The Mysterious Dancing Forest of Kaliningrad

Located on the thin Curonian Spit that splits the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, lies one of the strangest natural phenomena on Earth.

Known as the Dancing Forest by caretakers of Curonian Spit National Park and as the Drunken Forest, by locals, this unusual pine forest is made of trees of various shapes, most of them twisted in circles and spirals, along the ground.

According to tourists, the Dancing Forest looks more like a site near Chernobyl, with 20-year-old pines tied into natural knots and loops, like lumpy contortionists. A few years ago, the park manager invited students from local universities to conduct studies, and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Since then, several theories emerged, including one suggested by a psychic who said the forest is located on a spot where massive amounts of positive and negative energies collide. Others say the causes are geological, that it must have something to do with the unstable sandy soil. But the most widely accepted theory is that the Dancing Forest was manipulated by the powerful winds blowing in the area.

Whatever the reason, the Dancing Forest of Kaliningrad is definitely an interesting site, especially if you’re into strange natural phenomena.

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Cal Orko – The Dinosaur Wall of Bolivia

A cement quarry near Sucre is home the world’s largest site of dinosaur tracks, known by the locals as Cal Orko.

More than 68 million years ago, thousands of dinosaurs flocked at Cal Orko (a lakeside in those times) in search of food and water. This explains the over 5,000 dinosaur tracks, laid in around 350 criss-cross trackways, on a crumbling wall. The most amazing thing about Cal Orko is it features footprints from 330 dinosaur species, from the Cretaceous, just before they went extinct.

The fascinating 70-degree rockface is a rather new discovery, found by Bolivian workers, in 1994. It stretches 1.5 kilometers in length and it’s 150 meters tall. Compared to other dinosaur track sites, on any other continent, Cal Orko is by far the biggest and most important.

Unfortunately, Cal Orko is in constant danger of crumbling and Bolivian authorities spend $30 million every year, to keep it in place. With all their efforts, part of the Dinosaur Wall has crumbled at the beginning of February, and with it about 300 footprints have been lost.

Photos via Fogonazos

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The Phallic Monuments of Love Valley

The appropriately-named Love Valley is a part of Cappadocia that features some rather excited exciting natural structures.

Before you ask, no this is not where the annual Phallic Festival is celebrated, it’s one of Turkey’s most interesting tourist destinations. Apart from its breathtaking beauty and one of the best trekking places in Asia, Love Valley is famous for hosting a relatively large number of literally rock hard…willies. That’s right, the eroded volcanic ash monuments resemble phalli proudly reaching for the sky.

Like the inspired dude who post this story on Neatorama said: “If God created Love Valley, he most likely did it when he was a school boy.” Brilliant!

via Trifter

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Unique Swiss Ice-Palace Is a Winter Wonderland

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland, the open air Ice-Palace features an impressive collection of castles, towers and grottoes made of ice.

The Ice Palace (Eispaläste) is located in the middle of a forest, near Black Lake, in western Switzerland. Designed by Karl Neuhaus, a talented ice sculptor, the Ice Palace celebrates its 23rd exhibition. The cold climate in the Freibourg area can only sustain this frozen masterpiece for around three months, from Christmas until early March.

The best time to visit the Swiss Ice Palace is after sundown, when all the structures and sculptures are illuminated with colorful lights. It’s a truly memorable sights that attracts thousands of tourists every year.

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The Grotto of the Redemption

The Grotto of the Redemption is an excellent example of what man can achieve with faith and hard work.

Paul Dobberstein was a German immigrant ordained as a priest in 1897. At some point he fell critically  ill with pneumonia and vowed he would dedicate his life to building a shrine to The Virgin Mary, if she would save his life. Father Dobberstein survived and soon after his recovery began gathering piles of rocks for his mission. His search for materials lasted 14 years.

Construction of the Grotto of the Redemption, in West Bend, Iowa,  began in 1912. Foundations were poured, stone slabs were set into place, all in the name of The Holy Virgin. Father Dobberson was actively involved in the building process and many times his hands would crack and bleed from all the cement. He would say “there isn’t any redemption without a little blood”.

Though West Bend isn’t the best place to look for crystals and semi-precious stones, Paul Dobberstein traveled to Hot Springs, Black Hills and Carlsbad Caverns and managed to gather truckloads of materials for his Grotto of the Redemption. The redeeming priest worked on expanding and improving the grotto until he died, in 1954, at the end of a long day’s work.

At the time of Dobberstein’s death, the Grotto of the Redemption was the size of a city block and is still expanding today. The crystals, semi-precious stones and petrified wood used to decorate the structures of the grotto are said to be worth over $4,300,000.

