The Stromatolites of Hamelin Pool – Australia

Located within a sheltered bay on the coast of Western Australia, theb Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve appears at first glance to be a regular rock-strewn beach, though the rocks look kind of odd. Those rocks are not actually rocks. Rather, they are active colonies of one of the first life forms on our planet. They are called “stromatolites”, and they are made by a single-celled organism know as “cyanobacteria”. Previously known as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria exist since about 3500 million years ago, well before the existence of any other…

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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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England’s Bolton Strid: the most dangerous stretch of water in the world

The Bolton Strid, a narrow segment of the River Wharf in North England, is a picturesque stretch of river that looks like the type of place one might find fairies frolicking in the heath. However, it has a reputation that doesn’t quite suite its appearance, and just beneath the surface is a natural booby trap that has claimed a number of lives. It is informally known as the most dangerous stretch of water in the world, with an alleged fatality rate of 100% for everyone lucky enough to have fallen…

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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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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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Chichen Itza Chirp: clapping at base of an ancient pyramid echoes the call of a sacred bird

Chichen Itza, a pre-Colombian archaeological site built by the Mayans in northern Yucatan, Mexico, is home to many architectural and cultural wonders, and one of this has baffled acoustics experts for decades. The Temple of Kukulkan is one of the most visually-striking structures at Chichen Itza, but perhaps its most intriguing characteristic is acoustic. The reason? Clapping at the base of the Mayan pyramid causes an echo that resembles a bird’s chirp. Do it repeatedly, or in a group, and the echos will sound like a chorus of ghostly chirps…

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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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Hyder: the easternmost town in Alaska that can only be accessed from Canada.

The town of Hyder, Alaska, is both the geographically easternmost town in Alaska, as well as the southernmost town in Alaska that can be reached by car. However, one cannot drive to Hyder from the rest of Alaska. The reason? Hyder is what is called an “inaccessible district”. In other words, an inaccessible district can be define as “parts of the territory of one country that can be approached conveniently – in particular by wheeled traffic – only through the territory of another country.” And, believe it or not, there…

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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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Bangkok’s “David Beckham Temple”: one of the world’s weirdest religious buildings

Bangkok’s temples are truly a wonder to visit, but after a few days of battling the crowds, the appeal of gilded Buddha statues may start to lose interest. Thus, when you’ve visited the major attractions, why don’t go to Wat Pariwat, a one-of-a-kind temple down the Chao Phraya River? Wat Pariwat gets its famous nickname, “David Beckham Temple”, from a gold-plated statue of the English former football player holding up a statue of Buddha. But that’s just one of the unexpected characters you’re bound to notice visiting this unusual holy…

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Whitby Abbey: the gloomy ruins that inspired Bram Stoker to bring Dracula to life.

From Mina Harker’s diary, Chapter 6, Dracula by Bram Stoker: “Right over the town is the ruin od Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of ‘Marmion’, where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows…this is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby…” Stories apart, Whitby Abbey was a…

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Crater Lake: the deepest lake in the United States, and once the site of epic destruction that lives on in myth.

Crater Lake, Oregon, has been known different names. It was first known, to non-Native Americans anyway, as “Deep Blue Lake,” as named in 1853 by its discoverer, John Wesley Hillman, an American prospector. Later, in 1885, it was dubbed Lake Majesty, and finally Crater Lake. Today Crater Lake and the Crater National Park that surrounds it are popular destinations for hikers and campers, but it was once the site of enormous geological upheaval, and one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever witnessed by humans, so terrifying that it has been…

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The strange story of why human urine was transported to quarries in North East Yorkshire

Since the days of the Roman empire, alum was used as a mordant or fixative that allowed textiles to be colored using vegetable dyes. Initially imported from Italy where there was a Papal monopoly on the industry, the supply to Great Britain was cut off during the Reformation in England. In response to this need, during the 16th century, Thomas Challoner found that fossils in shale along the Yorkshire coast were the same as those found in alum producing areas of Italy and Europe and, as a result, an alum…

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Vicars’ Close: the oldest residential street in Europe that also features an optical illusion.

Vicars’ Close, in Wells, Somerset, England, is claimed to be the oldest purely residential street with original buildings still intact in Europe. The first houses on this attractive street, close to Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England, were built during the mid 14th century, while the street was completed about a century later. The area was initially used to house a group of chantry priests. During the 12th century, the group of clergy who served the cathedral were responsible for chanting the divine service eight times a day and were known…

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The Aqueduct of Segovia, a glorious Roman heritage in Spain

If we speak about architecture, the Romans are among the greatest builders of the world’s history. Some of the surviving Roman buildings and monuments are magnificient still today, many centuries after they were built. And one of such creations is the famed Roman Aqueduct of Segovia. The historic city of Segovia is located in north-western central Spain, in the autonomous region of Castile and Leon. This important city is rich in history and sights, as it is located on an important trading route between Merida and Zaragossa. In ancient history,…

