So I have some questions about XML reading.. Frist of all what is the difference between elements and attributes?

I want to read a XML file in the following format with Simple Simple 2.4.1..
Fromat of XML:
Java Code:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?> 
- <mapdata>
- <nodes>
  <node id="55">AS</node> 
  <node id="32">AS3</node> 
  </nodes>
- <edges>
  <edge id="ge0" /> 
  <edge id="ge1" /> 
  </edges>
- <paths>
- <path edge="edge0" wei="5">
  <node id="9304" /> 
  <node id="6939" /> 
  </path>
- <path edge="edge1" wei="1">
  <node id="3267" /> 
  <node id="3356" /> 
  </path>
 </mapdata>
So what I want to do is read the file and create objects for each edge and node... and put the data of path inside of each edge object =) This must be done in a nice way cause there will be a lot of nodes and paths =) (The whole internet in sweden) so I know how i will do the objects ... but my problem is reading the XML file ... is there a easyer way than Simple or can someone explain how i should do the parsing of the XML data? Thanks a lot