The Double Tree of Casorzo – A Tree Growing on Top of Another Tree

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Located between the towns of Grana and Casorzo in Piemonte, Italy, is a very unique tree – well, they’re actually two trees, one growing on top of the other. Locally known as ‘Bialbero de Casorzo’ or the ‘double tree of Casorzo’, this natural oddity consists of a cherry tree growing on top of a mulberry tree.

No one really knows how the cherry tree managed to take root and survive in such a bizarre position. Locals believe that a bird might have dropped a cherry seed on top of the mulberry tree, which then grew its roots through the hollow trunk to reach the soil below.

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California Town Is Home to Hundreds of Free-Roaming Wild Peacocks

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The residents of Rolling Hills Estates, a small community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in southwestern Los Angeles, have been sharing their home with dozens of beautiful wild peacocks for almost 100 years. The exotic birds have always added a rustic charm to the upscale suburb, but as their population continues to grow uncontrollably, many residents now view them as a terrible nuisance.

For several decades, the people of the Peninsula have tried to keep their peace with the birds. The peacocks were actually an added attraction at one point, with buyers choosing homes specifically because they fell in love with the beautiful creatures. There were regulations, education programs and behavior modification in place, all in order to accommodate the lovely peacocks.

“Palos Verdes Peninsula has many sights to see – crashing waves, rolling hills and peacocks in the trees,” said Mary Jo Hazard, an author who lives in the Peninsula. “What fascinates me is – they’re so beautiful, they’re so exotic and I don’t think there’s anything more fascinating than seeing peacocks on the roofs, peacocks walking across the street.”

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The Confederate South Still Lives, in Brazil

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The Americana municipality, in São Paulo, Brazil, is home to a very unique subculture – the Confederados. The members of this culture are the descendants of 10,000 Confederate refugees who chose to leave the United States after they lost the American Civil War. Today, the Confederados make up 10 percent of Americana’s population; they’ve managed to preserve the unique culture and traditions belonging to the Confederate South of the 19th century.

When the war ended in 1865, many former Confederates were unwilling to live under the rule of the Union. They were unhappy with the destruction of their pre-war lifestyle that included slavery. So when Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil sent recruiters to the Southern States of Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas to pick up experienced cotton farmers, many disgruntled Southerners jumped at the opportunity.

Slavery was still in existence in Brazil at the time, which greatly attracted the Southerners. Combined with their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Union, many felt that moving out of America was the only option available to them. Dom Pedro, who wanted to encourage the cultivation of cotton, made an offer they could not refuse – he offered them a package of tax breaks and grants, as well as a section of the Brazilian forest that they could call home. It was more than they could ever ask for – a chance to start over and create a new community with Southern values.

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Ukai – The Fascinating Ancient Art of Fishing with Cormorants

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Ukai is a traditional Japanese method of fishing that employs trained cormorants to catch freshwater fish called ‘ayu’. For the past 1,300 years, fishermen along the banks of Nagara River have been spending the summer months catching fish with the help of the highly skilled birds. Some of the other rivers where ukai is practiced include the Hozu River and Uji River.

Fishermen who are skilled at ukai have patronage from the emperor. According to legend, samurai warlord Oda Nobunaga took the ukai fishermen under his wing, conferring upon them the official position of ‘usho’ (Cormorant Fishing Master). He is said to have enjoyed watching ukai in action and vowed to protect the art.

When the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho witnessed ukai fishing, he wrote a poem to honor the tradition: “Exciting to see/but soon after, comes sadness/the cormorant boats.” In modern times, the master fishermen are still the official Imperial fishermen of the emperor of Japan. The sweetfish (ayu) they catch are sent to the Imperial family several times a year.

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Did You Know Japan Has a Quirky Shrine Dedicated to Curing Hemorrhoids?

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Weird shrines are not uncommon in Japan. In the past we reported about Karube Shrine, where people go to worship breasts, and the Shinto shrines where they bury broken needles in tofu. But the weirdest one we found so far has to be the Kunigami Shrine, in Tochigi Prefecture, that allegedly prevents and cures hemorrhoids.

So how does a shrine manage to cure a painful medical condition? Well, our guess is as good as yours. All we know is that according to an ancient tradition, people who wash their backsides at a nearby river and eat egg offerings are completely cured of hemorrhoids.

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Abandoned Bangkok Shopping Mall Houses the World’s Most Amazing Accidental Fish Pond

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From the outside, this four-storey, roofless, dilapidated structure located on a busy Bangkok intersection looks pretty much worthless. But the ruins of the once-vibrant New World Mall now house a different world within its crumbling walls – a unique indoor pond full of exotic fish.

Constructed in 1982 by the Kaew Fah Plaza Company, the 11-storey New World Mall enjoyed a brief period of success. It was shut down just 15 years later in 1997, when the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) realized that the owner had obtained permission to construct only four storeys. Seven upper levels were destroyed, and a subsequent fire in 1999 left the mall roofless.

