Former Monk Has Spent the Last 50 Years Building a Giant Junk Cathedral in the Name of God

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Justo Gallego Martinez, an 86-year-old farmer from Spain, has spent the last 50 years of his life single-handedly building a large cathedral in a suburb of Madrid, without any architectural knowledge or construction experience.

Considering the sheer size of Justo Gallego’s junk cathedral, almost 40 meters (131 feet) tall, with its large dome and spires towering over nearby apartment buildings, it’s almost impossible to believe it’s the work of a single man. But it just goes to show how far people can stretch their limits in the name of a higher purpose. In Gallego’s case, it was his faith and love of God. His mother was very pious and he grew up with a deep Christian faith and an overwhelming desire to dedicate himself to the Creator. After working as a farmer and as a bullfighter, Don Justo, as everyone calls him, joined a Trappist monastery, where he spent eight years as a monk. He was forced to leave the monastery in 1961, after he contracted tuberculosis, but promised himself that if he survived the illness he would dedicate his life to building a  a chapel in the name of the Lady of The Pillar (the Blessed Virgin Marry), who he prayed to during the ordeal. His prayers were answered and he stayed true to his vow, laying the first brick of what would become a unique cathedral, almost 50 years ago.

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The Game of Gostra – Running Up a Greasy Wooden Pole in Malta

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Every year, on the afternoon of the last Sunday in August, brave young men from all over Malta compete in the traditional game of “gostra”, trying to run all the way to the top of a long greasy pole and snatch one of the three prizes.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the game of gostra was practiced all through the festive summer months, in various locations around the islands of Malta and Gozo. A wooden pole measuring about 10 meters long was mounted on a coal barge and towed to harbor towns and seaside villages around the Maltese coast, where it was smeared with grease and animal fat. Brave local men would try to run up the pole and reach one of the symbolic flags at the top in order to claim a prize. Today, the traditional game is only held in the towns of Msida and Spinola Bay, in honor of St. Joseph and St. Julian. The pole stretches out into the water, and only half of it is covered in grease, but in order to have a higher chance of reaching the flags before slipping off the slippery wood, most competitors prefer to run up the pole, hoping they can maintain their balance long enough to snatch one of the coveted prizes. This sometimes causes them to fall awkwardly hitting the log on their way down into the sea, and injure themselves.

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Man Builds 12,000 Square-Foot Castle in the Middle of a Florida Swamp

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When he moved from New York to Florida over 40 years ago, Howard Solomon took the saying “A man’s home is his castle” quite literally. The artist once known as “The DaVinci of Debris” spent a total of 12 years building a three-storey castle by hand, in the middle of a swamp.

Solomon began working on his unique castle in the 70′s, after he and his family moved to Ona, Florida. The original plan was to build a nice house on the piece of land he had bought in Hardee County, but after realizing the place was actually a big swamp, he decided to construct something high enough to resist any potential floods. He had always been fascinated with medieval castles and this proved to be the perfect opportunity to build his very own 16-century fortress, complete with a bell tower, moat and drawbridge. Howard worked on his architectural masterpiece on and off ever since 1972, and reckons he has spent over 12 years erecting the structure and covering it in aluminum plating, and an additional 4 years building a Spanish galleon in the castle moat. When he first started building his dream home, people thought he was mad, and wouldn’t even let their kids play with his, but over the last 40 years they’ve accepted him into the community, and Solomon’s Castle is now the most popular attraction in the area.

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Solo Per Due – World’s Smallest Restaurant Only Seats Two People at a Time

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If you’re searching for the most private restaurant dining experience possible, look no further than Solo Per Due, a small ristorante in Vacone, Italy, that only features one table and two chairs.

Aptly named “Solo Per Due”, Italian for “just for two”, the world’s smallest restaurant only accepts two people at a time. This unique feature makes the Italian restaurant a popular destination for tourists from all over the world, but especially for lovers. There are no queues, no turns and no waiting, but booking this place for a romantic dinner, especially on holidays like Valentine’s Day can be a real challenge. Only around 1,500 people get a chance to enjoy the unparalleled privacy Solo Per Due has to offer, and it’s this exclusivity that best explains the set price of €250 ($335) per person (not including wine and champagne). The idea behind this unique eatery is that guests enjoy true intimacy and get the full attention of the cooking and waiting staff, which guarantees an extra special dining experience.

