The Most Interesting Facts About Russia

Russia, located in Eurasia (the combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia), is one of the most popular countries in the world. The official language is Russian but there are 27 other languages co-official in various regions throughout the country. Most people are aware of where Russia is located and what types of people live there, but there are many little known facts about this country and its culture that are really quite interesting.

Here are 10 cool facts about Russia:

1. World’s Longest Railway

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The Trans-Siberian Railway spans almost all the way across the county, making it the single longest railway in the world. The 9200 kilometers (or 5700 miles) railway departs in Moscow (located in European Russia) and crosses into Asia. It then makes its way to the Pacific Ocean port of Vladivostok where it reaches the end of its incredible journey. The entire journey non-stop will take you 152 hours and 27 minutes to complete.

2. World’s Largest McDonald’s

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If you’re a fan of the famous golden arches, Russia is the place to go. The country is home to the largest Mcdonald’s restaurant in the world. With 700 seats. A larger building, seating 1,500, was constructed for the 2012 Olympics in London, England but it was a temporary location and was dissembled six weeks after the doors opened (once the Olympics had come to an end).

3. Women vs. Men

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There are approximately 10 million more women in Russia than there are men. The imbalance was initially believed to the result of so many men dying during World War II.

4. Wedding Ring Tradition

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For many Russians, it is tradition to wear your wedding ring on your ring finger of your right hand. Countries like Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, Germany, Spain, Austria, India, and Greece have a similar tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the right hand.

5. Flower Superstition 

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A dozen roses? No thanks! In Russia, men never give an even amount of flowers to women. It is considered bad luck and is associated with funerals.

6. Largest Country by Area

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Russia is the largest country in the world by area. Its total area is 17,075,400 square kilometers and it covers more than a ninth of the Earth’s land area. The area of the land in Russia is 1.8 times larger than the total size of the United States.

7. Home to Many Billionaires

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Moscow has more billionaire residents than any other city in the world. There are a total of 74 billionaires living in a popular city, which is exactly 3 more than the second-place city, New York.

8. Second-Largest Oil Producer in the World

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As of 2012, Russia is the second-largest producer of oil in the world, producing an average of 9,900,000 barrels of crude per day. Saudi Arabia landed the top position with 10,900,000 barrels per day, however, it is estimated that the US will surpass both Russa and Saudi Arabia by 2020 to become the world’s largest oil producer (the US is currently in the third position).

9. Fastest Means of Transportation

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Moscow’s amazing metro system is the fastest means of transport. During rush hour, trains are scheduled for every 90 seconds. It is estimated that over 9 million passengers ride the Meto every day. The Metro of St. Petersburg is also the deepest subway in the world, clocking in at a whopping 100m deep.

10. Shaking Hand Superstition

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Russian’s will never shake hands over a doorway. It is believed to be a bad omen and most Russians are convinced the action will lead to an argument.

10 Cool Facts About Miami Beach

Miami Beach is one of the hottest vacation spots in the country. What most people don’t realize is that there’s a lot more to this unique city than sunshine and bikinis. There are 10 cool facts about Miami Beach that just might surprise you.

1. A Great Place To Star Gaze

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Many celebrities visit Miami Beach every day. This may be because it’s not only just a few miles from South Beach, but it is a little less than two hours from the luxurious city of Palm Beach.

2. Home To The World’s Largest Art Deco Architecture

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There are more than 800 buildings that feature Art Deco Architecture in Miami Beach. This makes it the largest collection of this type of architecture in the entire world. The historic districts of Espanola Way, Collins/Washington Avenues, Flamingo Park, and Museum make up the National Register Art Deco District.

3. Bordered By Two National Parks

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Miami Beach is surrounded by both the Biscayne National Park and the Everglades National Park. It’s the only city in the United States that has two different national parks as part of its borders. Both parks offer a wide array of activities for visitors to partake in including wildlife watching and canoeing.

4. The Best Place To Cruise

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For those that want to take a cruise, Miami Beach is the place to be. Miami contains the largest cruise ship port in the entire world. Many cruise ships go in and out of this port on a daily basis.

5. Lots Of Buried Treasure To Be Found

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For those who visit Miami Beach, lost treasure awaits. Pirates such as Blackbeard and Gasparilla supposedly left many treasures behind in the nearby ocean. A lot of gold and silver have been found both on and off the land by those who have visited Miami Beach.

6. The Island Is Man-Made

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Miami Beach is one of the few man-made islands in the United States. It was once a desolate coconut grove plantation. Years back, most people would have never guessed that it would now be the popular tourist destination that it is today.

