Gereja Ayam: the curious “chicken church” in the middle of the Indonesian forest

We are in the thick forest of Magelang, Indonesia. If you be trekking here, try not to be too alarmed if you stumble upon a massive building shaped like a chicken. Yes, a chicken. Known as Gereja Ayam (unsurprisingly, “Chicken Church”), this moldering, behemoth, bird-like building is an unexpected, pictoresque and whimsical sight to stumble upon. The church’s unusual design has inspired many debates and fan theories over the years, each one attempting to solve the mystery of why someone would spend money to build a chicken in the middle…

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Mie Lethek Garuda – a traditional food from Indonesia

We are in the small village of Srandakan, in Indonesia’s Yogyakarta Sultanate, which is the last remaining Indonesian region to be ruled by a Sultanate. What is the reason for visiting this Special Region? Aside from the natural attractions, culture, and history, tourists want to try all traditional foods that they can find there. The region offers the classic one locally known as ‘Mie Lethek’. They are traditionally made with no machines, but with cows and workers, most of whom are middle-aged to elderly. It’s hard work being a cow…

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Signal de Botrange: the highest point in Belgium is a staircase to nowhere

We are about 5km north of Ovifat, in Belgium. Signal de Botrange, the lowly remains of an ancient volcanic area once called de Hoge Venen, now doesn’t look like much little more than a big plateau. The area experiences stronger winds than the centre of Belgium, its average and extreme temperatures are usually lower than at any other place in the country and rainfall is much greater: there are over 200 days of precipitation per year. However, this rainy and seemingly flat landscape is actually situated 694 meters above sea…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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Metelkova: the alternative cultural center in Ljubljana

If you ask any local in Ljubljana, they will point you in the right direction, 5 minutes from the city centre of Slovenia’s capital city. The area now known as Metelkova (full name in Slovene: Avtonomni kulturni centre Metelkova mesto, “Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre”) was once a military barracks, but you would never know it by its state today, covered in a psychedelic cacophony of colorful street art, graffiti, and every kind of punk rock visuals. Originally commissioned by the Austro-Hungarian army back in 1882 and completed in 1911,…

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21# Puto Bumbong – Philippines

We are in the Philippines, which are home to one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, stretching from the beginning of September until the end of December. In fact Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season last until Epiphany, the feast of the Black Nazarene on the second Sunday of January, or at the Feast of the Santo Niño held every third Sunday of January. As a results, months of festivities are dotted by a wide array of delicious, often colorful treats, and among…

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18# Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Honey Cookies with curious origins

Sweet orange-zest cookies soaked in honey and topped with walnut? Yes, please! This treat is a holiday treat that regularly appears on tables in Greece. Known as melomakarona, if you visit Greece in Christmas time, you’ll eat far too many of these delicious Christmas honey cookies. Imagine a cross between baklava and an gooey pecan pie and you’ve got these: typical Greek Christmas honey cookies, and probably you won’t be able to eat just one. Every self-respecting Greek household has a huge pile of these on their Christmas treat table.…

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Panam Nagar: a ghost town of Sonargaon – Bangladesh.

We are in Sonargaon, about 30 km southeast of Dhaka, along the Meghna River, Bangladesh. As early as the 14th century, Sonargaon was the ancient capital of Bangladesh, or more accurately, it was the capital of Isa Khan’s Bengali empire. The cotton textile industry and trading were always a part of life and livelihood of Bengali people besides agriculture. In its heyday, Panam Nagar was home to a prosperous community of Hindu merchants that turned the medieval Bengali capital into a thriving textile trading hub around 19th century. They built…

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12# the Christmas tradition of making Tamale

For Latin Americans, making tamales is a Christmas tradition and every family has their own secret recipe. The basis is a corn dough, wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, and then steamed. Some are stuffed with pork, and some with beef or chicken. Other foods that may be a part of the filling are garlic, onion, potatoes, or raisins. At first glance, they might seem simple enough. However, Tamales are different not just from country to country, but also from region to region and even from abuela to…

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7# Ul Boov: the Mongolian “shoe sole cake“

