Easy to Learn Languages – WIF Grammar

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Incredibly Easy

Languages to Learn

Everyone but the biggest knuckle-dragging Neanderthal agrees that learning another language is a good thing. Aside from unlocking a whole new way of thinking, it also allows you to appear worldly, sophisticated and (probably) great in the sack. But with only a small percentage of Americans and an even-smaller percentage of British speaking a second language, it seems most of us can never dream of achieving this common goal.

Or so you’d think. Despite what your Spanish-fluent coworker may want you to believe, not every language is difficult to master. For every tongue like Czech, Japanese or Mandarin that’ll leave your head spinning, there are a dozen that you can comfortably pick up over the course of a single, intensive summer. Not too long ago we told you about the hardest languages to master. Well, there’s a flip-side to that coin. Want to start unlocking the secrets of those exotic foreigners? Here are ten languages so easy even amiable doofuses like us could pick them up.

10. Spanish

Spanish is a major, major world language. If world languages were a high school, then Spanish would be the laid-back popular kid all the other kids want to hang with (English would be the frat dude who insists on chanting USA! USA! while everyone’s trying to talk). Most of Central and South America speaks Spanish, as does Equatorial Guinea in Africa and, err, Spain. Simply put, you learn Spanish and you’re unlocking a heck of a lot of the world for yourself.

So why is Spanish so easy for us English-speakers? Well, both Spanish and English incorporate a whole lot of Latin into their vocabulary. The structure is fairly simple, too. While there are some differences (you’d say “the car red” instead of “the red car”, for example), they’re pretty easy to wrap your head around. Then there’s the ease with which you can practice. Just about everybody living in the USA has access to Spanish-language cable TV, so soaking up that sweet vocabulary is super-easy.

9. Portuguese

Compared to other colonial powers, Portugal didn’t leave a particularly important legacy (sorry, Macau and Angola). But it’s greatest impact just happened to be in one of the largest countries in the Americas. Brazil is massive, a regional economic titan that sprawls across nearly 50 percent of South America. It has over 200 million residents, one of the greatest soccer teams on Earth, and more jaw-dropping natural beauty than even yo momma.

All this is supremely easy to access. Portuguese is closely-related to Spanish, with all the advantages that entails. In our high school analogy, Portuguese is basically Spanish’s shy but friendly cousin everyone secretly has the hots for. The flip-side of this is that if you already know Spanish then Portuguese is harder to initially get to grips with. This is because the two languages are stuffed with ‘false friends’, words that sound identical but carry very different meanings. So you might construct a perfect restaurant order in Spanish, only to find you’ve accidentally asked to spend a filthy evening with your waiter’s wife (or whatever).

8. French

We’re gonna let you in on a secret. If a language falls into the ‘romance’ category, then it’s gonna be easy for you to master. And ‘romance’ is a category French doesn’t just belong to; it’s a way of summing up France’s entire cultural ethos.

French is the prettiest, most-sophisticated girl at school. The good-looking dude who knows he’s the coolest in class. It’s a language that once was perhaps the most-important on Earth. Although those days are gone, it’s still Kind of a Big Deal. Want to travel to Morocco, Algeria, the Congo, Belgium, Switzerland or Haiti? Learn French. Want to impress the pants off your next boyfriend/girlfriend? Learn French. We’re not sure how much clearer we can make this. French is freakin’ cool.

Once again, French incorporates a lot of Latin words. It also has a strong history with English. In 1066, William the Conqueror stomped on England and made medieval French the lingua franca of the ruling classes. That influence can still be felt today, in words like encore, serviette and coup d’etat. In total, English incorporated over 10,000 words from French.

7. Italian

Italy never quite acquired the global clout its cousins did. Today, learning Italian pretty much restricts your travels to Italy. Lucky for you, Italy just happens to be one of the most-cultured, historically-important, and beautiful countries on Earth.

Italy is the reason you can learn Spanish, Portuguese and French with such ease. It was the Romans who spread out and brought Latin to these countries, stamping their mark on everywhere from modern-day Britain, to Libya, to Syria, to Germany. Spanish is essentially just a bastardized descendant of ‘Vulgar Latin’, the language used by the grunts and soldiers of the Empire. This means there’s a whole lot in common between the two modern tongues, one especially pronounced if you happened to learn Argentinian Spanish, which has a rhythm more suited to the backstreets of Naples than the sidewalks of Madrid.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to learning Italian is just how much awesome culture you get to unlock. From Dante’s Divine Comedy, to the films of Federico Fellini, Italian is the language of some of the world’s most kickass masterpieces.

6. Swedish

Let’s step away from the sunny climes of southern Europe. Sweden is a completely different kettle of (fermented) fish. A cold, snow-bound country in the darkest reaches of Northern Europe, it’s about as removed from our previous languages as rotten herring is from pasta. Yet, crucially, it isn’t all that removed from English. See, English doesn’t just have Latin roots; it also has Germanic. And Swedish is aprime example of a Germanic language.

For learners, this translates to a language that’s comparatively simple. Aside from shared words (like midnatt for midnight), the two languages have a similar grammar, meaning mastering Swedish is essentially an exercise in remembering lots of vocabulary. As a special extra treat, the verbs don’t change much. So while English speakers would say “Ispeak English, he speaks English,” a Swede would just say “I speak Swedish, he speak Swedish.”

So what are the advantages of learning Swedish? Not many, if you hope to travel the globe; Swedish is spoken by only 10m or so people, nearly all of them in Sweden. If you want to live in one of Europe’s most pristine countries, though, it’s a no-brainer.

5. Norwegian

Norwegian is the closest we have in the modern day to being able to speak Viking. That alone should be reason enough to study it. But if you’re not swayed by manly beards, manly helmets with manly horns, or man-punching your way across the seven seas, then there’s at least one other good man-justification. Norwegian is easy for English-speakers to learn.

Another Germanic language, Norwegian shares all the positives of Swedish, while beingeven simpler. The grammar is close to English, while verbs are easy to master (there’s little change depending on the context). Again, there are a lot of closely-related words. Again, the rhythm and emphasis are not too dissimilar. In a broad study conducted at the turn of the 21st century, the Federal government declared Norwegian one of the easiest languages for Americans to learn.

There is a downside to all this. Not only is Norway’s population under 6 million, about 95% of them speak perfect English. The language is taught at all school levels. Meeting a Norwegian who doesn’t speak English is almost as rare as meeting an American who is fluent in Norwegian.

4. Esperanto

Esperanto is the most widely-spoken made-up language in the world. Yup, even Klingon and Elvish have fewer devotees (perhaps related to Klingon and Elvish being stupidlyhard). Invented in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof, it was designed from inception to be crazy easyto pick up. One of Zamenhof’s stated goals was to make a language so simple that learning it would be “mere play.”

