Spain still controls parts of continental Africa

While most African nations have gained independence since the end of the colonial age, there are still parts of the continent under foreign control.

Most of these are small islands or archipelagos that are dependent territories of the U.K., France, Spain, Portugal and even Italy, but there are still two cities on the continent itself that are considered European territory.

Ceuta and Melilla are two port cities on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast which have been claimed by Spain for more than 400 years along with a handful of islands that are collectively known as the plazas de soberanía or places of sovereignty.

Ceuta is home to 82,000 people and is about eighteen square kilometers in size. While most people speak Spanish, there is still a sizable Moroccan population and the North African country continues to claim that the city is in its territory.

Melilla is the smaller of the two cities in land area at about 12 square kilometers which is the home to about 80,000 people.

Today, both outposts have become magnets for migrants trying to make their way to the European Union which is why giant fences have been erected around the territories which otherwise rely mostly on fishing and tourism to survive.

The origins of the world’s airport codes don’t always make sense

The world’s airports are identified by three-letter codes known as IATA station identifiers. You’ve no doubt seen them on your baggage tags when you were flying somewhere.

Some of them are abbreviations of the cities they are located in like MEX for Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez in Mexico City while others are derived from the airport’s name like JFK for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.

Some, however, seem to make no sense, but they are often references to historical names like ORD for O’Hare in Chicago. It’s former name was Orchard Field. And in the case of Canada, it gets complicated with which one has a weather station and which one does not.

It’s all explained on this Wikipedia page.

The world’s shortest international bridge links Spain and Portugal

Plenty of countries are connected by bridges, but none of them are as short as the one that links Spain and Portugal.  The wooden bridge that crosses the stream between Spain’s La Codosera and Portugal’s Arronches stretches a mere 10.4 feet or 3.25 metres. Don’t expect to drive across. It’s for pedestrians only, although it’s okay to cross on your bicycle.

Big Ben’s real identity

Big Ben is the name many people mistakenly call the Clock Tower at the British Houses of Parliament in London. That is actually the name of the bell in the tower which has since been re-named Elizabeth Tower to honour the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee.

Why is the Left Bank on the south side?

Why is the area of Paris known as the Left Bank, or Rive Gauche in French, if it is on the south side of the Seine River? It’s because when you look downstream, it is on the left side .

The world’s longest zip line

According to Zip Line Rider the longest zip line in the world is The Eye of the Jaguar in Peru’s Sacred Valley, about 45 minutes north of Cusco. The line is an eye-popping 2,130 metres long.

The world’s longest border

The world’s longest border lies between Canada and the U.S. Its length is 8,891 kilometres, including 2,475 kilometres shared with Alaska.

Not the world’s longest street

Toronto’s Yonge Street was once thought to be the world’s longest street, but only if you consider Highway 11 as an extension of the road. Today, the Guinness Book of World Records has no such entry, but does have one for the world’s longest “motorable road” which it cites as the Pan-American Highway.

What’s your bailiwick?

The term bailiwick survives in Britain’s Channel Islands where you have the bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. It is an area of jurisdiction of a bailiff, and once also applied to places where a privately appointed bailiff exercised the sheriff’s functions under a royal writ.

Galapagos by any other name

In Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are officially named “Archipiélago de Colón” or the Archipelago of Columbus which explains why some of the individual islands have names like Isabela after Queen Isabela of Spain and San Cristóbal in honor of Columbus himself. The irony is that Columbus never even came close to the islands.