Have a Hoot at Japan’s New Owl Cafés!

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If you’re a cat person and you’re in Japan, you surely must have heard of the famous cat cafés. The concept is pretty straight forward: most people live in such crowded places that there’s hardly any room for a pet, so whenever you feel like getting a little love from a furry friend, all you have to do is go to one of these cat cafés. It’s almost like going to a domestic safari while having a cup of coffee.

If at first there was this craze with cats, now there’s a craze with owls. Yes, cafés with real live owls watching you with their big eyes as you quietly sip your drink. Of course, the entire theme of these cafés has something to do with owls, so the background and the menu complete the picture. The owl cafés are pretty crowded places. Customers are not allowed to get in the cafés at the same time and scare the birds, so queues are formed outside. Careful! The weekends are especially busy, so you might want to get up early if you want to have coffee with an owl. There are quite a few owl cafés to choose from, each with its own rules, but there are a few general guidelines that should be respected when entering these places. First of all, you have to find the café, because there won’t be any flashy lights, but merely a curtain, protecting these birds of prey. After you’ve pinpointed the location and managed to get inside, make sure you listen carefully to the personnel: don’t pet, touch or hold other owls than those indicated by them, don’t handle the owls by yourself, don’t use your camera flash and don’t record without permission. What happens if you don’t follow the rules? Imagine the racket created by a dozen freaked-out owls! Lastly, make sure you alert the personnel whenever you see an owl pooping. They really don’t give a hoot about you looking at them.

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Delicias del Sol – Chile’s Sun-Powered Restaurant

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The people in Villaseca, Chile are some of the most the eco-concious on the Planet, using only sun-powered ovens to cook all their food. With these ovens, which can generate temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit), the villagers can prepare all kinds of dishes, including vegetables, meats and even deserts.

At first, cooking with solar energy was a necessity, due to the scarcity of wood in the country, which forced the villagers to spend hours on end every day looking for wood so they could eat. Two decades ago, the poor people of Villaseca were facing a tough wood crisis because of the desertification of the region. Every day, one member of the family had to go looking for wood to burn in their ovens so they could cook and eat warm meals. Thankfully, Rojas, a woman who lives in the Elqui Valley, and four other women were chosen to be guinea pigs in a trial project involving solar energy, conducted by the University of Chile. They were given specially engineered ovens that captured the sun’s rays and allowed any kind of food to be cooked in a heated compartment. The idea was well received, since the arid region is extremely sunny with more than 300 days of sunshine every year. Now, their sustainable ovens are the area’s main attraction and, the people there eat healthier because sun-cooked food lacks the carbon dioxide that emanates from burning wood.

Delicias-del-Sol-restaurant

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San Antonio Prison – Venezuela’s Paradise for Incarcerated Criminals

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The San Antonio prison on Venezuela’s Margarita Island is not your typical penal institution. Whilst in other penitentiaries the inmates are forced to obey strict regulations harshly imposed by armed guards, in this atypical slammer, it’s the prisoners who make the rules. From cooking their own food to watching TV, surfing the web on their laptops and managing illegal businesses on their cellphones, the San Antonio inmates are free to go about their day as they please. The only thing they can’t do is leave. Any attempt to escape can result in instant death courtesy of the sharpshooters up in the prison’s watchtowers. But thankfully, most of the prisoners are so happy here that a potential escape is the last thing on their minds.

At San Antonio, prisoners enjoy many privileges, have jobs and make real money. Some are barbers, some sell drugs while others manage the local cock fight club which generates a decent gambling revenue. There is even a guy who photoshops pictures of inmates leaning against a Hummer, using his own digital camera and laptop. Other lazy folk lie around in their air conditioned cells watching TV in the company of their wives or girlfriends who are free to come and go as they please. To the men’s satisfaction, a 54-unit women’s annex was built in 2009 which naturally caused the number of romantic liaisons between inmates to increase. The inmates’ children can also use the prison as a playground and spend the day swimming in one of the prison’s four pools. On weekends, the prison is even open for any visitors who want to have a good time of excess and depravity in its Reggaetón clubs. This really is a prison unlike any other.

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The Blooming of the Tisza – A Stunning Natural Phenomenon

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Named after the river on which it takes place every year from late spring to early summer, the Blooming of the Tisza is an incredible natural phenomenon that attracts tourists from all around the world to Hungary. As millions of long-tailed mayflies reach sexual maturity, they shed their larvae skin and burst from the river in search of a mate before dying just a few hours later.

There are around 2,000 species of mayfly worldwide. Measuring up to five inches from their head to the end of their appendages, Tisza’s Palingenia longicauda, also known as the long-tailed mayfly, is Europe’s largest. Mayflies live most of their lives as larvae in large colonies on the bottom of rivers. After three years, they shed their larvae skins and emerge from the water as sexual mature adults. Because they have a limited amount of time to reproduce -about three hours – as soon as they are able to fly, they prowl for potential mates. Males try to pass on their genes to the next generation at any cost, often forcing themselves on the females, and even clinging to them when they are still in larvae form. This mating frenzy lasts for three or four days, during which time the whole area around the Tizsa river becomes engulfed in a seemingly impenetrable humming fog.