To that end, he incorporated different bits from lots of European languages, mashed them all together, simplified them, and called it a language. The result is a tongue that sounds strangely familiar, whether you’ve ever encountered it before or not. Go watch a video of someone talking in Esperanto. Chances are you’ll find yourself vaguely understanding bits and pieces of it.

In lists like this, we wouldn’t usually include a made-up language, because that way madness lies. But Esperanto is in a different league. Around 2 million people have some knowledge of it, and it’s estimated that up to 1,000 families may be ‘native’ speakers. For comparison, that’s more native speakers than even an actual language like Cornish has.

3. Afrikaans

The language spoken by the descendants of Dutch famers in South Africa and Namibia, Afrikaans has a long and turbulent history. For some Boers, it is an integral part of their identity, a way of planting their flag in a culture that has changed seismically over the last 20 years. It’s also the African language English speakers stand the greatest chance of learning. For example, the sentence “what is that?” translates, unbelievably, to wat is dit?

Afrikaans exists somewhere between Dutch and English, while being simpler than both. The grammar is logical and consistent, with none of the weird exceptions English insists on throwing in. The verbs are also super-easy. While in English we use dream, dreamed and dreamt to all mean the same thing in different contexts, Afrikaans would simply use ‘dream’.

Again, Afrikaans isn’t a great traveling language. You’re pretty much restricted to just two countries in southern Africa. On the other hand, if you’ve ever wanted to understand Boer culture or to spend extended time in South Africa, it would almost be crazy not to learn it.

2. Frisian

Quick, hands up who has ever heard of Frisian? By our estimate, roughly 90 percent of you just sat on your hands, shook your heads and muttered something like “Fri-wha?”That’s OK, don’t sweat it. It’s a pretty obscure tongue. So, to quickly bring us all up to speed: Frisian is the native language of Friesland, a part of the Netherlands that Americans basically never go to, due to its lack of pot and hookers. It’s spoken by half a million people, and it’s probably the closest language to English in the world.

Seriously, Frisian and English were basically the same darn thing until comparatively recently. The two languages only started evolving independently 1,200 years ago, a long time in terms of getting over your last breakup, but next to nothing on the linguistic timescale. Even today, Frisians like to drop the old saying “good butter and good cheese, is good English and good Fries” into conversation. In both English and Fries, the sentence sounds identical.

If you’re a native English speaker, learning Fries is a walk in the park. While the written form looks more like Dutch, the spoken form has a near-identical vocabulary, sentence-structure and pronunciation to English. You’re probably reasonably fluent already, without taking a single lesson.

1. Dutch

Dutch is considered by linguists to be the easiest major language for English speakers to understand (Frisian’s easier, but by no stretch of the imagination is it ‘major’). It is spoken in the Netherlands (duh), Belgium, Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles, with about 23 million speakers worldwide. It has so much in common with English that you can learn it in almost no time at all.

This is the result of a happy historical accident. While most languages easy for English speakers incorporate Latin or Germanic root words, Dutch incorporates both. This means a staggering amount of Dutch vocabulary sounds extremely familiar to English speakers, with the added bonus that the structure is similar too. Pronunciation is also pretty intuitive, aside from the odd, weird vowel sound. Lastly, the grammar is consistent, logical and doesn’t feature any odd (for English speakers) stuff like genders or cases. For English-speakers, that’s like hitting the Konami Code of language learning.

The only downside with Dutch is similar to Norwegian. Nearly everyone in the Netherlands and Belgium speaks fluent English, meaning chances to practice your stuttering Dutch are basically non-existent.


Easy to Learn Languages

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– WIF Grammar

BS or Truth II – WIF Confidential

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True Facts

That Sound Like

BS

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In a world where fake news and false factoids are rampant, it is hard to distinguish what is true and what isn’t, especially when it sounds so unbelievable. We have gone through some crazy news stories and unbelievable tales from history and culled even more of the most interesting, unbelievable facts that sound like BS, but are completely true.

 10. There’s a Novel That Doesn’t Contain the Letter E

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In 1936 author Ernest Vincent Wright set out1 to write a book that did not contain the letter “E,” which is the most common letter in the English language. He got really excited about the project because other people said it would be impossible to do without ignoring the rules of grammar. Yet, Wright was able to bang out a 50,000 word novel,called Gadsby. To ensure he didn’t use the “E” key on his typewriter, he disabled it. He said that the hardest problem was avoiding words that ended with “-ed.”

 The plot of Gadsby revolves around the fictional city of Branton Hills, which was in a decline. The book’s main character, John Gadsby, leads a group of young people to help rejuvenate it.

The novel wasn’t successful when it was first released, but the book has developed a following in later years and a first edition is now highly collectable.

9. A Woman Paid $10,000 for Invisible Art1

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Oh James Franco, sometimes you seem all right. But other times it’s hard not to figure out where you live, travel there, and then hit you up the backside of your head. Case in point is his the Museum of Non-Visible Art, which, you may have gathered, is full of art that doesn’t physically exist. Instead, the artist imagines a piece of art and explains it to the audience. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, people can also buy the works of art. The purchaser gets a card with the piece’s name, and then the owner takes it and puts it on their wall. And then they have to explain the art to their audience. Basically, it’s the most pretentious-sounding endeavor you can probably imagine (and then you can sell that imaginary endeavor, if you’re James Franco).

Strangely, Franco is not the most pretentious person in this story. That would be the woman who bought a piece of invisible art for $10,000. Fresh Air was purchased by Aimee Davison, who says her title is a new media producer. We have to say, good choice of giving away your money to a rich movie star like James Franco; we don’t think there are any starving children who could have used that money to, you know, eat.

8. Saudi Arabia Imports Camels from Australia

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The first thing about this factoid that you may be surprised to learn is that Australia has camels. They were imported onto the continent in the 19th century from Arabia, India, and Afghanistan because they were well suited to Australia’s outback. However, when the combustion engine came along, the camels weren’t needed. So they were released into the outback, and today it is a huge problem. There is one roaming pack that has 750,000 camels.

Another thing you may be surprised to learn is that Australia also exports camels to Saudi Arabia, a place you’d think would be plentiful with camels. It would be like Canada importing beavers.

While there are plenty of camel farms in Saudi Arabia, their camels are bred for domestic uses and racing. The camels from Australia are mostly used for meat, which is a delicacy in many countries in the Middle East.

7. Cleopatra was Greek, Not Egyptian

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One of the most famous Egyptian rulers of all time is Cleopatra VII. When she was 18, in 51 BC, she became co-regent of Egypt with her 10-year-old brother and she more or less ruled for the next three decades.

While Cleopatra is a famous Pharaoh, she and the other Macedonian rulers of Egypt were Alexandria-based, which was the center of Greek culture. Cleopatra, like other rulers of the Macedonian dynasty, spoke Greek and observed Greek customs.

