Mozartkugel: a Salzburg Original!

In Austria practically everyone knows this sweet temptation in the form of a chocolate praline simply known as Mozart, basically behind every display windows of souvenir shops and not only. Invented more than 125 years ago, Mozartkugel is a little, spherical chocolate filled with a marzipan centre with pistachio and a finest nougat. Interestingly, to make the balls completely round, confectioners place the bonbon on a wooden stick and dip it in the final layer of chocolate, filling the hole left by the stick with chocolate as well. Still today,…

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The insane, inconclusive truth behind Rat Kings, the grotesque tangled Super-Rodents

Recently, as of September 2017, a monstrous mess of a creature seems to be back in the popular consciousness, the so-called “Rat King”, literally “rats that get tied together by their tails”. And it didn’t pass quietly, thanks to a flock of science-writers all adopting the same question: “rat kings are real?” Historically, a Rattenkönig, later translated into English as rat king, and into French as roi des rats, is a collection of rats whose tails are intertwined and bound together. This alleged phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany but…

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Shabla Lighthouse: the oldest lighthouse on the balkan peninsular

We are along the Black Sea coast, where there is a place that enjoys keen interests from tourists even in winter. This is Shabla Municipality, in the northernmost section of the Bulgarian coastline, a territory that have become the winter getaway of dozens of endangered bird species, including the entire world population of the Red-breasted Goose. During the cold months, when seaside resorts shut down, Shabla Municipality welcomes coaches with foreign tourists armed with cameras, binoculars and every kind of equipment. However, before heading to the wetlands, they make a…

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The Old Fairy Bridge of the Isle of Man (and how to find it)

Locals of the Isle of Man are well acquainted with the folklore around the so-called Fairy Bridge on the A5 between Ballasalla and Newtown. Local superstitions state that those who do not greet the bridge’s fey inhabitants with something like “Hello, fairies!” as they pass over it may fall prey to their malicious, mischievous whims. From the 1950s, it was reportedly the custom to advise a visitor of the myth on the journey south from Douglas or north from the airport. Also motorcycle racers and spectators at the annual TT…

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Pierogi: a taste of Poland

Anyone who has ever visited Poland, had a Polish friend or even known someone whose relatives were Polish has heard of pierogi. Pierogi are one of the most popular Polish dishes, and virtually everyone worldwide treats the word as a synonym of Polish cuisine. And that’s true. If they were traditionally considered a peasant food, they eventually gained popularity and spread throughout all social classes—including nobles in Europe. And we can easily see why, as traditional pierogi are delicious. They’re made of unleavened dough, boiled, and then baked and fried…

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White deer in myths and legends

What does it mean if you see a white deer in the woods? The deer is one of the most silent and elusive of woodland creatures in its native habitat. However, they have adapted also in our industrialised and heavily farmed landscape. Interestingly Great Britain have more deer now than at any time in the last ten thousand years, to the point where they can be a serious pest. Britain’s native deer species, the red and the roe, have been joined more recently by fallow, probably a Norman introduction, sika,…

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Wicklow Head Lighthouse – Ireland

Wicklow Head, Ceann Chill Mhantáin in Irish, is a headland near the southeast edge of the town of Wicklow, approximately 3 kilometres from the centre of the town and one and a half hours drive to Dublin. Geographically, it is the easternmost point on the Irish mainland. Wicklow Head Lighthouse, has overlooked its scenic coastline, since 1781. It was the one of two lighthouses built on the headland on that year, and it originally had an eight-sided lantern for the light on top of it. The twin lighthouses were originally…

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Buried under a boulder: the grave of Meg Shelton, the Woodplumpton Witch

In the old Lancashire village of Woodplumpton near Preston, England, is the church of St. Annes, originally 11th Century but rebuilt in 1639 and 1900, with its structure that stands to this day. Interestingly, among the variety of gravestones in its burial ground, lies the very distinctive sight of a large boulder partially embedded in the ground. In front of it, a small sign reads: “The Witch’s Grave. Beneath this stone lies the remains of Meg Shelton alleged witch of Woodplumpton, buried in 1705.” When one mentions Lancashire and witches…

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Túró Rudi: Hungary’s favorite chocolate bar

We are in Hungary. If you’re roaming the aisles of a local grocery store in search of one of the country’s most popular chocolate bars, look no further than the refrigerated dairy section. What apparently is the thing that most Hungarians living abroad miss the most, the snack known as Túró Rudi is basically a curd-filled treat. Túró is literally translated as “cottage cheese”, but the term misleads those who expect a classic curds sitting in tangy whey water, as the Hungarian version is more similar to quark or fromage…

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The Protest Pig: a rare breed designed to be a living (and breathing) flag

Husum Red Pied, Rotbuntes Husumer in German, is a rare domestic pig breed popularly known as “the Danish Protest Pig” (German: Husumer Protestschwein and Danish: Husum protestsvin or danske protestsvin), because its whole reason for being was to imitate the country flag at a time when its actual flag could not be raised. Its story can be traced back to the mid 19th century when Denmark and Prussia went to war over control of the southern Jutland Peninsula, which today is part of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. At that…

