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Did you know? Weird, wacky, crazy travel facts!

I have a regular travel segment on a nationwide radio station every Sunday morning, here in New Zealand. I’ve been doing it since about 2010, every week, and some Sunday’s I scratch around for content ideas.

So last weekend, I decided to put together this list of crazy travel facts that I have been keeping in notes on my phone as I hear about them. But then what happened was I spent hours diving headfirst down rabbit holes of wackiness to put this post together!

So here we go. Prepare to be amused and maybe even amazed!

Did you know you’re not allowed to take photos of the Eiffel Tower with the lights on at night? Paul Eiffel’s own copyright ran out 70 years after his death, which meant from 1993 photographing the famous landmark was in the public domain. But the light show was designed by Pierre Bideau in 1985, and he owns the copyright until 70 years after his death. He’s still alive.

And here’s another fun fact: since September 2022 Paris is on a power-saving mission, so the nightly golden light show from the Eiffel Tower finishes at midnight.

Eiffel Tower from Georges Pompidou restaurant
We had dinner at Georges Pompidou with this view! (Illeg

Did you know there’s a massive coal fire burning underground in Pennsylvania and has been smouldering since 1962? It started as a controlled burn of a landfill site in Centralia, PA, because the rubbish was piling up. The fire department lined it with fire retardent material, but what they didn’t know was there was a large hole, covered by trash, that led to a coal mine. And that coal mine’s labyrinth of tunnels links six coal mines, providing unlimited fuel for the fire to burn underground for decades. In the 1980s they burned the town down because it was so toxic to live there. Talk about carbon emissions!

Did you know the real reason you’re not allowed to photograph the Sistene Chapel ceiling is because a Japanese company owns the copyright to it? Actually, this was another rabbit hole that required further investigation. It turns out that the Vatican, who could not afford the ceiling clean and restoration in

Sistene Chapel ceiling
Grab a cheeky selfie of the Sistene Chapel ceiling while no one’s looking

Did you know that cabin pressure in a plane reduces your taste buds sensitivity to sweet and salty by 30%? That’s why meals are always on the spicy side.

Did you know planting Cypress trees are now banned in Italy? How sad is that?! They are not endemic to Italy, but are from Greece. So all those images of Tuscany with cypress trees piercing the skyline will soon be no more.

Cypress trees in Tuscany
Tuscany won’t be the same without rows of Cypress

Did you know that if you buy a fake handbag from the pavement guys in Italy you, the buyer, can be fined hundreds of Euros if the police catch you? Mind you, with genuine leather bags available all over Italy, who needs a fake Prada?

Did you know there is only one time zone in China, but the country geographically spans five time zones? In 1949, after the Chinese Civil War, the Central People’s Government abolished the time zones in favor of Beijing time.

I guess if you live in the west of China you just get used to 3pm being dark and 1am being light, and you get on with your day in daylight hours. But if you do business with Beijing, Shanghai, Xian or other eastern cities, that would be weird.

Great Wall of China from Beijing
Visiting the Great Wall of China from Beijing

Trying weird and wacky food goes hand in hand with travel! Here is my sister trying barbecued squid in Xian, China. Delicious! I wrote this post on things to know before you go to China – including how to use the loo!

Eating barbecued squid in China
Mmmm barbecued squid!

Did you know that Ethiopa is eight years behind the rest of the world? It its own calendar, eight years behind our Gregorian calendar. As I write this (March 27, 2024), it’s March 27 2016 in Ethopia. Check your airline tickets!

Did you know that about €1.4- €1.5 million worth of coins are thrown into the Trevi Fountain each year. It is collected twice a week and donated to charity.

Did you know that every St Patrick’s Day the Chicago River is dyed green? And I’m talking BRIGHT green! And another fun fact: the river flows in reverse to its original state. In 1900 it was quite the conduit for sewage and that wasn’t great. So they built a canal and forced the river to flow the other way (into the Mississippi) so the poopskis wouldn’t flow into Lake Michigan, which was their drinking water. It cost millions, took years and against all odds is known as one of the most herculean engineering achievements in history.

The Chicago River being dyed on St Paddy's Day!
The Chicago River being dyed on St Paddy’s Day!

A few more wacky posts:

You might like to read about all the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon fails over the years.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!