What made Cleopatra so beloved among the Egyptians was that unlike other leaders, she learned to speak Egyptian and commissioned art of herself in traditional Egyptian style. As a result, Cleopatra was one of the most beloved of the Pharaohs, even though she was Greek.

6. The Internet Weighs as Much as a Strawberry

You may be wondering how the internet can have a weight, since it is data. Well, it turns out that when you download something to a device, let’s say a song to your iPod, it increases the weight of the device. The reason the device gets heavier is because when data is added to a device, it results in something called trapped electrons and they have higher energy than untrapped ones, and the higher energy increases the weight. However, since the increase is so slight it is impossible to notice.

Using that information, the YouTube channel VSauce figured out how much all the data on the internet weighs. That includes all the cat pictures and pornography, and it is about 50 grams, or roughly the weight of a strawberry.

5. It’s Possible for Twins to Have Two Different Fathers

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The first case of two different men fathering a set of twins happened in 2008. A woman named Regina was on the show to see if her ex-boyfriend was the father of her twins, and he was only the father to one of them.

The second time was in 2011 when 19-year-old Alejandrina went on the show claiming that her boyfriend Jose was the father of her twins. She also emphatically deniedsleeping with anyone else but Jose. Well, the lie detector determined that was a lie, and the DNA test proved that Jose was only the father to one of the twins.

Both times it happened on the show, Maury and the audience were shocked. Mostly by the whole “twins by different parents” thing, but probably at least in part by the fact that Maury is still on the air.

4. The Voice Actors who were Mickey and Minnie Mouse Were Married in Real Life

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Wayne Allwine got his start at Disney in the mailroom in 1966. Over the next several years, he was able to work his way up to the sound department, and became the third man to voice Mickey Mouse, a position he held for 30 years.

In 1985, Disney was starting a new show called Totally Minnie and Russi Taylor was hired on to be the voice of Minnie Mouse. After a recording session, they met in the hallway and hit it off immediately.

The couple was married for 18 years, until Allwine’s death in 2009 at the age of 62. Taylor is still the voice of Minnie Mouse and she also provides the voices of Martin Prince, Üter, and Sheri and Teri on The Simpsons.

3. Guy Gets Heart Transplant from a Suicide Victim, Marries his Widow, Commits Suicide the Same Way

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In 1995, when Sonny Graham was 57, he needed a new heart or he’d die from congestive heart failure. The good news for Graham was that a donor heart had come available, because 33-year-old Terry Cottle had shot himself.

After getting the heart, Graham was grateful, so he sent thank you letters to Terry’s family. This led to Graham corresponding with Terry’s widow, Cheryl Cottle. In January 1997, when Cheryl was 28, she and Graham met. Graham said it felt like he’d known Cheryl his whole life.

In 2001, Graham bought a house for Cottle and her children to live in and three years later, Cheryl and Graham were married. 12 years after getting Terry’s heart, in April 2006, Graham committed suicide. Just like Terry, it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

2. The1 Night Before his Execution an Inmate Escaped, but was Killed the Following Night in a Bar Fight

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On November 21, 1973, 20-year-old Troy Leon Gregg was hitchhiking. He was picked up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, by Fred Edward Simmons and Bob Durwood Moore and at some point, Gregg decided to rob the two men. In the process of the robbery, Gregg shot both men to death. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death in 1974.

After appealing the sentence, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and Gregg was scheduled to be executed on July 29, 1980. However, the day before Gregg was to die, he and three other death row inmates escaped by sawing through the bars of their cells, and then wore fake guard uniforms.

However, Gregg’s freedom was short lived. He was beaten to death on the night he should have been executed at a biker bar by James C. “Butch” Horne Jr. The other three escapees were arrested three days later, though it’s unclear whether they, too, met some Final Destination-like fate.

1. Hitler was Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

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One of humanity’s greatest villains was Adolf Hitler. It’s impossible to figure out how many deaths he and the Nazis were responsible for, but it is in the tens of millions.

Three months after starting World War II with the invasion of Poland in 1939, (and 16 months after being named Time’s Man of the Year), Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Swedish politician Erik Gottfrid Christian Brandt. Another nominee that year was Mahatma Gandhi.

What the Nobel committee didn’t get was that Brandt’s letter nominating Hitler was ironic. Brandt was anti-fascism and he wanted to provoke Hitler and the Nazis. When Brandt realized that the committee didn’t know it was a joke, he immediately withdrew his nomination. We hope in part because he realized that if you have to explain a joke, it’s just not funny anymore.

In the end, no one won the 1939 Nobel Peace Prize because of the outbreak of World War II. But we’re hoping it would have been Gandhi over Hitler.


 BS or Truth II

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– WIF Confidential

Bad-Sad Christmas Songs – WIF Holidays

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Least Essential Christmas Songs

 Christmas music is like pornography—there’s good stuff out there, but you’ve got to search through a lot of crud and some weird German things to find it. Musical taste is subjective so we’re not here to tell you what you should like, but we can share 10 songs that pretty much any sane human will agree doesn’t deserve a place on your Christmas playlist.

10. New Kids on the Block – “Funky, Funky Xmas”         

This live performance of “Funky, Funky Xmas” so perfectly encapsulates the worst parts of the ‘80s that historians from the future will use it to argue that we were a backwards and simple people. It features the New Kids dressed like Vanilla Ice, prancing around like they’re at a gay bar’s line dancing night and rapping about how they left their fireplace burning and it singed Santa’s ass. That’s not a Christmas carol, that’s admitting to criminal negligence.

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And we expected better from such upstanding young men.

They tell Santa to “kick the ballistics,” but we have no idea what that means and we even asked three black people. They also ask, “How could you be booing [Christmas] with Donnie D doing it?” because apparently Christmas was once a holiday that people hated until Donnie D arrived to make it funky. Thank you, Donnie D. You’re the real Christmas miracle.

9. Lou Monte – “Dominick the Donkey”

 For every classic Christmas carol that’s been popular for several generations there’s a tacky novelty song that rightfully faded into obscurity shortly after its release. “Dominick the Donkey” is one of those songs. Recorded in 1960, it tells the story of a Christmas donkey that delivers presents to the children of Italy, because apparently you’re allowed to just make up national icons if you do it in song. It’s the stupidest thing we’ve heard since we were told about B.B. the Bastille Day Snail. Wikipedia claims “Dominick the Donkey” was funded by one of New York’s major crime families, which we believe because releasing this tripe on an unsuspecting public should be considered a criminal act.

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“Hi, kids! I’m Dominick the Christmas Donkey! I’m legally considered mentally handicapped!”