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October 1st: International Coffee Day

Coffee in the morning, coffee in a reunion with old friends, going for coffee with your new date…basically, most of us drink coffee morning, day and night with friends, colleagues, family members and lovers. Whether you favour espresso, americanos, lattes or cappuccinos, iced, decaf or instant, Coffee Day, celebrated on this day, October 1, is the day to savour and appreciate it. International Coffee Day is an occasion that is used to promote and celebrate coffee as a beverage, with events now occurring in places across the world. The first…

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The Month of October: holidays, folklore and traditions

“October glows on every cheek, October shines in every eye, While up the hill and down the dale Her crimson banners fly.” Elaine Goodale Eastman (1863–1953) In October, fall (or autumn, if you prefer…but what’s the difference?) comes into its full swing. This month’s name stems from Latin octo, “eight”, because this was simply the eighth month of the early Roman calendar. When the Romans converted to a 12-month calendar, the name October remain despite that fact that it’s still today the 10th month. The early Roman calendar, thought to…

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Michaelmas: the day the Devil spit on blackberries!

Michaelmas Day is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, celebrated on this day, 29 September. Traditionally St. Michael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and boatmen, but also of horses and horsemen. He was the Angel who hurled Lucifer, the devil, down from Heaven for his treachery. It is one of the Quarter Days, the days that marked the four major divisions of the year (Lady Day on 25th March, Midsummer on 24th June, Michaelmas on 29th September, and Christmas on 25th December).…

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Valentia Lighthouse at Cromwell Point

Built on the site of a 17th century fort known as ‘Fleetwood’ Fort, one of two built on Valentia Island around this time, Valentia Island Lighthouse at Cromwell Point, Ireland, has stood against sea and invader for hundreds of years. A standing stone, dating back to the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC) still marks the site at Cromwell Point where it was built and, still today, this gleaming white lighthouse on beautiful island looks out across some of the most spectacular sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. The outline of the…

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Matthew Hassal, Isle of Man Vampire

The Isle of Man is an ancient land steeped in old superstition, including dark wraiths, fairies and even vampires. Located on the outskirts of Castletown is Malew Churchyard, a regular graveyard with gravestones dating back centuries, but with also a curious gravesite. The burial plot is cornered by four iron stakes driven deep into the ground, draped with heavy chains, while a huge slate slab covers the grave. But It remains a mystery as to exactly why the chains were placed here back in the 1850s, and they still exist…

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Lángos, the beloved Hungarian Street Food

We are in Hungary. Whether you’re at the market, at the train station, on the beach or just walking down a commercial street, sooner or later you will smell the greasy invitation of the lángos, the ubiquitous local deep-fried flat bread. You might even encounter it in neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe like Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Serbia, or Romania, despite It’s part of what Hungarians broadly consider “Hungaricum”: those things made special by being uniquely Hungarian. Either way, some assume that it appeared in the Hungarian kitchens…

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Nikiszowiec: Katowice’s old mining district

Katowice is a city of more than 300,000 inhabitants, at the centre of one of Europe’s principal coal-mining and iron-making regions. In the nineteenth century it was part of the Prussian province of Silesia, but from 1922 was incorporated into Poland. Nikiszowiec is a part of an administrative district Janów-Nikiszowiec of the city. Initially it was coal miners’ settlement of Giesche mine built on the land of Giszowiec manor between 1908–1918 on the mining metallurgical concern initiative Georg von Giesches Erben, a Silesian mining corporation that originated in the early…

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The owl of Cwm Cowlyd and the oldest animals in the world

In Welsh folklore the Owl of Cwm Cowlyd lived in the woods that once surrounded Llyn Cowlyd, the deepest lake in northern Wales, that lies in the Snowdonia National Park. Even if today the woods are gone, the legends live on in two tales that feature a search for the oldest and wisest animals in the world. In the first the owl is said to be among the oldest animals in the world, while in the second the owl is really the oldest. The first story is “Culhwch and Olwen”,…

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“The Lost XVII”: a missing Roman legion was recreated in sculpture along a Scottish cycling route

Founded by the roman emperor Augustus around the year 41 B.C., Legion XVII (Seventeenth Legion) of the Imperial Roman Army disappeared in the year 9 A.D. after being sent to deal with troubling tribes in Germanica. But, what happened to them has always been a bit of a mystery. According to an urban legend, they went onto Scotland after Germanica and disappeared around the area of Dunbartonshire. This myth has now become cemented in history thanks to popular fiction such as “The Eagle of the Ninth” and films like “Centurion…

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The Sluagh: Celtic spirits of the unforgiven dead

Celtic folklore has given us some of the darkest and most frightening stories in history including three-headed monsters, headless horsemen, famine-spreaders, and a variety of creepy spirits. One of the most fascinating are probably the Sluagh na marbh (host of the dead), or “Fairy Host”, spirits of the unforgiven or restless dead who soared the skies at night searching for humans to pick off, and especially the dying. Some believed them to be Fallen Angels, while others thought them the spirits of unbaptized children who had returned to earth to…

