This is a proposed hierarchy for the countries in Europe. Feel free to edit.
British Isles (section)
United Kingdom (country)
Channel Islands, Isle of Man (territories)
Iberian Peninsula (section)
France (country and section!)
The Netherlands (country)
Faroe Islands (territory)
Central Europe (section)
Italy [+ Vatican City] (countries)
San Marino (country)
Eastern Europe (section)
Czech Republic (country)
Baltic states (section)
Bosnia & Herzegovina (country)
Serbia & Montenegro (country)
FYRO Macedonia (country)
Eastern Mediterranean (section)
Important info about hierarchy of Europe
I see a big mistake being made here with the European hierarchy. Central Europe is a legitimate region of Europe and not a euphemism. The Visegrad 4 countries (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary) are more often than not considered part of Central Europe. Eastern Europe is actually, I believe, not a region of Europe in the sense of it being comparable to Central Europe. Eastern Europe is the broad (very broad) definition given to all former-Communist European countries, including Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Czechia, Hungary, Albania, etc. However, these countries have now been divided into regions: Central Europe, the Balkans, the Baltic States (if we consider that a region) and the former Soviet Union (this can sometimes be called Eastern Europe, in the same way that Serbia and Montenegro used to be called Yugoslavia). Therefore we get:
Central Europe: for sure Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary. Also frequently includes Slovenia and Romania - Transylvania makes up the majority of Romania and is part of Central Europe. Slovenia is culturally part of Central Europe more than the Balkans.
Balkans: former Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, etc.
Former Soviet Union (can be called Eastern Europe): Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, European Russia
Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia
There remain two problems: the Baltic States and Germany/Austria, etc. The Baltic States can be split up, with Estonia being part of Northern Europe, with Finland and Sweden, and the rest being part of Central Europe. Now, with Germany and Austria, these are NOWADAYS not regarded as Central European countries, even though making them part of Central Europe is a fair defintion. However, people have this fear of grouping Germany together with Poland, Czechia, etc. This is possible. Why not?. These countries are in fact part of the same region.
Therefore, we can have:
Central Europe: Austria, Germany, perhaps Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Visegrad 4. Slovenia and Romania could be included, but it would be too many countries in one region.
Therefore, in my opinion, the best proposal would be to place Germany and Austria/Switzerland either in a separate region called "the Alps" for example, or even better, group them with Western Europe. OK, now probably Western Europe will seem to large a region, but this is not the case, because we can have:
Western Europe: DE, FR, Switzerland, Austria, Benelux, Italy and maybe Spain, maybe UK and Ireland
Mediterranean: Maybe Spain, definitely Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, maybe Turkey
Northern Europe: Scandinavia, Faeroes, Iceland, Finland, maybe Estonia.
Therefore, the hierarchy problem is solved. Europe is divided into groups that are both politically fair and forward-looking, and more important, relevant to tourists. Tourists do visit Germany and Belgium together. They do visit Cyprus, Turkey and Greece together. They do visit Romania, Hungary and Czechia together. And, arguably, they visit Estonia, Sweden and Finland together. Ronline 02:58, 23 Mar 2004 (EST)
We need a Mediterranean Europe page. From climate, food and culture point of view, this makes sense. Putting Italy in Central Europe doesn't. It would also include Spain, Portugal, Malta, maybe Greece. Yann 08:30, 24 Mar 2004 (EST)
Yeah, I would tend to think that that might be useful. The main thing of course is helping travlers find the article about their destination. -- Mark 09:11, 24 Mar 2004 (EST)
Exactly! Wikitravel is supposed to be for travellers. But the more I look at this discussion and the previous one at Talk:Europe, I get the feeling that we're more or less talking alongside each other. We cannot ignore the fact that Europe, being a patchwork of countries, cultures and peoples, is very hard to divide in regions.
Can we divide Europe along political lines? I don't think so. During the last 10-15 years we have seen major shifts in politics - simply said: a substantial number of countries have gone from communism to capitalism. And even now political borders are changing (cfr. the EU).
Along cultural lines then? Maybe a little bit easier, but not much. We have seen a lot of cultural exchanges in the past years. Speaking for my home country, I wonder if there still is a Belgian identity. The larger cities resemble the towers of Babel, with all those different languages you hear. (And these people are not only tourists. They live here.)
So what can we use? As said before, Wikitravel is for travellers, and we should group countries that people tend to visit together. The main "problem" (at least, some view it as such) is that in this respect, quite a few countries belong to different "groups". Speaking again for Belgium, it is true that people who visit us also visit the Netherlands. Or Germany. Or France. The point I'm making is that, if we want to make it easy for travellers to find the article(s) of their destination, we will have to make overlaps.
I realize some people around here are a bit afraid of that. I don't understand why. A region is a container for subjects on a lower level (be it countries, other regions, whatever...). If a given country is contained within a region, it means that it has affinities with the other countries within that region (which can and should be explained in that article). And if that same country is contained within another region, it simply means that it has (other) affinities with the countries in that region (which can and should be explained in that article). To me, creating "exclusive" regions (containig countries belonging exclusively to that region) is creating problems.
So, I have made a hierarchy of Europe, based on ("inclusive") regions which can be defined as broadly as wanted. I'd be glad to know what you think of them:
The overlaps work fine for me! What are the arguments against them? Like I said this is about helping the traveler find the destination page that he or she wants right? -- Mark 12:15, 24 Mar 2004 (EST)
Overlaps are definitely a good idea as it will help people find the destination they're looking for. That said, I think it would be good for each country to have a primary section for two reasons - 1. so that (when it gets implemented) each page can have a breadcrumb navigation bar (eg Europe > Mediterranean Europe > Spain), and 2. so that we can have a clickable map of Europe with the sections highlighted, so a visitor can easily visualise the hierarchy we have developed.