“Dominick” has seen a revival in recent years, because someone decided to unearth old Christmas songs without stopping to wonder why they were buried in the first place. In 2011 a British radio show started a campaign to make it a number one hit, because Britain is still ticked off at Italy about the war. It managed to reach number three on the UK sales chart, which is something to remember whenever Britain makes fun of America for Lady Gaga.

8. Lady Gaga – “Christmas Tree”

We didn’t bring up Lady Gaga as a random example. She wrote a holiday song that invites listeners to bask in the sexy majesty of her Christmas tree, which, depending on how you interpret the lyrics, may be a metaphor for her secret penis.

There are double entendres, and then there are single entendres, and then there’s Lady Gaga communicating with all the subtly of a horny rhinoceros that hasn’t gotten laid in years. We’ve watched pornography that’s less aggressively sexual than “Christmas Tree.”

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And we’ve seen Christmas trees that are sexier than Lady Gaga.

It starts with Lady Gaga singing “light me up, put me on top, let’s falalalalalalalala” and if you don’t know what she’s censoring you should go back to watching Sesame Street. She then says she’ll take off her clothes underneath the mistletoe, which is supposed to be erotic but just comes across like she doesn’t know what mistletoe is for.

The most baffling part of the song is when she repeatedly says that her “Christmas tree is delicious.” There’s only one part of the anatomy that even vaguely resembles a Christmas tree, and most women don’t have one. Admittedly, we’re assuming that someone put a thought into these lyrics beyond “What if Lady Gaga had sex with Christmas? She’d immaculately conceive money babies! House made of cocaine, here I come!”

7. Jingle Cats – “White Christmas”

The Jingle Cats are what happens when a crazy cat lady takes charge of a record company through a series of wacky misunderstandings. This “song” replaces the words of “White Christmas” with the meows of cats, because nothing enhances timeless classics like shrill caterwauling. It sounds like a musician is playing a cat organ while the rest of the band is playing traditional instruments, and they all hate each other.

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“You think I look cute, huh? I’m going to throw up in your bed. While you’re sleeping in it.

The low-budget music video looks like the stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey if you dropped catnip before watching it. It’s only two and a half minutes long but by the time it’s over you’ll have aged a decade. And this is just one song from an entire novelty album. If you thinking of committing suicide this Christmas, listen to the 10 hour remix of the Jingle Cats’ “Silent Night” to put you in the mood.

6. Hanson – “Everybody Knows the Claus”

After New Kids on the Block were put out to stud or whatever it is they do with aging boy bands, it was decreed by the music industry that Hanson would be the next big thing. They followed up their smash hit MMMBop with 1997’s Snowed In, a Christmas album featuring holiday staples mixed with original songs because despite the name of the album they were unfortunately able to reach the studio.

“Everybody Knows the Claus” starts with a warning that if you take Santa’s cookies he will mess you the hell up, which suggests that the Hanson brothers are the only ones on the planet who don’t know the Claus. He’s known for his generosity and good nature, not his violent reaction towards unauthorized cookie consumption.

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And if they’re snowed in, why are they outside?

We then learn that Santa wasn’t fat all along, but then he started cooking one day, and now you better not try and take that turkey away. That’s right, Hanson, tell us he’s an angry man not to be trifled with and then joke about his obesity. Ignoring your own warnings always ends well.

Lines like “you’ve never seen this side of him before” and “don’t mess with the boss” would be awfully dark if it wasn’t for the generic pop-rock beat. If Alanis Morsette covered this song it would sound like Mrs. Claus filing out a domestic abuse report. Then again, I’m not sure how seriously we should take Hanson after they use the phrase “riding down the air highway.” It’s called “flying,” Dances To Crappy Songs. You don’t need to use mystical phrasing to describe something humanity mastered a century ago.

5. Cyndi Lauper – “Christmas Conga”

Cyndi Lauper has done a lot of great things. Singing “Bonga, bonga, bonga, do the Christmas conga” is not one of them. “Christmas Conga” sounds like Lauper just discovered conga music and hadn’t yet discovered an understanding of inappropriate cultural appropriation. We’re pretty sure one of the reasons Lauper works so hard to promote LGBT rights is to make up for being the worst thing to happen to US-Latin American relations since the States helped overthrow their democracies.

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Santa isn’t waving, he’s signaling for help.

Lauper wishes us “joy that never ends” while she’s torturing us with a song that feels like it will never stop. There are professional torturers in black site prisons that can’t use irony that cruelly. Both the song and the album cover tells us to “have a nice life,” which in this context sounds like a threat. Live a nice life, everyone, unless you want to find yourself tied up with a bag over your head in an Eastern Europe warehouse while the CIA blasts Lauper’s shrill invitation to hold onto her hips loud enough to rattle your skull. “Tell us where you’ve planted the bomb, or we’re doing the Christmas conga again!” an agent yells, and then you confess to everything.

4. NewSong – “The Christmas Shoes”

“The Christmas Shoes” is auditory poverty porn. From the opening notes you know that you’re going to be drowned in so much sap people will mistake you for a tree. Then the lyrics kick in and you’ll wish that you actually were a tree, because trees don’t have ears.

The singer’s breathless voice makes him sound like an annoyingly soulful wimp, the kind that tells you he gave everyone in his family a charitable donation in their name for Christmas, but it’s totally cool that you got your loved ones toys instead. This is in sharp contrast to how the narrator is portrayed in the music video, which is as a sex offender lurking over his unsuspecting victim.

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The song is about an impoverished little ragamuffin who wants to buy his sick mom a pair of shoes, because if there’s one thing the terminally ill really need it’s sweet new kicks. The kid comes up short on scratch, but our heroic narrator makes up the difference.

Switching to “Gospel Chad Krouger” voice, our singer says that God sent him the boy to remind him of the true meaning of Christmas. Then the children’s choir kicks in, which God sent to punish us for all the sins we’ve committed this year. It’s implied that the woman dies, which means God killed a woman just to teach our singer a listen. Damn, that’s some Old Testament stuff right there.

“Christmas Shoes” was apparently based on a chain email, which is pretty much the worst form of artistic inspiration imaginable short of kidnapping hobos and forcing them to fight to the death to entertain your cruel muse. If we’ve resorted to writing music inspired by emails that escape our spam filters it’s only a matter of time before we’re listening to holiday classics like “Barrack the Communist Red Nosed Cryptoislamifascist” and “Stp Letting Downn the Ladies & Get A Bigger M@nh00d Today for Chr!stmas!!!!11”

3. Crazy Frog – “Jingle Bells”

You may remember Crazy Frog as the anthropomorphic nightmare that punished you for staying up too late to watch TV by starring in annoying commercials for ringtones. Crazy Frog also had a musical career, and the fact that his original name was The Annoying Thing should tell you all you need to know about how that went.

