On the subject of constant learning, yesterday's research on ICAO language rules highlighted one area of knowledge in which I have developed a huge gap, without actually forgetting anything. See, when I learned basic geography in school, much of eastern Europe was taken up by the USSR. There was also, for example, a country in the southeast of Europe called Yugoslavia. The capital was Belgrade, which was on the Danube River. And well, that was about all I had to know. I could sketch the countries of Europe along with the locations and names of their capital cities and major rivers. Yay, life skills. But most of it has changed. I know it's changed, but I haven't been paying close attention.
So today rather than reviewing my hydraulic system or the new commercial approach ban rules, I'm going to reacquaint myself with the countries found in the land between the Baltic, Black, Aegian and Adriatic Seas. To keep it vaguely on topic, I'm also going to discover an aviation fact about each. I'll start in the north.
Estonia borders Latvia to the south and Russia to the east. Capital: Tallinn. Aviation Fact: There are 149 aircraft on the Estonian civil aircraft register, more of which are Yaks and Antonovs than Pipers and Cessnas.
Latvia borders Estonia to the north, Russia and Belorus to the east, and Lithuania to the south. Capital: Riga. Aviation Fact: According to the national civil aviation authority a blacksmith named Zviedris–Johansons built an "air vehicle" in 1670. Sadly, no other explanation or description of this vehicle is given.
Russia borders Estonia, Latvia, and Belorus to the west, plus Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Mongolia and China to the south. Capital: Moscow Aviation Fact: During the Cold War, a German teenager named Mathias Rust evaded Soviet defenses all the way from Finland and landed a rented Cessna next to Moscow's Red Square.
Lithuania borders Latvia to the north, Belorus to the southeast, and Russia (Kaliningrad) and Poland to the south. Capital:Vilnius Aviation Fact: Rolandas Paksas, the head of the Liberal Democrats Party is a two-time winner of the national aerobatics championship of the Soviet Union.
Belarus borders Latvia and Lithuania to the northwest, Poland to the west, Ukraine to the south and Russia to the east. Capital: Minsk Aviation Fact: Natalya Myeklin was a member of the Night Witches, an all-female Soviet air regiment that flew Polikarpov biplanes on the Belarussian front during the second world war. Despite having a top speed slower than the stall speed of the Messerschmitts she was fighting, Natalya survived 840 missions over three years.
Poland borders Germany and the Czech republic to the west, Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and Lithuania and Russia (Kaliningrad) to the north. Capital: Warsaw Aviation Fact: Carpenter and sculptor Jan Wnęk observed bird activity and anatomy, and constructed a glider which he flew from the church tower.
Czech Republic borders Germany to the west, Poland to the north, Austria to the south and Slovakia to the east. Capital: Prague Aviation Fact: In 1910 Jan Kašpar made the first Czech air flight, in a Bleriot XI. He later flew to Prague from his hometown of Pardubice, where an annual aviation show still takes place in his honour.
Slovakia borders the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Hungary to the south, and Ukraine to the east. Capital: Bratislava Aviation Fact: Air Slovakia flies directly from Bratislava to Kuwait.
Ukraine borders Russia and Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, and Romania and Moldova to the south. Capital: Kiev Aviation Fact: The first Ukrainian airplane flight took place 98 years ago today.
Hungary borders Slovakia to the north, Austria and Slovenia to the west, Croatia and Serbia to the south and Romania and Ukraine to the east. Capital: Budapest Aviation Fact: Wilhelm Kress is credited with the invention of the stick control for aircraft.
Romania borders Hungary and Serbia to the west, Bulgaria to the south, Moldova to the east and Ukraine to the north. Capital: Bucharest Aviation Fact: Romanian Henri Marie Coandă built the world's first jet-powered aircraft.
Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the east and Croatia to the south. Capital: Ljubljana Aviation Fact: Slovenian cooper Edvard Rusjan built and flew his nation's first motorized airplane in 1909.
Croatia borders Slovenia and Hungary to the north, Serbia to the east, and wraps around Bosnia and Herzegovina to the south. Capital: Zagreb Aviation Fact: Croatia Airlines is buying two new Dash-8 Q400 airplanes from Bombardier.
Bosnia and Herzegovina bordered by Croatia to the north and west, Montenegro to the south and Serbia to the east. Capital: Sarajevo Aviation Fact: In Bosnia and Herzegovina (couldn't they combine the names and call it Bosgovenia or Herzbosnia or something?) VFR aircraft must remain 300 metres verticaly and 1500 m horizontally from cloud, except below 300 m in class G airspace, where they simply need to remain clear of cloud.
Montenegro touches Croatia to the west, borders Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the east and Albania to the south. Capital: Podgorica Aviation Fact: Early this year a Montenegro Airlines Fokker was discovered to have a bullet hole in its tail. Traditional New Year's celebrations in the area involve discharging firearms into the air.
Serbia borders Hungary on the north, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania to the west, Macedonia to the south and Bulgaria and Romania to the east. Capital: Belgrade Aviation Fact: In 1909 Serbia had a military balloon squad led by Kosta Miletić.
Albania borders Greece to the south, Montenegro and Serbia to the north and Macedonia to the east. Capital: Tirana Aviation Fact: According to the Albanian Aero Klub "Eagle" there has never been civil aviation in Albania. They are trying to promote aviation through model airplanes, but they have nothing. Read the FAQ.
Macedonia borders Greece in the south, Albania to the west, Serbia to the north, and Bulgaria to the east. Capital: Skopje Aviation Fact: Macedonia wanted to upgrade its government VIP transport from a King Air and a Learjet, but the International Monetary Fund disapproved..
Bulgaria borders Romania to the north, Turkey and Greece to the south and Macedonia and Serbia to the west. Capital: Sofia Aviation Fact: Bulgaria was one of the world's first air forces to wear identification markings.
Moldova borders Romania to the west and Ukraine on all other sides. Capital: Chisinau Aviation Fact: All the information I can find linking airplanes to Moldova (or Moldava, or Moldavia) includes either flying without a licence or trafficking in drugs, arms or blood diamonds. I can sort of sympathize with the unlicenced air carriers, if I assume that the actual civil aviation authority is as responsive as I have found their website.
People familiar with the region and/or recent events will notice that I left out Kosovo. I did that because Canada hasn't recognized it as an independent country. It is surrounded by Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia and considers Pristina to be its capital.
Now you can test yourself. By the way, all these "facts" are from quick Google searches and are not checked in any way. I'm sure some of them are wrong, and I'm sure there are more interesting stories about some of these places. Comments from readers who know more about these countries and facts are welcome.