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Serafin Villarán, the Man Who Built His Own Castle

Located in Cebolleros, a small community in the province of Burgos, northern Spain, Castillo de las Cuevas, or Castle of Caves, is the result of one man’s ambition and determination. Serafin Villarán dreamed of having his very own castle, and he single-handedly turn his dream into a reality.

Born in 1935, in the town of Burgos, Serafin was a simple man, working as a welder in a local factory. He didn’t have much experience in construction, until that day in 1977 when he got the idea to build himself a fairy-tale castle. He was 42 years old, yet he decided to follow his dream of create a castle-shaped home for him and his family. He bought a piece of land, and without any real architectural knowledge began working on his masterpiece. He mainly used rounded stones which he collected from the nearby rivers Nela and Trueba, and fixed them together with concrete to give his Castillo de las Cuevas an authentic look. Construction began without a preconceived plan, and according to his family he relied only on his imagination and books on Spanish castles as inspiration.

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El Bosc de les Fades – Barcelona’s Fairy Tale Cafe

If you’re looking for an other-worldly experience in the Catalonian city of Barcelona, look no further than El Bosc de les Fades (The Fairies’ Forest), a unique cafe decorated as an esoteric land of fairies.

Tucked away off Las Ramblas, on Pasatje Banca next to the Wax Museum, El Bosc de les Fades is one of the most unusual attractions of Barcelona. As the name suggests, this offbeat venue was inspired by a fairy forest, complete with an artificial woodland of snaking branches, trickling waterfalls, will-o-the-wisp lights, weird demons lurking in mirrors, various optical illusions  and, of course, fairies. It’s kitschy, yet original, and most people enjoy the novelty of it. The main room of the cafe offers plenty of seats under the lush artificial vegetation, or at the bar that’s also been decorated to fit the fairy tale theme, but for visitors who want the full-immersion effect of this place, there’s the private grotto where they can get lost in the very depths of the mysterious forest. And if you’re looking for a creepier fantasy setting, El Bosc de les Fades also features a “haunted house” room complete with eerie mannequins and a magic mirror in which apparitions suddenly appear and then vanish again.

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Unique Spanish Festival Celebrates Near Death Experiences

Did you manage to survive a near death experience during the past year? Well then, congratulation, you’ve earned the privilege of being placed in a coffin and paraded through the streets of Las Nieves, as part of a festival called La Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme.

The small town of Las Nieves is located in the isolated northwest part of Spain called Galicia, where pagan rites have been a part of local culture since anyone can remember. Although it has tried very hard over the centuries, the Catholic Church has never been able to fully integrate their teachings here, and witches or evil spirits still exist in people’s spiritual beliefs. La Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme is one of the Church’s attempts to adapt its dogma to the region’s more primitive beliefs, a sort of “Catholicism meets Paganism” type of event which has often been labeled as one of the most outrageous religious pilgrimages in the world. The unique event that takes place every year on July 29 celebrates those who have managed to cheat death in the previous 12 months by placing them in coffins and parading them through the town, and honors Saint Marta de Ribarteme, the patron of resurrection. Read More »

Robin Hood Mayor Robs Supermarkets and Gives to the Poor

The story of Robin Hood and his merry men is centuries old, but even in this modern age their example is as popular as ever. In the Andalucia region of Spain the roles of outlaws are nowadays played by a village mayor and a group of Socialist extremists, who instead of rich royalty rob local supermarkets and give the loot to the poor.

Andalucia was hit particularly hard by the international economic crisis and the collapse of the construction industry. The whole of Spain is struggling, but in this region the unemployment rate has reached 34% and some people have difficulties even putting food on the table. The dire situation inspired a group of members from the Andalucia Workers Union, led by Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, a member of the regional parliament for the United Left party in Andalucia and mayor of the village of Marinaleda in southern Spain, to stage Robin Hood-style attacks on local supermarkets to get food for the needy. Although authorities see this kind of acts as crimes, Sanchez Gordillo and his modern merry men are heroes to the Spanish poor, who welcome the food products with open arms.

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Playa de Gulpiyuri – A Strange Beach in the Middle of a Meadow

Tucked away into a small inland hollow, right in the middle of a meadow, Playa de Gulpiyuri is one of the most amazing beaches in the world.