Tisza-mayflowers

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Stairway to Heaven: The Amazing Haiku Stairs of Hawaii

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Wars always leave behind empty monuments that serve as reminders of hard times. Although haunted by the memories of conflict and often death, these abandoned structures sometimes blend with their natural surroundings, revealing breathtaking landscapes of poetic proportions. One such place is the Haʻikū Stairs popularly known as  the“Stairway to Heaven”, in Hawaii, a 3,922-step ascent into one of the most vivid and stunning natural sceneries on Earth.

The first steps begin in the Valley of Haiku near Kaneohe, on the island of O’ahu and climb up to 2,800 feet at a 30-degree angle. The first ladder was built during World War II, out of wood, to help string antenna cables from one side of the valley to the other. Thus, the personnel at Haiku Valley Naval Radio Station, located at about 2,800 feet above sea level, was able to communicate with the US Navy submarines as far away as Tokyo Bay. In the 1950s the ladder was rebuilt out of galvanized steel and expanded in order to accommodate the activity of the Omega Navigation System station of the United States Coast Guard. A total of 3,922 18-inch wide steps were built from ship ladders, bolted together in sections of seven and secured into the rugged hills.

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The Turkish Bird Village Where People Communicate Using 400-year-Old Whistled Language

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Do you know about the ingenious Panamanian golden frog which lives near loud waterfalls and communicates by waving? The people of Kuşköy, a small Turkey village, have proven that they can be just as creative and resourceful as the little poisonous frog. Long before they even had electricity, they invented a brilliantly simple way of communicating over long distances, by whistling.

They call it the “bird language” or “kuș dili” as it originated in Kuşköy, which itself means “bird village”. This fascinating means of communication was created over 400 years ago as a consequence of working in the fields of the Pontic Mountains. The terrain is irregular making travelling very difficult even on short distances, and because of this, the villagers felt the need for an alternative to speaking and shouting , one that made long distance communication easier. Inspired by the songs of birds, they started whistling the syllables of Turkish words which proved to be much more effective and less energy-consuming than yelling or walking all the way to the person they needed to speak with. Villagers notify each other about visitors, ask for help and make invitations for tea. They can even have complex, long conversations just by whistling. The songs of the bird people resonate over distances as long as 1km. If the distance is longer, the neighbors are kind enough to pass on the message to each other until it reaches its destination.

Kuskoy-bird-language

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No Bottles or Plates Allowed at Ukraine’s Unique Jar Bar

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The Jar Bar, in Kiev, Ukraine, is the only place in the world where every item on the menu is served in glass pickle jars. To make sure patrons understand the concept, there’s even a sign on the door that shows bottles, glasses, bowls, cups and any other kind of dishes are strictly forbidden.

Although there are a handful of cafés and bars that use glass jars as dishes, the founders of Kiev’s Jar Bar claim no other venue in the world has taken such a radical approach to the concept as to serve every single item on the menu in jars. From soup, to ice cream, coffee and cocktails everything at this unique venue comes in glasses of various sizes. According to the bar’s official site, eating from a jar reminds people of home, taking them back to their childhood days when they tasted the delicious pickles made by their grandmothers, straight out of the jar. The unusual dishes also make it easy for customers to order their favorite foods and drinks to-go, or take leftovers with them. All they have to do is ask waiters for a jar lid. Apart from being the only available dishes, jars are also used for decoration purposes. The light fixtures are all large glass jars, the bar is lined with pickle jars, and the wallpaper is also jar-themed.

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Snowshoe Baseball – A Taste of Winter in the Summer Months

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What do you get when you combine a winter pastime like snowshoe running with a summer sport like baseball. The answer would be snowshoe baseball, a unique sport played every year in Lake Tomahawk, Winsconsin.

With its beautiful lakes and gorgeous scenery, Lake Tomahawk has always been one of Wisconsin’s most popular tourist attractions, but in 1961, Town Chairman, Ray Sloan, decided to give summer tourists yet another source of entertainment. His idea was to cover the local baseball field with sawdust and woodchips, and invite other other area teams to challenge the hometown squad in a unique series of baseball games where the players had to wear snowshoes. Sloan strategy worked and the wacky games have become a local tradition that attracts spectators from all around the globe and earned Lake Tomahawk the title of “Snowshoe Baseball Capital of the World”. The rules of the game are very similar to baseball, but the snowshoes really make it interesting by forging players to waddle and scuffle rather than sprint to bases. There’s a lot of falling, especially early in the match, as everyone tries to get used to the snowshoes, but the sawdust and woodchips act as a soft mattress, so injuries are rare.

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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.

Solomon-Castle

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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.

Pukul-Sapu

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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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