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Viganella – The Italian Village that Built Its Own Sun

Viganella is a small village in Italy located right at the bottom of a deep valley, and surrounded by high mountains on all sides. This means that naturally, every year from mid-November to early February, the region has absolutely no sunlight. The return of the sun’s rays on the 2nd of February was celebrated with joy every single year for several centuries. That is, until December of 2006, when the problem was fixed forever.

Thanks to the brilliance of Giacomo Bonzani, an architect and sundial designer, there now resides on the slopes of a mountainside above Viganella, a giant mirror that reflects sunlight into the town square. A place that had not seen the sun’s rays during the winter since the beginning of time, was now suddenly bathed in its glorious light and warmth. The mirror is 40 square meters in size, 8 meters wide by 5 meters high and is located about 870 meters above the village. What’s more, it is actually controlled by a computer software that tracks the sun and tilts and turns the panels of the mirror so that the rays are always reflected downwards. It has actually become a tourist attraction of sorts, since its installation over 5 years ago.

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Magic Mountain Lodge – Chile’s Water Spewing Volcano Hotel

Ever wondered what it would be like to live inside a volcano? Now you can have your chance at a hotel that’s shaped like one – Magic Mountain. There’s even stuff spewing off the top (water, not molten lava) and cascading down the walls and windows. But it doesn’t look much like a volcano, not to me at least. I think it’s got this old-world charm to it, like a tower from Medieval times. Especially with the antique doors and windows, and a shaky wooden drawbridge to let people into their rooms.

The Magic Mountain Hotel is located in Huilo Huilo, a private Natural Reserve in the Los Rios region of Chile. The antique appearance ends with the exterior however, as the interiors are done up in luxury. There are only 9 rooms, named after bird species found in the area. Each of them overlooks the thick forest and wildlife outside, including toucans, iguanas, pumas and lizards. Guests even get a glimpse of a real-life volcano from the hotel – the enormous Arenal Volcano. Outside the rooms the special services provided to guests are definitely worth a mention. Hot tubs made out of huge tree trunks, overlooking the forest are a major tourist attraction at Magic Mountain, as is the world’s longest zip line running through the grounds.

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Cuban Sculptor Proves Tobacco Can Be Used for Better Things than Smoking and Chewing

Janio Nunez is a talented Cuban artist who has the gift of making incredible sculptures exclusively from tobacco leaves. He creates works of art both tiny and life-size that prove there are better things to do with tobacco than smoking it.

Janio’s fascination with tobacco began as a little boy, watching his grandparents roll cigars at the factory. He started copying them and ended up becoming a tobacco leaf roller himself. He worked at the factory, but after passing evaluations, he was sent to Varadero, Cuba’s largest resort in Cuba, to roll cigars for tourists. Everything was normal until one day when something really strange happened. He began seeing his co-workers like they were made entirely of tobacco leaves. He would get scared and close his eyes, and when he opened them they were normal again, dressed in their regular clothes. Then would turn around and see another colleague sitting down, all made of tobacco (clothes, face, skin, etc.). This happened sporadically for about four months, and his friends even took him to see a doctor about his “problem”. That didn’t help very much, and realizing something was wrong with him, he decided to do somehow fix things himself.

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The Mosuo Tribe – China’s Kingdom of Women

There’s a popular one-liner that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook for a while now – “If women ruled the world, there would be no wars. Just a bunch of jealous countries not talking to each other.” While that’s something we’ve all laughed at and forgotten, there actually does exists a Chinese matriarchal tribe where things are seemingly always at peace. Also known as the Kingdom of Daughters, the Mosuo Tribe have been in existence for the past two thousand years in the Lugu Lake region of Southern China.

In the Mosuo tribe, women rule. To such an extent that their language doesn’t even have a word for ‘father’. Property is handed down from mother to daughter, and sons are treated as simple inhabitants of the house. Even after they are married with children of their own, the men continue to live in their maternal homes, while children live in the home of the mother. In fact, there isn’t even a concept of formal marriage. Couples who fall in love meet in the home of the woman, and continue to refer to each other as ‘friends’. Vows and bonds have no place in a “walking marriage” system where mutual affection is valued.

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The Amazing Shadow Paintings of Rashad Alakbarov

Using various everyday objects and back light, Azerbaijani artist Rashad Alakbarov creates mind-blowing shadow paintings.

