G'day folks,

Beirut's thinnest building was the result of feuding brothers. 

A sliver-thin house in Beirut, built in 1954, is the ultimate display of how deep sibling annoyance can go. Known as The Grudge, or Al Ba’sa in Arabic, the house is just a bit over 13 feet at its widest point, and just around 2 feet at its narrowest.

At a side view, the “house” built of brotherly spite looks more like a wall than a place to live. But despite its narrow dimensions, Al Ba’sa is habitable, and is the skinniest building in the city. 

As the story goes, two brothers inherited land from their father. They couldn’t decide how to split the land between them, a dispute complicated further by the fact that one part of the property had been cut over the years by various municipal infrastructure projects, leaving a portion of the land a small and sort of odd shape. 

One brother decided to take that small, oddly shaped bit of land and build on it, constructing a building that fit the confines of the land with the added bonus of blocking his brother’s ocean view. Not only would his brother not be able to enjoy his spectacular sea view, but because he was now facing what was essentially a wall his property values would sink, too. The perfect plan.

Over the years, there have been some tenants in the house that sibling rivalry built. Each floor of the structure contains two apartments. For years, one was in use as a brothel, while the others served as refuge for a family fleeing the war.

Today the house stands as a reminder of a long-ago feud, and it probably will for a very long time; current city zoning laws state that the plot of land the house sits on is too small to build on. If The Grudge comes down, nothing else can be put in its place, making the land more profitable with the house than without it. As architect Sandra Rishani pointed out in her essay on the house, Al Ba’sa “continues to exist grudgingly and also defiantly in one of Beirut’s most prime locations, only time will tell what will become of it.”






G'day folks,

Deep in the Negev Desert, the world's tallest solar tower looks like it's straight out of a science fiction comic. 

Thanks to drip irrigation, the roads to Be’er Sheva in Israel are fringed with fields that were once barren. A simple system of water-carrying pipes have transformed the Negev Desert into productive agricultural land. But a newer addition just south of Be’er Sheva, transforms the desert into something more akin to a science fiction movie.


The first sign of something unusual ahead appears just after you leave the city limits. If you look carefully, you’ll notice a pale orange flame floating just above the horizon. As you get closer, a tall dark tower appears, its pinnacle glowing as bright as the sun. Light radiates towards the ground, seeming like sunbeams. This is the Ashalim Power Station.

Opened in September 2019, Ashalim is the tallest solar power station in the world, standing 260 meters (853 feet) tall. Ashalim Power Station uses an array of 56,000 solar panels known as heliostats arranged around the tower to reflect sunlight onto the pinnacle. The heliostats are computer-controlled and follow the sun as it moves from east to west through the day.

From the barren hilltops surrounding the station, the tower and the heliostats look like a scene from a futuristic story. The system produces enough clean energy to power 120,000 homes, about five percent of all homes in Israel. And development at the power station is still ongoing. While electricity production has already started, further plans will allow Ashalim Power Station to combine solar thermal energy, photovoltaic energy, and natural gas.






G'day folks,

This monument is a stark reminder of the horrors of the Zanzibar slave trade.  

In 1873 the world’s last open slave market closed. The last vestige of this horrific institution was located in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Enslaved people were transported to Zanzibar via overcrowded dhows. With little food, rampant disease, and appalling conditions, not all of the captives survived long enough to reach Zanzibar. Those who didn’t were thrown overboard. For those that did make it, another ordeal awaited, as they were sold at this site and then were likely shipped off to various Arab countries.


Zanzibar was home to one of the largest slave markets in the world.  Although the slave trade took place all over the island, three major markets saw the bulk of these inhumane transactions. The market in Stone Town was infamous for being the most brutal. The pit and the Slave Market Memorial is in the same location where enslaved people were gathered to be brought and sold.  This memorial was created in 1998 by Clara Sornas of Scandinavia.