We are in Mongolia. Tsagaan Sar, arguably Mongolia’s most important holiday, is the celebration of the Lunar New Year, held a month after the first new moon following the Winter Solstice. Tsagaan means “white” and Sar can be translated as “month” or “moon”. When locals celebrate the Lunar New Year with a days-long holiday, that like the best holidays, is all about family, the centerpiece is usually a fabulous ul boov. Ul boov in the lyrical, literal style of the Mongolian language means “shoe sole cake”, probably a humble name…

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2# Gata at Geghard Monastery – Armenia

We are in the rugged Upper Azat Valley in Armenia, around the entrance to the rock-carved Geghard Monastery. Here you’ll notice elderly ladies clustered around roadside stalls leading to the site, selling round Gata cakes inscribed with patterns and intricate Armenian script. The glazed pastry, made with simple ingredients, has a crusty texture that’s soft once you bite into it, and is stuffed with a sweet filling, called khoriz, made from a fluffy mixture of flour, butter, and sugar, with a consistency of baked custard. Even if styles will vary…

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Armenia: the architectural beauty of the Geghard monastery

We are in Armenia’s Upper Azat Valley, east of Yerevan. At the turn of the fourth century, only this nation in the world had accepted Christianity as its official religion, led by Gregory the Illuminator, who had been forced to flee to modern-day Turkey. During this time, he was introduced to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and, years later, he brought them back with him to Armenia. His goal was to convert the King Tiridates III, and thus force the conversion of the entire country. While he was imprisoned for…

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Friedhof Der Namenlosen – Cemetery of the Nameless: a hidden gem for Danube’s victims

We are in Vienna. Many tourists who come to the Austrian capital visit the Zentralfriedhof, the Central Cemetery, which is the city’s largest and most popular cemetery, the final home of personalities such as Ludwig Van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Johan Strauss but also more modern celebrities like pop star Falco. However, among the 55 cemeteries in Vienna, one of the most touching and quaint is probably the Friedhof Der Namenlosen, the Cemetery of the Nameless. Suicide victims who turned away from a Catholic burial, bodies with no names…

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Shipley Glen Tramway: a historic funicular tramway in England

We are in the wooded Shipley Glen, near the village of Saltaire in the English county of West Yorkshire. Originally built and operated as a way to ferry Victorian thrill seekers to and from an amusement park built at the top of a wooded valley, the tramway has served several generations in a variety of capacities. Opened on 18 May 1895 by Sam Wilson, a local publican, showman and entrepreneur, the tramway runs between Baildon and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire, two villages at opposite ends of the…

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Hampton Court Maze: the English maze that has been confusing visitors for over 300 years.

The Hampton Court hedge maze is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the United Kingdom. It is a multicursal maze, that baffle its visitors since the 17th century. Unlike a regular labyrinth, which is single-path or “unicursal,” in a maze like this, which is “multicursal”, a visitor must make decisions) baffling and delighting visitors since the 17th century. Even if it isn’t large as modern-day mazes, it still provides a challenge and, above all, it remains an important historical structure. The original design has since been modified due to gaps…

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Cidade Albanoel: an abandoned Christmas Theme Park in Brazil

We are in Brazil. Driving to Rio de Janeiro, you might spot an eerie sight on the side of the road: an abandoned gang of Santas, surrounded by palm trees and greenery. If you look closely, you’ll see these Father Christmas clones aren’t alone, because there’s a sad looking sleigh and dilapidated reindeer nearby, but also faded candy canes, battered slides and an eerie house. This is the Park Albanoel, in Itaguaí, that was intended to be the largest theme attraction in all of country, but the death of its…

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The altered traffic signs of Edinburgh, Scotland

We are in Einburgh, Scotland. Scattered around the city center are a number of traffic signs that have been given new life through amusing graffiti stickers. A keen eye but not only may spot a sumo wrestler, a spilled glass of wine, or a cat, but are just a few of the nearly two dozen total altered traffic signs. They are the work of French artist Clet Abraham, 52, who hand-draws the designs, prints them onto sticker paper and goes out at night to place them. Clet first began placing…

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The battle of Frangokastello -Crete- and the Drosoulites

We are in Greece: Frangokastello, located in the south west coast of Crete, is a beautiful Venetian castle that was built in 1371 as a garrison to impose order on the rebellious Sfakia region and to deter pirates. It is just another testament to the Venetians desire to impose their rule, as the castle was never used by them. The castle has a rectangular shape, with a tower at each corner and the remains of a Venetian coat of arms above the main gate. The buildings within the walls and…