It always amazes me what some people can achieve by using the simplest materials and their imagination. Rashad Alakbarov is definitely one of these incredible individuals; using common items like empty plastic bottles, metal pipes or simple pieces of plastic and back light, he creates amazing works of art. Either by hanging these items from the ceiling, or carefully positioning them on a table, Alakbarov manages to produce incredible shadow paintings.

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Rules Are Simple at Atherstone Ball Game – Just Don’t Kill Anyone

Festival games are really fun to watch, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be in one like the Atherstone Ball Game. I’ve always followed the Spanish La Tomatina with interest, so when I heard about the Atherstone Ball Game, I had to find out more. Considered to be one of the oldest traditions of England, it is played in Atherstone, Warwickshire, as a part of Mardi Gras celebrations each year. For over 800 years, hundreds of men have gathered on the streets of the town to fight for a giant ball. The man who emerges in possession of the ball at the end of two hours of pushing, shoving and punching, is the winner.

The various traditions followed as a part of the festive day are quite interesting. The preparations for the game start early in the morning, with shop owners boarding up windows for protection. At 2.30pm, children start gathering under Barclays Bank. Pennies and sweets are showered on them from the balcony. Later, at around 3pm, the men start to assemble in anticipation of the ball game. A selected dignitary finally throws the ball into the crowd from a window above, and then all hell breaks loose.

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16-Year-Old Girl Is a Real-Life Barbie

Everyone meet Dakota (at least I think that’s her real name),  she’s a 16-year-old girl who goes by KotaKoti and looks a lot like a Barbie doll. Recently, photos of her have gone viral on several Asia and Arabic social sites because of her incredible resemblance to Barbie.

I stumbled upon some photos of KotaKoti while browsing a popular Vietnamese site for weird stories (yes, I do actually visit a lot Vietnamese sites, where else do you think I find all this crazy stuff) and was stunned by the resemblance between this girl and the popular Barbie doll. I mean, in some photos Iwas having trouble figuring out if she is actually a real person or just a life-size toy. I wasn’t able to find a lot of info on her, as she doesn’t seem to be as popular on western websites, and although she has her very own blog, it doesn’t have an “About” page or anything like that.

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Seo Young Deok’s Bicycle Chain Sculptures Are Off the Chain

You’ve probably sculptures made from bicycle chains, but I bet they’re nothing like the ones created by South Korean artist, Seo Young Deok.

The incredible ‘works of Seo Young Deok are clearly inspired by the shapes of the human body, but artists have been sculpting masterpieces based on our natural curves for hundreds of years. What makes this Korean designer special is the material he uses for his unique creations – bicycle chains. Miles of metal chains, to be exact, welded in such a way that they recreate the human body to the finest details. Deok says he finds inspiration for his art in crowded markets, and metro or bus stations, but also in Buddhist sculptures and paintings, which he has alway admired. “I like Asia Beauty” he says, “so most features of my work seem to take an Asiatic pose”.

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Renowned Artist Creates Jesus Portrait from 24,790 Push Pins

World renowned artist Rob Surette has recently completed a mind-blowing portrait of Jesus Christ made out of 24,790 colored push pins. The amazing work of art measures  5.5 feet x 4 feet, and took the artist six months to finish.

Rob Surette has been fascinated by pointillism ever since he discovered the art of Georges Seurat, who invented the dot painting technique during the late 1800s. He became a master of it himself and now creates incredible works of art that always has viewers asking how he achieves such elaborate visual illusions. “They stand close to the image and say, ‘All I see is push pins!’ and then they walk backwards, away from the artwork and say, ‘It looks so real!  How is that possible?'” Rob says is the reaction of most people. Before starting work on this portrait, Surette set a record for the world’s largest Lite Brite creation (513,000 pieces), and wondering what other objects he could use to create a portrait out of dots, he settled on push pins.

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German Fashion Designer Makes Shoes from Real Hooves and Dead Animals

These are some of the freakiest shoes I’ve ever set eyes on. Made by German designer Iris Shieferstein, the footwear is actually created from body parts of dead animals. She uses horse hooves and skin, snake skin and even whole dead birds as decorations.

I really doubt there are a lot of people out there willing to walk around with a pair of stuffed birds on their feet, but that isn’t stopping 45-year-old Iris Shieferstein from using all sorts of dead animal parts to make unique shoes. She agrees her creations aren’t exactly as comfortable as trainers, but she still wears them around the house. The designer says that her footwear is mainly meant for ‘aesthetic pleasure’. The animal shoes have been displayed at exhibitions around the world and Dolce & Gabanna have even created a range based on her designs. But so far, no company has had the courage to produce them for the general public.

