if the United States were independent European countries ...

US vs. EU

Lets for a moment assume that the United States do not function as one country but are somewhat similar to the European Union. In such a case we could compare the individual states of the US as independent countries to members of the EU. We will do the comparison to have a rough estimate of quality of economies of individual states, if they were to function as independent countries. 

How to estimate who is important? We will take a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a main and the only indicator. We will take the GDP of individual states of the US and calculate what fraction of the total US GDP they are. The same procedure we will apply to the European Union. This will give us an estimate of how important is the economy of that state/EU member for the total GDP of the US or EU. Why not just look at the total numbers? It would give us the same information, however, fractions are easier to look at. 

Who is who? To roughly compare states to countries we will look at the individual GDP numbers. We will restrict the list to 10 richest states from the US. The direct match of the GDPs is not possible, therefore we will choose country with GDP closest to a given state, possibly rounding in favor of the state. 

The United States

On the picture bellow, we present contribution of the states economies to the total GDP of the US. 10 states that contribute the most, are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, and give together a bit more than 50% of the total US GDP. Other half divides among the other 40 states. California has significantly higher GDP that any other states and is only slightly smaller than sum of the GDPs of Texas and New York together. Although we restrict our list to 10 states, the last state from our list (North Carolina) has very similar GDP contribution as few following states (Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan). 

The Unites States GDP for individual states as a contribution to the total US GDP. Fraction of the total US GDP
per state was taken from Wikipedia and refers to 2010.

European Union

GDP of the European Union divided into member countries.
Data taken from  World Bank.
Similar comparison for members of the European Union shows that first ten largest contributors sum up to more than 75% of the total GDP of EU. From 27 member countries the first 10 are Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Sweden and Austria.

Germany and France together contribute in approximately 1/3 of the total GDP. Including in that list the UK, the total contribution of the three countries is approximately 50% of the total EUs GDP. On the other side, Germany contribute to the EU GDPs approximately the same as 17 counties (whole EU not including 10 countries mentioned before).

Who is who

To summarize first 10 highest contributors to the total US and EU GDPs in the table below we list 10 US states and 10 EU countries along with their GDP (in Million US dollars).

The United States European Union
US #US State
(Millions USD)
EU #Country
(Millions USD)
1California1,936,400 1Germany3,280,530
2Texas1,207,432 2France2,560,002
3New York1,156,5003UK2,261,713
7New Jersey497,0007Poland469,440
10North Carolina407,40010Austria379,069

Let us try to select one or combination of counties that economy (in terms of GDP) are roughly representing the GDP of a given US state. The largest EU countries must however stay off the comparison, the first EU country that approximately has the same GDP as California is Italy (the fourth EU economy). Below we compare the first 10 US states to EU countries.

US # US State EU Country
3New YorkSpain
6PennsylvaniaPoland + Hungary (598,071 Million USD)
7New JerseyAustria + Hungary (507,700 Million USD)
8OhioAustria + Hungary
10North CarolinaSweden

Summarizing the comparison, California being an independent country would correspond in the strength of its economy to Italy. Texas and New York, both approximately match Spain. Florida and Illinois match GDP of Netherlands. For Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio we combined two EU countries to slightly overestimate the GDP of the states and assigned them to economies of Poland and Hungary for Pennsylvania and Austria and Hungary for both New Jersey and Ohio. The last two of the first 10 US states, Virginia and North Carolina, approximately correspond to economies of Poland and Sweden respectively. The comparison is of course very approximate.

most common North American birds

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are native to North America and are common in eastern US and Canada. Male and female are very similar and are light blue with white bellies. Coloring is caused by light interference not a diet like in many birds. Blue Jays mainly eat nuts and soft fruit. Both, male and females, build the round and open nest. Birds name comes from its noisy nature. It may be aggressive to people approaching the nest.  

Blue Jays are 20-25 cm long and have crest on their heads which appearance depends on the birds mood. Four subspecies were distinguished: northern, coastal, interior and Florida Blue Jays.  

Bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata) (1547) - Relic38 Blue Jay 2010-05-09 Blue Jay in Flight
Blue Jay.

Northern Cardinal

Cardinal is a small, around 20 cm long, bird with a characteristic bright red color feathers in males. Female is similar in size, but light grey-brownish. Cardinals eat mainly seeds, insects and fruit. Male cardinal marks his territory singing. Male, in characteristic way, feeds female during courtship. Both, male and female, are of similar colors to adult female when they are chicks. Chicks grow adult feathers in the fall.

In past, it has been sold as a cage bird, however,  it has been forbidden since 1918. Northern cardinal is common to eastern part of the Canada, US and Mexico. Cardinal is a state bird of several states in the US (North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia). 

Northern Cardinal Male-27527-2 Northern Cardinal Female Cardinal
Northern Cardinal, male (left and middle) and female (right).

Mallard Duck

Mallard Duck is the most common duck in the northern hemisphere, outside of North America, Europe and Asia it has been introduced to Australia and New Zeeland. Male and female Mallard Duck differ in colors, but are the same size. Male Mallard has green or blue head and grey and brown body with blue stipes on the wings. Female has light brown and grey feathers with blue stripes on wings. 

Male mallard duck on a lake 3 A Mallard duck airs its wing feathers Landing mallard drake
Mallard duck, male (right and left) and female (middle).
Many common domestic ducks originated from Mallard Ducks. The Mallard is around 50-65 cm long. Mallards reach adulthood at 14 months and live up to 20 years. Ducklings are yellow and initially become similar in colors to female. 

Common Grackle

Common Grackle is a small, about 30 cm long, black bird with distinctive blueish head. Male and female are similar, with female being a bit smaller and less iridescence. Common Grackle is native to the eastern and central North America. Grackles eat insects, frogs, berries, seeds and grain. Grackles often nest in large colonies. 

Grackle in my garden Quiscalus quiscula -Delaware -USA-8 Common Grackle male RWD
Common Grackle.
Grackle is often considered a pest. Despite a decent current population the number of Grackles decreased over 60% during last decades.

European Starling

European Starling is a small blackish bird with characteristic light "V" shape spots present in a winter plumage. Male and female are similar with male being less spotted. Starlings mimic voices and in captivity learn to imitate sounds and speech.

European Startling (Sturnus vulgaris) RWD Sturnus vulgaris Estorninopinto
European starling in the winter plumage. 
Starlings are not native to North America and have been introduced there at late XIX century by Shakespeare lovers that tried to introduce in the US every bird mentioned in his plays. Starlings are considered agressive and are threats to air traffic.

American Robin

Robin is a very common songbird with red-orange belly and grey back. Robins eat mostly insects, fruit and berries. Although Robins are present in the US territory year-round, they migrate south for winter. Robin is around 25 cm long. Male and female Robins are similar. 

Robin was chosen to be a state bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin. In XIX century, Robins were hunted for meat. Now Robins are protected although not endangered. American Robins have been observed to migrate east and several of them were reported in UK. 

American Robin 0026 American Robin-27527 American robin
American Robin.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch is about 10-13 cm long, bright yellow-black bird. Male is much more vibrant in colors than female. Both male and female have black wings with a white stripe. American Goldfinch is common to south Canada and the US. Goldfinch migrates south for winter. Goldfinches shed feathers twice a year. Summer plumage is more bright. Female builds a nest during late summer. 

American Goldfinch is a state bird of Iowa, New Jersey and Washington.

American Goldfinch-27527 Carduelis tristis CT Carduelis-tristis-002
American Goldfinch, male and female on the left, male only on the middle and right pictures.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose is a large, 75 - 110 cm long, goose native to North America. Canada Goose has been also introduced to the Northern Europe and New Zeeland. Distinctive black neck and white chin is common for males and females. Goslings are yellow. Smaller Cackling Goose has similar plumage and sometimes may be taken as a small Canada Goose. Geese migrate in characteristic "V" shape formations from Canada to the US. 

