The Wall of Hives: the “home of Chinese bees”

A near-vertical cliff wall in the mountains of Shennongjia Nature Reserve, China’s Hubei Province, is home to over 700 wooden boxes which make up one of the country’s last sanctuaries for native wild bees. Beekeeping has been carried out in China since at least the 2nd century AD, and about half of the world’s supply of honey comes from the Asian country but, sadly, over 80% of the native bee population is now extinct. The introduction of the European honey bee (Apis Mellifera) is considered the main cause of the…

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Folklore and magic of crows and ravens

Both crows and ravens have appeared in a number of different mythologies throughout the ages. In some cases, these black-feathered birds are considered an omen of bad tidings, but in others, they may represent a message from the Divine. But, above all, they have long been synonym of doom and devastation as they destroy crops, devour corpses, act as emissaries for soothsayers and gods, and are closely linked to human fortunes. But not only, as they have long plagued farmers and gardeners by devouring their freshly planted seeds. An old…

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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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The “ballsiest” soup in the Philippines: Soup No. 5

We are in the Philippines. Here Soup Number Five is well-known, as are its purported aphrodisiac and healing properties. Originally served by roadside eateries, some men even believe that eating it will give them the virility of a bull: Cebuanos know it as “lanciao” and is believed to give the physical attributes of the animal to anyone willing to take a sip. Or, at least, increase their libido even if, nutrition-wise, a serving of Soup no. 5 gives less zinc (the mineral which increases libido) when cooked. According to others,…

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Te Wairoa Buried Village: a Maori village obliterated by an 1886 volcanic eruption.

Located 24 kilometres south-east of Rotorua, Tarawera is a curious-looking mountain, with several large domes and a broad, flat top. This distinctive profile formed during eruptions around 1314 AD. However, early Māori and the Europeans who arrived in the 1800s did not realise that it was an active volcano and, in June 1886, it came to life in a violent one-day eruption – the deadliest in the history of New Zealand settlement. When Mount Tarawera erupted, the surrounding countryside was completely remade. The eruption killed over 100 people and created…

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The month of September: holidays, curiosities and folklore

There are flowers enough in the summertime, More flowers than I can remember— But none with the purple, gold, and red That dye the flowers of September! —Mary Howitt (1799-1888) September, in Old England, was called Haervest-monath, literally Harvest Month, as a time to gather up the rest of the harvest and prepare for the winter months. The Anglo-Saxons called it Gerst monath (Barley month), because it was their time when they harvested barley to be made into their favourite drink – barley brew. September’s name comes from the Latin…

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Point Sur Lightstation: one of the oldest and most remote lighthouses in California

Point Sur Lightstation is a lighthouse at Point Sur, California, 135 miles (217 km) south of San Francisco, on the 110-meter-tall rock at the head of the point. The view there is breathtaking. The Lighthouse is perched up on a huge rock and surrounded by water on three sides, with shimmering views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the oldest and most remote lighthouses in California, a beacon for ships navigating some of the most treacherous waters of the California coast. Already early navigators took note of the prominent…

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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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August 29: celebrate National Lemon Juice Day!

As an old saying goes, when life hands you lemons…make lemonade! And we add…when life hands you a chance to celebrate National Lemon Juice Day on August 29, do it! Lemons have been used for a variety of purposes over the years, but the most popular is probably the classic lemon juice. It can be used in people’s favorite drinks, wellness products, and even some of the tastiest dishes. Lemons are now one of the main ingredients in a whole range of things, and the juice is what is used…

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Last full weekend of August: International Bat Night

Bats have many places in literature and history, and serve roles dark but not only, depending on where you find them. Probably their most common association is with vampires, but there is also the fun-loving bat from Ferngully (Batty Coda) along with a host of other characters from literature and cinema. However, “real” bats have an important role to play in our eco-system, and some of them are becoming endangered. International Bat Night encourages us to learn more about this mostly nocturnal creature, and It takes place each year during…

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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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Camp Bonifas: the world’s most dangerous golf course that can literally kill you

Playing golf in South Korea can prove to be very dangerous. But what’s the worst thing that can happen? Well, you could get blown up to smithereens, for one. The “deadly golf course” is pretty small at 192 yards, and it is flanked by military style bunkers on the right, while, on the left side, separated by an 5,5-meters high security fence topped by concertina wire, lie buried countless unexploded mines. And even a small mistake could cause a huge, fatal explosion. A nearby sign warns players with a hardly…

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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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Grave of Midnight Mary: the final resting place of a New Haven urban legend

In life, she was known by the name Mary E. Hart, but today most people in New Haven, Connecticut, now know her simply as Midnight Mary. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, and her tombstone can be found at the back of the cemetery, on the path that parallels the iron wrought fence that separates the graveyard from Winthrop Avenue. As story goes, at 48 years old, Mary dropped to the floor one day at midnight. Believing her dead, her family had her buried at Evergreen Cemetery. However, one night…

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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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Sturgeon Moon: August’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 the Northern Hemisphere seasons, and many of these names are very similar or identical. Today, we use many of these ancient month names as Full Moon names. A common explanation is that Colonial Americans adopted…

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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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August 19: celebrate National Potato Day!

