Thann, Alsace and L’œil de la Sorcière (The Witch’s Eye)

The little town of Thann lies on the eastern slopes of the Vosges, in the département of Haut-Rhin (Alsace). A historic town which once belonged to the Habsburgs in the Middle-Ages, it is renown for its remarkable Gothic church and the Rangen vineyard and, in fact, it is also the southern gate to the Alsace Wine Route. According to the legend, the town originated from a miracle attributed to St. Theobald, the Bishop of Gubbio (Umbria, Italy). In 1160, Ubald (or Theobald) saw his death coming soon and promised his…

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The remains of Buchanan Castle in Scotland

The eerie remains of Buchanan Castle are located west of the village of Drymen in Stirlingshire, central Scotland. Interestingly, although it bears the name of the Buchanan Clan, none of the Buchanans ever lived there. And in fact it is not even related with them, except that the original castle on the site (Buchanan Auld House) was the ancestral seat of Clan Buchanan for several centuries. Historically, the old house and surrounding lands had been the property of the Clan Buchanan but passed to the Clan Graham in the late…

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Alvastra Abbey: the first Cistercian settlement in Sweden

The ruins of the oldest and most important Cistercian monastery of medieval Sweden preserve a part of local history from before the Protestant Reformation, when people donated land or money to gain easier access to heaven after their deaths. This monastery was founded in 1143 when King Sverker the Elder and his queen, who wanted to gain favor with the church, donated land to the French Clairvaux monks and invited them to come and build the sanctuary. Monks, who belonged to the influential Cistercian Order, brought from Clairvaux modern methods…

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Crackpot Hall: the dramatic remains of an abandoned farmhouse on the edge of a remote hillside in North Yorkshire, England~

On the slopes of Swaledale, near the village of Keld, North Yorkshire, England, stands the shell of a 300-year-old farmhouse. The building, curiously named Crackpot Hall, is an abandoned 18th-century farmhouse shrouded in its own myths and legends. Its name is said to be derived from the Old Norse words for ‘crow’ and ‘cave’ and, not by chance, many of the underground caverns in the area are also known as Pot, meaning a deep hole. An earlier 16th-century hunting lodge is thought to have stood on the site, when this…

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The impressive little Lourdes 30 km from Milan

It would take a miracle to save what should have been the little Lourdes of the Lombard Prealps. In Merate, a small town near Lecco, in Northern Italy, about 30 kilometers from Milan, locals call it “ex Oratorio San Luigi” because, before becoming a dark and decaying ruin, it was the parish meeting point in the city for about 30 years. Actually, this is the Basilica of the Santissima Immacolata, designed in 1906 by Spirito Monsignor Chiappetta, engineer and friend of Pope Pius XI on an area of 4 thousand…

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Rusovce Mansion: a once-fairy tale mansion in Slovakia now stands in a state of disrepair.

We are in the Rusovce borough, part of Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. Surrounded by crumbling walls and Rusovsky Park, a beautiful sprawling English park, the Rusovce Mansion, english for Rusovský kaštieľ, is a decaying example of neoclassical architecture. There are records of a castle at this location dating back to 1266, but today visitors to the area will only see this once-glorious white building constructed between 1840 and 1906. The current mansion was built on the site of an older manor house from the 16th century, with a medieval structure…

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Don’t release the witch! The ruins of St Mary’s Church at East Somerton, England ~

The county of Norfolk, England, is home of the world’s greatest concentration of medieval churches, with over 650 scattered in the area. Drive to any place in the county, and you are guaranteed to find at least one such church. Try to imagine Norwich, its main city, that has enough for worshippers to visit a different one each week for a whole year! However, since some of these date from at least half a millennia ago, some have not survived as well as others. In the woods of East Somerton…

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Gamsutl: nestled high atop the peak of Mount Gamsutlmeer, this abandoned russian village is one of the oldest settlements in the region.

