Mad Honey: the hallucinogenic honey that can sell for over $60 a pound on the black market

When bees feed on the pollen of rhododendron flowers, the resulting honey can become a hallucinogenic punch. It’s called “mad honey”, and it has a slightly bitter taste and a reddish color. More notably, a few types of rhododendrons, among them Rhododendron luteum and Rhododendron ponticum, contain grayanotoxin, which can cause serious physiological reactions in humans and animals. Depending on how much a person consumes, reactions can range from hallucinations and a slower heartbeat to temporary paralysis, but also unconsciousness, dizziness, hypotension and atrial-ventricular block. However, rhododendrons flourish at high…

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Kallur Lighthouse and the magnificent Kalsoy – Faroe Islands

We are in Kalsoy, one of the eighteen islands (and the westernmost) that make up the Faroe Islands. The island, nicknamed “The Flute”, is mostly known for the Kallur Lighthouse and dramatic and rugged landscapes, and is is long, skinny and wedged in between Kunoy and Eysturoy. Interestingly, “Kalsoy” means man island and “Kunoy” woman island. There are no bridges or underwater tunnels connecting Kalsoy to another island and you can reach it merely by ferry or boat. The scenery surrounding the simple lighthouse at Kallur is incredible: craggy cliffs…

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Pidhirtsi Castle: one of the most valuable palace-garden complexes in the Ukrainian’s eastern borderlands—and one of the most haunted!

We are in Pidhirtsi, Ukraine. For believers, the country itself is filled with legends and mysticism, and Pidhirsti castle (Ukrainian: Підгорецький замок; Polish: zamek w Podhorcach) is also known as one of the most haunted castles in Ukraine. Tales surround Maria Zhevusska, the wife of Vaclav Zhevussky, a mysterious lady in white whose spirit is said to still wander around the castle. According to the legend, Vaclav Zhevussky, a former owner of the castle, walled up alive his young wife in the castle’s basement. The reason for such a terrible…

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Fingal’s Cave, the “Cave of Melody” in Scotland

Usually you not hear, in the same sentence, names like Queen Victoria, Matthew Barney, Jules Verne, and Pink Floyd but, strangely enough, there is a place that they all share. We are on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Known as Fingal’s Cave, it bears a history and geology unlike any other cave in the world. At 22 meters tall and 82 meters deep, what makes this sea cave so visually astoundingly is the hexagonal columns of basalt, shaped in neat six-sided pillars that make…

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The abandoned Spitzer Castle in Beočin – Serbia

We are in the town of Beočin, on the slopes of Fruška Gora mountain, where rests a peculiar building, in ruins and long forgotten. Locally known as Spitzer Castle, the mansion was built in the late 19th century by Eduard Ede Spitzer, co-owner of the Beočin cement factory. The building is one of the rare examples of the eclectic architecture in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina. Spitzer hired the famous architect Imre Steindl, best known for his work on the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest, to design and engineer the…

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The witches of Benevento and their walnut tree Sabbats

We are in Italy. When the Romans conquered the area in the 3rd century B.C. they changed its original name Maleventum (meaning “bad event”) into Beneventum (“good event”) but, name apart, it was a place of crossroads. The city stood in fact where the Appian Way forked and the Sabato and Calore rivers came together and, interestingly, crossroads (in italian “crocevia”) were the special domain of the goddess Trivia, protector of witches, with word Tri-via that means “three roads”. The legend of the witches of Benevento dates back to the…

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St John’s eve: ancient rituals to mark midsummer

Saint John’s Eve, starting at sunset on 23 June, is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel of Luke states that John was born six months before Jesus, therefore, the feast of John the Baptist was fixed on 24 June, six months before Christmas according to the old Roman calculation. This feast day is one of the very few saints’ days which commemorates the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death, of the saint being honored. The Feast of Saint John…

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Sinhagad: the lion’s fort in Pune – India

We are in Thoptewadi, India. Here stands a fort that for centuries was called Kondhana, named after the monk Kaundinya. The nearby temple and cave carvings indicate that the building is around 2,000 years old, despite it changed hands several times over the years as different factions controlled the region during the middle ages. The fort was important because of its strategic location, perched on an isolated cliff in the Bhuleswar range of the Sahyadri Mountains, 1,312 meters above sea level, and it is ‘naturally’ protected due to its very…

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Elizabeth Bay Ghost Town – Namibia

We are in southern coast of Namibia, 25 km south of Lüderitz. Even though it often seems to be forgotten in the shadow of its counterpart Kolmanskop, also Elizabeth Bay was a lucrative diamond mining town. Diamonds were first discovered in the region around 1908. However, only in 1989 that the government of Namibia spent $53 million on the exploration and creation of a new diamond mine on the site. Its decrepit buildings and machinery tell of a dark, greedy history: the city was inhabited for only 20 years, but…

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Sarmizegetusa Regia: the legendary capital of the Dacians

We are in Romania. Hidden in the dense forests of the Carpathians, Sarmizegetusa Regia is one of the oldest, most surprising and mysterious historical attractions in the country. From the second century B.C., until the first century A.D., the kingdom of Dacia could be found west of the Black Sea and north of the Danube River. When the Romans conquered Dacia in 106, they destroyed its capital, Sarmizegetusa Regia, and established a new city some 40 kilometers away to serve as the capital of their new province. However, in the…

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Kolmanskop – Namibia: the remains of diamond fever taken over by the desert.

