No Girls Allowed – The Greek State That Forbids Both Human and Animal Females

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Mount Athos, formally known as Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, is located on the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki. The monastic traditions of the mountain date back to 800 A.D. and the Byzantine era. Today, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and 2,000 monks from Greece and other eastern orthodox countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia. These monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world.

Although technically part of the European Union, the Holy Mountain is largely self-governed. This prohibits the free movement of people and goods in its territory, unless formal permission has been granted. As a result, a number of traditions at Mount Athos might seem odd to people outside. The keeping of Byzantine time, for instance, means that their day begins at sunset. But perhaps their most bizarre practice is the centuries-old ban on women entering the sacred peninsula.

For over 1,000 years, women have been forbidden from setting foot on the mountain. In fact, females of other species such as cows, dogs and goats aren’t permitted either. Only birds and insects are exempted from the rule – scanning the skies and grounds for female body parts would surely be too absurd, even by Mount Athos standards.

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Shani Shingnapur – India’s Village without Doors

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Believe it or not, there’s a village in India where none of the 300-odd buildings – homes, educational institutions, and even banks – have doors. Cash is stored in unlocked containers, as are valuable pieces of gold jewellery.

Even most of the public toilets in Shani Shingnapur village square have no doors. “For reasons of privacy and following requests by women, we recently agreed to put a thin curtain near the entrance, but not doors because that would go against our belief,” said village shopkeeper Parmeshwar Mane.

Some villagers do put up loose door panels against their door frames, but this is done only at night, to keep out wild animals and stray dogs. The only problem with the lack of doors is that there’s nothing to knock on to announce your arrival. But the villagers have a solution for this, too. “Just shout out and somebody will come to the door,’’ one of the villagers, Rani, explained.

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Russia’s Lake Karachay – The Most Contaminated Place on Earth

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Although breathtakingly beautiful, Russia’s Lake Karachay is probably the last place on earth you’d want to choose for a lakeside retreat. Just standing next to the picturesque shore for an hour would give you a radiation dose of 600 roentgen, more than enough to kill you. At its height, the lake was putting out more than 200,000 times the normal amount of radioactivity, due to poor waste disposal practices.

Nestled deep in Russia’s Ural Mountains, close to the modern Kazakhstan border, Lake Karachay falls within the Mayak Production Association, one of the country’s largest (and leakiest) nuclear facilities. Built in the 1940s, immediately after World War II, Mayak was one of Russia’s most important nuclear weapons factories and was inaccessible to foreigners for 45 years. But when President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree in 1992 that opened up the area, visiting scientists who gained access immediately declared it the most polluted area on the planet. It seems that in its long period of obscurity, Mayak was the site of numerous nuclear-related accidents, some almost as devastating as the Chernobyl meltdown.

Nuclear engineers at Mayak apparently dumped radioactive waste into the nearby Techa river quite regularly. The watered down waste that they discarded rather carelessly was a mixture of radioactive elements such as Strontium-90 and Cesium-137, each with a half-life of approximately 30 years.

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Amsterdam Crane Gets Converted into Luxury Hotel

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Ambitious architects in Amsterdam have converted an old beast of a crane into a luxury hotel, complete with swanky rotating suites, spa pools and a TV broadcasting station.

The 250 ton, 50-meter high, decades old maritime crane is actually one of the world’s oldest and highest mechanical structures. It was almost in ruins, doomed to a life of decay, when a group of daredevil architects from various Dutch companies decided to get together and give it a new lease on life. 

Despite being dismissed as ‘technically impossible’, they decided to take on the task of converting the old crane into a world class luxury hotel. The project was not easy – they had to lay new foundations to withstand the weight of the massive structure, because the quay of the old wharf was simply not strong enough. Developers splurged nearly a million dollars on constructing each room. They even fitted the structure with a thrust bearing made of gold, allowing each suite to rotate with the wind.

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Villa Epecuen – The Argentinian Town That Spent 25 Years Underwater

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The town of Epecuen, in the Argentinian farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires, was once a bustling lakeside resort with a population of over 5,000. Over a quarter of a century ago it was flooded by the waters of a nearby lake and, until recently, it remained submerged. Now it’s finally come back up for air.

Established in 1920 along the shore of Lake Epecuen, the popular tourist destination played host to at least 20,000 visitors every season. Its main attraction was the saltwater lake, which contained 10 times more salt than the ocean. According to local legend, the lake is so salty because it was formed by the tears of a great Chief crying for the pain of his beloved. The waters of the lake were believed to cure depression, rheumatism, skin diseases, anemia, and even diabetes.

