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Flora and Fauna in the Rhine Valley

The wending Rhine starts in the high reaches of Switzerland, crashes into Austria and then glides through Germany and France before descending to low-lying Holland to join the sea. Wouldill you be the same after you’ve made that trip? No, you’d change along the way, as do the plants and animals that call the Rhine region home. Find out what happens along the way!

Yes, Austria is edelweiss – and gentian, alpine carnation, arnica, alpine rose, heather and much more. Animal-wise it is predominantly Central European: deer, stag, rabbit, pheasant, fox, badger, marten, partridge live here. Native to the mountains are the chamois, groundhog, eagle and mountain jackdaw. A vast bird population swoops around the reed beds of Lake Neusiedl (such as heron, spoonbill, scooper, and wild geese). Bears are back in the dense woods of the southern and central mountainous regions. Austria is one of Europe's most heavily wooded countries; look for oak, beech, fir, larch and pine, depending on your elevation. Austria's nature parks, include both rain - yes, rain - and virgin forests.

Watch out for bears in Switzerland – and we mean that in a good way. The bear pit, Bern's emblem, has been transformed into a large bear park where bears can climb, fish and play. With the help of infrared cameras, the bears can also be observed at night. The zoological gardens in the Dählhölzli Forest concentrates on European fauna such as otter, musk ox, lynx, wolf; bison, elk, reindeer, ibisare - free-flying butterflies for an exotic touch. Mountains, glaciers, and lakes in the Swiss countryside shelter specially adapted fauna and flora. In April and May the flowering bushes form a colorful, fragrant carpet in San Grato Park near Lugano.

Germany has remarkable natural landscapes. The world famous Black Forest is an area of mountains and forests of fir and pine and across high plateaus. Ferns and foxgloves carpet the woods, while broom and lupines flourish at the sides of the roads. The Schleswig-Holstein Wattenmeer National Park comprises third of the biggest contiguous area of mudflats in the world, which extend from Holland's North Sea coast as far as Denmark. The Wattenmeer is a habitat for around 3,200 animal species. Starfish, crabs, snails, mussels and mud worms all live along the water's edge and masses of migratory birds nest and roost here. The salt marshes support a wide variety of plants, including sea lavender, red fescue and sea plantain.

The plant most associated with Holland must be the tulip, introduced to unheralded success centuries ago. Visit in the springtime to see the fields striped with ribbons of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils. Other plants of note live in the wilder reaches of the Wadden Islands; on Ameland stroll through the nature reserve Het to see rare flower species. The Waddensea, thanks to its diverse tidal and marsh habitats, is teeming with different species. Put your wellies on, hire a guide, and go make their acquaintance!

European Islands

Come along on our overview of the islands of no fewer than 18 European countries.

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The Alps

If the Alps were human, they'd be movie stars: world-famous, beautiful, charming and exciting.

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Iberian Peninsula

The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited for at least 1,000,000 years.

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