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Flora and Fauna in the Alps

Mountain adaptation for animals does not include the wearing of hiking boots, but you might want to consider them so you can hikes up to see the fauna and flora of the breathtaking, unforgiving peaks of the Alps.

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.

Italy, rough and wild, yields natural beauty easily on a par with its cultural treasures. In the Alps expect chamois and goats, evergreens and tiny Alpine flowers; in the Apennines are specially adapted species or wolf and lynx, as well as bear and fox. Contrast that with the drier, Mediterranean climate in Sardinia and Sicily, where honeybees and olive trees flourish and the air is scented with pine and rosemary. In the vales of Umbria are broadleaf forests with beech, oak, maple, ash and some conifers for good measure.

Did you know that rural landscape covers 80% of France? Its topography and climate includes ocean, continental, Mediterranean and mountain, so you know the biodiversity is enormous. Summer is perfect for visiting the high leafy forests in the northern half of the country to stay cool, or in the autumn for the kaleidoscope of changing colors. The raw excitement of mountain chamois in rutting combats can be observed (discreetly), if a forest warden or nature reserve keeper accompanies you. The numerous marshlands are home to flocks of migratory birds from April onwards.

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.

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.

Almost two thirds of Slovenia is forested, with virgin tracts remaining not far from Lubjlana. You’ll see evergreens and deciduous trees, wild mushrooms, chestnuts, and berries, according to the season. Flowers are rampant in Slovenia but leave them in the ground in the mountains, where the many rare species are protected. While you’re in the woods, keep an eye out for roe deer, squirrels and the occasional wolf, lynx, ibex, wildcat, capercaillie and pheasant if you’re really fortunate. There are bears in the woods but they’re the shy type.

The Alps

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

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Black Sea

The fascinating countries of the Black Sea region straddle the transition between Europe and Asia.

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The Pyrenees Mountains straddle the border between Spain and France.

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