The Hauntingly Beautiful Blue Pond of Hokkaido

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If you happen to have a Mac that runs on OSX Mountain Lion, then these images are probably familiar to you. The aptly named ‘Blue Pond’ reflects such a pristine blue color off its waters, that you just can’t take your eyes off it. The pond, located on the left bank of River Bieigawa near the town of Biei in Hokkaido Island, Japan, wasn’t very well known until recently, when the computer giant decided to make it a part of their latest operating system.

Interestingly, the Blue Pond is not a natural formation. The artificial pond was created when a dam was built to protect the area from mud flows due to its proximity to a volcano on Mt. Tokachi. When the volcano erupted in December 1988, local officials decided to construct the dam upstream along the river. All the water blocked by this dam gets collected in a depression in the forest, creating the pond.

It’s not just the striking blue that sets the pond apart, but also the barren tree stumps that protrude from the surface of the water. Also, the color of the pond hardly remains constant. It keeps varying based on the season, and the viewing angle. In a certain light and angle, the electric blue pond appears to be a lovely green instead. This unusual phenomenon has no real scientific explanation. Some theories attribute it to a high concentration of aluminum hydroxide in the water. The naturally occurring mineral is known to reflect the shorter wavelength blue light, just like the earth’s atmosphere does. Of course, the water itself is colorless.

Blue-Pond-in-Hokkaido

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No Grownups Allowed at Japan’s Children-Only Magical Sweets Shop

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Most teenagers can’t wait until they’re 21 so they can have a legal ID, but here’s one shop in Japan that will make them want to stay young forever – an ID proving that they’re a sixth grader or younger. Because that’s how young you’ve got to be to enter Japan’s Future Sweets Factory – a magical place filled with all things sweet and delicious. Kids get to enter the factory alone, leaving their parents behind in the lobby area.

Future Sweets Factory is located on the premises of the hugely popular Patisserie es Koyama (famous for its special roll cake), in Sanda City, Hyogo Prefecture. The entrance to the factory is through a large, colorful egg-shaped dome. Beyond the dome lies a waiting hall where children bid goodbye to their parents for a few hours. The kids proceed through a special kid-sized door to where all the magic happens, just like in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!

Inside the factory, away from their parents’ watchful eyes, kids are treated to samples of freshly made sweets. True to its name, at the Future Sweets Factory kids get to sample all kinds of sweets that are yet to hit the market. They also get to watch the chefs bake three special surprise sweets that cost only 150 yen each. The factory is decorated to suit the kids’ tastes – with cartoon characters and robots.

Japanese-sweets-shop

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You Can Win $1 Million Playing on the World’s Most Extreme Golf Course, But You’ll Need a Helicopter

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The Legend Golf and Safari Resort is truly, well, legendary. The one-of-a-kind golf course is located in South Africa’s north-eastern Limpopo Province, nestled within the 22,000 hectare Entabeni Game Reserve. It is the longest par 72 golf course in the world, and of course safe from all the wildlife. It is also the only one with all 19 holes individually designed by golf legends like Trevor Immelman, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, among others. There’s a tribute course too, made up of perfect replicas of nine of the best par 3’s in the world.

But the thing that makes Legend Golf and Safari Resort really special is the hole that everyone comes to play – the Xtreme 19th. It is believed to be the longest, highest and most dramatic par 3 in the world. The hole itself is 587 meters away from the tee-off box and if you manage to hit a hole-in-one, you are guaranteed a special price of US $1 million. But, truth be told, you’d probably have a better chance of winning the lottery.

To get a shot at the prize money, you first need to take a helicopter ride to the tee box, which is high up a cliff on Hanlip Mountain. Standing up there could make you feel like you really are at the edge of South Africa. The tee box is 430 meters above the green (shaped like the African continent), providing a breathtaking panoramic background and plenty of leverage as well. As soon as you reach the high ground, you are handed six balls equipped with tracking devices and then you are welcome to try your luck.