7. Diversity Wherever You Look

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Miami Beach is a very diverse place. It is estimated that there are at least 150 ethnicities as well as over 60 different languages spoken there. When visiting Miami Beach it doesn’t matter what race you are or what language you speak, you will probably find someone who is the same race and speaks the same language as you. There are many different cultural venues to visit in the area as well.

8. Vizcaya Museum

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The Vizcaya Museum calls Miami Beach home. It has an exquisite orchid collection and has artwork displays that are over 2,000 years old. More than 170,000 visitors come to the Vizcaya Museum each year.

9. A Cosmopolitan Flair

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Miami Beach has a cosmopolitan side to it. There are many restaurants that are rated world-class as well as booming modeling and recording industries. Many individuals have made a name for themselves in there. Actresses Cristy Joy and Robin Sherwood were both born in Miami Beach.

10. The Home Of Suntan Lotion

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The inventor of suntan lotion was from Miami Beach. He was a pharmacist named Benjamin Green and came up with the useful concoction in 1944. Now visitors of Miami Beach can safely protect themselves from the sun thanks to Benjamin Green’s invention.

10 Interesting Facts About Italy

Italy is a fascinating place; a vacation in Italy can be packed with interesting things to do and see without every running out of activities or amazing sights. Keep the following interesting facts in mind if you visit the boot-shaped country.

1. Nobody really knows where Italy got its name.

Italy comes from a root word that means “land of young cattle”. Historians speculate that it might be named this because a bull was the symbol of early Southern Italian tribes but some believe that it comes from the name Italus, an early king of the region.

The Colosseum

2. Italy is the fourth most populated place in Europe, mostly because of high birth rates and low death rates.

Italy is about the size of Arizona, but the population of Italy is about ten times the population of the state, with approximately 60 million people living in Italy as opposed to 6 million in Arizona. Approximately 320 people live in every square mile in Italy (about 200 per kilometer).

Via Condotti

3. Rome, Italy is home to hundreds of fountains, with the oldest being the Trevi Fountain.

Rome has 50 large fountains and a great many small ones, not including the ‘nasoni’, which are small waterspouts used by pedestrians. The Trevi Fountain is more than eighty-six feet high, and comes from an aqueduct originally built in 19 B.C. The fountain was built by Pope Urban VIII in the mid 1600’s. A popular legend states that visitors who throw a coin into the Trevi fountain are assured of a return visit to Rome. The coins are collected weekly; Italian coins go to help pay for upkeep of the fountain, and foreign coins are donated to the Red Cross.

Trevi Fountain

4. Italy stands on a fault line.

Italy is plagued by earthquakes because of this; also, three volcanoes have erupted there in the last one hundred years – Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius.

Mount Vesuvious Italy

5. Italy is home to the highest mountain in Europe.

It is called Mont Blanc (or White Mountain in English) and it is part of the Alps mountain range. It is in Italy, on the border of France.

Mont Blanc Italy

6. More than 50 million tourists visit Italy each year.

Tourism is an important part of Italy’s gross national product; more than 60% of the country’s income comes from tourist dollars spent there.

Italy Tourists
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7. Soccer is the most popular organized sport in Italy.

Italians are rabid soccer fans; they are known as tifosi, which means typhus carriers. It’s a national pastime, and Italians are highly passionate about the game.

Italy Soccer
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8. Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year in Italy.

Christmas season is much longer, too: Christmas dinner is usually on Christmas Eve, and the season lasts until January 6th (until the Epiphany, or the date generally believed to have been when the three Wise Men found the manger of Jesus).

Italy Christmas

9. Pasta wasn’t eaten with tomato sauce until the 1600’s in Italy.

Until then, it was generally eaten with honey and sugar. Today, there are more than 500 varieties of pasta eaten in Italy.

Italy Pasta

10. Musical notations are always in Italian.

Allegro, Adagio…these are Italian words to indicate tempo, and came about because an Italian named Guido d’Arezzo came up with a system for modern-day musical notation.

Music Note

11 Cool Facts You Didn’t Know About Dublin, Ireland

Ireland’s beautiful, lively capital is friendly for a large city. It’s a place of decadence, revelry, and it packs quite the alcohol-soaked punch if you plan to spend it drinking in the world-renowned city pubs. However, there’s more to Dublin than a keg of Guinness. In fact, the city boasts a rich music, art, culture, and literary history that is still alive today.

Here are eleven cool facts that you probably didn’t know about Dublin, Ireland…

1. Dublin Natives

Or “Dubliners”, speak “Dublinese”, a mix of Dublin slang and curse words like this phrase: “I’m on the lash,” which translates to “I’m out drinking!”

dublin locals
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2. What’s in a Name?

