America’s Most Artistic Parking Garage

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The city of Detroit is home to the most artistic, most magnificent car park in America. The opulent structure that was once known as Michigan Theater is now being used as a three-level parking garage. And here’s the irony of the situation – one of the reasons the theater had closed down was insufficient parking space!

In fact, you could safely say that the car park has come a full circle. Before the theater had opened at the site, it used to contain Henry Ford’s first automobile workshop. That was torn down in 1926 and the theater was constructed with a massive budget of $5 million. Michigan Theater was one of the largest in the state – it could accommodate 4,000 people.

The premises was a multiplex of sorts – it served as a theater, concert hall and movie house. The French Renaissance décor included 10-foot tall chandeliers, a gilded four-story lobby, and mezzanine seating for black tie guests. The structure, covering 1,000 sq. ft., was an architectural marvel and a symbol of Detroit’s growing wealth.

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Cambodia’s Rickety Bamboo Trains

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Although Cambodia has a fine network of railway tracks dating back to the French colonial days, there are hardly any trains running these days. Real trains, that is. The locals get by perfectly well with their own indigenous invention – bamboo trains.

The Cambodian railway system never really recovered from the horrors of war and the Khmer Rouge genocide that happened decades ago. They have just one proper train line in service and the rest of the tracks were covered for years by homemade trains called ‘norrys’. These weird contraptions aren’t exactly what you’d call luxury transport. But they are cheap – about 50 cents a ride. And that suits the locals just fine.

Norrys are made of bamboo, wood and sometimes even parts of old tanks. The first one was built in the 1980s by 73-year-old Pat Oun, or so he claims. The earlier versions didn’t have any engines. Drivers just stood in the train and used long bamboo poles to propel the vehicle down the tracks. “I did this for 20 to 30 kilometers in the past,” said Pat, as he demonstrated the motion.

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Solvay Hut – The World’s Most Precariously Placed Mountain Hut

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The Solvay Hut may be quite humble in its construction, but the view it offers its residents is priceless. This tiny hut is perched right on the narrow north-eastern ridge of Matterhorn, in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland. It is the highest mountain hut in the region, at over 13,000 foot above ground level.

The emergency refuge is owned by the Swiss Alpine club, and is intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers, hikers and climbers. At about 1,500 foot below the summit and two-thirds up the mountain, it provides respite to many Matterhorn climbers and rewards them with the breathtaking view of all the Monte Rosa summits. It is only meant to be used during emergencies, but climbers do stop there to rest and click photographs.

The hut, which can accommodate about 10 people, is not a recent construction. It was actually built way back in 1915 and took only five days to complete. All the building materials were brought up to Hornli Hut, just 2,500 foot below, with the help of animals. A small temp cable car was used to haul up the materials from there. It was rebuilt in 1966 and an emergency telephone was installed in 1976.

Solvay-Hut

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The Creepy Moving Mannequins of One Mysterious New Hamburg House Will Probably Freak You Out

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The John Lawson House, located in the vicinity of the New Hamburg train station in New York, is a mystery in its own right. You couldn’t really say it’s haunted, but it has its own share of secrets that no one has managed to reveal. Yet.

Every day, the porch at the John Lawson House is occupied by life-sized female mannequins dressed in clothes from the last century. Their number, position and theme varies from day to day. But no one knows how they get there. No living person has ever been spotted at the house, which is one of six properties at Main Street Historic District.

Some believe that the dolls have a message to convey. They think the dolls are trying to gesture and point towards an unsolved riddle. Others say that the dolls’ mystery lies in the history of the house. In 1871, during a two-week cold wave, a train crashed just 200 feet from the house, instantly killing 22 people. It is believed that the dolls are always pointing towards that crash site.

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Surfing the Freezing Waters of Lake Superior in the Dead of Winter

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When you think of surfing, balmy beaches and warm summer days come to mind. But not for everyone. Take this one group of surfers from Minnesota who don’t seem to mind diving into the freezing waters of Lake Superior in the dead of winter for a little hardcore action.

This die-hard group of surfers have been spotted riding the waves of the Great Lakes, near Stony Point, during winter, literally emerging from the cold water with icicles hanging from their faces and thick wetsuits. The peak season for surfing at the lake is said to be between January and March and the surfers seem to love it even more if there’s a winter storm, because that means stronger waves. The wind’s long and powerful rush across the lake’s surface that powers the tide can create waves that can go up to 10 – 12 foot high. There have been times when the wave action has reached 30-foot on Lake Superior, during the throes of a raging storm.