National Potato Day is today, August 19, so if you like spuds, this one’s for you! A bag of chips, french fries, baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are just some of the delicious things you can make with potatoes, little tubers that have played an important role in the history of the world and was even the primary food crop for an entire nation. Potato Day celebrates the tuber and all the things you can use it for. What’s your favorite potato treat? Potatoes were first cultivated by man in…

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Devil’s Bath: New Zealand’s green sulphur pond

New Zealand’s Wai-O-Tapu volcanic area offers a number of roiling, bubbling geothermal sights, but possibly the most intriguing is one of its most calm! Know as Devil’s Bath, it is a bright green pond full of sulfur-infused stink water. The pool sits in a slight depression likely created from a massive eruption from underground. It is well out of reach of visiting curious, but can be seen clearly from above. The bright green water gets its color from deposits of sulphur that rise to the surface and float on top,…

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Oregon’s Heceta Head Lighthouse and its stories

For more than a century Heceta Head Lighthouse has helped seagoers navigate the Pacific Ocean’s treacherous currents. Located 13 miles (21 km) north of Florence, and 13 miles (21 km) south of Yachats, it was built in 1894, and took many years to complete because it’s so high up (almost 62 meters above water). The 17 m-tall lighthouse shines a beam visible for 21 nautical miles (39 km; 24 mi), making it the strongest light on the Oregon Coast. Heceta Head is named after the Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta,…

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Theodore “Fodor” Glava: the vampire of Lafayette

For generations, vampires have been a fascinating part of folklore and literature, introducing a collection of iconic characters described as corpses supposed, in European folklore, to leave their graves at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a grave with “born in Transylvania” etched on the stone would invite vampire comparisons, but the people of Lafayette, Colorado, have really gone all-out. Local legends say that a tree growing over the grave sprung from the stake…

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The Well of Barhout: Yemen’s mysterious Well of Hell

In the arid wastes of eastern Yemen lies a fascinating natural wonder called the Well of Barhout. Shrouded in mystery and folklore, this “million and millions” years old large hole in the ground said to be God’s most hated spot on Earth. Those who live near the hole believe anything that comes close to the “Hell Pit” will be sucked in without escape. According to a Yemeni legend, “extinct tongues fizz on cold nights” there, a reference to what might be lurking inside the hole. Located in the eponymous valley,…

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Celebrated International left-handers day on August 13!

International Left-Handers Day is today, August 13! It was started by the Left-Handers Club on 13th August 1992, when they launched International Left-Handers Day, an annual event when left-handers everywhere could celebrate their sinistrality and increased public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed. According to other sources, the day was first observed in 1976 Campbell, founder of Lefthanders International, Inc. But, in any case, this event is now celebrated worldwide, and in the U.K. alone there have been more than 20 regional events to mark the day…

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Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky?

Ready for Friday the 13th? Well, depending on where you are, August 13, 2021, is considered a lucky (or unlucky) day. But why exactly is this day often associated with good or bad luck? What is the meaning of Friday the 13th and how did this superstition even begin? Friday the 13th occurs one to three times each year. For example, 2015 had a Friday the 13th in February, March, and November, while 2017 through 2020 had two Friday the 13ths each, and the years 2021 and 2022 will both…

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Bobbie, the wonder dog who walked 2,500 miles to home

In August 1923, Frank and Elizabeth Brazier, with their daughters Leona and Nova, were visiting relatives in Wolcott, Indiana from their home in Silverton, Oregon. While filling up gas at a station in Wolcott, their two-year-old dog Bobbie was attacked by three other dogs and ran away. The family waited for Bobbie to return, but he did not. Despite they placed ads on newspapers, after a week of intense searching the Brazier family gave up hope and eventually, heartbroken, they continued their trip before returning home to Oregon, expecting never…

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Charlotte M. Sitton: the “The Crying Woman” of Adelaida Cemetery, California

Located west of Paso Robles, California, Adelaida is now over-ridden with wineries, but still rich in history and the strange. Originally, a mixture of mercury mines, farms, and ranches, it was first settled in 1859 by James Lynch, a sheep rancher. Pioneers flocked to the area due a perfect weather that seemed to make everything grow, and the population eventually reached a size of seven hundred scattered throughout the area amongst hills and valleys. The old trail to Mission San Miguel was opened in 1797 and used predominantly in the…

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Neptuni Åkrar: a Swedish fossil-rich cobble beach that holds Viking graves, cairns, and other remains.

We are along the Northwest coast of the island of Öland, Sweden. Located in Borgholm Municipality along the Kalmar Strait, north of the village of Byxelkrok, lies Neptuni Åkrar, Swedish for “Neptune’s Fields,” a vast shingle beach dotted with unusual limestone rock formations and close to a Viking-era burial ground. The cobble stones of Neptuni Åkrar result from stones left during the last ice age, which eroded down to their present shape by the waves over the centuries, and they are interspersed with fossils from Trilobites and Brachiopods. During summer,…

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Cono de Arita: Argentina’s mysterious natural pyramid

Near the south border of Salar de Arizaro, the sixth largest salt flat on earth and the second largest in Argentina, 70 km from the village of Tolar Grande, lies one of the world’s most mysterious natural formations, an almost perfect cone, it rises unexpectedly in the middle of the salt pan. This is Cono de Arita, so perfectly shaped that it appears man-made, that looms majestically 122 meters above the Salar. Its name comes from the Aymara language where Arita means “sharp”. In fact, all through the early twentieth…

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Will Rogers: the inventor who created machine that turns beer and spirits into soft-serve Ice Cream

The innovative Below Zero ice cream machine uses a unique technique to freeze alcohol, which allows you to turn beers, cocktails and even spirits into delicious soft-serve ice cream. If getting drunk on ice cream it was a dream, now thanks to Will Rogers, inventor and owner of WDS Dessert Stations in Hinkley, Illinois, it has become a reality. The man, who runs his own ice cream shop, was trying to create a highly-caffeinated espresso ice cream flavor when he realized he could use the same technique with alcoholic beverages.…

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