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Japan’s Ice Hotel

Japan opens ice hotel, tourists rush to book rooms.

Following the model of norththern-European countries like Sweden, Japan opened an ice hotel in Alpha Resort Tomamu’s ice village, on Hokkaido Island. The living-rooms, bath-rooms and bed-rooms are all made out of ice, and it costs two people 80,000 yen ($696) to spend the night.

Dinner is served on an ice plate while drinks come in ice glasses, so you have to sip them quickly, before they freeze.

Japan’s ice hotel is not for everyone of course, if you can’t handle the cold, you better not pack your bags just yet. Guests sleep dressed appropriately , in layers and thick winter jackets. If you think you can handle freezing cold, the hotel closes on February 15, so hurry up.

The ice hotel of Hokkaido looks good but it still doesn’t come close to Sweden’s ice hotel.

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Photo credits: Xinhua/Reuters

Neuburg Ice Swimming 2009

The traditional Neuburg Ice Swimming event is considered the biggest swimming event in Europe.

This year over 2,000 brave swimmers from all over Germany gathered in Neuburg an der Donau for the 40th anniversary of the event. Neuburg Ice Swimming 2009 took place on January 31. Europe’s biggest swimming extravaganza featured swimmers desguised as sea-gods, frogs, clowns and other crazy things, and funny messages referring to new US President Barack Obama and the international financial crysis.

As you can see from the photos, Neuburg an der Donau hosted quite a fun event this year.Seems like a breeze compared to the ice swimming in Russia

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Photo credits: Johannes Simon (Getty Images)

World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain

The chocolate fountain at the Bellagio, in Las Vegas is simply delicious.

Rising 27 feet above ground, and touching the ceiling, the chocolate funtain in Jean Philippe Patisserie displays a spectacular series of small chocolate waterfalls, filled with white, dark and milk chocolate.

Over 2,100 punds of tasty melted chocolate circulate through this wonder of engineering, at a rate of 120 quats per minute. Designed by award-winning pastry cheff Jean Philippe Maury, the chocolate fountain of the Bellagio took a year and a half in planning and design alone.

Sadly the whole fountain is enclosed by a glass wall, so no, you can’t dip your finger in it for a taste. Maury says the glass maximizes the color of the three types of flowing chocolate.

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Grafitti-Covered Kelburn Castle

One of the oldest castles in Scotland, Kelburn is now also one of the most modern.

Kelburn castle was built in the 13th century, remodelled in the 16th century, and opened to the public, as a country park, in 1977. It’s one of many beautiful castles in Britain, but Kelburn stands out through its bizarre, grafitti-covered exterior. In 2007, after experts told him the outer facing would have to be replaced in order to prevent further damage to the castle walls, the Earl of Scotland invited grafitti artists to prove their skills on the walls.

The grafitti-painted walls of Kelburn Castle will be reconditioned in 2009 at the earliest, so you still have time to admire one of the most unusual-looking medieval castles in the world.

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Photos via Hohota.net

El Caminito del Rey

Often shortened to El Camino del Rey, this dangerous walkway has claimed many lives in recent years.

El Caminito del Rey was built in 1901 as a connection between the power plants of Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls. It took four years to finish and in 1905 Alfonso XIII, King of Spain, crossed the walkway for the inauguration, thus giving it its name, The King’s Walkway.

Built along the steep walls of a narrow gorge, in the Malaga region, El Caminito del Rey has deteriorated severely in the last years and after four people died crossing it, in 1999 and 2000, the authorities decided to close it off to tourists. It’s only 1 meter wide and it stands 300 meters above the river floating in the area. Onlly a small part of the walkway has handrails and much of the concrete  walkway has collapsed, leaving only the steel beam that originally held it up.

Despite the efforts to keep tourists away from El Caminito del Rey, many still sneak past security in search of adrenalin-induced thrills. In 2006, the regional government of Andalusia approved a restoration plan of 7 million euro.

Watch video at the bottom

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Sleeping in a Barrel

Sleeping in a wine-barrel without getting drunk is bvery possible at a lovely, little hotel in the Netherlands.

De Vrouwe van Stavoren is probably the only hotel in the world that offers accomodation in real wine barrels. They are indeed genuine 15,000 liters Swiss wine barrels converted into small luxury rooms. Every room is equipped with a television-set, radio, shower and toilet, so you pretty much have everything you need.

The one thing that might bother you, if you’re not a wine enthusiast, is the smell of wine that the barrels still maintain. All in all the Barrel Hotel, in Stavoren, northern Netherlands, makes for a very pleasurable experience.

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The Jumbo Jet Hostel

Starting this January, the Arlanda Airport, in Stockholm, Sweden, has become home to the world’s first plane-hotel.

The idea of creating a hotel in an old 747 jumbo-jet belongs to Oscar Dios, a 36-years-old businessman that hopes the outrageous location will draw in lots of clients. The plane had been abandoned for six years, after flying for Singapore Airlines, PanAm and the Swedish leasing company Transjet, ever since 1976.

