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Europe is one of the traditional seven political continents, and a peninsular sub-continent of the geographic continent Eurasia. Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, and to the southeast by the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. To the east, Europe is generally divided from Asia by the water divide of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and by the Caspian Sea. Europe is sometimes referred to as a "penninsula of penninsulas".

Europe covers approximately 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of the planet's total land area. It hosts around fifty sovereign states, the precise number depending on the underlying definition of Europe's border, as well as on the inclusion or exclusion of states which are not fully recognized internationally. Europe contains both Russia, the world's largest country by area and Europe's largest by population, as well as the Vatican, the smallest on both counts (not counting the non-sovereign Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific). Europe is the third most populous continent after Asia and Africa with a population of 731,000,000 or about 11% of the world's population. According to UN population projection (medium variant), Europe's share will fall to 7% in 2050, numbering 653 million. However, Europe's borders and population are in dispute, as the term continent can refer to a cultural and political distinction or a physiographic one.

Europe is the birthplace of Western culture. European nations played a predominant role in global affairs from the 16th century onwards, especially after the beginning of colonization. By the 17th and 18th centuries European nations controlled most of Africa, the Americas, and large portions of Asia. World War I and World War II led to a decline in European dominance in world affairs as the United States and Soviet Union took prominence. The Cold War between those two superpowers divided Europe along the Iron Curtain. European integration led to the formation of the Council of Europe and the European Union in Western Europe, both of which have been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

For a topic outline on this subject, see List of basic Europe topics.
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Montserrat
Credit: Diliff

Montserrat is a mountain near Barcelona, in Catalonia, in Spain. It is the site of a Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth. "Montserrat" literally means "jagged (serrated) mountain" in Catalan. It describes the peculiar aspect of the rock formation, which is visible from a great distance. The mountain is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock, popular with climbers.

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The Prince's Palace of Monaco .
The Prince's Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco. Founded in 1191 as a Genoese fortress, during its long and often dramatic history it has been bombarded and besieged by many foreign powers. Since the end of the 13th century, it has been the stronghold and home of the Grimaldi family who first captured it in 1297. The Grimaldi ruled the area first as feudal lords, and from the 17th century as sovereign princes, but their power was often derived from fragile agreements with their larger and stronger neighbours. Thus while other European sovereigns were building luxurious, modern Renaissance and Baroque palaces, politics and common sense demanded that the palace of the Monaco rulers be fortified. This unique requirement, at such a late stage in history, has made the palace at Monaco one of the most unusual in Europe. Ironically, when its fortifications were finally relaxed during the late 18th century, it was seized by the French and stripped of its treasures, and fell into decline, while the Grimaldi were exiled for over 20 years. The Grimaldi's occupation of their palace is also unusual because, unlike other European ruling families, the absence of alternative palaces and land shortages have resulted in their use of the same residence for more than seven centuries. Thus, their fortunes and politics are directly reflected in the evolution of the palace.

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Treasury of Athens
Credit: Sam Korn

The Treasury of Athens is a building at Delphi, the holiest of Ancient Greek sites and shrine to the god Apollo. It was built to commemorate the Athenians' victory at the Battle of Marathon. It is one of a number of such treasuries, built by the various states—those overseas as well as those on the mainland—to commemorate victories and to thank the oracle for advice important to those victories. The Athenians had previously been given the advice by the oracle to put their faith in their "wooden walls" – taking this advice to mean their navy, they won a famous battle at Salamis.

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