We are in the Gunibsky district of Dagestan, Russia, where lies Mount Gamsutlmeer. At an altitude of roughly 1,400 meters above sea level, resides the pictoresque village of Gamsutl, known to be one of the oldest settlements in the region. Translated from the Avar, the majority ethnic group of the republic, Gamsutl literally means “at the foot of the kahn’s fortress”, leading many to assume that someone named Khan chose this location to build his fortress or tower, to defend himself from his enemies. And, eventually, a community evolved around…

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Squire’s Castle: the only structure from a huge mansion that was never built

The so-called Squire’s Castle sits upon a slight hilltop right off of Chagrin River Road just north of Route 6 in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. Its massive stone walls, arched doorways and larger tower have enchanted visitors for generations. However, It isn’t actually a castle, but rather the gatehouse to a castle that was never built. And apparently there are two versions of why the building never materialized…. In the late-19th century, such a Feargus B. Squire (1850-1932), attracted by the beauty of the scenic Chagrin Valley purchased 525 acres there.…

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Abandoned Bunkers of Salpalinja, Finland

In the early 1940s, tensions were high in Finland, as locals suspected that the Soviet Union, not satisfied with the territorial gains they had made during the Winter War (1939–1940), would plan another invasion.. As a result, in 1940, Finland began the construction of so-called Salpalinja (the “Salpa Line”), a system of more than 700 field fortifications made from concrete or excavated from rock along country’s eastern border. Stretching 1,200 kilometers from the Gulf of Finland in the south to modern-day Pechengsky, Russia, in the north, Salpalinja consisted of bunkers,…

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Mission Ruins of Venn’s Town: the remains of a 19th-century school perched atop a mountain surrounded by a thick tropical forest in Seychelles.

We are deep in the Morne Seychellois National Park where, perched on a mountaintop, lies the ruins of a mission named after Henry Venn (1796 – 1873) an Anglican missionary who in 1799 together with William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833), the English abolitionist, co-founded the Church Missionary Society to spread Christianity to the natives of Africa and Asia, as well as creating orphan asylums for children of slaves. Getting there is easy, it’s about 6 km drive from the city centre of Victoria, capital of Seychelles. A sign points at…

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Isle of May beacon: a short white tower is all that’s left of Scotland’s first permanently manned lighthouse.

We are on the Isle of May, an island about five miles from the north shore of the Firth of Forth, now a national nature reserve famous for its abundant bird life. Looking at all that’s left of the first permanently manned lighthouse in Scotland, now it’s hard to believe the squat white structure was important enough to require three keepers at all times! The Beacon is Scotland first (and oldest) lighthouse and was considered at the time to be one of the best in existence. It was built in…

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San Severino di Centola: a medieval hilltop village that was abandoned at the end of the 19th century after existing for more than 500 years.

The ruins of the old village San Severino di Centola, known known until 1861 as San Severino di Camerota, are located on a rugged hill in southern Cilento, in the Italian region of Campania. The village was founded during the 10th-11th centuries, although it seems that some traces of inhabited settlements on the rocky spur are known since the seventh century. However, it was progressively abandoned as inhabitants chose to move their settlement just below the hill but closer to the newly developed railway. The village was strategically placed above…

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Hellingly Mental Hospital: the story of an asylum

We are in the village of Hellingly, in East Sussex, England. Here, on 20 July 1903, the Hellingly Mental Hospital was inaugurated: an asylum, the best in the area because, apparently, the most innovative treatments were experimented there. It was also the refuge for patients who had to flee West Sussex due to the First World War. The main complex comprised an administrative block, central stores, kitchens, a recreation hall and the assistant medical officer’s residence. Like most large institutions of this age and type the sexes were separated into…

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St. Dunstan-in-the-East: one of the few remaining casualties of the London Blitz, this destroyed church has become an enchanting public garden.

We are on St Dunstan’s Hill, halfway between London Bridge and the Tower of London in the City of London.The church of St.Dunstan-in-the-East built here has survived a lot during its 900-year history, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.It was originally built during Saxon times, in about 1100. Although the Great Fire caused terrible damage to the church it was faithfully rebuilt, and topped with a steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. However in 1941 the church was…

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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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Buried at 2,000 meters high: the inaccessible sarcophagi of Karajia in Peru

Between the steep gorges of the Andes and the immense rainforests of the Amazonas region in Peru, there are surprising historical sites that document the history of the Chachapoya people, who had to surrender to the Incas, just a few years before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. The premiere scene from the legendary film “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, Indiana Jones searches the booby-trapped ruins of a Chachapoyan temple for a golden idol. Probably this is a Hollywood classic scene, but the history behind the…

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The curious story of Glasgow Sherbet Factory ruins – Scotland

We are in Glasgow, Scotland. The city is not exactly short of interesting monuments and buildings, and one of the great pleasures of Scotland is that there is always something new to uncover, and each corner is full of rich history and little-known facts.If you’ve taken a stroll passed the River Kelvin, you may have come across a strange little sign. Or maybe not, because It’s easy not to notice this small plaque, that marks the reported location of where the Glasgow Sherbet Municipal Works once stood. Now a few…

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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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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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Port: the Irish ghost village off the map.

