Posts Tagged ‘facts’


“His owner has buried the dog Parthenope, that he played with, in gratitude for this happiness (Mutual) love is rewarding, like the one for this dog: Having been a friend to my owner, I have deserved this grave:

Looking at this, find yourself a worthy friend who is both ready to love you while you are still alive and also will care for your body (when you die).”

I’m still working on it, Parthenope.



“Onesime [has erected this] in memory of his daughter Tryphaine and her own husband Epaphrodeitos: If someone [steals this], may he also be smashed completely with his family. Philippos has (also) erected this stele for his wife Tryphaine, who was his heart’s content.”

“I’m with stupid.”

Istanbul Archaeology Museums


With a gentic makeup rivaling that of the Saiyans, history has shown that when wounded Germans are provided time to heal, they only reappear stronger than ever.  Alternatively beaten by and beating back threats from within and without across the centuries, Germany is today firmly on the crest of its sinusoidal historical wave.  The German economy is by far the most robust in Europe, and at 5th overall in the world, Germans have ample reason to be proud: Their country is the largest exporter of goods in the world, German is the most common first language in Europe, and just to really shove everyone’s faces in it, they even recycle more than almost anyone else.  The rapid ascent of Germany is all the more remarkable since the unified nation of Germany has only existed since 1990, following the successful political fusion dance of Cold War East and West.

With the rise of modern Germany in the late 19th century and its rapid military victories over France, a hopelessly antagonistic philosopher riding a historical crest and later an imprisoned young art student most decidedly in the trough both looked around at all of the history they were seeing and decided to sit down, count to ten, and write about how it made them feel.  Rather than discarding these scraps of internal monologue faster than you can say “anger management,” they chose instead to publish their work and change the entire world.  Each in their own way came to believe in the notion of a super race, which, since we’re talking myths here, might as well be absurdly powerful with blonde hair and blue eyes.


A typical German family portrait.


One of the pitfalls of this gated community of Übermensch was the inherent exclusivity of it; as is the case with treehouse clubs, the CIA, and the Troll Book Club, not everyone could be a member.  The result was the most destructive war humanity has ever waged on itself, part and parcel a pattern of streamlined, mechanized genocide.  In the post-War era, Germans have taken great strides toward promoting peace, refusing to mire themselves in a past that most everyone would rather forget.  The Nuremburg Trials held Nazi officers accountable for war crimes; the Nazi flag and party remain illegal.  When terrorists stormed the Israeli athletes’ rooms during the 1972 Munich Olympics, high-ranking German ministers reportedly offered their own lives to exchange places with the Israeli athletes.  Even the previously unthinkable has happened: a friendship and friendly rivalry has blossomed with France, now Germany’s largest trading partner.  Germany has moved on strongly.  Today, the average German citizen has a power level well over 9000.


A German (left) and a Frenchman (right) battle to a stalemate. They would later become unlikely friends.


Local Name: Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany)

Language: German

Capital: Berlin (Bonn was the capital of West Germany)

Population: 81,305,856 (all of whom can recite the lyrics to any David Hasselhoff song from memory)

Area: 357,022 km2

Government: Federal republic; elected Chancellor rules and secretly engineers the Clone Wars

Currency: Euro; symbol EUR; €1 = US$1.31 (March 2012)

Economy: World’s 5th largest; Europe’s largest; vehicles; chemicals; international trade; machinery; highly skilled workforce

Notable International Enemies: Ghosts of their past.


Featuring the national colors of Germany, the current flag was adopted in 1919 during the Weimar Republic.


Famous For: Guzzling beer (2nd largest consumers after the Irish); several famous philosphers and composers; the Autobahn; the Holy Roman Empire; its on-again-off-again brush with European dominance throughout history

Not Famous For: Being the first country to adopt Daylight Savings Time (during WWI); producing some 35% of the world’s wind energy; publishing the first Bible and later jumpstarting the Reformation; being the world’s largest exporter of goods

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Brandenburg Gate; Munich; the Black Forest; Cologne Dome

What US$20 Can Get You: Several plates of currywurst, a sausage/curry hybrid dish; two nights in a hostel

Quick History Recap: Thwarting Roman efforts of annexation in 9 AD, the region east of the Rhine remained a collection of loosely affiliated districts until 1871, when the modern nation-state of Germany was established under Prussian Otto von Bismarck.  Germany’s economy soared, quickly matching that of the industrialized Western European nations, allowing for rampant expansion.  Decades later, the expense of forced war reparations, the unstable Weimar government, and the Great Depression created a fertile political atmosphere for the national socialist party and its young leader, an unsuccessful painter named Adolf Hitler.  The Second World War crippled Germany once again, literally dividing the country for half a century by the Allies and USSR.  Performing a successful fusion dance in 1990, Germany has since become one of the largest economies in the entire world, with a collective power level of just over 3.28 trillion.


