The forgotten Benbulben Barite Mines – Ireland

In a beautiful and remote area of Ireland are the remains of Benbulben Barite Mine. The once industrious mine was used to unearth barite ore, a naturally occurring mineral used in cement as an aggregate, or ground down and used as a filler or extender. It’s an agent in the sugar refining process, a white pigment in paint and paper, and used as a weighting agent in oil and gas exploration mining, among many other industrial-type things. Due its chemical stability it can be used to give added value to…

Read More

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…

Read More

Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse: the picturesque cliffside beacon that no longer calls to sailors but shines once a year in honor of a famous shipwreck.

The cliffside lighthouse is built on a 41-meters wall of rock overlooking Lake Superior. The structure was designed by lighthouse engineer Ralph Russell Tinkham and was completed in 1910 by the United States Lighthouse Service at a cost of $75,000, including the buildings and the land. It was built after the disastrous Mataafa Storm wrecked 29 ships in the area five years previous, and one of these shipwrecks, the Madeira, is located just north of the lighthouse. At the time of its construction, there were no roads to the area:…

Read More

Grave of W. B. Yeats at St. Columba’s Church, Drumcliffe, Ireland

In the churchyard of St. Columba’s Church, a few miles north of Sligo town, Ireland, William Butler Yeats lies under a remarkably plain gravestone bearing his name, birth and death dates, as well as the last three lines of one of his poems: “cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by.” He was one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets, and explained the plans for his final resting place the best way he knew how, through poetry. The final verse of “Under Ben Bulben” details the way he…

Read More

The ancient origins of the Dog Days of Summer

According to popular folklore: “Dog Days bright and clear Indicate a happy year; But when accompanied by rain, For better times, our hopes are vain.” It sounds good…but what are the Dog Days of summer, exactly? And what do they have to do with dogs? The exact dates of the Dog Days can vary from source to source and probably they have changed over time. However, most sources agree that they occur in mid- to late summer, from July 3 to August 11. This is soon after the Summer Solstice…

Read More

Pescarenico: the fishing village which has kept intact its charm over time

«È Pescarenico una terricciola, sulla riva sinistra dell’Adda, o vogliam dire del lago, poco discosto dal ponte: un gruppetto di case, abitate la più parte da pescatori, e addobbate qua e là di tramagli e di reti tese ad asciugare.» Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi. Alessandro Manzoni mentioned Pescarenico in his most famous work, “The Betrothed” and, thanks to the story of Renzo and Lucia and the ingenious pen of their creator this Lecco’s district, in Northern Italy, has become famous. Manzoni wrote that the monastery of the Capuchins, in…

Read More

The Month of July: holidays, a Summer Triangle and folklore

Traditionally, July is the month that seems to be dedicated to freedom, independence, and celebrations of countries and culture. It is named after Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.–44 B.C.), after his death. Julius Caesar made one of his greatest contribution to history: with the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use still today. Its celebrations iclude July 1, Canada Day, a Canadian federal holiday that celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. In short, this federal statutory…

Read More

July 1: It’s time to celebrate Canada Day!

Canada Day, in French Fête du Canada, is a federal statutory holiday celebrating Canadian Confederation. Originally called “Dominion Day”, the holiday commemorates the unification of the three North American British colonies, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada (which at the time consisted of Ontario and Quebec). Historically, it was on July 1, 1867 when the British North America Act formally joined the colonies, creating the unified, semi-independent Dominion of Canada and, basically, Canada became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain. The enactment of the British North America…

Read More

Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium, Meriden

The state of Connecticut is home to many well-known abandoned mental hospitals. For decades, the Undercliff Sanatorium, a former state health facility, lied at the base of South Mountain, near Hubbard Park in Meriden. Even though it was shuttered, some claimed it was still in use….by the ghosts of former patients. It was originally opened in 1910 as the Meriden Sanatorium and, in 1918, became the first facility in the nation dedicated exclusively to treating children afflicted with tuberculosis but also measles, chickenpox, and smallpox. The name was changed to…

Read More

The Hartest Stone

If stones could talk – what stories could they tell? Hartest is a small village south of Bury, Suffolk, England, located in a deep dale. At its North end lies its silent stone sentry, a limestone boulder with an interesting past. And, of course, there are different versions of its story. Just as the Treaty of Utrecht brought Britain the Rock of Gibraltar, it is also said, in at least one story, to have brought it this more humble roughly one metre cube rock, dragged to its present spot in…

Read More

Iona’s Beach: the singing beach on Minnesota’s North Shore

Minnesota, or the Land of 10,000 Lakes, boasts a lot of beaches to choose from, with their pictoresque rocky shores and beautiful sandy dunes alike await visitors every summer. Each offers its own beauty, but there is one beach in particular that is truly unique. It is Iona’s beach, unlike any other in the world as, instead of silky, golden sand, it is covered in smooth pink rocks that, if you know when to listen, sing. The beach sings its signature song as the waves come in and disturb the…