Dublin or “Dubh Linn” is an Old Irish Gaelic phrase that translates to “Black Pool”.

dublin sign

3. Famous Dubliners

Celebrated city natives include play write and Nobel Prize laureate, George Bernard Shaw, and writer and poet, James Joyce.

James Joyce

4. A Viking Settlement

Dublin was founded by Vikings, who settled in what they called the “Norse Kingdom of Dublin” in the 9th century.

dublin settlement

5. City Size

The city of Dublin covers a land area of 44.5 square miles.

dublin map

6. Trinity College Grads

Dublin’s famous Trinity College boasts many celebrated graduates—including Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Bram Stoker (who wrote Dracula).

Trinity College

7. Youthful Population

Dublin has the youngest population in all of Europe. Approximately 50-percent of the population is less than 25-years of age.

young irish
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8. Pubs, Pubs, and More Pubs

The City of Dublin contains 666 licensed pubs—and the legal drinking age is 18!

irish pub
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9. The City’s Oldest Drinking Hole

Dublin’s oldest known pub is the Brazen Head, established in 1198 AD as a coach house.

pub Brazen Head

10. Ireland’s National Treasure

Ireland’s National Treasure is “The Book of Kells”, a sacred manuscript, which consists of the Four Gospels of the New Testament. The beautiful, gold book was made by Celtic Monks around 800 AD, and today lies in the Trinity College Library.

The Book of Kells

11. Always  a Full Pint

There are 10-million pints of Guinness produced daily in Dublin.

guinness
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10 Cool Facts About Marrakech, Morocco

Steeped in history, mystery, and glamour, Morocco’s city of Marrakech (or Marrakesh), is a temperate oasis of golden beaches, sprawling desserts, sacred ruins, luxurious spas, challenging golf courses, and charming local souks (or hand-craft markets).

However, in this North African city surrounded by so much mystery, you’d best be in the know prior to visiting. That’s why we’ve put together these ten cool facts about Marrakech, Morocco…

1. Spectacular Weather

The weather in Marrakech, like in the rest of Morocco, tends to be balmy and sun-soaked all year long—with a particular hot period from June to September when temperatures peak above 30-degrees-celsius.

morrocco sunset

2. Sun Protection Required

Often called the “Red City”, Marrakech requires sun protection and headgear all year long—even during winter.

head cover

3. Respect the Culture

Marrakech, unlike many other areas of the Middle East, is quite liberal. However keep in mind that it is still an Islamic, male-dominated city.

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4. Multilingual Population

Although the majority of residents are either Arabic or Berber, Marrakesh is very multi lingual—from business people to shopkeepers—most will be able to pin-point your nationality before you utter a single word.

Berber, Marrakesh
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5. Distinct Areas of the City

Marrakech is broken up into two distinct areas—Old City (also called “Medina”), which houses the souks (or market area) and Modern City, which houses the commercial quarter (Guéliz) and residential area (l’Hivernage) of the city.

morocco residential

6. Photos Come with a Price

If you snap a picture of a snake charmer, monkey, or street dancer in Marrakech, they will expect you to pay them and hassle you if you don’t. Even directions come with a price tag!

snake charmer
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7. At the City’s Heart

Djemma El Fna, is the ancient square that lies at the heart of Marrakech, and acts as a gathering point for locals, street performers—such as dancers, musicians, and snake charmers—as well as street food vendors.

Djemma El Fna square, morocco

8. Getting Around

Taxis are everywhere and rather cheap (under 20-Dirham per trip, about $2.30 USD) and drivers rarely use the meter. However, it’s wise for tourists to get the taxi fare before entering a petit taxi or you may be shocked by the price.

taxi morocco

9. Shop Till you Drop

If shopping is your game then the city’s souk district should be your aim. Explore the winding network of souk traders selling traditional pottery, metalwork, leather goods, textiles, spices and various other wares.

Old Gold Souk

10. National Food and Drink

Sweet mint tea is the national drink of Marrakech, while couscous, the traditional Berber dish of semolina (tiny granules of durum wheat) is the national dish—often served with fish, other meat, or veggies, in a broth-like sauce.

moroccan mint tea

20 Interesting Facts About Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a tropical haven in Central America, but there are plenty of facts I bet you didn’t know about this small, peaceful, eco-diverse country.

