Wasabi Ice Cream: the cure and cause of a burning tongue!

Sushi lovers around the world know wasabi as the thick, green paste that adds pungent heat to their nigiri, sashimi and uramaki. Wasabi, or Japanese horseradish, has a unique mustard-like taste. In its highest-quality form, it is freshly grated while, most often, it’s sold as a powder or paste. But, with its vapours strong enough to wake up the sleeping or the unconscious, could wasabi really work in ice cream? Unlike the oil-based Capsaicin-heat of chile peppers, the burning sensation of wasabi is short-lived. Fused into a sweet ice cream,…

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September 9: Wienerschnitzel Day

Wiener Schnitzel is a delicious treat that is much beloved in Austria and other countries in that region. It is one of the premier examples of Viennese cuisine and was a classic of many a native’s childhood diet. Wiener Schnitzel Day celebrates this treat, its culture and its history. Basically a breaded cutlet that is deep-fried in oil, Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally made from veal, but also can be made from pork. In Australia, it might even be found made out of chicken or beef. This dish is actually named…

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Hoshizuna-no-Hama: Japan’s amazing star sand beach

Hoshizuna-no-Hama, literally translate as “Sand in the Shape of a Star”, is a small but charming Japanese beach famous for its star-shaped tiny grains of sand. Located on Irimote, the second-largest island in Okinawa prefecture, it doesn’t look too different than the hundreds of other beaches in the Japanese archipelago, at least at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals that many of the sand grains have a very curious shape: a five or six-tipped star. Actually the stars are not grains of sand, but microscopic, now empty exoskeletons of…

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Döllersheim: the austrian village that Hitler destroyed to crush a rumor

About one hundred km northwest of Vienna, in northern Austria, lies a small village called Döllersheim that, eighty years ago, was literally wiped off the map by a certain German dictator with a short moustache in an attempt to erase the disreputable origins of his family. The village was first mentioned in an 1143 deed issued by Duke Henry XI of Bavaria, whereby one Chunradus (Conrad) of Tolersheim appeared as a witness. Due its location near the Austrian border with Bohemia the nearby market town held by the Lords of…

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Erdstalls Tunnels: Central Europe’s last great mystery

Across Europe, there are hundreds of underground tunnels that, apparently, lead to nowhere and about which any historic records have ever been found. They are mostly located in the southern German state of Bavaria and the nearby Austria, where they are known by the German name “Erdstall”, which literally means “place under the earth”. Locally, they are also called by various names such as “Schrazelloch”, or “goblin hole”, but also “Alraunenhöhle”, meaning “mandrake cave”, which reflects the various theories and legends associated with the mysterious tunnels. Some believed that they…

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Lake Toyoni: Japan’s Naturally Heart-Shaped Lake

Nestled in a remote area of Hokkaido island, surrounded by lush forest on all sides and untouched by human civilization, Lake Toyoni (豊似湖) is a hidden gem among Japan’s many tourism attractions. It is a freshwater lake at about 260 m elevation in Erimo town located in the southeastern distriction of Tomakomai city. Up until a few years ago, it was virtually unknown to most Japanese, but a popular television commercial featuring an aerial view of the heart-shaped natural wonder turned it into a popular tourist spot virtually overnight. Of…

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Tanabata: the Japanese Star Festival

Tanabata (Japanese: たなばた or 七夕, meaning literally “Evening of the seventh”), also known as the Star Festival (星祭り, or Hoshi matsuri), is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, who are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The festival was introduced to Japan by the Empress Kōken in 755. It originated from “The…

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The incredible (unsolved) mystery of Kaspar Hauser

Nuremberg, May 26, 1828: a mysterious boy, about 16 years old, wanders in search of the Captain of the 4th Esgataron of the Shwolishay regiment, to whom he has to deliver a letter. Obviously, no citizen of Nuremberg is aware of the boy’s identity. The letter explains that, from 7 October 1812, the boy had been entrusted to the mysterious author and, among other things, instructed the captain that “…if he isn’t good for anything [the captain] must either kill him or hang him in the chimney.” Apparently Kaspar Hauser,…

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Hanami: the way Japanese enjoy the transient beauty of flowers

When cherry blossoms bloom in Japan, people of every age and occupation gather under the trees for hanami: a time to admire, ponder, and celebrate. Hanami (花見, literally “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. Flowers (hana) in this case almost always refer to those of the cherry (sakura) or, less frequently, plum (ume) trees. From the end of March to early May, cherry trees bloom all over Japan, and around the first of February on the island of Okinawa. The blossom forecast…

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So, Japan’s 1,000-year-old cheese that’s back in fashion due to COVID-19 pandemic

A year ago, on February 27, 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested that all schools in Japan shut down until early April to stop the spread of COVID-19. And of course, by the following week, most schools across the country shuttered their doors. However, one of the biggest buyers of Japanese agricultural products is the school lunch program, which feeds elementary and middle school students across the whole country. To clarify, around 10% of all domestic food production goes to school lunch, which usually emphasizes local or domestic products and,…

