Travel trivia: 10 geeky facts from around the globe
Did you know the Vatican’s Swiss Guard still wears a uniform inspired by Renaissance painter Raphael? (Will Salter/LPI)
These surprising stats and fantastical facts — an info nerds’ world tour — will have you pointing out the planet’s most unknown “did you knows?”
1. Mt Everest, Nepal
Some things just do not know how to quit when they are ahead. Take this stunning snow-dusted peak on the Nepal-Tibet border. At around 8,850m, Mt Everest is the highest point on earth. But is it satisfied? Oh no - it is actually still growing at an estimated 4mm a year, pushed ever upwards by a monumental meeting of tectonic plates. A trip to Everest Base Camp brings you face to face with countless climbers, a colourful tent city and truly extraordinary mountain views. Because the mountain is still stretching skywards, save your legs; hike those foothills sooner rather than later.
Any number of adventure companies will guide you to Everest Base Camp - for a full list of local operators check the official tourism website.
2. Mexico City
Mexico City meanwhile is sinking at an average rate of 10cm a year, 10 times faster than Venice. The reason? Building on a soft lake bed then pumping out subterranean water reserves is not a good idea. The alarming descent is evidenced in the cracked pavements, wonky buildings and the 23 extra steps up to the iconic Angel of Independence monument, added because the city has subsided around it. Fight that sinking sensation by floating on the ancient canals at Xochimilco. Each weekend this World Heritage Site transforms into fiesta-filled waterways packed with party boats, musicians and marimba players.
Xochimilco is 28km south of Mexico City - hop aboard the light rail train from Tasqueña Metro station for the 40-minute trip www.unesco.org.
3. Vatican City, Italy
Encircled by design-conscious Italy's cutting-edge couture, the world's smallest independent state is sticking firmly to its sartorial traditions. The Vatican's Swiss Guard still wears a uniform inspired by the Renaissance painter Raphael (compare and contrast it with the garb worn by figures in his frescos in the Papal apartments). In fact, the 44 hectare Holy See has many a geek treat. Point out the population (800), number of citizens (450), licence plates (SCV, CV, international abbreviation V) and flag (yellow and white), not to mention the anthem (Pontifical Hymn) and coins, which are legal tender throughout Italy and the European Union.
Procure geekish souvenirs at the gift shop of St Peter's Basilica, where you can even buy an (empty) bottle of holy water.
4. El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles, United States
What's in a name? A whole lot less in Los Angeles' case. Originally rejoicing under the not-so-pithy moniker of the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, this farming community sprung up in 1781 near what is now El Pueblo Historical Monument. Today its cluster of museums, ancient plazas and vibrant markets serves up a taste of LA life 1800s-style. For an ultramodern echo of the city's linguistic origins, head to the 21st-century Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This innovative structure soars 11 storeys into the sky, its alabaster mosaics flooding the immense interior with opaque light.
Olvera Street is the centre of the site; visit in early September to see the celebratory procession known as the "LA Birthday"; www.ci.la.ca.us/elp.
5. Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire, Argentina
Originally Our Lady St Mary of the Good Air, these days it is just Buenos Aires. A seductive city of colonial avenues, cosmopolitan cafes and many an all-night party, BA is also the spot to savour that most deliciously melancholic dance: the tango. It pulses through faded ballrooms, leafy parks and vibrant squares, but do you know how to secure a partner? Gentlemen, fix the lady with a long look; if she returns your stare, just give a gentle nod. Ladies, sit with your legs outstretched so a man might stumble at your feet. An encounter occurs; an invitation can follow.
Do not take the tango lightly -learn the etiquette at www.buenosairestango.com.