After what sounds like a drunken Mr. Bean yodeling “It’s Christmas” we get a rendition ofJingle Bells that was recorded when a synthesizer mated with a bell choir. Most of the words are replaced with grating sound effects, although to be fair that’s just keeping with the spirit of electronic music.

“Jingle Bells” was released as a single, and the B-side was “U Can’t Touch This.” This was in 2005. You’d becrazy-frog-christmas less out of date if your calendar for next year was dated 2014 B.C. And yes, it’s not just your filthy imagination—Crazy Frog has a clearly visible penis for most of the video. Festive frog fetishists rejoiced at the crossover between Christmas carols and frog porn they had been waiting on for so long.

Merry Christmas! God bless us, every one!

2. The Echoing Green – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas” is at best a ham-handed attempt at sending a good message and at worst a condescending mess that portrays the entire continent of Africa as impoverished and populated by idiots who can’t read a calendar. Half the continent is Christian, we’re pretty sure they know it’s Christmas.

do-they-know-christmas

The real tragedy is that photo editing job.

But at least the original song sounds like a Christmas carol, albeit a modern, poppy one. Synthpop wimps The Echoing Green decided to turn “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” into an electronic song more fit for playing in clubs with bad DJs than around Christmas trees. Because nothing gets people in the mood to shake their ass like lyrics about drought and poverty. Why not drop some ecstasy while you’re at it and make out with someone in the bathroom to the sexy vibes of cultural ignorance? We can’t wait until someone releases a dubstep version. “Don’t let aid to Africa drop like this sick beat, bros!” the DJ will shout, and someone in Sudan will shudder without knowing why.

 1. The Robertsons – “Hairy Christmas”

There’s a Duck Dynasty Christmas album, because of course there is. It’s called Duck the Halls,because of course it is. It’s absolutely terrible, because of course it is.

So either a family that stars in a reality TV show as the embodiment of every lazy redneck stereotype you can imagine coincidentally has preternatural musical talents, or a marketing executive was walking down one of Walmart’s official Duck Dynasty aisles while Christmas music played and suddenly had dollar signs pop into his head, and which story you believe will determine whether you’re intelligent enough to have understood this sentence.

duck-dynasty-christmas

Duck the Halls is a mix of awful takes on classics and awfuler originals. One of the ladies in the family does have a voice that’s either legitimately good or good enough for technology to make up the difference, but her primary contribution is on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and songs about date rape are disqualified from being considered Christmas classics.

The worst offender is arguably “Hairy Christmas,” so named because the men all have long beards and making a reference to that is what passes for intelligent on this album. It’s a honkytonk nightmare that references camouflage, hunting and shopping at Walmart, because nothing says the spirit of Christmas and simple, wholesome country living like namedropping the mega-corporation that’s the number one supplier of your massive product line. That’s like hearing the story of the Three Wise Men and coming away with the message that frankincense is the only scent officially endorsed by Jesus. If anyone buys this album, ducks should be allowed to hunt them.


Bad/Sad

Holidays-001

Christmas Songs

 

Benchmark Companies – WIF Business

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WIF History-001

10 Oldest Businesses

Still in Operation Today

Starting a business is hard enough, but making one thrive and survive, even for a short time, is sometimes nothing less than a miracle. Amazingly, the businesses on this list managed to overcome the odds; many of them have survived for centuries, and all of them are, quite astonishingly, still operating.

Note: These are not the 10 oldest businesses overall, but the oldest companies still in operation in 10 different types of businesses.

10. Video Game Company

nintendo cards

Nintendo – Japan
Est: 1889

You’re probably thinking that this entry is a mistake, because there is no waythat Nintendo was making video games over 125 years ago…which is completely true. The roots of video games started to form in the 1950s. But what’s interesting about the Nintendo Company is that it was founded on September 23, 1889, by Japanese entrepreneur Fusajiro Yamauchi. The first products that the “Nintendo Koppai” made were hand drawn playing cards, called Hanafuda Cards, which were similar to the common 52-card decks, and could be used to play different games. In 1959, Fusajiro Yamauchi’s grandson, Hiroshi Yamauchi, was running the company and made a deal with Disney to print their characters on Nintendo cards. This increased business, and Nintendo went public in 1962.

With investor money, Nintendo took on a bunch of different projects, such as a taxi company, an instant rice company, remote controlled vacuum cleaners, toy making, and “a short stay” hotel chain, which is essentially exactly what it sounds like. Most of the ventures were failures, and Nintendo was facing other problems; the playing card business had been saturated, and they drowning in debt. Luckily for Nintendo, and millions of gamers, one of their ventures helped turned the company around: toy-making.

In 1970, Hiroshi was touring one of Nintendo’s factories and saw an engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, playing with an extending arm that he created. Hiroshi decided to launch the extending arm as an official product called the “Ultra Hand,” and it became a best seller. This changed Nintendo’s direction again, and they began making electronic toys, including a Love Tester.

It was during this time that video games and arcades were gaining some traction, and in 1975 Nintendo released its first video arcade game, EVR Race,which was followed by one of the biggest video games of all time, Donkey Kong. In 1983, they released their own platform, called the Famicom (short for Family Computer) in Japan. Shortly after they released Famicon, the video game market crashed. Nintendo managed to survive the crash, and in 1985 the company released the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America. The rest, as they say, is history.

9. Musical Instrument Manufacturer

zildjian

Avedis Zildjian Company – Turkey
Est. 1623

The most famous cymbal company in the world got its start in 1618 in Constantinople, which is modern day Istanbul, Turkey, when an Armenian alchemist named Avedis tried to make gold using tin, copper, and silver. What he ended up with was an alloy that didn’t break when it was struck; instead, it made a loud crashing noise. The alloy quickly became popular and was used by the Ottoman military band as a tactic to frighten the enemy.

In 1623, Sultan Osman II gave Avedis the family name “Zildjian,” which means “son of cymbal maker.” The family continued to make cymbals in Constantinople until 1929, when Avedis III moved the company to Massachusetts, where it is still in operation today. Currently, the company is run by the 14th generation of the family and they remain the dominant cymbal maker in the world, having 65 percent of the market.

One of the big reasons for Zildjian’s success is the secret alloy formula that was developed by Avedis. Only a handful of people throughout its 400 year history have known what mixture of elements makes Zildjian’s unique sound.

8. Pharmacy

pharmacy

Santa Maria Novella – Italy
Est. 1612

The Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy, is the oldest known pharmacy in the world. It started off life as a Dominican monastery in 1221. The friars grew medicinal herbs (quit snickering, you bunch of stoners) in their gardens, and it was used to treat patients in their infirmary. The friars, who had taken a vow of poverty, didn’t open it up to the public until 400 years later in 1612, after word had spread about their balms, ointments, and washes.