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Mind-Blowing Portrait Created from Thousands of Coffee Stains

Just weeks after she took the Internet by storm with her incredible portrait of Yao Ming, created only with a basketball and red paint, Malaysian artist Hong Yi strikes again, this time with a realistic rendition of Taiwanese singer Jay Chou made with coffee stains.

The young artist begins her unusual creative process by taking a sip of coffee. Like most of us, she spills some of it in the small saucer and that apparently inspires her to use the dirty bottom of the cup to start a sepia tone masterpiece. At first the coffee cup stains look just like the ones you can spot on table cloths in cheap restaurants, but as she progresses, her work starts to take shape. First you can make out the outline of the head, then the nose and mouth, the eyes, and before you know it you’re staring at a realistic portrait of Jay Chou made with coffee stains, and struggling to lift your jaw off the floor.

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Ukrainian Artist Creates Fantastic Religious Icons from Millions of Knots

Using a special knot weaving technique called macrame, Ukrainian artist Vladimir Denshchikov creates mind-blowing religious icons made almost entirely of linen thread.

Born on July 1, 1952 in Kiev, Vladimir Denshchikov graduated the Kiev Theater University and went on to become and actor. He worked his way up  to director and artistic director of the Simferopol Crimea Maxim Gorky Academic Russian Drama Theater, and since 2007 he has been teaching acting and directing at the Simferopol Institute of Culture. Quite an impressive professional career, but this national artist of the Ukraine is mostly known for his unique hobby – making incredibly detailed religious icons from linen thread, using a technique called “macrame”.

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Artist Makes Stunning Sculptures from Shattered CDs

Instead of throwing away old CDs, like most of us do, Sean Avery transforms them into incredible sculptures he classifies as sustainable art. Sure, you’ve seen CDs used as decorations before, but I assure you, they’re nothing like what this man makes.

Pieces of shattered CDs are pretty hard to work with when you’re trying to recreate an organic shape, but somehow Sean Avery manages to piece together animal and bird models that look amazingly realistic. Using special layering techniques, he is able to make something as pointy and sharp as CD shards look as smooth as feathers or animal fur. “I blend many different man made materials together to make them appear strangely organic, with a distinct sense of movement” the artist reveals about his unique process.

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Mind-Blowing Animal Artworks Painted with Heat

Self-taught artist Julie Bender is a master of pyrography – the art of drawing with heat. She combines this artistic talent with her love for animals and nature to create incredibly detailed sepia works of art.

Pyrography, the art of burning or scorching a natural surface like wood or leather with a heated tip or wire was first practiced thousands of years ago by the Egyptians and African tribesmen attracted by the power of fire. Impressive as it was in its early days, pyrography has come a long way since then, especially since Melbourne architect Alfred Smart discovered a way to pump benzoline fumes through a heated hollow platinum pencil, thus creating an instrument that allowed artist to create tinting and shading, which were previously impossible. In the early 20th century, the invention of the electric pyrographic hot wire machine took the ancient art to a new level, and modern tools have become so advanced that they allow artists to modify burning temperatures and create a variety of tones and shades.

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Man Makes Life-Size Tank from over 5,000 Egg Cartons

‘Eggs for Soldiers’ is a family event held every year at the Clapham Common in London to raise money for Help for Heroes. It’s basically about the sale of khaki green boxes of eggs, with 15 pence from the sale of each box going to the charity that helps wounded servicemen returning from war. This year’s event on the 4th of March will have two great things to look forward to – a national egg and spoon race, and a life-size tank made of no less than 5,016 egg cartons.

The tank, a replica of The Challenger 2, was created by British sculptor Stuart Murdoch. Along with the 5,000 odd egg cartons, he also made use of over 10,000 nails, 26 liters of glue, 15 liters of paint, 80 sq. meters of steel and 5,013 staples in the creation of this epic tank. I can’t believe someone actually counted the number of staples. What’s more, the whole project took Mr. Murdoch and his assistants only 3 weeks to complete. That included 3 sleepless nights as well. The tank will be on display for the general public on 4th March at Clapham Common, so if you happen to be in London, don’t miss it!

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