This page contains a potpouri of travel trivia — some is informative, much is interesting, and all of it is just fun. It all somehow relates to travel and can make you a more knowledgable traveler. Enjoy!
Please arrest me! The Dubai police force drives Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mercedes, Aston Martins and other exotic sport cars.
Roll on down the road. Some of Syria’s roads are over 4,000 years old and are still used today.
Make up your mind! The only river to flow both north and south is the Congo River, which crosses the equator twice.
What's in a name? The official name of Switzerland is “Confederation Helverique” — French for the Helvetic Confederation. These initials (CH) provide the international symbol for Switzerland that makes up car registration plates, stickers, and email addresses.
Isn't that cute? According to the Guinness Book of Records, the worlds smallest park (with a total area of only 452 square inches) is the Mill Ends State Park, located in Portland, Oregon. Created in 1948, the park received official recognition in 1971. The property is operated and cared for by the Portland Parks and Recreation Department.
They grow up so fast. According to British historians, many a european city 500 years ago operated a brothel owned by the city itself and managed by a salaried city councilman. The city set the price of admission (always quite low), and set such rules as the minimum age of customers — usually 12.
State of confusion. From 1784 to 1796, there was a colonial state called Franklin added to the original 13. It was the western portion of North Carolina and was ceded to the government to pay off the state’s Revolutionary War debt. Franklin eventually became part of the state of Tennessee.
Go West, Young Man. The state of Virginia extends farther west than the state of West Virginia.
Way Down South. If you travel due south of Detroit, Michigan, the first foreign country you'll reach is Canada.
Belly up to the bar, boys! An ancient greek law made it a crime to stay sober during the annual festival of Dionysus, the god of wine (Bacchus to the Romans). Failure to get drunk was an affront to the god.
Talking in tongues. On the Galapagos islands, the giant male tortoise grunts and the females hiss. Similarly, the male blue footed boobie of the Galapagos islands tweets while the female boobie honks.
That's a damn long beach. Twice around Australia's coastline is a greater distance than the circumference of the earth.
How low can you go? The lowest place on earth – the Dead Seas – has an elevation of 1,385 feet below sea level (according to National Geographic). So when a seaplane land on the surface of the Dead Sea, they fly lower than most submarines ever dive.
A totally worthless but interesting fact. The world's first published collection of trivia was printed in 1464 by Johannes Gutenberg, the German inventor of the printing press.
Water, water everywhere. A fifth of all the water that runs from atop the land to the sea goes down the Amazon.
Mark Twain is alive in California. Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island has a Missouri zip code. On the day the park opened, the governor of California annexed the property to the state of Missouri, where the Mark Twain characters lived.
If you build it, they will come. The Eiffel Tower — that Parisian icon — was to have been torn down over a century ago. Built for the 1889 Paris Exposition, it was to be a temporary sturcture, but was repurposed in 1909 when it became a giant radio antenna. It had an apartment for Gustav Eiffel, its designer, on the upper level and, until the construction of New York City's Chrysler Building (1929), was the tallest structure in the world. It remains one of the worlds most visited and photographed sights.
Better than Air Force One? Belive it or not, the Vatican (i.e., Vatican City) does issue passports. The Pope, among his other honours, always carries "Passport No 1".
What's cold, wet, and dry? Antarctica! How cold is it? It hold the record, reaching an all time low of –128.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1983), although its average annual temperature is only –58 degrees Fahrenheit. How wet is it? It is estimated to hold 90% of the ice on the planet, or about 70% of the earth's fresh water. How dry is it? Scientist estimate that Antarcticas Dry Valleys haven't had percipitation in over 2 million years.
Damn, that water's cold. And deep! At over 5,000 feet, Russia's Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. Located in Siberia, this massive body of water is also thought to be the worlds oldest (25–million years old) and contains about 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water. It is also home to the only species of freshwater seal.
Reach for the sky. Mankind has always tried to erect buildings that reached the heavens. At first it was to be closer to the gods, but today they are mostly a symbol for national pride. A number of constructions have held the title as tallest structure, including the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, and the Washington Monument. Their title of "worlds tallest" usually lasted no longer than several years. However the Great Pyramid of Khufu, coming in at 481 feet, held the title for over 3,800 years — from 2560 BC until 1300 AD.
Thank you, Caligula! One of ancient Rome's least favorite rulers, Caligula (AD 37 – AD 41), was known for his extravagant building and spending. While he had neither the training nor qualified to race at the Circus Maximus, home of the Roman chariot races, he built his own racetrack known as the circus of Gaius and Nero. (His actual name was Gaius; Caligula was his nickname.) And, since the centerpiece of the Circus Maximus was a large obelisk, his private racetrack needed an obelisk as well. He had an Egyptian obelisk transported to Rome which — by coincidence — was four and a half feet taller than the one at Circus Maximus. You can still see that obelisk today. It is now known as the Vatican Obelisk and sits in St. Peters square at the Vatican.
Now that's small. The combined land area of the six smallest European countries is smaller than the area of Rhode Island. In order of smallest to largest, they are: Vatican City, Monaco, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Malta, and Andorra.
How do you suppose it stays in the air? In the airline industry, an aircraft's fuel capacity is usually defined in pounds weight rather than gallons. A Boeing 747–400 carries nearly 400,000 pounds of fuel (almost 60,000 gallons) and burns between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds an hour. Almost half of the planes take-off weight is its fuel.
Hablo Englaise? The Ecuadorian islands of the Galapagos have two names — an English name as well as a Spanish name. The islands were given their English names back in the 1700’s, when they were the sanctuary of British pirates. After the islands were annexed by Ecuador, they were given their Spanish names. Although their Spanish names are the proper names of the islands, today they go by both.
