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The Himalayan Balsam – An Invasive Flower That Spreads by Explosion

Impatiens glandulifera, commonly known as the Himalayan Balsam, is an invasive plant with a very peculiar colonizing system – its seed pods literally explode when touched or otherwise disturbed, shooting the seeds up to 7 meters in every direction.

A native of India and Pakistan, the Himalayan Balsam has managed to invade 23 European countries, as well as the United States, Canada and even New Zealand. Its exploding seed pods allow the plant to rapidly spread into nearly impregnable thickets that reach over 3-meters-tall, smothering all other plant life to death. However, humans have played a pretty big part in its successful colonization of the world. You see, this isn’t just another invasive weed, it’s a very attractive one. The Balsam has these beautiful purple flowers that people love so much that they historically spread seeds in the wild just so they could see them on the sides of roads. Today, many communities around the world are struggling to keep the plant in check, organizing seasonal “bashing” sessions to clear large swathes of land. and protect other plant life.

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Tourists Won’t Stop Visiting Australia’s “Asbestos Town”

It’s considered the most contaminated site in the southern hemisphere and one of the most toxic in the world, but for some reason tourists just can’t stay away from the abandoned mining town of Wittenoom, deep in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region.

In its heyday, between 1930 and 1966, Wittenoom was home to around 20,000 people, most of whom worked in the now abandoned nearby mines, extracting deadly asbestos every day. Today, it’s a ghost town surrounded by large ‘Danger’ signs designed to keep people as far away as possible. Even though asbestos mining ceased decades ago, Wittenoom is still surrounded by around three million tonnes of asbestos residue, enough to make the air there potentially deadly. The place is so dangerous that last year the Australian government decided to compulsorily acquire the properties of the last three people living in the area, just to get them to safety. And yet, there are thousands of tourists visiting Wittenoom every year and proudly posting photos of it on social media.

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Monte Neme – Spain’s Very Own Toxic Maldives

During the same time that a turquoise but toxic lake near the Russian city of Novosibirsk is making international headlines as the “Siberian Maldives“, a similarly dangerous attraction is gaining notoriety in Spain.

During the first and second World Wars, Monte Neme was a prized tungsten mine that supplied the material necessary for making light bulbs and hardening steel. Today, the mine is no longer accessible, but it remains popular, albeit for a totally different reason. Galician influencers have discovered that the turquoise lake that now covers the flooded mine is the ideal location for spectacular selfies. Despite knowing that the alluring water contains a high concentration of chemicals that give it its unusual color, they flock to Monte Neme to take photos, and some even bathe in the toxic water.

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The Siberian Maldives – An Alluring But Dangerous Tourist Attraction

Russian Instagram users in search of the perfect selfie have been flocking to a lake near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk that boasts turquoise water and white sandy beaches similar to those in the Maldives. But unlike the popular Indian Ocean archipelago, there is nothing natural about its beauty.

Dubbed the “Siberian Maldives” or “Novosibirsk Maldives”, the gorgeous lake is actually a man-made toxic dump used to dump ash from a nearby coal plant. The water apparently gets its bright turquoise color from its depth and the calcium salts and other metal oxides dissolved in it. Alluring as it may seem at first glance, the Siberian Generating Company (SGC) warns that its ash-dumping pond has a high pH of more than 8 and cause an allergic allergic reaction in contact with human skin. That hasn’t stopped people from posing for photos on the lake’s beaches and even venturing on the water on paddle boards and inflatable unicorns.

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World’s Longest Water Slide Will Take You on a Four-Minute Ride Through a Malaysian Jungle

Located on a jungle-covered hillside in Malaysia, the new 1,140-meter-long water slide being built at Penang’s Escape Theme Park will most likely be declared the longest in the world when it opens, in August 2019.

The current Guinness record for the world’s longest water slide has been held by the 605-meter slide at Action Park, in New Jersey, since 2015, but in just two months time it will be claimed by a new water slide currently under construction in the Malaysian state of Penang. Already 65 percent complete, the slide already measures 705-meters-long, and when finished will take thrill-seekers on an epic 4-minute ride from the top of a hill, through a lush jungle before, dropping them into a large swimming pool at the bottom. Escape Theme Park announced that the remaining 435-meter section of the water slide will be completed in time for its August inauguration.