The top of Glengesh Pass in County Donegal, Ireland, is breathtaking. Here you’re in one of the most remote corners of the country, sparsely populated, windswept and wild. You’re as likely to hear Gaelic spoken as English, for life hasn’t changed a whole lot over the past hundred years, and the land, the sea and the weather still govern people’s lives, as it once did in the quaint village of Port. Coming down off the pass leads you to Ardara, famous for its weaving. Take a left and you end…

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What remains of Rosemary Farm and its lively past~

Some forty miles from New York, there is a place called Rosemary Farm (or Roland Conklin Estate), a Long Island estate of several hundred acres where beautiful things have been happening somewhere in history. There were hills and lakes and woods and sea to begin with, and on the place Mr. Roland Ray Conklin found a little preRevolutionary farm house, clinging to the highway. Born in Illinois, he operated one of the largest realty firms in Kansas City and moved the business to New York in 1893. In 1907 just…

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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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Łapalice Castle – The never completed derelict mansion of a Polish artist.

This eerie castle rots within the small village of Łapalice, Poland. It was abandoned before it was even completed, essentially doomed to exist as a shadow of what it could have become. However Zamek Łapalice, in Polish, isn’t an ancient castle or medieval fortress at all: Its construction began in 1979, and it was meant to be a studio for local artist Piotr Kazimierczak, who was granted permission to build a 170sq/m work studio on a patch of ground overlooking the lake. But he planned for it to be a…

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The abandoned Spitzer Castle in Beočin – Serbia

We are in the town of Beočin, on the slopes of Fruška Gora mountain, where rests a peculiar building, in ruins and long forgotten. Locally known as Spitzer Castle, the mansion was built in the late 19th century by Eduard Ede Spitzer, co-owner of the Beočin cement factory. The building is one of the rare examples of the eclectic architecture in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina. Spitzer hired the famous architect Imre Steindl, best known for his work on the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest, to design and engineer the…

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Saint Mathieu Lighthouse | France

Located on Pointe Saint-Mathieu in Plougonvelin, around Brest in Finistère, Saint-Mathieu lighthouse was built in 1835 among the ruins of the ancient Abbaye Saint-Mathieu de Fine-Terre. The Abbey gives the cape its name, and It was dedicated to Saint Matthew the Evangelist, whose skull it housed. It was a Benedictine abbey, but was revived and reformed by the Maurists in the mid-17th century. According to legend the first abbey here was founded in the 6th century by Saint Tanguy, chosen for its isolated location among the lands he had inherited.…

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The Cheboygan Point Lighthouse ruins and the lost town of Duncan – Michigan

Hidden among the trees in northern Michigan and along the shores of Lake Huron in the Cheboygan State Park lies the ruins of the old Cheboygan Point Lighthouse. When sailing from the east, mariners have two options for reaching the Straits of Mackinac: the North Channel, between Mackinac Island and Round Island, or the South Channel, which passes between the southern side of Bois Blanc Island and the mainland. On September 28, 1850, Congress appropriated $4,000 for a lighthouse “on the point of land about three miles east of Cheboygan…

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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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Wreck of the MV Creteblock – North Yorkshire, England

Probably the name “Creteblock” seems rather strange for a vessel, but it’s extremely accurate for one that was essentially just a concrete block. Although concrete might at first seem to be a wholly impractical and rather cumbersome material to use in shipbuilding, in fact it makes a lot more sense than you might think. For boats over 7 meters long its often the cheapest and easiest material to employ. It doesn’t need a weatherproof coating and it won’t rust. Also a 10 meters, 8 ton displacement vessel made of wood…

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Elizabeth Bay Ghost Town – Namibia

We are in southern coast of Namibia, 25 km south of Lüderitz. Even though it often seems to be forgotten in the shadow of its counterpart Kolmanskop, also Elizabeth Bay was a lucrative diamond mining town. Diamonds were first discovered in the region around 1908. However, only in 1989 that the government of Namibia spent $53 million on the exploration and creation of a new diamond mine on the site. Its decrepit buildings and machinery tell of a dark, greedy history: the city was inhabited for only 20 years, but…

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