The most common first language within the European Union, German is spoken by nearly 100,000,000 people.  Not limited to Germany alone, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and tiny Liechtenstein all feature large contingents of German speakers and varying degrees of official state recognition.  With a hefty alphabet just foreign enough to throw umlauts over three–count ’em–THREE vowels, one can only imagine that they must have simply run out of elbow strength by the time their pen reached the letter ß, thereby saving it to be mispronounced in an entirely different manner.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in Germany, the eighth country on my trip around the world.

1. Hello.     “Hallo.”     [HAH-loh]

Dutch, German, English–all the same, save for a few scrambled letters.

2. Yes/No.     “Ja/Nein.”     [yah/nine]

Very similar to Dutch, nein?

3. Do you speak English?     “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”     [SRAHK-en zee ANG-lish?]

It works more often than you’d expect.

4. Where is…?     “Wo ist…?”     [voh ist…?]

Now wait a minute–this is just a poor man’s Dutch!

5. How much?     “Wie viel kostet das?”     [vee feel KOS-tet das?]

Uncanny, once again.

6. That tastes good!     “Das schmeckt gut!”     [dahs schmekt goot!]

German food is meaty; vegetarians need not learn this phrase.

7. Thank you.     “Danke.”     [DAHN-kuh]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

Notable customs:

  • Germans often tip by rounding up the bill, but rarely bill by rounding off the tip.
  • Don’t drink until a toast has been said, and stay away from Heineken, because PABST BLUE RIBBON!

 “Heineken?  Fuck that shit!  PABST BLUE RIBBON.”

Honorable mentions:

Bless you!     “Gesundheit!”     [geh-soond-hait!]

“A cataclysmic downfall or momentous, apocalpytic event!”   “Götterdämmerung!”   [goy-te-deh-me-rung!]

Happy Hanakah!      “Glücklicher Hanukkah!”      [GLOOK-leesh-er hah-na-kah!]

From little Dutch boys plugging their fingers into dikes to lonely Dutchmen putting their fingers into dykes, the Dutch have always been asking for great deluges.  Literally wrested from the ocean itself, 25% of the Netherlands is under sea level, and a full 50% lies less than one meter above that.  In fact, Nederland means “Low Country,” a direct translation of an often deadly geographic quirk that is also serves as the basis for the country’s name in virtually every major Western European language.  A nation known by more names than Sean Combs, the Netherlands/Holland/the Low Countries know that a tulip by any other name will smell just as sweet.

Tulips became popular luxury items in the Netherlands in the early 17th century, a period in which the nation was blossoming into a Golden Age of commerce.  The tulip was considered unique in Europe when it was first imported from Turkey, its distinctive flower a robust saturation of color which in comparison made every other native species look like it had been plucked in Pleasantville.  It was planted in the gardens of the aristocracy, as the flower happened to be well-adapted to the climate of the Low Countries.  In the winter of 1636-37, in active defiance of all logic, the price of tulips skyrocketed.  Typical of this bull market were contracts with exchanges such as 40 tulip bulbs for 100,000 florins; a skilled laborer might earn 150 florins in an entire year.  Buyers purchased futures contracts, intending to re-sell the flowers at profit later, a massive Ponzi scheme that hung precariously upon the notion that a greater fool would ultimately pay the ever-increasing price.  It is worth noting that no actual flowers exchanged hands; these unenforceable contracts were to be fulfilled when the tulips bloomed in the coming spring.  The speculative bubble–the world’s first in a nation that has also provided the world with several other outlets to temporary insanity–eventually became unsustainable, collapsing upon itself by February 1637.


“Wagon of Fools” (1637).  The goddess Flora leads entranced Dutch weavers–who had abandoned their looms and invested heavily in the bulbs–to an impoverished burial at sea.  Note: everyone in this painting is also high.


Today, with one of the most liberal slate of laws in the entire world, major cities like Amsterdam attract millions of foreign tourists annually, their conservative shackles jangling in the streets long into the night.  While hard drugs are outlawed, softer drugs like wet mushrooms and marijuana are only technically illegal, the legislative loophole of a half-assed Dutch attempt to skirt around international treaties.  To wit: prostitution has been tolerated since the 1200s.  Gay marriage has been legal since 2001.  Euthanasia was legalized in the following year.  Currently, the most divisive and hotly debated social issue in the Dutch Parliament is legistlation that would grant the right to euthanize one’s gay prostitute spouse.  It is expected to pass by general consensus, the norm in Dutch politics.


You could probably goad a Dutchman into taking out a second mortage on his windmill to buy a few of these flowers.


