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 Fun with Maps

Fun with Maps

Like millions of others I am a fan of the Big Bang Theory and especially Sheldon Cooper. I even liked his Fun with Flags videos. Seriously. I wished they would continue.

My name is Dan Hanson and I have also been a longtime fan of maps and the role they play in a region's history, commerce, politics, culture and so on. So I started a new video podcast series called Fun with Maps.

Running ClevelandPeople.com which features the 120 or so different ethnic groups that are represented in the area, I've noticed how the geography of a place has played a role in its culture and history.

For example:,

  • When you see how close the Horn of Africa is to the Arabian Peninsula you will understand how important the Suez Canal , Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are.
  • Or what does it mean for Ethiopia to be landlocked?
  • Or for Somalia to have that huge coastline?
  • What are the only 3 enclaved countries in the world? (and what does enclaved mean?)
  • How did a little piece of Russia get to the West of Lithuania?
  • Which river is longer - The Nile or the Amazon?
  • Why can you see the Aurora Borealis so often in Lapland? And what famous figure comes from Lapland?
We won't just look at countries and large regions. We'll look at how cities split by a river (Chicago, Cleveland, Budapest, etc.) have been influenced by their geography.

There's so much more.

Don't expect cinematic artistry. I don't have the ability and that's not the intention. I just want to share my interest in Maps with others.

So Sheldon Cooper had Fun with Flags and I'm now hoping you will join me in having Fun with Maps.

See all the Fun with Maps episodes on YouTube

Don't miss the fun photos of people with maps at One World Day in the Cultural Gardens

Watch the introductory video of Fun with Maps




Fun with Maps - The Horn of Africa

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson shows the Horn of Africa which consists of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. He shows how the close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula and the extended coastline of the peninsula have influence the politics, commerce and culture of the region. He also tells a story that connects a popular Beatles song and a famous fossil millions of years old.


Fun with Maps - The Nile River

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson shows the Nile River, the longest river in the world. The Nile River and Egypt are intertwined but the Nile travels through almost a dozen countries in Africa including Sudan where the White Nile and Blue Nile merge. And, there is a surprising fact about the Nile that makes it unique.


Fun with Maps - Finland

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson shows the Nordic country of Finland, one of the most northern countries in the world. Some say the map of Finland looks like a whale, some say a rabbit. What do you think? While the south and capital Helsinki have most of the people, the northern Lapland has unique features including a very special inhabitant. Dan also talks about Linus Torvalds and Linux, Nokia, Angry Birds and his favorite word in any foreign language - sisu.


Fun with Maps - Wuhan China

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson shows map of a city that has been in the news for the last several months, Wuhan in central China. There is more to Wuhan than the covid-19 virus. In fact when we look at the map and the transportation options starting with the Yangtze River we see why many have called Wuhan the "Chicago of China." Learn more about this city of 11 million people than what you may see on the news.


Fun with Maps - Indonesia

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson shows the map of the largest archipelago nation in the world - Indonesia. Archipelagos are often volcanic and as you will see, this certainly applies to Indonesia. It consists of more than seventeen thousand islands. You may have heard of Sumatra, Java, New Guinea (Papua), Bali, Borneo and so on. This is Part 1 of 2 so be sure to watch the 2nd part too.



In Part 2 Dan looks at the Ring of Fire, Krakatoa, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Bali, Papua New Guinea and more. For such a large, populous and importnat country Dan doesn't remember much study of it in school.


Fun with Maps - Budapest

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson shows map of a city that is really 2 cities, Buda and Pest, split by the famous Danube River but joined together as Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is one of the most visited cities in the world and is a hub of music, culture, architecture, education and so on. It's history - Turkish occupation, Austria-Hungary, Lajos Kossuth, Revolution of 1956 - all were influenced by the map. From the spas and baths to the bridges, the musical influence (Liszt, Bartok, etc.) to other notable citizens (Houdini, Rubik, etc.) Budapest is a fascinating city.




Fun with Maps - Feedback and Foldable Maps

In this episode of Fun with Maps host Dan Hanson considers some viewer feedback and answers their questions. He explains what the dots on the maps mean and shows the world map on the stage of the new plaza in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

Then he gives a demo of the classic old school foldable paper map that has been around forever.




