Greece’s New Year tradition: Vasilopita and the Golden Coin

We are in Greece where, on New Year’s Day, a centuries-old tradition is observed in almost every household, that of Vasilopita (meaning St. Basil’s Cake), a sweet-tasting lucky treat. Across the country, recipes are quite a few, but they all have one basic ingredient: the much sought-after flouri, or lucky coin. Its story began in the Greek antiquity period, when ancient Greeks would offer bread and honey-kneaded sweets to honour the gods during the major harvest festivals. Today the New Year’s Day Cake custom is kept everywhere in Greece, and…

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16# The legend of Christmas Bells

Bells, especially Church Bells, have traditionally been associated with Christmas for a long time. In some churches it is traditional that the largest bell in the church is rung four times in the hour before midnight and then at midnight all the bells are rung in celebration. In the Catholic Church, Christmas and Easter are the only times that Mass is allowed to be held at Midnight, and It’s traditional that at both midnight Masses, the church and altar bells too in many cases are rung while the Priest says…

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11# What’s behind the holiday tradition of hanging socks on the fireplace?

Of course, the history of Christmas stockings is based in myth and legend. Exactly where the custom came from is debatable, but cultures around the world include the stocking in their holiday traditions. In yet another version of the story of Saint Nicholas, probably the man behind Santa Claus, lies the origin of the tradition of washing the stockings on the night before Christmas and hanging them up on the window sill or near the hearth, to receive gifts from Santa himself. It is said to happen 17 centuries ago…

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9# The legend of sage plant

Christmas is one of the most popularly celebrated festivals around the world and is observed in really lot ways and, as any other holiday, it is also associated with lots of stories, symbols and legends, including the legend of sage plant, a story that has been associated with Christmas since times unknown. Known for its caring and helpful nature, sage plant is said to have protected Mother Mary and Baby Jesus from Herod, a merciless king who was on a killing spree. King Herod was outraged when he heard that…

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3# The story of Babushka and the three kings

For many, Christmas is a time of merry making and gift giving, of bonding with friends and family and of spending time in the warm glow of love. And, of course, gifts are the most awaited part of the beloved holiday. It is a tradition which, according to legends, has continued since the birth of Christ, when He was offered the first gifts that would later become an important aspect of the celebration of his birth. And like gifts, Christmas stories are also an integral part of the occasion. Every…

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2# The legend of Candy Cane

Along with candles, wreaths, stars, bells and mistletoes, there is another ubiquitous decorative item for Christmas, one of the favorite for children: the candy cane. In fact, it is so popular that it is one of the most visible items in any decoration, from Christmas tree, to restaurants or the shop windows. They can be hung with colorful ribbons and can be used to decorate almost anything, from an entire room to a cake or a tree. The candy cane is simple, eye-catching, and what’s more, it’s tasty. Though candy…

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Tham Piew Cave: a tangible reminder of an atrocity that took place during a secret war.

On this day, November 24, 1968, daily life began much as it had for some time. Villagers, accustomed to bombs and rocket attacks in the region, had long sought refuge deep in the extensive limestone cave systems of eastern Laos. Along with hundreds of men, women, and children from neighboring villages, rebel Pathet Lao fighters occasionally sought refuge in the dozens of large caves throughout the region as the insurgents made their way through eastern Laos. However, if most of the caves proved to provide safe haven, Tham Piew Cave…

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Underwater abandoned Aquarium of Silver Cay, Bahamas

We are on Silver Cay, part of the city of Nassau and Island of New Providence, Bahamas. The Coral Island Marine Park is located on a small cay off of Nassau city and was once a popular tourist destination. Opening in 1987 by Coral World International, it was the biggest park developed by the company at the time, and it was an instant hit in Nassau becoming the leading tourist attraction in the city. It offered a museum, underwater observatory, shark, turtle and stingray pools, but also snorkeling trails and…

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Hook Lighthouse: one of the oldest operating lighthouse in the world

We are on Hook Head at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, in Ireland. Hook Lighthouse is an astonishing still-intact medieval lighthouse. Built 800 years ago, it continues to serve its original function and now boasts the award of the second oldest operating lighthouse in the world, after the Tower of Hercules in Spain. The lighthouse marks to entrance to Waterford harbour where the Barrow, Nore and Suir rivers meet. It operates with Tuskar Rock and Mine Head lights to provide coverage on the Ireland’s South East…

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12 Ways Halloween is celebrated around the globe

In America, people associate Halloween with pumpkins, costumes, candy, and spooky stories or ghosts but, around the world, it could be a little different. The holiday might look slightly different this year since we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, but we can reminisce on years past. If most places in the U.S. celebrate Halloween in much the same way, one city that stands apart is New Orleans. This town loves both to party and voodoo, so one can find things here they couldn’t anywhere else, from…

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Grange Lido: Abandoned for over 20 years, this art deco seaside swimming pool is a magnificent waste.

