It’s a big, weird world out there. In his Maphead columns, Ken Jennings catalogs the world’s oddities—here are some of the most surprising things he’s found.
1. There’s a country where you can get a beer with the Royal Family
One benefit of living in a nation as small as Liechtenstein is getting invited over to the royal family’s place once a year for a beer (along with 33,000 other Liechtensteiners).
2. An eternal flame is burning In Turkmenistan
More than forty years ago, Soviet scientists were drilling for gas in Turkmenistan when instead of gas, they hit methane. It didn’t help that the drilling mechanism then collapsed into the hole, creating a toxic situation. The scientists’ solution? Set fire to the hole. The fire continues to burn to this day—a hell on earth, if you will.
3. This remote salt flat is also the flattest place on earth
If you visit the flattest place on earth, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, during the rainy season, you get the added benefit of experiencing a mirror effect—a boon for professional photographers and selfie takers alike.
4. This American town is secretly Canadian
Since the tiny town of Hyder, Alaska, is a long ways from its nearest American neighbor, and only ten minutes away from a small town in British Columbia, Canada, it makes sense that the town observes Canadian holidays, prices items in Canadian currency, and even sets its clocks to the British Columbia time zone.
5. There’s a heart-shaped island near Croatia
Galesnjak, a heart-shaped island off the coast of Croatia, has little to recommend it other than its shape, but that hasn’t stopped doe-eyed couples from visiting. However, a destination wedding will have to wait until the privately-owned island offers more than shrubbery.
6. A U.S. national monument is in the wrong place
Every year the Four Corners (the point where the borders of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet) draws about a quarter million visitors to a small plaque marking the spot. The irony is that due to rudimentary 19th-century surveying technology, the actual Four Corners is almost 2,000 feet west of it.
7. There’s an African city that’s built entirely on stilts
Avoiding traffic jams is easier in places like Ganvie, Africa, since boats are required to navigate a town built entirely on stilts. It’s actually not the only one in Africa, but it is the largest.