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Pointing the Way: The Mysterious Giant Arrows Scattered Across America

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So what if there were no high-tech GPS devices in the 1920s? Back then the US Postal Service invented its own navigation system – giant concrete arrows that pointed the way to Air Mail pilots.

When America’s first Transcontinental Air Mail route opened in 1920, pilots faced difficulties in navigating the coast-to-coast route over the American Midwest. This was a time when radar and other modern flight planning implements were yet to be invented.

The very first pilots had to traverse the route relying on landmarks, which weren’t always visible during bad weather. So in 1923, Congress approved the construction of a network of beacons to make the route navigable in the rain or the dark.

These beacons consisted of massive concrete arrows, painted bright yellow, set into the land about 10 miles apart. The arrows were illuminated by 50-foot-towers with powerful rotating gas lights. Visible from a height of 10,000 meters, the arrows helped pilots find their way during the worst weather and at night. They were also located close to emergency airfields just in case airplanes needed to make an emergency landing.

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Mysterious Lightning Storm Occurs in Exactly the Same Place 160 Nights a Year, Lasts up to 10 Hours a Night

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The world’s greatest natural sound and light show occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, a 15 hour drive from Bogota, Columbia. For centuries, a storm unleashing over 40,000 bolts of lightning has ripped across the night sky at exactly the same spot over Lake Maracaibo. This has occurred repeatedly for as many as 160 nights a year, lasting up to 10 hours a night.

The people of northwestern Venezuela call the phenomenon ‘rib a-ba’, which means ‘river of fire in the sky’. It is also known as ‘Relámpago del Catatumbo’, the ‘everlasting storm’. It generates 1.2 million lightning strikes a year (the highest in the world), visible from almost 250 miles away. For centuries, the ‘Beacon of Maracaibo’ has guided sailors and fishermen at night. It is now a popular tourist attraction in the region.

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Salton Sea Beach – A Graveyard Made Up of Millions of Fish Bones

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California’s largest lake is also its worst one. As you drive past it, you get to see pristine white beaches with blue waters, but if you climb out of your car and take a closer look (I wouldn’t recommend this), you suddenly realize how horribly depressing the place is.

The white sand is, in fact, not sand at all. It is actually just pulverized bones from the millions of fish that died here. The water is actually murky brown; the blue color is only a reflection of the desert sky. And you cannot possibly ignore the putrid stench – like a large fish market that only sells rotten fish.

The very existence of Salton Sea is an accident. It formed in 1905, when an irrigation canal from the Colorado River broke after heavy rainfall. The river burst through the banks of the canal and millions of gallons of water spilled over into a dried out lake bed in the California desert.

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The Dark Hedges – Ireland’s Real-Life Fantasy Setting

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Along Bregagh Road, near the village of Armoy in Northern Ireland, lies a tranquil byroad called The Dark Hedges. For the past three centuries, a stretch of Beech trees have been guarding either side of this road. They have reached up and intertwined with each other, creating an ethereal tunnel of trees with shadow and light playing through the entwined branches. The effect is nothing short of spectacular.

The trees were planted in the 1750s by the Stuart family, on the grounds of Gracehill House, James Stuart’s Gregorian mansion. They wanted to create a compelling landscape to impress visitors who approached the entrance to the mansion. Needless to say, the Stuarts managed to achieve the desired effect. Even today, the Dark Hedges attracts locals and tourists alike.

Up until fifteen years ago, only locals knew about the Dark Hedges. In 1998, Northern Ireland’s national tourist board began to use the setting to promote tourism. Visitors have been pouring in ever since. It is one of the most photographed places in the world, and has become a desktop wallpaper cliché. Several scenes of the hit series ‘Game of Thrones’ have been filmed here and it is also a popular location for wedding photography.

The Dark Hedges

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Dutch Town Has Street Names Inspired by Lord of the Rings

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Geldrop is a small town in the southern part of The Netherlands, with a population of 28,000. Not much information on this place is available online, but it seems like a perfectly ordinary Dutch town. But there is something special about it (apart from the fact that ‘Geldrop’ sounds like some kind of candy).

The names of all the streets in one of the neighborhoods of Geldrop are actually taken out of J.R.R Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. We have absolutely no idea why, or whose genius idea it was, but it’s one of the few places in the world with such bizarre street names. I’d understand if it were just one or two streets, but the entire neighborhood consists of Lord of the Rings references.

