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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Britain’s Mysterious Coin-Covered Wishing Trees

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Sticking hundreds of small denomination coins into tree trunks is apparently a popular way of getting rid of illnesses.

At least that’s what the staff at a holiday attraction in Gwynedd discovered after investigating the story behind several coin-covered tree trunks in the vicinity of Italianate village Portmeirion. The first tree was cut down four years ago, in order to widen the path to the picturesque settlement founded in 1925, and within only a few months it was covered with 2p coins. Now there are seven such tree trunks in the area, so estate manager Meurig Jones started an investigation to uncover the origins of this unusual habit.

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Computerspielemuseum – Berlin’s Computer Game Museum

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If you thought the Video Card Museum of Kharkov was a geek paradise, than the Video Game Museum in Berlin is really gonna blow your mind. It features vintage hardware, interactive installations, and over 300 video games, including the first ever arcade game, Computer Space, released in 1971, which by the way was a total commercial failure.

The Video Game Museum was first opened for a brief period at the end of the 1990s, but was eventually closed down in 2000. The new museum opened in January 2011 and is located in an east Berlin building formerly occupied by Cafe Warsaw. The exhibits in this geeky museum aim to document all the aspects of video games, including graphics, hardware, music, storylines, etc, since 1951 to current day. Apart from tracking the evolution of video games, the museum also explores the effects gaming has had on modern society, from positive ones like social networking to negative, like addiction and video-game-inspired violence.

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Japan’s First Reptile Cafe Opens in Yokohama

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The Subtropical Teahouse, a “reptile cafe” offering customers the chance to observe and pet dozens of species of reptiles, has recently opened in Yokohama, Japan.

The Land of the Rising Sun is notorious for a variety of wacky venues, like the relaxing cat cafes, or the Vampire Cafe in Ginza, but it didn’t have a reptile-themed one. Since a few days ago that’s no longer a problem, as the country’s first reptile cafe opened its doors in Yokohama’s Naka Ward. ”I wanted to create a venue for those reptile fans hiding in the closet to get together and freely talk about the charms of the creatures they love,” Mutsumi Nagano, the cafe’s 42-year-old manager said about his idea.

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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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Summer Night Horror – Japan’s Creepy Yokai Monster Train

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The Yokai Train is a somewhat scary summer attraction in Kyoto, Japan. One of the electrical trains is boarded by creepy monsters that try to scare children out of their wits.

If you were looking for a way to scare a spoiled brat into submission, look no further that the monster train of Kyoto, an eerie attraction where yokai (Japanese monsters) become real. For kids at least, because any grown-up can tell they’re actually actors wearing white kimonos and scary masks. The custom was introduced by the Keifuku Electric Railroad company, in 2007, and was so popular that it became an eagerly awaited yearly tradition.

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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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China Converts Aircraft Carrier into Luxury Hotel

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Just days after the Varyag, China’s first aircraft carrier was taken out for sea trials, a second carrier, the Kiev is stirring up interest as the first aircraft carrier hotel in China.

The Kiev, a retired former Soviet aircraft carrier was sold to a Chinese company back in 1996, and was used as part of a military theme park in the Tianjin Province, since 2004. But since the acquisition of a working carrier, the Varyag, people have begun looking at these mighty ships as symbols of their country’s military might, so the owners of the Binhai Aircraft Park decided to cash in on their interest. They spent over $15,5 million restoring the old attraction and converting it into a luxury hotel.

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French Town Inaugurates Bubble Hotel Rooms in Local Park

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The French town of Roubaix, has recently opened a series of portable hotel rooms in a local park. They can be rented by people who want to feel close to nature in the middle of the urban jungle.

The bubble concept thought up by French designer Pierre Stephane Dumas aims to redefine the term temporary leisure accommodation, and is based on the following principles: minimum energy, minimum material, maximum comfort and maximum interaction with the environment. The unusual bubble rooms were launched in 2010 and have since then been made available to people who want to enjoy a unique experience in the middle of nature, for around $700 a night.

In the French city of Roubaix, a series of bubble hotel rooms have been installed in one of the local parks. They come with a clear view of the sky and offer nature lovers to be close to their environment without having to travel to far away. The bubbles are made of recycled plastic and, once inflated retain their shape thanks to an airlock at the entrance and a silent pump which creates constant pressure. Outside noises are reduced to a minimum while inside noises are maximized, so the visitors are encouraged to whisper to each other, in order to create a peaceful atmosphere.

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The Incredible Flower and Sand Carpets of La Otorava

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In the Spanish town of La Otorava, Tenerife, the festival of Corpus Christi Festival is celebrated by lining the streets with beautiful themed carpets made from flower petals and colored volcanic sand.

Featuring some of the most fragrant art displays in the world, the feast of Corpus Christi attracts thousands of visitors from all around the world, eager to see what the skilled alfombras (carpet makers) come up with every year. In the Canary islands, Corpus Christi has been celebrated for the last 300 years, but the first person to ever create a flower carpet is believed to be Leonor de Castillo Monteverde, who in 1847 decided it would be a good idea to decorate the road in front of her house with flower petals, for the procession to walk over. It measured only three square meters, but made a strong impact on the community, and eventually became a local tradition. In the 164 years since then , La Otrava flower and sand carpets have only been suspended twice, in 1891 and 1897.