Without a roof, rainwater filled the basement and this pool of stagnant water soon became a breeding place for mosquitoes. Annoyed, the vendors in the neighborhood got together and released a few fish into the water, to get rid of the pesky mosquitoes. The fish multiplied quickly, and soon the building became home to a 500-square-meter miniature ecosystem for thousands of koi and catfish.

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The Eerie Smoked Corpses of Papua New Guinea

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For centuries, the Anga tribe of Papua New Guinea’s Morobe Highlands have practiced a unique mummification technique – smoke curing. Once smoked, the mummies aren’t buried in tombs or graves; instead, they are placed on steep cliffs, so that they overlook the village below. The very sight of a string of charred, red bodies hanging off the mountains might seem quite grotesque, but for the Anga people, it’s the highest form of respect for the dead.

The process itself is carried out carefully and thoroughly by experienced embalmers. At first, the knees, elbows and feet of the corpse are slit, and the body fat is drained completely. Then, hollowed-out bamboo poles are jabbed into the dead person’s guts, and the drippings are collected. These drippings are smeared into the hair and skin of living relatives. Through this ritual, the strength of the deceased is believed to be transferred to the living. The leftover liquid is saved for later use as cooking oil.

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World’s Largest Snake Gathering Turns Canadian Wilds into a Slithering Sea

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Every spring, the Canadian wilds of Manitoba become a sea of nightmarish writhing snakes. A tangled mass of thousands of red-sided garter snakes come together in what is considered the largest snake-gathering in the world. After spending the long winter months in hibernation, they all come out for a bit of a breather, to frolic in the sun and perform their mating rituals.

The fascinating event takes place at the Narcisse Snake Dens, a few kilometers north of Narcisse, in Manitoba province. What makes Narcisse the ultimate rock-concert equivalent of the snake world? Well, the answer to that question dates back to the Paleozoic era, when the area of Manitoba was covered by an ancient ocean. The water doesn’t exist anymore, but the ocean bed still does – layer upon layer of thick limestone rock covers the region, with thousands of natural crevices, tunnels and caves. Rainwater seeps through these cracks and when the rock gives way near the surface, the resulting collapse forms a sinkhole.

The cold-blooded snakes happen to love these sinkholes, which are perfect for hibernation during the harsh Canadian winter with temperatures reaching 50 degrees below zero. So they migrate from far and wide and settle into the sinkholes, putting a good distance between themselves and the frost line. Because there’s a limited number of sinkholes, also known as den sites, all the snakes in an area have to go to the nearest den site. So there are literally tens of thousands of snakes crowded into just one sinkhole the size of the average living room.

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Nepal’s Worshiped Child Goddesses Whose Feet Cannot Touch the Ground until Puberty

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Nepal is a land of mysticism, where a select few pre-pubescent girls from the Newar clan are worshiped as ‘Kumari Devi’ or ‘Virgin Goddess’. According to tradition, Durga (the Hindu goddess of destruction) herself is incarnate in young girls belonging to the silver and goldsmith community. Until they attain puberty, Kumaris are worshipped as deities and deemed protectors by thousands of adoring Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal.

To prove that she is the chosen one, a prospective Kumari must go through over 30 tests. Initially, high priests choose girls based on their physical characteristics – with a slender neck like a conch shell, gentle eyes like a cow, and other special traits. In the next stage, the girl must pass through a series of unusual trials. In one test, she is placed in a darkened room with severed animal heads and hideously masked dancing men, while her reaction is observed. In another test, she must correctly identify the items worn by her predecessor (similar to the ritual used in Tibet to choose a new Dalai Lama).

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The Japanese Bar Where Waiters Are Princes, Customers Are Princesses and Everyone Is a Girl

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Japan really does have some of the most interesting bars and restaurants that cater to a large variety of customers with strange interests. We’ve heard of restaurants catering to airsoft lovers, offering great discounts to bald patrons, using monkeys as waiters, and even a bar run by a monk. Now we’ve found out about a cross-dressing Tokyo bar that caters only to a female clientele. The waiters are women too, dressed as dashing young princes, while the customers get to be princesses for the day.

The aptly named ‘Bar Prince’ is located in Tokyo’s Nakano ward. They have a strict women-only policy for the staff as well as patrons. The boyish-looking staff don ruffle-trimmed prince outfits and swept-over hairstyles – they’re all crossdressers. Their mission is simple – to make every woman who walks through their doors feel like a princess. They even have a special name for their customers: ‘o-hime-sama’, which, obviously, means princesses.

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Party Like a Caveman at This Cave Nightclub in Cuba

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Disco Ayala, in Trinidad, Cuba, is not your average party destination. It’s located on the outskirts of town, in a natural cave that was once the home of a notorious serial killer.

After walking down the dusty street leading up to the tiny cave mouth, revelers take the stairs leading down to the gated entrance to one of the most unique discos on earth. You pay CUC$3 for entry and a drink, and go down the stairs, and then down another flight through a tunnel. Up to this point, the place looks like a normal cave, apart from a large banner that reads ‘Disco Ayala’. But nothing can really prepare you for what lies within.

