One of France's largest cities is Bordeaux near the Atlantic in the southwestern region. The city lies near the Garonne estuary, long and sheltered, which makes up an ideal protected area that gives this region port status:
Lyon is another major French city, shown here in a SPOT image:
Part of the Alps extends into France. The alpine city of Grenoble is seen in this Landsat image:
Next, we traipse southward to the Mediterranean. Here is much of the French Riviera, with Toulon on the left and St. Tropez and Cannes further east:
A closer look shows Toulon in the center of the shoreline in this image and Marseilles at the left edge.
Then, we go offshore to the French island of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte:
Heading next into Scandinavia, the island of Zealand (Sjaelland) in Denmark dominates the next image. Copenhagen, that country�s capital, is the dark blackish area at it upper right (east) end. A narrow strait, the Ore Sund, separates this part of Denmark from southern Sweden; Malmo, one of that country�s larger cities, appears as another black spot. Farming dominates the land use in these sections of both nations, principal crops being wheat, potatoes, and animal fodder. In Sweden, the reddish area is a forested region known as the Smaland Plateau.
From space Copenhagen, Denmark's capital, looks like this:
While we are presently in Scandinavia, lets look at three more capital cities. First is Oslo, Norway, seen here as a small blue patch at the end of a Baltic Sea inlet in this Landsat-2 subscene:
This is Oslo, as approached from the Baltic Sea; the city has a distinct atmosphere of being a large, friendly "town".
This ESA's ERS-SAR close-up of Oslo gives a better sense of the low hilly topography around the city (white):
Oslo is a relatively small city (population about 750000) nestled in low mountains (the high mountains of Norway, with their fjords, are to the west). This view of the town was taken looking west from the Eckeberg Restaurant where I had lunch in 1960 with the famed Russian geologist V.V. Beluossov.
But the wonder of Oslo is not its views. Near the heart of the city is a park containing dozens of statues made of bronze or granite. These were all cast or carved by one man - Gustav Vigeland - in the first half of the 20th Century. The theme is "Man - from the Cradle to the Grave". Here is just one example of these wonderous sculptures:
The west coast of Norway is famed for its rugged scenery and jagged coastline. Much of this is due to Pleistocene sculpturing of stream valleys coming off mountains by glaciers. The glaciers deepened the valleys, which flooded as sea level rose in the last 10000 years. The submerged valleys, with steep-walled sides, produce the fjords, some of which can be 100s of meters deep. This image of Norway's coastline was made by the MISR sensor on Terra:
Let's go east for a look at the inner city harbor of Stockholm, Sweden as seen by IKONOS, and then the equivalent area from an aerial oblique photo.
The fourth capital - Helsinki, Finland - lies along the eastern Baltic coast:
One thing the four Scandinavian capitals seem to share: They have few tall buildings, perhaps an attempt to keep their skylines more medieval.
Germany has been a pivotal European nation (although that status only happened in the 19th century ; prior to that, especially during the 900 or so years of the Holy Roman Empire [962 A.D.] it was a loose collection of Duchys, Kingdoms, Principalities, and Free Cities) for much of modern history. Below is a satellite mosaic of Germany as reconstituted in 1992 when East and West Germany reunited; the principal states of Germany are shown in a map beneath the mosaic:
The industrial heartland of Germany, so vital to Deutschland in World War II, dominates this next image. The famed Rhine River runs through the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Numerous blotches of dark bluish-black mark the locations of many large cities (use an Atlas to pin these down). Along the Rhine are Bonn, Cologne, and Dusseldorf. The smaller Ruhr River, coming from the East, makes up the Ruhr Valley, with such cities as Mulheim, Essen, Bochum, and Dortmund whose steel and industrial works were the targets of many bombing raids by the Allies during World War 2. Much of the countryside is part of the North German Plains, where farming is the principal activity. The forested Central Uplands to the east blends into the Rothaar Gebirge. Small parts of Belgium and Holland lie along the left edge of the image.
The four principal cities of the Ruhr are located on the map below, along with a ground photo that hints at the widespread industrialization of this Valley:
Upstream - to the south - on the Rhine are important cities such as Bonn, Frankfurt, and Wiesbaden. Another is Cologne (Köln), a very old city - it was founded by Emperor Claudius' wife Agrippa in the 3rd century - that has been an important center for shipping and industry in modern Germany. Here is a SPOT-1 pan cam 10 meter resolution image of Cologne (yes, the perfume originated there), and an aerial view beneath it.