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Indonesian Villagers Beat Each Other with Rattan Brooms in the Name of Brotherhood and Friendship

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Every year, a week after the end of Ramadan, the Indonesian villages of Morella and Mamala hold Pukul Sapu, a unique ritual that has men from the two villages beating each other across their bare backs with rattan broomsticks.

There’s nothing like a good beating to strengthen the bond between members of a community, at according to the people of Morella and Mamala, two villages in the Maluku province of Indonesia. Seven days after the end of Ramadan, the local young men take part in Pukul Sapu, an ancient ritual that translates as “Beating Brooms”. A fitting name, considering it involves participants hitting each other with strips of rattan across their backs until they are all covered in bloody scars. Before the actual beating begins, the men gather to receive the prayers of the village elders which are supposed to provide protection from serious injury during the proceedings. Wearing only short pants and headbands, the brave men enter the arena and split into two groups, facing each other. They then take turns in hitting each other across the back and chest with hard rattan brooms, with the one taking the beating lifting his arms into the air to proudly display his bloody wounds. This is not a mock battle, and the traces left by each lash is more than enough proof, yet the participants take the beating without so much as a flinch or cry of pain.

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Scala di Santa Maria del Monte – Probably the World’s Most Beautifully Decorated Staircase

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Located in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, La Scala di Santa Maria del Monte is an old 142-step staircase, each of which are decorated with a different ceramic pattern. It’s a wonder to behold, but during the Spring and Summer seasons it becomes even more breathtaking as locals adorn it with potted flowers and lanterns, creating intricate designs.

Situated 68 kilometers from Catania, the town of Caltagirone has long been famous for its production of pottery. The name of this charming settlement derives from the Arabic qal’at-al-jarar” (“Castle of [pottery] jars”) and befits its longstanding pottery-making tradition perfectly. The talent of local craftsmen can be admired everywhere in Caltagirone, as everything from the palaces, churches and monuments to the gardens and squares of this place are covered in beautiful ceramics. But it’s the splendid Scala di Santa maria del Monte, a 142-step staircase dating back to 1608 that really stands as a testament to the town’s millennial tradition of pottery making. This breathtaking work of art that connects the high part of Caltagirone to the low part, is completely covered in ceramic tiles, with each of its steps featuring a different design inspired by local culture. The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is the main attraction of the Sicilian town, and it’s here that locals celebrate their most important festivals, La Scala Infiorata and La Luminaria, during which they use the staircase as a canvas for floral and light masterpieces.

Scala-Infiorata-Caltaragione

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Some People Walk Their Dogs, Cornman Walks His Fresh Produce

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It’s not every day you get to see people dragging vegetables on a leash in the street. Unless you live in Japan, that is. Over the last year, photos of a well-dressed man walking all kinds of produce through Tokyo like they were pets have been surfacing on various social networks. Known as “Cornman”, he has become one of the human attractions of Japan’s capital city.

Until recently, no one really knew who Cornman was or why he was walking produce on a leash. The first known photo of him dragging an ear of corn outside a subway station was tweeted in May of 2012, and ever since then people started sharing pics of the elusive character with all kinds of produce, from cauliflower to radishes. There was a lot of speculation surrounding Cornman and the motives of his bizarre habit. Some people said he was crazy, others that he was just looking for attention, and there were those who claimed he was the loser of a batsu game (a competition or a bet where the loser has to do something embarrassing), but no one knew for sure. Then, a few days ago, Cornman appeared on a Japanese TV show and talked about himself and his produce pets.

Cornman-Japan

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Chinese Get Their Feet Wet at Chongqing’s Unique River Restaurant

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Aptly named the River Cafe, one restaurant in Chongqing, southern China, has come up with an ingenious way of attracting clients. Taking advantage of a nearby stream, the owners have set up dozens of tables straight on the water, offering patrons a cool escape from the unbearable heat.

