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Amusing Planet - Amazing Places, Wonderful People, Weird Stuff



London Railings Made From World War 2 Stretchers  

Many housing estates throughout London are surrounded by black steel and mesh railings with peculiar notches around the edges. Although at first glance they appear to be some quirky architectural design, the notches have a purpose—or rather, had a purpose. These steel railings originally functioned as stretchers used to carry the wounded during the Second World War. The curves or the notches you see were the legs upon which the stretchers were laid on the ground. After the war was over many of...

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2018-01-16 09:18:00



The Legacy of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid  

A two-hour bumpy ride from Uyuni across Bolivia's high plains will take you to the small town of San Vicente. At the entrance to this remote settlement is a sign that proclaims: "Welcome to San Vicente. Here lie Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid." The notorious outlaw duo, made famous by the 1969 movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, allegedly met their death in a gun fight at this old miners' settlement high in the southern Bolivian Andes, not far from Uyuni's famous salt flat...

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2018-01-13 10:45:00



Fort Conger: Robert Peary's Arctic Hut  

In 1899, when famous arctic explorer Robert Peary reached Ellesmere Island, in Canada, he found the ruins of a hut erected by a previous arctic expedition in the island's northeastern shore. The hut was a three-room building built with long, wooden boards, and covered with tar paper, but such type of construction was notoriously difficult to keep warm during the freezing polar winters. Peary found the building utterly unfit for habitation, and so he had the building torn down and rebuilt sever...

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2018-01-11 11:03:00



The Witches' Market of La Paz, Bolivia  

Along a narrow cobblestone street in an old quarter of La Paz, in Boliva, old women dressed in traditional Andean garb of colorful ankle-length dresses and bowler hats sit with their wares spread out in front of them. This is the famous Mercado de las Brujas, or the Witches' Market. It has everything a witch could desire—amulets, talisman, herbs, good luck charms, dried armadillos and frogs, ceramic figures of naked couples, aphrodisiac formulas, owl feathers, dried turtles, starfish, snak...

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2018-01-11 11:01:00



Elbphilharmonie: A Spectacular New Concert Hall in Hamburg  

Exactly one year ago, on January 11, 2017, a new concert hall opened in Hamburg, Germany. Like a ship on dry dock, the new glassy construction resembles a hoisted sail and is set upon a giant brick warehouse, surrounded on three sides by water of Hamburg's historic harbor. Since the first public performance, the Elbphilharmonie has won accolades in cultural circles because of its iconic architecture as well as for its brilliant acoustics and sound clarity. The old warehouse upon which the mode...

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2018-01-09 11:07:00



Athabasca Sand Dunes  

Stretching for approximately 100 kilometers along the southern edge of Lake Athabasca, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, are some of the most northerly active sand dunes on Earth. Unlike most dunes, which are associated with dry and arid region, the Athabasca Sand Dunes are located in the middle of a wetland and a boreal forest, making it one of the most unique sand dunes and a geological oddity. The dunes are spread across more than 30,000 hectares, and due to their unusual ecosystem, t

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2018-01-09 11:06:00



The Soledar Salt Mines  

Some 250 million years ago, a part of Ukraine was under a shallow ocean. When the ocean dried up, it left behind a huge deposit of salt which got buried underneath due to upheavals in the earth's crust. A large concentration of this salt is located under a small city called Soledar, a Russian word meaning "gift of salt". For a long time, this area was known for brine springs, caused by the solution of underground salt deposits by ground water. This brine was used to produce salt since the ...

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2018-01-08 11:00:00



Honoring Animals Used in Research And Testing  

The United States' National Academies of Sciences estimates that as many as 22 million vertebrate animals are used every year in the United States alone for research and testing. About 85 percent of these animals are rats and mice. These tiny, furry creatures have been one of the go-to animals for biomedical researchers around the world for studies relating to everything from cancer to the effects of space travel on the human body. The scientific community is well aware of the invaluable role ...

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2018-01-03 10:28:00



Akademgorodok: Siberia's Silicon Valley  

Tucked away in a remote forest of birch and pine in the heart of Siberia, 3,000 km away from Moscow, at a place where winters are six months long with temperatures dropping to minus 40 degree Celsius and summers are swaddled with mosquitos, is a city built for scientists and researchers. This frozen wasteland is more suited for polar bears than scientific endeavors, but Nikita Khrushchev felt the distance from Moscow was necessary so that the country's sharpest scientific minds could work toge...

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2017-12-29 15:35:00



The Russian Woodpecker  

Anyone who listened to shortwave radio or was a ham radio operator from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s will be familiar with a sharp, repetitive "rat tat tat tat" noise that permeated the airwaves disrupting communications and television signals the world over. Nicknamed the "Woodpecker", the signal came from a massive array of antennas hidden deep in the woods—two located near Chernobyl in Ukraine, and a third one on the Russian Pacific coast, near the island of Sakhalnsk. These ante...

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2017-12-28 20:37:00



The Fortified Villages of Khevsureti  

Tucked away in the Caucasus Mountains in the north of Georgia, is the historic province of Khevsureti. Its men were once renowned in martial arts, and especially for their warfare with the Muslim population of the Northern Caucasus including the Chechens, the Kists, and the Dagestans. Due to the geographic, ethnic and religious complexity and lack of industrialization in the Greater Caucasus, the tribes of the North Caucasus used to frequently attack and rob the mountain-dwelling Georgians. In

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2017-12-27 19:53:00



Britain's Thankful Villages  

War memorials are a familiar sight in towns and villages across Britain, somberly remembering the sacrifices made by millions of ordinary young men in the First World War. But there are a handful of villages where, until recently, there were no war memorials. Do not be mistaken for these villages did their part in the war, sending their men to fight for their country shoulder to shoulder with others from every other village in the land. But by some extraordinary strokes of good fortune, none of

