The Rocket War of Chios – A Fiery Easter Celebration

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We’ve seen a lot of bizarre traditions, but this is Greek custom involving two churches firing thousands of rockets at each other is pretty special. Every year on Easter Sunday, a fireworks war breaks out between two rival parishes on the small Greek island of Chios. Gangs belonging to two orthodox churches (Saint Mark and Panagia Erithiani) in the town of Vrodandos fire rockets with a single objective – to hit the other church’s bell. Of course, not all the rockets hit the target and locals can be spotted frantically running for cover.

The rocket tradition is of such importance that the townsfolk spend several months preparing for it. About 150 gang members are involved in the production of over 25,000 rockets that will be fired at the event. Derelict buildings are used to carry out the rocket-building work, with only one safety measure – they leave the doors open in case they need to make a speedy exit after an explosion. And they use bronze tools to prevent sparks that might ignite the volatile gun powder mixture.

“A good rocket has to fly fast, go far and stay lit until the end,” said rocket maker Vassilis Barkoulis. “You have to be careful in the details and process of its construction for a rocket to be good. If you do that carefully, you can have yourself a good rocket.” Good or not, producing rockets is actually illegal and there’s always the possibility the police raiding the premises. But it has never happened so far. The police prefer to entirely ignore the proceedings.

Chios-rocket-war

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New York Actually Has a Nightclub Service for Kids under Twelve

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New York has got to be the coolest place for kids. First they opened a DJ school for babies, and now they’re welcoming kids into their nightclubs. Fuzipop is a new company that organizes these daytime dance parties for children aged 6 to 12 and their parents. The three-hour parties happen once a month at Manhattan’s most happening clubs. Entry costs $20 for a parent and child, and $60 for a family of four. And here’s the best part – the DJ is nine-year-old!

According to the official website, “Fuzipop is a series of events focused on the celebration of music, dance and community for the next generation of city kids. This new generation has inspired us to provide a proper venue for them to experience what was once only available to a select few.” Fuzipop claims to provide an answer to ‘all our kids who constantly demand, ‘We want to have a dance party!’’.

Fuzipop is the brainchild of a husband and wife duo who also happen to be parents, DJs and music executives. Jesse Sprague, who spent years working in nightclubs around New York, met Jenny Song while dancing at a club. And when they had their first child, they threw a big bash at one of the clubs where Jesse worked. They invited almost all their club friends along with their kids – the party was a huge hit and no one wanted to leave. “All the parents said they would pay to do this, so we made a business out of it,” said Jesse.

Fuzipop-nightclub

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Team Fighting Championship – The Crazy Violent Sport Sweeping Europe

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Here’s a real treat for all you MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fans. It’s called Team Fighting Championship, and it’s played using standard MMA rules, sort of. The sport involves two teams of five members, who basically have a go at each other in a big ring as soon as the referee blows his whistle. The MMA-style fights usually start as one-on-one, with each member singling out an opponent, but as competitors are forced to tap out of the fight, contests can become two-on-one, or even five-on-one.

A video clip of a Team Fighting Championship (TFC) match has been doing the rounds on the internet. It starts off with a group of scantily clad women doing a seductive dance. Then, an announcer comes on the ring to introduce the teams – LPH from Poznan, Poland and the Wisemen from Gothenburg, Sweden. They all stand in the ring opposite each other. When the announcer blows the whistle, they’re all instantly at each other’s throats. Soon, some of the fighters are pinned to the ground while the others punch them repeatedly and rather mercilessly. And there’s only one rule for winning – take out all the members of the opposing team.

team-fighting-championship

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The Baikal Ice Marathon – The Ultimate Winter Endurance Race

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The Baikal Ice Marathon is one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges. Over the years, the one-of-a-kind event has seen participants from over 50 countries. These are athletes with a heart of steel – they race across a 42 kilometer course across the completely frozen surface of Baikal, the oldest and deepest freshwater lake on Earth. Every year, the Baikal Ice Marathon is held for a noble cause – the Preservation of Clean Water. This year its 10th edition took place on March 1.