With summer temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius, the Chinese are always looking for new and enjoyable ways to cool off. The River Cafe, in Chongqing, is inviting locals and tourists to take off their shoes and grab a seat in the waters of a cooling stream. Since it’s too hot to serve their delicious food inside or in the sun, the managers of this popular venue have decided to set up most of the tables straight on the water, under the shade of trees. The pop-up restaurant now has more tables in the stream than it has on land, which can seat up to 300 people at a time. The water doesn’t look very clean, and you can see plastic bottles floating through the plastic tables, but it beats facing the scorching sun or going to overcrowded swimming pools like the famous Dead Sea of China.

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Paradise Lost – England’s Deceptively Inviting Blue Lagoon Is Now Black

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It was known as England’s  Blue Lagoon and its tranquil turquoise waters really did resemble those of an exotic watery paradise, but the popular swimming spot located near Buxton, was actually a flooded former quarry and its alluring contents were almost as toxic as bleach. That didn’t seem to bother people who came here from all over the country for a quick dip, so authorities had no choice but to dye it black.

Seen from afar, the Blue Lagoon at Harper Hill looked like the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day, but as the saying goes, appearances can often be deceiving. Not only was this abandoned quarry full of trash, dead animals and human waste, but its waters had a pH level of 11.3, almost as toxic as ammonia (11.5pH) or bleach (12.6pH). The shoreline was lined with warning signs stating the dangers swimmers would be exposing themselves to – skin and eye irritations, stomach problems, fungal infections, etc. –  if they entered the water, and yet for decades they chose to ignore these warnings, bewitched by the beauty of the lagoon. The attractive color of this place was caused by the surrounding limestone walls which leached calcite crystals into the water, turning it turquoise, and the high alkalinity came from calcium oxide, a by-product of the quarrying process left around the site. Fearing for their children’s safety, locals asked authorities to restrict access to the lagoon, but because it was located on private property, they couldn’t stop people from visiting. So they decided to make it less attractive instead.

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Danza de los Zancos – The Whirling Stilt Dancers of Anguiano

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Walking on stilts is a daunting task for most people, but for the skilled “danzatores” of Anguiano, Spain, it’s a regular walk in the park. During the annual Danza de los Zancos celebration they take to the streets on wooden stilts measuring some 50 centimeters, and spin rapidly down the town’s steepest alleyways. They risk breaking their necks or smashing their heads against the cobbled pavement to honor La Magdalena (Mary Magdalene).

Every year, on July 22, the town of Anguino hosts one of the oldest, most fascinating fiestas in Spain, the Danza de los Zancos (Stilt Dance). In honor of Mary Magdalene, one of the most popular saints in this part of the country, eight brave and morally upright boys from the oldest families in Anguiano put on brightly colored vests, white shirts and damask yellow skirts, and dance on 50-cm-high wooden stilts. And I don’t mean just bouncing from one foot to another, but whirling at high speeds on steep and narrow alleys with nothing but a human mattress of spectators to catch them if they lose their balance. Did I mention they clap their castanets at the same time?

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The Ultimate Thrill Ride – Dangling on the Edge of a Canyon in a Pneumatic Swing

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Located on the edge of a canyon, 1,300 feet above the Colorado River, the Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is definitely not your playground swing set. But if you’re an adrenaline junky this might very well be your dream come true.

Glenwood Springs is a small Colorado town famous for its wide variety of family-oriented attractions. In 2011, USA Today named it the ”Most Fun Town in America”, but the Giant Canyon Swing isn’t the kind of ride most parents would ever want their children to go on. This metal beast is perched on the side of a cliff 400 meters above the Colorado River and sends up to four passengers flying 112 degrees above the horizon at about 50 miles per hour. At the highest point, all thrill-seekers can see is the seemingly endless drop below them, which causes them to scream in excitement, fear or both. The swing’s creator, 41-year-old Steve Beckley has only tried it once, and has been too scared to try it again ever since, but he gets a kick out of seeing other’s faces and hearing their screams during the 60-second ride.

