29/30/31 January: the Merla days (hen blackbird), according to tradition are the coldest days of the year ~

It was a very, very cold Winter. That year the month of January put every effort to live up to his reputation as a freezing, windy month. The snow was high, and a layer of ice covered fountains, streams and ponds. Even the fire lit in every small and big house in the countryside, did not seem warm enough, in the bedrooms and in the attic, sometimes in the morning it was discovered that the chill night had even turned into ice the water in buckets and basins. People walked…

Read More

La Giubiana: a curious tradition linked to the last Thursday of January in Northern Italy

A great fire that will illuminate the darkness, with the hope that it will burn well and quickly so as to drive away the winter and propitiate the year that has just begun. The traditional ceremony, which this year falls just today, on January 30th, includes a large bonfire where a straw puppet dressed in rags (the Giubiana) is burned, which represents the malaise of winter and the troubles of the past year. The Giübiana, or feast of Giobia is a traditional recurrence very popular in northern Italy, especially in…

Read More

The “anomalous” burial of a child in a 5th century Umbrian cemetery

Lugnano in Teverina is a small village, located in the region of central Italy Umbria, surrounded by green hills that descend towards the valley of the Tiber river. At the beginning of the first century AD, on one of these hills, an unknown man, probably a wealthy Roman, built his villa (a complex of over 1800 square meters), which however was already in ruins around the third century. For some unknown reason, around the middle of the 15th century, when the western Roman empire was very close to its end,…

Read More

A forest of pillars, recalling the Holocaust: the controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin

In the 15 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the nation, Germany has struggled to come to terms with its Nazi past. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the restored capital, where a vast rebuilding effort has transformed the once-ravaged city center. Probably Berlin’s signature monument is the Brandenburg Gate, a 20-meters-tall and 12-collumned triumphal arch topped by a life-sized bronze quadriga. The gate was built in the late 18th century, and opens onto the Unter den Linden. During the Cold War,…

Read More

Chinese New Year 2020: the year of the Golden Rat. History and traditions of a millenary festival.

Two days ago, on January 25, the new year began according to the traditional Chinese calendar, a holiday period that will end on February 8, with the start of the Lantern Festival. This is the year of the Metal Rat (associated with gold), and according to Chinese astrology, those born under this sign are meticulous, intelligent and charismatic and, combined with the element of Metal, also controlled, ambitious, energetic and resolute. I asked myself, what are the ancient roots from which current traditions such as red color, fireworks, famous ravioli…

Read More

Macuti Lighthouse and Shipwreck – Mozambique

We are in Beira, Mozambique. Macuti Beach is along the main coast road between Beira city and the airport. If you find yourself there, a visit to the beach it’s well worth, to witness this unusual scene: the remains of an old shipwreck lying on the sand directly in front of a mysterious but quaint abandoned lighthouse. At high tide, only a few rusted bulkheads are visible above the breakers, but at low tide, you can walk or wade right through the wreckage. The red-and-white-striped Macuti Lighthouse (the beach is…

Read More

Inez Clarke, the haunted statue of Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery that lives again whenever there is a thunderstorm

At Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, a statue stands out among the tombstones, protected behind glass. But this statue, as ordinary as it may appear, is unlike the others. Some say, for example, it’s afraid of thunderstorms. Who’s afraid of lightning? Although death by electrocution is not among the most frequent phobias, about 1,000 people die every year in the world, and probably not even Inez Clarke was afraid, before her untimely death. Legend has it that the six-year-old girl, was struck by lightning in the late 1800s. A terrible…

Read More

Venice: the only city in the world whose shape resembles a Swan

It is called “Pareidolia”, and it is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. In the case of Venice, for example, the shape that the city assumes seen from above is attributable to a swan with its head bent towards the body. The profile of the splendid creature, icon of universal beauty, is easily associated with Venice also because…

Read More

Fort de la Chartreuse: the fort that was never used…as a fort!

The Fort de la Chartreuse is an about 150-year-old fortification that once should have been defend the Amercœur neighborhood of Liège in Belgium, but is now an abandoned big ruin that is slowly being overtaken by foliage and graffiti. Built between 1817 and 1823, the fortress rests on the grounds of a former Carthusian (Ordre des Chartreux) monastery in operation until the French Revolution, on an elevated hill in Liège, and it is part of the fortification line along the river Meuse which crosses Belgium. It was originally built by…

Read More

Cemitério de Navios – The Angolan Ship Cemetery

We are in Angola. Sitting on the Western Coast of Africa, the port of Luanda is the capital and largest city in a nation that has been one of Africa’s most war-torn, with rival factions battling between 1962-2002. Founded by the Portuguese in 1575, the city has finally achieving peace in 2002 after a long civil war, and the country is just now beginning to recover. About a 30-minute drive north of Luanda there is an incredible sight: a barren beach with as many as 50 rusting ships on or…

Read More

Udre Udre’s Grave: in Fiji islands, the resting place of the most prolific cannibal of all time.