On one side of the memorial is a mansion housing the slave cellar, one of fifteen low-ceiling chambers. Dim, suffocating, and with no toilets, these chambers were crammed with enslaved people, where they awaited the auction block. Captives were summoned to the yard and marched to the pit. There, they would be inspected by potential buyers.

On the other side of the memorial is an Anglican church, from which you can see a mosque. A circle of white stones at the altar marks the place where the whipping post once stood  The value of enslaved people on Zanzibar was often based on how much pain they could endure at this post. An outer circle of red stones represents the bloodshed that took place. Unveiled in 1998, the Slave Market Memorial is a reminder of the sordid history of this island.





G'day folks,

Buried beneath an unassuming Gotland farm was the largest collection of Viking silver, mostly of Islamic origin. 

In 1999, a TV crew accompanied archaeologist Jonas Ström and numismatist Kenneth Jonsson to an unassuming farm on Gotland, Sweden’s largest island. After a farmer had discovered a Viking coin, roughly 150 coins and artifacts had been unearthed. The crew got the footage they wanted and left the site, but Ström and Jonsson stayed behind, continuing their unofficial search with a metal detector. In less than half an hour, they discovered two massive caches of Viking treasure.


They immediately asked for permission to officially excavate the site, and over 2,000 people reportedly visited the farm the first weekend after the dig was made public. A third cache was soon discovered, and by the end of the excavation, 67 kilograms (148 pounds) of silver and 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of bronze artifacts had been dug up. 

The hoard, believed to have been buried beneath a ninth-century outhouse, consisted of coins, ingots, and jewelry items such as rings, bangles, and necklaces. Of the 14,295 coins discovered here, as many as 14,200 of them were centuries-old Islamic dirhams. The remaining 95 were an assortment of Nordic, Byzantine, and Persian coins. A few were contemporary counterfeits.

Perhaps most compelling was the discovery of “the Moses Coin.” Minted in the Khazar Kingdom around 800, the coin imitates the design of the silver dirham, but mentions Moses rather than Muhammad in its inscription, offering some archaeological evidence for the popular yet unconfirmed claim that Khazar rulers converted to Judaism.

The Spillings Hoard is the largest Viking hoard ever discovered. Its treasures are now on display at Sweden’s Gotland Museum.

22 January 2023 - PADLOCK TREE PARK - MOSCOW



G'day folks,
Welcome to dozens of padlock-trees along the Moscow River. 

Rows of dozens of trees, each one housing hundreds if not thousands of padlocks, adorn the banks of the Moscow River and symbolize a couple’s eternal love in marriage.


When a couple get married, they write their names on a padlock (which is often the shape of a heart), lock it to some free space on one of the metal tree frames, and toss the key into the river. Although the practice is common in many other countries, the iron trees that lovers affix their lock to make Moscow’s bridge of love a unique and romantic site.

It is not uncommon to see newlyweds on the bridge, and even brides in their wedding gowns, kissing just before clicking down their padlock of love on Luzhkov Bridge.






G'day folks,

Welcome to ancient stone graves shaped like ships provided a Viking-like burial to carry the dead to the afterlife. 

Gotland is a Swedish island brimming with ancient structures, from Visby’s medieval city wall to a roughly 5,000-year-old megalithic tomb. Some of the most fascinating sights are the stone burial “ships,” or skeppssättningar, found throughout the island. These ancient gravesites date from the late Bronze Age, between 1100 and 400 BC. 


The boat-shaped stone monuments were generally used as burial spots for an important member of this coastal community. The person would be cremated and their bones beaten to dust. These remains would then be collected in a stone urn and buried inside the ship. It is believed that this was done to equip the dead with everything they had in life and to facilitate the journey to the afterlife.

The stone ships in the village of Gnisvärd are among the best preserved examples of the ritual in Gotland, and one of them is also the largest on the island. Made of around 100 tall stones, it stretches 148 feet (45 meters) long. The site contains three ships in total that are erected one after another as if going in a ghostly precession. The lead ship is pointed toward an ancient megalithic tomb, the only one in Gotland. Archaeologists believe this was done to “moor” the newer graves to an old revered place.





