The Amazing Oak Chapel of Allouville Bellefosse

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The French village of Allouville-Bellefosse is famous for the Chêne Chapelle (Oak Chapel), which is literally a chapel built into an oak tree. The amazing architecture consists of a wooden staircase spiraling around the ancient tree, leading up to a couple of chambers. These rooms have always been used as places of worship, by the village locals.

The age of the tree has been a subject of debate, but everyone agrees that it is the oldest tree in France, without a doubt. The tree is known to have been growing as far back as the thirteenth century, during the rule of Louis IX, when France was a truly centralized kingdom. It is also known to have survived the Hundred Years War against the English, the Black Death, the Reformation, and Napoleon’s rule. Local folklore dates it a 1,000 years old, when it is said that the acorn took root. However, tree experts say it could only be around 800 years old, which means the thirteenth century saw it’s origins.

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Dargavs – Russia’s City of the Dead

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A place called the City of the Dead actually exists in Russia’s North Ossetia, hidden in one of the five mountain ridges that cross the region. Needless to say, several myths and legends shroud the place, with locals claiming that no one has ever come back alive. The ‘city’ hardly ever gets any tourists either, although this might be due to the difficulty of just getting there.

Reaching Dargavs, the City of the Dead, entails a three-hour journey through winding, narrow roads, and several hills. The foggy mountain weather certainly doesn’t help matters. Once there, you’ll find that the city  is in fact another hill covered with small white buildings. It is these very buildings that cause the place to get it’s name. The white house-like structures, countless in number, are stone crypts where locals buried their loved ones. The city itself is an ancient Ossetian cemetery. Each family of the area has a crypt, and the higher the structure, the greater the number of people buried in it. The oldest of the crypts dates back to the 16th century.

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Drug Lord Pablo Escobar Becomes Colombian Tourist Attraction

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When Pablo Escobar died in 1993, the people of Medellin, Colombia, sighed in relief. But little did they know that the world’s most notorious criminal at the time would become one of their country’s most popular tourist attractions.

The legacy of Escobar lives on in Medellin, in a different and slightly unusual manner. The man and his life are now sold as a tourist attraction to visitors; this has proven to be quite popular. Escobar, who was responsible for several acts of terrorism such as blowing up the Government’s Security Ministry, assassinating a Presidential candidate, bombing a civilian airliner, and waging a war in which thousands of people were killed, would have least expected that the memories he left behind would one day serve as a means to attract tourists to Colombia.

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Taichung’s Rainbow Village – The Hand-Painted Wonder of Taiwan

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It’s hard to believe that one man can change the fate of an entire village. Huang Yung-fu, an 86-year-old war veteran has done just this.

Huang lives in a village in a corner of the Taiwanese city of Taichung, a community that was created for Nationalist soldiers in the 1940s and 50s. Over the years, the place slowly changed into a permanent settlement, suffering from urban problems like abandonment, decay and housing dereliction. However, none of this is visible in the settlement today, thanks to the transformation brought about by Huang’s colorful paintings. The streets and the walls of practically every building in the village are covered with Huang’s simplistic paintings of plants, animals, TV personalities, birds and buffaloes. Considering the fact that he began painting only two years ago, his accomplishment is pretty huge. The bright colors and simple strokes used by Huang only add to the attractiveness of his work.

Photo by Steve Barringer

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Collector’s Holiday Home Houses over 10,000 Teddy Bears

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Ricky Lenart, an artist and resident of Uptown New Orleans, has an entire holiday home dedicated to his collection of teddy bears. Every room of his three-story house at Duffossat Street is filled with the soft toys, a total of 10,000 in number.

Lenart’s unusual hobby did not come cheap. He says that it would have actually been cheaper to give people $10,000 each. This year alone, he spent a total of $40,000 to $50,000 on decorations for his home. He says he has had a lifelong fascination of teddy bears, which prompted him to start his collection. Before he knew it, the bears were everywhere. The Teddy Bear House, as it is called, hosts guided tours for visitors in the holiday season. All the bears are put on display in various rooms, and are otherwise put in storage between seasons. The guided tour sessions are an hour-long and proceeds from ticket sales are donated to nonprofit organizations.

