Today's mail brings a colorful European brochure from Collette Tours. It includes some interesting trivia you might want to try out on your friends and traveling companions. The incidental intelligence is always led by the phrase, "Did You Know?"
For example, Did You Know?: "The national anthem of San Marino has only four lines."
A clever musician's brilliant idea. At public functions in the republic the stately anthem is finished quickly. Participants don't have to stand very long.
The brochure also points out that "Italy is the world's largest wine producer."
A friend of mine, recently returned from Tuscany, is grateful for that. She reports that a wine labeled Brunello was one of the better bottles in Italy, in her opinion.
"Produced by Montepulciano," she said. "About 23 U.S. dollars in Italy." She ran across it on a San Francisco restaurant's wine list and found it was twice the price in the U.S.
"Doesn't matter," she said. "It's a wine that should be saved for a special event."
It has often been bandied about, yet the brochure pages on Rome and Sicily ask, "Did you know?: Caligula, the demented Roman emperor from AD 37-41, appointed his favorite horse as consul and co-regent of Rome."
If that's not news to you, this may be: "The first pasta factory in Italy opened on the Italian Riviera in 1824."
Obviously, the idea caught on. And, "the mozzarella originally used in Italy for pizza was made from the milk of water buffalo."
Added to the Collette tour of France comes this information: "During the 1930s and '40s, posters showing Marlene Dietrich's legs were banned from the Paris subways because they were considered too distracting to riders."
You will also be pleased to learn that "Kilts are not native to Scotland. They originated in France."
And Did You Know?: "The word denim comes from 'de Nimes,' that town in France."
Ornamenting a page about a tour of England, Scotland and Wales, the brochure states that, "In June 1963, British tennis, player Michael Sangster served a ball that was clocked at 154 miles per hour, the fastest serve ever recorded."
Anglophiles may already know it, yet "Elizabeth the First of England suffered from anthophobia, a fear of roses."
The brochure pages on Ireland and Scotland warn that "Sheep theft is still a capital offense in Scotland!" and also inform us that "Ireland's national symbol, the three-leaved shamrock, was used by St. Patrick to explain the idea of the Holy Trinity."
Under Collette tours of Scandinavia there is an interesting piece of trivia: "A replica of Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen's famous amusement park, recently opened in Japan."
On a tour that visits St. Petersburg, the brochure points out that "at the Hermitage Museum, one would have to walk 15 miles to see all of the 322 galleries of art." When I was there, someone told me that if you spent 30 seconds looking at each piece of art, you'd be finished in 12 years.
As Collette sings the praises of their tour of Spain and Portugal, we learn that in Spain there are six million telephones, which about equals the number of phones in New York City.
Did You Know?: "In Spain, the suits of playing cards are swords, batons, cups and coins."
And "the wine cellars at Barcelona's Cordorniu Vineyards house more than 120 million bottles of wine." The city's restaurants are not anticipating a shortage soon.
"Portuguese wine bottled in 1811 is called 'Comet Wine.' Its excellent quality is believed to be due to the Great Comet that flash year."
In the outline of a tour of Central Europe, the Collette brochure tells us that "PEZ candy originated 70 years ago in Vienna, Austria, as a compressed peppermint candy. The name PEZ was derived from the German word for peppermint... PfeffErminZ."
Did You Know?: "Mozart once composed a piano piece that required a player to use two hands and a nose in order to hit the correct notes."
There are other trivia notes, yet my favorite is from a tour to the Alpine countries: "In 1471, a chicken in Basel, Switzerland, was accused of being 'a devil in disguise' after laying a brightly colored egg. The chicken stood trial, was found guilty and burned at the stake."
The judge was kind of a 15th century Colonel Sanders.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Martin Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group