Scars of World War I: The Battlefield of Beaumont-Hamel

The village of Beaumont-Hamel, in northern France, was one of the fortress villages located just behind the German lines during the Battle of the Somme. It was here, on July 1st 1916, one of the most destructive battles of World War One took place where nearly an entire regiment of the Canadian Army was wiped out.

On the morning of July 1st 1916 the 1st Newfoundland Regiment of the Canadian Army was ordered into battle as part of the opening phase of the Battle of the Somme. Their assignment was to seize control of the German trenches near the village of Beaumont Hamel. It was a strategically difficult assignment. The German front lines were about 300 to 500 meters away from where the Newfoundland Regiment was stationed, down a grassy slope and heavily guarded by a three-tiered system of well dug forward trenches shielded with extensive protective wire, that presented a formidable obstacle to any attacking force. Besides, the Germans knew when an attack was going to start.

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The battlefield of Beaumont-Hamel is still pockmarked with craters and trenches. Photo credit: Michael St. Maur Sheil

The Hot Sand Baths of Siwa

Between July to September, during the hottest months of the year when temperature hovers around 37 degrees in the shade, people from all over Egypt and elsewhere flock to the desert oasis town of Siwa in the Libyan desert in western Egypt to take turns at being immersed in scalding hot sand for up to 15 minutes at a time. Local doctors, as well as those who underwent the treatment, claim that just three to five days of regular sand bathing can cure sufferers from rheumatism and arthritis, and even infertility or impotence.

Sand bathing is a traditional treatment developed by the Berbers of this isolated settlement near Dakrror Mountain, about 50 km east of the Libyan border, and 560 km from Cairo.

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A patient buried in the hot sand looks out from under a shade that protects his face from the sun in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters

The Hindenburgdamm Causeway

The Hindenburgdamm or Hindenburg Dam is an 11 km-long causeway joining the North Frisian island of Sylt to mainland Schleswig-Holstein, off the coast of Germany. It was opened in 1927 exclusively for rail transport. Before the causeway was built, the connection to the island was at the mercy of the tides, and in winter, the ice in the Wadden Sea formed an impenetrable barrier. The crossing took about six hours in adverse weather and flow conditions lasted longer. As the seaside resort of Westerland, on Sylt, became increasingly popular, officials started planning for the rail causeway.

The original plan was to build a train route from the port at the Hoyerschleuse to the island, but after World War I, Germany was obliged to cede the Hoyerschleuse to Denmark while Sylt remained part of Germany. Owing to the new border, the old route to Sylt was now cut off, except if travellers wanted to go to the trouble of obtaining a Danish visa to make a short trip through Danish territory. Because the situation was unacceptable, the causeway re-routed entirely through Germany.

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Ella & Pitr’s Giant Murals of Sleeping People

French street artist duo Ella and Pitr, from the city of Saint-Etienne, has created a name for themselves in the world of street art over the past decade with their storybook-like illustrations of giant sleeping characters. While other street artists take to vertical walls, for Ella and Pitr, the ground is their canvas.

Ella & Pitr met in 2007 and decided to combine their talents. Their first pieces were drawn on paper with Chinese ink, which were then pasted onto walls, lending to their moniker “les Papiers Peintres” or the Paper Painters. Later they started painting on rooftops, airplane runways, and even huge grassy fields. Their strange family of characters include sunbathing grandmas, napping winged boys, and children dreaming in their beds sprawled across hundreds of square meters that can only be appreciated in their entirety from the air.

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The Planetarium of Nagoya City Science Museum

The Nagoya City Science Museum, at the center of Nagoya City in central Japan, can be easily recognized by its enormous silver globe, called Brother Earth, that appears to hang in the air, wedged between two buildings. The globe, which looks incredible from the outside, is home to the largest planetarium in the world with a 35-meter projection screen. The planetarium is equipped with two state-of-the-art projectors — the Universarium Model IX (optical planetarium) and the Skymax DSII-R2 (digital planetarium) —  that is capable of accurately displaying the positions and brightness of more than 9,000 fixed stars visible to the naked eye from any location on earth, as well as the every-day motion of the planets and the phases of the moon.

