The Amazing Oak Chapel of Allouville Bellefosse

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The French village of Allouville-Bellefosse is famous for the Chêne Chapelle (Oak Chapel), which is literally a chapel built into an oak tree. The amazing architecture consists of a wooden staircase spiraling around the ancient tree, leading up to a couple of chambers. These rooms have always been used as places of worship, by the village locals.

The age of the tree has been a subject of debate, but everyone agrees that it is the oldest tree in France, without a doubt. The tree is known to have been growing as far back as the thirteenth century, during the rule of Louis IX, when France was a truly centralized kingdom. It is also known to have survived the Hundred Years War against the English, the Black Death, the Reformation, and Napoleon’s rule. Local folklore dates it a 1,000 years old, when it is said that the acorn took root. However, tree experts say it could only be around 800 years old, which means the thirteenth century saw it’s origins.

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Evgen Bavcar, the Blind Photographer

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It’s amazing sometimes, the amount of skill and versatility displayed by the visually challenged. Especially when they’re able to do certain things better than those with perfect vision. Photography, for instance.

If you’re wondering how it could ever be possible that a blind man take photographs, Evgen Bavcar has gone and done just that. In fact, he is a noted photographer, with his works being published and exhibited around the world. Bavcar, who was born in a small Slovenian town near Venice in 1946, met with two consecutive accidents that completely robbed him of his sight. This, before he even reached the age of twelve. Around four years after this incident, he happened to have access to a camera for the very first time. The first snap he ever took, was of a girl he loved. It was then that Bavcar realized that “I secretly discovered I could possess something that I could not see…”

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Dargavs – Russia’s City of the Dead

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A place called the City of the Dead actually exists in Russia’s North Ossetia, hidden in one of the five mountain ridges that cross the region. Needless to say, several myths and legends shroud the place, with locals claiming that no one has ever come back alive. The ‘city’ hardly ever gets any tourists either, although this might be due to the difficulty of just getting there.

Reaching Dargavs, the City of the Dead, entails a three-hour journey through winding, narrow roads, and several hills. The foggy mountain weather certainly doesn’t help matters. Once there, you’ll find that the city  is in fact another hill covered with small white buildings. It is these very buildings that cause the place to get it’s name. The white house-like structures, countless in number, are stone crypts where locals buried their loved ones. The city itself is an ancient Ossetian cemetery. Each family of the area has a crypt, and the higher the structure, the greater the number of people buried in it. The oldest of the crypts dates back to the 16th century.

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Cholombians – Mexican Kids with Crazy Hair-Styles

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Picture this hairstyle – the back of the head shaved, with a rat tail left at the bottom. The hair at the top of the head cut short and spiky, always trimmed. Long emo bangs covering the forehead. The highlight of it all, long sideburns that start at the top of the head going all the way down to the chin. The side burns are literally glued to the cheeks with copious amounts of hair gel. And the finishing touch – a small cap perched neatly on top of the head.

Quite a sight, isn’t it? What I’ve just described to you is the Estilo Colombiano, the hairstyle adopted by the Cholombians of Monterrey in northern Mexico. They are quite well known for their meticulous style of dressing, and the pride they take in their cultural heritage. The cumbia, music brought over from Colombia, is something they are equally famous for. The people of Monterrey have been in love with this music ever since the 1960s. Several Cholombian street vendors sell trinkets that are imported from Colombia – paintings, key chains, flags, hats, t-shirts and bumper stickers, but the most popular of the items are mixed tapes of cumbia. The cumbia of Monterrey has developed a style of it’s own.

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Bossaball – Volleyball Meets Football on a Trampoline

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There is no dearth of bizarre sports in this world, new ones are probably being invented everyday. One of the latest additions to the series is Bossaball. Sounds like baseball? Well, it’s nothing like that. Bossaball is in fact, a cross between volleyball, football and Brazilian capoeira, and it’s played on a trampoline.

Bossaball is a sport fast gaining popularity on the beaches of Andalusia. The concept of the game was first developed between 2002 and 2004, by Filip Eyckmans, a Belgian living in Andalusia. It was first introduced in Belgium and then Netherlands, before it was brought to Spain. Bossaball consists of two teams of three to five people, who toss the ball across a net, similar to volleyball. However, the players are all on trampolines. This lets them jump at least 12 ft into the air, allowing them better access to spike the ball. The ball can be touched with any part of the body. You can even double-touch a ball with your hands or your head. Only one player of a team is allowed on the trampoline at once. The others play on the ground.