Canada Goose is a serious threat to air traffic and has caused plane crushes in the past. Canada Geese introduced in New Zeeland have become a serious problem and since 2011 they are not protected. However, the US and Canada population suffered serious decline in the population at the beginning of XX century caused by overhunting. Birds reach naturally northern Europe and Siberia. 

Canada goose flight cropped and NR Canadian geese Canada goose 093
Canada Goose.

House Finch

House Finch is a small, about 15 cm long, singing bird. Adult male differs from a female in plumage. Males feathers are colored red (head, belly and shoulders), rarely yellow. Female is gray. Coloration is caused by type of diet. House Finches eat mainly grains, seeds, fruit and berries (the type of berries dictates color of plumage).

Carpodacus mexicanus -Madison, Wisconsin, USA-8 Female house finch carpodacus mexicanus Carpodacus purpureus male Delaware
House finch, male (left and right) and female (middle).
House Finches originally were present only in Mexico and southern states of the US and have been introduced in the north-eastern US in 1940.

Rock Pigeon

The most common from pigeons and doves in North America. It is nowadays present close to residential areas, however, its natural nesting sites are close to coastal area with natural cliffs. Rock pigeon is present all around the world in areas habitat by people. Adult rock pigeon is around 35 cm long. It is mainly grey with blueish accents and green neck. Contrary to doves its colors are not uniform. Female looks almost identical to male, with less apparent green neck. Rock pigeons live from 5 years in the wild to almost 15 in captivity. 

Rock dove - natures pics Gołębie Columba livia in Japan
Rock Pigeon.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow is a small bird, nowadays common in all continents (except Antarctica). Sparrows are about 10-13 cm long, with brown-grayish plumage in males and grayish in females. Males and females are similar size. House Sparrows originate in Middle East but spread or have been introduced to other parts of the world. Sparrows eat mainly seeds and grain. House Sparrow is a worlds most widely distributed wild bird.

Passer domesticus -California, USA-8 Passer domesticus -Scotland -male-8b 2003-08 Sparrow
House Sparrow, male (right and middle) and female (left).

architecture of Egypt - antiquity - Pyramides

Egypt is one of the most fascinating countries. Starting with its ancient civilisation, its history, believes, knowledge and architecture to the modern, post-Arab Spring. Modern Egypt controls the strategic region of Suez Channel and Red Sea on the border of Africa and Asia. Over the last three millennia architecture of Egypt went a stunning transition. Despite the passing time, one may notice large influence of the history and tradition on modern Egyptian architecture. Contrary to different parts of the world, in Egypt one can compare the ancient architecture to the most modern buildings directly. The oldest of Egyptian constructions date to XXXV century B.C. and are very often superbly preserved, in particular of tombs and pyramids.

Panoramic view on Giza pyramides

Step Pyramid of Djoser

Djoser Stepped Pyramid of Saqqara Pyramide von Djoser, von Süd 0965 Saqqara pyramid
The Step Pyramid of Djoser is the oldest preserved pyramid in Egypt. Although not the oldest pyramide worldwide, Djoser pyramid is the worldwide oldest construction build from a cut stone (Caral pyramide is Peru is the worlds oldest unworked stone pyramide). Djoser pyramid was build in XXVII century B.C. and consist of six "steps" (mastabas). The construction of such a scale profs the new paradigm in the architecture and social structure of Egypt (mainly large scale manpower and material control).

Meidum Pyramid

Meidum pyramid 006 Meidum Pyramide Fassadendetail c 01 meidum distance MeidumPyramidPassage2
Meidum pyramid initially was designed as a step pyramid. It was designed for the last pharaon the Third Dynasty. However, his successor turned Meidum pyramid into a true pyramid filling the steps with a limestone. The pyramid was constructed in different stages, expanded in base and height at every stage. Meidum pyramid has collapsed still in the antiquity. Due to that it is mostly known as a "collapsed pyramid". Remains of the pyramid include only the core constructed as an initial stage. Meidum site represent a transition stage, between "step" and "true" pyramids.