Fun with Maps - Estuaries and the Hudson River

In this episode of Fun with Maps host Dan Hanson looks at estuaries and then drills down on the Hudson River in New York State in the US. The Hudson River forms the west border of New York City's Manhattan Island. He also looks at the battles of Saratoga which took place along the Hudson River Valley in the Revolutionary War.




Fun with Maps - New Zealand and Zealandia

In this episode of Fun with Maps host Dan Hanson looks at New Zealand and the Lost Continent of Zealandia in Oceania. New Zealand is home to the Maori people, terrific rugby like the All Blacks team, the haka dance, the beautiful scenery as the setting of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, Milford Sound and much more. Modern technology is allowing us to see more of the huge lost continent of Zealandia underneath New Zealand, 94% submerged under the ocean.




Fun with Maps - Lebanon

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at the historic country of Lebanon. Though small in size the influence of Lebanon and its people is huge. Tragically, the capital of Beirut was devastated by explosions in August 2020. In this episode Dan looks at the major cities, culture, geography, the cedar tree, famous Lebanese people and some fascinating history from the Phoenicians to the present.




Fun with Maps - Chile

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at the long country of Chile. Chile is bordered by the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean and the map has played a big part in its history. Dan looks at the Straits of Magellan, the Drake Passage, the huasos, the Mapuche people, Santiago, the largest mountain and volcano in the Americas, the rescue of the miners, interesting Chilean people and more.




Fun with Maps - Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at the remote Polynesian island of Rapa Nui or Easter Island. Though part of Chile, Easter Island has a fascinating culture and history. Dan focuses on the island's remoteness, the Rapa Nui people and of course the amazing mo'ai, the Easter Island "head" statues.




Fun with Maps - Michigan's Upper Peninsula

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. About 71% of the earth is covered in water but it's mostly salt water. The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total area, and second-largest by total volume, containing 21% of the world's surface fresh water by volume. The Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan is bounded by 3 of the Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan and Huron. The 5 mile Mackinac Bridge connects the lower part of Michigan with the UP. The UP contains 29% of the land area of Michigan but just 3% of its total population. The Yoopers who live there have a large Finnish population. It's a fascinating area and host Dan Hanson had a lot of fun with this map.




Fun with Maps - Madagascar

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at what has been called the 8th continent - Madagascar. The map shows how isolated Madagascar is from the rest of the world and that makes it a hotbed of biodiversity - 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. It has varieties of plants and animals that do not exist anywhere else. You've probably seen lemurs (endemic to Madagascar) but there are thousands of other unique animals and plants such as the fossa, chameleon, the baobab tree and more. Dan also shows a quick look at the Spiny Desert of Madagascar exhibit in the Cleveland Botanical Garden.




Fun with Maps - North Africa

Casablanca, Marrakesh, Algiers, the Barbary Coast, Morocco, the Sahara Desert, Darfur, Benghazi, Tunisia, Tripoli.

You've seen these exotic locales in movies, TV shows and the news but do you know where they are or much about them? In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at North Africa.

Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent and contains 54 fully recognized sovereign states (countries). This first episode in a series covering Africa includes Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco (including Western Sahara), Tunisia and Sudan.

After watching you will never listen to Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash or even the US Marines Hymn the same.




Fun with Maps - Afghanistan and other "-Stan" Countries

We have always planned on doing a Fun with Maps episode on one or more of the "Stan" countries. Just not yet. Unfortunately, the news has made me change the schedule and focus on the map of a very troubled place - Afghanistan.

This episode looks at the group of seven countries known as the "Stan" countries in the heart of Central and South Asia. Then we drill down more into the map of Afghanistan, its capital Kabul and more.



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Fun with Maps - Lesotho

There are only 3 enclaved countries in the world. By enclaved we mean an independent country whose territory is completely surrounded by the territory of one other country. In Lesotho's case, it is within South Africa.

Lesotho is a unique and interesting country and the map really defines it. Did you know that the country of Wakanda in the Marvel superhero movie Black Panther was inspired by Lesotho? There's lots more interesting items about Lesotho. Keep having Fun with Maps.