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Kids Get a Taste of the Tough Life at Hungarian Military Summer Camp

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Summer camp in the town of Mogyoród, Hungary plays out slightly differently than what most kids are used to in other parts of the world. Hundreds of children between the ages of 11 and 22 gather at the camp each year, to experience the tough military life for a week. These kids are actually attracted to the military way of life and volunteer to sign up for the camp. It’s not surprising, actually, given the fact that militarism is dominant in Hungarian society.

At the Military Traditional Association, the kids live in tents, receive military training from experienced, active soldiers and learn all about the Order and the Homeland. They stay up all night on guard duty, learn how to fire AK-47s (with blanks, of course) and are put through stimulation tear gas attacks. Intense physical exercise, educational behaviorism and screamed orders is what the week is all about.

Zsolt Horvath, head of the military summer camp, said: “We give them real military training at a basic level. They have endurance tests, running sessions in the morning, fitness exercises. Throughout the day they listen to trainers from various army units who teach them exercises.” Discipline is paramount at the camp – any misbehavior is punishable with push-ups. Both practical and theoretical training are imparted, hoping to groom future members of the Hungarian army.

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The Ringing Rocks of Pennsylvania – A Famous Geological Oddity

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If you strike a rock, you’d expect to hear a dull ‘thud’. Or maybe a ‘chink’. Definitely not a ringing sound. So you’d be surprised to know that ringing rocks actually do exist. Nestled in the midst of the 128-acre Ringing Rocks County Park in Pennsylvania, is a field of unique boulders. Spread out across seven to eight acres, the boulders produce a distinctive metallic ‘clang’ when struck with a hammer or another piece of rock. Native Americans have known about the rocks for centuries, and passed on their knowledge to the first White settlers in the mid-1700s.

The sound produced by the rocks is so unexpected that it could get you wondering if they are really made of stone. They actually sound hollow and metallic. The strange phenomenon has baffled scientists and geologists for years. Several experiments have been conducted on the ringing rocks, but the exact reason for the unusual sound remains unknown.

Richard Faas, a geologist from Pennsylvania, tested a few of the rocks in his lab in 1965. He discovered that when struck, each individual rock produced low frequency tones that aren’t audible to the human ear. The tones from multiple rocks interact with each other and it’s the collective sound that we get to hear.

ringing-rocks

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America’s Most Artistic Parking Garage

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The city of Detroit is home to the most artistic, most magnificent car park in America. The opulent structure that was once known as Michigan Theater is now being used as a three-level parking garage. And here’s the irony of the situation – one of the reasons the theater had closed down was insufficient parking space!

In fact, you could safely say that the car park has come a full circle. Before the theater had opened at the site, it used to contain Henry Ford’s first automobile workshop. That was torn down in 1926 and the theater was constructed with a massive budget of $5 million. Michigan Theater was one of the largest in the state – it could accommodate 4,000 people.

The premises was a multiplex of sorts – it served as a theater, concert hall and movie house. The French Renaissance décor included 10-foot tall chandeliers, a gilded four-story lobby, and mezzanine seating for black tie guests. The structure, covering 1,000 sq. ft., was an architectural marvel and a symbol of Detroit’s growing wealth.

Michigan-Theater-parking-garage

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Cambodia’s Rickety Bamboo Trains

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Although Cambodia has a fine network of railway tracks dating back to the French colonial days, there are hardly any trains running these days. Real trains, that is. The locals get by perfectly well with their own indigenous invention – bamboo trains.

The Cambodian railway system never really recovered from the horrors of war and the Khmer Rouge genocide that happened decades ago. They have just one proper train line in service and the rest of the tracks were covered for years by homemade trains called ‘norrys’. These weird contraptions aren’t exactly what you’d call luxury transport. But they are cheap – about 50 cents a ride. And that suits the locals just fine.