Thousands of visitors would arrive by train from the nation’s capital to relax in the town’s saltwater baths and spas. Tourists, mainly from Buenos Aires’ large Jewish community, enjoyed the floating water because it reminded them of the Dead Sea in Israel. The town had almost 300 thriving businesses – including guesthouses, lodges, hotels and other establishments centered around tourist trade.

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Shell Gas Station Toilets in the Philippines Are So Clean It Will Blow Your Mind

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The video tour of a Shell Gas Station toilet in the Philippines is making waves on the internet – it has gone viral with over 4 million views on YouTube and nearly 30,000 likes on Facebook. The video was made by Canadian model and TV personality Jason Godfrey; it shows the inside of a pristine toilet that’s so amazing, you’ll probably never want to leave it!

The gas station, located in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, is primarily meant to attract travelers and tourists. In addition to sparkling clean toilets, the restroom also has a very homey ambiance, with lovely paintings adorning the walls, bookshelves that stock reading material to peruse while using the loo, furnished wood and other beautiful decorations. It’s unlike any public toilet I’ve ever been too, that’s for sure.

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Waitresses at Aptly-Named Shooters Grill All Carry Guns

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True to its name, Colorado restaurant ‘Shooters’ is a pro-guns type of place – the waitresses are all packing heat and patrons are encouraged to do the same! Incidentally, the restaurant is located in a town called Rifle, where openly carrying guns in public is illegal.

A sign on the front door of the restaurant reads: “Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered, unless the need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.” So when waitresses at Shooters take an order, they not only carry a pad and pen, but also loaded handguns holstered around their waist, Wild West Style.

According to Shooters owner Lauren Boebert, the restaurant is simply allowing customers and employees to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. “We encourage it, and the customers love that they can come here and express their rights,” said Boebert. “This country was founded on our freedom. People can come in carrying their gun, and they can pray over their food.”

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Venice of the Middle-East: The Floating Basket Homes of Iraq

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Little is known to the world about Iraq’s Tigris-Euphrates marshlands – an area that, at one time, covered over 9,000 square miles – bigger than Venice’s lagoon and Florida’s Everglades combined. The marshland was inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years and at its peak, it was home to half-a-million ‘Marsh Arabs’ or ‘Ma’dan’.

The Ma’dan consisted of several tribes that had developed a beautiful, eco-friendly culture that centered on the marshes’ natural resources. One of the truly admirable aspects of their lifestyle was their beautifully elaborate dwellings – floating houses made entirely out of reeds that were harvested from the open water.

These architectural wonders, strongly reminiscent of the ‘casoni’ of the Venetian fishermen, were called ‘mudhif’. They were temporary structures built of reeds in only three days, without the use of nails or wood. Even the islands that the houses would rest on were made of complicated arrangements of mud and rushes.

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Man Proposes to Girlfriend with Epic GPS-Recorded Trek across Japan

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If you thought Skywriting was a romantic way to propose, wait till you hear about GPS writing. The ingenious idea belongs to Yasushi Takahashi – a.k.a Yassan – who spent six whole months trekking through Japan as a way of proposing to his girlfriend. At the end of his journey, the GPS records of his travels spelled the phrase ‘Marry Me’ with a heart sign to boot.

It all started in 2008, when Yassan, then 31, quit his job and planned a journey through Japan, taking with him a GPS device and a map. His purpose was two-fold: to experience a Japan that he only knew in books, and also to draw a special message for his girlfriend using GPS tracking technology. Yassan managed to cover over 7,000 kilometers in six months, mostly by foot and sometimes by car, ferry or bicycle. Every place that he walked through was carefully planned beforehand to get the gigantic magic phrase just right.

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Welcome to Ifrane, Africa’s Little Switzerland

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Ifrane is a small town and ski resort in Morocco, famous for its European style and its similarity to the tourist haven of Switzerland. Developed by the French in the 1930s, Ifrane is so reminiscent of the Swiss Alps that it is fondly referred to as ‘Africa’s Little Switzerland’.

The town is located at an altitude of 5,460 feet above sea level in the Middle Atlas region. Its neat red-roofed houses, blooming flower beds, lake-studded parks, and snowbound winters present a huge contrast to Morocco’s narrow, maze like streets and old, earth-colored buildings. It is truly a wonder that such lush greenery, cedar and oak forests, and pasturelands can even exist in the midst of the hot and dry climate of the region.

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Indian Temple Has 600 Barbers Shaving 20,000 Heads a Day

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The Seshachalam Hills in Southern India are home to one of the nation’s most popular pilgrimage destinations – the town of Tirumala. Each year, millions of pilgrims display their devotion for the presiding deity, Sri Venkateswara, in the most bizarre fashion – by tonsuring their heads!