Considered “the world’s most complete man-made collection of minerals, fossils, shells and petrifications in one place”, the Grotto of the Redemption welcomes over 100,000 visitors every year. It reminds me a lot of the Ideal Palace.

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Mexico’s Island of the Dolls Is Beyond Creepy

Known as “La Isla de la Munecas”, by the Spanish, The Island of the Dolls is perhaps the creepiest tourist attraction in Mexico. Located within an extensive network of canals, south of Mexico City, the island is a place of mystery and superstition.

Almost every tree growing on the island is decorated with old, mutilated dolls that give anyone the feeling that they’re constantly being watched. The story behind the Island of the Dolls began when a hermit by the name of Don Julian Santana moved here. Although he was married he chose to live the last 50 years of his life alone.

Don Julian used to say he was haunted by the ghost of the little girl who had drowned in one of the canals around the island. Some say he used to fish the dolls from the water because he though they were real children, but the truth is he was collecting and placing them around his home as a shrine for the spirit that tormented him. At one point he even traded home grown fruit and vegetables for old dolls.

Ironically, in 2001 Don Julian Santana was found dead by his nephew, in the same canal that he said the little girl drowned in. Now his Island of the Dolls is one of the world’s weirdest tourist attractions. Some tourists who visited this place claim the dolls whisper and you must offer them a gift upon setting foot on the island, to appease their spirits.

via Bizarre

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Golden Rock – Nature’s Balancing Act

The gold-covered granite boulder perched atop a stone pedestal known as Golden Rock,  is one of the most breathtaking sights in Burma.

The third most sacred place in Burma, after Schwedagon Pagoda and Mahamuni Pagoda, Golden Rock lies at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, in Mon State. It is completely covered with gold leaves layered by Buddhist devotees and is topped by a 5.5 meters-tall pagoda.

Legend has it Buddha, on one of his travels on Earth, gave a strand of his hair to a hermit, who with his dying breath asked his son Tissa to enshrine the lock in a boulder shaped like his head. The child later became King of Burma and fulfilled his father’s wish by placing the divine gift in a boulder on Mount Kyaiktiyo. Burmese Buddhists believe it’s the strand of hair that keeps Golden Rock in place, defying gravity.

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Djavolja Varos – Devil’s Town in Serbia

Djavolja Varos is a strange rock formation in south Serbia, created by strong water erosion of the surrounding soil

Djavolja Varos, which means “Devil’s Town” in Serbian, features 202 earth pyramids, each between 2-15 meters high and 4-6 meters wide. Most of these rock towers have an andesit cap that protects them from further erosion. When an earth pyramid protects its protective cap, it is quickly disintegrated by the falling rains, but they form just as quick, because of the heavy water erosion. This is what inspired locals to name this extraordinary site Djavolja Varos, because they believe changes like these happen when demons fight each other for power.

The strange sounds made by the wind in this place are also behind its creepy name. The murmurs, howling and squeaking coming from Djavolja Varos on windy nights have frightened local population for centuries and are at the bottom of their eerie legends.

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The Mysterious Leh Magnetic Hill

Nestled between the Great Himalayas and Karakoramh mountains, Leh Magnetic Hill apparently has magnetic properties capable of pulling vehicles uphill.

Located just 30 km from the city of Leh, the Magnetic Hill is quite a popular tourist attraction in India. Travelers from all over the world are drawn here by its mysterious magnetic powers. There is a marked line on the road going up the hill, where drivers are instructed to put their cars in neutral and sit back as they get pulled up at speeds over 20 km/h.

Stories say the magnetic energy is so powerful that aircrafts have to fly at a higher altitude to avoid interference. But, in reality, there is no magnetism or mystical power involved, just an optical illusion created by the layout of the surroundings. A slightly downhill slope appears to go uphill and while the car naturally roles downwards, the landscape makes it look like it’s actually climbing.

Even though it’s just nature playing a trick on us mere mortals, it’s still an amazing experience, worth trying. Check out the video at the bottom to see the Leh Magnetic Hill in action.

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The Incredible Taung Kalat Monastery

Built atop an extinct volcano plug, the Buddhist monastery of Taung Kalat is one of the most breathtaking sites in Burma and the world.

Many people call the hill on which the monastery was built, Mount Popa, but they’re mistaking it with the much higher volcano, close by. The hill is called Taung Kalat and though it looks like a mere bump when compared to Mount Popa, climbing it is quite a task. There are seven hundred seventy seven steps to from the bottom, all the way to the Buddhist monastery.