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2017-12-22 16:32:00



Poles of Beauty  

An image recently published by one of my favorite blogs, Astronomy Picture of the Day, made me realize that our planet earth posses perhaps one of the dullest looking poles of the solar system. Just a white, irregular and featureless patch of snow and ice. In comparison, this is what the north pole of Mars looks like. The latte-like spirals around the pole are frozen carbon dioxide that precipitates out of the thin Martian atmosphere every winter and is deposited over the frozen pole cap made u

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2017-12-20 15:23:00



Checkpoint Charlie  

For nearly thirty years until the end of the Cold War, Berlin lay divided both physically and ideologically by the infamous Berlin Wall that snaked through the now united German capital. The wall was erected mainly to prevent East Germans from defecting to the West. Citizens from East Germany were strictly forbidden to travel to the other side. West Germans and citizens of other countries, however, could visit East Germany after applying for a visa. The 155-km long wall had nine border crossing

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2017-12-19 11:24:00



Ethiopia's Churches In The Sky  

The ancient Kingdom of Axum, now a part of Ethiopia, was one of the first nations in the world to adopt Christianity. The religion took strong foothold in 330 AD when King Ezana the Great declared it the state religion and ordered the construction of the imposing basilica of St. Mary of Tsion. Legend has it, that it here that Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, brought the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments. By the fifth century, nine saints from Syria, Constan

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2017-12-15 15:58:00



How Clowns Trademark Their Face By Painting On Eggs  

Every clown's face makeup is unique, or at least, they should be, for there is an unwritten rule within the clowning community that no clown should copy another clown's look. In order to copyright the specific facial designs of a clown, Clowns International—the world's oldest clown society—maintains a register of clown faces. But instead of keeping photographs or sketches of the clown's makeup, details are painted on ceramic eggs and decorated with collars, bow ties, wigs and miniatu...

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2017-12-14 21:18:00



Toronto's Camouflaged Electric Substations  

More often than not, industrial infrastructures are an eyesore, especially when they are smack in the middle of a beautiful city like Toronto. So for the past hundred years, Canada's second-largest municipal electricity distribution company, Toronto Hydro, has been disguising substations into quiet little houses that blend right in with the neighbourhood. Some appear like grand Georgian mansions or late-Victorian buildings, while others look like humble suburban homes. Even the most sharp-eyed...

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2017-12-12 12:13:00



Cultybraggan: Britain's Last POW Camp  

The Cultybraggan camp located near the Scottish village of Comrie, in Perthshire, is one of the last remaining World War 2 Prisoner of War Camp in the UK. Spread over nearly 14 hectares, this former camp site contains approximately 90 huts built of corrugated iron—the famous Nissen huts, named after the founder, Peter Norman Nissen. These huts became common in POW camps across Britain and were supposed to be temporary structures. But in Cultybraggan camp, they have stayed the same having been ...

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2017-12-09 15:26:00



Decorating Fences With Trash, The New Zealander Way  

New Zealanders have a unique way of discarding their trash—they hang them on fences. Bras, boots, toothbrushes, bicycles, everything that has had their useful life over gets hung en masse on roadside fences. Perhaps, the most famous of them is the Cardrona Bra Fence in Central Otago. The fence began one morning in 1999 when four women's bras were found attached to the wire fence alongside the road and fluttering in the breeze. Rumor is that a group of women were celebrating the new year at ...

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2017-12-08 16:12:00



The Dark Legacy of Gruinard Island  

Halfway between the villages of Gairloch and Ullapool in the North-West Highlands of Scotland, sits a small oval-shaped island named Gruinard. From the shores of the mainland, the island appears very quiet and peaceful. But in the 1940s, it was a different story. It was here on Gruinard Island, during the Second World War, a team of scientists from the military research facilities at Porton Down demonstrated to Winston Churchill the lethality of anthrax, and the feasibility of using the deadly

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2017-12-07 15:11:00



Leiden's Love Affair With Poems And Equations  

Scattered throughout the city of Leiden, in The Netherlands, are over one hundred poems carefully hand-painted on the exterior walls of buildings. These include the works of Rimbaud, Shakespeare, W. B. Yeats, Marina Tsvetaeva, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott as well as local writers. Most of them are in Dutch and English. A couple of them are in Turkish, Moroccan, Chinese, Surinam, and other languages. The Wall Poems project started in 1992 and was funded partly by the private Tegen-Beeld foundation

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2017-12-06 20:29:00



Chateau de Chenonceau: The Chateau Built Over A River  

Château de Chenonceau, located near the small village of Chenonceaux in France, is one of the best-known chateau of the Loire valley. The chateau is special in part for being constructed over the River Cher, which on fair days is so calm and placid that it appears as a lake. The chateau's other specialty is that it was built, maintained, protected, loved and fought for by an almost uninterrupted succession of women spanning four centuries. Château de Chenonceau is therefore popularly known a...

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2017-12-06 20:26:00



The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility  

The cold hard stare of Lenin penetrating the icy air is the only thing you'll come across the vast frozen landscape in this part of Antarctica for hundreds of miles. His plastic bust was left here, erected on the roof of a research station, by the members of the Third Soviet Antarctic Expedition. Today, it is the only visible part of the now defunct station. The rest is buried in snow. The Third Soviet Antarctic Expedition arrived at this remote location on 14 December 1958. This place is call...

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2017-12-05 23:20:00



The German Hyperinflation of 1923  

There was a time when an average German carried billions of marks in their pockets but could still buy nothing. A loaf of bread cost 200 billion marks. A week's pension would not buy even a cup of coffee. The mark was freefalling and its value decreasing by the minute. Restaurants stopped printing menus because by the time the food arrived the price had gone up. One guy drank the first cup of coffee at 5,000 marks. The second cup cost him 9,000 marks. The stories from those days were horrifyin...