Read More

Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb in New Orleans’ oldest cemetery~

Actor Nicolas Cage has long been known for his eccentric behavior both in front of the camera and in the real world. Born Nicolas Kim Coppola and nephew of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, he adopted his stage name to avoid nepotism on the job and claims to have gotten inspiration from Marvel superhero, Luke Cage. As interesting as his acting career is, his personal life is equally enigmatic: his celebrity success has allowed him to buy everything, including private islands, dinosaur fossils, English and German castles, shrunken heads,…

Read More

The chinese man who used Lamborghini exhaust to cook world’s most expensive skewered meat

Recently a young Lamborghini owner in China got his own minute of internet fame by trying to barbecue some skewered pork with the car’s fiery exhaust (and incurring about $80,000 in repair costs). The curious “cooking show” took place when a group was gathered around an orange Lamborghini in an underground garage in Changsha, Hunan Province. Out of nowhere, the sports car owner and his friend decided it would be pretty cool if they could cook their skewered meat using their car’s exhaust, in what many have called the world’s…

Read More

‘Imaginary Elephants’: the sculptures created by a 17th-century artist who had never seen an elephant.

We are in Japan. The Tōshōgu Shrine complex of Nikkō is popular for its architectural and sculptural beauty, including the Three Wise Monkeys and the “Sleeping Cat”. Another among its hundreds of sculptures is commonly referred to as “Sōzō-no-Zō”, literally the “Imaginary Elephants.” The sculpture is located on the gable of the Kamijinko (Upper Sacred Storehouse or God’s Storehouse), where a pair of strange-looking animals grin with crescent-shaped eyes. The sculpture on the left is green and white, while the other is black and both are complete with golden tusks.…

Read More

Amalia Eriksson: the trailblazing Swedish businesswoman who created a beloved minty candy called polkagris.

It was 1859, when a new confection emerged on the market in the small town of Gränna, Sweden. It was a hard, minty candy with whimsical red and white stripes. Called polkagris, it soon became one popular and beloved sweet. The treat was the work of Amalia Eriksson, born in 1824 and grew up in Gränna, who ended up marrying a tailor. The poor woman was only 34 years old when became a widow shortly after giving birth to her daughter Ida. Her husband died in dysentery only four days…

Read More

Strawberry Moon: June’s full moon

As we already know, in ancient times, it was common to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year, which the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on. For millennia, people across Europe, as well as Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with seasons. However, some years have 13 Full Moons, which makes one of them a so-called Blue Moon, as it doesn’t quite fit in with the traditional Full Moon naming system, even if this is not…

Read More

Midsummer: history, folklore and magic

Litha, or Midsummer, is a celebration that has been observed for centuries, in one form or another. Its exact dates vary among different cultures, but is primarily held close to the summer solstice. The celebration predates Christianity, and has existed under different names and traditions around the world. It is no surprise, then, that there are plenty of myths and legends associated with this time of year. We all have heard of the ancient summer solstice celebrations held at holy places like Stonehenge and Chichen Itza, and we have read…

Read More

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,…

Read More

Why do fireflies glow?

Fireflies, also known a lightning bugs, have been captivating humans for centuries with their enchanting lights on summer nights. Insects have a vivid history within folklore and mythology. Butterflies, bees, scarabs and other bugs have become symbolic markers of rebirth, purity, life and death, and the firefly is no exception. In ancient Amazonian mythology, their light came from the gods and provided hope and guidance while, in Japanese legend, two species of firefly, the Genji-hotaru and the Heike-hotaru, are associated with the ghosts of the Minamoto warriors and the Taira…

Read More

‘Nemuri-Neko’: is the Sleeping Cat asleep, or just pretending?

We are in Japan. As we already know, Tōshōgu Shrine, the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, is the most popular tourist attraction in Nikkō. Of course, It’s popular for its elaborate architecture, but also for its carved details, including the three wise monkeys and others. One of the most notable carvings is the Nemuri-neko, or the Sleeping Cat, at the entrance to the okumiya (rear shrine) where Tokugawa Ieyasu’s remains are housed. The carving is attributed to Hidari Jingorō, a legendary 17th-century artist who…

Read More

June Solstice: first day of Summer

In 2021, the June solstice occurs on Sunday, June 20, marking the start of summer. At least, in the Northern Hemisphere. But the solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. Only our clocks are different. But really is the summer solstice the first day of summer? Yes and no. Basically, it depends on whether we’re speaking about the meteorological or astronomical start of the season. Most meteorologists divide the year into four seasons based on the months and the temperature cycle, which allows them…

Read More

The Three Wise Monkeys of Tōshōgū Shrine in Nikko, Japan

The grand Tōshōgu Shrine was built in 1617 in Nikkō, and it is one of Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines. It is actually the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was later deified, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a dynasty that ruled Japan from 1603-1867, with its capital in Edo, current day Tokyo. This Shinto shrine is a part of ‘Shrines and Temples of Nikko’, a UNESCO World Heritage site and 5 of its structures are categorized as the National Treasures of Japan. A cobbled path leads up to its…

Read More

Cheese Tea: bitter, sweet, and salty collide in this cool Asian treat.

