Smallest Country on Two Oceans

While I researched the Smallest Multiple Time Zone Countries I noticed that a small corner of Chile actually abutted the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of kilometres of its coastline hugged the Pacific Ocean and that one tiny little corner curved and extended far enough to reach the Atlantic. I enjoyed that meaningless anomaly for some unknown reason. I thought about it some more. Chile might not be that remarkable after all, I concluded. One would expect a large nation to possibly touch two oceans. Of course that led to a quest to find the smallest country with that distinction.

I created a couple of ground rules for this particular exercise. First, the landmass needed to be contiguous. I didn’t care about nations with lots of far-flung islands. Otherwise I would select something silly and call it a day. Next, I used a fairly relaxed definition of "ocean." For instance the Caribbean Sea served as an extension of the Atlantic, so I considered it to be part of the Atlantic too.


Clouds over Jaco Island, Timor Leste
Clouds over Jaco Island, Timor Leste. Photo by Kate Dixon on Flickr (cc)

Timor-Leste (or East Timor in English) covered the eastern half of Timor Island, with the other half belonging to Indonesia. It also included that interesting little exclave called Oecusse towards the western side of the island. The Timor Island split occurred because of colonialism. Dutch powers originally controlled the present-day Indonesian portion. Portuguese powers controlled the east, thus giving rise to the name Timor-Leste. The nation suffered through a rather tumultuous period despite its recent independence. Indonesian forces invaded it, a brutal civil war took place, and Australian troops came as peacekeepers a couple of different times. Things seem to have settled down in the last few years, though.

Back to the point, Timor-Leste covered only 14,874 square kilometres (5,743 square miles). The northern coastline hugged the Savu Sea, a part of the Pacific Ocean. It’s southern side touched the Timor Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. I’m not sure who made the rules about where one ocean began and the other ended. I guess the line had to go somewhere so that’s the arbitrary situation it created. These things are all artificial anyway. Timor-Leste seemingly "won" my trivial competition.

The two seas met at the nation’s easternmost point, a place called Jaco Island (map). A narrow channel separated it from the rest of the country, protecting it as part of Nino Konis Santana National Park. Nonetheless, for a few bucks, local fishermen reportedly would take take tourists to its pristine beaches on unsanctioned visits. That’s what the Intertubes said although I don’t necessarily endorse such clandestine behavior.


Eilat - Panorama night 1 - by Ron Borkin
Eilat – Panorama. Photo by Ron Borkin via israeltourism on Flickr (cc)

The next smaller occurrence surprised me a little. I didn’t really think of Israel as bordering two oceans. Nonetheless I believed it did based on my simple rules. Certainly it included an extensive coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, which served as an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. I always forgot about its access to the Gulf of Aqaba though, probably because the other coastline dwarfed it by comparison. The gulf led to the Red Sea which led to the Indian Ocean. Thus, Israel with a land area of 27,632 square kilometres (10,669 square miles) passed the test.

Just a few kilometres of Israeli coastline hugged the Gulf of Aqaba. It offered room for just one town, Eilat (אֵילַת). Historically, Eilat (map) traced back to the ancient world, even earning a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible. The unique situation of its geographic placement also guaranteed that it would remain a busy place in modern times. Israel, largely isolated by its neighbors, could use the port for easy access to Asian trading networks. Egypt and Jordan bordered on Eilat, and Saudi Arabia sat practically within eyesight towards the south. Those could all be bypassed using the waterway.

Eilat also provided a nice beach and served as a popular resort destination. One couldn’t drive too easily to the outside world from Israel so this would pretty much be the end of the line for a weekend getaway.

Costa Rica

Montezuma, Costa Rica
Montezuma, Costa Rica. Photo by Javier Bacchetta on Flickr (cc)

Next my attention turned to Central America. Every nation there except for Belize and El Salvador bordered both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. I only had to pick the smallest one. That honor went to Costa Rica with a land area of 51,060 square kilometres (19,710 square miles). What a spectacular set of coastline it had too. Costa Rica featured more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of water access.

Tourists began to flock to Costa Rica in recent years for its beaches. Some of the most spectacular examples ringed the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific side of the country. If someone traveled to the farthest spot, to the tip of the peninsula, one would find Playa Montezuma (map). This playa (beach) had a reputation for being both relaxing and cheap, a destination for aging hippies.

Elvis is Everywhere

My recent trip to Graceland put Elvis Presley, or more properly what I call the "cult of Elvis" at the forefront of my mind once again. It never wanders far, lurking in my subconscious as it does, simply waiting for a proper triggering event. Graceland certainly qualified.

Go ahead and play "Elvis is Everywhere" by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper in the background and get into the proper mood. This time I concentrated my efforts outside of the United States in a true Elvis is Everywhere spirit. He turned up in interesting places, both historically expected and locationally inexplicable through the actions of his acolytes.

Randers, Denmark

Graceland Randers, Denmark

An event hall in Randers, Denmark recreated the form of Graceland and even named itself Graceland Randers. In addition to hosting Elvis-inspired weddings and sponsoring meetings of the Official Danish Elvis Presley Fan Club, Graceland Randers offered an Elvis museum and an Americana-inspired diner called Highway 51 (the actual Highway 51 is known as Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis and runs directly past Graceland).

I’d include photographs, however Graceland Randers hadn’t been around long enough to generate anything with Creative Common licenses yet. Even Street View showed it as an empty lot. I did find a nice copyright protected photograph that showed Graceland Randers’ decent albeit incomplete rendition of the real deal.