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Buford, Wyoming: Population 1 (and now zero)

Despite its tiny size, the little town of Bufort, Wyoming, has become somewhat of a roadside attraction. It has two claims to fame: the iconic road sign reading “Population 1” and a marker commemorating its 8,000-feet (about 2438 meters) elevation as the highest point on Interstate 80. Buford was established in the late 1860s, as the railroad moved west from Cheyenne to Laramie. It was named for John Buford, an Union Officer in the Civil War who commanded a cavalry brigade during the second battle of Bull Run. Although he…

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Torre Argentina – the Roman Cat Sanctuary

As you probably know cats in Rome are very popular and they have always found shelter amongst the ancient city ruins. They are also protagonists of numerous postcards depicting them sitting on stumps of old Roman columns, cat napping on the foot of an emperor’s statue, or just lounging near the Colosseum. And, in addition, in Rome stray cats have an ancient temple-complex all to themselves. Known as Largo di Torre Argentina, this archaeological wonder was excavated as part of Mussolini’s rebuilding efforts in 1929, revealing four Republican victory-temples that…

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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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Kościół w Kartuzach: the coffin-shaped church in Poland where monks once slept in coffins

Despite It’s hard to tell from the ground, if you take to the skies you’ll see that this 14th-century Gothic church is shaped like a coffin. Yes, really a coffin. And, interestingly, it isn’t its only coffin connection, either. The church, located in Kartuzy, in nothern Poland (about 32 kilometres west of Gdańsk), was part of a monastery built in 1380 by a group of Carthusian monks from Bohemia. However, the small brotherhood was rather eccentric and had the macabre custom of sleeping in coffins. Also the building’s inside has…

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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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Francesco Petrarca’s house: a modest museum in the final home of Italian poet

“In the Euganean Hills, I had a small house built, decorous and noble; here, I live out the last years of my life peacefully, recalling and embracing with constant memory my absent and deceased friends.” (Petrarch, Senili, XIII, 8, Letter to Matteo Longo, January 6 1371). Francesco Petrarca, one of the first humanists, was a founding figure in the Italian Renaissance, but also the poet who helped solidify modern Italian. He spent his final years tending vegetables in this incredibly old house, which predates even his own residence there. Years…

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Holy Well of St. Madron – Cornwall

Cornish culture is legendary and mystery awaits around every corner in its land. Despite holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations, identified from as early as the 6th century AD, and the custom of venerating springs and wells as sacred sites have characterised pre-Christian religions in Britain, it is clear that some originated as earlier sacred sites. The cult of holy wells continued throughout the medieval period. Its condemnation at the time of the Reformation, around 1540, ended new foundations but local reverence and folklore customs at existing…

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The unsolved mystery of Ding Wuling, China’s mosquito-free village

Surrounded by lush vegetation and dotted with ponds and pools of water, the Chinese village of Ding Wuling should be a paradise for mosquitoes, especially during the summertime. However, the tiny annoying bloodsuckers allegedly haven’t been seen here in almost a century… Located in the hills of China’s Fujian province, 700 meters above sea level, the village of Ding Wuling is home to the hakka minority, a people with a very rich history and culture evidenced by the unique architecture of their stone houses. But in recent years, culture, history…

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The 199 steps (with benches for coffins) of Whitby, England

Thousand of people regularly climb up the 199 steps leading to St. Mary’s Church. Fortunately for them, visitors, locals, tourists or simply curious, some benches dot the stairway, providing perfect places for weary walkers to rest their legs and soak in the beautiful views of Whitby’s harbor. Absolutely one of the most beautiful views of Whitby you can achieve. What many tourists don’t know is that the platforms they sit on weren’t intended to hold the living. Absolutely no. Pallbearers, when they needed a break while carting the dead to…

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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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Kaizō-ji temple and its legends – Japan

Kamakura was the capital and religious center of Japan from the 12th-14th centuries. The city is scattered with medieval Shinto shrines and numerous Buddhist temples, including temple Kaizō-ji, which dates back to 1253. Due to the fact that flowers bloom all year long on its grounds, Kaizō-ji is commonly known as “the Flower Temple”, but it is also popular for its Sokonuke-no-i, a legendary “bottomless well” located in front of the gate. Of course the well is far from bottomless, and it originates from a 13th-century poem written by a…

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Grand Midway Hotel – Pennsylvania: the haunted Hotel with the world’s largest Ouija board on the roof.

This hotel, which still houses a few invite-only guests, is no longer in full operation and has a lot of history hidden within it. It was bought by its current owner before it was going to be torn down by the mayor, and was transformed into a sort of museum containing all kinds of supernatural and interesting items. Each room has its own intricately decorated theme: there are the Monkey Room, the Gypsy Tarot Room, the Demon Room, the cemetery suite and more. Located in the very center of Windber…

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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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