Turtle-Shaped Island Spends Nine Months Underwater, Only Appears in Spring

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Every year, with the coming of spring, thousands of Chinese tourists flock to the The Gorges Reservoir to see an elusive turtle-shaped island rise from the waters of the Muodaoxi River. The event, dubbed ‘spring turtle rising from water’, is celebrated by local residents because turtles are considered auspicious and a sign of longevity.

It sounds like a fascinating natural phenomenon similar to the Jindo Moses Miracle that takes place in South Korea, but in this case the “magic” is man-made. The water level of Muodaoxi River is controlled by the Three Gorges Dam. In spring, the reservoir supplies water to the areas downstream, bringing down the water level and exposing the island.

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Salty Dawg Saloon – Alaska’s Unique Dollar-Bill-Covered Watering Hole

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While many cafés and bars choose to display their patrons’ praise on sticky notes or paper napkins, a watering hole in Homer, Alaska, has every last inch of its walls and ceiling covered with dollar bills signed by its satisfied customers. Because of its quirky interiors, Salty Dawg Saloon is in fact a cherished landmark of Homer Spit – a 4.5-mile piece of land jutting out from Homer on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, into Kachemak Bay.

There is no shortage of bars in the town of Homer, but locals prefer driving all the way to the Spit and into Homer Boat Harbor, just to visit the peculiar Salty Dawg. Some of the patrons who visit the bar don’t even drink alcohol, but the place is so famous for its money plastered interior that many tourists just stop by to see it for themselves.

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Visitors Flock to South Korea’s Sheep Cafe

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When South Korean café owner Lee Kwang-ho decided to add a couple of sheep to his payroll, it was the best business move of his life. Since 2011, the fluffy employees at Nature Café have been attracting hordes of animal lovers and tourists. The shop serves all the café staples such as coffee, tea, and cake, but it all seems sort of extra-special when enjoyed in the company of a couple of fluffy sheep.

According to Lee, the café’s popularity has spiked recently because according to the lunar calendar 2015 is the Year of the Sheep. So lots of people want to see sheep, and the café is more convenient than seeking them out on a ranch. 21-year-old Lee Hyeon-ji agreed: “We were planning to go to a sheep ranch , but it’s too far and we didn’t have enough time to go there. Then we heard about this place where we can see sheep in Seoul and came to this sheep cafe.”

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Pathways to the Past – America’s Wood-Paved Streets

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For over 100 years, the residents of Philadelphia have worked hard to keep the 200 block of Camac Street in great shape. It might seem odd to spend that much effort on a single street, but the place is maintained for historic reasons – it is the only street in the city still paved with wooden blocks!

Camac Street is one of the few remnants of the old-style Nicolson pavements that still exist in some cities across the US. While wood block pavement is believed to have originated in Russia, the construction technique was made popular in the mid-1800s by Samuel Nicolson, the superintendent of Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation.

Nicolson is believed to have revived the wood-paving process in order to solve several problems posed by early paving methods. At the time, wood was viewed as a better alternative to the irregularly surfaced cobblestone streets. Wood was also abundant, while stone was scarce. And horse-traffic made less noise on wood-surfaced streets.

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No Girls Allowed – The Greek State That Forbids Both Human and Animal Females

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Mount Athos, formally known as Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, is located on the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki. The monastic traditions of the mountain date back to 800 A.D. and the Byzantine era. Today, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and 2,000 monks from Greece and other eastern orthodox countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia. These monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world.

Although technically part of the European Union, the Holy Mountain is largely self-governed. This prohibits the free movement of people and goods in its territory, unless formal permission has been granted. As a result, a number of traditions at Mount Athos might seem odd to people outside. The keeping of Byzantine time, for instance, means that their day begins at sunset. But perhaps their most bizarre practice is the centuries-old ban on women entering the sacred peninsula.

For over 1,000 years, women have been forbidden from setting foot on the mountain. In fact, females of other species such as cows, dogs and goats aren’t permitted either. Only birds and insects are exempted from the rule – scanning the skies and grounds for female body parts would surely be too absurd, even by Mount Athos standards.

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Shani Shingnapur – India’s Village without Doors

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Believe it or not, there’s a village in India where none of the 300-odd buildings – homes, educational institutions, and even banks – have doors. Cash is stored in unlocked containers, as are valuable pieces of gold jewellery.

Even most of the public toilets in Shani Shingnapur village square have no doors. “For reasons of privacy and following requests by women, we recently agreed to put a thin curtain near the entrance, but not doors because that would go against our belief,” said village shopkeeper Parmeshwar Mane.

