Children’s cement factory

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While this particular factory is hardly a place for children to play in, you can easily get confused.

This is one of the many amusement-park-looking cement factories belonging to Zapa Company, in the Czech Republic. Thanks to the unusual ornamentation of its equipment and transportation vehicles. Zapa has managed to become not only one of the most successful companies in the country, but also one of the most popular attractions. Although I doubt any parent would let their child play in such a dangerous environment, I have to admit it’s a very original idea and, on a subconscious level, makes the company more likable.

Just follow this link to Zapa‘s home site (which is also very colorful) and take a look at the photo gallery there.

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Wacky World’s biggest things

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What people wouldn’t do accomplish something remotely extraordinary…

I mean who would go out of their way to build the world’s largest teapot or the world’s biggest boot? Probably someone who wants to get noticed and acknowledged as a person who made something remarkable, and because they can’t be the person who comes up with the cure for cancer, they build something extremely large and funny, it’s as simple as that.

But I’m sure that they’re also very fun to make, just like everything that’s done passionately.

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Swallow’s Nest Castle

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A great architectural wonder built on the edge of a cliff.

Swallow’s Nest is an ornamental castle built in Yalta, Crimea peninsula, Ukraine, built between 1911-1912 by Russian architect Leonid Sherwood. It lies on the 130foot-high Aurora Cliff, overlooking the Black Sea. Over time it has been a restaurant, a reading club headquarters and, lately, a very popular tourist attraction. In 1927 it survived a strong earthquake (between 6 and 7 on the Richter scale) with only a few decorative elements falling in the sea, but the cliff itself developed a huge crack, so access to the Swallow’s Nest was restricted for almost 40 years. In 1968 the castle was renovated and a monolithic concrete plate console was used to strengthen the cliff.

I love the way it looks, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting a place that looks like it could fall into the see any second.

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World’s most dangerous bird

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I know, it looks like something that came out of an ostrich-impregnated turkey, but it’s actually very dangerous.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Cassowaries are the world’s most dangerous birds, capable of dealing fatal blows. They are very unpredictable, aggressive creatures, especially if wounded or cornered. The Cassowary lives in the rain forests of Australia and New Guinea and are actually pretty shy animals if undisturbed, but if you get to close and it thinks you’re a threat you could receive a bone-breaking kick or get sliced by its dagger-like sharp claws. During WWII, soldiers stationed in New Guinea were warned to stay away from these birds, but some of them still became victims.

The Cassowary is also one of the most difficult animals to keep in the Zoo because of the frequent injuries suffered by Zoo keepers that look after them. I like a bird that can take care of itself, but, unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to help it very much against human cruelty and it is on the endangered species list, along with so many others…

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Albinos of the animal kingdom

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Does being completely white make them less cute?

On the contrary, unlike albino humans I think these critters are even cuter than their “custom” colored kin. It’s clear that animals aren’t protected from genetic anomalies any more than people are, but at least most of them are not discriminating. If you’re interested, read more about the albino croc and the albino moose.

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Shilin-The Stone Forest

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Shilin is a wonderful place that you must visit if you ever have the chance…

Because as an old Chinese saying goes ” If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time” and I couldn’t agree more. Shilin is an intricate krafts formation in the south-west of China, one of Yunnan province’s most popular tourist attraction. The tall rocks, that seem to be bursting out of the ground, reach heights of 30 meters and their numbers really create the illusion that you’re looking at a petrified forest.

There are many local legends inspired by this incredible place, but the most famous one says the gods created this huge stone labyrinth for lovers to get lost in and be together. Scientists say this 2,670 square kilometers area used to be a sea and when the waters pulled back some 270 million years ago, these formation emerged and the surrounding elements eroded.

Who knew huge limestone rocks could be so beautiful…

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The tree-man

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Turning in to a tree must be a horrifying experience…

Dede is a 35 year old Indonesian fisherman who until recently thought he would be killed by the tree-like worts covering most of his body. It all started after he accidentally cut his knee as a teenager. Small warts started appearing on his hands and feet and, in time, they got so big and numerous that he lost use of his hands and couldn’t perform any household activity. His wife walked out on him and he had to take care of his children in terrible conditions. He was forced to join a local freak show, alongside people with different, peculiar diseases, just to put food on the table.

The local doctors could do nothing to help him and he was sure he was going to die from his condition, as the warts started to spread all over his body. Thankfully, a famous US dermatologist, from the University of Maryland, learned of his condition and thought he could help. He came to Indonesia, examined Dede, took blood samples and discovered that this terrible condition, that’s literally turning a man into a tree is caused by the common Human Papilloma Virus responsible for the small warts people get on their hands. Unfortunately for Dede he had a genetic fault that made his immune system helpless against the virus, it just couldn’t contain it, so it was free to grow inside his body. He came to the conclusion that a form of vitamin A could reduce the quantity of warts and hopefully help him regain control of his hands.

After a series of financial and political setbacks, Dede has started receiving treatment and is currently making progress.

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The Buddha Phone

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You’ll go to Nirvana if you buy one!

Not really, but you’ll definitely feel a lot closer to enlightenment, if you’re into Buddhism. The Buddha Phone is a very cool cellular phone that turned up on the streets of Shenzhen, China and that’s fast becoming very popular throughout the country. Before you say “oh it’s Chinese crap” you should know that besides the impressive design and decorations (they say it’s 24 karat gold plated stainless steel), it also sports a micro SD slot and a touch-screen.

I’m not very familiar with Buddhism but I have to tell you I love The Buddha Phone!

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The largest barbecue in the world

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That’s a lot of deliciously looking meat…yumm.