We are in Namibia: people flocked to the area that later became known as Kolmanskop after the discovery of diamonds, in 1908. Here, Zacharias Lewala, a regular railway worker, picked up what he thought was an unusually shiny stone, and showed it to his supervisor, August Stauch, who immediately applied for a prospector’s license. Verification confirmed that the first diamond in the region had been found. The diamonds were in such supply that they could be picked off the ground by bare hands, and soon the area was flooded with…

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Allegory of “The Tree of Life” in Segovia – Spain

We are in Segovia, Spain. In the local Cathedral, among the colors of the stained glass windows and the splendid Gothic architecture, there is also a curious painting hanging on the wall. It is called The Tree of Life, locally El Arbol de la Vida, and is one of many that hangs in the Immaculate Conception Chapel (Capilla de la Concepción) in Segovia Cathedral. A riotous party is taking place in the bough of a tree symbolizing life, complete with food, live music, and merriment. Meanwhile below, a sinister skeleton…

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Festival Club: Ibiza’s first club

We are in Ibiza. The island wasn’t always the party hotspot it is today. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that it became a tourist destination, with hotels, restaurants and clubs popping up everywhere. In 1969, construction began on this once-lively club. Such a restricted location meant that the owners of the venue were required to build an access road in order to reach the structure, which officially opened its doors in 1972. In any case, back in the early 1970s, tourists were satisfied with being transported around the island…

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La Mola Lighthouse – Illes Balears, Spain

We are at the eastern edge of Formentera, the most southern of the Balearic Islands. The “Far de la Mola”, also known as Far de Formentera) was drafted by the architect and engineer Emili Pou y Bonet. It was inaugurated in November 1861, at the time of Isabel II, and until 1973 it was not electrified and it used to work with wicks and oil vapor. The lighthouse is 21 meters tall and stands fiercely upon a 258-meter high cliff, the highest point of the island. According to some locals,…

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Temple of Valadier: a refuge for the souls in Genga – Italy

We are in Italy, in Genga, Marche region, near the magnificent Frasassi Caves dug in limestone by the Sentino river. Here an elegant octagonal church rises among the pointed and beveled rocks of a gorge between the mountains: it is the Temple of Valadier. The Temple, designed by Giuseppe Valadier (Rome, 1762-1839), cuts a striking neo-classical silhouette against the rough hewn edges of the surrounding natural cave walls, looking like the temple itself was trying to seek refuge in the cave. In reality it was the local population that has…

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Năsal: a delicious Transylvanian Cheese

We are in Romania. Năsal is a traditional local cheese bearing the same name as the village where it is produced in the Țaga commune, Cluj County. The soft and creamy cheese has been smear-ripened in caves since the Middle Ages. According to a Transylvanian legend, the commune of Țaga was once controlled by a wealthy, cruel count. Under his rule, the people starved and, to feed themselves, one day, some farmers were forced to steal the count’s cheese for their children. They hid it in a cave near the…

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The sad story of the half-constructed abandoned resort at Cala d’en Serra – Ibiza

We are in Spain. In the far north of the island near Portinax is a beautiful little horseshoe shaped beach called Cala d’en Serra, surrounded by high pine covered cliffs with crystal clear waters. This beach was also named one of Europe’s top beaches, according one of lot reports onlline. Despite it is much like many of the smaller beaches across Ibiza, what makes this truly special is the abandoned resort situated just meters above the beach. In 1969, a luxury hotel resort was planned for construction on one of…

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Milltown Cemetery – Belfast, Northern Ireland

We are in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, Ireland. Milltown cemetery is a sprawling graveyard full of history, conflict and tragedy. It has seen some of the largest funeral processions in all of Ireland and is the final resting place of more than 200,000 souls. It was opened in 1869 as part of the broader provision of services for the city of Belfast’s expanding Catholic population, when the historic Friar’s Bush Cemetery was becoming overcrowded, and only families with burial rights were allowed to be interred there. Although the Milltown…

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Wandering through Wallenstein Palace Garden in Prague: the Dripstone Wall

We are in Prague, a magnificient city full of hidden alleys and charming walkways. Hidden behind the high walls, at the heart of baroque palace grounds, among a variety of buildings, is a palace lush garden with fountains, statues and other unique features. Constructed at the behest of Bohemian military leader who fought on the Catholic side during the Thirty Years’ War Albrecht Vaclav Eusebius of Wallenstein, between 1623 and 1630, the Wallenstein Palace (Valdštejnský palác) enjoyed a centuries-long first life as a magnificent private residence for various generations of…

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Tuslob Buwa – minced pork liver and brain gravy in the Philippines

We are in the Pasil neighborhood of Cebu City, Philippines. The Philippines is known for having some of the tastiest exotic dishes in the world, and each province having its own “specialty.” In Cebu, one of these dishes is tuslob buwa, a popular street food whose chief ingredients are minced pork liver, innards and brain, which get sautéed with garlic, onions, shrimp paste, and chilis in a wok filled with boiling oil or lard and sometimes soy sauce for extra flavor. The mixture starts out as a watery stock, but…

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Why do we have Easter bunny and Easter eggs?