Some villagers do put up loose door panels against their door frames, but this is done only at night, to keep out wild animals and stray dogs. The only problem with the lack of doors is that there’s nothing to knock on to announce your arrival. But the villagers have a solution for this, too. “Just shout out and somebody will come to the door,’’ one of the villagers, Rani, explained.

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Russia’s Lake Karachay – The Most Contaminated Place on Earth

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Although breathtakingly beautiful, Russia’s Lake Karachay is probably the last place on earth you’d want to choose for a lakeside retreat. Just standing next to the picturesque shore for an hour would give you a radiation dose of 600 roentgen, more than enough to kill you. At its height, the lake was putting out more than 200,000 times the normal amount of radioactivity, due to poor waste disposal practices.

Nestled deep in Russia’s Ural Mountains, close to the modern Kazakhstan border, Lake Karachay falls within the Mayak Production Association, one of the country’s largest (and leakiest) nuclear facilities. Built in the 1940s, immediately after World War II, Mayak was one of Russia’s most important nuclear weapons factories and was inaccessible to foreigners for 45 years. But when President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree in 1992 that opened up the area, visiting scientists who gained access immediately declared it the most polluted area on the planet. It seems that in its long period of obscurity, Mayak was the site of numerous nuclear-related accidents, some almost as devastating as the Chernobyl meltdown.

Nuclear engineers at Mayak apparently dumped radioactive waste into the nearby Techa river quite regularly. The watered down waste that they discarded rather carelessly was a mixture of radioactive elements such as Strontium-90 and Cesium-137, each with a half-life of approximately 30 years.

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Villa Epecuen – The Argentinian Town That Spent 25 Years Underwater

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The town of Epecuen, in the Argentinian farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires, was once a bustling lakeside resort with a population of over 5,000. Over a quarter of a century ago it was flooded by the waters of a nearby lake and, until recently, it remained submerged. Now it’s finally come back up for air.

Established in 1920 along the shore of Lake Epecuen, the popular tourist destination played host to at least 20,000 visitors every season. Its main attraction was the saltwater lake, which contained 10 times more salt than the ocean. According to local legend, the lake is so salty because it was formed by the tears of a great Chief crying for the pain of his beloved. The waters of the lake were believed to cure depression, rheumatism, skin diseases, anemia, and even diabetes.

Thousands of visitors would arrive by train from the nation’s capital to relax in the town’s saltwater baths and spas. Tourists, mainly from Buenos Aires’ large Jewish community, enjoyed the floating water because it reminded them of the Dead Sea in Israel. The town had almost 300 thriving businesses – including guesthouses, lodges, hotels and other establishments centered around tourist trade.

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Shell Gas Station Toilets in the Philippines Are So Clean It Will Blow Your Mind

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The video tour of a Shell Gas Station toilet in the Philippines is making waves on the internet – it has gone viral with over 4 million views on YouTube and nearly 30,000 likes on Facebook. The video was made by Canadian model and TV personality Jason Godfrey; it shows the inside of a pristine toilet that’s so amazing, you’ll probably never want to leave it!

The gas station, located in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, is primarily meant to attract travelers and tourists. In addition to sparkling clean toilets, the restroom also has a very homey ambiance, with lovely paintings adorning the walls, bookshelves that stock reading material to peruse while using the loo, furnished wood and other beautiful decorations. It’s unlike any public toilet I’ve ever been too, that’s for sure.

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Japan’s Unique Cotton-Spinning Bar

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Contrary to what its name suggests, ‘Tokyo Cotton Village’ isn’t a rural settlement of cotton farmers, but a bar located in the heart of Japan’s capital city, in Setagaya Ward. The one-of-a-kind establishment allows its patrons to experience spinning cotton, which is supposedly a relaxing activity.

The service is available for free to anyone who orders a drink – they get to enjoy spinning threads of wamen, a type of cotton that’s cultivated in Japan. The airy texture of wamen is believed to calm the mind and relax the body. The concept is a big hit with customers, many of whom visit the bar several times a week.

“Getting absorbed in [spinning threads] lets me forget bad things that happened at work,” said Yoshiko Jimura, 32, who visits at least twice a week. “This is a precious time for me to change my mood.”

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The Village of Forgetfulness – Colombian Village Is Home to the World’s Largest Population of Alzheimer’s Sufferers

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At the outset, the mountainous region of Antioquia in northwestern Colombia comes across as a breathtaking natural paradise. But its picturesque valleys and winding green hills hide a chilling secret –  an unusually large number of young people here suffer from a hereditary form of Alzheimer’s. Several of Antioquia’s residents are at various stages of the disease – right from early signs of memory loss to total dementia.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is quite similar to the typical form of the disease – it is caused by toxic proteins that destroy brain cells, leading to memory loss and eventually, death. But there is one major difference – the symptoms begin to occur at a frightfully young age, sometimes even before the victim turns 40. It begins with forgetfulness and slowly progresses to disorientation and delusional ideas.