We’ve certainly featured some unique places here, on Oddity Central, and even a few incredible beaches, like the hot water beach of New Zealand or California’s glass beach, but none like the beach of Gulpiyuri. Located near the charming town of Llanes, on the northern coast of Spain, Gulpiyuri Beach is unlike anything I have ever seen, or even imagined existed outside of fantasy books or fictional planets. Imagine walking over 100 meters from the sea shoreline and stumbling over a small charming beach right in the middle of a green meadow. And while you may find other beaches completely hidden from the open sea, around the world, this one is actually fully tidal and even has waves bathing the small strip of golden sand.

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Disaster Café – Where Every Meal Comes with a 7.8 Earthquake

If a 7.8 earthquake happened during lunch time, most of us would forget about food and run for our lives, but at the Disaster Café, in Lloret de Mar, Spain, quakes happen all the time, and all you can do is try to keep your balance and hope drinks don’t get spilled.

Normally, people are terrified of earthquakes, but at the Disaster Café, people actually pay to experience a simulated 7.8 quake while they enjoy a tasty meal. I’ve never been, but according to online customer reviews, the place is so popular you actually need to make reservations in advance, in order to be get a table. I guess people’s appetite for disaster is stronger than I thought.

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Spanish Family Quit Their Jobs, Sell All Possessions to Travel around the World in a Caravan

A young married couple, from Mijas, Malaga, have decided to quit their jobs, sell everything they own, and go on an adventure around the world, with their two little children, in a caravan.

Do you ever get so tired of your boring life and tedious job that you feel like leaving it all behind and going on an exciting adventure? I know I do, but I’m just too much of a coward to say goodbye to a comfortable lifestyle and venture into the unknown. Fernando Fernandez and his wife Fleur, both 29, were also a little scared to put everything they knew behind them and go on a trip around the globe, but they managed to lock their fears away and pursue their life-long dream of seeing the world. They realize it’s going to be tough living in a camper with their two small children, Aisha (5) and Noah (1), but they feel it’s a sacrifice worth making in order to truly live their lives.

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

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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CosquilleArte – The World’s First Tickle Spa Opens in Spain

Relaxing is probably one of the last words people use to describe tickling, but at the CosquilleArte Spa, in Madrid, Spain, they actually use delicate tickling techniques to relieve clients’ stress.

I’ve seen some pretty bizarre spas since I began writing for OC, from resorts treating guests to wine, tea and sake baths, to clinics that use crude oil as treatment, but I never imagined someone would get the outrageous idea of using tickling as a stress-relieving therapy. But what I found even more ridiculous was that the idea actually worked and CosquilleArte has become one of the most popular spa venues in the Spanish capital. It wasn’t until later, when I learned the tickling methods have nothing to do with the terrible torture we all had to face from childhood friends, that this unusual form of therapy started to make sense.

Instead of jabbing their fingers into clients’ sides and armpits, like I’m sure you and your friends/siblings used to torment each other, the massage therapists at CosquilleArte gently trace their fingertips and soft feathers down their backs and other sensible areas, and adjust their touches according to how ticklish every person is. Although most first time customers clench when they’re touched, they leave the wacky establishment a lot more relaxed than when they came in.

Photo by CosquilleArte

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Spanish Gym Offers Naked Workouts

A gym in Spain’s Basque region has begun offering naked workouts, in order to beat the economic recession.

When Merche Laseca, owner of the Easy Gym, in Arrigorriaga, noticed fewer people were attending his gym because of the crisis, he knew he had to come up with something new to keep his business afloat. He did some research and discovered the area was a popular destination for naturists. In fact, two local swimming pools were already offering popular monthly nude swimming sessions, and since he discovered there are at least 12 nudist beached in the Basque region, and a mass naked run organized yearly in the nearby town of Sopelana, he figured a naturist gym wasn’t a bad idea.

“We’re always interested in new activities” and “doing sports without clothes is natural and much more comfy” argues Maite Vicuna, president of the Basque Naturist Association, but there are skeptics who are less than thrilled with the idea of a nudist gym. They claim clothes are important when working out, as they retain most of the sweat, whereas doing it naked means the swat goes on the machines, the floor and even on the people around you. Read More »

Political Candidate Offers Voters Two Very Compelling Arguments

Sole Sánchez, a Spanish politician from Menorca, Spain, has recently been accused of sexism over a poster showing her boobs being groped from behind by a man.