Today, the pharmacy still sells many of the concoctions and remedies that it has brewed and sold throughout its 400 year (plus) history, along with modern skin care products and ointments.

7. Amusement Park

Bakken – Denmark
Est. 1583

Bakken, the oldest amusement park that is still in operation, first opened to the public in 1583 in Klampenborg, which is just north of Copenhagen, Denmark. Of course, what people find amusing has changed over the years, and 430 years ago they didn’t exactly have the rides that we are familiar with today. Instead, the park consisted of pleasure gardens. In the gardens, there would be dancing, fireworks, and even some primitive rides.

At the time, plenty of cities throughout Europe had similar amusement parks, but many closed in the 1700s. Bakken carried on and evolved throughout the centuries. In 1923, they constructed a wooden roller coaster, and they continued to add modern rides in the following years. The park is still in operation today and admission is free.

6. Printing and Publishing House

Cambridge University Press – England
Est. 1584

London’s Cambridge University was first granted a Letters Patent, which is similar to a royal charter, by King Henry the VIII in 1534. This allowed the university to print “all manner of books.” However, due to politics and censors, the university wouldn’t publish its first book until fifty years later. Their first book was Two Treatises of the Lord His Holie Supper, and it was printed by Cambridge’s first printer, Thomas Thomas. Yes, that was his actual name. No, we can’t confirm whether or not his parents did, in fact, hate him.

Since that first book was printed just over 480 years ago, the Cambridge University Press has published a book every single year. This includes works by some of the greatest minds in human history, like John Milton, Isaac Newton, D.H. Lawrence, Noam Chomsky, and Stephen Hawking.

5. Bank

bank

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena – Italy
Est. 1472

The basics of banking, such as lending money, started around 2000 B.C. and it was advanced in Ancient Greece and during the time of the Roman Empire, when bankers would take deposits and exchanged money. In the Middle Ages, in what is modern day Italy, banking evolved even more. One of the banks that helped with that evolution was Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which is located in Siena. Obviously. The bank was founded in 1472, when Siena was still an independent state.

After the Kingdom of Italy was established in 1861, the bank spread to become the third largest bank in Italy. They managed to survive wars between city states, two World Wars, fascism, and they even made it through the 2012 European financial crisis due to a bailout, but in early 2016 they were again inserious financial trouble.

4. Brewery

brewery

Weihenstephan – Germany
Est. 1040

A lot of beer companies brag about their long brewing traditions, but not many breweries are anywhere close to being as old as the Weihenstephanbrewery, which is just north of Munich, Germany. The brewery is located in the Weihenstephan Abbey, which was a Benedictine monastery that was established in 725 by Saint Corbinian. In 1040, Abbot Arnold got a license to brew beer and Weihenstephan officially became a brewery.

It wasn’t an easy near-millennium for the brewery. Between 1085 and 1463, the monastery faced a number of tragedies. It burned down four times, endured three plagues, multiple famines, and a massive earthquake. Yet, it survived under the friar’s control until 1803, when the monastery was dissolved because Germany secularized. However, the state kept the brewery going and the beer is still sold to this day in dozens of countries around the world.

3. Bar

bar

Sean’s Bar – Ireland
Est. 900

Before we get into this entry, we feel we should clear the air a bit. We really don’t want to stereotype here, but is anyone truly surprised that the oldest bar in the world is located in Ireland? Well, it’s true. Sean’s Bar, which is located on the west bank of the River Shannon in Athlone, is believed to have been continuously in operation since 900 , and supposedly, there is a record of every owner since it opened. Amazingly, this includes singer Boy George, who briefly owned the bar in 1987. Further proof of the bar’s age was found during a renovation in the 1970s, when workers found a piece of original wall that is made of wattle and wicker. The wall was excavated, and it’s on display in a glass case at the bar.

Sean’s Bar was originally opened as an inn by Luain over 1,110 years ago, and that is where Athlone gets its name from. In Irish, Athlone means Atha Luain, which translates to the “Ford of Luain.” Luain designed the inn with tilted floors so that when it rains, the water runs through the bar and out to the river. This tilted floor is also great for messing with visitors to the bar who have had one or three or six too many. And those visitors have included U2, star athletes, and plenty of American tourists. The boom in American tourism started in the 1980s, after Dallas stars Larry Hagman and Linda Gray became frequent visitors to the bar and expressed their love for it.

2. Restaurant

restaurant

Stiftskeller St. Peter – Austria
Est. ~806

The restaurant business is notoriously hard. On average, almost 60 percent fail within the first year. It is even more difficult to get to the five year mark. That means having one run continuously for decades is impressive, let alone centuries, but Stiftskeller St. Peter in Salzburg, Austria has been open for a mind-boggling 1,210 years.

The restaurant is part of the original building of St Peter’s Abbey, which is a Benedictine monastery. The earliest reference to the restaurant is found in the 806 writings of Alcuin, who was a follower of Charlemagne. Since then, Stiftskeller has supposedly been continuously open and many dignitaries and celebrities have visited, including Bill Clinton, Clint Eastwood, and Karl Lagerfeld.

Stiftskeller serves traditional Austrian food and once a week, they host a dinner where musicians perform Mozart in traditional period costumes.

1. Hotel

hotel

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan – Japan
Est. 705

In the South Japanese Alps (yes, Japan has its own Alps, in case you didn’t know that and were confused) in the Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, you’ll find the oldest hotel in the world, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. The hotel was founded by Fujiwara Mahito in the second year of the Keiun era (which is where the hotel gets its name), which is 705 in the Roman calendar.

Since its opening, the hotel (which is known for its hot springs) has been owned and operated by 52 generations of descendants from the original owner, although a few were adopted in. The hotel, which is close to Mount Fiji, will run you at least $475 to $570 USD per night.

If you’re wondering what the key to their 1,300 years of success is, Fortunespeculates that, based on the hotel’s strong reviews, it is their impeccable service.

Also, at 1,300 years old, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is not only the oldest hotel in the world, but it is also thought to be the oldest business in operationtoday. Just to give you some idea as to how old it is, it is 225 years older than the Kingdom of Britain.


Benchmark Companies

– WIF Business

Historical Misconceptions – WABAC Into History

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s go back  and set the record straight at some crucial points in history, starting with the American Revolution, Sherman My Boy.”

Historical Myths

and Misconceptions

Eggs, Balloons, Pennies and Raisins – WIF Kid Science

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Kid science

Awesome Experiments

Kids can Do at Home

10. The Water Bottle Egg Separator

What you’ll need: Raw egg, two bowls (or plates), empty water bottle, [optional] food coloring

How does this work?

When you squeeze the bottle, you force air out. When you place the mouth of the bottle over the yolk and stop squeezing, you create suction, as air (and yolk) rush to fill the available volume. The air pressure within the bottle is lower than outside the bottle, so the air pushes the yolk into the bottle.