Great Pyramid of Giza

Piramida Cheopsa Flickr - Gaspa - Giza, piramide di Cheope (4) Cheops-Pyramide 0914
The great pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest pyramid in the Giza complex. It is the most known and recognizable Egyptian pyramid and represent a true pyramide style. The pyramid was build for pharaon Cheops (called also Khufu) in XXVI century B.C.  Great pyramid was the worlds tallest man made object until the construction of Lincoln Cathedral, England in XIV century. The pyramid is build from a polished limestone, on a base of an almost perfect square and is aligned to the north and south poles.  

Djoser, Meidum and Giza represent three milestones in the pyramid architecture in Egypt. From the true stone pyramid of Djoser, through Meidum site with step pyramid changed later to a classic pyramid, ending with the true pyramid of Giza.
See also:
Teutonic knights castles in Poland
Worlds most scenic castles
10 reasons to visit Poland

Alaska's flag

The Big Dipper and the North Star

Benny Benson memorial site, the designer of  Alaska's flag.
Alaska's flag displaying the Big Dipper  and the North Star
on a blue field is shown on the memorial stone.  
In 1927, Alaska (not yet a state at that time) organized a competition for children to design a flag for Alaska territory. Since the US purchased Alaska from Russia, there was no official flag for that territory. From over 700 submitted designs, the blue field with the Big Dipper and the North Star submitted by Benny Benson, was original enough to win the competition.

Most of the other designs featured bears, northern lights or gold rush artifacts for the future Alaska's flag. First level of the Alaska's flag competition was a local school contest. Ten best local designs were submitted to the central competition in Juneau. Benny's design was chosen as the best and became the official flag of Alaska by decision of Alaska Territorial Legislature in May, 1927.

The winning design was not the only one prepared by Benny Benson. The original design has been modified by removing year 1867 from below the Big Dipper. 

Benny Benson design for the Alaska's flag was submitted for the competition with the following description:
The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear—symbolizing strength.

Benny Benson and Seward, Alaska

Alaska's flag on a Kenai Fjords tour boat in Seward, Alaska
Benny Benson at the time of the Alaska's flag competition was a 13 year old boy living in the Jesse Lee Mission Home, an orphanage in Seward, Alaska. Benny was a native Alaskan and was born in 1913 to Russian-Aleut mother and Swedish father.

For the design of the Alaska's flag Benny was awarded a gold watch with his design engraved and $1000. The watch has been donated by him to Alaska State Museum in 1963.

Benny Benson spent most of his adult life in Kodiak, Alaska. Benson died in 1972. Seward celebrated his contribution to Alaska by setting his memorial site in the town. 

See also:
Worlds most amazing hotels
Honeymoon in Alaska - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Springfield in one day

State Capitol building Old State Capitol building Sundial at the back of the State Capitol

First impression

We spent a winter weekend in Springfield and the town seemed to be deserted. One could see only few people on the streets. However, most of the museums and restaurants had people visiting them. Downtown of Springfield is nice and relatively small. All major attractions are available within a walking distance. If you decide to stay in a hotel in the downtown area you will not need a car. Taking train to Springfield and staying in downtown area seems also like a good idea. Although the town seemed deserted, museums and restaurants were all open. Downtown does not have many shops and most of the interesting things in Springfield can be seen in one day.

Old State Capitol

Old State Capitol is very well preserved and all open rooms are equipped with furnitures from the middle of XIX century. One can follow a tour or walk around without a guide. Walking around the Old State Capitol you will see how compact and well organized was the Capitol more than 160 years ago. You will notice there equivalents of all major modern state institutions.

Old State Capitol, Springfield, Illinois.  
From the information placed at the Old Capitol:
Old State Capitol

The Old State Capitol was the fifth State House in Illinois history. The building served as capitol from 1839 to 1876. Its cornerstone was laid during ceremonies held July 4. 1837.