Overlaps make it hard for us to make maps. They make it hard to know where to put information, and they cause duplicate information. I'd prefer to avoid them when possible. --Evan 21:14, 24 Mar 2004 (EST)
I almost hate to point this out, but all of these arguments sound like they favor contributors over travelers. -- Mark 03:12, 25 Mar 2004 (EST)
I'd like to have traditional English names for sections of Europe wherever possible. I don't think there's much of a point to Northwestern Europe or Southwestern Europe. I've never heard of these things. They're made up, and they don't help travelers find what they're looking for. --Evan 21:14, 24 Mar 2004 (EST)
OK, this makes sense to me. Since the hireachy is about helping travelers find information about their destinations, then perhaps areas that travelers won't recognize aren't all that useful. -- Mark 03:12, 25 Mar 2004 (EST)
Breadcrumb navigation: unless my understanding of this is completely wrong I suppose this gives readers an easy way to move up to the previous level or down to the next level. If this gets automated, is there anything against having, say "Europe -> Balkans -> Greece -> Athens" (if you followed the Balkans link) and "Europe -> Mediterranean Europe -> Greece -> Athens" (if you followed the Mediterranean Europe link)?
Clickable maps: I see the problem with these. But if we are going to have them, at least something needs to be changed in the software. I don't have an immediate answer to it right now, but at this point I think we shouldn't rule out a complete incompatibility with overlaps. Every problem should have its solution, right?
Duplicate information: I don't really see the problem. Let's take the example of Greece again (Balkans and Mediterranean Europe). The Balkans article talks about the countries belonging to that region and what binds them together. In it can be explained why Greece, following a certain number of criteria, belongs to that region. On the other hand, and following other criteria, Greece belongs to Mediterranean Europe. Part of that article can explain why. To me, that is not duplicate information.
Northwestern/Southwestern Europe: Yes, it's true that these names are not widespread. I split them up because otherwise "Western Europe" would have become too heavy. And I more or less did it along linguistic lines (Latin vs. Germanic languages). On the other hand, and referring again to the clickable maps, they would show immediately what is meant by these names.
My suggestion is to use the KISS system. Keep it simple, stupid. Forget a hundred artificial sections. There are so many definitions, none set in stone and some that keep changing around depending on who uses them and what for. For example, Western Europe was everything west of the iron curtain - nowadays it's harder to make the distinction. Where does it start? East of Germany? West of Germany? You're bound to have many, many overlaps - Central Europe definitely includes Germany, for example; but what else. Poland? France? We will never find a "perfect definition".
Hence let's just use "travel"-like destinations:
British Isles (easily defined, and have a common "theme/culture")
Continental Europe (everything on the "mainland", ie. excluding Scandinavia and British Isles but including denmark)
Alpine Nations (everything that touches the Alps)
North Sea states (everything that touches the North Sea)
Baltic Sea states (same, for baltic sea)
Mediterranean states (same, for mediterranean sea)
That's it. Plain, simple, straight forward. We also have a "European countries by alphabet", and hoepfully maybe some day a map (clickable or not doesn't matter, as long as it's labelled) and a "European Union" page. (The is very important because it's relevant to travellers; but I seem to remember we had that discussion before and agreed it's OK.)
A traveller goes either to one country (then sections aren't needed, just pick the country by alphabet) or he will make a tour of nearby countries (then a map is needed). And for those who are looking for a "regional feel" or "topic", we have the sections I list above. Alpine for those who want skiing/mountains, for example. This could be augmented by articles about regions or multi-country vacations (similar to the one about the landroute from Europe to Asia).
If "Continental Europe" is too big, divide it between "East" and "West" (use the eastern border of Germany as the divide). I do not like this, however; I feel it's a "cold war" leftover more than anything and it introduces too much complexity.
List special cases under the appropriate countries (Example: Gibraltar in the article for UK/England, but maybe link it from Spain as well). Don't list them all in the lists. Nobody really cares that, for example, Vatican City is a sovereign nation. People will look for the pope under "italy -> rome". Likewise, I seriously doubt anybody says "Hey let's make a vacation in the Balkans". They want Greece, or (former) Yusgoslavia, or maybe "any country at the Adriatic sea". Travel guide - not an encyclopedia. Leave that to our buddies at wikipedia.org.
And a final note about breadcrumb navigation: Simply do it like so: "Europe > Germany > Frankfurt". No further abstraction is needed.
Seriously, there is nothing 'official' about Wikipedia's Europe divisions. They were arbitrarily made-up. There is no argument in saying that we have to do things the way they do. Professorbiscuit 09:37, 28 Dec 2004 (EST)
Not at all. And being 'not official' does not mean that they're not good. And we are free to use the divisions worked out there. They are simple, clear, non controversial, not biased, well explained, historically and culturally correct and above all: easy to understand and accept. What do we need more. Does anyone object against using it here ? Wojsyl 10:38, 28 Dec 2004 (EST)
Well, I do, obviously. Firstly, the maps of the regions took a long time to make, and noone objected to the new divisions before they were put up. Most importantly, the current distinctions make more sense to the the traveller. The countries "Eastern Europe" (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, etc.) make much more sense of a traveller's destination than a "Central European" tour comprising Switzerland and Slovakia. Wikipedia may have the more politically correct distinctions, but they make no sense here. This is not the place for political point-scoring for Irish people who object to the term "British Isles" and Polish people who don't want to be in "Eastern Europe". Professorbiscuit 13:58, 28 Dec 2004 (EST)