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2017-12-04 23:12:00



The Fungus That Makes Mummies  

In 1647, construction workers carrying out repairs on the Church of Saint Andrew in the small city of Venzone, in the province of Udine, Italy, accidentally broke open a tomb in the churchyard. Inside was found the perfectly dried body of a man who appeared to be of average height and possibly rotund during his living days. His body had now shrunk to only 33 pounds, or about 15 kg. But curiously, it hadn't decomposed. Over the next four centuries up to present times, a total of 42 bodies have ...

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2017-12-04 13:19:00



The Abandoned Hotels of Kupari  

Affixed to the wall near the city gate in the town of Dubrovnik on Croatia's beautiful Dalmatian Coast, is a map showing the scale of damage the city suffered during the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995). The black triangles denote damaged roof, the red boxes denote fires, and the black dots denote direct artillery hits. The damage has been repaired today, but from high points around the city one can clearly see where the bombs fell from the brightly coloured new roofs. While Dubrovni...

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2017-12-01 20:29:00



Derbent: Russia's Oldest City  

Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia's oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia, and the second-most important city of Dagestan. From a small early Bronze-age settlement to one of the biggest medieval cities of the Eastern Europe, the city of Derbent has a unique urban structure. It is situated ...

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2017-11-30 22:09:00



The Mega Hotels of Mecca  

A mammoth new hotel is rising in Saudi Arabia's holy city Mecca. When completed it will have 10,000 rooms spanning more than 1.4 million square meters, and 70 restaurants catering to the most affluent of pilgrims from the Gulf and abroad. Resembling a traditional fortress, the hotel Abraj Kudai consist of a ring of 12 towers soaring 45 stories into the sky. Atop its central tower will be one of the world's largest domes. Surrounding this dome will be five helipads. The world's biggest h...

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2017-11-29 16:07:00



The Rise of Vertical Cemeteries  

According to the Population Reference Bureau, there are approximately 101 billion dead people on earth with 7 billion more to join them within the next century. With the dead far outnumbering the living, it's no surprising that space at cemeteries has become premium. Many European countries have been reusing graves for centuries. In the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, when space runs out, a fresh layer of soil is laid out on top of the existing graves to make room for new bodies. When the last...

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2017-11-28 20:44:00



Copenhagen's Urban Birdhouses  

Thomas Dambo—you may remember him from a couple of months ago, where he constructed giant troll-like wooden sculptures and hid them around the city of Copenhagen—has been doing other stuff as well, such as building birdhouses for the city's avian population. Under the title of "Happy City Birds", Dambo and his team has built over 3,500 birdhouses since 2006 and installed them across the city grouping them on tall poles, or against buildings, or spacing them out on trees. The idea for ...

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2017-11-27 21:30:00



Modern Potemkin Villages  

In 1787, Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, was scheduled for a grand tour of the newly acquired lands of Crimea and New Russia—now part of Ukraine—which she gained by defeating the Ottoman Empire and after signing peace treaties with the Cossack Hetmanate. The trip was to be arranged by Gregory Potemkin, the governor of the region, who was clearly Catherine's favorite and one of her numerous lovers. The region had been devastated by the war, and one of Potemkin's major task...

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2017-11-25 12:33:00



Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin's Color Photographs of Pre-Revolution Russia  

Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky was a Russian chemist and photographer, best known for his pioneering work in color photography during the early 20th century. His priceless color photographs documenting the waning days of the Russian Empire before the First World War and the Russian Revolution are today some of the most prized possession of the United States Library of Congress. In the beginning of the 20th century, color photography was still in its infancy. It was the German photochemist A

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2017-11-25 12:28:00



The Coffin Ships of The Great Irish Famine  

During the Great Famine of Ireland in the mid-19th century, tens of thousands of starving Irish families fled the country and emigrated to Canada and the United States. Most of the ships that sailed during the famine years were overcrowded and poorly built and had a horrible reputation of unseaworthiness. "Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a terrible trial for those brave, or desperate, enough to attempt it," says the website of the Dunbrody Famine Ship museum in New Ross, ...

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2017-11-22 13:39:00



Victorian Era Murder Figurines  

During the late 18th century, the potteries in the Staffordshire region of England began churning out detailed ceramic figures commemorating everything from classical artwork to political movements and current events, from folk heroes to celebrities. Staffordshire figures were in great demand for the Victorian consumers seldom had affordable artwork and objects to decorate their homes with. In 1793, a French revolutionary leader by the name of Jean-Paul Marat, who was one of the most radical vo

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2017-11-21 12:26:00



The Hairy Secret Behind Indian Temples  

Where do hairs for fashion wigs and hair extensions come from? The answer is: everywhere, but the majority of them come from China and India, where human hair is a lucrative business. In India, China, and eastern Europe, small agents tour villages coaxing poverty-stricken women to part with their hair for a small payment. Sometimes, husbands would force wives into selling their hair and slum children would be tricked into having their heads shaved in exchange for toys. There was one incident in

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2017-11-18 16:19:00



Lebanon's Thinnest Building Was Built Out of Spite  

Locals call the building "the Grudge" and rightly so. This extremely narrow building standing on a mere 120-square-meter piece of land in Beirut was built specifically so that one man can block another man's view of the ocean. According to the prevailing lore, these two men were brothers, who each inherited a plot, but were unable to arrive at a mutual agreement on how to develop their respective properties. One of the brothers owned a minuscule plot of land, and was bitter for receiving t...

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2017-11-18 16:18:00



The International Church of Cannabis  

The psychedelic interior of this 113-year-old converted Lutheran church in Denver's Washington Park neighborhood is appropriate, for it's the International Church of Cannabis. It's a unique community where members, who call themselves Elevationists, use cannabis for spiritual purposes and to positively influence their lives. "The International Church of Cannabis' mission is to offer a home to adults everywhere who are looking to create the best version of themselves by way of the sacr...

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2017-11-16 11:46:00



The Potteries of Staffordshire  

The art of pottery making has been known since ancient times. However, the first true porcelain was made in China only during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). For more than a millennium the Chinese artisans managed to keep the recipe a secret, allowing expensive Chinese porcelain to be exported to Europe, until a breakthrough was made in a German factory in Dresden in the early 18th century. Within a few years, porcelain factories sprung up around Bavaria and in Naples and many other places. I...