Dominating Cologne is its great Gothic cathedral (Dom), started in 1248 A.D., that is the largest in Germany. Here is an IKONOS view that includes the cathedral:
Cologne was destroyed by Allied bombers in World War II, but U.S. airmen took special pains to avoid hitting the cathedral. This picture shows the devastation:
Even more destruction leveled the city of Dresden, on the Elbe River. One terrible night saw massive firebombing that incinerated most of the city. But, like most such calamities in the cities of Germany, Dresden has been almost completely rebuilt (both with modern new buildings and with reconstruction of ancient and medieval landmarks). Here is an Envisat image of Dresden and other cities on the Elbe River; below it is a Radarsat image of today's Dresden; then an IKONOS image of central Dresden:
Both the Dresden scene and that of Berlin, to be looked at next, point to something considered to be a land cover signature of Germany, and to a lesser degree, several other European countries. Look again at the Envisat image and note the many irregular polygons that have a medium-dark brownish color. Early in my experience with Landsat I noted the same distinctive signature and attributed it then to large stands of natural forest land. This false color subscene shows such a feature in more detail:
Here the polygons appear to be a mix of deciduous trees, possible small lakes, and whatever else is contributing to the "blackness". This last may be dark evergreens, but the interpretation is inconclusive. It seems surprising that so much of the land would still be forested inasmuch as the Central European countries have large populations. But many decades ago, the Germans undertook a massive reforestation program to counter the downcutting of most of the medieval forests that served to provide firewood. I'm guessing, but think I'm right; on my first day in Germany in 1960 I took a lengthy walk through such a woodlands (whose pathways were frequented by cyclists and native pedestrians).
So, we would like to add Berlin to our display of European capitals. An Envisat image does include this famous city, as a pink patch in the lower right, in a wide field image that covers much of northern Germany, eastern Denmark, and southern Sweden.
An ERS SAR image affords a closer look:
This natural color ASTER image establishes the setting of Berlin within its countryside.
Another ASTER image shows the heart of Berlin:
But Germany is also noted for its picturesque towns and small cities. Among the most famed is Wittenberg, on the Elbe in north central Germany. It was here that Martin Luther on October 31, 1517 nailed his 95 theses to the castle church of All Saints, setting into motion what became known as the Protestant Reformation. As seen from space and on the ground:
Having looked at western and northern Europe, we now make a big leap to the southwestern part of the continent, specifically for a tour of the Ibernian Peninsula, shown here first in an ERS-1 image and a corresponding map of Spain.
The Iberian Peninsula joins the rest of Europe in southwestern France. The peninsular landmass crashed into the European block as part of a plate tectonics collision starting about 150 million years ago. The result was a mini-version of the crumpling of sedimentary rocks into the folded mountains of the Pyrenees:
Parts of the peninsula are semi-arid (light buff) whereas other parts are covered with more green vegetation, particularly those regions with higher elevations. Much of northern Spain is dry with rainfall commonly less than 30 cm (12 inches). In the next image, the wide Ebro Basin, drained by the Ebro River, forms arid lowlands in which most of the agriculture (cereals; sugar beets) is concentrated along that river, tributaries, and irrigation ditches. Away from these farms, sheep grazing is conducted where grasses grow. The city of Zaragosa is evidenced by a blue patch in from the right center edge. Low blocks of hills and mountains run northwest through the picture. The southern edge of the Sierra de Guara, which rises to more than 2000 m (6000 ft), is at the top.
Barcelona is the biggest city in eastern Spain. It sits astride the Mediterranean, as evident in this Landsat image:
Vegetation increases somewhat as one moves into central Spain in the region known as the Meseta (a plateau). This C-Band SRTM radar images shows Madrid and its surroundings:
This March 7, 1973 Landsat-1 image of central Spain shows the capital, Madrid (dark blue-black) to the west of the Tagus River. To its west is the Sierra de Guadarrama, wooded and high enough to have snow in the part that reaches 2400 m (8000 ft).
Madrid itself is shown in more detail in this Landsat-7 subscene.
The Palacio Real, the national palace now occupied by King Juan Carlos, is shown first in an IKONOS 2 m black and white image, and then in an aerial oblique view.
Granada, in Andalusia, is one of Europe's most charming cities. It lies against the snow-capped Sierra Nevada (mountains). Expanded during the Moorish occupation, the city is dominated by the Alhambra, built by the Moors, seen along the skyline in the aerial view:
Southwest of Madrid is the city of Seville (locale for George Bizet's opera "Carmen"). Here is part of Seville as displayed in this Google Earth image:
On the western side of the Iberian Peninsula is Portugal, whose capital is Lisbon. It lies on the northwest side of a bay created by the Rio de Tejo (Tagus River). This area is shown first as a Landsat-4 subscene and then as an ERS SAR scene.
One of the writer's strongest recollections of Lisbon is entering it from the east over the Vasco da Gama bridge:
The tip of Europe at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea is the English Colony at Gibraltar, next to Spain. Across the Strait of Gibraltar lies Tangiers in Morocco. This astronaut photo looks eastward.
At the tip of the Iberian Peninsula is the famed Rock of Gilbralter (an outlier made of limestone):
Most people do not know that 5.3 million years ago, the Mediterranean Basin was largely dry (some lakes). The Atlantic Ocean then was lower than today. As sealevel rose, the Mediterranean filled up rapidly to its present extent.