Although the terrain for the marathon is predominantly flat, it is still considered to be one of the world’s 10 most challenging competitions because of the freezing Siberian weather. The cold northern winds and harsh, unpredictable climate is, in fact, the biggest challenge faced by runners. In past marathons conditions have varied in severity – from high winds and biting cold, to a sunny sky with almost no chills. The lake’s surface is another problem; at times it can be hard and uneven, covered in small hills of ice rubble. Geometric springs and seismic activity beneath the ice may weaken it to form holes.

Baikal-Ice-Marathon

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Taiwan’s Notoriously Dangerous Beehive Rocket Festival

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When I light a firecracker, I make sure to run at least 10 yards away before it pops. That’s how terrified I am of the noise and sparks. So when I watched a video of Taiwan’s Beehive Rockets festival, I was quite shocked. These crazy people deliberately run into bursting firecrackers. They dance in clusters as hundreds of crackers go off, allowing the sparks to rain on them. Like I said – crazy!

The Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival is one of the oldest folk festivals in Taiwan and the third largest in the world. It has been celebrated for over 180 years in the southern district of Yanshui. Its origins date back to 1885, when a cholera epidemic had gripped the district. Due to primitive medical facilities, the disease consumed thousands of victims. Locals lived in a state of fear and prayed to Guan Di, the god of war, to save them.

So what exactly is a Beehive Rocket? Essentially, it is a multiple launcher of bottle rockets. Thousands of bottle rockets are arranged in rows in an iron-and-wooden framework that looks like a beehive. When the contraption is ignited, the rockets shoot out rapidly in all directions. A deafening, bee-like buzzing sound fills the air. The dazzling explosives whiz and whirl across the sky and into the crowds of dancing people surrounding the beehive.

Beehive-Fireworks-Festival

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Goanna Pulling – Playing Tug of War with Your Neck

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If you’re as ignorant as I am, you’re probably scratching your head and asking yourself “what the heck is a goanna?” It’s a lizard species, but don’t worry, no animals are hurt in the unusual sport known as goanna pulling.

Goanna Pulling is basically tug of war with a bizarre twist – instead of their hands, competitors must use their heads to pull each other over the line and win the game. The rules are pretty simple: two people go (literally) head to head on the goanna pulling pad. They get down on all four, with their bellies touching the board and their heads held high. This position makes participants look a lot like goanna lizards, hence the name of the game, in case you were wondering. The two opponents each place their palms behind  a white line traced on the board, and a referee puts a large leather belt around their heads. As soon as he give the signal, the two contestants must use their upper body strength -their neck muscles especially – to pull the other guy past the line and win the game.

goanna-pulling

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X-Alps – The World’s Most Amazing Adventure Race

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For most people, the route from Salzburg to Monaco is by road. But who wants to go on a boring road trip, when you could climb mountains and paraglide across the Alps instead? Of course, to do that you’ve got to have a real taste for adventure. If you do, then the Red Bull X-Alps annual race is just the thing for you.

It is said to be one of the toughest challenges in the world, demanding not only expert paragliding skills but extreme endurance. Participating athletes need to hike or fly over a distance of about 1,000 kilometers between Salzburg and Monaco, through one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. For adventurers, this is the ‘ultimate’ race.

Each team entering the race consists of one athlete and up to two supporters to help with logistics, food and motivation. The contestants race between 5:00 am and 10:30 pm, hiking over 100 kilometers a day. A paraglider, harness, rescue parachute, helmet, emergency signal rocket, reflector belt and tracking device must be carried at all times.

X-Alps-race3

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UAE Hold Annual Camel Beauty Pageant

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The Arabs appreciate their camels rather deeply. They call these beautiful creatures ‘God’s gift to the Bedouin’. In fact, they love camels so much that they get together once a year to pick out the most beautiful ones of them all.

The Al Dhafra Festival is held annually at Abu Dhabi, in the UAE. The camel beauty pageant is the highlight of this festival, featuring 30,000 camels from all over the Gulf region. It’s something like a dog-show, with the animals being paraded around and given marks on their appearance.