At the heart of the city is Laan von Tolkien (Tolkien Avenue). Then the streets branch out into names of hobbits, elves, dwarves and even a few ents (the talking trees). If you want to see for yourself, go to Google Maps and search for Geldrop. Or, you could just follow this link.

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Get Ready for Verrückt, the World’s Tallest and Fastest Water Slide

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Verrückt, in German, means ‘insane’. And that’s exactly what this new and upcoming water slide is. Verrückt is touted to be the world’s next tallest and fastest water slide – beating the current Brazilian record holder.

The current record holder, 49.9m-tall ‘Kilimanjaro’, is located at Aguas Quentes Country Club in Rio de Janeiro, but Verrückt is going to be much taller than that. Exactly how much, we don’t know. Its makers at Schlitterbahn Water Park and Resort in Kansas City, are keeping the height a secret until opening day. But if the rumors are true, it could be about 17 stories high. That’s taller than Niagara Falls and the Statue of Liberty from toes to torch. It’s also twice the height of the tallest wave ever surfed.

Imagine sliding down at top speed from such a great height. The adrenaline rush has got to be truly ‘insane’. To get to the top of the ride, you need to climb a whopping 264 stairs. Then, a specially designed raft will take you and three other riders plummeting down at a speed greater than 65 mph (the current speed of the Brazilian ride).

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Fadiouth – A Unique Island Made Almost Entirely of Clam Shells

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Joal-Fadiouth is a small fishing village located at the far end of Petite Côte – a stretch of coast in Senegal. Joal is situated on the mainland and Fadiouth is an island just off the coast.  A narrow, 400-meter wooden bridge links the two areas. Fadiouth is special – it is almost entirely covered with clam shells.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Fadiouth have been harvesting molluscs. They scoop out the meat and use the shells to construct almost everything, even the island itself. The millions of seashells accumulated over the years have been held strong by the roots of mangroves, reeds and giant baobabs. Empty shells litter the streets; you can hardly step anywhere on Fadiouth Island without hearing a cracking sound from under your feet.

Fadiouth

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North Sentinel Island – The World’s Hardest Place to Visit

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It’s hard to believe that there are people in this world who have no idea about the internet or cell phones. These are tribes that are completely cut-off from global civilization and do not welcome any kind of contact from the outside world.

North Sentinel Island, a part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal Ocean between Myanmar and Indonesia, is home to one such tribe. The Sentinelese people are so hostile to external contact that the island has been dubbed the ‘hardest place to visit’ in the world.

The Sentinelese are thought to be direct descendants of the first humans who emerged from Africa. They have lived on the tiny island for almost 60,000 years. Their exact population is unknown; it could be as low as 40 or as high as 500.

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Indonesian Volcano Spews Hauntingly Beautiful Blue Lava

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There are plenty of natural treasures hidden away in the most unsuspecting places on Earth. One of them is an Indonesian sulfur mine, Kawah Ijen, that produces stunning, spectral blue lava. The images of this mine are so breathtaking, I could just stare at them for hours.

Kawah Ijen is a part of the Ijen volcano complex – a group of stratovolcanoes in East Java, Indonesia – with an active crater that’s 200 meters deep. The complex is also home to the world’s largest turquoise-colored acidic lake, full of sulfuric acid. The lake is a sulfur mining site; miners carry sulfur-laden baskets by hand from the crater floor.

The miners work at night to double their meagre income, but they don’t have to worry about the dark. Kawah Ijen, an ordinary rocky crater by day, transforms into a stunning display of electric blue light at night.

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The Atlantic Road – Norway’s Amazing Island-Linking Scenic Route

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In 2005, the Atlantic Road was honored as Norway’s Construction of the Year. The National Tourist Route runs between two Norwegian towns – Kristiansund and Molde – that are the main population centers in the county of More og Romsdal in Western Norway.

The Atlantic Road (Atlantic Ocean Road) is an 8.3 kilometer long section of County Road 64, running through an archipelago and passing by Hustadvika, an unsheltered part of the Norwegian Sea. The structure is built on several small islands and skerries that are connected by causeways, viaducts and eight bridges. The longest and most prominent of the bridges is the 260 meter long Storseisundet Bridge.

But mere facts about the Atlantic Road do no justice to its magnificence. You need to see pictures to realize just how breathtaking it is. An aerial view of this long structure snaking through the sea is simply breathtaking. It’s hard for me to believe these pictures are real; they seem like someone’s imagination manifested on my screen. Better still, you could visit the road yourself and drive across it to experience its complete beauty. In fact, the Atlantic Road has been declared the world’s best road trip and is a popular site for automotive commercials.

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