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Monsanto – A Portuguese Town Built between Giant Boulders

The charming town of Monsanto, an ancient settlement perched on the side of a mountain in the Portuguese countryside, boasts some of the most incredible sights on Earth. Featuring tiny streets carved from rock and granite houses squeezed between giant boulders, it looks like a real life Bedrock.

In 1938, Monsanto was named ‘the most Portuguese town in Portugal’ which seems strange, considering most buildings in Portugal aren’t sandwiched between two boulders, or have massive rocks hanging above them, but its awarded standing of open air museum, has allowed it to keep its outwardly appearance throughout the years. Due to building restrictions in the area, Monsanto’s appearance hasn’t changed in centuries and has managed to retain its original charm.

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Britain’s Mysterious Coin-Covered Wishing Trees

Sticking hundreds of small denomination coins into tree trunks is apparently a popular way of getting rid of illnesses.

At least that’s what the staff at a holiday attraction in Gwynedd discovered after investigating the story behind several coin-covered tree trunks in the vicinity of Italianate village Portmeirion. The first tree was cut down four years ago, in order to widen the path to the picturesque settlement founded in 1925, and within only a few months it was covered with 2p coins. Now there are seven such tree trunks in the area, so estate manager Meurig Jones started an investigation to uncover the origins of this unusual habit.

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Computerspielemuseum – Berlin’s Computer Game Museum

If you thought the Video Card Museum of Kharkov was a geek paradise, than the Video Game Museum in Berlin is really gonna blow your mind. It features vintage hardware, interactive installations, and over 300 video games, including the first ever arcade game, Computer Space, released in 1971, which by the way was a total commercial failure.

The Video Game Museum was first opened for a brief period at the end of the 1990s, but was eventually closed down in 2000. The new museum opened in January 2011 and is located in an east Berlin building formerly occupied by Cafe Warsaw. The exhibits in this geeky museum aim to document all the aspects of video games, including graphics, hardware, music, storylines, etc, since 1951 to current day. Apart from tracking the evolution of video games, the museum also explores the effects gaming has had on modern society, from positive ones like social networking to negative, like addiction and video-game-inspired violence.

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Japan’s First Reptile Cafe Opens in Yokohama

The Subtropical Teahouse, a “reptile cafe” offering customers the chance to observe and pet dozens of species of reptiles, has recently opened in Yokohama, Japan.

The Land of the Rising Sun is notorious for a variety of wacky venues, like the relaxing cat cafes, or the Vampire Cafe in Ginza, but it didn’t have a reptile-themed one. Since a few days ago that’s no longer a problem, as the country’s first reptile cafe opened its doors in Yokohama’s Naka Ward. ”I wanted to create a venue for those reptile fans hiding in the closet to get together and freely talk about the charms of the creatures they love,” Mutsumi Nagano, the cafe’s 42-year-old manager said about his idea.

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World’s First Pig Fat Museum Opens in Ukraine

Pig fat is considered a tasty treat in central and eastern European countries like Belarus, Russia or the Czech Republic, and the Ukraine has even opened a museum dedicated to it.

Known as salo in the Ukraine, this traditional food is often translated as ‘lard’ or ‘bacon’ in English, but there are some subtle differences between the three. Unlike lard, salo isn’t rendered, and unlike bacon, it contains little or no meat. Just like Coca Cola in America, the wurst in Germany, Ramen in Japan or oatmeal in England, salo is a big part of Ukrainian culture, so it’s only natural they honor it with its own museum. Located on Svobodi Avenue, in Lviv, the Salo Museum features all kinds of exhibits dedicated to the greasy delicacy.

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Summer Night Horror – Japan’s Creepy Yokai Monster Train

The Yokai Train is a somewhat scary summer attraction in Kyoto, Japan. One of the electrical trains is boarded by creepy monsters that try to scare children out of their wits.

If you were looking for a way to scare a spoiled brat into submission, look no further that the monster train of Kyoto, an eerie attraction where yokai (Japanese monsters) become real. For kids at least, because any grown-up can tell they’re actually actors wearing white kimonos and scary masks. The custom was introduced by the Keifuku Electric Railroad company, in 2007, and was so popular that it became an eagerly awaited yearly tradition.

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Real-Life Hobbit Shire Exists in the Hillsides of Montana

The Hobbit House of Monatana, located in a man-made shire built by LOTR enthusiast Steve Michaels and his wife Christine, is a must-see attraction for any self-respecting Tolkien fan.

This isn’t the first time someone builds a real-life hobbit house, but this particular house situated in the hillsides of northwest Montana is actually a tourist guesthouse available for only $245 a night. So if you’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to live as a hobbit, now’s your chance. But unlike the simple homes featured in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, the Hobbit House of Montana comes with a modern king-size bedroom, designer kitchen with customized granite counters, HD Blu-Ray television set, XM Radio, three phones and WiFi. The LOTR theme, however, is everywhere, from the little rock handles on the drawers, to the Gandalf stained glass doors, or The One Ring dangling from the loft.