What a ride! Disneyland (California) opened July 17, 1955, with 18 major attractions. Today, there are more than 90 adventures, rides, and attractions. Add into the mix the 30–something that are found in California Adventure and you have a weekend of enjoyment. But, with the constant alterations and additions, the number will — no doubt — continue to increase over the years.
Another Perfect Day: If you hate being too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, take a trip to Quito, Ecuador. This South American capital has the most pleasant climate in the world. Called the "Land of Eternal Spring", the temperature rarely drops below 46 degrees Fahrenheit during the night, or exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
Say what?: Didya know it's estimated that there are over 3,000 languages in the world? The exact number is difficult to determine, even between the experts; there is a fine line where dialect to one group becomes a different language to another. Of all these languages, which native language do you think is spoken by more people than any other? Chinese! Incidentally, Chinese is also considered the worlds oldest language. English — although it is spoken just about everywhere in the world — remains second. However, as a traveler, you should always make an effort to learn a few words of the local native language. Wherever you go, learn the common courtesy words like "Please", "Thank you", and "Hello". The locals will respect you for your attempt and it will make you a better traveler.
Little 'Hood'. There are two independent European nations each of which are smaller than New York City's Central Park. They are Vatican City and Monaco.
Your Passport: If you do any kind of foreign travel you will (no doubt) have a U.S. passport. Take a good look at it. Many people think that since they paid for it, and it contains their photograph and address, it belongs to them. Wrong! This is not your property. The passport belongs to the government that issued it. Look inside your passport and you will find this notification:
"THIS PASSPORT IS THE PROPERTY OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT."
Why does ownership remain with your government? Believe it or not, it's for your own good. If you've committed a serious crime in the United States, the last thing the government wants to do is try to extradite you from some foreign country where you hope to find a safe haven. But most important, if your passport is stolen, the thief didn't take something of yours; they stole from the government, making it a federal crime. So when you get your passport (or even if you've had one for a while), take the time to read all the "fine print".
Surf's up!: We've all heard how great the surf is in Hawaii and Australia, but the longest surf rides are at Matanchen Bay near San Blas, Nayarite, Mexico. Proficient surfers can ride the waves for over 5000 feet.
Pack Light: There's an old travel saying: "Always pack half the clothes and twice the money you think you'll need". If you did a good job and realistically budgeted, you'll not need to take that much money. But, almost without fail, people always over-pack. We (my wife and I) have gone to Africa for a 10 day safari with nothing more than a carry-on and a camera bag each! There is a lot to be said for traveling light. For one thing, if you travel with carry-on luggage only, you'll never worry about lost luggage. And, while others are waiting at the baggage carousel for their bags, you'll be on your way to your hotel or the rental car counter. However, on the return trip home - except for our camera bags - we always check our luggage. It's so much nicer to walk onto the plane with only a small bag strapped over your shoulder. If our checked luggage doesn't arrive at our home destination with us, we really don't care; it's only dirty laundry. Lastly, should you decide to take nothing but carry-on luggage on your next trip, make sure your carry-on's meets the airline dimensional requirements and take only as many carry-on's as the airlines allow. Don't arrive with a half dozen pieces to carry-on when the airlines allows only one or two.
Tennis, anyone?: Perhaps the oddest tennis court is located at the Mount Kenya Safari Club, in Kenya, East Africa. The net is strung right on the equator so that the ball travels back and forth between the northern and southern hemisphere.
Regarde vous le poo!: The city of Paris spends about $10 million a year cleaning up after mans best friend. Every day about 200,000 pooches leave sixteen tons of doggy-dirt for the street cleaners. Finally, the city council has had enough and gone on the offensive. Several years ago, a campaign began for owners to scoop the poop under threat of a $400 fine. So, if you plan on seeing Paris, enjoy the sights, but watch your step!
Photographs: Take plenty of pictures of your travels; memory chips (or film for those of us who still use it) is cheap compared to the cost of the trip so bring home all the memories you can. However, a word of warning is called for here! In some countries certain places are best left off your photo-journal. Police stations, bridges, military installations, dams, and some other structures are photo "no-no's" in parts of the world. It's important to do your research! When in doubt, ask. Also, often there are certain people that do not take kindly of having their picture taken. Again, ask before you click the shutter.
Geo-trivia: Amsterdam has more canals than Venice.
Fly Healthy: On those long, boring flights where you stuff yourself into that torture device the airlines calls a seat, it doesn't take long before you can no longer feel your feet. It's long been recommended that you get some exercise while on the plane, to keep the blood circulating. You should stand up and walk around every couple of hours and do some simple stretching exercises while in your seat. But there are also some other things you should do. Most importantly, wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes; especially shoes. You may want to wear sandals, or shoes with velcro fastners. On long flights, take your shoes off; your feet will feel much better. Wiggle your toes and rotate your feet at the ankles often. Stretch your legs. If possible, get up and walk up the aisle every couple of hours. Your feet will swell, and you may have trouble getting them back into the shoes but you'll feel much better, and they will soon adjusts.
Return of the King: We've all heard of the swallows annual return to Capistrano, but from November until March, the orange and black wings of millions of Monarch butterflies will cover the forest trees of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Each year the butterflies migrate from as far north as Alaska to these forest. Their weight sometimes exceeds the capability of the tree branches to support them, as they huddle together for warmth.
Beware of money allergies: Beginning in January of 2002, the Euro came into circulation. However, two of the coins (the one-Euro and two-Euro coin) contain so much nickel that people allergic to the metal could develop hand eczema.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
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