Norrys are made of bamboo, wood and sometimes even parts of old tanks. The first one was built in the 1980s by 73-year-old Pat Oun, or so he claims. The earlier versions didn’t have any engines. Drivers just stood in the train and used long bamboo poles to propel the vehicle down the tracks. “I did this for 20 to 30 kilometers in the past,” said Pat, as he demonstrated the motion.

bamboo-trains-Cambodia

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Solvay Hut – The World’s Most Precariously Placed Mountain Hut

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The Solvay Hut may be quite humble in its construction, but the view it offers its residents is priceless. This tiny hut is perched right on the narrow north-eastern ridge of Matterhorn, in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland. It is the highest mountain hut in the region, at over 13,000 foot above ground level.

The emergency refuge is owned by the Swiss Alpine club, and is intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers, hikers and climbers. At about 1,500 foot below the summit and two-thirds up the mountain, it provides respite to many Matterhorn climbers and rewards them with the breathtaking view of all the Monte Rosa summits. It is only meant to be used during emergencies, but climbers do stop there to rest and click photographs.

The hut, which can accommodate about 10 people, is not a recent construction. It was actually built way back in 1915 and took only five days to complete. All the building materials were brought up to Hornli Hut, just 2,500 foot below, with the help of animals. A small temp cable car was used to haul up the materials from there. It was rebuilt in 1966 and an emergency telephone was installed in 1976.

Solvay-Hut

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The Creepy Moving Mannequins of One Mysterious New Hamburg House Will Probably Freak You Out

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The John Lawson House, located in the vicinity of the New Hamburg train station in New York, is a mystery in its own right. You couldn’t really say it’s haunted, but it has its own share of secrets that no one has managed to reveal. Yet.

Every day, the porch at the John Lawson House is occupied by life-sized female mannequins dressed in clothes from the last century. Their number, position and theme varies from day to day. But no one knows how they get there. No living person has ever been spotted at the house, which is one of six properties at Main Street Historic District.

Some believe that the dolls have a message to convey. They think the dolls are trying to gesture and point towards an unsolved riddle. Others say that the dolls’ mystery lies in the history of the house. In 1871, during a two-week cold wave, a train crashed just 200 feet from the house, instantly killing 22 people. It is believed that the dolls are always pointing towards that crash site.

John-Lawson-House-mannequins

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Surfing the Freezing Waters of Lake Superior in the Dead of Winter

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When you think of surfing, balmy beaches and warm summer days come to mind. But not for everyone. Take this one group of surfers from Minnesota who don’t seem to mind diving into the freezing waters of Lake Superior in the dead of winter for a little hardcore action.

This die-hard group of surfers have been spotted riding the waves of the Great Lakes, near Stony Point, during winter, literally emerging from the cold water with icicles hanging from their faces and thick wetsuits. The peak season for surfing at the lake is said to be between January and March and the surfers seem to love it even more if there’s a winter storm, because that means stronger waves. The wind’s long and powerful rush across the lake’s surface that powers the tide can create waves that can go up to 10 – 12 foot high. There have been times when the wave action has reached 30-foot on Lake Superior, during the throes of a raging storm.

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Pointing the Way: The Mysterious Giant Arrows Scattered Across America

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So what if there were no high-tech GPS devices in the 1920s? Back then the US Postal Service invented its own navigation system – giant concrete arrows that pointed the way to Air Mail pilots.

When America’s first Transcontinental Air Mail route opened in 1920, pilots faced difficulties in navigating the coast-to-coast route over the American Midwest. This was a time when radar and other modern flight planning implements were yet to be invented.

The very first pilots had to traverse the route relying on landmarks, which weren’t always visible during bad weather. So in 1923, Congress approved the construction of a network of beacons to make the route navigable in the rain or the dark.

These beacons consisted of massive concrete arrows, painted bright yellow, set into the land about 10 miles apart. The arrows were illuminated by 50-foot-towers with powerful rotating gas lights. Visible from a height of 10,000 meters, the arrows helped pilots find their way during the worst weather and at night. They were also located close to emergency airfields just in case airplanes needed to make an emergency landing.