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Cairndhu House – a piece of history in Northern Ireland

We are in Northern Ireland, off the Coast road in Carnfunnock Country park, near Larne, County Antrim. Originally built as a grand summer residence around 1875 for Mr Stewart Clark who was a wealthy Scottish textile industrialist, Cairndhu House has a rich history of grandeur and ruin and now lies in extreme disrepair. Sir Thomas Dixon, 2nd Baronet, married Edith, youngest daughter of Mr Stewart Clark in 1906, at Dalmeny Church, South Queensferry. After their marriage, they lived for varying periods at Graymount House, Hillsborough Castle, Drumadarragh, Luttrelstown, and Lucan,…

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La Casa del Diablo – The Devil’s House of San Luis Tehuiloyocan, Mexico

We are in San Luis Tehuiloyocan, Mexico, and despite the Cholula government has tried to eliminate the reputation surrounding the Amoxcalli Library and its dark past, the entire town still knows the building as La Casa del Diablo (The Devil’s House) because of the artwork on its facade and the rumors the home was the site of satanic worship. The images on the house date back to the 17th century and were created using a technique called “cracked stones”, that involved inserting volcanic stones into form figures to create different…

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Scotland: the curse of the Paisley witches.

We are in Paisley, Scotland. Here, any tragic events and misfortunes in the town over the last 300 years, they say, were caused by a curse. In the middle of a busy intersection sits a largely unremarkable circle of cobblestones surrounding a steel horseshoe centered within an anonymous circular bronze plaque. A person almost certainly wouldn’t notice it if they didn’t know it was there, but this modest memorial marks the final resting place of seven people convicted and put to death on charges of witchcraft. As story goes, It…

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Malinta tunnel: war and ghosts in the Philippines

We are off the coast of the Philippines. Corregidor Island was a strategic place to hold during WWII, in fact the island was seen as the key to Manila, sitting just within its bay. As a result it was fought over by both the US and Japanese military, who both managed to secure the island at differing times. Being a place that was so brutally ravaged by war, Corregidor Island saw mass amounts of bloodshed and death, and it is thought to be one of the most haunted places in…

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”The big fish” of Northern Ireland

We are in Northern Ireland, along the banks of the River Lagan in Donegall Quay, Belfast. “The Big Fish,” also known as “The Salmon of Knowledge” (Irish: bradán feasa), is a sculpture made from a mosaic of ceramic tiles representing a creature of the Irish mythology. The giant sculpture is based on a character from the tale “The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn”, which recounts the early adventures of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology. The story tells of an ordinary salmon that eats nine hazelnuts that fell…

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The mystery of the missing keepers at the Flannan Isles Lighthouse

The Flannan Isles, off the coast of northwestern Scotland and named after an Irish priest called St. Flannan, have been the subject of a mystery lasted over 100 years. On December 15th, 1900 a boat called Hesperus set sail for the island of Eilean Mor, one of the seven islets (also known as the “Seven Hunters”) of the Flannan Isles. Captain James Harvey was tasked with delivering a relief lighthouse keeper as part of a regular rotation. The journey was delayed a few days by bad weather, and when Harvey…

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Menlo Castle: an Irish abandoned castle claimed by nature

We are in Ireland, just outside of Galway City on the banks of the River Corrib that flows through the city into Galway Bay. This mysterious abandoned castle is visible right from across the river from the National University of Ireland, Galway and it is so thoroughly overgrown with vegetation it is almost disappearing into the scenery. The 16th-century castle, not by chance known also “Blake Castle”, was the ancestral home of the Blake family, English nobles that inhabited the Menlo estate from 1569 up until a fire destroyed the…

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Point of Ayr Lighthouse in Wales: an enchanted landscape and a keeper who never left it.

We are along the north coast of Wales. As the sun sets and the sea sweeps in across Talacre beach the lighthouse often seems to float on the waves in a mysterious and beautiful optical illusion. Correctly known as the Point of Ayr Lighthouse, but also named “Talacre Lighthouse”, it was originally built in 1776 to help guide ships away from the nearby sandbanks and provide a bearing for the great port of Liverpool to the northeast and mark the Mersey Estuary and the River Dee. Unusually for a lighthouse,…

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