Rouketopolemos: The Easter Rocket War of Vrontados

The Greeks like to celebrate Easter with fireworks, but the townsfolk of Vrontados on the Greek island of Chios aren’t satisfied with simple fireworks. So on the midnight before Easter Sunday, supporters of two rival church congregations – Angios Marcos and Panaghia Ereithiani, gather near their respective churches located on two different hilltops about 400 meters away, and fire tens of thousands of home-made rockets across the valley towards each other. The objective is to hit the bell tower of the church of the other side. Direct hits on each belfry are counted and the parish with the most hits is determined the winner.

This local traditional event known as Rouketopolemos, literally Rocket-War, goes back at least to the Ottoman era. It is said that wars were originally fought with actual cannons until the Ottoman Empire banned that practice around 1889. Since then wooden rockets loaded with an explosive mixture containing gunpowder have been used.


The Comic Book Route in Brussels

The Comic Book Route in Brussels is a path that takes you along several walls and buildings throughout the inner city of Brussels as well as the neighborhoods of Laeken and Auderghem, where large murals of some of the most popular characters of Franco-Belgian comics are painted – Tintin, Smurf, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Gaston, Gil Jourdan and more. The project, which began in 1991, was initiated by the local authorities in collaboration with the Belgian Comic Strip Center to celebrate Belgium’s long history and association with comic strips.

Comic strips are the pride of Belgium. It is the one country where comic strips have grown from a popular medium into an art in its own right. Indeed, with more than 700 comic strip authors, Belgium has more comic strip artists per square kilometer than any other country in the world. In the Belgian capital, you can find dozens of specialized shops, statues, wall paintings, bars and museums dedicated to the art. Nowhere else in this world are comics so strongly rooted in reality and in people's imagination.


Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store

Being a superhero in New York City is easy. Just walk into the Brooklyn Superhero Supply in Park Slope, 5th Avenue between 5th and 6th street, and walk away with a new cape, a grappling hook, a tin of antimatter, or even a new identity. And if you need a partner, Brooklyn Superhero Supply also runs a sidekick placement service. And like any good superhero, the store itself has a secret second identity.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply is the brainchild of acclaimed novelist Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari who founded 826, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. When they founded the original 826 chapter in San Francisco, the building they chose for their tutoring center was allocated for retail. The law required them to either open a retail store or take their offices elsewhere. Dave and Ninive chose the latter and invented the Pirate Supply Store that not only helped them get past the restriction but also helped attract kids and raise funds for the organization by selling pirate wares and souvenirs. When Dave and Ninive opened the New York chapter of 826, the superhero theme was the obvious choice given the city’s history with vigilante.


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A Fictional Space Exploration Society Made Using Paper

Discoverer's Alliance is a whimsical series by paper artist Owen Gildersleeve and photographer Benedict Morgan. Disguised as a documentary, the duo provides a unique insight into the inner workings of one of the country's most accomplished but lesser known exploration societies, through a series of delightfully detailed dioramas created out of paper, food and household items. The fictional society, which exist only in the imagination of the two artists, is a supposedly 100-year-old society devoted to the exploration of the furthest depths of sea and space. Although little is known about the organization their work has led to some of the century's most important scientific discoveries. Discoverer's Alliance’s brave explorers have walked on unknown extraterrestrial worlds, collected rare minerals from the planet Venus and plunged to the depth of the mysterious ocean.


The Balloonfest of 1986 in Cleveland

In 1986, the United Way of Cleveland in Ohio decided to organize a fundraising event and at the same time break the world record for the most simultaneous release of balloons set by Anaheim, in California, on the 30th anniversary of Disneyland just the previous year. On the morning of September 27, 1986, and the night before, a crowd of 2,500 students and volunteers filled 1.5 million balloons with helium inside an enormous white plastic balloon bin on the southwest quadrant of the square. A giant net covering the box kept the balloons together. At 1:50 p.m, the restrains were removed and the enormous mass of rubber and gas lifted out of the bin and towards the sky as spectators watched in awe. It was an incredible sight, but only for a while. Then the weather started to play havoc.


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The Roundabouts of Great Britain

Kevin Beresford is the President of The United Kingdom Roundabout Appreciation Society, an odd group of people who meet in and around Redditch, a town in north-east Worcestershire, to discuss everything about roundabouts – their architecture, design, style, location as well as their safety features. Any why not? Roundabouts are not only an essential traffic management system but they also provide space for gardening, sponsorship and sculpture. These roundabouts range from a simple expanse of grass to magnificent landscaped beauties. Some feature works of art or are wildlife havens, others are sources of local history. There are 10,000 roundabouts in the UK. Redditch alone has over forty.