Sánchez, a candidate of the Democratic Party, decided to use her best physical assets in the election for the town council of Ciutadella, so she and her colleagues opted for a poster in which she displays her breasts being groped from behind by a man, accompanied by the slogan “Dos Grandes Argumentos”, which translates as Two Big Arguments. They’re big alright, and I’m sure they would have won her the ballots of male voters, but the opposition had something to say about the matter.

The Esquerra de Menorca party denounced Sole Sánchez to the Institut de la Dona (Institute of Women) and claimed sexist use of her body. he defended herself by saying no one is more feminist than her, but everyone has the right to use their body as they see fit, and if all the opposition can do is just sit and watch, that is their problem. She was forced to withdraw her posters, including some in which she appeared in clad underwear with her hands and feet tied in a sadomasochistic way. Read More »

Noche de Rábanos – Spanish Festival Celebrating Radishes

Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) takes place every year, on the 23rd of December, in Oaxaca,Spain and is one of the most impressive vegetable festivals around the world.

The radish was brought to the Americas in the 16th century, and back then the vendors used to carve them and use them on their market stalls to attract customers. Although the origins of the festival cannot be traced to an exact period, it is considered that it all began in the year 1897, when the mayor of Oaxaca organized the first radish-art exposition. Everever since that first celebration, every year, this humble vegetable is meticulously carved into animals, warriors, kings, dancers and pretty much any shape you can imagine. The artists sometimes make use of other vegetables, like onion or lettuce to complete their work. There’s also a prize for the most beautiful piece displayed.

The carver’s work begins about three days in advance and on the 23rd of December, the day of the festival, the results of all their hard work is presented to the public. On that same day, especially in the morning, children have the chance to learn this incredible art of radish-carving, or at least some of its secrets.

The celebrations don’t end that day. They continue on Christmas Eve and Christmas  Day with other joyful “fiestas”, parades of floats, fireworks music and dancing.

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Spanish Woman Claims She Owns the Sun and Wants to Collect Taxes

Angeles Duran, a woman from the Galician region of Spain, claims she is the rightful owner of the sun, and intends to have everyone pay taxes if they want to keep enjoying its rays and warmth.

It sounds crazy, and the notary Angeles Duran consulted in the matter thought the same thing, but her arguments had him questioning the possibility of someone actually becoming the owner of the burning star. There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals. An American was quick to pronounce himself owner of all planets and the moon, but he forgot to mention the sun, so she’s now claiming possession.

Angeles Duran is also considering asking people to pay a tax if they want to keep in enjoying the sun’s benefits. She has already consulted the Spanish Ministry of Industry and explained that her claim isn’t outrageous at all. If you can place taxes on rivers, why couldn’t she do the same with the sun, right. In her infinite generosity, the woman is prepared to give 50% to the state budget, 20% to the minimum pension budget, 10% to research, and another 10% to end world hunger. She is only considering keeping 10% for herself.

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Spain’s First National Siesta Championship Taking Place In Madrid

Taking a  nap in a public, surrounded by strangers isn’t very easy, but Spain’s first National Siesta Championship was a succes and it was aimed at reviving this tradition of afternoon sleep. With all the demands of modern life, this old Spanich custom is slowly dying and something had to be done to prevent this.

The competition was attended by hundreds of people who were connected at pulse monitors for 20 minutes, which is the optimal duration for an afternoon sleep.  The contestants were judged according to the amount of time they slept in the 20 minutes granted to each. Points were also given for unusual positions during sleep, funny and eye-catching PJs and, of course, lots of points for snoring. The winner of the inaugural round was a 47-year-old construction worker who managed to doze off for a whopping 18 minutes of the total 20. Judging by his line of work, I don’t think the noise and being outdoors bothered him much.

The nine-day competition is taking  place in a shopping center in Madrid and is set to end on October 23rd. Winners receive various gift certificates to use in the shopping center. When theNational Siesta Championship ends, the contestant with the most points will receive a certificate worth 1,000 euros.

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Castellers – The Human Towers of La Merce

Every year, towards the end of September, the Spanish town of Barcelona hosts its largest street party – the “La Merce” Festival. One of the highlights of the event is the building of impressive human towers, by acrobats known as “castellers”.

Translated as “castle builders”, castellers are the people that take part in the building of the human towers, in the middle of Placa de Jaume. Surrounded by thousands of people who come to see them at work, the teams of castellers create impressive tower formations, several meters high. As you might imagine, this kind of exercise requires quite a deal of practice and planning, but if successful, their human structure is truly a sight to behold.

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