Wieliczka Salt Cathedral – Poland’s Underground Wonder

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The Wieliczka Salt Mines in Poland have been used for several centuries to extract salt, but are now in the news for a different reason. Through their excavations and adventures, Polish miners have left behind something unique in these underground spaces, little known to the world until recently. 

It has been over ten years since any salt has been extracted from the Wieliczka Mines, and yet, people still pay a visit. Though an ordinary-looking mine from the outside, just 200 meters down below, lies an astonishing spectacle to behold. The salt mine has actually been converted into a cathedral, art gallery and it also contains a lake.

What’s all the more beautiful and intriguing about this place is that it has been built over the years by miners themselves. During the course of a few centuries, generations of miners left behind pieces of art, religious and historical figures, and even built their own cathedral down under there, to be able to pray. The huge cathedral is perhaps the most astonishing of the wonders that lie below the ground. Remarkable religious carvings can be found, of scenes such as the Last Supper and Jesus appearing to the apostles after crucifixion.

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Mauth Ka Kuan – India’s Well of Death

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Circus shows have been getting censored, simplified and overall less exciting just about everywhere. Not in India though, that’s the place where the infamous phrase “death defying stunt” lives on through Mauth Ka Kuan, or the Well of Death.

Though originally performed all over the world, riding a bike on a vertical wall can now only be seen live in the “Land of contrasts” and it makes visiting the place even more tempting. The stunt is old so you’d imagine India’s bike riders have honed and perfected it to the highest level. Actually, the Well of Death – as the arena is referred to – isn’t just a marketing ploy.Riding on incredibly old bikes that haven’t seen maintenance since they left the factory, the Indian bikers ride with absolutely no safety gear at break neck speeds. The walls on which they ride are vertical and built from salvaged wood.

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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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Haenyo – The Diving Grandmothers of Jeju Island

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The Korean Jeju islanders have something to be proud of – their grandmas are divers. It may seem surprising, but for the people of the island this has been a way of life for centuries now. This tradition, once a thriving profession that drove the economy of the land, is in fact, now fast deteriorating.

To understand more about the diving grandmothers, we need to go back a few hundred years in Korean history. Jeju Island lies around 53 miles to the south of mainland Korea. Given the geographical location, fishing has always been the major occupation of this Island. The surrounding waters are rich in exotic sea food like octopus, conch, abalone and urchin.

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La Pourcailhade – Becoming a Pig in France

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La Pourcailhade is a festival dedicated to one of the most popularly eaten animal around the world, the pig. I’d like to mention that the Festival isn’t dedicated to pork as much as it is to the pig. There’s the usual “eat the most… to win” contest and a few barbecues go on but they’re far from being the main attractions at La Pourcailhade.

These would be the Best Pig Outfit competition, the “Cri do Cochon” and even the piglet race. The latter is self explanatory and it is made even more fun by betting on the side. It’s basically what the Koreans feel when going to the dog tracks.Where things during La Pourcailhade get even more interesting is in the Best Pig Outfit competition. It is also rather self explanatory but could you seriously imagine anything funnier than grown people walking around and showcasing their pig-like appearance? Especially French people, perceived as some of the coolest and snottiest people in the world.

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Japan’s Zauo Restaurants, Where You Catch Your Own Meal

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Zauo, which translates as “sit and fish” is a unique restaurant chain where clients are given fishing gear and get to catch what they want to eat. It’s one of those quirky places where you just have to go for an authentic Japanese experience.

I don’t know if they were inspired by the old saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” or if they just thought the concept would put them ahead of the competition, but one thing is for sure – whoever thought of making Zauo a fishing restaurant hit the jackpot. It is one of the most popular venues in all of Japan, for locals and tourists alike, and whether you like sushi and sashimi, katsus, sukiyaki and other hotpots, or cooked fish, Zauo has it all.

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Japan’s Pig Rodeo – Animal Cruelty or Just Plain Fun?

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Although pigs aren’t exactly known for their speed and stamina, the people of Mikame, in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture seem to think they’re the perfect animals to ride.