- IRAN -

G'day folks,

This 12,000 year old Iranian cave village has been continuously inhabited for over 3,000 years. 

From an American point of view, where very few settlements have been around for more than a few hundred years, its hard to fathom just how long a village like Maymand in Iran (which is thought to have been established around 12,000 years ago) has been around. But the still inhabited cave dwellings help.


The staggering age of the settlement at Maymand was determined by fragments of stone etchings that established the existence of human settlers. However the defining characteristic of the village, namely its 300+ in-ground cave homes are not nearly so old, only dating back 3-4,000 years. It is thought that the cave dwellings began as religious sites, but slowly evolved into permanent houses as settlers stayed on the spot longer and longer. As the locals tell it, their ancestors carved out the simple cave homes using a type of hard, sharpened stone that can be found in the area as opposed to traditional tools. The single room dwellings are stacked atop one another four and five tall sometimes, yet each of the barren caves has room for its own stove area. 


Miraculously for such an ancient and stark settlement, the array of caves that make up the village are still inhabited today. Some of the homes are thought to have been continually inhabited since their creation thousands of years earlier. The population as of 2006 numbered 673, but tends to fluctuate with the seasons. The caves may have a sort of barren beauty, but they are not exactly luxury accommodations. 

Iran is a country rich in history, and the village of Maymand is one of the oldest places there, as well as one of the most beautiful.




G'day folks,

After visiting hours, this picturesque waterfall is essentially turned "off" to be used for hydroelectric power. 

Shaki Waterfall is a beautiful spot, where cascades of water plunge 60 feet down over solidified basalt lava flows. The waterfall was enjoyed much like any other natural attraction until the 1990s, when someone built a small hydroelectric generator nearby and began diverting most of the water from upstream to generate electricity.


When visitors would come to witness the falls, they were disappointed to see the diminished flow as the picturesque falls were essentially turned “off.” And so a compromise was reached: For a fee, visitors could have all the water sent to the waterfall and enjoy the full effect once more. This agreement lasted for several years, but many folks were not happy to have to pay to see their old waterfall.

In 2017, the Armenian government decided that at least during tourist season, the waterfall should flow uninterrupted and free of charge for much of the day. They set regular opening hours, and now anyone can enjoy the full splendor of the falls—as long as you get there at the right time.






G'day folks,

This natural "sea of stones" was once used by the Romans as a quarry.  

Despite often looking like a scree slope of very large stones, this Felsenmeer (or Blockfield) has a unique history.

These stones did not come from the mountain but were generated by a weathering process that occurred below the ground. As the surface began to erode, these massive rocks were exposed. The most popular theory behind their creation is that they are the result of frost weathering, however, it has also been suggested that subsurface chemical weathering played a role. This Felsenmeer is one of the most gorgeous in Germany. It’s part of the Geo-Nature Park Bergstrasse- Odenwald, just south of Darmstadt.


After being exposed, the rocks were significantly modified by glaciation processes around 10,000 years ago. This occurred across several Ice Ages and gave the rocks their round shape. 

Romans occupied this part of Germany during the 3rd and 4th-century CE. There is evidence of stone masonry across the rocks when they utilized the Felsenmeer as a quarry.

A number of both naturally formed and modified stones have been given specific names such as the”Altar Stone” and the amazing, yet very natural, “Crocodile.” A major attraction at the site is a massive column intended for a Roman temple but, for some reason, was never removed from the site.

This amazing natural phenomenon is located in a lovely wooded glade on the slopes of a hill known as Feldberg.







G'day folks,

The mastermind behind this palatial hotel perished on the Titanic weeks before its grand opening. 

With its elegant turrets and enormous size, this riverside hotel looks like it could double as some sort of fairytale castle perched atop a European hillside. The nearby canal even makes it seem as though a moat surrounds part of what could easily be mistaken as a stoic fortress.