Uruguay isn’t famous for a great many things, but thanks to the event that took place on April 3rd of this year, its beef will be a lot more famous all across the globe. over 1000 people got together to cook 12 metric tonnes of fried beef, over a 1mile long grill set up by the military. Six tonnes of charcoal burned as 20,000 spectators screamed when the Guinness Book official announced a new record had been set.

The previous barbecue record belonged to Mexico and was set in 2006, but the new one crushed by the 4 extra tonnes of meat used in Uruguay.

I gotta say that Uruguayan beef sure looks tasty, I hope I get to try some of it at one point…

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Color-painted human skulls

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That’s right, in this Austrian town, when you can’t bury bones, you paint them.

Hallstatt is a very small town in Austria with a very interesting ossuary, definitely the town’s biggest tourist attraction. The story behind it goes like this: Back in the 16th century, Hallstatt’s small cemetery had reached its limit and the people there had to come up with a solution. So people who died were only buried in the cemetery for 10-12 years, after which their bones were dugg up, bleached in the sunlight for a few months, then painted with the person’s name, dates of birth and death and some decorations and, finally placed in the ossuary.

The city is much smaller now and most of the people are cremated anyway, but this practice still take place on request, the latest of the 1200 skulls dates back to 1997. In the old days all the bones were placed in the ossuary, but these days its getting pretty crowded in there so only the skulls are allowed.

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Toughest race in the world

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That’s what the organizers say anyway.

Welcome to the world of lunatics and masochists – that’s what it says when you visit the “About” page on the official site of Le Marathon des Sables. And I don’t think they’re just saying that, I think they mean it. After all we are talking about 243 km of desert over a period of 6 days. That’s 5 and a half normal marathons of running through the sand, with a backpack on, in a temperature of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

You have to prepare your own food, so be careful what you bring with you as well as set up a tent to camp out over night in the unwelcoming Sahara desert. Food is rationed and handed out at specific checkpoints, so you have to reach them in order to get some water. Equipment is apparently very important as the rough terrain can do irreparable damage to your feet ( you’ll be running on uneven, rocky, stony ground as well as sand dunes).

Now comes the crazy part, if you’re crazy enough to register for Le Marathon, you’ll need to come up with $5000 to pay the entrance fee, not to mention all the money you have to spend on equipment, traveling and training. They should’ve said most expensive race too!

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Japanese fashion: Harajuku

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As a manga and anime enthusiast, I must say I love these girls’ style!

I’m sure most of you are already familiar with this fashion style, very popular in Japan’s biggest cities and even though you didn’t know it was called Harajuku, you’ve surely seen some oddly dressed girls, wearing lots of make-up, they’re all over the internet.

Harajuku style was named after Harajuku district in Tokyo, the place where it’s believed it all began and where all the kids gather to scout for new funky clothes in the numerous shops and boutiques, or just to show off their new outfits. The nice thing about this fashion trend is that it’s not big brands or fashion designers telling people what to wear, but just the opposite, the kids are dictating what sells.

Japan is very “absorbent”when it comes to Western culture, so the Harajuku style is a trademark for those independent spirits that don’t go with the flow and choose to freely express themselves.

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The Tiger Temple

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A place where tourists can pet tigers just like they do their cats, here’s something you don’t see every day.

The Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua is Theravada Buddhist forest temple, in Thailand. It has been a sanctuary for many endangered animals for quite some time now, including several tigers. It was founded in 1994 as a forest monastery, where animals could find sanctuary and in 1999 they received their first tiger cub, which died soon after. But they kept receiving tiger cubs from the villagers who probably encountered them wondering through the forest after their mothers were killed by poachers.

The Tiger Temple has raised money over the years and can now accommodate 12 mature tigers and 4 cubs. they live in cages and once a day they are taken to a nearby quarry, where they can roam freely. Tourists may watch from 10 meters distance and sometimes they are allowed to pet these magnificent creatures. Only one serious attack took place in the history of the temple.

The priests at the Tiger Temple are now gathering funds to build a larger facility and create an almost natural environment for the animals, so they can one day be let out into the wild where they belong.

In case you’re wondering, yes this is the place featured on Animal Planet.

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World’s ex-ugliest dog

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Remember SAM, the ugliest dog ever, if you ask me.

So he died like 3 years ago, so what something like that doesn’t really die that easily you know, this kind of creature is hard to forget. SAM held the title of World’s Ugliest Dog for 3 straight years (2003, 2004, 2005) and he was striped of it by his own mortality, dying due to heart complications, at the age of 15…My guess is he looked in the mirror by mistake, but that’s less important.

SAM was a purebred Chinese Crested Hairless, but don’t imagine all of this race looks like that, oh no, he was just special. Taken in by Susie Lockheed back in 1999, SAM became an internet star, sporting his very own page on Wikipedia and some screen appearances.

To me, SAM will forever be the ultimate ugliest mutt, I don’t have a picture of him in my room or anything like that…

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The Real Toy Story

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No link to Pixar’s animation movies, but just as interesting.

The Real Toy Story is an elaborate work of art and a homage to Chinese workers, who produce most of the world’s cheap plastic toys. It all began when German photographer Michael Wolf thought to surprise his son on his birthday. He went to the local flee-market, bought 600 second-hand toys and glued them on every available surface of the boy’s room. Upon further examination of the toys, they observed that every single one was made in China. His son said “I thought Santa and his helpers make toys” and that’s when the idea hit him. He immediately set off on a 30-day journey across California, in his van, stopping at every market and collecting all the toys that had a face and were made in China.

He managed to gather 20,000 toys which he shipped to his studio in Hong Kong, where he then sanded-down their backs in order to attach magnets. He then visited some Chinese toy factories and took pictures of the workers. He covered his studio walls with metallic surfaces and stuck the toys to them, also embedding the photos he took.

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