Cheese tea is iced tea, often black, matcha, or oolong, that gets topped with a foamy mixture of cream cheese, whipping cream, milk, and salt. It’s true, the concept sounds horrible, but in this case, the cheese topping is more like a thick layer of creamy, salted foam that tops each drink, that found a fanbase among the late-night crowd. The trend then spread to Asian countries and apparently it had its roots from China. A few years ago, HEYTEA (喜茶) (previously known as Royaltea (皇茶) ) claimed to have…

Read More

Cereseto castle and its secrets

Cereseto is about 50 kilometres east of Turin and about 30 kilometres northwest of Alessandria, Northern Italy. Probably established around 500–600 AD. and mentioned in records of the Bishop of Asti from around 957 AD., it is perched on a hill, and is dominated by its castle. The town was the property of the Graseverto family of Asti, who probably built the first castle around 900–1000 AD, but completely demolished in 1600. It was 1910 when the financier Riccardo Gualino and his wife launched construction of a new castle with…

Read More

An Irish (true) story: the Enniscorthy poltergeist

You want to exange this life of the modern journalist for the dashing life of an Edwardian hunter news? Well, a century ago, back in 1910, one of the local reporters for County Wexford, Ireland, was one Nicholas Murphy, a man of the Roman Catholic faith who lived at George’s Street in the town of Enniscorthy. He was aged in or around forty at the time, when the call came to cover a most unusual event just a short stroll from his house. The scoop was that an upper room…

Read More

South Stack Lighthouse: one of Wales’ most visited and spectacular lighthouses

South Stack is one of Wales’ most visited and spectacular lighthouses. It is located about 2-3 miles west of Holyhead, on a tiny islet just off Holy Island on the North West tip of Anglesey. It has been a warning beacon for passing ships since it’s construction over 200 years ago, cautioning them of the deadly rocks below. The lighthouse helps guide shipping in the busy channel into the Mersey and is a waymark for local seafarers, but also for coastal traffic crossing the Irish Sea too and from the…

Read More

Buried in a Barrel: the story of Captain Sluman Gray~

We’ve probably heard of metaphorically being “over a barrel”, but what about literally being in one? This is the curious sea-farin’ tale of Captain Sluman Gray of Lebanon, in Connecticut (and what happened to him after his demise and burial), even though the gulf between the story and the truth can be as wide as the ocean itself. Well, for a long time, the story regarding Capt. Gray went something like this: an experienced whaling captain, Gray—with his wife Sarah and their children in tow—put out aboard the James Maury…

Read More

Wang Lang: the “Super Grannie” who has completed over 100 marathons in the last 20 years

Wang Lang is a 70-year-old Chinese woman has been dubbed “Super Grannie” after it was revealed that she is an avid runner, with over 100 marathons completed in the last two decades! If most people choose to take it easy after they retire, Liaoning-based woman is definitely not one of them. She started running at the tender age of 50, as a way to keep in shape, but soon realized it was her passion. She ran her first marathon in 2004 and hasn’t stopped since, racking over 100 completed marathons…

Read More

Sibiu, the romanan city where the roofs don’t sleep.

We are in Sibiu. Geographically, it is located in the southern part of Transylvania, close to the Carpathian mountains. Built in the 1100s by the Saxon settlers invited by the Hungarian King in Transylvania, Sibiu, also named Hermannstadt, managed to preserve untouched most of its architectural heritage. While walking around the Romanian city, you’ll start to notice something a bit odd, and you may even get the sense that someone, or something, is watching you. And, wnhile you gaze at the city’s architecture, you’ll start to realize are the houses…

Read More

Bao Bing: the sweet treat that has been cool for more than 1,000 years

When Richard Nixon visited Beijing in 1972, he ate shaved ice, locally know as bao bing, with Mao Zedong during a state dinner. Bao bing (pronounced bow-BING) has been a ubiquitous part of Asian cuisine for hundreds of years, and it’s been traced back to China as early as the seventh century A.D. There is nothing more cooling in the heat of summer than enjoying into an ice-based dessert. Made with thin sheets of ice covered in sweet, Southeast Asian toppings, bao bing is as visually stunning to first-time tasters.…

Read More