Thursday 13: Geography EditionApril 29, 2010
I’m currently hooked on playing a Facebook game called Last Letter — it’s a word game, but you have to have some knowledge of Geography in order to play. It’s a little slice of geek heaven for me!
In honor of that game, here are thirteen obscure places you may not have heard of before … and some interesting factoids to go along with them (where possible).
- Eritrea — a former African colony of Italy. Who knew Italy ever had colonies? I first heard of Eritrea from a cab driver in DC who told me I wasn’t much of an International Affairs major if I didn’t know where Eritrea was. (It was his homeland and I think my ignorance insulted him.)
- Djibouti — No trivia. I just like saying this one.
- Suriname — A South American country where Dutch is the official language.
- Rhodesia — the name used by an unrecognized state that later became Zimbabwe. (You can’t use Rhodesia in Last Letter. I found that out the hard way.)
- Svalbard — Polar bears are one of the main tourist attractions here. Anyone leaving a settlement is required to carry a rifle to protect themselves in the event of a polar bear attack.
- Guernsey — a British island that was occupied by the Germans during World War II. (I first learned of Guernsey when I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.)
- Andorra — a principality stuck in the mountains between France and Spain. Legend has it that it was granted a charter by Charlemagne in return for helping fight against the Moors.
- Macau — This was both the first and last European colony in China. People in Macau have the highest life expectancy in the world (84).
- Liechtenstein — the smallest German-speaking country in the world.
- Saint Kitts & Nevis — There is an interesting story about how Nevis got its name: The current name “Nevis” is derived from a Spanish name Nuestra Señora de las Nieves by a process of abbreviation and anglicization. This Spanish name means Our Lady of the Snows. It is a reference to the story of a 4th century Catholic miracle: a snowfall on the Esquiline Hill in Rome. Presumably the white clouds which usually wreathe the top of Nevis Peak reminded someone of the story of a miraculous snowfall in a hot climate.
- New Caledonia — so named by Captain Cook because it reminded him of Caledonia (Scotland).
- Swaziland — this land has been continuously inhabited since prehistory (ca 25,000 BC). Swaziland has the lowest life expectancy in the world (32).
- Mayotte — They had the chance to become independent in 1974 and decided not to… retaining their status as a French territory instead.