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Norwegian Island Wants to Become the World’s First Time-Free Zone

The people of Sommarøy, an island in northern Norway where the sun doesn’t set for a full 69 days during the summer, want to make time keeping obsolete making this the world’s first time-free zone.

After enduring the long polar night, when the sun doesn’t rise from November to January, the residents of Sommarøy try to make the most of summer, when the sun stays up in the sky from May 18 to July 26. During this time, conventional timekeeping is virtually ignored, and it’s not uncommon to see people doing all kinds of things at late hours of the “night” – say 3 a.m – like doing house chores, swimming or playing ball in their yards. Since it’s always daylight, everyone sleeps whenever they feel like it. It’s been like this for generations, but now the people of Sommarøy want to officially declare their island a time-free zone.

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Phone of the Wind – The Tragic Story Behind a Phone Booth Connected to Nothing and Nowhere

Outside the Japanese town of Otsuchi, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, there is a white, glass-paneled phone booth with a black rotary phone connected to nothing and nowhere. Ever since the tragic tsunami of 2010, which claimed nearly 20,000 human lives, thousands of grieving people have visited the booth to “call” their lost loved ones as a way of coping with their loss.

The Wind Phone, as the now famous Otsuchi telephone booth is commonly known, was actually built a year before the 2011 tsunami that ravaged Japan’s Tōhoku coastOtsuchi resident, Itaru Sasaki, had lost his cousin in 2010 and decided to build a phone booth in his hilltop garden from where he would call his dear relative as a way of dealing with grief. He would dial his cousin’s phone number on an old, unconnected rotary phone, and his words would be “carried on the wind” as he spoke. Even though no one would talk back to him, it made Sasaki feel a deeper connection to his cousin.

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Bambooze – Chinese Liquor Matured in Living Bamboo Trunks

Bamboo was already one of the most versatile resources available to man, but villages in various parts of China have come up with yet another use for the giant grass – living casks for maturing liquor.

Villagers and liquor producers in several Chinese provinces have come up with a way of using living bamboo trunks to produce alcoholic drinks that are proving very popular with tourists. By using high-pressure injection techniques, they fill up sections of living bamboo trunks with rice wine or sorghum and leave it to mature for several months, up to a year and a half, during which time the liquor is infused with flavone (the liquid naturally released by the trunk) and the sap of bamboo. This apparently gives the liquor a pure, pleasant aroma and detoxifying properties. It also lowers alcohol content, as the plant absorbs part of it.

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This Russian Beach Is Covered With Hundreds of Man-Made Stone Towers

Cape Vyatlina, one of the most picturesque places in the Russian Far East, has come to be known as the Russian Stonehenge in recent years, after people started building stone towers on its rocky beach. Today, there are hundreds of them, and new ones are erected almost every day.

The tradition of building towers at Cape Vyatlina by stacking stones of various sizes on top of each other started in 2015, when a group of activists from Vladivostok built 155 such monuments in celebration of the city’s 155th anniversary. Many of these original towers, some up to 3.5-meters-tall, were destroyed by the collapse of a nearby grotto, but other locals and tourists took it upon themselves to restore them and even add to their number. Today, there are several hundreds of these hand-stacked stone towers covering the beach at Cape Vyatlina and building them has become somewhat of a superstition.

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Italian Winemakers Set Vineyards Ablaze to Keep Them from Freezing

Breathtaking photos of vineyards in northern Italy lit up at night by hundreds of torches have been doing the rounds online for the past week. As temperatures unexpectedly dropped below zero last week, winemakers had to come up with a way to keep the vineyards from freezing, and fire was apparently their best choice.

Farmers usually do their best to keep fire away from their grape vines, but with temperatures expected to reach a freezing -9 degrees C, winemakers had no choice hundreds of torches spread out over several hectares to keep the vineyards from freezing. This technique has long been used by winemakers all over the world to create air movement, which prevents frost pockets from forming. Temperatures under -1 degrees Celsius can cause serious damage to emerging buds, so teams patrol the vineyards all night long, making sure that the fires are burning, to at least mitigate the damage.