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Mysterious Lightning Storm Occurs in Exactly the Same Place 160 Nights a Year, Lasts up to 10 Hours a Night

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The world’s greatest natural sound and light show occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, a 15 hour drive from Bogota, Columbia. For centuries, a storm unleashing over 40,000 bolts of lightning has ripped across the night sky at exactly the same spot over Lake Maracaibo. This has occurred repeatedly for as many as 160 nights a year, lasting up to 10 hours a night.

The people of northwestern Venezuela call the phenomenon ‘rib a-ba’, which means ‘river of fire in the sky’. It is also known as ‘Relámpago del Catatumbo’, the ‘everlasting storm’. It generates 1.2 million lightning strikes a year (the highest in the world), visible from almost 250 miles away. For centuries, the ‘Beacon of Maracaibo’ has guided sailors and fishermen at night. It is now a popular tourist attraction in the region.

Catatumbo-lightning

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Salton Sea Beach – A Graveyard Made Up of Millions of Fish Bones

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California’s largest lake is also its worst one. As you drive past it, you get to see pristine white beaches with blue waters, but if you climb out of your car and take a closer look (I wouldn’t recommend this), you suddenly realize how horribly depressing the place is.

The white sand is, in fact, not sand at all. It is actually just pulverized bones from the millions of fish that died here. The water is actually murky brown; the blue color is only a reflection of the desert sky. And you cannot possibly ignore the putrid stench – like a large fish market that only sells rotten fish.

The very existence of Salton Sea is an accident. It formed in 1905, when an irrigation canal from the Colorado River broke after heavy rainfall. The river burst through the banks of the canal and millions of gallons of water spilled over into a dried out lake bed in the California desert.

Salton-Sea-beach

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The Dark Hedges – Ireland’s Real-Life Fantasy Setting

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Along Bregagh Road, near the village of Armoy in Northern Ireland, lies a tranquil byroad called The Dark Hedges. For the past three centuries, a stretch of Beech trees have been guarding either side of this road. They have reached up and intertwined with each other, creating an ethereal tunnel of trees with shadow and light playing through the entwined branches. The effect is nothing short of spectacular.

The trees were planted in the 1750s by the Stuart family, on the grounds of Gracehill House, James Stuart’s Gregorian mansion. They wanted to create a compelling landscape to impress visitors who approached the entrance to the mansion. Needless to say, the Stuarts managed to achieve the desired effect. Even today, the Dark Hedges attracts locals and tourists alike.

Up until fifteen years ago, only locals knew about the Dark Hedges. In 1998, Northern Ireland’s national tourist board began to use the setting to promote tourism. Visitors have been pouring in ever since. It is one of the most photographed places in the world, and has become a desktop wallpaper cliché. Several scenes of the hit series ‘Game of Thrones’ have been filmed here and it is also a popular location for wedding photography.

The Dark Hedges

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Dutch Town Has Street Names Inspired by Lord of the Rings

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Geldrop is a small town in the southern part of The Netherlands, with a population of 28,000. Not much information on this place is available online, but it seems like a perfectly ordinary Dutch town. But there is something special about it (apart from the fact that ‘Geldrop’ sounds like some kind of candy).

The names of all the streets in one of the neighborhoods of Geldrop are actually taken out of J.R.R Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. We have absolutely no idea why, or whose genius idea it was, but it’s one of the few places in the world with such bizarre street names. I’d understand if it were just one or two streets, but the entire neighborhood consists of Lord of the Rings references.

At the heart of the city is Laan von Tolkien (Tolkien Avenue). Then the streets branch out into names of hobbits, elves, dwarves and even a few ents (the talking trees). If you want to see for yourself, go to Google Maps and search for Geldrop. Or, you could just follow this link.

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