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China’s Richest Village Is a Tribute to Knockoffs

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China is the most populated country in the world, probably the most hard working country in the world and well on its way toward becoming the richest one as well. Considering how they’ve managed to achieve such a feat is considerably less fun than making snide remarks at their legendary knockoff business.

Millions of brands around the world saw their products replicated cheaply and brands like Mike, Abidas, iFone appeared from nowhere. Though still considerably involved in the replica production China has since come a long way. Just about every manufacturer on Earth has plants there and, more importantly, most of their products are being sold there as well. You’d imagine that once the Asian country got a real taste of proper products, started making some real money and was looking for what to spend it on, they’d forget about the cheap fakes right?Well, sort of, rather unusually, the Chinese have now acquired a taste for expensive fakes. A prime example would be the country’s richest village.

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Katskhi Pillar – Going to Church on a Stairway to Heaven

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Trust me on this, that headline has absolutely nothing rock’n’roll about it . Weirdly enough, it’s actually true and you can even go on to experience it yourself, provided you’re willing to travel.

Travel a little or a lot rather depends on where you’re starting from as you’ll have to go to Georgia in order to live this out. Oh, and that’s not Georgia, the American state, but Georgia a small country that sits borderline between Europe and Asia. In this rather remote country, that’s seen it’s fair share of misfortune over the years for various political issues, economic and social pressures and so on, you’ll be able to find an unusual bastion of hope.

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Paga Village – Where Crocs and Men Live in Perfect Harmony

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The small village of Paga, in Ghana, defies the laws of nature as local population bathes and swims in the same nearby pond as over 100 deadly crocodiles. So far none of the villagers have ever been harmed by the reptiles.

Something very weird is definitely going on in the African village of Paga, where people live happily among crocodiles who don’t seem to mind their company, either. It is believed everyone in the village has a corresponding crocodile in Bolgatanga, and according to reliable sources the deaths of important village personalities have coincided with the death of a crocodile. Because they believe crocs are the souls of their village relatives, people never hurt or kill the sacred animals. That’s all very nice, but what’s really bizarre is the crocodiles themselves seem to have developed a strong relationship with their human neighbors and never cause them any harm. Young men go knee-deep into the water to fish, right next to the some of the world’s largest crocodiles, and always come out unharmed.

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A Walk through Shanghai’s Marriage Market

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Feeling lonely? Head over to Shanghai’s Marriage Market, a regular city institution where lonely souls, and especially their parents, come to find suitable partners.

“Female, born 1981, 1.62 meters tall, bachelor’s degree, project director at a foreign company, monthly salary above RMB 10,000, looking for someone born between 1974 and 1982, bachelor’s degree or above with a sense of responsibility for the family.” This is just one of the thousands of sheets of paper that decorate Shanghai’s lively People’s Square on weekends, when hundreds of local parents come here to “advertise” their single children. In a city where being single is a real stigmata, this little matchmaking corner is a last resort for lonely people and parents who hope to see their offsprings settled down. But it’s not about finding someone, it’s a bout finding the RIGHT one, a person who fits a certain description, both physically and socially.

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Akodessewa Fetish Market – Africa’s Voodoo Supermarket

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Togo’s Akodessewa Fetish Market is recognized as the largest fetish market in the world, a place where Voodoo practitioner can find anything they need for their rituals.

The practice of voodoo began in West Africa, before being taken to America by slaves, and in countries like Togo, Ghana, or Nigeria the religion is very much alive. Many people believe healers using animal parts and strange talismans can invoke spirits with their bizarre rituals, and solve their problems. And if there’s one place where voodoo priests can stock up on their creepy supplies, it’s the Akodessewa Fetish Market, in Togo’s capital city, Lome. Just think of it as an outdoor pharmacy where various animal parts, bone statues and herbs take the place of conventional medicine.

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Monsanto – A Portuguese Town Built between Giant Boulders

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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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World’s First Pig Fat Museum Opens in Ukraine

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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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Real-Life Hobbit Shire Exists in the Hillsides of Montana

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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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Video Card Museum Opens in Kharkov, Ukraine

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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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Entrepreneur Turns Atomic Reactor into Popular Amusement Park

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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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