top of page
Search

Places In Europe You've Never Heard Of

These places may not truly be places that you have never heard of but they are places that you don't typically think of when you think of European travel. These lesser known countries, while not widely known are well worth taking the time to learn about them and well worth taking a visit. I have compiled a list of 6 different countries with an in-depth look and will include more at the end of this post that you can look up yourself.

 

Albania

Albania officially the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and maritime borders with Greece, Montenegro and Italy to the west. Geographically, Albania displays varied climatic, geological, hydrological, and morphological conditions, defined in an area of 28,748 km2 (11,100 sq mi). It possesses significant diversity with the landscape ranging from the snow-capped mountains in the Albanian Alps as well as the Korab, Skanderbeg, Pindus and Ceraunian Mountains to the hot and sunny coasts of the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian Sea along the Mediterranean Sea.


Historically, Albania has been inhabited by numerous civilisations such as the Illyrians, Thracians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans. The Albanians established the autonomous Principality of Arbër in the 12th century. The Kingdom of Albania and Principality of Albania formed between the 13th and 14th centuries. Prior to the Ottoman conquest of Albania in the 15th century, the Albanian resistance to Ottoman expansion into Europe led by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg won them acclaim over most of Europe. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, cultural developments, widely attributed to Albanians having gathered both spiritual and intellectual strength, conclusively led to the Albanian Renaissance. After the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars, the modern nation state of Albania declared independence in 1912. In the 20th century, the Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy which formed Greater Albania before becoming a protectorate of Nazi Germany. Enver Hoxha formed Communist Albania after the Second World War and launched the Albanians on a path of oppression and decades of isolation. The Revolutions of 1991 concluded the fall of communism in Albania and eventually the establishment of the current Republic of Albania.


Politically, Albania is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy dominated by the service sector, followed by manufacturing. It went through a process of transition following the end of communism in 1990, from centralized planning to a market-based economy. Albania provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens. Albania is a member of the United Nations, World Bank, UNESCO, NATO, WTO, COE, OSCE, and OIC. It is an official candidate for membership in the European Union. It is one of the founding members of the Energy Community, including the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Union for the Mediterranean.


 

Andorra

Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra, is a sovereign landlocked microstate on the Iberian Peninsula, in the eastern Pyrenees, bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south. Believed to have been created by Charlemagne, Andorra was ruled by the count of Urgell until 988, when it was transferred to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell. The present principality was formed by a charter in 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a diarchy headed by two princes: the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain, and the President of the French Republic.


Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 468 square kilometres (181 sq mi) and a population of approximately 77,006. The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. Andorra is the 16th-smallest country in the world by land and the 11th-smallest by population. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 feet) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, but Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.


Tourism in Andorra sees an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually. Andorra is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is its official currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993. In 2013, Andorra had the highest life expectancy in the world at 81 years, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study.


 

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated BiH or B&H, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in South and Southeast Europe, located within the Balkans. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city. Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Serbia to the east, Montenegro to the southeast, and Croatia to the north and southwest. It is not entirely landlocked; to the south it has a narrow coast on the Adriatic Sea, which is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) long and surrounds the town of Neum. The inland Bosnia region has a moderate continental climate, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. In the central and eastern interior of the country the geography is mountainous, in the northwest moderately hilly, and in the northeast predominantly flatland. The smaller southern region, Herzegovina, has a Mediterranean climate and mostly mountainous topography.


Bosnia and Herzegovina was settled at least from Upper Paleolithic and has preserved prehistoric art found in Badanj cave. The permanent human settlement traces back to the Neolithic age, inhabited by cultures such as Butmir, Kakanj, and Vučedol. After arrival of the first Indo-Europeans it was populated by several Illyrian and Celtic civilizations. Culturally, politically, and socially, the country has a rich but complex history, having been first settled by the South Slavic peoples that populate the area today from the 6th through to the 9th centuries. In the 12th century the Banate of Bosnia was established, which evolved into the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 14th century, after which it was annexed into the Ottoman Empire, under whose rule it remained from the mid-15th to the late 19th centuries. The Ottomans brought Islam to the region, and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the country. This was followed by annexation into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which lasted up until World War I. In the interwar period, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after World War II, it was granted full republic status in the newly formed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the republic proclaimed independence in 1992, which was followed by the Bosnian War, lasting until late 1995 with the Dayton Agreement.