Amsterdam’s red light district, the world’s crossroads of prostitution and soft drugs, has suffered from a rash of criminal activity that absolutely no one could have been able to predict, ever.  Patrons communicate with the hookers through their windows, the idea being to make the whole ordeal as awkward as a drive-thru fast food experience.


Local Name: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Language: Dutch, Frisian; English spoken by most

Capital: Amsterdam; the actual seat of government is at the Hague

Population: 16,731,712 (1180 are windmills, and the rest are thought to be hallucinations)

Area: 41,543 km2

Government: Constitutional monarchy; Queen Beatrix reigns and appoints a Prime Minister following elections 

Currency: Euro; symbol EUR; €1 = US$1.31 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: World’s 16th largest; transportation hub; international finance; international trade (port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest); world’s 3rd biggest agricultural exporter

Notable International Enemies: Don Quixote; France briefly ruled the Netherlands during the Napoleonic wars; founding member of NATO and the EU


The upper red band was originally orange, favorite color of William of Orange (of the House of Orange; hair color decidedly gray).  The orange dye peeled rapidly and was difficult to resolve in hazy seafaring conditions.  The current flag was officially adopted by royal decree in 1937.


Famous For: Windmills; red light district; liberal drug policy; a bike ownership rate double that of automobiles; Dutch chocolate; canals; flat landscape; natives Rembrandt and Van Gogh

Not Famous For: Growing the tallest people in the world; the Dutch company Philips, which invented the audio tape, the video tape, the compact disc, and the CD-ROM; having the world’s happiest citizens; engineering the world’s first orange carrots and gin, which was sold as the medicine Jenever in the 16th century;  KLM airlines, the world’s longest-operating commercial airline since 1919; hosting the world’s first full-time stock exchange; discovering Australia and New Zealand; shrewdly trading the nutmeg of Suriname for the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, today known as New York City

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Amsterdam; red light district; a coffee shop; Haarlem; Anne Frank’s secret annex

What US$20 Can Get You: High. Then, about five minutes in the red light district.

Quick History Recap: A major colonial power in the early modern era, the Netherlands colonized much of the world hand-in-hand with rival Western European nations.  Trading approximately US$1000 for the island of Manhattan in 1626, the Dutch patted themselves on the back and thought themselves shrewd businessmen, but not even a decade later, these were the guys taking out loans to buy tulips.  New Amsterdam had been established partly to protect Dutch interests in the beaver trade.  This industry was not just limited to pelts, as another hot commodity was beaver castoreum, a secretion of anal glands that is used by North American beavers to mark territory and by clever Dutch businessmen as a medicine.  After on-and-off wars with England, the Dutch ceded New Amsterdam to the English in return for legal recognition of other Dutch territories that were rich in nutmeg; smart money says it’s because nutmeg can also lead to a hallucinogenic high.  Following a century or two of relative neutrality, the Netherlands has evolved into a highly developed economy and became founding members of both NATO and the EU in the 20th century, a record that’s not too bad for a people who once chugged beaver urine to cure headaches.


Dutch is most similar language to English spoken in the world today.  And it’s not all that difficult to pick up, since listening to a conversation in Dutch is like watching a news program anchored by a babbling baby: you feel like you should be able to understand what it’s saying, and it’s definitely enthusiastic about whatever it’s telling you about, but the words are just not quite there.  Not often described as the “Jan Brady” between German Marcia and English Cindy, the list of English words originating from Dutch is exceptionally long.  Words like “cruise.”  “Waffle.”  “Filibuster.”  “Santa Claus.”  All you really need to do to speak passing Dutch is to first fill your mouth with marbles and then just proceed in either English or German, whichever you know the least.  On a more practical level, since most people in the Netherlands do speak English (by stuffing marbles in their mouths and speaking German), there is very little reason at all to learn Dutch during a brief visit.  But fuck that.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in the Netherlands, the seventh country on my trip around the world.


1. Hello/ Hi.     “Hallo/Hoi.”     [HAH-loh/hoy]

Look at that, they’re like cousins!

2. Yes/No.     “Ja/Nee.”     [yah/nay]

The Dutch “ja” sometimes resembles the English “yeah,” if ever so slightly.

3. Do you speak English?     “Spreekt u Engels?”     [spraked oo ANG-uhls?]

The answer is very likely to be “ja.”

4. Where is…?     “Waar is…?”     [waar is…?]

How cute, it’s trying to be just like English!

5. How much?     “Hoeveel kost dit?”     [HOO-vale cost dit?]

Example: “Hoeveel kost marihuana?”

6. Delcious!     “Heerlijk!”     [HARE-lake]

Note: Not used after sex with a red light prostitute.

