“Were you born in a barn?” in European languages

I’ve always been interested in how proverbs and certain expressions translate to other languages and for the last few weeks, I was exploring what people in different European countries say when someone enters a room/house and leaves the door open. There are a lot of great options but my personal favourites are Portuguese, Italian and Turkish. Keep in mind, that these are only selected versions, more expressions conveying the same meaning exist in most of the countries!

While some of the expressions seem obvious, like the German or the Ukrainian one as they imply a place where doors close by themselves, others are much less straightforward and have interesting history behind them. The Portuguese one, for instance, might be going back centuries! As one of the theories claims, in the 16th century, an extra gate was built into the city walls of Braga, but because it was quite a peaceful period in the city’s history and because it already started sprawling outside the walls, they didn’t install a door to block the gateway. Thus, the notion that people from Braga do not close doors was born.

The Dutch expression comes from the fact that church doors often stay open for people to come in. The Czech one I assume comes from the idea that if you have a pole in your arse you need to leave the door open the pole gets into the room/house to. Many Slavic languages also have a version about having a tail, I assume, for the same reasons.

The main source for this map was the AskEurope subreddit, although for some languages I had to mobilise native speakers in their own subreddits and a few friends of mine.

Cycling in the EU

In my opinion, bicycles are the best way of moving around cities. At least, around European cities as distances here are not as great as those of urban sprawls of the US or megapolises of Asia. Quick, easy to park, healthy, cheap and simply enjoyable – when your country has enough infrastructure and not too many mountains, these are the characteristics of urban cycling. Do you want to add “appropriate weather” to the list of conditions? Fair enough but why do Finland and Sweden have much higher percentages of cycling commuters than basically anywhere else in Europe? Proper infrastructure might be able to even out the severities of the climate although it is indeed less enjoyable to cycle in -25°C than in +20°C for most people. Special thanks to the Netherlands, cycling here is echt lekker. Be like Nederland.

Do you want to take a look at the original report and other interesting metrics regarding the quality of European transport – go here. If you got something to say, for instance, that you enjoy cycling in the cold more than on a sunny day, feel free to leave a comment, for other inquiries I’m waiting for you here.

Oldest universities in Europe

It is difficult to point to the oldest continuously functioning university in each European country. What should we count as the founding year: the year the establishment became a university or the year when its predecessor, let’s say a school or a seminary, was first founded? What if a particular university was founded by a foreign power when it ruled over the area? What if the university was closed for a century, is it still the same university then? These and many other questions regarding this matter seem subjective to me so this map depicts my answers to them.

I chose a maximum of 50 years of a gap for a university to be considered in continuous operation and, to be honest, even 50 years is a stretch but it seems to be as good as a period as any. Each particular case is anyway unique and boy don’t get me started on Napoleon. Most of the universities on the map, however, fall far below the 50-years mark, so a 40-years or a 35-years mark wouldn’t make much difference.

The dates you see on the map are the earliest dates when teaching occurred in universities’ predecessors, be it academies, schools, seminaries or whatever. Why? Why not if a certain establishment naturally evolved into a university?

There are a few interesting cases we should look at, though. One of them takes place in the country of Revolutions and Reforms – France. Starting with the University of France system in the 19th century, going through the divisions of the 1970s and the reunifications of the 2010s, the University of Paris has undergone so many transformations that if you put all of them in a chart it would look more complex than a chart of everyone who ever played in Black Sabbath. I decided to consider the current University of Paris to be a legitimate successor to the one founded in 1150 and recognised by the king in 1200 (hence, 2 dates on the map) because it is still a continuation of the old university, although only a part of it. If you think that it is not, then either the University of Toulouse or the University of Montpellier would be your best bet if you ever need to name the oldest university in France. Even then you’d have to choose between the date the schools were found and the date when they were recognised by the Pope, which was a big deal back in the 13th century. You can also say that any of the originally 13 and now 11 universities into which the original University of Paris was split is its legitimate successor.

Universities of Zadar in Croatia and Pécs in Hungary claim to be very old but they can’t claim continuous operation, with the first one not operating for 192 years and the second one for at least 150 years.

The University of Helsinki was originally founded by the Swedes in Turku (Åbo) then moved by the Russians to Helsinki after the Great Fire of Turku. Is it still the same university? I’d say yes. If you don’t agree, the same university would still take the crown, just the founding date would move from 1640 to 1828.

EDIT: The University of Tartu claims to have its roots in the university founded in 1632, however, this university was closed between 1710 and 1802, which is a 92-years gap. Nonetheless, if we take 1802 as the founding date of the current university, it would still take the crown in Estonia when it comes to the oldest continuously functioning university in the country. That’s why you see 1802 and not 1632 on the map. Thanks to r/kaugeksj2i and r/GOKOP for pointing that out, so I could fix the map.

Enjoy the map and if you don’t agree with its contents because your university logo has another date on it then unfortunately I can’t help you. If you got substantial proof, though, leave a comment below. Always glad to be rightly proved wrong. Actually, if you like the map, leave a comment too, it would make my day better.

If you have a suggestion on what map I should do next, submit it here.