We are in Grange-over-Sands, England. Built in 1932, this once-glorious seaside outdoor pool has been left to rot for over 25 years. The lido, an open-air public pool that was popular in 1930s England, was originally filled with saltwater from nearby Morecambe Bay. Adorned with art deco designs, it’s easy to imagine how the lido must have looked in its heyday. The pool is 50m long and bordered by an entrance block with upper viewing gallery and attached sun decks, detached changing wings, terraces, pump house, paddling pool and a…

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Sanatorio Durán: one of the most haunted places in Costa Rica

We are along the road to Irazú Volcano, 7 kilometers north of the city of Cartago, Costa Rica. It’s said Carlos Durán Cartín, an eminent physician who briefly served as president of Costa Rica (1889-90), opened this tuberculosis hospital in 1918 hoping to treat his own daughter who was suffering from the disease, for which there was no known treatment in Central America at the time. Others say that she contracted the disease after the hospital opened but, in any case, he chose a remote location complete with good weather,…

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Barra Head: the highest lighthouse in UK that shines from an abandoned island

We are in the island of Barra Head, the southernmost in the Outer Hebrides, an island unprotected from the ravages of ocean storms. In the fall of 1833, on October 15, the Barra Head Lighthouse lighted on for the first time, meant to help sailors near the island’s cliffs deal with the incredible waves. The lighthouse identifies the southern entrance to The Minch, a strait in north-west Scotland, separating the north-west Highlands and the northern Inner Hebrides from Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. The 18-metre stone tower stands…

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Mission Ruins of Venn’s Town: the remains of a 19th-century school perched atop a mountain surrounded by a thick tropical forest in Seychelles.

We are deep in the Morne Seychellois National Park where, perched on a mountaintop, lies the ruins of a mission named after Henry Venn (1796 – 1873) an Anglican missionary who in 1799 together with William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833), the English abolitionist, co-founded the Church Missionary Society to spread Christianity to the natives of Africa and Asia, as well as creating orphan asylums for children of slaves. Getting there is easy, it’s about 6 km drive from the city centre of Victoria, capital of Seychelles. A sign points at…

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Isle of May beacon: a short white tower is all that’s left of Scotland’s first permanently manned lighthouse.

We are on the Isle of May, an island about five miles from the north shore of the Firth of Forth, now a national nature reserve famous for its abundant bird life. Looking at all that’s left of the first permanently manned lighthouse in Scotland, now it’s hard to believe the squat white structure was important enough to require three keepers at all times! The Beacon is Scotland first (and oldest) lighthouse and was considered at the time to be one of the best in existence. It was built in…

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Popeye Village: an abandoned set from the 1980 film claimed and repurposed as a theme park by creative locals.

We are in Anchor Bay, 3 km from the village core of Mellieħa, Malta. The set from Robert Altman’s film Popeye, shot in Malta, was never fully struck and remains on the island as a sort of (misplaced) relic. The live-action film based on the popular comic strip and animation character, a spinach-loving sailor, marked the film debut of Robin Williams in the title role. The construction of the film set began in June 1979. For the occasion, over 20 wooden structures were built with the tree trunk logs imported…

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Catemaco: the witchcraft capital of Mexico

We are in Catemaco, in eastern Mexico. Built on the shores of the eponymous lake, the town has a long history of fishing, even though nowadays, the town’s main economic activity is tourism. In the 1970s, tourism to Catemaco spiked massively owing to the fame of Gonzalo Aguirre, a renowned sorcerer who lived and practiced in the region. During his lifetime, Aguirre performed rituals for politicians, actors, and business leaders. He also organized a witchcraft convention that brought together the country’s top shamans for a black mass. After his death,…

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Hellingly Mental Hospital: the story of an asylum

We are in the village of Hellingly, in East Sussex, England. Here, on 20 July 1903, the Hellingly Mental Hospital was inaugurated: an asylum, the best in the area because, apparently, the most innovative treatments were experimented there. It was also the refuge for patients who had to flee West Sussex due to the First World War. The main complex comprised an administrative block, central stores, kitchens, a recreation hall and the assistant medical officer’s residence. Like most large institutions of this age and type the sexes were separated into…

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Pozzo del Diavolo: was this cave created by Hercules’s wrath, the devil, or volcanic activity?

We are in Italy, in Lazio region, above Vico Lake in the beautiful beech forest of Monte Venere, part of the UNESCO’s Primeval Beech Forests of Europe transnational network of protected sites. At 507 meters above sea level, Lake Vico is the highest volcanic lake in Italy and the beech forest of Monte Venere is among the lowest in the country (most beech forests are located above 900 meters). Thanks to its peculiar natural characteristics, the lake offers a rich variety of plant species and different environments, allowing the life…

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Rosa Bathurst, the sleeping beauty of the Tiber river

We are in in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, Italy.Rosa Bathurst was found after six months and she looked like she was just asleep the whole time.Rosa was a beautiful 16 years old girl from a noble English family and in 1824 she was staying with her uncles in Rome. She was a charming and intelligent girl, full of life, always attending social events and apparently well known and admired by everyone.In the morning of March 16, 1824, Rosa and a small group of people went on a riding trip…

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Dinosaur footprints at the Isle of Skye – Scotland

We are in the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Here there are lot of icons of the past, as ruined castles that are hundreds of years old stand atop an unusual topography shaped by glaciers during the last Ice Age, or the pictoresque Old Man of Storr, said to be the gravesite of an ancient giant. The island, famous for its dramatic landscapes, was recently voted the most desirable place in Britain to live. But the land holds traces of an even more ancient past as well. It seems that dinosaurs…

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St. Dunstan-in-the-East: one of the few remaining casualties of the London Blitz, this destroyed church has become an enchanting public garden.