The country is home to three main ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, as specified in the constitution. Bosniaks are the largest group of the three, with Serbs second, and Croats third. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnicity, is usually identified in English as a Bosnian. Minorities, defined under the constitutional nomenclature "Others", include Jews, Roma, Ukrainians, and Turks. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a bicameral legislature and a three-member Presidency composed of a member of each major ethnic group. However, the central government's power is highly limited, as the country is largely decentralized and comprises two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, with a third unit, the Brčko District, governed under local government. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of 10 cantons.


Bosnia and Herzegovina is a developing country and ranks 75th in terms of human development. Its economy is dominated by the industry and agriculture sectors, followed by the tourism and service sectors. The country has a social security and universal healthcare system, and primary- and secondary-level education is tuition-free. It is a member of the UN, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, PfP, Central European Free Trade Agreement, and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean upon its establishment in July 2008. The country is an applicant for membership to the European Union and has been a candidate for NATO membership since April 2010, when it received a Membership Action Plan. Bosnia and Herzegovina also experienced a significant rise in tourism in recent years.


 

Estonia

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and of 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Tartu are the largest cities and urban areas in the country. Other notable cities include Narva, Pärnu, Kohtla-Järve and Viljandi. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second-most-spoken Finnic language.


The territory of Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9,000 BC. Ancient Estonians became some of the last European pagans to adopt Christianity following the Livonian Crusade in the 13th century. After centuries of successive rule by Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles and Russians, a distinct Estonian national identity began to emerge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This culminated in independence from Russia in 1920 after a brief War of Independence at the end of World War I, where Estonians, led by General Laidoner, had to fight for their newborn freedom. Initially democratic prior to the Great Depression, Estonia experienced authoritarian rule from 1934 during the Era of Silence. During World War II (1939–1945), Estonia was repeatedly contested and occupied by the Soviet Union and Germany, ultimately being incorporated into the former. After the loss of its de facto independence for the Soviet Union, Estonia's de jure state continuity was preserved by diplomatic representatives and the government-in-exile. In 1987 the peaceful Singing Revolution began against Soviet rule, resulting in the restoration of de facto independence on 20 August 1991.


The sovereign state of Estonia is a democratic unitary parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties. With a population of 1.3 million Estonia is one of the least populous members of the European Union, the Eurozone, the OECD, the Schengen Area, NATO, and from 2020, the United Nations Security Council. Estonia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that was among the fastest-growing in the EU since its entry in 2004. The country ranks very high in the Human Development Index, and compares well in measures of economic freedom, civil liberties, education, and press freedom. Estonian citizens receive universal health care, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. One of the world's most digitally-advanced societies, in 2005 Estonia became the first state to hold elections over the Internet, and in 2014, the first state to provide e-residency.


 

Kosovo

Kosovo, officially the Republic of Kosovo, is partially-recognised state and disputed territory in Southeastern Europe. On 17 February 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia. It has since gained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 98 UN member states. Geographically defined in an area of 10,887 km2 (4,203 sq mi), Kosovo is landlocked in the center of the Balkans and bordered by the uncontested territory of Serbia to the north and east, North Macedonia to the southeast, Albania to the southwest and Montenegro to the west. It possesses remarkable varied and diverse landscapes for its size by climate along with geology and hydrology. Most of central Kosovo is dominated by the vast plains and fields of Metohija and Kosovo. The rugged Prokletije and Šar Mountains rise in the southwest and southeast, respectively.