There’s actually a rather interesting story behind the unusual practice – according to ancient lore, Sri Venkateswara is believed to have taken a loan in order to fund his own wedding celebrations. The debt was so huge that he continues to pay it off to this day, and requires assistance in doing so. And his devotees are more than happy to help by donating their hair to the cause.

The local temple receives donations from at least 20,000 devotees each day, so they’ve employed a whopping 600 barbers to get the job done. The tonsuring takes place in a specially designated building that’s separate from the main temple, and also at 16 smaller locations around town. Thousands of pilgrims sit cross-legged on the floor with their heads bent forward, as the barbers work their scissors and razors at lighting speed.

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World’s Largest Corn Maze Is So Tough to Get Out of That People Often Call 911 for Help

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Cool Patch Pumpkins corn maze, in Dixon, California, is officially the biggest corn maze in the world. The gigantic 63-acre Halloween attraction is the creation of brothers Matt and Mark Cooley, who personally hand-cut five miles of winding paths, twists, turns and loops. This year, the maze finally broke the Guinness Record for the world’s largest maze.

The maze might appear easy to navigate when you first set foot in it, but visitors soon realize it is far more complicated than they originally thought. Believe it or not, a few visitors have actually resorted to calling 911 for help! “When it’s dark, all you see is corn,” Matt said. “A lot of people have been telling us that it has taken them a couple of hours to get through the corn.”

“There’s a concern; there’s a bit of fear involved,” said Deputy Daryl Snedeker from the Solano County Sheriff’s department. “I think they are overwhelmed. You can get a little worked up when you can’t get out of a place and everything looks the same. We don’t laugh, it’s not a comedy to us, and our dispatchers have a very serious job, and they take every call to 911 seriously.”

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Three Crazy Norwegians Visit 19 Countries in 24 Hours, Set New World Record

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Last month, three friends from Norway set a new world record for visiting the most number of countries in a day. They made it to 19 different countries across Europe in only 24 hours, beating the 2012 world record of 17 countries. Throughout the journey, they had to follow only three simple rules: physically stand in each country, complete visits within any consecutive 24-hour period, and provide media evidence.

The three extreme travelers – Gunnar Garfors, 39, Tay-young Pak, 42, and Øystein Djupvik, 40 – started their journey from Greece at midnight on September 22. From there they followed a northwestern route, passing through 18 other countries: Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Switzerland.

They managed to make their final stop in Liechtenstein, just before the 24 hours were up. And although they had time to spare at the end of the trip, bad weather conditions prevented them from making it to their 20th country, Italy. But that didn’t bother the trio, who were obviously elated with their achievement.

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London Hotel Unveils Hogwarts-Themed Rooms Designed to Look Like Harry Potter’s Living Quarters

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If you’ve ever fantasized about living at Hogwarts Castle (as all Potterheads do), then here’s some good news for you. The Georgian House hotel in London is offering its guests a Harry Potter Hotel Package, with Hogwarts-themed bedrooms that are designed to resemble Harry’s fictional dorm room.

The Gregorian House is a four-star hotel built in 1851 and still run by the descendants of the original owners. While the hotel traditionally offers Victoria Classic and Belgravia Boutique rooms, they’ve decided to take full advantage of the renewed worldwide interest in Harry Potter, ever since J K Rowling released a new Harry Potter story on her website, Pottermore.

Aptly named ‘The Georgian House’s Wizard Chambers’, the two transformed rooms contain everything that a would-be wizard might need – four-poster beds, potion bottles, cauldrons, spell books, and even battered trunks. The interiors are done up with ‘Hogwartsian’ accents, perfectly capturing the essence of the Potter universe.

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Human Mole – The Man Who Spent 32 Years Digging a Tunnel to the Middle of Nowhere

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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert’s El Paso range there is a strange tunnel that traverses 2,087 feet of solid rock up in Copper Mountain. What’s strange is that it doesn’t lead to anywhere special. It simply emerges on the high ledge, in the middle of nowhere. The only reason it exists is because an eccentric man named William Henry ‘Burro’ Schmidt – a.k.a. the human mole – wanted it there.

Although he spent 32 years of his life single-handedly digging a half-mile long tunnel through a solid granite mountain, he never talked much about it. When questioned about his bizarre project, he simply replied that it was a shortcut. To where, no one really knows.

Schmidt first migrated to the California desert from Rhode Island in the late 19th century, in order to improve his health. He is believed to have started digging the tunnel in 1902, near the site where he had staked a mining claim. He carried out the excavation using picks, hammers, hand drills and explosives, and removed rubble with a wheelbarrow. At times, he even carried it out on his back. Eventually, he installed iron tracks and a mine car to transport debris.

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