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Panta Petrović: the Serbian cave hermit that gets Covid vaccine and urged others to follow

Panta Petrović has been living in a cave on the forested Stara Planina mountain for almost 20 years, away from modern civilization and in the company of both domestic and wild animals, including a 200-kilogram boar named Mara. The man recently made international headlines after Agence France Press reported that even he had gotten a Covid-19 vaccine, even though he hardly interacts with other people. Almost twenty years ago, Panta made social distancing a lifestyle choice when he moved into a tiny Serbian mountain cave to avoid society. Last year,…

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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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Loop Head Lighthouse | Ireland

Loop Head Lighthouse (Irish: Ceann Léime, meaning “leap head”) is perched right at the end of Loop Head Peninsula in stunning West Clare, Ireland. It is the major landmark on the northern shore of the Shannon River. Weather permitting, from here you’ll enjoy fantastic views south as far as the Blasket Islands and north to the Twelve Pins in Connemara, along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s also the perfect place to spot whales, dolphins and seals from, while the rock ledges and caves of the dramatic cliffs are home to…

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Muschats’s Cairn: a stack of stones that honors a murdered 18th-century woman.

For the major part of tourists, this monument looks like a random pile of rocks. And, in a way, that is indeed what it is. It’s a cairn, basically a landmark constructed with irregular stones, and here there is no signage or posting to provide historical context. Instead, one has to dig deeper to realize these stones are the marker of a macabre and unscrupulous story. It was 17 October 1720 when a surgeon named Nichol Muschat lured his wife Ailie into Holyrood Park and killed her. His previous attempts…

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Sloot Motor: the motorcycle that tuns on swamp gas

Gijs Schalkx, a Dutch inventor and engineering student, modified his motorcycle to run on methane harvested from roadside bogs and ponds. Rightly named “Sloot Motor”, because sloot means ‘ditch’ in Dutch, ingenious vehicle features a modified Honda GX160 motorcycle engine, with a hole into the airbox, through which it receives the methane. The genial inventor than hooks a balloon filled with methane to the hole, which acts as the fuel tank. Of course the engine starts with gasoline but, once it starts, it uses the methane to keep going. However,…

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The grave of ‘The Great Lafayette’ and his beloved dog in Edinburgh’s Piershill Cemetery

We are in Piershill Cemetery, located on Portobello Road between Edinburgh, Scotland, and Portobello Beach. The graveyard is known for its Jewish burial grounds, located to the south, and its pet cemetery, located to the right of the entrance, but also for the grave of Sigmund Neuberger, a popular illusionist and magician better know as The Great Lafayette. The unbelievable and tragic story of how one of the world’s most renowned illusionists and his pampered dog came to buried together in Piershill Cemetery is almost too incredible to be true.…

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Here is the story behind the Leidse Koffie!

In the Dutch city of Leiden, coffee comes in an alternative way: it begins with a base of black brew and then it gets a dash of cinnamon liqueur, usually topped off with a nice dollop of whipped cream. Now quite popular in the city, the spiced drink was born from a happenstance discovery and a very creative restaurant owner. Leidse koffie originated in Restaurant de Gaanderij in the early 1980s. Before Peter van de Hoorn bought it in 1982, the monumental building from 1558 was home to the distillery…

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St John’s Point – the tallest onshore lighthouse on the Irish coast

If you are in Ireland, you can’t miss St John’s Point Lighthouse in gorgeous County Down. Its strikingly tall tower is marked with vibrant bands of yellow and black that distinguish it from other lighthouses. St. John’s Point, Rinn Eoin in Irish, is a cape at the southern tip of the Lecale peninsula of County Down Northern Ireland, separating Dundrum Bay from Killough Harbour, which forms its northern extremity. The cape is mostly surrounded by the Irish Sea and derives its name from a now ruined church dedicated to Saint…

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Vulcanalia: appeasing the God of fire

In ancient Rome, Vulcan (or Volcanus) was well known as the god of fire, both beneficial and hindering fire, particularly in its destructive aspects as volcanoes. Similar to the Greek Hephaestus, he was a god of the forge, and renowned for his metalworking skills, and he is portrayed as being lame. He was patron also of those occupations having to do with ovens such as cooks, bakers, pastry makers and pizza makers. Vulcan is one of the oldest of the Roman gods, and his origins can be traced back to…

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Wildschönauer Krautinger: Austria’s Turnip Schnapps

The union of Alpbach and the Wildschönau, an Austrian community in the Kufstein district of Tyrol, has created one of Austria’s prettiest and friendliest ski areas. Relatively low-cost, Ski Juwel is a place to target if you don’t like touristic places of the big-name resorts. But this isn’t the only feature of the area. In Wildschönau Valley locals have been distilling a strong turnip liquor called Wildschönauer Krautinger as far back as the 1700s, when Habsburg empress Maria Theresa granted 51 area farmers the exclusive distillery rights. And about 15/16…

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