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Tribe Practices Finger Cutting as a Means of Grieving

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In some cultures amputation is a form of mourning. This was especially true of the Dani tribe from Papua, Indonesia. The members of this tribe cut off their fingers as a way of displaying their grief at funeral ceremonies. Along with amputation, they also smeared their faces with ashes and clay, as an expression of sorrow.

It isn’t very surprising to learn that women were mostly subjected to this gruesome ritual. The religious beliefs of the tribe prompted this sort of ritual. If the deceased person was considered to be powerful, it was believed that their spirits would contain equal power too. In order to appease and drive away these spirits, several shocking practices were followed. Girls who were related to the dead had the upper parts of their fingers cut off. Before being cut, the fingers would be tied with a string for over 30 minutes. After the amputation, the finger tips were allowed to dry, before they were burned and the ashes buried in a special area.

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Artist Uses iPad to Create Detailed Celebrity Portraits

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Long-gone are the days when painting was strictly done with specialized tools, like brushes, on canvases. Nowadays artists use anything from remote-controlled toy cars to Molotov cocktails to express their talents. So it should come to know surprise Kyle Lambert uses just one finger and the Apple iPad to create detailed celebrity portraits.

Kyle Lambert is a young English artist who specializes in portraits rendered using an iPad tablet and an $8 app, called Brushes. He only uses one finger as the brush, but judging by the detailed outcome, you’d think he has a whole set of professional tools and paints. Lambert starts out by sketching the basic facial proportions, drawing simple lines where the mouth, nose and eyes should be, making sure he gets the shape of the sitter’s head just right. It looks like the kind of sketch even I could do, but he says it’s the most important part of making a portrait, because it serves as the framework for the entire piece.

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Italian Sculptor Creates Miniature Colosseum from 10,000 Corks

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61-year-old Ciro Califano, from Italy’s Nocera Inferiore, is one of the world’s most incredible artists, with the power to turn corks into beautiful works of art.

A former postal worker, who lived most his life traveling between Milan, Naples and Nocera, Ciro Califano has always had artistic ambitions. Even as a child, growing up in the Italian countryside, he always dreamed of exercising his talents and leaving his mark on the art world. And ten years ago, after his sons opened a local restaurant called “Cantina del Vescovo”(Bishop’s Cellar), he finally decided to exploit his gift as a sculptor. The fast accumulation of wine bottle corks was just the right pretext, and before he knew it, Ciro was creating cork miniature replicas of ancient wonders like the Roman aqueduct in Nimes, France, the Saracen Tower, the Church of Monte Albino, and many others.

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Awesome Joan of Arc Armor Made of Bicycle Tubes and Paper Mache

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Did you ever find yourself wondering what Joan of Arc would have worn if she lived in modern times and rode a bicycle instead of a steed? Well, Grace Duval obviously did and she came up with an awe-inspiring upper-body armor made entirely of paper mache and bicycle inner tubes. Judging by how cool and detailed this thing looks, it’s clear the artist put a lot of work into this project, but the end result is simply incredible. I’ve see a lot of things made from tires, from crisis shoes to intricate sculptures, but this rubbery armor has to be the coolest thing yet. My hat’s off to Grace!

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Hockern – Germany Reinvents Sitting as an Extreme Sport

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Hockern is a game from Germany that can be classified under bizarre sports. Bizarre, because it involves a lot of things at once – sitting, dancing, spinning, and it’s hard to tell what it is exactly.

A typical Hockern player would do something like this: sit on a specially designed stool called the Sporthocker, twirl it in the air, do a handstand, and then swiftly sit on it once again. The game was introduced three years ago by a couple of young German entrepreneurs who head the company Salzig Sporthocker. Of course, there are rules to this seemingly haphazard sport. No move is actually considered a move, unless it ends with the player sitting down on the stool. So basically, its a lot of gymnastics at the end of which the gymnast sits down. Some of the common moves from players include spinning the stool on the floor and then balancing on it, tossing it in the air and quickly sitting on it where ever it lands, or simply having a friend slide the stool over to you across the floor and sitting on it as soon as it reaches you.

