Trivia for travellers

Read on to find out which country inspired the phrase ‘banana republic’, where people consume vodka with gusto to cure all their ills, and what world-class museum relies on a pounce of resident cats to keep its masterpiece-clogged galleries mouse-free…

A

  • Antarctica: Antarctica’s ice sheets contain 90% of the world’s ice – 28 million cu km – holding about 70% of the world’s fresh water.
  • Azerbaijan: ‘Layla’, Eric Clapton’s classic rock song was inspired by the Azeri epic poem Layla and Majnun.

B

  • Bangladesh: The national game of Bangladesh is kabaddi, a group version of tag where players must evade the opposing team while holding a single breath of air.
  • Belarus: Many Belarusian folk-remedies involve vodka: gargle with it to cure a sore throat, wash your hair with it to alleviate dandruff and pour it in your ear to treat an earache.

C

  • Canada: Every year the British Columbian town of Nanaimo holds a bathtub race, where competitors speed across the harbour in boats formed from bathtubs.

Radio telescopes in the Atacama Desert © Ruben Sanchez / Getty Images

  • Chile: The Atacama Desert has the planet’s best star-gazing potential: the Alma Observatory here is the world’s largest astronomic project.

D

  • Denmark: Denmark really does have an extraordinary inventive streak: many innovative creations including the loudspeaker, magnetic storage and Lego have Danish roots.

E

  • Ecuador & The Galápagos Islands: Tiny Ecuador is home to some 300 mammal species and over 1600 bird species – more than Europe and North America combined.
  • Ethiopia: When the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front tanks rolled into Addis Ababa in 1991, they were navigating with the map in Lonely Planet’s Africa on a Shoestring.

F

  • Finland: Finns are renowned for being quiet – there’s an old joke that they invented text messaging so they wouldn’t have to speak to each other.