Adieu, EU – it was a fascinating 47 years

Take four: (clockwise) Dog-sledding in Finland; the Palio in Siena; custard tarts in Lisbon; Malta’s Blue Grotto.

What is Europe? Today, history will be made as the UK leaves the European Union. Boris Johnson has hailed it as “a new era”. But Britain will still be part of a wonderfully varied continent.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hail the "dawn of a new era" later, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union after 47 years.

In a speech to be shown at 22:00 GMT - an hour before the official departure time - he will say Brexit is "not an end but a beginning".

He will describe severing ties with the other 27 EU nations as "a moment of real national renewal and change".

To mark this, here is The Day’s very personal ode to the joys of the world’s richest continent. We hope that all of you – if you haven’t already – will one day get to enjoy the experiences below.

1. Watching the Palio in Siena. This horse race around a huge square in the beautiful Italian city is probably the most exciting in the world, as well as the most unusual: the first horse to the finish wins – even if its rider has fallen off. The event is made even more spectacular by the medieval costumes worn by the competitors and their supporters.

2. Dog-sledding in Finland. Imagine hurtling through a snowy, Christmas-card landscape at top speed, pulled by a team of dogs that can cover 50 miles a day, on a sled with just a metal bar for a brake. If you are lucky, you might also see the Northern Lights.

3. Eating a custard tart in Lisbon. You can take a tram up to the ramparts of the Castelo de Sao Jorge and enjoy one of Europe’s greatest puddings while soaking up a breathtaking view of the Portuguese capital.

4. Swimming in Malta’s Blue Grotto. Made up of seven caves, the grotto is dominated by a rock arch, 30-metres high. It is famous for its amazingly clear water and the magical reflections of sunlight on the cave walls.

5. Dancing at the carnival in Venice. The city of canals and historic palaces is always a dreamlike place to visit, but never more so than during the fortnight of the carnival, when people roam the streets in costumes and masks to celebrate.

6. Climbing to the top of a Barcelona basilica. Designed by the great architect Anton Gaudí, the Basílica de la Sagrada Família is one of the world’s weirdest buildings, still under construction 137 years after it was started.

7. Watching a light show in France. The Château de Blois, an elegant castle with a wonderful setting on the River Loire, is at its most enchanting when lit up at night with sound effects to bring its history to life.

8. Meeting reindeer in Sweden. Once a year, herders from across Lapland bring their animals to the Sámi market at Jokkmokk (a small town in the Arctic Circle), giving a glimpse of their traditional nomadic lifestyle.

Does this list help us to define the qualities of Europe?

Queen of the continents

Not really, say life’s cynics. Wherever you go on Earth, there are extraordinary things to see and experience. There is nothing to beat the Grand Canyon or the Victoria Falls. The pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China are as awe-inspiring as any historical monuments Europe has to offer. If you want to see life at its most modern, you would be better off visiting Japan or South Korea.

Of course, it does, say more romantic souls. The quintessence of Europe is variety. No other part of the world can match it. It contains a multitude of countries, each with its own rich literature, language and culture. And its geography ranges from the great mountain range of the Alps to the fjords of Scandinavia, to the forests of Germany and the beaches of Spain.

You Decide

  1. If you could travel to anywhere in Europe, where would you choose?
  2. Politicians often talk about “European values”. What values do you think are particularly European?

Activities

  1. Make a poster for a travel agency to persuade people to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  2. Divide into six teams, each representing a continent other than Europe. Make a five-minute presentation about why your continent is the most exciting to live on. Then hold a vote to see who has made the best case.

Some People Say...

“It is the whole of Europe that will decide the fate of the world.”

Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), former president of France

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Palio in Siena has taken place since 1482, and is named after the silk flag given to the winner. The dogs used for sledding can cover 50 miles a day. Custard tarts are a Portuguese speciality. The Blue Grotto has an arch 30m high. People dress up in elaborate costumes and masks for the carnival in Venice. Work started on the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in 1882 and is not yet finished. The Château de Blois has been the home of four French kings. Jokkmokk’s Sámi market happens once a year.
What do we not know?
Whether there is a more exciting horse race than the Palio. Who will win the two races taking place in Siena this year. When the Northern Lights will next be visible. Whether the floods which regularly threaten Venice will affect this year’s carnival. When work on the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia will finally be completed. How many people will attend this year’s Sámi market at Jokkmokk.

Word Watch

European Parliament
The legislative branch of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legislation, normally on a proposal from the European Commission.
European Union
The European Union is a political and economic union that the UK joined on 1 January 1973. It presently consists of 28 member states (soon to be 27) comprising a population of about 513 million.
Valedictory
Farewell.
Ratification
Approval.
Richest
As a continent, the economy of Europe is currently the largest on Earth and it is the richest region as measured by assets under management.
Medieval
Belonging to the period of European history from about 600 to 1500.
Northern Lights
Patterns of colour in the sky that can be seen at night in northern countries.
Ramparts
Defensive walls.
Lapland
An area of northern Europe stretching across Norway, Sweden and Finland to the edge of Russia.
Grand Canyon
A huge gorge of multicoloured rock created by the Colorado River in the US state of Arizona.
Victoria Falls
An enormous African waterfall on the Zambezi River, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Quintessence
The perfect example.
Fjords
A long, narrow inlet on the edge of the sea with steep cliffs, created by a glacier.

Subjects

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