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Alps: nightmare creatures of German folklore

Alps are creatures that appear in nightmares in the middle of the night. This mythical creature would appear in the dreams of men and women but prefers to disturb women more. It is defined by the Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch as a “nature-god or nature-demon, equated with the Fauns of Classical mythology…regarded as eerie, ferocious beings…As the mare he messes around with women”. They could manipulate dreams to their liking and would create horrible nightmares, and this is probably why “Alptraum” is the word for nightmare in German which if translated literally…

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The Roman Goddes Luna

Today, March 31, in ancient Rome, the foundation of Luna’s temple, the moon goddess, on the Aventine Hill, was remembered. It was destroyed by the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64 C.E. Luna, was Roman goddess of the Moon, animals, and hunting. Varro and Virgilius describe her as one of the twelve fundamental divinity for agriculture. The Romans recognized three aspects of her, also called the triad. As the Moon-goddess, they called her not by chance Luna, italian for Moon while, as an underworld deity of magic Hekate,…

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Manila Cemetery: known as “Beverly Hills of the Dead” is full of luxurious final resting places

Not even death put an end to the luxurious lifestyles of some of Manila’s wealthy Chinese residents. Here, in the capital of Philippines, the dead have better houses than the living ones: the Chinese Cemetery of Manila is a real little neighborhood, with many tombs reaching the size of real mansions, including all their modern amenities. The mausoleums lining either side of two-way streets within the cemetery are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that many living people can only dream of: they have fully-functioning kitchens and bathrooms with luxury fittings, and…

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The Ides of March and the celebration of roman goddess Anna Perenna

Julius Caesar was warned by a seer that harm would befall him before the end of the Ides of March, on March the 15th. The seer was right, as he was assassinated on that day. His assassination on 15th of March 44 BC, was a turning point in Roman history. Centuries later, the expression “Beware the Ides of March” was found in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1601 in the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. Since then, the Ides of March became notorious as being associated with…

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2nd March: Holy Wells Day

Of Norse origin, Ceadda was a deity connected to sacred, healing and underground waters and therefore also to springs and wells. Historians have not yet come to the conclusion whether Ceadda was a god or a goddess, although many favor the latter hypothesis, given the main attributes connected to the chthonic sphere and healing waters. Later she passed into the Celtic pantheon and here her symbol became the Crann Bethadh, that is, the Tree of Life. The tree ideally connected the underground world with the celestial one and its roots…

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Juraj Jánošík: how an outlaw became the Slovak National Hero

Juraj Jánošík, the outlaw who supposedly robbed the rich and gave to the poor (a deed often attributed to the famous Robin Hood), and who has inspired really countless artistic works, was once an ordinary man, despite there are very few accounts about his life. One of them is the protocol from his trial in March 1713 when he was sentenced to death, other are the two documents from the archives in Trenčín, and lastly, there is the registry office of the parish in Varín. Thanks to the latter, we…

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The oldest comic in the world? In a tomb in Jordan!

It was drawn 2,000 years ago and does not depict superheroes, cute little animals or thieves in a luxury car, but the workers of the ancient city of Capitolias, in the north of Jordan, one of the 10 Greek-Roman cities listed by Pliny the Elder as the Decapolis, a group of semi-autonomous Hellenistic cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, between present-day Israel, Jordan and Syria. The painting, which is the oldest example of modern “comic”, with the phrases pronounced by the protagonists spelled out next to their…

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The rude and insulting ‘Vinegar Valentines’ of the Victorian Era

In the Victorian era, and also into the 20th century, lovers exchanged elaborate lace-trimmed cards on Valentine’s Day, expressing their supposedly undying love and devotion with sentiments and poems. But what to do if you didn’t love the person who had set their eyes on you? For those not on good terms or who wanted to fend off an unwanted suitor, “vinegar valentines” offered a stinging alternative. “To My Valentine / Tis a lemon that I hand you and bid you now skidoo, Because I love another—there is no chance…

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Archduke Rudolf, the lovesick prince and his suicide pact

Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, wrote a tragic note to his wife in the early hours of this day, January 30, 1889, that read: “I am going calmly to my death which alone can save my good name.” He then put a pistol to the head of his beautiful 17-year-old mistress who was lying in bed beside him and shot her dead. He did the same to himself shortly after. Or so, apparently. Rudolf, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was the only son of Kaiser Franz Joseph I…

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Neidhart Frescoes: a glimpse into the festive and private lives of medieval Europe

In 1979, during restoration works in an apartment near the center of Vienna, at Tuchlauben 19, a sensational find was uncovered: after removing plaster from the walls, a set of ancient frescoes were revealed. These works of art were ordered by Michel Menschein, a wealthy cloth merchant who wanted them as decorations for a private dance and banquet hall in 1407. The paintings depict songs by legendary bard Neidhart von Reuenthal (ca. 1180-1240) and tell stories of feasts, joy, and emotions experienced centuries ago. They tell of love and feasts…

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Zombie Hunters, a local singer or photoshop? The true story of loneliest house in the world

For years, a variety of photos of a mysterious solitary white house on the side of a green hill, on a small, deserted island surrounded by ocean as far as the eye can see have been doing the rounds on the web, earning the unofficial title of “loneliest house in the world”. But where is exactly? In Iceland. The Vestmannaeyjar archipelago consists of a cluster of small islands off the southern coast of the country. Elliðaey, or Ellirey, is the most northeastern of these islands, and home to the iconic…

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What were (really) the worst years in history?

