in the world, serving over 2 million customers per year.

United Kingdom – London – London is the most populous city in the European Union, with over 13 million people residing in the metropolitan area. The Abbey Road Crossing, where The Beatles famously shot an album cover (with Paul McCartney controversially barefoot). You can now watch live as tourists come from near and far to replicate the legendary album cover.

Vatican City – Vatican City – Another city state, Vatican City is completely enclosed in Rome. It is the smallest independent nation by area and by population. More than just the pope lives here, but most citizens are associated with the church, except for a few state officials and Swiss Guard members.


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