7. Thank you.     “Dank u wel.”     [dahnk-oo-vel]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.


Notable customs:

  • Double Dutch is a popular children’s jumprope game.  Wasn’t that game fun as shit?  That was a fun game.
  • The phrase “going Dutch” refers to splitting a restaurant bill evenly among all diners in a party.  While a common practice in several Northern European countries, in the Middle East, paying for your own meal can sometimes be considered as an offensive rejection of your host’s hospitality.


The Flying Dutchman was a mythical seafaring vessel that was said to appear to doomed sailors.  It also appeared in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” captained by Bill Nighy.


Honorable mentions:

How much does one tulip cost?     “Hoeveel kost een tulp?”     [HOO-vale cost uhn tulp?]

I want to talk to a lawyer.     “Ik wil een advocaat spreken.”     [ick wil uhn AHD-voh-kaat SPRAY-kun]

Sorry.     “Sorry.”     [SOH-ree]


The international lightning rod of negative stereotypes, the French would smugly like to remind the world that they are not exclusively homosexual cowards.  France’s history of kicking and/or getting ass may well begin 30,000 years ago, when the newly nationalized Frenchmen, Homo sapiens, either engaged in a genocidal rampage or simply outsexed the resident Neanderthal population, eventually leading to the complete eradication of Homo neanderthalensis.  Whether it was bloodlust or regularlust is a moot point; both possibilities remain distinctly French.  Advancing to 15,000 years B.C.E., a shamanistic tribe in Lascaux (southwestern France) spearheaded the French artistic tradition with a series of cave paintings chronicling all the megafauna they were killing.  These warrior-shamans appear to have crawled into the darkest, most inacessible corners of the caves, where their minds likely dipped into the reverie of a sensory-deprived trance state.



How a battle between megafauna and a Frenchman in trance might have looked.


Within a few thousand years, all of the Meganimals were extinct.  Like the Neanderthals who fell before them, these beasts could have been either hunted or inbred into an increasingly sexually deviant French gene pool.  No one knows for sure, but the hypothesis that modern France descended from an erotic ménage à trois between Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and giant cave bears is oddly compelling.  And speaking of modern France, in 1915, Rudyard Kipling wrote that “their business is war, and they do their business.”  Today they boast the third-largest military budget in the entire world, and that’s not even including the 300 nuclear missiles reserved for after they get around to cloning some wooly mammoths.  Since 367 B.C.E., France has dabbled in 169 major wars and battles.  They outright won 110, were left to wallow in existential self-pity 49 times, and fought to a bitter stalemate on 10 occasions.  On the other hand, throughout his entire boxing career, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali only managed a win-by-KO percentage of 60.66%.  France was so testosterone-fueled that it overran England in 1066, and the English came so close to the fate of the cave bears that everybody there spoke French for 300 years.  Just because everyone eventually forgot about that, one of their diminutive generals later decided to conquer Europe, and for good measure, they established colonies on all seven continents.  Overcompensating much?  In summary, France is like that insecure jock at the frat party who, when called gay, responds “fuck you, bro!” and is later seen dragging his girlfriend out by the arm, demanding to have sex immediately. 


This is not French culture.

This is not a pipe.


Local Name: Republique francaise (French Republic)

Language: French

Capital: Paris

Population: 62,814,223 (when viewed up close, they’re actually made out of small dots)

Area: 551,500 km2

Government: Constitutional republic; President elected for a 5-year-term; President appoints a Prime Minister

Currency: Euro; symbol EUR; €1 = US$1.31 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: World’s 5th largest; post-industrial; services; nuclear power; tourism; aircraft; wine; finances

Notable International Enemies: THEY TAKE NO QUARTER


The Tricouleur flag.  Blue and Red were long colors of Paris, with White added after the Napoleonic Revolution.


Famous For: The Eiffel Tower; the Tour de France; Notre Dame; food; wine; berets; croissants; the Lourve; mimes

Not Famous For: Owning the planet repeatedly; being the most popular tourist destination in the world; having more sex than any other nationality per year; nicotine is named after native Jean Nicot, who introduced tobacco to France in 1559

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Paris; the Eiffel Tower; Versailles; Notre Dame; the Lourve; the Catacombs

What US$20 Can Get You: A fantastic meal served with wine or, alternatively, ~five royales with cheese

Quick History Recap: The Louis dynasty.  Descartes.  Voltaire.  The Seven Years War.  The French Revolution.  Napoleon.  Impressionism.  Existentialism.  The World Wars.  These should all sound familiar, because your exposure to French history is probably second only to that of your own country.  That’s the extent of France’s overwhelming influence in global affairs, fueled by their hybrid Neanderthal/cave bear genome.