All the fun things about Easter have pagan roots, and It is not a coincidence if the most widely-practiced customs on Easter Sunday are associated to the rabbit (“Easter bunny”) and the egg. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare, while exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. As we already know, a hare was a symbol associated with great northern goddess Eostre, (goddess of Spring, otherwise known as Ostara, Austra, or…

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The ancient pagan origins of Easter

Easter: a secular culture celebrates the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection. In religious (and obvious) terms, Easter is a holiday celebrated by millions of people around the world, with more or less curious traditions, who honor the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament and occurred three days after his crucifixion at Calvary. But it is also, in different cultures, the day that children wait for the Easter bunny to arrive and a day to eat more or less delicious chocolate eggs. The…

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The White Spring: a dark Victorian well house now plays host to mystical waters and pagan shrines.

We are in England. It is one of the greatest mysteries of Avalon, the legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend, that two different healing springs, one touched red with iron, the other white with calcite, should rise within a few feet of each other from the caverns beneath Glastonbury Tor, and both have healing in their flow. The quaint sculpted gardens of the Chalice Well surround Glastonbury’s most famous natural water source, the Red Spring, so called for the iron oxide it deposits in its basin. But just opposite…

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The haunted Fox Tower at Dongbianmen – China

We are in Beijing, China. The Fox Tower at Dongbianmen (chinese 东便门 ) has been said to be haunted from pretty much the moment it was founded in 1564. Initially the tower was said to be inhabited by deadly fox spirits, but by the 20th century the historic fortification was haunted by the very real specter of a grim murder. Built by meanie isolationist emperor Jiajing, a man so cruel his own concubines tried to strangle him en masse, Dongbianmen’s probably seen more than one murder, and It’s one of…

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Bheja Fry, the spicy brain dish speciality of Hyderabad – India.

We are in India. “Bheja (brain) Fry” is a common slang used in parts of Mumbai and Andhra Pradesh, often to describe a situation (or a person) who is so irritating that it almost fries your brains. In Hyderabad, brain fry isn’t just the resulting sensation from surrounding confusion and summer heat. The phrase is derived from a popular street food and in fact there hole-in-the-wall eateries and street vendors fry goat, sheep, or cow brain, and then smother it in spicy sauce and onions. Thus, eaters scoop up the…

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Why in Havana a nude woman with a fork mount a rooster?

We are in Havana, Cuba, and there’s a mysterious brass statue in Plaza Vieja: A woman sits atop her big, feathery mount, her voluptuous form completely naked except for the stilettos on her feet. A massive forks rests on her right shoulder. And the rooster, ever so stoic, gazes ahead. No one knows the meaning behind the unusual sculpture. Its name is “Viaje Fantástico”, so perhaps the woman heading off on an adventure to some sort of nudist dinner party? Or, as some online theories speculate, could it have a…

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Sheep Brains: things to try in Marrakesh

We are in Marrakesh, Morocco. If there’s one must do thing there, is to watch the food vendors set up their collective stalls at dusk in the Jemaa El-Fna square. The heart of the Old Medina transforms before your eyes, with movement in every direction, both turists and locals. Smoke from the open grills and the smell of meat and spices dominant the senses, but don’t stop there, make your way through the crowd of people, motorbikes and cars and sit down at one of the endless stalls serving up…

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The Old Man of Storr – Scotland

From rock-dwelling giants to mermaids and seals who steal the hearts of local women, Scotland’s islands still today teem with tales of their legendary pasts. We are in the Isle of Skye, a point of interest in the Scottish Highlands is a site of folkloric mysticism and natural grandeur. One of the most spectacular sights of the Trotternish Peninsula, in the northeastern region of the Island, which was formed by a colossal landslide in ancient times, is the Old Man of Storr, a rock pinnacle of 50 m in height,…

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The curious Toy Cemetery at Coyoacán Bazaar – Mexico

We are in Coyoacán, Mexico. Known officially as the Mercado Artesanal Mexicano (Mexican Crafts Market), but colloquially as El Bazar, this market is a reference point in city center. Located on the Street Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Coyoacán, in this market you can find different Mexican art such as bracelets, clothes, toys, incenses, necklaces, tattoos, plants and “alebrijes”, brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. A place full of color, tradition and life, where you can find the crafts that characterize Mexico. However, hidden beneath the small cacti…

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Macromural de Pachuca: the world’s largest mural covers a large swath of homes in Mexico.

We are just north of Mexico City, in Pachuca de Soto, the capital city of the Mexican State of Hidalgo. The city boasts one of the largest murals in the world. Murals have always been an example of artwork around the world. Excluding the luxurious wall murals in Pompeiian villas, or the various streetart inside lot of abandoned places, most murals, at least the modern ones, adorn building’s exteriors and are meant for public consumption. But in few cases are the murals so big that they stretch across multiple buildings,…

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