Say Good-Bye to Austin’s Cathedral of Junk

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The 60 tons of junk that made up the awesome Cathedral of Junk, in Austin, Texas, are probably on their way to the recycling plant right now, leaving us with just photos and memories of the famous roadside attraction.

Vince Hannemann began building the Cathedral of Junk in 1988, just because he thought it would be cool. There’s was no real purpose behind it, just a nice thing to build in an Austin backyard. He was in his mid twenties when he started, and he kept adding do it over the years, until it grew into a 60-ton pile of junk. But it wasn’t really junk, it was just made of it. In reality, the Cathedral of Junk had long become one of the cities most popular attractions. Tourists were coming over just to give Vince something new to add to his masterpiece, but, sadly, that won’t be happening anymore…

After a safety complaint, fro one of his neighbors, real estate inspectors showed up at Vince Hannemann’s door, saying he needed to get a permit, if he wanted to keep his 33-f00t-tall cathedral, made of everything from bicycle wheels to old urinals, computers and lawnmowers. he tried to comply, and together with a team of volunteers, began altering the cathedral to meet required standards. But looking at his beloved creation being reduced to something he didn’t recognize anymore, Vince decided to tear it down. “It already isn’t the Cathedral. It might best be described as Junkhenge,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not willing to get a permit for the little that is left.”

According to many, this was the work of real estate firms, who did everything they could to bring down the Cathedral of Junk. It’s a sad time for the Austin art world…

 

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Qeswachaka – A Handwoven Bridge Made of Grass

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The Qeswachaka hanging bridge, of Cuzco, Peru, is handwoven every year, from a local grass called Qoya.

Located approximately 100 km from Cuzco, Qeswachaka bridge was once part of a network of bridges, built in the time of the Inca empire, but is now the only one of its kind, in the world. Spanning 120 feet over the Apurimac river, at around 13,000 feet above water, Qeswachaka (also spelled Q’eswachaka or Keswachaka) is built using the ancient Qhapaq nan technique, used by the Inca people.

Qhapaq nan bridges were built from grass, and were wide enough for only one person to pass, at a time. In ancient times these bridges were constantly under surveillance and everyone crossing them was monitored. When Pizzaro began his march for Cuzco, Qeswachaka was destroyed, to slow his advance, but was reconstructed, many years later.

Made from a local herb, known as Qoya, the fibers of Qeswachaka bridge deteriorate rapidly, and local communities have to reconstruct the bridge every year. Around 1,000 men and women, from various Andean communities gather at Qeswachaka bridge, every second week of June, for the rebuilding ceremony. Long blade of Qoya grass are woven into six long cables, which are bound and secured by eucalyptus trunks, buried at each end of the bridge.

It’s not that building a more modern bridge would be impossible, but this is a way for the Andean people to celebrate and honor their Inca ancestors, and keep their centuries old traditions alive.

Photos by REUTERS via Daylife

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The Jizo Army of Chausudake Volcano

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Located on the barren slopes of Chausudake Volcano, in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture, hundreds of small Jizo statues make up the eeriest spirit army I’ve ever seen.

One of the most beloved divinities in Japan, Jizo is seen as a savior working to ease the suffering of those serving time in hell, and answers the prayers for health, and success of the living. He is a friend to all, and Jizo statues are usually placed at intersections of roads, to help travelers pick the right way to go. He is extremely important to pregnant women and children, and statues are often adorned with tiny children’s clothes or bibs. Parents whose children have died place toys and offerings beside the statues, asking for protection of their child’s soul.

The Jizo statues of Chausudake Volcano offer a sight unique in Japan, and all over the world. Jizo representations can be found in many places around the Land of the Rising Sun, but the dark volcanic rocks, from which the statues have been carved, and the barren surroundings create an eerie atmosphere that’s hard to forget.

 

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Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Museum

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Barney Smith, a former plumber, from Texas, has spent the last 30 years decorating toilet seats and setting up his unique toilet seat art museum.

