“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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A visit to the St. Simons Island Light, Georgia

St. Simons Island Light is a lighthouse on the southern tip of St. Simons Island, Georgia, United States. It guides ships into St. Simons Sound and warns of the many sandbars in the area. The original lighthouse, which was built in 1810, was a 23-m-tall early federal octagonal structure topped by a 3 m oil-burning lamp. However, during the American Civil War, U.S. military forces employed a Naval blockade of the coast, and an invasion by Union troops in 1862 forced Confederate soldiers to abandon the area. And the retreating…

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Piscatawaytown Burial Ground and the witch of Edison

New Jersey is steeped in urban legends and stories of the supernatural. There everybody has heard of the Jersey Devil, a creature with the head of a goat, the body of a deer, giant horns and wings. It is said that he was the 13th child of Mother Leeds back in 1735 and was born a demon through a curse. There have been a number of sightings of the Devil since then, one of them even being reported by the brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte. But there is a legend…

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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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Rotomairewhenua: the clearest body of fresh water known to man

Rotomairewhenua, also known as the Blue Lake of New Zealand’s Nelson Lakes National Park, officially holds the title of the clearest lake in the world. Literally translated as the “land of peaceful waters”, Blue Lake is spring fed by the neighboring glacial Lake Constance, and its water passes through a natural debris damn formed a long time ago by a landslide. This debris acts as a natural filter that retains most of the particles suspended in the glacial water, making Blue Lake almost as clear as distilled water. New Zealand’s…

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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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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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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 river that turns On and Off: the spring that breaths!

Just east of Afton town, at the foot of a rocky mountain in Wyoming, lies one of the world’s most mysterious natural wonders: an Intermittent Spring (otherwise known as the Periodic Spring) that intermittently stops and starts flowing again around every 15 minutes. Only a few rhythmic springs exist in the world (another being the famed Gihon Spring in Jerusalem), and Intermittent Spring in Swift Creek canyon is the largest of them all. As its name suggests, this peculiar spring flows intermittently. Here you’ll see a large quantity of water…

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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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August 25 – Enjoy National Banana Split Day!

Probably this is one of the best parts of summer or, at least, any time of year where you like to indulge in an ice cream treat. Give your taste buds the thrill of delicious ice cream and luscious chocolate covering a fresh banana topped off with nuts, a cherry and whipped cream! Banana Split Day is exactly what you expect to be: a day to celebrate this amazing dessert, and It gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy it. After all, who doesn’t love a delicious banana split? On…

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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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August 22 – Pecan Torte Day

Pecan Torte, Pecan Pie, and Pecan cakes are all very similar treats, and all of them are incredibly common to find being served in the deep south in the USA. Their delicious flavor is very appreciated, and best enjoyed with a rich topping of whipped heavy cream! But what is the difference between a cake and a torte? Tortes are invariably denser and are naturally creamier. They’re also commonly multi-layered to take advantage of rich creamy toppings like that mentioned above. They are typically prepared without baking powder or soda,…

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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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