Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome, Italy.

imageThe Biblioteca Vallicelliana is almost hidden, its entrance located through a mundane door in the façade of baroque maestro Francesco Borromini’s Chiesa Nuova, not far from Piazza Navona.
One of those shallow ceremonial stairways that unfortunately are no longer common leads to the library started by Saint Filippo Neri, the founder of the Congregation of Orators in 1575 and an avid bibliophile who put reading, study, and music at the center of his religious practice.
This was one of Rome’s first libraries built for public use, and the first in the world to stack books one on top of another vertically due to the invention of the printing press.
Its collection includes books banned by the Catholic Church, as well as a bible owned by Charlemagne.
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The main reading room today is lined by wooden stacks with a creaky wooden floor, where people come to study the library’s manuscripts and archaeological texts.
Take a peek at the Sala Monumentale, across the hall from the main reception desk.
Designed by Borromini himself and dating from 1644, this huge, high-ceilinged room is lined with two-story wooden stacks, which hide a spiral staircase in each corner that leads to the upper level.
via Secret Libraries of Rome | Atlas Obscura.

Overland Rail via the Nullabor Plain and 500 kms of Straight Track.

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Not until the Commonwealth Railways were authorized by national parliament was there a start on the truly Australia-wide system which now exists.
Construction of the Trans Australian Railway was started in 1913 and was not completed until the third quarter of 1917, finally connecting the Eastern States with West Australia’s Government Rail at Kalgoorlie.
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It took 70 years more to get the transcontinental connection of the Indian Pacific train as a single gauge trip across the country from Sydney to Perth.
On its journey it crosses a perfectly straight stretch of 500 km (297 miles) on the Nullabor plain.
Although this banner named train has an excellent usage it has been a financial loss for the government and in 1998 it was sold to a private operating consortium.
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via Australian Rail History.

Yellow TreeHouse Restaurant, north of Auckland.

1065305043These days, a tree house design is much more than just a playhouse in the backyard.
We’ve seen creative concepts from HemLoft, an egg-shaped tree house, to TreeHouse Point, a charming bed and breakfast nestled in the trees.
Another incredibly unique construction is this Yellow Treehouse Restaurant, developed by New Zealand based Pacific Environment Architects in collaboration with Yellow Pages.
Located north of Auckland, the unique concept is an eighteen seat cafe suspended around a large redwood tree and approximately 130 feet above the ground.
The entire structure spans more than 30 feet wide and almost 40 feet high, with kitchen and bathrooms located on the ground below.
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Timber trusses form the main structure, the curved fins are glue-laminated pine, and redwood milled from the site are used in the walkway balustrading.
Plantation poplar slats wrap around the tree and create interesting textured spaces that allow natural light to radiate throughout the interior.
The circular concept is also designed to be weather resistant, with acrylic sheeting fixed to the roof and vertical roll-down blinds on the interior.
Visitors are welcome to come and venture high up in the trees to enjoy a delicious meal.
via Stunning Tree House Restaurant Suspended 130-Feet Above Ground – My Modern Metropolis.

The Museum of Witchcraft, Boxcastle, Northern Cornwall.