The architectural beauty isn’t a palace at all, though it has had a few brushes with royalty. Many famous figures, prime ministers, and royalty from around the world have stayed within this 429-room hotel.


Its insides reveal early 20th-century hand-moulded plaster decorations, original Tiffany stained-glass windows, and walls made with the finest Indiana limestone. When it first opened in 1912, a private room cost a whopping $2 per night.

Yet despite the hotel’s grandeur, its story is tinged with sadness. The palatial Château Laurier was commissioned by Charles Melville Hays, American millionaire, philanthropist, and president of the (now long-bankrupt) Grand Trunk Railway System. But unfortunately for Hays, he died before he could see the hotel’s grand opening.


Hays, anxious to return from London to Ottawa for the Château’s big opening, booked a ticket on the famously ill-fated RMS Titanic. Strangely, he reportedly prophesied an “appalling disaster” on the very night the ship collided with the iceberg and met its demise. Hays sadly perished when the ship sank.

Notably, the Château has a second connection to the Titanic. Hays commissioned French sculptor, Paul Chevré, to create a bust of prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier for the hotel’s official opening. The bust, still located in the hotel foyer today, was transported aboard another ship, La Bretagne. Chevré and Hays boarded the Titanic, but unlike Hays, Chevré survived the sinking.






G'day folks,

This once was the Khmer Rouge's high security prison. 

Tuol Sleng is nestled within in the heart of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. From the outside it looks unremarkable: a multi-story former high school with whitewashed walls and grey shutters. However, inside, Tuol Sleng holds a dark history.

Under the Khmer Rouge, Tuol Sleng was transformed from a school into Security prison 21 (S-21), a place in which some of the most violent atrocities of the Pol Pot’s regime were perpetrated. Originally named Chao Ponhea Yat High School, the complex includes five buildings in total. Several months after the Khemer Rouge took power in 1975, they implemented measures to convert the high school into a high-security facility. Between 1975 and 1979 it is estimated that over 15,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng. The prison held between 1,000 and 1,500 occupants along with a large security force.


Life within the prison was terrible, and the people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng were treated cruelly. Prisoners were shackled into their cells, forbidden to talk to one another and frequently beaten and tortured by the guards. All prisoners were interrogated during their stay at Tuol Sleng. These interrogations normally included torture: Prisoners were shocked with electricity, burned with irons and water-boarded.

In 2010, Cambodia convicted Kang Kek Iew, the chief of Tuol Sleng Prison, for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and died while still in custody in 2020.


Today, the former prison stands as a monument to the brutalities of the Khmer Rouge. It is now a museum dedicated to preserving the memory of those who passed through its gates. Several of the implements that were used to torture the prisoners are also on display along with a “skull map,” a map of Cambodia made entirely from human skulls and bones. Rooms that were once used to torture and abuse are now lined with thousands of photographs of those who were incarcerated there.






G'day folks,

Here, 5,000 skulls are in memorial to those who were killed by the Khmer Rouge. 

After the Cambodian Civil War ended, the vicious rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge began.

From 1975-1979, they killed 1.7 million people out of a population of 8 million. Many of those murdered were buried in mass graves in what has come to be dubbed the “killing fields.”


In Phnom Penh at Choeung Ek, a memorial was erected to remember those who were killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. At the site, the remains of an estimated 10,000 people were found. The memorial was then constructed so as not to obscure the facts, but to show the grisly and honest truth.

Designed in the style of a Buddhist stupa, the Choeung Ek memorial has glass sides, and is comprised of multiple layers of human skulls. Totaling 5,000 of those executed at the site, the skulls are a harsh reminder of a genocide that took place only 40 years ago. The memorial is particularly disturbing upon closer examination of the skulls, many of which bear marks of the trauma they suffered before their execution.

Along with the stupa, Choeung Ek still has a number of pits that were used as mass graves, and some human bones can still be seen in the area. The Cambodian government encourages visitors to see the site, and never forget the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.