9. Oobleck, a Non-Newtonian Fluid

What you’ll need: Water, cornstarch, mixing bowl, [optional] food coloring. This experiment can be a bit messy, so throw on some old clothes and do it in a place where you can make a mess (the backyard is ideal).

How does this work?

Oobleck, named after the Dr. Seuss book, Bartholmew and the Oobleck, is a non-Newtonian fluid. This means that sometimes (like when it is being poured) it acts like a liquid, but when force is acting on it (like when you press down with your hand), it behaves like a solid.

8. Blow Up a Balloon Using Baking Soda and Vinegar

What you’ll need: White vinegar, bottle with narrow mouth, balloons, baking soda, [optional] food coloring

How does this work?

This is the same technique that is often used to power model volcanoes at science fairs, but you can enjoy it without going to the trouble of building a volcano. When the baking soda and vinegar are combined, they undergo a two-part reaction to produce the carbon dioxide (CO2) that blows up the balloon.

7. Use Capillary Action to Dye Flowers

What you’ll need: Freshly cut white flowers (daisies and carnations work well. You can even use celery if you don’t have any flowers), glass or jar, food coloring, [optional] scissors. You’ll also need some patience, as this experiment can take up to 24 hours to show full results (though you should see some results in 4-6 hours).

How does this work?

As water evaporates of the flower’s petals, it draws up new (colored) water through its stem, and the color flows through to the petals.

6. Use Soda to Understand Density

What you’ll need: Unopened cans of diet soda and regular soda, large container filled with water (the bathtub or a pool will work too—but grab a grown-up before you try!).

How does this work?

The differential in the density between diet and regular soda (caused by the addition of sugar) causes one kind of soda to sink to the bottom, while the other bobs up.

 5. The “Magic” Plastic Bag

What you’ll need: A Ziploc-type bag, several sharpened pencils, enough water to fill the bag (a cup or so). It’s best to do this experiment over a sink or tub, so that if you give into the temptation to pull the pencils out after the experiment, you don’t spill water everywhere!

How does this work?

The Ziploc bag is made up of flexible polymers. When the bag is pierced, the plastic stretches and creates a tight seal around the pencil, so the bag doesn’t leak.

4. Clean Pennies with Vinegar

What you’ll need: Dirty pennies, one dime, 1/4 cup white vinegar, one teaspoon of salt, cup of water, two non-metal bowls, paper towels. You also might want to wear something to protect your eyes (safety glasses, goggles, even sunglasses will work in a pinch!).

How does this work?

The acid in the vinegar reacts with the salt to remove the copper oxide that was making the pennies look dirty. If you don’t rinse them off after the vinegar, malachite (bluish-green in color) will form. If there’s enough copper oxide in the vinegar solution after you clean some pennies, when you add the dime, the metal will attract the copper oxide and take on a new color.

3. Help Tissue Paper Ghosts “Fly” Using Static Electricity

What you’ll need: Balloon (blown up), small ghost cut out of tissue paper and taped to a desk or table, something that you can rub the balloon against to generate static electricity (your clothing or hair will work well!).

How does this work?

Rubbing the balloon generates a negative charge on the balloon. When the balloon is held over the positively charged tissue ghosts, it attracts them, causing the ghosts to “fly.”

2. Make Raisins “Dance”

What you’ll need: Raisins, bottle of seltzer water/club soda, clear drinking glass

How does this work?

The tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soda catch on the wrinkles of the raisins. As the bubbles latch on, the raisins become lighter and rise to the surface. When they hit the surface, the bubbles pop, the raisins become heavy again, and fall back down. This process makes the raisins look like they are dancing in the glass.

1. Propel Colored Milk into Crazy Swirls Using Surface Tension

What you’ll need: Disposable plastic bowl/plate, whole milk or half & half (enough to cover the bottom of the bowl/plate), food coloring, Q-tip, liquid dish soap, a place where you can make a mess and clothes you can get dirty.

How does this work?

 Food coloring isn’t as dense as milk, so initially, the drops you add float on the surface. However, the addition of the dish soap on the tip of the Q-tip breaks the surface tension of the milk by dissolving the milk’s fat molecules. The food coloring moves along the surface with the milk, moving away from the soap.

Eggs, Balloons, Pennies and Raisins

Explore with me

– WIF Kid Science

European Vacation Gems – WIF Travel

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Hidden Vacation

Gems in Europe

Tourism is predictable and objective. You go to that place, take that picture, see that sight. Traveling is an interpretation and highly subjective. Tourism in Europe has always been about the “sure things,” the places you already know before you even go. Places like Paris, London, Rome, and Barcelona. However, Europe has been sculpted by a millennia of wonderful endeavors and horrible mistakes. The result is that there is so much more beyond the places to where your local travel agency would have you book a flight.

10. Ulm, Germany

ulm

To make sense of Ulm you need to understand the Danube first. The Donau, Duna, Dunav, Dunaj. The most important river in Europe and the longest outside Russia. It goes on for nearly three thousand kilometers and it belongs to no country, but waters ten. It begins in the Black Forest, in Germany, flows through Wien, Budapest, Belgrade, and then into the Black Sea. Ulm, the first symbolical stop, the start of the river actually, is a German town with the German factor taken out of it.

It was founded in 850, and it’s Teutonically imposing without being kitsch. Dark, without being gray. Aside from its medieval origins and the heraldic symbol of the city, the Sparrow (Der Spatz – they have a holiday and a soccer team dedicated to it), Ulm is famous for having the tallest church tower in the world. They started building it in 1377 and didn’t finish until 1890, with unusual Germanic inefficiency. It was the tallest building in the world before the Eiffel Tower was built. That alone, frankly, is worth the ticket.

9. Budapest, Hungary

budapest

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918 after World War I, it was as if the two parties, Austria and Hungary, had signed an unfair divorce settlement agreement. Austria can keep the children, the house, and the car while Hungary gets to use their holiday home. Occasionally.

Budapest is probably the most underrated capital city in Europe, and arguably one of the most beautiful. The Danube runs right across it, dividing it into residential and quiet Buda and spicy and vibrant Pest. Pest is famous for the ruin pubs, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the Parliament building. The Hungarians started building it in 1885, and while it should have resembled the London parliament, it ended up looking bigger and grander than that. The bombast and the hubris of the empire is gone, and what remains is a more mature, more modest, and welcoming version of the city. Budapest is thrilling. It’s very musical, an orchestra of buskers, pubs, chatters, and as often as not raindrops. Hats off.