During the 1840s and 1850s the building dominated Springfield's square and became a center of public life. Benefit dinners and other civic affairs took place in its rooms. The legislative chambers were the scene of frequent political meetings. Cultural programs often accompanied legislative sessions, which attracted citizens from throughout Illinois to the capitol city.

Abraham Lincoln frequented the building from 1839 until he departed in 1861 to assume the presidency. As a lawyer he often practiced before the Illinois Supreme Court. Lincoln delivered several important speeches, including the 1858 "House divided" address. In representatives' hall the governor's room served as his informal headquarters during the 1960 presidential campaign. In 1965 citizens paid their last respects to the assassinated president in representatives' hall before burial at Oak Ridge cemetery.

In 1876, a new State House replaced the Old State Capitol, which became the Sangamon County Courthouse. Legislation passed in 1961 led to the state's purchase and reconstruction of the building to its Lincoln-era appearance. The three-year project was completed in 1969.

Erected by The Illinois State Historical Society
and The Illinois Department of Transportation, 1991

Inside of the Old State Capitol

State Capitol

New State Capitol contrary to the Old State Capitol is not very inviting. We were trying to get there twice, both times with no success. Building is very impressive from outside but just after you enter the building, security informs you that "one can not walk around by yourself" and that one has to wait for guided tour. In front of the Capitol there is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln and on the back a very nice sundial (on the picture above).  The current Capitol building is the sixth Capitol in the history of Illinois and the second one in Springfield. First Capitol was built in Springfield after Abraham Lincoln and his colleges advocated for moving the capitol of Illinois from Vandalia to Springfield. Old Capitol has been turned into a museum. 

Springfield, State Capitol

Lincoln's Museum

Springfield has quite many museums for its size. One that is definitely worth visiting is the Abraham Lincoln Museum connected to the Presidential Library. Museum is very modern and extremely  multimedial. It pictures life of Abraham Lincoln from his childhood, through first jobs, his time in Springfield and work as a lawyer to his presidency and assassination. Museum collected an impressive number of items related to Abraham Lincoln. It takes more than an hour to walk through the whole museum. At the end, one should definitely stay for the impressive multimedial presentation of the museum and the presidential library.

Lincoln's Museum from outside Abraham Lincoln with family Lincoln's wife

Lincoln's House

Old part of Springfield including whole neighborhood of Lincoln's House has been turned into a museum. Guided tours are available for visiting Lincoln's House and the Old Downtown.

Abraham Lincoln's House in Springfield

Lincoln's Tomb

Visiting Springfield one cannot miss the Lincolns Tomb. It is located in Oak Ridge Cemetery and it is a very impressive monument. The Tomb is closed during the winter. However, outside of the Tomb is also very interesting. The Oak Ridge Cemetery has more interesting graves and tombs. The cemetery is quite large and at its very end one will find war memorials.  

Lincoln's Tomb

Springfield by night

After a whole day of sightseeing you may want to relax over a nice dinner or a drink. The downtown area is full of nice restaurants. Most of them offer American food and it may be harder to quickly find an oriental kitchen. Although there is a lot of bars around, the most fun seems to be the top of the Hilton hotel. Hilton on its 30th floor has a bar and a restaurant. Both of them have stunning views over the panorama of Springfield with nicely illuminated Capitols. 

View from the bar on the top of Hilton hotel State Capitol

Other attractions

Springfield Museums center including 
  • Michele & Donald D'amour Museum of Fine Arts 
  • Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History 
  • George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum
  • Springfield Science Museum 
  • Connecticut Valley Historical Museum 
List of all historic sites in Springfield: Historic Sites Commission of Springfield, IL
Frank Lloyd Wright designed Dana-Thomas House [Official site]
 Oak Ridge Cemetery
 Museum of Funeral Customs (closed in 2009)

See also:
Frank Lloyd Wright House in Springfield
Hot air ballons show in Indiana
Frank Lloyd Wright House in Chicago
Honeymoon in Alaska - Part 1
The largest earthquake and tsunami in North America
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...