museum-of-witchcraftby Jennifer Porrett.
When I was 10 years old, we visited a small fishing village called Boscastle, that would later become ‘famous’ for the devastating floods of 2004.
At this time it was known only as a windy, quaint natural harbour on North Cornish coast, favoured by coach parties and walkers.
As it was October it was raining, so as we walked back into the village from the coast path and saw “Museum of Witchcraft” on the side of a house set into the Cliffside, Mum and I, being proud of our dubious Romany Gypsy heritage (my great Nan had ‘the sight’ apparently) were immediately keen to go in!
The museum is now, as of midnight on Halloween 2013, under the same ownership as the people who started the excellent Museum of British Folklore project.
Attitudes have changed too; at one time I was the only 5 star reviewer on Tripadvisor; in 2013 it received the Tripadvisor ‘Certificate of excellence’.
What is inside the Museum has also changed since our first visit 16 years ago (goodness I’m old).
Joan Wytte’s skeleton is no longer on display, being buried in the nearby woods just outside of the Minster Church – she was known as the Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin and died in Bodmin Gaol, incarcerated as a witch, in 1813.
The 2004 flood damaged many items, but it also allowed them to redesign the museum, open upstairs, and add numerous displays of artefacts there had not been room for before, including the slightly overwhelming ‘Richel collection’ of sex magic artefacts, and many recent ritual artefacts from covens around the country.
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Richel collection © Jennifer Porrett
However The Museum of Witchcraft is not just about witchcraft, it’s a capsule of social history, a time when people would go to the local Wise Woman for a good luck charm for their new house, to heal their cattle or find out if their lover was faithful to them.
In some cases that time was not so long ago – people would visit Charlie Bennett in Local Tintagel to ‘charm away’ warts and ringworm well into the 1980’s.
I remember being surprised to see, pinned up on a beam, the same rhyme I said each night to wish on a star.
Read more via Historical Honey The Museum of Witchcraft » Historical Honey.

Newnes Glow Worm Tunnel.

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Sometimes, abandoned man-made structures turn into dangerous eyesores, rotting away slowly before returning to nature or being torn down.
But other times, like when abandoned ships are re-purposed as living reefs, or mines colonized by bats, abandoned structures take on a new semi-natural life all their own, like a crab who uses a jar for a shell.
Such is the case with the Newnes railroad tunnel.
The Newnes railroad was closed in 1932 after 25 years of shipping oil shale.
The rails were pulled out of the 600-meter tunnel, which had been bored through the sandstone in the Wollemi National Park, and the tunnel was left to its own devices.
For Newnes, that meant becoming home to thousands and thousands of glow worms.
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The glow worm is a catch-all name for the bioluminescent larvae of various species, in this case the Arachnocampa richardsae, a type of fungus gnat.
Found in massive numbers in caves, the fungus gnat larvae cling to the rocky walls of the abandoned tunnel and hunt with long, glowing strings of sticky mucus.
To see the glowing gnats, enter the tunnel during daylight hours, and head to the middle – it gets dark in the middle where there is a bend in the tunnel – with a flashlight, so as not to bump into the walls.
Turn off the light and wait a minute or two. One by one, the gnats will begin to shine like stars emerging in the night.
via Newnes Glow Worm Tunnel | Atlas Obscura.

The Ruins of the Mayan City of Palenque, Mexico.

Palenque-2Image: Jan Harenburg,
A fairly recently discovered ruined city lying in the protective embrace of the Mexican jungles, Palenque is one of the most breathtaking of all Mayan ruins. Known for its intricate carvings and as the resting place of Pakal the Great, the city was once a thriving metropolis between 500 and 700 AD and was home to somewhere around 6,000 people at its height.
The site was only uncovered in the 1950s, and since then it’s been opened to tourists. Now, visitors can get a look for themselves at the massive stone structures, decorated with beautiful carvings, that were once the stomping grounds for one of the Maya’s greatest kings.
So intricate – and so cryptic – are the carvings that some people look at them as proof that the builders had help from a rather questionable source – extraterrestrials.
Carvings depicting bizarre symbols have alternately been interpreted as astrological or religious symbols, or symbolism implying the use of a space ship by the deceased on his way to the next world.
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Image: Mexicanwave,
Now a World Heritage Site, only a portion of Palenque’s estimated 1,500 structures have been excavated. Among those that have been thoroughly explored include Pakal the Great’s tomb, and the Temple of the Red Queen.
The latter yielded the knowledge that the Maya painted the bodies of their deceased nobility a bright red – the same red that would have been used to paint many of the buildings. For the Maya, red was the color of blood and the color of life.
Palenque was abandoned by 1000, left to be enveloped by the jungle and preserved by the same wilds that were once cut back from it. There’s plenty of theories about why people left the city, from famine caused by drought to a shift in political power.
The last date that we know the city was occupied was November 17, 799 – the date carved on a vase.
via 10 Ancient Settlements That Were Abandoned for Mysterious Reasons – Urban Ghosts.