8. Koper & Portoroz, Slovenia

portoroz

Koper and Portoroz (Capo d’Istria and Portorose in Italian) are technically not the same city. They are two different versions of the same location in the municipality of Piran, Istria, in Southwestern Slovenia. Istria is one of the most complex and discussed regions in Southern Europe. It has forever suffered from a slight identity crisis. Geographically located in (and for a long time annexed to) Italy but undisputedly Slavic, Istria has everything you want and nothing you don’t. Koper is quieter and humbler.

The promenade and the beach, the fish restaurants, and the incredibly nice town center are simple and beautiful. Portoroz, with its naked saunas, the nightlife, the mojitos, the casinos, and the supercars is more luxurious; more pretentious, even. Your best bet? Settle down in Koper for the day, enjoy the night in Portoroz.

7. Bergamo, Italy

bergamo

From a traveler’s point of view, Bèrghem, as the locals call it, is Ryanair’s busiest and most important base in Italy and its third biggest overall (after London Stansted and Dublin). This means that getting there is easy. Bergamo has often played second fiddle as Lombardy’s Queen to its bigger and more famous cousin Milan. That is, if nothing else, slightly inaccurate. Bergamo is, and always has been even during the recession, one of Italy’s wealthiest cities.

Organized and tidy, Bergamo is split into two: hard working, structured, and business oriented Bergamo Bassa (Lower) and touristy, high flying, and gorgeousBergamo Alta (Upper). Bergamo is also interesting because it feels unusually serious and quiet in Europe’s loudest and craziest country – with just one big exception. The whole town goes crazy for Atalanta B.C. (nicknamed the Goddess), the local soccer team. Have a go, enjoy the game, and have an aperitivo. Where the food is always free with your prosecco.

6. Marseille, France

marseille

 Europeans have often named it the “French version of Naples,” and no one really ever understands whether that’s a compliment or a criticism. Tourists flock to France every year to see Paris and once they’ve seen Paris, the Côte d’Azur and Champagne country are very popular. Both of which are beautiful, but neither can offer that pure, gritty, raw charm of Marseille. Marseille is France’s second largest city and Europe’s fourth largest port and it is emphatically gorgeous. Few other places in France give you that feeling of authenticity. Perhaps this is because, unlike the French Riviera, Marseille has never been taken over by Russian oligarchs and Arab sheiks. It managed to retain its soul.The South of France, from Côte d’Azur to Aix-en Provence, is a parable of what money is capable of when it serves no other purpose other than its own self-accumulation. Because while Nice and Cannes are gorgeous, no doubt, they’re mostly frequented by people who, as they say, “have nothing but money.” Marseille is the other way around. It may have been struck by the financial crisis but on a sunny day (which is most days in Marseille) you just can smell the fish, the seaside, the salt, the port and, most importantly, an incredibly large amount of stubborn, relentless dignity.

5. Tallinn, Estonia

tallinn

After the political dismemberment of the U.S.S.R, Estonia (along with Lithuania and Latvia, the Baltic States) was left in a sort of glorified and isolated limbo. Not red and grumpy enough for Russia, not blue and liberal enough for Europe. Now, Estonia has been long part of the EU and is here to stay.

Old generations speak Russian but young people are studying English (along with native language Estonian, of course) and they often forget the little Russian they learned from their grandparents. Tallinn is small and pretty. Wander around in the little old town center, walk on the cobblestone, and have yourself a shot of Vana Tallinn (vana is Estonian for old, ancient). It’s amazing.

4. Liverpool, England

liverpool

There are three religions in Liverpool: the Beatles, Liverpool Football Club, and Everton Football Club. Walking around the port area or in the pubs you know it, you breathe it, you feel it. The only thing the city loves more than the Beatles and snooker (they adore it around here) is soccer. Everything and everyone in Liverpool is a helter-skelter of either blue (Everton) or red (Liverpool). You can’t have (or support) both. There’s no other city in England (only Manchester comes close with United and City) where sport clubs are the definition of the people.

Liverpudlians live their life just like they support their team, and just like their teams play. Firm, but fair. Tough, but honest. Liverpool is located in the metropolitan county of Merseyside, North-West England. It’s been destroyed during WWII and then completely rebuilt. The new port is an absolute gem. Absolute class. Brilliant. Sterling, mate. As they say. Just trying to get you warmed up with the local vernacular.

3. Estoril, Portugal

estoril

Those who happen to be fans of Moto GP, the premier class of motorcycle racing, know that Estoril has held an annual Grand Prix for 13 years, from 2000 to 2012. Poker and James Bond fans probably know that Casino Estoril was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s 007 novel Casino Royale. Other than that, Estoril is hardly popular with international tourists, but loved by the locals.

A short, 11-mile train ride from Portugal’s capital Lisbon, Estoril is hot, sunny, and garnished with palm trees, beach bars, and marine beauty. Away from the chaos and flocks of vacationers, you can enjoy swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, which is fantastically cold even in July, and a $3 mojito, which is fantastically fresh and good. Have at it, hoss.

2. Warsaw, Poland

warsaw

Warszawa Centralna, Warsaw central station, is striking and steely. It was hastily put together and completed in 1975, which means it’s newer than almost any other major train station in the capital cities of Europe. Warsaw is Berlin’s colder and tougher step-cousin, with modern frameworks made of glass standing tall in the forest of old commie cement they’re in. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt many times, and maybe that’s why the Poles seem so friendly, yet insecure. Ask them about sightseeing and they’ll tell you there’s nothing much to see. Tell them you think there’s nothing much and they’ll start telling you about all the great sights you can’t miss.

The Poles make do with what they have. Poland is a big and slightly barren country that still needs to recover from vexations of the past. They’re quite honest about it, and make the most of it. Warsaw is big, broad, and pleasant, but it isn’t delusional. Then again, there’s a saying in their fantastic language with far too many consonants, Kozia doic prózno. Roughly translated, “you can’t milk a bull.”

1. Galway, Ireland

galway

If you’ve just landed in London, or if you’re thinking of going, may we suggest you hop on a plane and go to Dublin, the capital of Ireland? Once in Eire, though, leave Dublin, and go to Galway. Ireland is rural and vivid, the colors are intense, the people are so friendly it’s uncanny. Galway, is everything you’ve come to expect from Ireland. The little old port is full of local and old taverns, which will make time wind back and stop still.

Forty-five minutes away from Galway, in Liscannor, there are the Cliffs of Moher. If you haven’t seen them yet, drop whatever you’re doing and go now, because that is arguably one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Jaw dropping. Jutting out of the coastline with a clear view of the Galway bay and Aran Island, the Cliffs of Moher are incredible. On your way back to the hotel, stop off for a pint at historicGus O’Connor’s Pub. Cheers! Or as they say in Irish Gaelic, Sláinte!


European Vacation Gems

Travel the world for 10 cents on the dollar

Travel the world for 10 cents on the dollar

– WIF Travel