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2017-11-15 11:54:00



The Forgotten Communist-Era Monuments of Bulgaria  

From the end of the Second World War until the fall of communism in 1990, Bulgaria was a communist state ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party. Then called the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the country allied closely with the Soviet Union and was heavily influenced by Soviet policies and politics. Like the rest of the Eastern Bloc, the leaders of the People's Republic of Bulgaria too were eager to leave the mark of communism by building hundreds of monuments across the country. After

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2017-11-13 16:04:00



The Diving Horses of Atlantic City  

For nearly half a century, Atlantic City, in New Jersey, United States, was home to an attraction almost too fantastical to believe—an apparently fearless horse with a young woman on its back would leap off a tower some 40 feet high into a pool of water below. The stunt took place at Atlantic City's popular venue Steel Pier, where trained horses took the plunge up to four times a day and seven days a week. The idea of the diving horse was invented in Texas by ''Doctor'' Wil...

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2017-11-11 13:04:00



The Double-Barreled Cannon of Athens  

In front of the City Hall of Athens, in Georgia, United States, stands an unusual cannon from the American Civil War. It's a double-barreled cannon, but unlike other multiple-barrel cannons of the past, the double-barreled cannon of Athens was designed to fire two solid cannonballs connected together by a length of iron chain. The two barrels pointed slightly away from each other, so that when they are fired together the cannonballs would spread to the full length of the chain and mow down ene...

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2017-11-10 12:21:00



The Art of Mediaeval Book Repairing  

In the early Middle Ages, books were made from animal hides known as parchment, rather than from paper. Preparing the parchment was a delicate business. The freshly skinned hide is first washed to remove blood and grime, and then soaked in a strong alkali solution to loosen out the hairs. After staying in the de-hairing solution for more than a week, the skin is attached to a wooden frame and stretched tight like a drum. While the skin is drying, the parchment maker would take a sharp knife and

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2017-11-10 12:19:00



Michelangelo's Hidden Drawings at Medici Chapels  

In a concealed room beneath the New Sacristy of the San Lorenzo Basilica in Florence, Italy, the great Italian sculptor and architect Michelangelo once went into hiding. He was fifty five at that time. Michelangelo had enjoyed the patronage of the Medici family, which lorded over Florence in the early 16th century, for much of his life. But relations turned sour when the Medici were thrown out of power and Michelangelo went to the aid of his beloved city which ousted the Medici in 1527. The repu

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2017-11-08 15:08:00



Lyon, The City of Murals  

For the last four decades a group of muralists in the French city of Lyon has been transforming the city into a massive outdoor art gallery. Huge murals painted in the trompe l'oeil style cover walls all over Lyon depicting historical events or famous people or mundane moments of everyday life. As of now, there are more than 150 murals across Lyon. Lyon's love affair with mural art started in the early 1970s, when a group of local students decided to bring art out of the confines of gallerie...

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2017-11-07 21:36:00



The Abandoned Canfranc Railway Station  

Sitting at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains on the Spanish side of the French-Spanish border is an immense railway station. Built with iron and glass, the station's art nouveau building stretches a quarter of a kilometer long, and its façade is decorated with more than three hundred windows. Inside the building there was once a luxurious hotel, an infirmary, a restaurant and living quarters for customs officers. Aside from the platform and the main building, there was a large locomotiv...

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2017-11-07 11:05:00



People Matching Artworks  

Austrian photographer Stefan Draschan spends hours hanging around museums looking for curious coincidences where visitors perfectly match the paintings they were looking at. The project began accidentally one summer in 2014, when Draschan saw a guy sitting in front of a Georges Braque in Berlin. It was his first match. Six months later in Munich, he saw another guy who looked like the huge Greek vase behind him. When he discovered a woman sitting in front of a Vermeer in Vienna, Draschan had a

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2017-11-06 23:34:00



Puzzlewood: Tolkien's Inspiration For Middle Earth  

The "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel of the same name were shot almost entirely in New Zealand, but the inspiration for the mythical realm of Middle-earth came from Tolkien's homeland, England. One of the places that Tolkien is said to have been inspired is Puzzlewood, an ancient woodland near Coleford in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. This primordial forest covers 14 acres of mossy rocks, twisted roots and woodland bridges, with a ma...

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2017-11-06 12:53:00



Newton's Apple Tree in Lincolnshire  

The story of Sir Isaac Newton and the falling apple is one of the most famous anecdotes in science. The young Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree in his garden when a fruit fell on his head, and in a sudden stroke of brilliant insight, he came up with the theory of gravity. The story is most likely embellished—at least the part where the apple hits Newton's head—but there is also some truth to it. The first written account of the apple falling incident appears on the notes of John...

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2017-11-03 22:04:00



Ise Jingu: The Japanese Shrine That's Torn Down And Rebuilt Every 20 Years  

The Ise Grand Shrine, also known as Ise Jingu, located in the city of Ise, in Japan, is one of Shinto's holiest and most important sites. The shrine complex contains over a hundred shrines distributed over an immense area, but its two most important shrines are Naiku—the inner shrine, and Geku—the outer shrine. The inner shrine is believed to date from the 3rd century and is held in higher reverence than the outer shrine, due to it being the purported home of the Sacred Mirror of the Emp...

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2017-11-03 11:38:00



The Painted Monasteries of Romania  

In northern Romania, in a region historically known as Bukovina, are a collection of eight Byzantine-era churches renowned for their beautiful, colored frescos that adorn their walls, both on the inside and outside. Built during the waning days and immediately aftermath of the Byzantine Empire, each of these painted monastery is distinctive in color and in its frescoed Bible stories. Through these frescoes of saints and prophets, scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ, and stories of man's begi...