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The Brazilian Couple Who Brought a Dead Subtropical Rainforest Back to Life

Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado is a world renowned social documentary photographer and photojournalist from Brazil, but few people know that he is also the mastermind behind one of the most amazing environment restoration projects in history. Together with his wife, Salgado has nearly completed the recovery of a single uninterrupted section of the Atlantic Forest, planting millions of saplings over the last two decades.

The story of Instituto Terra, the non-profit organization founded by Sebastião Salgado and his wife, Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado, began in 1998. The celebrated photographer had recently returned from Rwanda, where he had documented the tragedies of war. The horrors he witnessed during those troubled wars haunted him long after he left Africa, and at one point he completely lost both his faith in humanity and the desire to shoot photos. It was around this time that Sebastião’s parents offered him and Lélia the old farm he had grown up in, and he took the opportunity to return home thinking that the idyllic paradise he remembered would help him heal. However, he found that his home was nothing like he remembered it.

Salgado grew up on a 1,750-acre farm in the state of Minas Gerais 70 miles inland from Brazil’s Atlantic coast. He recalls that, when he was only a boy, the Atlantic Forest covered half his family’s farm and half the Rio Doce Valley, and that the fauna that called it home created a cacophony of sounds every day. But that wasn’t the sight he came home to in the mid 90’s.

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Fuggerei – The German Housing Complex Where Rent Hasn’t Gone Up in 500 Years

In a time when the cost of renting a home seems to be getting higher virtually everywhere in the civilized world, the residents of an idyllic housing complex in Germany are living in an inflation-free utopia. The people of Fuggerei, a walled district on the outskirts of Augsburg, pay only $1 a year on rent, the same as the first tenants who originally moved here nearly 500 years ago.

Fuggerei was founded in 1514 by an affluent businessman named Jakob Fugger, as a social housing complex for the poorest people of Augsburg. The Fugger family moved to the bustling German city in the mid-14th century and established a prosperous cloth trading business. By the 16th century, the Fugger family was one of the richest in Augsburg, and their operations expanded to real-estate and banking. Jakob Fugger was the wealthiest banker in the city, which earned him the nickname “Jakob Fugger the Rich”, but he stayed true to his family’s values, and in 1514 he started the construction of Fuggerei as a way of giving back to the community.

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Japan’s Famous Aquarium Toilet

If you love exotic fish and don’t mind hundreds of them eyeballing you while you answer nature’s call, you’ll probably love using this unique aquarium toilet in Akashi, Japan.

Hipopo Papa (formerly Mumin Papa) Cafe, used to be known as one of the most popular dating spots on Hayashizaki Matsue Coast. It still is, but ever since the owner decided to do something special with the women’s toilet, it’s become famous primarily for being the only cafe in Japan – and probably the world – to feature an aquarium toilet. It’s technically surrounded on three sides by a giant aquarium filled with hundreds of exotic fish and a male turtle, which, considering this is a women’s only toilet, is a bit weird.

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Solothurn – The Swiss Town Obsessed with the Number 11

Solothurn is a picturesque town in the north-west of Switzerland known primarily for its special affinity for the number 11. It seems like everything in this place was designed around this magical number, from the fact that there are precisely 11 churches and chapels, as well as eleven historical fountains, eleven museums and eleven towers in Solothurn, to the rather bizarre clock in the town square that features an 11-hour dial and the number 12 missing.

Although virtually everyone in Solothurn knows about the town’s obsession with the number 11, its origin is shrouded in mystery. Some say it was inspired by a folk legend about magical elves coming down from the nearby Weissenstein mountain to hearten the people of Solothurn, who worked hard but never prospered. The grateful inhabitants started incorporating the number 11, or ‘elf’ in German, as a tribute for the creatures’ aid. But there are also those who claim that the number 11 has biblical connotations, deeming it holy and prophetic. One thing’s for sure, though, Solothurn’s obsession with this number can be traced back centuries.

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Montenegro’s Water Tree – A Rare Natural Phenomenon

The small village of Dinoša, in Montenegro, is home to an old mulberry tree that turns into a water fountain every time it rains heavily.

As we all know, water doesn’t normally gush out of living trees, but at least in this case the phenomenon has a perfectly reasonable explanation. You see, the meadow that the mulberry tree grows in has many underground springs which flood during heavy rainfalls, and the additional pressure pumps the water up through the hollow trunk of the tree and out through a hole a few feet above the ground.

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