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Fun with Maps - The Kamchatka Peninsula

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 it was the first time in over 50 years that outsiders were able to visit the topic of this episode of Fun with Maps, Kamchatka. Kamchatka is a 900-mile-long peninsula roughly the size of California, yet only 400,000 people were allowed to live there, and all had to have special military clearances. The reason for the secrecy was Kamchatka's location so near Japan and the US that Soviets could listen in on communications during the Cold War.

Kamchatka is an example of a map having enormous geopolitical implications. Russia may have regrets about ceding the Kuril Islands to Japan, not to mention selling Alaska to the US in 1867. Had they not, how those events may have influenced history we will never know.



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Fun with Maps - Haiti

Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and Jamaica and south of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti has an estimated population of 11.4 million, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean. The people have suffered a lot. Since 1998, Haiti has been hit by ten hurricanes and other tropical storms, causing widespread loss of life and flooding with every landfall. Other natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake, have also resulted in massive amounts of death and property and infrastructure damage, especially in urban areas like Port-au-Prince, the capital.

They have a proud history as the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the first country to abolish slavery, and the only state in history established by a successful slave revolt.



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Fun with Maps - The North Pole

From the famous polar bear riddle to Santa Claus to famous explorations and expeditions the North Pole is completely unique. The North Pole is by definition the northernmost point on the Earth, lying diametrically opposite to the South Pole. At the North Pole all directions point south; all lines of longitude converge there. Thanks to Gerardus Mercator we have had maps of the Arctic region and North Pole for centuries.

This video talks about the "wobble" at the North Pole, an amazing meeting between Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong at the North Pole, the mystic aura of the Pole and, yes, some thoughts about Santa Claus.



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Fun with Maps - Malta

Location, location, location. That well-known real estate phrase certainly rings true for this episode's map. In this episode we are looking at the map of a small country that has a great strategic location - about midway between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal in the Mediterranean Sea. You may know it for two popular items - the Maltese Cross and the Maltese Falcon, a 1941 Humphrey Bogart movie.

Of course I am talking about the Southern European island country of Malta, an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea just 50 miles to the south of Sicily, 176 miles east of Tunisia and 207 miles north of Libya. This is an interesting map -some might call it the stuff that dreams are made of - that's a quote from Humphrey Bogart's character Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon movie. Please subscribe so you never miss an episode of Fun with Maps.



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Fun with Maps - Latitude and Longitude

This is a special episode of Fun with Maps with Dan Hanson. Instead of looking at one particular area, we look at some items that affect all the maps of earth. These are the terms latitude and longitude. Using those coordinates you can pinpoint any place on earth. They are essential for ship captains and pilots and others. Maybe this will be a refresher course or maybe it will be new for you as we discuss latitude, longitude, the Prime Meridian, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, the Equator, International Dateline, Greenwich Mean Time, Time Zones and more. And we explain how you can be at a spot on Earth where it is both today and yesterday. Please subscribe so you never miss an episode of Fun with Maps.



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Fun with Maps - Ukraine

We had always planned on doing a Fun with Maps episode about Ukraine but due to the tragic current situation we moved it up in order. People are understandably very curious to know more about the country of Ukraine. And yes it is a country. It is not THE Ukraine; it is the country of Ukraine. Using the term THE Ukraine makes it sound like a region of another country as opposed to a sovereign nation.

Ukraine is the second-largest country by area in Europe after Russia, which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; Romania and Moldova to the south; and has a coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. It spans an area of 233,062 sq. miles with a population of 43.6 million. That makes it the eighth-most populous country in Europe.

We briefly talk about the history of Ukraine including the tragedy at Chernobyl and the Holodomor. We also touch on the great writer Lesya Ukrainka and pysanky Easter eggs.



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Fun with Maps - Kaliningrad aka Königsberg

This episode of Fun with Maps takes a look at a very strategic piece of land called Königsberg or Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad is actually a city in the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. Remember that an enclave is a piece of land that is totally surrounded by a foreign territory. An exclave is a piece of land that is politically attached to a larger piece but not physically having the same borders with it because of surrounding foreign territory. Many entities are both enclaves and exclaves. Kaliningrad is an exclave because while politically attached to Russia it is bordered by Poland and Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

An oblast is a political and administrative division of a country. Oblast is a term used by many former Soviet countries that is something like states or provinces.