It all began over 30 years ago, when Barney Smith was looking for a mounting for a set of antlers. Considering his profession, he found a wooden toilet seat worked perfectly. From that moment on he began painting and attaching all sorts of things t this bizarre art medium, and now, he is the proud owner of over 700 toilet seat artworks.

After his wife forced him to move them out of the house, Barney’s masterpieces are now stored in his garage. The artist finds inspiration for his work in pretty much everything he’s ever done. Some are inspired by his travels around the world, others by his profession, or his 60-year wedding anniversary. That’s also the reason 89-year-old Barney Smith doesn’t sell any of his artworks – they all mean too much to him.

The toilet seats, made from sawdust and glue, are donated by a local company, and the decorative accessories were donated by various people, by mail. And even though his rapidly approaching 90, old Barney still has a nice supply of blank toilet seats, waiting to be adorned. So if you have any unique items you’d like used in the name of art, don’t hesitate to contact the artist.

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The Rusty Creatures of Jurustic Park

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Jurustic Park is the brainchild of Clyde and Nancy Wynia, a couple of artists who create unique creatures, out of various metals, and scatter them through their yard, for the world to see.

This wondrous place was born in 1993, when Clyde decided to sculpt a giant iron bird, and hang it from one of the trees in his backyard. A curious neighbor asked him how he got his hands on something like that and the first thing that came into Clyde’s mind was “I dug it out of the nearby marsh where it inhabited the swamp during the Iron Age.” And That’s how his yard earned the name of Jurustic Park.

Clyde calls himself an amateur paleontologist who excavates and recreates the now extinct creatures that inhabited the large McMillan Marsh, near Marshfield, Winsconsin, during the Iron Age. he explains that these mysterious metal creatures went extinct during the 19th century, when farming and industry moved into the area. Many were used as parts for various machinery, while others were destroyed by the acid rains caused by pollution.

After 17 years of work, Clyde Wynia has managed to decorate his yard with over 250 iron sculptures, from large dragons, to tiny mosquitoes. Whenever he feels the urge to recreate yet another metal creature, he just has some iron delivered to his Jurustic Park, and starts welding.

Over 15,000 people, from all around the United States, and 30 other different countries, visit Jurustic Park, every year, and although Clyde never sells his large metal sculptures, he donates his works to charitable auctions, evey year, and earns about $6,000 for various causes.

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The Steampunk Orchestra of Doctor Evermore

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Long before ‘steampunk’ was even a word, Tom Every was creating bizarre scrap metal sculptures, inside Dr. Evermore’s Scrap Metal Yard.

Located on Highway 12, in Wisconsin, Dr. Evermore’s Scrap Metal yard features a wide variety of strange metal creatures, from the famous Forevertron, the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, to the steampunk orchestra, a band of 70 bird-like statues, made from different musical instruments.

The Bird Band, as this unusual orchestra is commonly known, is made up of a giant metal cello, tubes, flutes, xylophones and bells. Tom Every, the creative genius behind Dr. Evermore’s scrap metal world, built every one of the statues, without any blueprints or previous designs. He just builds them off the top of his head, adding various parts and instruments, as he goes along.

In case you’re wondering who this mysterious Dr. Evermore is, he ‘s a fictional character, created by Tom Every, to validate the construction of the Forevertron. According to the made-up story, Dr. Evermore wanted to use the Foreverton to launch himself into space.

Although Tom Every doesn’t live in his scrap metal yard, anymore, he’s still working on new creations, so every visit to Dr.Evermore’s Scrap Metal Yard is full of new surprises.

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W’eel Turtle – A Unique Roadside Attraction

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Made up of 2,000 wheel rims, the W’eel Turtle of Dunseith, North Dakota, is arguably the largest turtle in the world.

Convinced that one day he”ll find a proper use for them, George Gottbrecht saved around 2,000 car wheel rims, over 16 years. In 1982 he had a vision of how to turn his impressive collection into an artwork that the whole town would admire. He decided to build a giant turtle statue, in honor of the famous Turtle Mountains state park.