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2017-11-02 15:27:00



The Art of Well Dressing  

Every year throughout summer many villages in Derbyshire and Staffordshire decorate their wells and water sources—a custom known as well dressing. Villagers take large wooden boards, coat them in clay and press flower petals, twigs, seeds and other natural objects to create scenes from the Bible or fairy tales. These boards are then used to adorn local wells and springs. While the true origins of well dressing have been lost in time, it likely began as a pagan custom of offering thanks to gods...

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2017-11-01 15:30:00



The Udny Mort House  

Much of what we know about the human anatomy comes from dissecting human cadavers. The practice goes back to classical antiquity. The Greeks and the Romans carried out human dissection, and so did ancient medicine men in India. In Europe, the practice flourished in the 18th and 19th century with a new found medical interest in detailed anatomy, thanks to an increase in the importance of surgery. Back then, and prior to the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses were those condemn

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2017-10-31 13:14:00



Madam Coudray's 18th Century Manikin For Midwife Trainees  

This crude fabric doll of a small child emerging out of a fabric womb was one of the first life-sized obstetrical manikin used by Angelique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray, a pioneering French midwife of the 18th century, to teach the practice of childbirth and midwifery to rural women. Angelique du Coudray was born in 1715 into an eminent French medical family in Clermont-Ferrand. Not much is known about her early years, except from the fact that at the age of twenty-five, she completed her...

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2017-10-30 20:38:00



Sheela-Na-Gig: The Mysterious Medieval Carvings of Women Exhibitionists  

The Church of St Mary and St David at Kilpeck in the English county of Herefordshire is famous for its Norman carvings of writhing snakes and mysterious beasts. But the most extraordinary of all is that of a sheela-na-gig. Sheela-na-gigs are medieval stone figures of a naked woman spreading her legs. She is shown using her hands to pull open and proudly display her exaggerated genitals. What makes these figures so puzzling is the fact that they occur predominantly in medieval religious buildings

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2017-10-28 22:53:00



The Rock Houses That Inspired Tolkien  

In 1777, a certain Joseph Heely of Birmingham published a guide book to the three great West Midland gardens of the mid-18th century with a very long-winded title—Letters on the Beauties of Hagley, Envil and The Leasowes with critical remarks and Observations on the Modern Taste in Gardening. In the book Healey describes an incident where he was walking along the edge of a cliff when he was caught in a thunderstorm. Healey scanned the area for a shelter and noticed some smoke rising out of a c...

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2017-10-27 12:57:00



Medieval 'dos-à-dos' Book Bindings  

Back in mediaeval times, when people didn't have Kindles to carry a thousand books, some book binders bound two separate books together in a single volume so that the reader had one less book to carry. In those days, reading wasn't a very popular past time and the only books the majority of the populace read were religious in nature. Two books that were frequently bound together were the New Testament and the Book of Psalms, because both were needed during church services. They became very c...

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2017-10-25 16:06:00



Japanese Milk Delivery Boxes  

For many western countries, doorstep milk delivery is a thing of the past, but in Japan, millions of people still rely on the milkman for fresh milk everyday. Many traditional Japanese homes have milk delivery boxes, which are wooden boxes nailed outside the house where the milkman can drop bottles or cartons of milk—just like postmen drop mails in the mailbox. Some of the newer boxes are made of plastic and has Styrofoam insulation on the inside. Some milk shops even include a recyclable cool...

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2017-10-25 14:55:00



The Forgotten Soviet-Era Murals  

Telling stories through mosaics and murals is a tradition that goes back to antique times. During the Soviet era, murals were used extensively as a medium of propaganda, spreading ideas and slogans through brightly colored artwork on the walls of factories, schools, government buildings, and housing blocks all across the Soviet Union. Murals often depicted hardworking men and women in heroic proportions. Those on government buildings, schools etc. glorify Soviet workers, scientists, soldiers, mi

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2017-10-24 15:13:00



The Sacred Grove of Bomarzo  

Once upon a time there was a young nobleman who, after the death of his beloved wife, became so distraught with grief and anguish that he decided to build a garden in her memory to give vent to his aching heart. That young nobleman was the Duke of Bomarzo, an Italian named Pier Francesco Orsini, better known as Vicino, and his wife was Giulia Farnese, who died in 1560. The strange and melancholy garden he constructed is called Sacro Bosco, or the "Sacred Grove", and it still stands in

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2017-10-24 11:02:00



Vozrozhdeniya, The Anthrax Island  

In the 1920s, the Soviet government began searching for an isolated place where they could build a military complex to test biological weapons. The ideal location for such a complex would be a remote island surrounded by sparsely populated desert, and located well within the Soviet Union far from the Union's borders with other nations. A number of islands were shortlisted including one in the White Sea and another one on Lake Seliger, but the one that eventually became the site for the world&#...

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2017-10-21 22:07:00



The Forgotten Nubian Pyramids of Menroe  

About 200 km northeast of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in a valley known as Nubia, lies the remains of three ancient Kushite kingdoms. Here, one can find the largest concentration of ancient Pyramids ever built. Although less famous than the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt, and smaller in size than their Egyptian cousins, the Nubian pyramids are no less remarkable. These pyramids were built around 2,500 years ago, long after the Egyptians had stopped entombing their Pharos in massive tombs, a pract

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2017-10-20 10:09:00



The Squatters of Grande Hotel Beira  

You might not know this, but Mozambique is one of the fastest growing tourist destination in the world. Its wild beauty and untamed nature has been drawing visitors since its pre-independence days. Back then, when Mozambique was still under Portuguese rule, the Mediterranean climate of the country's coastal towns attracted many affluent tourists from Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe), South Africa, Portugal and its colonies. The city of Beira, by the Indian Ocean, although an important port city...