The planetarium was opened in 2011, when much of the museum was renovated. The old Science & Technology and Astronomy buildings were replaced by a new wing that housed the planetarium globe, and since then the planetarium has become the major attraction and symbol of the museum.

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5 Most Impressive Blue Holes Around The World

A blue hole is an underwater sinkhole formed by the erosion of carbonate rocks and appears as a dark blue circle of water in the ocean. Blue holes are typically located in low-lying coastal regions, which were once above the sea level many thousand years ago. Intense karst activity — the process of dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum by rain water or streams — created large vertical caves. When the sea level rose due to melting of glaciers, some of these holes became submerged. Owing to their depth, blue holes appear darkish blue because of greater absorption of sunlight which increases with increase in depth. This creates a dramatic contrast with the lighter blue of the shallows around them and forms a natural outline that can be easily seen from the surface.

The Great Blue Hole of Belize

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Sand Mandala: The Tibetan Art of Intricate Sand Paintings

Mandalas are spiritual and ritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism that represent the universe. It’s an ancient Sanskrit word that means “circle”, and mandalas are indeed primarily recognizable by their concentric circles and other geometric figures. In the most basic form, a mandala is a square containing a circle with several concentric circles or smaller squares within. The mandala is decorated with traditional iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols.

In Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas are created with colored sand, a practice known as dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means "mandala of colored powders." Historically, the mandala was not created with natural, dyed sand, but granules of crushed colored stone. Sometimes this included precious and semi-precious gems. So, lapis lazuli would be used for the blues, rubies for the reds, and so forth. In modern times, plain white stones are ground down and dyed with opaque inks to achieve the same effect.

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Guided Busways

Between Cambridge, Huntingdon and St Ives in the English county of Cambridgeshire, runs a special bus service over a special route that consist of two narrow concrete rails instead of a regular asphalt road. The buses travel with each set of wheels over the parallel rails, just like a train. The margin for error is narrow, yet the buses attain speeds of 90 km per hour (55 miles/h). The best part is, the driver doesn’t even hold the steering wheel.

Guided buses combine the elements of both bus and rail systems to achieve a new mode of transport that is faster than regular buses because they don’t have to share congested public roads, and cheaper than rails. The buses are fitted with special guide-wheels that engage the short vertical kerbs on either side of the guideway. These guide wheels push the steering mechanism of the bus, keeping it centered on the track. On a normal road, the bus behaves like a regular bus and is steered in the normal way.

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A guided bus on the O-Bahn Busway, Adelaide. Photo credit

Crested Saguaro Cactus

The giant saguaro cactus is a universal symbol of the American west. These plants are native to only a small region of southern Arizona, the adjoining Mexican State of Sonora and extreme southeastern California, yet their tall, columnar shape is familiar to any desert traveller.

The saguaro cactus is composed of a tall, thick, fluted, columnar stem about two feet in diameter with several large arms that curve upward in the most distinctive conformation of all Southwestern cacti. But sometimes they produce a fan-shaped form of uncontrolled growth at the tip. These odd growths are referred to as cresting (or cristate), and are very rare occurrences. It is estimated that this condition affects approximately one out of every 200,000 saguaros. Originally, less than 200 of these abnormalities were thought to be in existence. However, more than 2,000 have been discovered so far, and biologists believe that there may be many more.

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A crested saguaro Photo credit

The Hanging Pillar of Lepakshi Temple

The beautiful 16th century Veerabhadra temple, also known as Lepakshi temple, is located in the small historical village of Lepakshi in the Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh, India, about 15 km east of Hindupur and approximately 120 km north of Bangalore. Built in the typical style of Vijayanagara architecture, the temple features many exquisite sculptures of god, goddesses, dancers and musicians, and hundreds of paintings all over the walls, columns and ceiling depicting stories from the epics of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas. This includes a 24 feet by 14 feet fresco of Veerabhadra, the fiery god created by Shiva, on the ceiling, which is the largest fresco of any single figure in India. At the front of the temple is a large Nandi (bull), the mount of Shiva, which is carved from a single block of stone, and is said to be one of the largest of its type in the world.

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Visitors demonstrating the hanging pillar of Lepakshi temple. Photo credit: unknown