Since it was taking up a lot of space, something had to be done about it, so Dios’ idea was accepted immediately. The Jumbo Hostel can accomodate 74 people, at the moment, in 25 simple, 70’s style rooms. The jet’s upper deck has been transformed into a conference hall, while the cockpit has been converted into a wedding chappel.

The Jumbo Hostel already has 200 reservations.

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The Salt Hotel of Bolivia

Built on the vast salt desert of Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia, the Salt Hotel has become a popular tourist attraction.

The Salt Hotel of Salar de Uyuni is sort of similar to the Ice Hotel of Sweden, only it’s never in any danger of melting. The Salt Hotel is built out of salt blocks carved from the white, salty lake surrounding it. The only things that aren’t made of salt are the tin roof covered by straw, the pool table, the lighting devices and, of course, the toilets.

The Salt Hotel was first inhabited by the salt-miners of Salar de Uyuni, but now it has been reconditioned as a tourist attraction and a salt pool has been built.

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Creepy Carnival in Macedonia

Macedonians love their Vevchanski Carnival but most would find it a bit sickening

More than 1,400 years old, the Vevchanski Carnival held in the Macedonian village of Vevchani, blends pagan and contemporary traditions, drawing huge crowds every year. The entire village becomes a giant theater and every street and household is a different scene where people dress-up and become actors.

The three traditional masks of the Vevchanski Carnival are the bride, the groom and August the fool, all the others are worn by groups of people openly mocking the events and personalities of every-day life. Judging by the photos, the people of the Vevchanski Carnival have a thing for blood and the grotesque.

The Vevchanski Carnival takes place every year on the 13 and 14 of January, leading up to the first day of the new year, judging by the old calendar.

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The Traffic Light Tree of London

The Sculpture imitates the natural landscape of the adjacent London Plane Trees, while the changing pattern of the lights reveals and reflect the never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activitiesThis  is how artist Pierre Vivant described his work of art, when he completed it in 1998.

The Traffic Light Tree can be found on the traffic control roundabout, at the junctions of Heron Quay Bank, Marsh Wall and Wesferry Road.

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Fly-by Beach

Juliana Airport, in the Antilles, has one of the shortest airstrips in the world and, in order to land, planes have to descend down to 10-20 meters above the heads of relaxing tourists on Maho beach. The landing strip is just over 2,000 meters-long, barely enough for large jets to complete their landings.

At the moment the only company flying weekly to Juliana Airport is Corsairfly. Iknow it looks pretty scary and dangerous but so far no incidents have been reported. Maybe just some bleeding ears every once in a while from the sound of the engines.

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Photo Credits

The Floating Chrismas Tree of Rio de Janeiro

A floating Christmas Tree has been set up in Rio de Janeiro every Christmas for the last 12 years. This year the Brazilian city held the record for the highest floating Christmas Tree, over 85 meters long and 530 tons heavy. It was built on a metal structure, filled with bright lights and fireworks and set to float on Lake Lagoa. On Christmas people could witness an impressive display of fireworks from the tree.

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Harbin Ice Sculpture Festival 2008

The artists that gather every year, in the Chinese city of Harbin, to create icy masterpieces, have really outdone themselves in 2008. For the 25th edition of the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpting Festival, over 2,000 ice sculputures were revealed to the audience, spread-out over a surface of over 400 square meters.

Over 140 thousand cubic meters of ice and over 100 cubic meters of snow were used to create the freezing works of art.

Lalibela

 If you’re planning to travel to Africa, you might consider visiting the Ethiopian city of Lalibela, where you can find the only rock-hewn monolithic churches in the world. Built between the 12th and 13th century, the town of Lalibela was meant to be the new Jerusalem, after the Holy City fell to the Muslims, in 1181.

The 13 churches are either carved in vertical cliffs, in natural caves or right into the ground and separated by trenches. They were all hand-carved by the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and the technical details are studying material even for modern architects. The churches of Lalibela are all connected through tunnels and the trench system transports the water to the nearby River Jordan. Anyone who knows the heavy rains that fall in Ethiopia, can appreciate this evacuation system.

All the religious structures of Lalibela are named after buildings in Jerusalem.

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Hunterville Huntaway Festival

Hunterville is a village in New Zealand, established in 1884 by George Hunter and that according to the 2006 Census has a population of only 440. But that doesn’t stop it from gathering huge crowds from all over the island for the unique Huntaway Festival.

The Huntaway is a fun festival featuring contests like the Dog Braking Contest, pig yarding, speed shearing and the main attraction, The Shemozzle. This a special obstacle race for men or women  and their dogs, across steep hills, slipery slopes and disgusting food-stops that include sheep eyes, worms, bugs and raw meat, just to name a few.The obstacles of the Shemozzle are evealed to the contestants only 3 minutes before the race so no one can say they are really prepared.

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