As you step out of the narrow tunnel, the sight that awaits you is nothing short of spectacular – a large marble dance floor is set up in the middle of a large cavern, the bright light from a rock-carved bar catches your eye and the colorful lights dancing on the stalagmites will leave you speechless.  Not to mention the loud latino music and the crazy performers. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

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The Art of Crossing the Street in Vietnam

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If you plan to visit Vietnam, prepare to forget everything you ever learned about crossing the street. Forget about waiting for the traffic to stop, forget about zebra crossings, and forget about traffic lights. Because in Vietnam, people cross the street by charging right ahead, weaving their way through moving traffic. It’s the only way to do it!

It sounds dangerous, I agree, but it also seems kind of fun, in an adrenalin-pumping kind of way. I’ve just spent the past hour reading about how it’s done. This is from a Vietnam Travel & Living Guide: “You want to get to the other end of the street but it does not look quite feasible. Unless you try it. Crossing over the jam is actually not that bad. You will just have to do it. The magic is that no one will ever run into you.”

I watched a few videos as well; it really does seem like magic. The streets are filled with moving scooters and cars, and the pedestrians just flit across effortlessly. They seem to maintain an intense focus on the oncoming vehicles, finding gaps and moving through them slowly but steadily. There’s just no other way, given the fact that traffic is a nightmare in major Vietnamese cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh.

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The Santa Cruz Mystery Spot That Seems to Defy Physics

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The Mystery Spot, located in Santa Cruz, California, is sort of like a house of illusions. Here, water flows upwards, cars and balls roll uphill, short people appear to be the same height as taller ones, and people can lean forward up to 45 degrees without falling flat on their faces. It seems as though the normal laws of gravity just don’t work here.

The Spot is actually a large barn located on a 150 square-foot patch of  hillside land. Visitors are permitted to enter the shack after paying the owners an entry fee. They are shown a variety of unbelievable sights, like plumb bobs hanging almost parallel to the floors, billiards balls rolling uphill and people standing at impossible angles. The shack itself appears to be falling over, pulled down by strange forces. Adding to the mystery is the fact that people sometimes lose their balance, become disoriented and even feel ill within its four walls.

Discovered in 1939, the area around the Mystery Spot was originally supposed be the building ground for a summer cabin, but rumor has it that when surveyors tried to chart the plot, they found that their instruments acted crazy over one particular patch of land. The people who stood on this spot claimed that a mysterious force seemed to be trying to push them off balance, making them feel light-headed. The owners eventually abandoned their plan to develop the site and a year later, they opened the Mystery Spot as a tourist attraction.

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Japanese Pub Shaves Prices for Bald Customers

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Bald is beautiful at ‘Otasuke’, a new restaurant in Tokyo that has recently introduced discounts for the follicly challenged. Its management seems to have a soft spot for the bald, so they’ve slashed prices for men struggling with a receding hairline. Located in the Akasaka district in central Tokyo, Otasuke has been making headlines since its grand opening earlier this month.

‘Otasuke’ roughly translates to ‘helping hands’ in the local language. A sign outside the shop declares that the business fully supports ‘hard-working fathers losing their hair’ over their stressful jobs. ‘Be bald, be proud,’ it says. According to owner Yoshiko Toyota, she came up with the idea after volunteering in the efforts to rebuild the Tsunami-struck Tohoku region. When she saw how hard-hit the area was, she wanted to find a way to support the white-collared workers who are in turn helping out in Tohoku by driving Japan’s economy.

“I was thinking of some way to help support salarymen, but without a theme the idea was lame,” she said. “Then one day I was walking downtown and kept seeing bald guys. That was it.” Baldness affects 26 percent of Japanese men, and stress is a major factor. 48-year-old Shiro Fukai, a customer at the restaurant, said: “When you first start to go bald, it’s a huge shock, no question. Japanese businessmen have it really tough. The stress accumulates, then your hair begins to fall out.”

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Yanar Dag – The Eternally Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

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Azerbaijan, a small nation located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, is well known for its rich culture and history. The country is a great tourist destination, with a unique cuisine, ancient monuments, modern architecture, and mud volcanoes. And the most well-known of its volcanoes is Yanar Dag, also known as ‘Burning Mountain’. True to its name, the mountain has been burning for as long as anyone can remember, and the fire isn’t showing signs of going out any time soon.

Situated on the Absheron Peninsula, 25 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Baku, Yanar Dag is a 116-meter hill located on top of a pocket of natural gas that constantly erupts into flames. These flames jet out at least three meters into the air, through a porous layer of sandstone. Unlike the other mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan, Yanar Dag has no seepage of mud or liquid, so the fire always burns.

A 10-meter long wall of fire continuously burns alongside the edge of the hill. This makes for the most spectacular view, especially at night. The air around this open fireplace is always thick with the smell of gas. The heavy Absheron wind, twisting the flames into bizarre shapes, adds to the mystery of the region. Tongues of fire also rise from the surface of the streams located around the hill. These streams are called Yanar Bulaq, or ‘Burning Spring’.

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