5 Fantastic Facts About the Isle of Man

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View of Niarbyl and Calf Sound, Isle of Man. Photo Credit: idreamofdaylight

At the heart of the British Isles, surrounded by Ireland and the United Kingdom, lies the Isle of Man.  A dependency of the British Crown, the island is not part of the UK or the European Union, and has its own unique story.  Here are 5 things you should know about this quirky island:

1.  It has its own language, Manx. Closely related to Scots Gaelic and Irish, and known just as Gaelg by speakers, it’s an important part of the island’s cultural heritage. The last original native speaker, fisherman Ned Maddrell, died in 1974, but in recent years there’s been a language revival and use of Manx has become more evident, especially on signs and in print. Now, almost 2000 people (from a total population of around 80,000) speak the language to various extent.

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Tynwald Hill plays host to the outdoor assembly of the Manx parliament every June.

2. It is home to the oldest continuous parliament in the world. The Manx people celebrated the millennium of the Tynwald assembly in 1979, its origins from the time the island was under the rule of the Viking kings of Dublin. The Icelandic parliament, the Alþingi, founded in 930, is older, but was suspended for 45 years around 1800. The original ceremony is preserved with an outdoor meeting every year on the fields below Tynwald Hill.

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An armoured leg of the Manx triskellion from the crest on the Laxey Wheel.

 3. Whichever way you throw me, I will stand. The Three Legs of Mann (Tree Cassyn Vannin in Manx), a triskelion of three armoured legs joined together at the thigh, is the symbol of the Isle of Man, and appears everywhere. On flags and coats of arms, on banknotes and street signs, on car registration plates and on the front of the huge waterwheel at Laxey. 

A Snaefell Mountain Railway train approaching through the mist. Photo Credit: Jack_IOM
A Snaefell Mountain Railway train approaching through the mist. Photo Credit: Jack_IOM

4. From the summit of Snaefell, the highest mountain at 620m (2034ft), it’s said that you can see seven kingdoms. That’s not the seven kingdoms of Westeros, Game of Thrones fans, but England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Mann. The final two kingdoms are said to be those of heaven and the sea, home of Manannán mac Lir, the mythical first King of Mann.  That’s provided you have a clear day on this famously misty mountain.

5. The Isle of Man is a surprising centre of space travel research and development. Although the vehicle most associated with the island is a motorbike, a number of companies involved in building robots lunar rovers are based in on the island. And according to some sources, it’s 5th in the list of nations most likely to make the next moon landing.

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Do you believe they put a Mann on the moon? Photo Credit: nasa.gov

Quite Interesting: Hirvikolari

An inevitability of travelling is picking up odd words and phrases in the various different languages you encounter.  And certain words and phrases can give you an insight into the local culture, environment or mindset, particularly those which don’t have a direct translation into your native tongue. Take for example, hirvikolari, a Finnish word that was used in a BBC news article the other week. The incident described wasn’t particularly newsworthy in international terms, describing a traffic incident in downtown Helsinki, but the word hirvikolari clearly tickled the writer enough to make it into a story for the UK.

Must dash, I have a meeting in the Helsinki office at 11am. Image from bbc.co.uk

A hirvikolari is a specific type of Finnish traffic accident involving an elk (also known as a moose in North America). Shambling slowly out of thick forest in the dark and onto quiet roads, the creature’s long legs and bulky body make a collision particularly dangerous for drivers.   Accidents are known to occur frequently enough that Scandinavian car manufacturers Volvo and Saab constructed their vehicles to cope with a “moose-crash”.

2014 Travel Resolutions #1: Learn the Lingo

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you all have a healthy and happy year filled with fun and adventures.

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Resolutions. Image by Lori Ann on Flickr

So here we are in January. A month of possibility and new beginnings. The time to make resolutions that will make 2014 into the best possible year; to take the best of intentions and turn them into achievable goals. So while the desire to make the most of your opportunities is still strong in your mind, here’s the first in a short series of suggestions for resolutions that will improve your travel experiences no end.

 #1. Learn a language.

Make your travel experiences more intriguing with the ability to communicate with people in their native tongue. Not being able to ask important questions can be frustrating, and as a solo traveller, not speaking the lingo can make for a lonely time. Imagine talking to the passenger next to you on a long bus ride, discovering cultural, political and social differences, and similarities.  Becoming fluent in a language takes a great deal of time and effort, but it doesn’t have to be traumatic or take years.

Here are my 5 tips for success. Continue reading

You Shall Not Pass

I read recently in the Reykjavik Grapevine that a decision by the Icelandic Road Authority to erect some road signs in English might be breaking Icelandic law.  The authority replaced warnings with an English-language translation on a number of temporary signs advising of road closures in poor weather, after several incidents where foreign tourists became stranded, requiring costly rescue efforts.  In the land of ice and snow, weather-related road closures happen regularly, so it seems like a good investment to save money, and perhaps even lives, in the long term.

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Warning! Road blocked by snow. Obvious, or is it? Photograph from the Reykjavik Grapevine.

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