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2017-10-18 12:25:00



The Unfinished Obelisk of Aswan  

The granite quarries located along the Nile, in the city of Aswan, supplied some of the finest quality stones for the construction of temples, sculptures and monuments in ancient Egypt. The famous Cleopatra's Needle, now located in London, as well as several structures in the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and at Giza were constructed from stones quarried in Aswan. In the northern region of Aswan's stone quarries lies an Unfinished Obelisk, resting on its side. It was supposed to be the tallest...

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2017-10-17 19:18:00



The Buddhas of Bamiyan  

On the cliff face of a sandstone mountain, visible from the ancient Silk Road near the town of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, are two massive voids left by two monumental statues of Buddha that once stood there. In 2001, the nearly 1,500 year old statues were blown to bits by the Taliban in an act of violence that shook the entire world, and set a disturbing precedent which has been imitated in recent years by Islamic State fighters in the Middle East. For a long time, Buddhism was an important religi

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2017-10-17 11:24:00



Jealous Wall: Ireland's Largest Folly  

The Belvedere House and Gardens located on the shores of Lough Ennell near Mullingar, County Westmeath in Ireland, contains several architectural oddities and follies, including the largest one in Ireland—the aptly named "Jealous Wall". This three-storey structure, designed to resemble the crumbling ruins of an old Gothic castle, was built by Robert Rochfort, an ambitious aristocrat for whom jealousy and revenge were the key themes in life. Robert Rochfort, the first earl of Belvedere, wa...

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2017-10-14 13:08:00



The Floating Fish Farms of China  

In the sheltered coastal waters of the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, there are large fish farms where marine crustaceans such as shrimps, and molluscs such as oysters, are raised in artificial enclosures. These farms are created by floating netted enclosures from a sprawling network of interconnected wooden pathways and platforms. Over these, fishermen have built wooden houses and huts where entire families live. These pictures were taken in south-eastern

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2017-10-13 20:58:00



The Spectacular Sets of Early 20th Century New York Theater  

Many theatrical set designers today follow the maxim of "less is more", but in the old days when theaters had to compete with moving pictures, plays frequently featured elaborate and extravagant sets built with great attention to detail. These pictures of theatrical productions in Broadway, New York, from the early 20th century show how meticulously designers worked to create a make-believe world on stage. The set designed by Sergei Soudeikine for the Theatre Guild's production of "Po...

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2017-10-11 21:42:00



Joe Reginella's Memorials to Disasters That Never Happened  

Most remember October 29th, 1929—also known as Black Tuesday—as the day when the New York stock market crashed. However, it was also the day when one of the most horrific tragedy involving human-animal conflict happened at the Brooklyn Bridge. On that awful day a trio of three circus elephants, including the star attraction—a thirteen-foot-tall African elephant named Jumbo, was to cross the Brooklyn Bridge and into New York. The event was greatly publicized and crowds of people came from m...

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2017-10-11 10:27:00



Inside The Strange World of Soviet Sanatoriums  

In Soviet Russia, vacations were as purposeful as work. Many state workers of the era, instead of wasting time in idleness, used the holidays to spend time at a sanatorium—which is like a modern-day spa but with a strong medical component. The idea was to recover from the strains of working hard throughout the year and return refreshed and more productive. All expenses incurred during their stay at the sanatorium, which could be up to two weeks long, were paid for by the state. Many workers ac...

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2017-10-07 18:49:00



Alexander Graham Bell's Tetrahedral Kites  

Alexander Graham Bell is best remembered for inventing the telephone, but the great Scottish inventor's interests weren't limited to just one field. Aside from his priceless contributions in the field of acoustics and telegraphy, Bell is also credited with the invention of the metal detector, the audiometer (an instrument used to detect hearing problems), and a device to locate icebergs. Bell and his associates investigated the possibility of impressing a magnetic field on a physical device ...

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2017-10-06 12:50:00



Moscow's Bagel House  

In the early 1970s, Russian architect Evgeny Stamo and engineer Alexander Markelov came up with plans for an unusual house in the capital city Moscow. The house was to be shaped like a ring, about 150 meters across, enclosing a large inner courtyard with playgrounds and green spaces. The building was to have over nine hundred apartments, and all the necessary services and facilities, including shops, a pharmacy, a laundry room, a studio, post office, and so on. When completed in 1972, the author

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2017-10-05 13:14:00



Rivers of Blood: The Aftermath of Eid al-Adha in Dhaka  

Early last month, a macabre image of a little girl posing in what appears to be a street flooded with blood-stained rainwater went viral over the internet. The picture was taken in Dhaka by Bangladeshi documentary photographer Nasif Imtiaz, after large-scale animal sacrifices conducted on Eid al-Adha, coupled with heavy rains and poor drainage turned some streets in the Bangladeshi capital into what the media has been calling "rivers of blood". Photo credit: Nasif ImtiazRead more » ©...

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2017-10-04 16:00:00



The Earth Pyramids of South Tyrol  

At many places across South Tyrol, in northern Italy, one can see a peculiar geological formation called "earth pyramids". They consist of tall cone-shaped pillars made of clay, with a boulder resting on top. These unusual structures started forming from moraine clay soil left behind after the last Ice Age when the glaciers melted away. In dry condition the soil is hard as stone, but as soon as it rains, it turns into a soft muddy mass, starts sliding, and forms large slopes 10 to 15 meters...

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2017-10-04 11:39:00



Ireland's Famine Follies  

In the grounds of the Castletown Estate, near the Irish town of Maynooth, is a large stone structure comprising of interlocking arches, adorned by stone pineapples and eagles, and topped by a massive obelisk pillar. The structure was supposed to mark the rear entrance to Castletown house, but in reality, it served no real purpose—it's a folly. Its construction, however, did have a purpose. The Conolly's Folly was commissioned by Katherine Conolly, the philanthropic widow of William Conol...

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2017-10-04 10:28:00



A Garden In A Sinkhole  

The region in the southeast of South Australia, near Mount Gambier, is littered with many volcanic and karst features such as volcanic craters, lakes, limestone caves, water-filled caves and sinkholes. One particular sinkhole, located just off Jubilee Highway East, is particularly worth visiting. What was once a typical limestone cave formed by the corrosion of limestone rocks by seawater, and the subsequent collapse of the chamber's roof, has been transformed into a beautiful garden. Photo c...