Ehime Prefecture has been known as Japan’s pork production capital for a long time, and 25 years ago someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate by riding hogs in a unique event known as Pig Rodeo. Part of the annual Seiyo City Mikame Summer Festival, the crazy event has been a popular tourist attraction, but to most of the western world it remained a mystery until 2009, when a YouTube video was picked up by a number of media outlets. There was a lot of controversy surrounding pig rodeo, at the time, and someone even started an online petition to get it banned, but in the last two years there were hardly any stories written on the subject.

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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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In Indonesia Football Is Played with a Ball of Fire

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Sepak Bola Api, or The Fireball Game, is a unique game Indonesians play to welcome the month of Ramadan. It’s a lot like football only they have to kick a flaming fireball.

It seems regular football is pretty boring. At least that’s the feeling I get after discovering similar games like Footdoubleball, Cycle Ball or Burton-on-the-Water. The latest addition to the list of games that makes football look easy is an Indonesian tradition that had people kick a flaming football in celebration of Ramadan. It’s called Sepak Bola Api and is usually celebrated in the Yogyakarta, Bogor, Tasikmalaya, and Papua regions of the Southeastern Asia archipelago. Just like in the regular game of football, two teams of 11 eleven players kick a ball and try to shoot it in the opposing goal. But that’s easier said than done when playing barefoot and kicking a flaming ball.

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World’s Largest Collection of Clowns Is Kind of Creepy

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Ortrud Kastaun, a 61-year-old woman from Germany, has set a new Guinness record for the world’s largest collection of clown related items.

Orty, as her friends know her, has been collecting clowns for the last 15 years, and has so far amassed 2,053 different clown-related items. She’s had to move to a bigger house that would accommodate all her creepy smiling buddies, and has even opened a small clown museum close to her home, in Essen. But Kastaun hasn’t always been obsessed with clowns; it all started in 1995, when she was a recovering alcoholic going through therapy. “I remember being in therapy one day putting a jigsaw together. The image was of a clown in a jack-in-the-box. Something just clicked. From that I day on I began collecting clowns,” Orty remembers. It was a tough time for her but she credits clown for helping her get passed it.

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Japan’s Ear-Cleaning Parlors Bring Back Childhood Memories

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Japanese associate ear-cleaning with their childhood and many of them are willing to pay to return to those carefree days if only for just a few minutes. That’s what makes ear-cleaning salons one of the most popular businesses in Japan, right now.

Ever since Japan authorities decided to deregulate ear-cleaning as a medical profession, making it available without a medical license, hundreds of salons offering the service started popping up all over the country. The vast majority of clients are men looking to relax their minds after a stressful day, and travel back to the days when they used to rest their heads on their mothers’ laps for the occasional ear cleaning session. Three out of four clients claim it’s so relaxing they actually fall asleep while the kimono-wearing cleaners excavate the wax out of their ears. Some say their wives clean their ears at home, but it’s just not the same without the traditional Japanese style room and the tatami mats.

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Panama’s El Valle de Anton – Where Trees Are Square

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A few miles north of the Panama Canal Zone is the Valley of Square Trees a unique tourist attraction where trees of the cottonwood family have rectangular trunks.

Unique in the entire world, this group of square-shaped cottonwood trees grow in a valley created from the ashes of a giant volcano – El Valle de Anton. Featuring hard-right angles, the trunks of the square trees have baffled tourists and scientists alike, for several years. Experts from the University of Florida took saplings of the mysterious trees to see if they retain the same characteristics in a different environment, and concluded that their square shape must have something to do with conditions unique to the valley in which they grow. Evidence that the cause of this bizarre phenomenon is deep-seated is indicated by the fact that their tree rings, which represent its growth, are also square.

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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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The Wedding House – World’s Smallest Five-Star Hotel

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At 2.5 meters wide and with just 53 square meters of floor space, the Eh Häusel (Wedding House) in Amberg, Germany is the world’s smallest hotel, and a five-star one at that.

From the outside, the Eh Häusel looks like it’s been pushed into the narrow space between two neighboring buildings, but it’s the interior that’s supposed to impress its guests. The hotel is set up on 6 staggered floors and has all the features you’re used to finding in a luxury hotel, including a very comfortable bed, fireplace, fine furniture, flat screen TV and spa bathroom. Guests from as far as China or Mexico pay 240 euros to spend a night at the world’s smallest hotel, and believe it or not the Eh Häusel is fully booked many months in advance. Of course that’s partly due to the fact that’s it’s so small it can only be occupied by one couple at a time.

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