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Pakistan’s Flamboyant Truck Art

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It’s rich, it’s vibrant, it’s colorful. It’s Pakistani truck art.

Indeed, trucks in Pakistan are not just a means of transport, but pieces of art to be looked at and admired. What’s beautiful about this form of art is that it is intricate but uses simple designs in bright colors. Almost every inch of the truck is covered and everything redone, including the manufacturer’s logo. The paintings vary greatly, depending on what the owner would like to see. Some request portraits of their kids, and some want those of famous personalities. Others leave it to the artist’s discretion. Besides paintings, there are several other ornaments that adorn these large vehicles. For instance, some drivers like to have decorative chains attached to the bottom, so the trucks make a merry, jangling noise as they travel up and down highways. A few drivers prefer to have large, three-dimensional models of birds or animals attached to the side of their truck.

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The Beautiful Steampunk Cell Phones of Ivan Mavrovic

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Croatian artist Ivan Mavrovic turns modern technology into steampunk gadgets that still retain their functionality.

In a world where everyone seems interested only in getting their hands on the latest futuristic designs when it comes to gadgets, some, like Ivan Mavrovic, prefer to look back in history, to the time of the Victorian era, when brass, copper and wood were the main ingredients that made things cool. But interlacing modern tech with steampunk design isn’t easy, especially if you want to maintain functionality, but Croatian steampunk enthusiast Ivan Mavrovic does a fantastic job. Not only do his retro-cell phones look incredibly cool, but they also work as well as normal modern-day phones. They may not be as feature-full as today’s smartphones, but his sturdy converted Nokia phones work perfectly and make gorgeous accessories.

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Taichung’s Rainbow Village – The Hand-Painted Wonder of Taiwan

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It’s hard to believe that one man can change the fate of an entire village. Huang Yung-fu, an 86-year-old war veteran has done just this.

Huang lives in a village in a corner of the Taiwanese city of Taichung, a community that was created for Nationalist soldiers in the 1940s and 50s. Over the years, the place slowly changed into a permanent settlement, suffering from urban problems like abandonment, decay and housing dereliction. However, none of this is visible in the settlement today, thanks to the transformation brought about by Huang’s colorful paintings. The streets and the walls of practically every building in the village are covered with Huang’s simplistic paintings of plants, animals, TV personalities, birds and buffaloes. Considering the fact that he began painting only two years ago, his accomplishment is pretty huge. The bright colors and simple strokes used by Huang only add to the attractiveness of his work.

Photo by Steve Barringer

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Talented Artist Recreates van Gogh Paintings with Spices and Food Coloring

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Cincinnati-based photographer, Kelly McCollam recreates classic paintings, particularly Vincent van Gogh’s, using salts, spices and food coloring.

You could say Kelly McCollam is literally spicing things up in the art world, with her original interpretations of van Gogh’s masterpieces. While most people use pinches of seasoning to make their cooking tolerable, the skilled photographer uses handfuls to create artworks. Her favorite materials include salt, food coloring and various spices, from cloves and onion chips to mustard and lemon powder. After carefully spreading the spices on a board and arranging them to best replicate van Gogh’s works, she photographs them and simply wipes them off. It’s kind of painful, considering the effort and patience that must go into something like this, but Kelly is a photographer, and that’s what she’s really all about. The grainy and flaky textures of the artworks really improves the quality and effectiveness of her photos, which become masterpieces in their own right.

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Artist Makes Awesome Transformers Costumes from Household Goods

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We’ve posted some pretty cool Transformers statues and costumes here, on Oddity Central, but the Brooklyn RobotWorks costumes created by artist/cosplayer Peter Kokis are unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

When we look around the house, in our kitchens and bathrooms, most of us see a lot junk we don’t use very often, but Peter Kokis sees the perfect materials to build his über-awesome exoskeletons and thus bring our favorite Autobots to life. Looking at his creations for the first time, your jaw suddenly hits the floor as you stare in awe, but as Peter anticipates, looking a little closer you’ll eventually say “hey, I have those at home”. It’s hard to believe, but he’s somehow able to turn a common dog bowl into the perfect cannon muzzle and pooper-scoopers into realistic shins.

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