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China Converts Aircraft Carrier into Luxury Hotel

Just days after the Varyag, China’s first aircraft carrier was taken out for sea trials, a second carrier, the Kiev is stirring up interest as the first aircraft carrier hotel in China.

The Kiev, a retired former Soviet aircraft carrier was sold to a Chinese company back in 1996, and was used as part of a military theme park in the Tianjin Province, since 2004. But since the acquisition of a working carrier, the Varyag, people have begun looking at these mighty ships as symbols of their country’s military might, so the owners of the Binhai Aircraft Park decided to cash in on their interest. They spent over $15,5 million restoring the old attraction and converting it into a luxury hotel.

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French Town Inaugurates Bubble Hotel Rooms in Local Park

The French town of Roubaix, has recently opened a series of portable hotel rooms in a local park. They can be rented by people who want to feel close to nature in the middle of the urban jungle.

The bubble concept thought up by French designer Pierre Stephane Dumas aims to redefine the term temporary leisure accommodation, and is based on the following principles: minimum energy, minimum material, maximum comfort and maximum interaction with the environment. The unusual bubble rooms were launched in 2010 and have since then been made available to people who want to enjoy a unique experience in the middle of nature, for around $700 a night.

In the French city of Roubaix, a series of bubble hotel rooms have been installed in one of the local parks. They come with a clear view of the sky and offer nature lovers to be close to their environment without having to travel to far away. The bubbles are made of recycled plastic and, once inflated retain their shape thanks to an airlock at the entrance and a silent pump which creates constant pressure. Outside noises are reduced to a minimum while inside noises are maximized, so the visitors are encouraged to whisper to each other, in order to create a peaceful atmosphere.

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Video Card Museum Opens in Kharkov, Ukraine

It all started with a small private exhibition, but now the Video Card Museum in Kharkov is open to the public, and growing larger every day, thanks to donations made by video card enthusiasts.

I stumbled across some photos of this museum while searching for writing material on an obscure Russian site, and after doing some research with the help of Google Translate, I found out this is a relatively new attraction in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov. Alexander, or SArd, as he’s known online, tells the story of how he came up with the idea for a video card museum, on Habrabar.ru. It all started in 1998, when his uncle gave him his first computer powered by a an Intel Celeron 266 processor and an S3 ViRGE DX c video card with 2 MB of memory. At the time, he thought 2 extra megabytes would solve all his problems and he would be able to play the coolest video games, forever.

As the years went by he went through many generations of graphic cards, learning new things about them and yearning for the models he could never afford. His passion for them passed the test of time, and at the end of 2010 he already had a collection of 35 video cards, which, with the support of PCShop Group, he was able to display in a private exhibition. It wasn’t much but it was enough for the organizers to understand the potential of a video card museum. People flocked to the PCShop Group store asking questions about the exhibits and donating their own outdated models. When the exhibition was over, the collection had grown to 56 items.

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Taiwan’s Funeral Strippers Dance for the Dead

Ok, what’s the last thing you’d expect to see at a funeral? So maybe stripper isn’t the first thing that pops into your head, but you have to admit it’s pretty darn strange. Apparently, in Taiwan, bringing a stripper to the funeral is an important part of the grieving process.

Taiwan’s funeral strippers would have probably remained a mystery to the western world, if not for the efforts of anthropologist Mark L. Moskowitz, who wanted to show US audiences what real culture is. His 40-minute documentary, Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan, sheds light on the bizarre practice through interviews with strippers, government officials and common folk.

Funeral strippers are apparently a pretty big part of Taiwanese culture, especially in rural areas. Up to the mid 1980s, this kind of raunchy performances took place all over the island, even in the capital city of Taipei, but after authorities passed laws against it, it disappeared from urban settlements and moved to the country. The laws aren’t as easy to enforce there and people seem to enjoy going to a funeral knowing they’ll get some adult entertainment. Strippers usually arrive on the back of diesel trucks known as Electric Flower Cars, and perform in front of the dead and his mourners. The scantly-dressed girls do pole dancing, sing, and some even come down  from their stage to interact with the audience (sit on their laps, give lap dances, shove their heads into their breasts, etc.).

According to Nury Vittachi, funeral stripping was born around 25 years ago, when the Taiwanese mafia who ran the country’s nightclub scene, took over an important part of the country’s mortuary business. At one point, the mafia bosses decided to somehow combine the two businesses and increase their incomes. From then on, anyone who booked a funeral through one of their parlors also got a stripper at discount price. At first, people were a bit confused, but after they were told this would attract more mourners to the funeral, thus honoring the dead even more, they were sold.