How does one judge the beauty of a camel? According to Ali Al Mansouri, a camel owner and member of the Al Dhafra organizing committee, “The judges are looking for camels with big heads, wide necks, firm ears, broad cheeks and big whiskers.” He also said that the body should be long, the hump and the back should be big, and the color and posture of the camel are important.

camel-beauty-pageant

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Texas Life-Size Gingerbread House Sets New Guinness Record

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The world’s largest gingerbread house has been erected on Texas A&M Traditions Club grounds, in Bryan, Texas. The 39,201.8 cubic-foot house set a Guinness World Record this year, and is helping raise funds for a local trauma center. It measures 60 feet by 42 feet and its tallest point rises 20.11 feet.

The idea for the house first came to Bill Horton, managing director of the Traditions Club, in September 2012. He was watching a Food Network special on gingerbread houses at the time. At first he thought he could get the house done by November, but soon realized that it would take a lot more work. That’s when the project got postponed to this year.

“Everybody got excited that we were trying to do this,” he said. Ninety percent of all the raw materials were donated – from lumber to electrical supplies to ingredients. Lots of people volunteered too. Club members, bakers and locals joined hands to create the home.

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Jack O’Lantern Event Features Awesome Life-Size Dinosaurs Made from Carved Pumpkins

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One of the most memorable events of the year takes place around Halloween at the Van Cortland Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Here, literally thousands of incredible jack o’lantern carvings are lit up in a spooky exhibition of giant spiders, flying pumpkin ghosts, skulls, skeletons, bats and other hair-raising entities, all handmade from pumpkins. This year’s main attraction are some awesome life-sized dinosaurs which give the place a very spooky prehistoric feel.

According to HudsonValley.org, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze takes place throughout October and early November lasting for a whopping 25 days. 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack o’lanters are displayed along a pathway open to anyone lucky enough to get one of the fast-selling tickets. For only $16 (or $20 in the weekends), you can “stroll through the Tunnel O’ Pumpkin Love and witness the incredible sight of gourd-filled Jack-in-the-Boxes springing up and bouncing around. See slithering ground snakes, a giant spider web, and go gaga over a collection of shrunken Little Monsters. Gaze in amazement at a towering pumpkin bonfire and a working doomsday grandfather clock.”

Jack-o-lantern-festival

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Lithuanians Build Intricate Straw Sculpture Park Only to Burn It Down in Fiery Celebration

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Every year, the people of New Town, in Panevėžys, Lithuania, hold an annual festival where tall intricate sculptures made completely out of straws are displayed for the entire month of October in a temporary Straw Sculpture Park. At the end of the month, the straw sculptures are burned to the ground to mark the transition from the animated summer to the cold winter.

14 rolls of hay, each weighting half a ton and 10 km of rope have been used to build these imposing straw installations, this year. Everything is made out of straws including the fence, the very tall entrance and, of course, the sculptures themselves which have a different theme every year. Last year, the villagers decided on a musical theme and designed each sculpture after a musical instrument. Among other attractions, there was a very accurate replica of a piano, a straw saxophone and straw balalaika – a triangular shaped stringed instrument from Russia.

Straw-sculpture-park

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The Blooming of the Tisza – A Stunning Natural Phenomenon

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Named after the river on which it takes place every year from late spring to early summer, the Blooming of the Tisza is an incredible natural phenomenon that attracts tourists from all around the world to Hungary. As millions of long-tailed mayflies reach sexual maturity, they shed their larvae skin and burst from the river in search of a mate before dying just a few hours later.

There are around 2,000 species of mayfly worldwide. Measuring up to five inches from their head to the end of their appendages, Tisza’s Palingenia longicauda, also known as the long-tailed mayfly, is Europe’s largest. Mayflies live most of their lives as larvae in large colonies on the bottom of rivers. After three years, they shed their larvae skins and emerge from the water as sexual mature adults. Because they have a limited amount of time to reproduce -about three hours – as soon as they are able to fly, they prowl for potential mates. Males try to pass on their genes to the next generation at any cost, often forcing themselves on the females, and even clinging to them when they are still in larvae form. This mating frenzy lasts for three or four days, during which time the whole area around the Tizsa river becomes engulfed in a seemingly impenetrable humming fog.