The society started in 2003 when Beresford's printing company was looking for something different to put on a calendar that he intended to present to his suppliers at Christmas. Beresford chose roundabouts and sent a graphic design student with a camera to shoot the best roundabouts in town. Beresford initially printed only 10 calendars, but the response he got was so overwhelming that he ended up selling 100,000 calendars the world over, and the Roundabout Appreciation Society was born.


The Magic Roundabout in Swindon. Photo credit: Roundabout Appreciation Society

The Enchanted Highway, North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway is a 32-mile stretch of highway starting at Exit 72 on Interstate 94, about 20 miles east of Dickinson, in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of North Dakota. The paved county highway, which begins near the town of Gladstone and terminates at Regent, features a collection of large scrap metal sculptures depicting geese, deer, pheasants, grasshoppers, Teddy Roosevelt, and even a complete Tin Family. The sculptures were created by retired school teacher Gary Greff, from the town of Regent, who did it in the hopes of putting his hometown prominently on the map and thus prevent it from fading away into obscurity.


“Pheasants on the Prairie”, one of the sculptures on the Enchanted Highway. Photo credit

The Buffalo Jumps of North America

For thousands of years the natives of North America hunted the bison. These people became entirely dependent on the animal for their livelihood using as much of the carcass as possible. Hides would be used for clothing, shelter, and bedding. The hair and tail could be used to make rope and fly brushes. Sinew from the muscles went into making threads, glue, and bow strings, while bones and horns were used to make a variety of tools for everyday use. In order to feed, clothe, and shelter a community, mass hunting was necessary.

With skillful planning, organization, and some luck, prehistoric hunters succeeded in killing dozens or even hundreds of animals at a time, using little or no weaponry. One such sophisticated technique developed by the native people to kill buffaloes was the buffalo jump, where herds of buffaloes were driven off a high cliff to their deaths.


“Driving Buffalo Over the Cliff”, a painting by Charles Marion Russell. Photo credit

IJsseloog: A Sludge Storage Tank in the Middle of a Lake

IJsseloog, or the “Eye of IJssel”, is an enormous circular pit in the middle of Ketelmeer lake in the mouth of the river IJssel, in the province of Flevoland, the Netherlands. The pit is one kilometer across and 45 meters deep and functions as a storage tank for heavily contaminated slit that is still being dredged from the bottom of the lake.

Between 1950 and 1990, lake Ketelmeer became heavily polluted from toxic industrial run-offs carried by Rhine and IJssel river from industries and factories located upstream. These pollutants were released into the river by industries not only in Holland but in Germany, Switzerland and France as well. The polluted sediments settled to the bottom of Ketelmeer in a thick layer of contaminated sludge. It was feared that the pollutants could contaminate the ground water or spread to the connected fresh water lake of IJsselmeer, which is the largest lake in the Netherlands and a major source of fresh water for both agriculture and drinking. The IJsselmeer also offers a number of opportunities for recreational activities such as yacht sailing.


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Coober Pedy: An Australian Town That Lives Underground

Coober Pedy is a small town in northern South Australia, 850 kilometers north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway. On the surface, the place looks pretty deserted. A treeless plain on the edge of the Stuart Ranges, with a few sparsely spaced houses, a couple of inns and restaurants, a police station, a school and a hospital further north. But that’s only half the town. The other half lives underground in spacious caves and tunnels called “dugouts” where the town’s residents have built homes, hotels, restaurants, bars, churches and more.

Coober Pedy was established in 1915 following the discovery of opal by a 14-year old boy who was camping with his father's gold prospecting party. Within a few years hundreds of prospectors were tearing up the turf. But people who flocked here to mine the previous stones soon discovered life above ground was pretty tough. In the summer, the temperature often exceeds 40 degrees Celsius. On these hot days, the relative humidity rarely gets over 20%, and the skies usually remained cloud-free.


One of the most famous signs of Coober Pedy. The town has around 250,000 mine shafts and signs like this warn visitors about the dangers of walking without looking. This sign is now reproduced in t-shirts, coffee mugs, flags, bags and plenty more things which you can buy as souvenirs. Photo credit