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2017-09-30 18:46:00



The Mysterious Sajama Lines of Bolivia  

Crisscrossing the highland plains in western Bolivia is a network of thousands of near perfectly straight lines etched into the ground. These lines do not make any figures or shapes, but they go on remarkably straight for tens of kilometers. Whoever created them worked extremely precisely, which was not easy task in this hilly terrain with rocks, shrubs and other natural obstacles. Named after the nearby volcano, the Sajama Lines lie under the shadow of Bolivia's tallest peak. From the ground,...

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2017-09-30 10:34:00



The Stockholm Telephone Tower  

By the late 19th century, the miracle device called the telephone had been invented but the simple concept of undergrounding telephone cables had eluded engineers. Clumps of telephone wires strung from monstrous towers hung above the heads of pedestrians in all major cities with a sizable number of subscribers. Telephone service was expensive at that time, and only the wealthy could afford it. In Sweden, the first public telephone exchange was opened in the capital city Stockholm, in 1880, by t

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2017-09-27 21:34:00



Appian Way, The First Roman Road  

Of the many things the Romans were famous for, roads rank pretty high in the list by importance, along with bridges, viaducts and canals. Together they formed an outstanding transportation network that played a crucial role in tightening Rome's grasp on the Mediterranean Basin. It was roads that held the Roman Empire together. One of the first and the most important long roads built by the Romans was the Appian Way. The road was begun by Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor, in 312 BC, and...

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2017-09-26 11:07:00



The Dust Bowl of The 1930s  

The 1930s were some of the driest years in American history. Eight long years of drought, preceded by inappropriate cultivation technique, and the financial crises of the Great Depression forced many farmers off the land abandoning their fields throughout the Great Plains that run across the heart of mainland United States. When the high winds came, it lifted the topsoil from barren lands and carried them in large choking clouds of dust for thousands of miles. Many dust storms started around the

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2017-09-23 11:24:00



The Cathedral of Light  

Every year, the Nazi Party used to hold large annual rallies in Nuremberg, which was at that time the center of the German Reich. These rallies were grandiose propaganda events, carefully orchestrated to reinforce party enthusiasm and to showcase the power of National Socialism to the rest of Germany and to the world. At the designated assembly grounds, which spanned more than 10 square kilometers, hundreds of thousands of party loyalists, as well as spectators, assembled. Buildings were festoo

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2017-09-22 12:05:00



The Mossy Lava Fields of Iceland  

Moss is a common plant in Iceland. It grows abundantly in the mountainous region and is a special characteristic of Iceland's lava fields. One of the most spectacular moss blanket is located on the southern coast of Iceland, over the Eldraun Lava Field. The Eldraun Lava Field was created in one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history. Over a course of eight months, between 1783 and 1784, the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilom...

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2017-09-20 13:12:00



Lanterns Of The Dead  

During the 12th century, people in the central and western parts of France erected small towers in their villages with windows at the top, in which lamps were placed like in a lighthouse, although none of them were near the sea. These structures are known as "Lanterns of the dead" and are thought to indicate the position of a cemetery. But this might not be true, considering that some of these towers are located nowhere near a cemetery. The towers come in all shapes and sizes, but usually, t...

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2017-09-19 17:07:00



Puzzling Gravestones  

When Canadian doctor Samuel Bean lost his first two wives, Henrietta and Susanna, within 20 months of each other, he decided that the was best way to honor them would be to create a tombstone dedicated to a hobby they both enjoyed —solving puzzles. The doctor had them buried side by side in Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Wellesley Township, Ontario, and a single gravestone was placed over their graves. The gravestone bore a puzzle, one that had kept historians stumped and amateur cryptologist...

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2017-09-19 17:04:00



The Outer Trial Bank  

In The Wash, a squarish estuary on the East coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire, there is a peculiar island, perfectly circular, with a dimple in the middle resembling a giant doughnut. This doughnut, known as the 'Outer Trial Bank', is one of two islands constructed during the 1970s to study the feasibility of converting the entire estuary into a fresh water reservoir. The idea was to build a tidal barrage across half of the Wash to capture freshwater from rivers flowing int...

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2017-09-16 13:19:00



The Building That Was Built From Top to Bottom  

At Plaza de Colón in Madrid, Spain, there is a twin building that is known locally as "El Enchufe" or "The Plug" for it is said to resemble a giant electrical plug. Its formal name is "Torres de Colón" or the Columbus Towers. Some say it is the ugliest building in Madrid. Its green art deco-style top, and copper and smoked glass façade doesn't inspire much pride among the city's inhabitants. Nevertheless, Torres de Colón has been an icon of Madrid's skyline sinc...

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2017-09-15 10:18:00



The Tumuli Lava Blisters  

In the relatively flat Harman Valley, located between Wallacedale and Byaduk, south of Mount Napier in Victoria, Australia, are peculiar rocky mounds, like blisters on land. Some of them are up to 10 meters high and 20 meters in diameter. These mounds are known as tumulus or lava blisters. Tumulus are formed in slow-moving lava fields. When lava flows, the surface often cools to form a thin crust, but underneath the lava is still viscous and molten. If the advancing lava underneath becomes rest

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2017-09-14 12:47:00



The Kauri Driving Dams  

The Kauaeranga Valley in New Zealand's North Island was once covered in vast kauri forests. The trees were immense with thick, straight trunks. When the first Europeans came to New Zealand, they discovered that kauri trunks made excellent replacement masts and spars for sailing ships. Soon Kauri became the preferred local timber by carpenters and ship builders because the wood was durable, strong, straight and evenly grained. They had relatively few knots, and were easy to work and nail. In

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2017-09-12 16:02:00



The Bullet-Scarred 'Operation Anthropoid' Church in Prague  

The Saints Cyril and Methodius Church on Resslova Street, in Prague, may look like any other Baroque church in the Czech capital, but turn round the corner and you'll see a bronze memorial plaque just above a small, now covered-up, window. The concrete wall around the window is fractured and there are bullet holes around it. This is the church where the paratroopers involved in Operation Anthropoid went into hiding after their assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. It was here where a fie...