So how did Russia get territory to the west of Lithuania and north of Poland? It's a long story starting with Prussia. For much of the last 700 years or so this land was Königsberg, an historic Prussian city that then became German. As you will see, Germany was forced to give up huge patches of its conquered land at the end of WWII. In 1945 the Potsdam Agreement was signed by the USSR, Britain and the USA. It specifically gave Kaliningrad (known as the German Königsberg at the time) to Russia, without opposition. As you can tell from the map, it's very important as Russia's Baltic Navy base. It was also a center of knowledge and culture with people such as Immanuel Kant, Leonard Euler, Christian Goldbach and others there.



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Fun with Maps - Macau

In this episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson discusses a Special Administrative Region (S.A.R.) of the People's Republic of China called Macau. Macau is known as the "Las Vegas of the East", and some call it the gaming capital of the world. It has a gambling industry seven times larger than that of Las Vegas. The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and with a population of about 680,000 and an area of just 12.7 sq. miles, it is also the most densely populated region in the world.

This episode covers the history of the Portuguese settlement of Macau by Jorge Álvares to the transfer to China on December 20, 1999 after 442 years of Portuguese rule. This episode looks at maps of the region around Macau including Hong Kong, the Pearl River Estuary and Delta and Guangdong Province and Guangzhou which you may know as Canton. If you like learning about the world and its people by studying maps, consider subscribing to this series.



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Fun with Maps - Tour de France

In this special episode of Fun with Maps, host Dan Hanson looks at the map of the most famous bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France. Dan admits that he knew very little about the Tour de France outside of hearing names like Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong and about the yellow jersey. But while flipping through TV channels he saw some of the race and became hooked.

The peloton is particularly intriguing with the large group of riders mere inches from each other and the individual and team strategies for drafting and more. He also learned about the significance of not just the yellow jersey but the green, white and polka dot jerseys. The 2022 Tour de France (going on right now) began on July 1 with the Grand Départ in Denmark, the 10th country to host a start. With about 5.8 million people in Denmark about 9 out of 10 Danes own a bicycle and there are about 12,000km of bike routes across the country. There are 673,000 bikes just in the capital city of Copenhagen which has been named the world's best cycling city.

In this video Dan touches on the history of the race and some of the countries it has passed through. He is looking forward to the final stage in Paris on July 24 as the cyclists ride down the Champs-Élysées.



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Fun with Maps - Sargasso Sea (and Bermuda Triangle)

In this episode of Fun with Maps host Dan Hanson talks about the only sea in the world without a land boundary - the Sargasso Sea. The Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean is bounded by 4 currents but no land! It is distinguished from other parts of the Atlantic Ocean by its characteristic brown Sargassum seaweed and often calm, clear, deep blue water.

There are five major ocean-wide gyres - the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, and Indian Ocean gyres. The North Atlantic gyre has a pronounced thermohaline circulation, bringing salty water west from the Mediterranean Sea and then north to form the North Atlantic Deep Water. At the heart of the gyre is the Sargasso Sea, noted for its still waters and quite dense seaweed accumulations. Dan also tells the reason behind the name of the horse latitudes. He shows some highly camouflaged fish in the area.

Unfortunately, the gyre traps a high concentration of non-biodegradable plastic waste in its natural garbage or flotsam patch, in the same way the North Pacific Gyre has the Great Pacific garbage patch. The United Nations Environmental Program estimated that "for every square mile of ocean" there are about "46,000 pieces of plastic." The 10 largest emitters of oceanic plastic pollution worldwide are, from the most to the least, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, largely through the rivers Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Hai, Nile, Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger, and the Mekong, and accounting for "90 percent of all the plastic that reaches the world's oceans." Asia was the leading source of mismanaged plastic waste, with China alone accounting for 2.4 million metric tons.

The Sargasso Sea is often portrayed in literature and the media as an area of mystery. It is often depicted in fiction as a dangerous area where ships are mired in weed for centuries, unable to escape. So we look at some of that including the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. It's a fun episode. Watch to see the connection to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland.



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See Dan Hanson's videos on YouTube.




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