Fun facts about travel — Did you know?
Did you know that the Great Wall of China was built with sticky rice and that the Eiffel Tower changes its size with the seasons? Even if you are not traveling currently, you can enjoy learning some travel trivia.
Aa... is for Aachen
Many German towns that lie on or near natural thermal springs have the right to put the word "Bad" ("baths" or "spa") before their names. But Aachen, a large city in western Germany with hot springs, does without the coveted title because without its double A it would no longer top the alphabetical list of Germany's cities. Even the Romans came to Aachen to relax in the hot thermal water.
Who has the longest place name...
… in Europe? Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales! Unpronounceable to non-Welsh speakers, the name means: "St. Mary's Church in a hollow of white hazelnuts near the Swift Eddy and the Church of Thysili by the Red Cave." On the opposite end of quirky-to-outsiders names are the townships called Ee (Netherlands) and Y (France).
Building with food
Sticky rice has a stick-to-your-ribs fullness after eating it — and stick-to-the-walls strength. 1,500 years ago, builders also took advantage of its properties and mixed slaked lime with sticky rice soup to create a composite mortar used for tombs, pagodas and walls. If the Chinese hadn't mixed sticky rice into the mortar, who knows if the Great Wall of China would still be as stable.
Seasonal size change
In the hot Parisian summer, the Eiffel Tower’s steel structure expands when it is warm — it's a full 15 centimeters (6 inches) larger than in winter. The Parisian landmark is not alone in this: All steel structures expand and contract depending on the temperature. Yet the famed tower always cuts a fine figure over the capital’s iconic Haussmannian architecture.
It's all gone sideways
The beloved Leaning Tower of Pisa is a vacation snapshot favorite. But not for long, because it continues to sink in the loamy, sandy subsoil on which it was built. Excavations have shown that the tower stands on the edge of a former island on an ancient harbor basin. It is projected to collapse by the year 2300.
Anyone who has ever wondered why they learned Latin in school will get the answer here: Latin is the official language in the Vatican City. Even ATMs "speak" it. You won't find it anywhere else — after all, the Roman Empire fell a long time ago. Surrounded entirely by Rome, the Vatican is the smallest state in the world.
The city of bridges
There are more bridges in Hamburg, than in Amsterdam and Venice combined — namely around 2,500. Whether dilapidated, beautiful or just practical, Hamburg's bridges hold the port city in northern Germany together. They lead over rivers and canals, over the Alster River and various obstacles. If you stroll through Hamburg, you can't skip the city's bridges.
Once upon a time in Iceland there were elves...
Were? No, are! Even today, part of the population believes in elves and trolls. There was even once a special government adviser on elves. And quite a few building projects have been stopped because of the magical beings. Anyone who knows Iceland's nature can understand this belief — with its hot springs, lava fields and glaciers, Iceland is the perfect home for elves and trolls.
Don't just smile and nod
If you’re on your first trip to Albania (picture), Bulgaria, Greece or India, it is a good idea to be careful with gestures. In these countries shaking your head means yes and nodding means no. In order to avoid misunderstandings, it is best to just say what you mean. But here too, be careful — because in Greece "nai" (pronounced "nay") means yes.
Where time travel is possible
Well, in a manner of speaking. The Fiji Islands in the South Pacific include the island of Taveuni, through which the 180th degree of longitude runs — the date line. Those who stand on it are, so to speak, timeless. And jumping back and forth means switching between today and tomorrow.