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2017-09-08 16:15:00



Signal Hill: The Birthplace of Modern Communications  

Overlooking the harbour of St John's, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is a massive piece of rock towering 140 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. The rock, known as Signal Hill, stands on St John's eastern shore across a narrow waterway that leads into the harbour. To the north lies Quidi Vidi Lake, and to the west lies the city towards which the hill descends gently in ridges and valleys. It was on top of this hill, in December 1901, that Guglielmo Marconi stood to receive the world...

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2017-09-07 13:19:00



London's Cabmen's Shelters  

Scattered throughout the streets of London, often overlooked, are small green sheds that have been offering shelter and hot food to the city's cab drivers since 1875. In those times, cab drivers rode horse-drawn carriages where the passengers sat inside while the poor cabbie had to sit on the top, exposed to the elements. But the drivers couldn't just park their cabs by the side of the road and grab a quick drink at a public house, because the law forbade them to leave their carriages unatt...

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2017-09-05 20:03:00



The Devil's Corkscrews  

In the mid-1800s, ranchers across Sioux County, in the US state of Nebraska, began unearthing strange, spiral structures of hardened rock-like material sticking vertically out of the ground. The spirals were as thick as an arm and some of them were taller than a man. Not knowing what they were, the ranchers began calling them "devil's corkscrew." The puzzling structures first came to the notice of the scientific community through geologists Dr. E. H. Barbour in 1891, when he was asked to ...

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2017-09-05 20:01:00



Iligan, The City of Majestic Waterfalls  

The city of Iligan, in the Northern Mindanao region of Philippines, is one of the country's major city and the industrial center of the south. It has many heavy industries producing steel, tinplate, and cement. It also produces hydroelectric power for the entire Mindanao region. It's surprising hence, that an industrial city such as Iligan should be known for its natural beauty. The city is situated by the Bohol Sea which curves into the northern coast of Mindanao Island forming a small bay...

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2017-09-01 10:53:00



Rocamadour—The Vertical Village  

Since medieval times, the village of Rocamadour in the Occitanie region of southwestern France has attracted pilgrims from across Europe for its historical monuments and its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that Saint Amator—thought to be the Biblical tax collector of Jericho, Zacheus—had lived and died here, shortly after he left Jerusalem. Legend has it that after St Amator's body was discovered, several miracles started to happen, and as the healing powers of Amator...

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2017-08-31 15:55:00



The Witness Trees of The American Civil War  

Across the United States there are hundreds and thousands of trees that have stood around for many centuries and bore witness to the history in that area. Some of these trees were present during key events in American history like the Civil War battles. Historians call these trees "witness trees". They were present when soldiers marched on to the battlefields and they stood silently as the soldiers fell. Many Civil War witness trees took bullets along with thousands of men. Many of them stil...

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2017-08-30 12:41:00



Old Sarum of Salisbury  

Old Sarum in Salisbury, England, is a historically important archeological site consisting of an Iron Age hillfort and what little remains of an 11th century royal castle and cathedral. Located about two miles to the north of the city center, this is where the history of Salisbury began. The site has been occupied successively by the Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans before the foundation of New Sarum, or Salisbury, in the thirteenth century. Old Sarum was settled as early as 3000 BC. However,

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2017-08-30 10:51:00



Hill of the Buddha  

The Hill of the Buddha is a giant Buddha statue located atop a small hill near a cemetery in the Japanese island Hokkaido. The statue was built some 15 years ago, but it was only in December 2015, that the landscape around it was sculpted to highlight the massive figure. "The aim of this project was to build a prayer hall that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha sculpted 15 years ago," explains architect Tadao Ando. "The site is a gently sloping hill on 180 hectares of lush...

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2017-08-29 16:04:00



The Closes of Edinburgh  

The Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, consisted originally of the main street, now known as the Royal Mile, and a large number of small alleyways that led off it to the north and south. Some of these lead to open courtyards and are therefore called "courts". Others are open thoroughfare wide enough for a horse and cart, and are called "wynds", a reference to the way they wind along. But most of these alleyways are called "closes", because they lead to private property and are hence ga...

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2017-08-29 16:03:00



The Mysterious Erdstalls Tunnels  

Across Europe, there are hundreds of underground tunnels that lead to nowhere and about which no historic records have ever been found. They are mostly located in the German state of Bavaria and the adjoining country Austria, where they are known by the German name "Erdstall", which means "place under the earth". Locally, they are also called by various names such as "Schrazelloch" (meaning "goblin hole") or "Alraunenhöhle" (meaning "mandrake cave"...

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2017-08-28 21:09:00



The Art of Deliberate Imperfection  

Some people are perfectionists, going great lengths and through punishing routines to achieve the perfect figure, the perfect score, the inimitable performance. But there are cultures around the world that have learned to abandon this rigid and obsessive behavior, and embrace the concept of imperfection. Artists and craftsmen of such cultures would deliberately introduce flaws into their works to remind themselves that flaws are an integral part of being human. In Navajo culture, rug weavers wou

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2017-08-25 14:46:00



Ytterby: The Village That Chemists Love  

What do the following ten chemical elements have in common? Yttrium Ytterbium Terbium Erbium Gadolinium Thulium Scandium Holmium Dysprosium Lutetium The answer is that the all the ten elements were isolated from a single mineral ore extracted from a modest mine in the small village of Ytterby on the Swedish island of Resarö. All of these elements are rare earth elements, which means that they are very difficult to separate. It took many chemists and scientists decades of research to d...

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2017-08-23 13:15:00






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