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The Parliamentary Plains are the most important historic site of the country. They are located just below the western fault line of the Icelandic Graben within the boundaries of the first National Park, which was established in 1930. The oldest parliament of the world was founded here in 930 on Lake Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake of the country with an area of 83,7 km². Its greatest depth is 114 m, and this lowest point lies 13 m below sea level. Its discharge is River Sog, the longest spring fed river of the country with a very constant volume of 112 m³/sec. Three hydro electric power stations are situated on the river, which counts among the good salmon rivers. Very little water enters the lake on the surface, which means that it is mainly spring fed. The natural surroundings are majestic and the contrasts are great. There is a system of interesting hiking trails all over the park. The present natural landscape has been develloping for about 9000 years and is still being shaped by the plate tectonics.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.