Gottbrecht had master welder Curt Halvorsen do the work and ended up paying $5,000 for the world’s largest turtle statue. Eighteen feet high, and forty feet long, W’eel Turtle is one of those roadside attractions that you just can’t miss.

I personally think the turtle shape of the artwork is quite clear, but there were people who often mistook it for a cricket, and that inspired George Gottbrecht to install a motor that would make the turtle bob its head up and down. But then kids started climbing up on its head, and the motor had to be removed, to avoid any accidents.

The best time to visit the W’eel Turtle, in Dunseith, is during the winter holidays, when its head is covered with a giant, red Santa Claus hat.

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The Famous Redwood Log House

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One of the most popular exhibits at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the famous Redwood Log House is made from the trunk of a single Redwood Tree.

Len Moore, the creator of this unusual house, got the idea to build the Redhouse Log House after he found shelter in the trunk of a burned down Redwood tree, during a storm. He decided to build his dream house out of the trunk of this giant tree, and spent months chiseling out the interior, and over a year to build it.

Building a house inside the trunk of a giant tree is impressive enough, but the mere fact that the tree was 1,900 years old makes it even more unbelievable. It once stood 247 feet high, and was 14 feet in diameter. Four log houses were built from the trunk of this Redwood tree, and the one owned by Ripley’s was the fourth cut from the tree, in 1938. It measures 33 feet in length and the 11,000 feet of lumber it contains, are enough to construct a five bedroom house.

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Ganvie – The Village Built on Stilts

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The village of Ganvie, in Benin, is the only human settlement in the world, built on stilts, in the middle of a lake, several kilometers from the nearest shore.

But people don’t just go ahead and build themselves a home, in the middle of a lake, they must have a serious reason. And the reason for the existence of Ganvie can be traced back to the 18th century, when a peaceful African tribe, the Tofinu, tired of running from the slaver tribe of Dom Homey, decided to build themselves a home, on Lake Nokoue.

The Dom Homey believed a terrible demon lived in the lake, and their ruthless warriors dared not set foot in its waters. The Tofinu had finally found their peace. But fast forward to present day,and the people of Ganvie are still reluctant to go on solid ground, although the threat of slavery is only a distant memory. They’ve ground accustomed to living on the water, and wouldn’t abandon their unique lifestyle, for anything.

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Wat Phai Rong Wua – Thai Hell on Earth

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Wat Phai Rong Wua has to be one of the most bizarre tourist attractions on the face of the Earth. Featuring scenes of torture, performed by devilish creatures, this Buddhist temple complex is what Thais expect hell to be like.

Mostly unkown to the Western world, Wat Phai Rong Wua is a popular destination for Buddhists, who flock here every year. Known as the location of the largest metal-cast Buddha figure in the world, and of the Palace of a Hundred Spires, Wat Phai Rong Wua also houses dozens of sculptures of people being tortured by demons and various monsters. Some are poked in the face with a tridents, while others suffer, with their insides hanging out, in the jaws of giant monsters. There’s blood everywhere and loudspeakers around the complex describe the tortures these sinners have to undergo.

Wat Phai Rong Wua doesn’t strike you as the kind of place you’d want to take your children, on a family vacation, but Thais from all over the country travel here, with their kids, to show them what can happen if they don’t say their prayers, or do bad deeds. Seems pretty weird, doesn’t it? I guess that’s why you hardly see any westerners around this place.

Photos via maleangpo

 


The Amazing Snake Temple of Penang

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Probably the only one of its kind, in the world, the Snake Temple, in Penang, Malaysia, is home to bothe people and some of the most dangerous snakes on Earth.

Located at Sungai Kluang, on Penang Island, the Snake Temple is also known as Temple of the Azure Cloud or Pure cloud Temple, in honor of Penang’s beautiful skies. It’s a safe haven for pit vipers, said to be servants of Chor Soo Kong, the resident deity of the temple. According to legend, Chor Soo Kong, who was a Chinese monk and healer, once offered shelter to the snakes of the jungle, who then started coming in of their own free will.