Friedberg, Germany

Capri Club 2009 - the army home of Elvis Presley
Capri Club 2009 – the army home of Elvis Presley by Barbara Müller-Walter, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license

Ray Barracks, an American military facility, used to exist at Friedberg, Germany until it was decommissioned in 2007 and returned to German control. Elvis Presley served in the US Army as a draftee and was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Ray Barracks. He lived at the barracks for an 18-month period during 1958-1960. Friedberg legitimately claimed a connection to Presley. It made sense for the town to erect a monument in a roundabout outside of the former barracks gates (map).

There were several other Elvis-inspired locations I managed to find elsewhere in Germany, including:

I imagine that Elvis’ German tour of duty likely contributed to the proliferation.

Neve Ilan, Israel

Burma Road 024
Burma Road 024 by Alex Jilitsky, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

Uri Yoeli constructed the Elvis Inn in Neve Ilan, Israel (map) even though Elvis never stopped there. Rather it sprang from the owner’s devotion. It has been described as "a cafe and souvenir shop off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway that’s more like a shrine."

Mixed in with the menorahs and Hebrew T-shirts are 728 pictures of Elvis Presley that cover every wall, the ceiling and four brick pillars supporting the roof. Young Elvis, old Elvis, fat Elvis, slim Elvis, white-jumpsuit Elvis, Army Elvis, Elvis and Priscilla, and Elvis wearing a cowboy hat in the middle of a framed Confederate flag. Even the napkins say Elvis.

Trip Advisor gave it mixed reviews.

Kobe, Japan

View Larger Map

This one took some digging. I’d noticed references to a rock ‘n’ roll museum in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, and its Love Me Tender Elvis store, Get Back Beatles store and Gimme Shelter Rolling Stones store. Then it closed suddenly in 2009. There was speculation about where or whether its iconic Elvis Presley statue would reappear.

Later sources referenced Kobe Harborland, but where? Thank goodness this large cluster of malls and shops included an online guide with a decent map, even if mostly in Japanese. Transposing between the the Harborland reference and Google Maps allowed me to approximate the location in Street View, and I finally spot Elvis’ current whereabouts. Elvis left the building and reappeared in Kobe.

Not Enough?

Waymarking includes an entire Elvis Category. I had fun searching for Elvis around the world. I even used it to find a replica Hollywood Boulevard star for Elvis at a hamburger joint in São Paulo, Brazil (map). I’ll also note that an Ancient Roman Elvis bust was discovered not too long ago and sold at auction.

Elvis is, and truly was, everywhere even before his "birth." And of course we all know he never died.


I noticed a lake that’s clipped by the stair-step border in Arkansas. What kind of nimrod would name something Nimrod Lake?

View Larger Map

Nimrod can be applied in a derogatory way in various usages of American English to a person who is perceived to be dim-witted. I don’t know if that applies elsewhere in the English speaking world so maybe our regular readers in Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, India, South Africa and various other places can confirm or deny that. In any case it would seem mildly amusing to many people living in the United States if they were driving along and encountered a sign for Nimrod Lake. Would the Nimrod refer to the absurdity of this particular geographic location or would it be a requirement of the people who fished there? Neither, actually.

Nimrod can be found in the Book of Genesis and the Books of Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible. I am by no means a biblical scholar so no disrespect is intended if I don’t get this exactly right: succinctly, Nimrod was a king of Mesopotamia/Babylonia, a great-grandson of Noah, and a mighty hunter of exceptional abilities.

There are way too many things named for Nimrod to even begin to cover them here adequately so feel free to jump over to Wikipedia’s disambiguation page if so inclined. Historically Nimrod has been a common name for ships and more recently for an airplane, a maritime patrol aircraft for the UK military, all playing off the "mighty hunter" theme. There was even a group of phantom islands named for Nimrod that were still appearing on maps as late as the early 20th Century.

It’s not surprising that Nimrod place name appears in various locations throughout the United States, drawing upon the biblical definition of the might hunter. The United States Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) lists 37 Nimrod features: towns, lakes, buildings, creeks, canyons, hills, mines, dams, historical sites and more.

Nobody seems entirely sure how Nimrod acquired its negative connotation. There’s a story often repeated as fact that it somehow derived from or was at least popularized by a Looney Tunes cartoon. Bugs Bunny apparently referred to the hapless Elmer Fudd — who continuously hunted the Wascally Wabbit all the while failing miserably — as "poor little Nimrod." It was meant as sarcasm but somehow the meaning flipped from Mighty Hunter to something more akin to Elmer Fudd.

I don’t have any way to fact-check that anecdote so take it as one of those Internet things that sounds plausible on the surface but may or may not be true. Other sources seem to point to an older origin as used amongst hunters to make fun of each other. Feel free to decide for yourself.

There are at least five inhabited places in the United States named Nimrod regardless of how the alternate usage arose.

View Larger Map

Nimrod, Minnesota is probably the largest, and even it had fewer than 100 people in the most recent Census. It is an incorporated "city" under Minnesota law, one of the smallest localities in the state with such a designation. It’s best known for it’s annual Labor Day celebration, Nimrod Jubilee Days, which you can see advertised in the banner of this Street View image at least until Google makes another pass and updates its photos. I also love that Nimrod was established as a halfway point for wheat traders traveling on the Wheat Trail between Shell City and the nearest railroad at Verndale. This places Nimrod firmly in the "Halfway to what?" category.

Other inhabited U.S. Nimrods include:

  • Nimrod, Oregon (map)
  • Nimrod, Texas (map)
  • Nimrod, Arkansas (map)
  • Nimrod, Montana (map) — coincidentally next to Running Rabbit Mountain, to keep with that Bugs Bunny theme!

Nimrods also exist outside of the United States.

View Larger Map

One such Nimrod is a small Israeli settlement in the disputed lands of the Golan Heights, named for and located near the Nimrod Fortress. The biblical Nimrod, by speculation and tradition was reputed to have lived on the summit.

Happy hunting.