While Moskowitz didn’t see complete nudity while filming his documentary, he claims all the people he spoke with had seen Electric Flower Car girls perform in the nude. He suspects the girls didn’t want to do it in front of the camera because they were afraid they would get in trouble with the law. And for good reason, since funeral stripping is heavily criticized by those in power. Still he did see girl dressed in very short skirts, revealing tops and bikinis performing in rural Taiwan, for modest fees.

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CosquilleArte – The World’s First Tickle Spa Opens in Spain

Relaxing is probably one of the last words people use to describe tickling, but at the CosquilleArte Spa, in Madrid, Spain, they actually use delicate tickling techniques to relieve clients’ stress.

I’ve seen some pretty bizarre spas since I began writing for OC, from resorts treating guests to wine, tea and sake baths, to clinics that use crude oil as treatment, but I never imagined someone would get the outrageous idea of using tickling as a stress-relieving therapy. But what I found even more ridiculous was that the idea actually worked and CosquilleArte has become one of the most popular spa venues in the Spanish capital. It wasn’t until later, when I learned the tickling methods have nothing to do with the terrible torture we all had to face from childhood friends, that this unusual form of therapy started to make sense.

Instead of jabbing their fingers into clients’ sides and armpits, like I’m sure you and your friends/siblings used to torment each other, the massage therapists at CosquilleArte gently trace their fingertips and soft feathers down their backs and other sensible areas, and adjust their touches according to how ticklish every person is. Although most first time customers clench when they’re touched, they leave the wacky establishment a lot more relaxed than when they came in.

Photo by CosquilleArte

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Entrepreneur Turns Atomic Reactor into Popular Amusement Park

Wunderland Kalkar is a unique amusement park built on the site of a never-used power plant, complete with a fast breeder reactor, in Kalkar, Germany.

Construction of the Kalkar nuclear plant began in 1972, but was constantly  delayed due to technical difficulties and protests from those concerned about the safety of nuclear power. When it was completed, over 10 year later, authorities decided to pull the plug on the project, and the $4 billion complex was dismantled in  less than a decade. The fast breeder reactor remained in place, and in 1995 Dutch entrepreneur Hennie van der Most bought what was left of the Kalkar plant for a mere €2.5 million and managed to turn it into a profitable amusement park visited by over 600,000 people, every year.

Wunderland Kalkar has around 40 rides, for children and adults alike, and a 400-bed hotel. Among the most interesting features of the park are the swing ride set up inside the cooling facility, and the climbing wall on its outer walls. Also, chairoplanes, quad bikes, go-karts and a whole bunch of other fun gadgets make trips to Wunderland Kalkar a blast for the whole family.

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Entire Village Painted Blue for Smurfs Movie Launch

The small village of Juzcar, in Spain’s Malaga region, has recently been painted blue as part of a global promotion for the Sony Pictures film “The Smurfs 3D”.

Juzcar is a peaceful, traditional “pueblo blanco” village, located in the Genel Valley region of Andalucia. It boasts a population of just 250, and yet Sony has selected it as the perfect location for the world premiere of its new film “The Smurfs 3D”. Locals were delighted, especially since the news meant their small village would become a temporary tourist attraction, but their fame and fortune came at a price: Sony requested that the entire settlement, including its historic church be painted blue, to resemble the smurfs’ fantasy village.

In preparation for the big premiere on June 16, 12 unemployed locals armed with various painting tools used 4,200 liters of paint to turn Juzcar into a real life Smurf village. There have been no complaints regarding the sudden transformation, and considering tourists have already begun arriving, the locals are more than happy with the change. Although Sony has agreed to turn the village to its former white glory, locals are now considering leaving the town as it is now, hoping Juzcar could become a permanent tourist spot. It sounds like Chefchaouen might have some serious competition.

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China Inaugurates Park Made Entirely Out of Clay

A unique cultural park made entirely out of clay has recently been open to the public, in Tangshan City, China.

Featuring rows of houses, busy streets filled with vendors and their carts, high ranking officials and horse-pulled carriages, the park is a reproduction of Zhang Zerui famous scroll painting Riverside Scene during the Qingming Festival. The man behind this unique project is a local from the city’s Fengrun District, named Qin Shiping. Tangshan has along standing tradition in ceramics, and Qin worked as a sculptor and painter ever since he was a young boy. In 2005, he got the idea to offer a unique view on China, and since he had always been a fan of Zhang Zherui’s painting, he decided to recreate the images depicted in the artwork with clay sculptures.

Qin Shiping put his idea into practice in 2008. He hired two clay sculpture experts with plenty of experience behind them, and 100 more regular clay workers who got started on the project. Three years later, the Tangshan clay sculpture park has finally been completed and opened to the general public. It’s 300 meters long and 60 meters wide and has been built at 2/3 life-size scale. The exact cost of the park hasn’t yet made public, but back in 2009, Qin Shiping stated he had already invested over 10 million yuan ($1,545,000).

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