Archaeological research has shown that the earliest known settlements in the territory of present-day Kosovo were linked to the Neolithic Starčevo culture and the material culture group-ins which succeeded it. The Bronze Age was marked by the arrival of Indo-European tribes and the appearance of tumuli, a typical feature of Indo-European material culture, in existing and new sites. In classical antiquity, the central tribe which emerged in the territory of Kosovo was that of the Dardani who formed an independent polity known as the Kingdom of Dardania in the 4th century BCE. Dardania was annexed by the Roman Empire by the 1st century BCE and was later part of the provinces of Praevalitana and Dardania. Kosovo remained part of the eastern Roman Empire for over a thousand years. Byzantine administration was eroded by Slavic invasions beginning in the 6th-7th century AD. In the centuries thereafter control of the area alternated between the Byzantines and the First Bulgarian Empire. By the 13th century, Kosovo became part of medieval Serbia. The Battle of Kosovo of 1389 is considered to be one of the defining moments in Serbian medieval history. The region was the core of the Serbian medieval state, which has also been the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the 14th century, when its status was upgraded to a patriarchate. The fall of the Serbian Empire in the late 14th century saw a quick succession of regional rulers until the 15th century when it became part of the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century.


In the late 19th century, it was the centre of the Albanian National Awakening. Following their defeat in the Balkan Wars, the Ottomans ceded Kosovo to Serbia and Montenegro. Both countries joined Yugoslavia after World War I, and following a period of Yugoslav unitarianism in the Kingdom, the post-World War II Yugoslav constitution established the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within the Yugoslav constituent republic of Serbia. Tensions between Kosovo's Albanian and Serb communities simmered through the 20th century and occasionally erupted into major violence, culminating in the Kosovo War of 1998 and 1999, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, the establishment of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo and the declaration of independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state, although with the 2013 Brussels Agreement, it has accepted its state institutions. While Serbia recognises administration of the territory by Kosovo's elected government, it continues to claim it as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.


Kosovo has an upper-middle-income economy. It has experienced solid economic growth over the last decade by international financial institutions, and growth every year since the onset of the financial crisis of 2007–2008. Kosovo is a member of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and has applied for membership of Interpol and for observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation.


 

Latvia

Latvia, officially known as the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since Latvia's independence in 1918, it has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Riga; other notable major cities in Latvia are Daugavpils, Liepāja, Jelgava and Jūrmala. The country has a temperate seasonal climate. The Baltic Sea moderates the climate, although the country has four distinct seasons and snowy winters.


After centuries of Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, a rule mainly executed by the Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke away from the Russian Empire and declared independence in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s the country became increasingly autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under Kārlis Ulmanis. The country's de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia's forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 (Courland Pocket in 1945) to form the Latvian SSR for the next 45 years.

The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the Communist regime's illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990 and restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991. Latvia is a democratic sovereign state, parliamentary republic. Capital city Riga served as the European Capital of Culture in 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is a unitary state, divided into 119 administrative divisions, of which 110 are municipalities and nine are cities. Latvians and Livonians are the indigenous people of Latvia. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages.


Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. However, as a consequence of centuries of Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation, 26.9% of the population of Latvia are ethnic Russians, some of whom (10.7% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II, Latvia also had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews. Latvia is historically predominantly Lutheran Protestant, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic. The Russian population is largely Eastern Orthodox Christians.


Latvia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy and ranks 39th in the Human Development Index. It performs favorably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance, living standards, and peacefulness. Latvia is a member of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, CBSS, the IMF, NB8, NIB, OECD, OSCE, and WTO. A full member of the Eurozone, it began using the euro as its currency on 1 January 2014, replacing the Latvian lats.


 

Some More Countries to Visit


Liechtenstein


Lithuania


Macedonia


Moldova


Montenegro


Serbia


Slovenia

 

I hope you enjoyed this look at Hidden Gems in Europe. Have you been to any of these places? Have an awesome day :)

 

3 views0 comments
bottom of page