Thousands of devotees travel to the Snake Temple of Penang, every year, and they aren’t bothered by the dozens of venomous snakes coiled around the temple. Some say it’s the work of Chor Soo Kong, while others believe pit vipers, known as one of the most aggressive snake species, are made drowsy by the smoke of the incense burning in the temple.

Unfortunately, the snake population of the Penang Snake Temple has decreased constantly, due to the urbanization of the area. If you’re brave enough to enter, you should know there’s no admission fee.

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Jallikattu – India’s Answer to Spanish Bullfighting

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In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, people don’t need red capes and sharp swords to tame bulls, they do it with their bare hands, in a sport called Jallikkattu.

The ancient sport of Jallikattu pits crowds of brave young men against angry bulls who will tear anyone apart, if they get in the way. The name of the sport comes from the words “salli”, which translates as “coin”, and “kadu”, which means tying the coin to the horns of the raging bull. The goal of Jallikattu players is to tame the bull long enough to claim the prize.

But that’s is a lot harder than it sounds, especially since the bulls used for Jallikattu are extremely aggressive, and the players aren’t allowed to defend themselves with anything else but their bare hands. The bravest of the young men will try to grab the hump of the bull, and hang on, while the beast will most often grab him with its long horns and plunge him into the ground.

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Karube Shrine – Where the Japanese Go to Worship Breasts

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A shrine dedicated to women’s breasts may sound amusing to us foreigners, but for the Japanese, this is a truly sacred place.

Located in Soja City, in Japan’s Okayama Prefecture, Karube Shrine is dedicated to Chichigamisama, the Goddess of Breasts. She is believed to help with safe child births, the production of breast milk, and even curing breast cancer. Built in 1678, the shrine became famous due to a now dead weeping cherry tree, that grew nearby.

Most women come to Karube Shrine to pray for a safe child birth, abundant lactation and breast cancer healing, but there are those who ask the Goddess of Breasts for a bigger bust. Those boob-like things that decorate the shrine’s interior are Ema, small wooden planks, where worshipers write their prayers and requests, in the hope that the god receive them. They cost about $21, and can be ordered online, if you’re interested.

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Queen Elizabeth – Japan’s Most Famous Love Hotel

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Love hotels are part of Japan’s tradition, and the Queen Elizabeth is regarded as the most popular of them all. It’s not because of the great service, but more because of its wacky design.

Shaped like the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, this weird-looking hotel is located in Kanagawa, not far from Tokyo. Apparently the rooms also have a naval theme, so guests feel more like they’re doing it on a real ship.

One of the funniest things about the recently reconditioned Queen Elizabeth Love Hotel is that it features statues of Jake and Rose, from James Cameron’s Titanic, doing the flying pose, on the ship’s bow. I fail to see the connection, but I guess a boat’s a boat, and…well whatever attracts more customers, right?

Photo source: TokyoTimes

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Bunny Museum – The Hoppiest Place on Earth

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Featuring over 26,000 bunny-inspired items, the Bunny Museum of Pasadena, California, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest bunny collection.

It all began when she called him honey-bunny, and he gave her a stuffed bunny, for Valentine’s Day. Steve Lubanski and Candace Frazee, met in 1992, at a singles seminar, and both discovered their love for bunnies. At first, each gave the other bunny gifts, on holidays, then, every day, and even several times a day. At their wedding reception, in 1994, Steve showed up in a bunny costume, they both did the bunny hop, and ate carrot cake.

In just a few years, the couple already had an impressive collection of bunny memorabilia, so, in 1998, they officially opened the Bunny Museum, right in the house they live in. It was included in the Guinness Book of Records, as the world’s biggest collection of bunnies, in 1999, when it only numbered 8,437 items.

But the collection kept growing, and the Bunny Museum now features over 26,000 bunny-inspired things, from stuffed toys, to wind chimes, phones and pretty much anything you can imagine. Since Steve and Candice actually live in the Bunny Museum, admission is free, but by appointment only. So far the cute museum has been visited by 16,000 people.

If you decide to visit, make sure you don’t call the bunnies “rabbits”, Candice doesn’t like that very much.

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