Afflicted with this form of Alzheimer’s, the people of Antioquia often reach the final stage of the disease in their mid-forties. And there’s only one explanation for the bizarre condition – it’s all in the genes. Generations of inbreeding has resulted in the spread of the defective gene in the region for the past 300 years – throughout a widely branched family that now has over 5,000 members. This makes Antioquia home to the world’s largest population of Alzheimer’s sufferers. They are all believed to have inherited the ‘paisa’ mutation, which is a simple genetic defect on Chromosome 14. The mutation is named after the people living in the area, who are known in Colombia as Paisas.

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Waitresses at Aptly-Named Shooters Grill All Carry Guns

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True to its name, Colorado restaurant ‘Shooters’ is a pro-guns type of place – the waitresses are all packing heat and patrons are encouraged to do the same! Incidentally, the restaurant is located in a town called Rifle, where openly carrying guns in public is illegal.

A sign on the front door of the restaurant reads: “Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered, unless the need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.” So when waitresses at Shooters take an order, they not only carry a pad and pen, but also loaded handguns holstered around their waist, Wild West Style.

According to Shooters owner Lauren Boebert, the restaurant is simply allowing customers and employees to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. “We encourage it, and the customers love that they can come here and express their rights,” said Boebert. “This country was founded on our freedom. People can come in carrying their gun, and they can pray over their food.”

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Venice of the Middle-East: The Floating Basket Homes of Iraq

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Little is known to the world about Iraq’s Tigris-Euphrates marshlands – an area that, at one time, covered over 9,000 square miles – bigger than Venice’s lagoon and Florida’s Everglades combined. The marshland was inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years and at its peak, it was home to half-a-million ‘Marsh Arabs’ or ‘Ma’dan’.

The Ma’dan consisted of several tribes that had developed a beautiful, eco-friendly culture that centered on the marshes’ natural resources. One of the truly admirable aspects of their lifestyle was their beautifully elaborate dwellings – floating houses made entirely out of reeds that were harvested from the open water.

These architectural wonders, strongly reminiscent of the ‘casoni’ of the Venetian fishermen, were called ‘mudhif’. They were temporary structures built of reeds in only three days, without the use of nails or wood. Even the islands that the houses would rest on were made of complicated arrangements of mud and rushes.

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The Real Planet of the Apes – The Liberian Island Inhabited by Chimpanzees Formerly Used in Animal Testing

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Believe it or not, a real-life Planet of the Apes does exist in an isolated area located deep in the jungles of West Africa. It’s home to dozens of retired laboratory chimpanzees who were at one point used for medical research. These chimps are practically heroes – they’ve managed to survive disease, two civil wars and numerous medical tests and experiments.

The apes are former residents of The Liberian Institute of Biomedical Research (Vilab II) which played a pivotal role in developing treatments for ailments such as Hepatitis during the 1970s. It was shut down in the mid-2000s due to growing pressure from animal rights activists, and the apes were transferred to a remote Liberian island in the middle of Farmington River, to live a life of quiet retirement.

The island – known to locals as ‘Monkey Island’ – is home to over 60 chimps who only allow familiar caretakers to approach its shores. Their story was covered in a short documentary film called Island of the Apes made to promote the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

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The Seemingly Normal Dutch Village Where Everyone Suffers from Dementia

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The isolated Dutch village of Hogewey, located on the outskirts of the town of Weesp, has only 152 inhabitants who seem to be living a normal life – they eat, sleep, walk around the village and visit shops and restaurants. But in reality, every single one of them is being constantly watched. That’s because Hogewey is actually an elder care facility, and all of its residents suffer from dementia.

‘Dementia Village’ takes care to maintain the illusion that life is normal for the residents. The 152 patients have no idea that their home is a mental institution, nor that their living quarters are constantly monitored. Within the village, residents do not live in wards and there are no long hallways or corridors. Instead, they live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. The homes are furnished according to the time period when the residents’ short-term memories stopped functioning properly – the 1950s, 1970s, and the 2000s, all accurate down to the tablecloths.

The residents are allowed to freely roam the grounds and admire its landscaped trees and fountains, or rest on the benches. Caretakers are stationed all over the village; 250 full and part time nurses and geriatric specialists wander the town as cashiers, grocery-store attendees, post-office clerks and more. Finances have simply been taken out of the equation, as everything is included in the family’s payment plan.

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