#StrangePlanet: Travel Trivia

Truth is stranger than fiction. Here are eight travel factoids to help prove it.

Nat Geo Travel’s Annie Fitzsimmons spends a large part of her life scouting out the sites, restaurants, and people that reveal the distinctive soul of cities large and small. But even Urban Insiders need a break from the hustle and bustle once in awhile. So after attending the Adventure Travel World Summit in Killarney, she couldn’t resist exploring…

Zubair Khawar is a textile designer, but his true passion is travel photography. Born and raised in Lahore, he has recently started exploring his hometown through the eyes of a visitor—the true mark of any travel photographer worth his snuff—wandering the city’s markets, observing the crowds, and sharing the color and bustle of daily life through images. Here’s a look at the Punjab provincial capital through Zubair’s lens.

Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872, leading the British diplomat James Bryce to declare national parks “the best idea America ever had.” Indeed, it was, and is. But celebrations and plaudits aside, look at what we have done to our national treasures. As we prepare to celebrate the National Park Service centennial in 2016, here’s a birthday wish for the future.

In Brisbane’s pedestrian-friendly urban center, the cackle of a kookaburra is more common than a car horn. But don’t let the subtropical city’s laid-back impression fool you.

Wiener schnitzel—an unassuming breaded, fried veal cutlet—has so captured Vienna’s taste buds that it bears the city’s very name (Wien = Vienna). Yet Austria’s national dish may actually have originated in northern Italy as costoletta alla Milanese, a similarly prepared slice of veal.

In the 1970s, Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke made waves when he introduced a new style of music that layered jazz improvisation with Ethiopian folk rhythms and its traditional five-note scale. Now 70, the father of Ethio-jazz is still mixing things up.

Artist and graphic design activist Shepard Fairey gets his best inspiration from Hong Kong’s mix of Chinese and Western signage, iconography, and architecture. We asked him to point out other cities that go the extra mile to support their urban arts communities. Here are three.

Seattle local Adina Marguerite Pease is a creative type who lives to wander. While she’ll always be a California girl at heart, she moved to the Emerald City seeking greener pastures, and found them. When she’s not exploring the Pacific Northwest, Adina sets out on road trip adventures around the world with her husband and their Vizsla pup, Parsley. Here are a few of her favorite things about the city she calls home.

A hundred years have passed since the outbreak of World War I, a milestone vividly felt in the western Belgian town of Ypres, which endured some of the conflict’s fiercest fighting. On Armistice Day (November 11), thousands will crowd the streets, monuments, and cemeteries of this textile town turned shrine to the fallen.

When Cerro Negro—Nicaragua’s youngest volcano—last erupted in 1999, boulders tumbled down the western slope, creating a rocky, ascendable path. On the opposite side, the wind deposited dark, smooth ash that is perfect for sliding. In 2004, this unique pairing of terrains sparked an outlandish idea: volcano boarding.

This year marks a quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Berlin continues to boom amid the reminders of its extraordinary past—a complex, sometimes dark, history it is intent on neither forgetting nor denying.

Everyone’s heard tales of parents who blend pureed veggies into their kids’ cookies. I leave the cauliflower alone, but I love the vacation equivalent: sneaking a culture fix into an otherwise child-focused trip. While not every museum is suited for families, here are a few favorites, old and new, that add an easy educational upgrade to some of this winter’s most popular destinations.

During the Cold War, the Berlin Wall came to represent Germany’s divided nation and capital. Though mostly dismantled now, it remains a potent presence, marked by sites that hark back to a sinister time in the city’s history. Here’s a primer on where to go and what to read to pay homage to this bygone era.

Vilnius native Kamilė Naraitė attributes her effusive hometown pride to her mother, who exposed her to the most beautiful and historic spots in Lithuania’s capital city. And though Kamilė loves traveling around the world, she makes a point to share her insider intel on the best things to see and do in Vilnius on Spotted by Locals. Here’s a taste of what she thinks will make fellow travelers “fall in love with this green, natural, and unique city” she calls home.

Portland may be best known for its beer, bicycling locals, and street food, but—as unlikely as it sounds—many of the city’s seemingly “grown-up” attractions can be geared towards kids with just a little tweaking. Here’s the rundown on how to give hipster Portland a family-friendly spin.

Long among the must-visit destinations of Europe, Prague continues to evolve in surprising and alluring ways. Here are a few trends and tips to help you uncover the freshest ways to experience this fairy-tale Czech city.

Louisiana, Three Ways: Atchafalaya Swamp

I’m in Killer Poboys to meet with Charles Chamberlain, a Ph.D. in American history and local History Man. Ten years a historian at the Louisiana State Museum before setting up his own company, Historia, to provide outsiders with insights into the Pelican State, Chamberlain knows Louisiana. He’s just the guy, I figure, to explain why Louisiana is so different, even a…

The occasional brush with the occult or the unexplained isn’t enough to keep intrepid travelers at bay, and our Nat Geo Travel fans on Facebook were eager to share their most memorable paranormal experiences. Here are some of their picks for the world’s spookiest destinations.

Love exploring new cities around the world? Join @NatGeoTravel’s Urban Insider and Orbitz travel editor Sarah Gorenstein for a live Twitter chat on Wednesday, November 5.

These ten notoriously frightful cities, near and far, are beset with ghastly, ghostly close encounters.

Not just the province of the dead and those who mourn them, cemeteries can be celebrated for all they offer the living. Europe boasts some of the most interesting and elaborate cemeteries in the world. Here are five of the most striking, all of which happen to be located in capital cities.

Researcher and artist Mimi Onuoha was living in Brooklyn…right before she found out she had been selected as one of five Fulbright-Nat Geo digital storytelling fellows. She’s since hopped the pond to London to explore how technology and culture influence and affect each other, but she’ll never get Brooklyn out of her soul. As she says, “you can’t help but find endearing a city that will offer you everything but only kind of heart you back.” Here are some of Mimi’s favorite things about NYC’s most populous borough.

To many outsiders, the icons, costumes, and rituals associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities—held around All Saints and All Souls Days (November 1 and 2, respectively) in Oaxaca and other cities—seem macabre and ghoulish. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Louisiana, Three Ways: Creole Country

The river town of Natchitoches dates back to 1714, when French traders paddling up the Red River from the Mississippi put down roots here, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the entire 828,000-square-mile Louisiana Purchase. It immediately impresses me as a downsize version of New Orleans’ Royal Street, with its filigreed iron balconies, antiques stores, and art galleries.