The tradition of making large carpets with scented flower petals and volcanic sand from the foothills of Mount Teide has come a long way since its humble beginnings and the artworks are becoming more spectacular with each passing year. Several days before the celebration, local families and even design companies draw the carpets on paper, and on the big day, men and children draw the outline on the streets, while women fill the designs with various flower petals. All the locals get involved in this beautiful celebration and create a truly pleasant atmosphere.

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The Haro Wine Battle – A Water Fight for Grown-Ups

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Every year, the small town of Haro, one of the biggest wine producers in Spain, hosts the traditional “Batalla del Vino”, the Wine Battle, where participants throw tons of red wine at each other.

Part of the Haro Wine Festival, the annual Wine Battle takes place on June 29, the day of the patron saint San Pedro, and is attended by thousand of people from La Rioja region of northern Spain. The day starts early, at 7 am, with the town mayor parading through the town, on horseback. The procession of people old and young, dressed in white clothes, wearing red scarves and carrying all kinds of wine-filled recipients, follows him on foot through the nearby Mountains of Bilibio, all the way to a small chapel of San Felices. It’s a 7 km walk from Haro, but the fun everyone has after the short mass performed there.

As soon as the mass ends, the wine battle begins. Some people pour buckets of red wine on each other, other sprinkle it from water guns, or throw bags filled with wine. It’s really up to the participants what kind of “weapons” they choose to bring to the Haro Wine Battle, as long as they don’t cause injuries and are full of wine. After a few hours of bathing in wine, the whole mountain smells like a regular bodega, and everyone’s clothes go from white to purple. It’s estimated over 50,000 liters of wine are used every year, during this unique event.

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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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Entire Village Painted Blue for Smurfs Movie Launch

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The small village of Juzcar, in Spain’s Malaga region, has recently been painted blue as part of a global promotion for the Sony Pictures film “The Smurfs 3D”.

Juzcar is a peaceful, traditional “pueblo blanco” village, located in the Genel Valley region of Andalucia. It boasts a population of just 250, and yet Sony has selected it as the perfect location for the world premiere of its new film “The Smurfs 3D”. Locals were delighted, especially since the news meant their small village would become a temporary tourist attraction, but their fame and fortune came at a price: Sony requested that the entire settlement, including its historic church be painted blue, to resemble the smurfs’ fantasy village.

In preparation for the big premiere on June 16, 12 unemployed locals armed with various painting tools used 4,200 liters of paint to turn Juzcar into a real life Smurf village. There have been no complaints regarding the sudden transformation, and considering tourists have already begun arriving, the locals are more than happy with the change. Although Sony has agreed to turn the village to its former white glory, locals are now considering leaving the town as it is now, hoping Juzcar could become a permanent tourist spot. It sounds like Chefchaouen might have some serious competition.

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China Inaugurates Park Made Entirely Out of Clay

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A unique cultural park made entirely out of clay has recently been open to the public, in Tangshan City, China.

Featuring rows of houses, busy streets filled with vendors and their carts, high ranking officials and horse-pulled carriages, the park is a reproduction of Zhang Zerui famous scroll painting Riverside Scene during the Qingming Festival. The man behind this unique project is a local from the city’s Fengrun District, named Qin Shiping. Tangshan has along standing tradition in ceramics, and Qin worked as a sculptor and painter ever since he was a young boy. In 2005, he got the idea to offer a unique view on China, and since he had always been a fan of Zhang Zherui’s painting, he decided to recreate the images depicted in the artwork with clay sculptures.

Qin Shiping put his idea into practice in 2008. He hired two clay sculpture experts with plenty of experience behind them, and 100 more regular clay workers who got started on the project. Three years later, the Tangshan clay sculpture park has finally been completed and opened to the general public. It’s 300 meters long and 60 meters wide and has been built at 2/3 life-size scale. The exact cost of the park hasn’t yet made public, but back in 2009, Qin Shiping stated he had already invested over 10 million yuan ($1,545,000).

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Thai Temple Offers the Ultimate Chance at Rebirth

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Wat Prommanee, a Buddhist temple, 66 miles northeast of Bangkok, offers believers the chance to lay in a coffin for a few moments, then rise up and feel reborn…

I for one find coffins to be really creepy and I wouldn’t dream of lying down in one if someone paid me all the money in the world, but at Wat Prommanee people actually wait in line and pay a fee for a chance to do just that. It’s one of the strangest ceremonies in the world, but one that has been rising in popularity ever since the temple started practicing it, over six years ago. Nine colorful coffins dominate the main hall of Wat Prommanee Temple, and hundreds of people lie down in them every day, playing dead for about a minute and a half, listening to religious chants, and rise up at command feeling cleansed and relaxed.

Wat Prommanee basically offers a daily resurrection service that many Thais believe washes away bad luck and helps prolong their life. It makes sense that people wish for a second chance in life, especially when confronted with serious issues, but lying down in a decorated coffin hardly seems like a solution. I mean, what if it doesn’t change anything, right? Well, they just go back and do it again. The ceremony apparently relaxes them and gives them positive thoughts, so many people come back to Wat Prommanee Temple for the chance to be reborn several times over a few years. All they have to do is pay a small fee.

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