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A Cruise on Dry Land – Korea’s Unique Cruise Ship Hotel

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Ever wished you could experience a luxury cruise without the motion sickness? Step aboard the Sun Cruise Hotel, A Korean tourist attraction designed and built to emulate cruising  for the sea sick.Seen from afar, the Sun Cruise Hotel looks like a ship washed up on top of a cliff by a giant wave, but the colossal structure was actually built there in 2002 for tourists who didn’t have the funds or time to go on a real cruise. But its bizarre location is pretty much the only thing that sets it apart from other cruise ships. The 65-metre-long, 45-meter-high and 30,000-ton-heavy land vessel features 211 rooms, both condominium and hotel style, a Western and a Korean restaurant, revolving sky lounge, a night club, a karaoke, a sea water pool, volleyball court, fitness club and even a netted golf range. To make its visitors really feel like they’re on a cruise, bird calls and the sound of waves crashing against the deck are played over loudspeakers strategically installed around the ship. Believe it or not, the Sun Cruise Hotel is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Korea.

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Maho Beach – Where People Get Literally Blown Away by Airplanes

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Located right next to the Princess Juliana International Airport, on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, Maho Beach is a unique destination where tourist experience what it’s like to have jumbo jets flying just a few meters above their heads and get blown into the sea by their powerful jet engines.

Fine white sand and crystal clear water is not what makes Maho Beach such a popular tourist destination. There are hundreds of other such beautiful beaches in the Caribbean which aren’t located right next to a busy and noisy airport like Princess Juliana. But it’s precisely this little detail that makes this piece of paradise so remarkably unique. In order to land safely on the unusually short Runway 10, aircraft pilots have to make their final approach at minimal altitude, and that means flying just a few meters above the heads of thrill-seeking beach-goers. And we’re not talking light airplanes either, but jumbo jets like Boeing 747 and Airbus A380. Plane spotting has become so popular at Maho Beach that local entrepreneurs have built an entire business around it. Beach bar owners have put up boards of airplane arrivals and departures so people can plan their visit, and some even broadcast radio transmissions between the airport’s control tower and and the aircraft.

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The Bushman of San Francisco – Making a Living by Scaring People

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The world famous Bushman of San Francisco, real name David Johnson, has been entertaining passers-by in Fisherman’s Wharf for over 30 years by hiding behind two Eucalyptus branches and jumping out at unsuspecting tourists as they walk by.

The Bushman of San Francisco is an alleged homeless man who rakes in a reported $60,000 a year from his original street performance, with just two Eucalyptus branches and the cardboard box he sits on. David Johnson was born in Indiana, where he worked as a crane operator crane operator, steel mill worker and truck driver before moving to San Francisco. Here he opened one of the first shoeshine stands on Market Street, but arthritis and growing competition from the busy Financial District forced him to look for a new way to make a living. After discovering some fallen branches under a tree, Johnson was inspired to use them in a street act that would eventually make him famous all around the world. Sitting on a makeshift stool, the Bushman hides behind the Eucalyptus branches waiting for tourists to walk by. When they get close enough, he jumps from behind the greenery or waves it in their direction scaring the daylights out of them, to the amusement of nearby spectators, many of whom reward his performance by throwing a quarter or a dollar into his jug.

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Greensburg’s Famous Tree Growing Out of the Roof of the Courthouse Tower

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The town of Greensburg, Indiana, is known as the “Tree City” for the over a dozen trees that have been growing out of the roof of the Decatur County Courthouse ever since 1870. They are believed to have sprouted from seeds in bird droppings.

In the year 1870, the citizens of Greensburg began to notice what looked like a small sprig growing on the northwest corner of the courthouse tower. No one paid much attention to it at first, but as the shrub grew into a young tree, it became the talk of the town. A few years later, five new sprouts were spotted on the tower roof, threatening to form a small grove atop the 110-foot-tall tower. Authorities were worried the tree roots might cause irreparable damage to the roof, so in 1888 a steeplejack was hired to cut down the smaller trees, leaving just one, which in time grew to about fifteen feet with a diameter of almost five inches at its base. It continued to brave the storms for many years, until it finally died, and was removed to a place in the Decatur County Historical Society Museum. But that was not the end of the now famous courthouse tower tree. In the meantime, another tree appeared on the southeast corner of the tower, and grew to a considerable height in just a few years time.

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