The locals believe Nats (37 demigod-like beings) live inside Taung Kalat hill and judging by the heavenly views from up there, they just might be right.

Climbing up Taung Kalat, you’re bound to run into some adorable Macaques, but be careful, they’re wild creatures and are likely to snatch anything you lay on the ground, before you even have the chance to blink.

Taung Kalat Monastery and its surroundings are truly unique, but unless the Burmese government intervenes soon, they will degrade beyond recovery.

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The Amazing Seashell Temple in Taiwan

In the hills near San Chih, northern Taiwan, lies the Seashell Temple, one of the most amazing architectural works in the world.

I’m sure many of you have seen photos of it before, it’s almost on every spam photo site on the internet, sometimes listed as being in Bagkok or Taiwan, but I thought it deserved a spot among the oddities on Oddity Central.Almost completely covered with seashells and pieces of coral, Pei Khe Miao (as its known by the Chinese) takes your breath away the minute you lay eyes on it.

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of genuine information concerning the Seashell Temple and I don’t want to make stuff up, so for now you’ll just have to settle for some photos and a video.

Photos via Awesome Asia

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Berkeley Pit – A Toxic Tourist Attraction

That’s right, Berkeley Pit is one of the few places in the world where you have to pay to look at a giant pool of toxic waste.

Located in Butte, Montana, Berkeley Pit is a former open-pit copper mind turned weird tourist attraction. It’s one mile long over half a mile wide and 1780 feet deep, 900 of which are full of extremely toxic water. On the surface, the poison looks a lot like blood and is so saturated with copper, miners were able to harvest the metal directly from the water. From 13 million gallons of water, 400,000 pounds of copper were produced.

The acidic water includes chemicals like arsenic, cadmium, zinc or sulfuric acid and, if you were to drink some, it would corrode through your digestive system before getting a chance to poison you. In 1995 a flock of migrating geese landed on Berkeley Pit and never took flight again. A total of 342 carcasses were recovered. Since the incident a bird watch program was implemented.

But, interestingly enough, good things can come out of toxic waste. Scientists have discovered new types of bacteria that have adapted to the harsh conditions of Berkeley Pit, by producing highly toxic compounds that improve survivability. These chemicals have proven very resilient to cancer and further research is currently ongoing.

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The Ideal Palace

Le Palais Ideal is one of the most popular examples of naive art architecture, built by Ferdinand Cheval, a French Postman, over a period of 33 years.

Cheval began building his Ideal Palace in April 1879. While he was on the job, the postman tripped over a stone and was impressed by its unusual shape. Inspired by the stone, he returned the following day and started gathering more rocks and putting them in his pockets. Over time he began carrying them in baskets and then, in a wheelbarrow.

With no architectural skills whatsoever, Ferdinand Cheval managed to build his Ideal Palace, combining several styles and using the Bible and Hingu mythology as inspiration. He spent 20 years on the outer walls alone, binding the stones together with lime, mortar and cement and decorating them with all sorts of chapel and temple models.

Cheval wanted to be buried in his Palais Ideal, but French law didn’t allow it. So he spent the last years of his life building himself an intricate mausoleum, in the cemetery of Hauterives. His palace was recognized as a masterpiece and is now a cultural landmark and one of France’s popular tourist attractions.

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The Marble Caves of Rio Tranquilo

Located in the Coyhaique province, Chile, the Marble Caves are some of the most impressive attractions of Patagonia.

Las Cavernas de Marmol, as the Spanish call them were created by the clear waters of Rio Tranquilo that dug into a giant limestone peninsula, creating an impressive labyrinth of caves. The peninsula is known as the Marble Cathedral and can be reached by boat, during a guided tour.

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Ball’s Pyramid – Mountain in the Ocean

Located 20 km southeast of Lord Howe Island, in the Pacific Ocean, Ball’s Pyramid rises 562 meters above the waters.

Ball’s Pyramid is all that remains from a shield volcano that was formed 7 million years ago and is the tallest volcanic stack in the world. It was discovered in 1788, by Lieutenant Henry Ball, but no one was able to climb to its summit until 1965.  In 1982 climbing was banned and soon after all access to the island was restricted. Nowadays, the policy has changed and climbing is allowed, but only under strict conditions.

In 2001 researchers found a small population of Lord Howe Island stick insects, a species thought to have been eradicated by the black rats that were introduced on Howe Island. The 24 rare inhabitants found on Ball’s Pyramid are now being bred in captivity, in hopes of reviving the species.

Photos via Snegopad

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