Here are 20 interesting and lesser known facts about Costa Rica…

1. Pura Vida

“Pura vida” is commonly heard in Costa Rica—it means “pure life” and is often used as a greeting in lieu of “hello” and “goodbye”

Pura vida

2. Ticos & Ticas

Costa Ricans refer to themselves Ticos (for men) and Ticas (for women).
beach love romance

3. Eco-Diversity

One of the most eco-minded countries in the world, 25-percent of land in Costa Rica is protected.
costa rica rain forest

4. It’s Pretty Tiny

Costa Rica is smaller than Lake Michigan in the USA.

costa rica mountain view

5. There’s a Female President

Costa Rica is one of few countries with a female president, Laura Chinchilla, who has held the position since 2010.

costa rica flag

6. Hummingbird Capital

Approximately 52 species of hummingbirds are native to Costa Rica, making it a hummingbird capital.

hummingbird

7. There’s No Army

Costa Rica has had no standing army since 1949.

peace not war

8. Expatriates Love It

Costa Rica is a common retirement choice for American expatriates, many own bars and restaurants here.

ex pat surfing

9. Butterfly Sanctuary

Approximately 10-percent of the world’s butterflies live in Costa Rica.

butterfly

10. My Other Half…

Costa Ricans playfully refer to their partners as “media naranja,” which means “the other half of my orange.”

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11. Public Etiquette

Blowing your nose in public is frowned upon in Costa Rica—in fact it’s seen as downright impolite and disgusting.

Bora Bora

12. Education for All

Poor children who can’t go to school take classes via Costa Rica’s national radio station.

Museum of Science Boston

13. Creepy-Crawlies

There are an estimated 20,000 species of spiders in Costa Rica—yuck!

spider

14. Bordered By Two Oceans

The country is surrounded by 800 miles of coastline, by both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

costa rica ocean

15. Ethnic Diversity

Fewer than 1-precent of Costa Ricans are indigenous—much of the population hails from Africa so many Ticas and Ticos speak Spanish and Patois.

costa rica locals
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16. Peace Between Chaos

Costa Rica is a peaceful gem in the midst of turbulent countries—with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.

map of central america

17. Best Time to Visit

Costa Rica’s summer dry season runs from December to April, and is the best time to visit.

Portinho da Arrabida Beach, Setubal Portugal

18. Monkeys Galore

Monkeys are bananas for Costa Rica, with four common species—the Howler, Squirrel, Spider, and White-Faced monkey.

monkey

19. Proud Democracy

Costa Rica is Central America’s longest-standing democracy.

democracy

20. The Sunset is Very Punctual

The sun rises and sets at the same time in Costa Rica—365 days a year!

costa rica sunset

10 Little Known Facts About Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is renowned as the lost city of the Inca’s. It’s visited by thousands of history buffs, new wave healers, curious tourists, and pilgrims each year. Some venture to honor the sacred temple; others are fascinated by the historical significance, while many make the trek in hopes of benefiting from the powerful energy rumored to spring forth from the ruins.

Regardless of what archeology has told us, there are many interesting and lesser know facts about Machu Picchu that you might not know…

1. Machu Picchu is not a lost Incan city

We know that explorer Hiram Bingham III discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, but what we didn’t know was that Bingham discovered this site while searching for Vilcabamba, the hidden capital that the Inca fled to in order to escape Spanish conquistadors in 1532.

Machu Picchu 1

2. The staff is quite superstitious

Porters, who often have to sleep on the trail in tents, hide shiny metal mirrors underneath them to ward off ancient spirits within the earth.

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3. It’s built on two fault lines

Machu Picchu is built on 2 fault lines. However, the construction protects it whenever Peru suffers an earthquake. The stones of Machu Picchu are reputed to “dance” or bounce during a seismic event and then fall back into their rightful place.

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4. It’s host to a race

Every year marathoners race along the 26-mile long Inca Trail. The fastest time is 3-hours and 26-minutes.

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5. The walk is treacherous

You might know that you can trek up Machu Picchu for free. However, the trail upwards is steep and strenuous, taking approximately 90-minutes in total, but at the top, the views is amazing!

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6. The rules of entrance

Sure, the site has posted “rules of entrance”. However, that list doesn’t include the fact that you’ll be denied admittance if you try to enter dressed in the traditional garb of another country—that means no kimonos, kilts, or dirndls.

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7. There are multiple viewing peaks

Most visitors race to arrive before dawn to be one of the first 400 people eligible to climb the famed Huayna Picchu peak. But lesser known is Machu Picchu Mountain, which lies at the opposite end of the site and is twice as tall at 1,640 feet.

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8.  Small pox eradicated the original residents

Archaeologists blame a small pox epidemic, brought to Machu Picchu by Spanish Conquistadors, for killing the original population.

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9. The meaning behind the name…

‘Machu Picchu’ literally translates to ‘old mountain’—which is really not very mysterious.

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10. The latest wonder of the world

Recently an Internet audience collaborated to have Machu Picchu signified as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” as of April 2013.

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