We are on St Dunstan’s Hill, halfway between London Bridge and the Tower of London in the City of London.The church of St.Dunstan-in-the-East built here has survived a lot during its 900-year history, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.It was originally built during Saxon times, in about 1100. Although the Great Fire caused terrible damage to the church it was faithfully rebuilt, and topped with a steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. However in 1941 the church was…

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The leaning Lighthouse of Puerto Morelos, Mexico

We are in Puerto Morelos, located about halfway between the Riviera Maya hubs of Cancún and Playa del Carmen. Believe it or not, the small seaside town has had a troubled history when it comes to its lighthouses.The first lighthouse dates back to 1905, although it seems it was little more than a light atop a metal pole. The second, almost 10 meters tall, was built out of cement in almost the same location, right on the beach, in 1946. Painted white with blue trim, this second light was hit…

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Anundshög – the Sweden’s largest burial mound, allegedly belonging to a mythical king

We are in Sweden, near Västerås in Västmanland. Scandinavia is full of burial mounds, runestones, and any sort of ancient graves. Similar to the Egyptian pyramids, great rulers were honored with these grand burial mounds as the correct ritual was important for the deceased to reach the afterlife. At 9 meters high and 60 meters in diameter, Anundshög (also know as Anundshögen and Anunds hög) has the largest burial mound in Sweden, which is often associated with Anund, a semi-legendary mid-7th-century Swedish king from the House of Yngling. His name…

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Yangzhou Zhongshuge: this Chinese library’s interior is designed to look like an infinite tunnel of books

We are in Yangzhou. The Chinese city is known for its graceful arched bridges, proximity to the Yangtze River and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Architects kept these local features in mind while designing Zhongshuge Yangzhou, a new bookstore that features something unique, and a real dream for every reader: black mirrored floors shimmer beneath arched shelves that stretch to the ceiling, creating an optical illusion that turns an ordinary, rectangular room into a cylindrical never-ending tunnel of books. A zig-zagging gap prevents the top of the shelves from touching. When…

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Air Sinai: the ghost airline that has linked Cairo and Tel Aviv for decades

A flght from Cairo to Tel Aviv is a 50-minute flight on a clear day. But if you’ll book your ticket, when you’ll arrive to the airport, probably you’ll not find the gate, because It is not posted on the screen, and so you’ll have to ask someone where to go. Then, when you’ll find the gate there will be no sign that said this is Tel Aviv. Eventually, you’ll jump onto a bus that took you and the other passengers to a far corner of the tarmac, where a…

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Souter Lighthouse | England

We are in the village of Marsden in South Shields, Tyne&Wear, in Northern England. The story of Souter Lighthouse began in 1871, when it was constructed on Lizard Point. The visibility from Lizard Point was very good, as its cliffs are higher than those at nearby Souter Point, but the lighthouse was named after Souter so it wouldn’t be confused with the already existing Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall. Interestingly, Souter was the first lighthouse in the world to be actually designed and built specifically to use alternating electric current, the…

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The curious story of Glasgow Sherbet Factory ruins – Scotland

We are in Glasgow, Scotland. The city is not exactly short of interesting monuments and buildings, and one of the great pleasures of Scotland is that there is always something new to uncover, and each corner is full of rich history and little-known facts.If you’ve taken a stroll passed the River Kelvin, you may have come across a strange little sign. Or maybe not, because It’s easy not to notice this small plaque, that marks the reported location of where the Glasgow Sherbet Municipal Works once stood. Now a few…

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Kejonuma Leisure Land: a quaint amusement park that now lays rusting and forgotten among the foliage.

We are in Ōsaki, in Japan’s remote Tohoku region, where an abandoned amusement park rests upon the banks of the Kejonuma Dam. Once known as Kejonuma Leisure Land, the park was originally built in 1979 in an effort to bring joy back to the community after the ravages of World War II. In its heyday the amusement park, with a campsite and driving range, boasted up to 200,000 visitors and offered an assortment of rides, including a Ferris wheel, tea cup ride, miniature train ride and carousel. In addition, the…

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Tourlitis Lighthouse: The magical Greek Lighthouse

We are off the coast of the Greek port city of Andros. Rising up out of the islet of Tourlitis, a weather-worn stone spire opposite the harbor at Chora, on Andros island, Tourlitis Lighthouse looks like something straight out of a fantasy novel. The beacon was first built in 1897 just off shore from a castle in Andros. The stone column on which it was built had been shaped by millennia of natural erosion into the perfect pedestal for a coastal beacon. Unfortunately the original lighthouse was short-lived, and was…

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