Everybody loves a good horror story, even if it’s about cannibals. If Udre Udre doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as Issei Sagawa, the Japanese man who, while living in Paris in 1981, killed and cannibalized a Dutch woman, or the American serial killer, child rapist and cannibal Albert Fish, he still enjoys a very strange record: he’s the most prolific cannibal of all time, or at least the best documented one. Ratu Udre Udre was a tribal chief in northern Viti Levu, a province of Fiji Island, part of the…

Read More

Paris through a Nazi’s lens: Propaganda pictures of Occupied France in 1940’s

André Zucca (1897-1973) was a French photographer and Nazi collaborator, popular thanks to his work with the German propaganda magazine Signal. Born in 1897 in Paris, son of an Italian tailor, André spent part of his youth in the United States before returning to France in 1915. After the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the French army, where he was wounded and decorated with the Croix de Guerre, and after the conflict he became a photographer. Much later, during the 1930s, he made several reports in countries…

Read More

Al `Arish: an abandoned fishing village in pre-oil Qatar.

We are in Qatar. Abandoned villages once inhabited by fisherman and pearl drivers speckle the northern coast. They’re usually small, and at times boasting no more than five or six houses. Al `Arish (sometimes spelled Al-Areesh, in arabic العريش ), is one of the largest, with about 40 buildings in all. Despite its name, which comes from the Arabic word “Arish”, for “palm trees”, this abandoned village is far from a verdant oasis. However, it seems it was named so after palm trees once in the area which shaded the…

Read More

“Half-Hangit” Maggie Dickson: the woman who survived the hangman’s noose.

Maggie Dickson was consigned to the gallows on Edinburgh’s historic Grassmarket on September 2, 1724. So, it was unlikely that anyone attending her public execution thought they would see her alive again afterward. The day of the hanging should have been just another ordinary day, with an ordinary routine on an ordinary schedule: just the hanging of another ordinary woman sentenced to death. Her public death was certainly observed by both court and church representatives, family members and relatives, and probably other people who, as usual, were there just for…

Read More

The splendid grave of the dancer Rudol’f Nureev covered by a rug like mosaic

A short distance from Paris is the Orthodox Cemetery Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, which houses many Orthodox Russians who died and were buried close to the French capital. Among these there is also Rudol’f Chametovič Nureev, one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the 20th century, who rests in a decidedly particular grave. The sepulcher is in fact covered by a mosaic in the shape of a Kazakh kilim, a carpet of great value which is woven like a tapestry, because the dancer was an avid collector of beautiful carpets and antique…

Read More

122 and not feeling it: the (unhealthy) Lifestyle of the longest-lived person in history!

Ms. Jeanne Louise Calment was born in Arles (France) on February 21, 1875, a year before the battle of Little Big Horn, and a year before Alexander Bell patented the phone. She died at the age of 122, 5 months and 14 days, and she still represents the person who has lived the longest life in history. At least, according to official records. But this is not the most relevant thing in the very long life of the French lady, much more amazing is how she got to that old…

Read More

The real Sleepy Hollow: where the legends lives!

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by name of Sleepy Hollow … A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. — Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Historically, the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, also known as the Dutch Reformed Church, is the oldest existing church in New York. Together with its two-and-a-half-acre colonial-era burying ground, served as…

Read More

Fire Island Lighthouse – history and ghosts!

The stately Fire Island Lighthouse, on Fire Island’s west end, was first opened in 1827 and is a familiar landmark on the barrier island where it stands 55 meters above sea level and can be seen more than 20 miles away. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, the decommissioned lighthouse is now open to visitors, and those in good physical shape can walk the 192 winding steps for a stunning view from the top of New York’s tallest lighthouse. However, tales of shadowy figures, ghostly laughs, otherworldly…

Read More

January 1985-2020: the anniversary of the greatest snowfall of the (last) century.

The snowfall of January 1985 in Italy is very popular still today: between 13 and 17 January many cities in the north of the country found themselves covered by almost a meter of snow. The legendary snowfall in these days turns 35. And the memory remains indelible: who was there will never forget it, and who has not lived it surely have heard of it. The beginning was on January 13th, exactly 35 years ago. A very cold day, with the thermometer dropped over 10 degrees below zero. In the…

Read More

Berlin: The Return of the Cows

Dietrich-Bonhoeffer Strasse is a quiet street in Berlin, which lies on the lively edge of gentrified Prenzlauerberg’s encroachment into Friedrichshain. If you are in the splendid German capital, apparently there aren’t many reasons to visit an otherwise ordinary street. However, Sergej Dott’s whimsical public art installation, “Die Rückkehr der Kühe” (literally “The Return of the Cows”) just might make it worth the trip. Halfway down the block, if you peer into the empty lot (currently a building site) and look up, you’ll see a green field full of larger-than-life cows…