Tisza-mayflowers

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Guy Runs 26-Mile Marathon Backward While Juggling

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Most people couldn’t run a marathon if their life depended on it, but world-record juggler Joe Salter ran the whole 26.2-mile Quad-Cities Marathon backward, while doing what he does best, juggling.

32-year old Joe Salter can practice his juggling skills pretty much anywhere. In the past, he swam a half-mile in the Gulf of Mexico, doing the backstroke while juggling three balls, juggled for 16.2 miles on a bike and ran and juggled for four miles. He also holds the world records for the fastest time to run a mile backward while juggling (7 minutes, 32 seconds) and fastest juggling triathlon (1 hour, 57 minutes), but he was hungry for a Guinness World Record, so he challenged himself to run the entire Quad-Cities Marathon, in Illinois, backward, while juggling. Unfortunately, Guinness rules are very strict and for Joe’s unique feat to qualify as a record, every second of the race had to be recorded, which was impossible as videotaping is prohibited along several miles of the course that run through the Rock Island Arsenal. Although slightly disappointed, Salter found an upside to the whole situation. ”I actually feel better, not having the stress,” he said before the race, and indeed the lack of added pressure helped him finish the entire 26.2-mile marathon in just 5 hours and 51 minutes.

Joe-Salter-juggling

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Poland’s Knight Fighting League Looks Like a Brutal Medieval Version of Fight Club

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The awesome-looking Polish Knight Fighting League has medieval enthusiasts put on full body armor and do battle in one-one duels or team matches, using actual (although blunt) weapons like swords, axes and spears.

The Polish Knight Fighting League is no scripted medieval battle reenactment. It’s more like a Dark-Ages-themed tournament for people who share a passion for shiny helmets and medieval martial arts. Participants put on full protective armor and try to land as many hits on their opponents as possible. They can strike with their metal weapons and shields, or simply use punches, kicks or headbutts. Matches are judged on points, like fencing, where the knight with he most connected hits wins the game, or by knockdown, where the first man to touch the ground with more than a third of their body loses. Would-be knights can participate in one-on-one duels, or team matches where the ultimate goal is to knock-down as many opponents as possible. The team with the most people left standing when time is called wins the day. Sounds like a fun time if you’re into this sort of thing, but judging by the promo video below, it can get pretty brutal. Apart from hitting an unarmored opponent and landing hits to the spine, neck and back of the knees, everything else is apparently permitted.

knight-fighting-league

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Armored Sports – Russia Holds World’s First Ever Tank Biathlon

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Probably bored with the usual sporting event, the Russian Military decided to introduce tanks into the mix as a way of spicing things up. Tank Biathlon is a mechanized sport in which tank crews have to guide their vehicles across an obstacle course and prove their accuracy by shooting various targets, in as little time as possible.

The world’s first ever tank biathlon was held at the Alabino proving ground,Russia, on 2013 August 11–17 and pitted tank crews from several of Russia’s Military Districts against teams from three ex-Soviet countries: Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus. All teams competed in T-72Bs tanks, an iconic weapon for all post-Soviet armies, and had to complete three 6,100 meters-long laps across a large racing field while completing different objectives. During the first round, crews had to use the tank’s main gun to hit targets at distances of up to 2,200 meters, which is close to their maximum range, while racing across the field in minimal time. Failure to miss a target cost the teams a 500-meter penalty lap. In the second round, teams had to use the tanks’  7.62mm coaxial machine gun to hit targets imitating anti-tank mortar (RPG) squads and infantry units, placed at distances of between 600 and 700 meters. During the final round, crews had to maneuver their tanks across an obstacle course that included a scarp, ford, minefield, bridge and roadblocks, as fast as possible. Missed or crashed obstacles added a 10-seconds increment to the teams’ final timing. Russia’s team won the competition, followed by Kazakhstan, with Belarus third and Armenia last.

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