Memorial Day in the U.S. was three weeks ago. We are now in the middle of June and definitely into the summer vacation season, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere. So, I'd like to offer you some miscellaneous travel tidbits and trivia.
I came across an article recently that listed bits of trivia about various travel destinations. Little snippets of miscellaneous information usually not included in travel guides. Things I found interesting. I hope you find them interesting, too.
1) Mt. Everest
It's a commonly known fact that Mt. Everest, on the Nepal–Tibet border, is the highest point on earth. You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you? Well, apparently it isn't. The precise height of Mt. Everest is somewhat disputed. It's generally thought to be 29,029 ft (8848m) above sea level. And that interesting little fact? It's still growing! Mt. Everest is pushing upward at a rate estimated to be 4mm a year thanks to the clash between two tectonic plates.
2) Mexico City
While Mt. Everest is growing, the interesting little fact about Mexico City is that it's sinking at an average rate of 10cm a year which is 10 times faster than the sinking rate of Venice, Italy. And the reason for this? Mexico City was built on a soft lake bed and subterranean water reserves have subsequently been pumped out from beneath the city. The obvious result? The city is sinking.
3) Vatican City
The world's smallest independent state, 44 hectares (110 acres) is totally encircled by Rome. The Vatican's Swiss Guard still wears the uniform inspired by Renaissance painter Raphael. Its population is 800 with only 450 of those being citizens. It even has its own coins which are legal tender throughout Italy and the EU.
4) El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles
What is all that? In English it's Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels. In it's shortened version it's better known as Los Angeles, California. The town came into being in 1781 and today, in an area of downtown Los Angeles referred to as Olvera Street, there is a cluster of museums, ancient plazas and lively markets providing a taste of life in 1800s Los Angeles.
5) Nuestra Senora Santa Maria del Buen Aire
What is all that? In English it's Our Lady St. Mary of the Good Air, better known today as Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's the best spot to savor the tango. And don't take the tango lightly. In Buenos Aires, it's very serious business.
6) London Underground
London's Metropolitan Railway was the world's first subway, opened in 1863. The first section ran between Paddington and Farringdon and was a hit in spite of the steam engines filling stations and tunnels with dense smoke. Today, if you take the Circle Line between Paddington and Covent Garden, you'll travel part of that original route.
7) Venice, Italy
As mentioned earlier, Venice is sinking. But in the interim…one of the things immediately associated with Venice are the gondolas on the canals, especially the Grand Canal. Each gondola is made from 280 pieces of 8 different types of wood. The left side is larger than the right side by 24cm. The parts of a gondola represent bits of the city—the front echoes its 6 districts, the back is Giudecca Island, and the lunette is the Rialto Bridge.
8) Great Wall of China
Most everyone knows this is the largest military construction on earth. However the part about it being the only man-made structure able to be seen from space is an urban myth. The sections were built by independent kingdoms between the 7th and 4th centuries BC then unified under China's first Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210 BC. A not well known fact is that the sections near Beijing which are most visited by tourists are reconstructions done in the 14th to 17th centuries AD.
Table Mountain, South Africa
9) Table Mountain, South Africa
This large plateau of sandstone looms over Cape Town. But this huge table has its own table cloth. The plateau's cloud cover gathers across the flat top and spills over the sides when the wind whips up from the southeast. You can reach the top by hiking trails or cable car.
10) Uluru, Australia
This is probably the world's largest monolith, rising from the Australian desert. More commonly known for years as Ayers Rock, it is now referred to by the Aboriginal name of Uluru. The rock glows a fiery orange-red color, especially at sunset. Where does its red color come from? It's made from arkosic sandstone which contains iron. When exposed to oxidation, the iron rusts thus providing the red color.
On your travels this summer, pay attention to those obscure little facts that make a place more interesting.