Read More

Snagov Monastery: the island that (allegedly) houses the tomb of Dracula

We are in Romania. Transylvania has long been known as a place where vampires, werewolves, and the souls of the dead haunt dark forests, like Hoia Baciu forest, which has a reputation as one of the most haunted place of the world, and ghostly-looking fortresses. Many of the most “haunted places” in Transylvania, Romania are also popular tourist attractions. On a tiny island in a lake just outside of Bucharest stands Snagov Monastery which local tradition states is the burial place of Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler,…

Read More

Fremont Troll – Seattle

A five and a half meters tall troll, made of cement lives underneath an overpass in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. With only half of its torso showing, the concrete statue appears to be emerging from the ground. Its lone eye, once a hubcap, stares down the tunnel, while its left hand clutches a car that strayed too close. The car is an actual Volkswagen Beetle encased in concrete, which was red and bear a California license plate. The Troll was constructed in 1990 after winning a Fremont Arts Council competition for…

Read More

Son-in-Law Eggs: The curious story behind this Thai food delicacy

In Thai legend, a probably devious protective mother’s led to the creation of son-in-law eggs or, locally, kai look keuy. As story goes (and, like most stories, its origins and authenticity are often disputed, but fascinating nonetheless), upon learning that her daughter wasn’t being treated well by her son-in-law, the concerned parent fried up two hard-boiled eggs as a warning. So, she serves him the deep-fried eggs to let him know that if he’s not careful, his jewels will be next in line for the deep fryer! It’s curious: the…

Read More

A splendid collection of rare color Photos of Paris taken about 100 Years Ago

For most of us are normal to see historical photographs in black and white, due to the diffusion of monochrome films during the early years of photographic technique. The color images, however, were almost contextual to the invention of photography itself, and it was only the difficulty of creating the supports capable of resuming the different colors that changed over the years, making the spread of colour photograph more and more common. Tired of the endless series of black and white photos that were popular in that days, French banker…

Read More

Sapporo, Japan: a giant Buddha statue wrapped in a Lavender Hill

In the Makomanai Takino cemetery, in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, the famous Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, designed a spectacular temple, opened in December 2015. “The aim of this project was to build a prayer hall that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha sculpted 15 years ago. The site is a gently sloping hill on 180 hectares of lush land belonging to a cemetery. The statue is 13.5 metres tall and weighs 1500 tons. It is made of fine, highly selected solid stone. Until now, the…

Read More

The Wonders of New York: a Midcentury Map packed with weird local stories

There is an old board game, in which someone throws a die at a map, and then dreams traveling wherever it lands. However, If you happened to find yourself in Manhattan in the early 1950s in a absolute normal day, you could have tried the same thing with this dense, curious illustrated map, and then ventured out to see the everyday wonders that awaited you there! On his map, titled “The Wonders of New York,” New Jersey–born cartographer Nils Hansell sketched out more than 300 sections, from Manhattan’s southern tip…

Read More

Julia Margaret Cameron: the greatest Victorian-era portrait photographer

Julia Margaret Cameron (11 June 1815 – 26 January 1879 ) was an English photographer considered one of the most significant portraitists of the 19th century, who managed to make a vast production of images during her very short career (she made around 900 photographs over a 12-year period). She is known for her soft-focus close-ups of famous Victorian men and for illustrative images depicting characters from mythology, Christianity, and literature. She also produced sensitive portraits of women and children. Born in India in 1815, after showing a keen interest…

Read More

African Cemetery at Higgs Beach – Florida

Among modern Key West’s greatest characteristics is its inclusiveness. During the Civil War, Key West remained in the United States despite Florida having joined the secession, and African Americans on the island lived as free men long before it became the law of the land. In 1860, off the coast of Key West, where the U.S. Navy intercepted three ships holding 1,432 African men, women, and children bound for Cuba. So, the American ships, which were engaged in the illegal transatlantic slave trade, were forced to relinquish their human cargo.…

Read More

Sostila, the uninhabited village where the road don’t go

Of countries without roads, in Italy, are few left: one of these is Sostila in Val Fabiolo, a small picturesque valley out of time in Valtellina, between Morbegno and Sondrio. The village has remained isolated in time and space, pulsating with peasant life until a few decades ago. Today it is uninhabited: if in 1928 it had about 120 inhabitants, already in the early 50s the number has tragically halved, up to a total of 14 inhabitants in the early 60s. There was the school until 1958, while the church…

Read More

Torre Nueva: The defensive tower in Spain built centuries ago to warn locals of pirate attacks.

We are on the South of Spain, where a series of centennial towers are spread along the whole coast, some of which still standing. One of the best preserved towers is in La Linea de la Concepcion, the Spanish town that borders the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. The sea-facing structure has one room some four meters above ground, the place were soldiers kept a constant eye to the south, where Africa is just about 15 kilometers away. The guards who manned the tower sent smoke signals to warn the…

Read More