2020 is now over, and many have the feeling that it was one of the worst years in history. But are you really sure? We start from Ancient Greece, which could also include 1628 BC among its worst years, with the famous Minoan Eruption, on which, however, science has yet to provide sufficient answers to statistical analyzes to fully understand its extent. Then there are the war years, including both World Wars and, in any case, to make a comparison with the just ended 2020 is absolutely wrong. But the…

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20# The true story of Silent Night

It was 1914 when soldiers on both sides of the battlefield somewhere in France were enduring a dark and frozen Christmas Eve night. World War I, or the Great War, as it is called still today, eventually took the lives of more than 10 million people. And, of course, the mostly soldiers of that Christmas Eve were contemplating much more beyond their longings for home and warmth and family. When soldiers on the German line placed candles on small Christmas trees and raised them above their trenches it touched the…

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18# Animals in the story of Christmas

Animals play a prominent role a Christmas, regardless of whether or not religious beliefs are behind it. The story of Rudolph, the red nosed reinder, is probably the most popular example of an animal that has become a Christmas icon. However, there are many animals are central to the story of Christmas and, as with all things Christmas we turn back to ancient history to find out the tradition behind it. According to Viking tradition, the northern Germans and Scandinavians celebrated Yule, a pagan religious festival heralding the arrival of…

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Katzenbalgen, the Monument to Homeless Cats

In Braunschweig, Germany, where the streets Hutfilter, Damm and Kattreppeln meet in the pedestrian zone, the most gorgeous, humorous and unconventional monument of the city has stood since 1981, the “Katzenbalgen” stele by Siegfried Neuenhausen, a former professor at the Braunschweig University of Art and one of the most outstanding personalities in Lower Saxony’s art scene. The monument is impressively large and looks like a high stele, on which a variety of bronze cats are fixed in different poses. All people who see the monument for the first time notice…

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Nekobiyaka: the world’s only black cat cafe

The Japanese castle town of Himeji is home to the only known black cat café in the world, Nekobiyaka, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink in the company of about a dozen felines, strictly black! Despite there are hundreds of cat cafes all over Japan, (including the one located in Tokyo’s district of Akihabara), but only one dedicated exclusively to black cats. Nekobiyaka opened in 2013 and has since become somewhat of a tourist attraction in Himeji. The owner, Ms. Yagi, came up with idea of a black cat…

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Vintage photographs from a 1930s Halloween

By now we know that Halloween is a festival with ancient origins that is celebrated on October 31st. Traditionally linked to the Anglo-Saxon world, westernization and globalization have now led it to become the cultural heritage of all. The genesis of the festival is controversial, but it is probably common to Celtic and Roman festivals, in that mix of celebrations that coincided with Samhain, the Celtic New Year, and the Latin festivals dedicated to Pomona and the celebration of the departed, the Parentalia. Here are some 1930s photographs, with costumes,…

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Takao Shito: the farmer who lives in the Middle of Japan’s second largest airport

Living in an airport isn’t easy. Try to imagine the sound of planes taking off and landing both early morning and late at night, or simply the mess. However, for one stubborn Japanese farmer it’s the only place worth living in! Takao Shito’s family has been growing vegetable on the same farm for over 100 years. His grandfather was a farmer, his father as well and, rightly, he followed their footsteps…even if things are “a bit” different than they were for his ancestors. At the time, the Shito farm was…

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Around the world in pandemic Street Art

Throughout the ages, artists have taken their messages to public spaces, from Pompeii’s walls in Roman times to New York City’s subway cars in the 1980s. Driven by the current pandemic and its unique and unusual aesthetic, made of knobby viruses, face masks and messages of solidarity, creatives around the world have continued to express themselves publicly. During lockdown, cities and not only were studded with love for healthcare workers, cynicism for politicians, frustration at the crisis, or simple encouragement. We have collected some of these messages, depicted in street…

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Ravi Hongal, the Indian photograher that has built his house in the shape of a camera

Can a passion become almost an obsession? Yes, apparently it is possible, and this Indian man confirms it: he is so fond of photography that he named his three sons after iconic camera brands, Canon, Nikon and Epson, and, if this wasn’t enough, he live on a three-story villa shaped like a giant camera! Probably you hear the phrase “passionate about photography” a lot among photography enthusiasts and among all those who consider themselves (unjustly) photographers only because they hold a camera in their hand, but Ravi Hongal, a 49-year-old…

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