Capital Chronicles: 35 Surprising Facts About World Capitals

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Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is built on 14 islands, and its city center is “virtually situated on the water.”

2. On June 29, 1995, a department store named Sampoong Department Store in Seoul, Korea collapsed, killing 500 people. During construction, the owner insisted on adding an unauthorized 6th floor with a swimming pool. When his engineers protested, they were fired.

3. There is a shrine in Bangkok to a naughty old beggar. After one-man prayed at the shrine and won the lottery, he rewarded the beggar with a troupe of sexy dancers. Now people regularly bring dancers to the shrine to seek good fortune.

4. There is an hourglass in Budapest that takes a full year to run out. It takes four people almost an hour to turn it.

5. During 1916 Rising in Dublin, the British and Irish Troops fighting at St. Stephen's Green held daily ceasefires to allow the park-keeper to feed the ducks that lived there.

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6Tehran Conference

Tehran Conference

At the Tehran Conference, Joseph Stalin proposed shooting 50,000-100,000 captured German officers. Churchill stormed out in disgust, and Stalin followed him into the hall and said he was just joking. FDR joked, "maybe 49,000 would be enough."

7. By 1991, the air in Mexico City had become so contaminated with fecal dust from humans that it was possible to contract hepatitis by simply breathing outdoors.

8. In an attempt to reduce the cleaning cost, Amsterdam Schiphol airport installed a picture of a fly in the urinals so men could aim at it and avoid splashing the urine outside. It worked.

9. The oldest discovered wheel was found in Slovenia's Ljubljana Marshes in 2002 and it's approximately 5,150 years old.

10. In Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, humanoid robots are used to direct traffic. The giant robots are solar-powered, have chests that rotate, and are equipped with cameras that send real-time information back to the police station.

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11Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds

The "Tower of the Winds" (in Athens) is considered to be the first-ever meteorological station. It features eight sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane.

12. More than 85% of Warsaw's historic center was reduced to ruins in the second world war. The city was then reconstructed from the 18th-century cityscapes of the Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto.

13. The Pyongyang Central Zoo has a parrot that can squawk "Long live the Great Leader, Comrade Kim Il-sung" in English.

14. The Taipei 101 skyscraper uses a 728-ton steel tuned mass damper (basically a giant pendulum) to counter motion of the building since it is so close to a fault line.

15. Jakarta is sinking 25 cm (10 inches) per year, in part due to excessive use of groundwater and lack of piped water. It is expected that the city will be completely submerged in the next 30 years.

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16Blackboard blog

Blackboard blog

In Monrovia, Liberia, a man with a 'blackboard blog' brings up-to-date information to people. For over 10 years, he has used a public bulletin board and painstakingly written out the day’s news for all to see, all at no charge. He has an audience of over 10,000 readers.

17. There is a small district of Vilnius, Lithuania that has declared itself an independent republic. It has its own flag, currency, president, cabinet, and an army of 11 men.

18. In Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, public transportation is free for its residents.

19. In Prague, there is a street named Vinarna Certovka which so narrow it has traffic lights for pedestrians. Once a German tourist got stuck and had to be soaped up in order to slide out.

20. During the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, 85% of the city’s buildings and churches were destroyed. Its red-light district suffered only minor damage.

21Chop Chop Square

Chop Chop Square

The area in Riyadh Saudi Arabia where people are publicly beheaded is known locally as "Chop Chop Square."

22. Luanda, Angola has the highest cost of living out of any city in the world. A half-liter tub of ice cream costs $31 for an expatriate.

23. July 9 Avenue in Buenos Aires is the world's widest street. One full city block in width, it has 14 lanes plus two parallel streets of two lanes each. All intersections have traffic lights and pedestrians need two or three green lights to cross the avenue.

24. Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan is considered the only capital in the world without traffic lights. Some years ago, they did install traffic lights but the people hated them so much that the government had to remove them and put a traffic policeman instead.

25. The Jordan city of Amman was known as Philadelphia back in the 2nd century C.E. when it was occupied by Romans.

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