Te Waihou, a river out of a fairy tale in New Zealand

With a tropical look thanks to the exuberant vegetation, a dazzling display of colours, and a crystal clear water purified after over 100 years travelling underground, Te Waihou river is another hidden gem that most tourists pass by without exploring.

Te Waihou Walkway & the Blue Spring are located near Putaruru, going northwest from the rotten valley of Roturua, famous for being a stinky geothermal wonderland. You can find a map at the end of the post to help you to find this nice short walk, in the north island of glorious New Zealand:

Te Waihou
The water flows from the Blue Spring, considered one of the country's best swimming holes. It stays at a chilling 11 degrees temperature all year. Image by Ugur Ozden

Fairy tale river
The walk to the springs follows a track alongside the river, through a picturesque and rural land.
This one and all images below, courtesy of Jude.

Te Waihou river
A great view of clear running water and New Zealand native cabbage trees.

Te Waihou New Zealand
This helicopter was filming for a TV ad.

Te Waihou Walk
The walk takes 90 minutes (one way) upstream from the car park.

Enchanted river New Zealand
In the upper stream, the water is extremely clear and pure, with an intense blue hue.

Te Waihou Walkway
Zoom out.

Magic New Zealand
This source supplies around 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water.

River colours New Zealand According to the local tourism office of Hamilton & Waikato, water from the Blue Spring flows at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute and could fill a 6 lane (25 metre) swimming pool in around 12 minutes.

Crystal clear river New Zealand
The water comes from the Mamaku Ranges, a long trip of over 100 years.

Magic River New Zealand
During this long stay in aquifers, particles and light-absorbing matter are removed from the water, leaving it with a very high clarity and characteristic blue-green colour.

Sunset New Zealand
Bonus track: a sunset from South Waikato.

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16 rare wooden churches from the Carpathians

In 2013, the UNESCO selected sixteen historical Wooden Tserkvas (as these peculiar churches are called), as new world heritage sites. Eight are on Polish territory and other eight in Ukraine. Their architecture, cultural environment and features are unique compared to other remarkable wooden churches like Kizhi in Russia, or the ones in Southern Lesser Poland.

These tserkvas were built between the 16th and 19th centuries to serve the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths, and were made from the timber of the great forests which covered most lands in Europe at that time. The location of most of them in remote rural villages in the Carpathian Region, between Poland and Ukraine, helped them to survive centuries of plundering and fire.

You can find a map with the location of the 16 Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region at the end of the post:

Wooden Tserkvas
The next 8 pictures, including this one from St. Michael the Archangel, Turzańsk (1803), are from Tserkvas located in Poland. Image by Hejma

Wooden tserkvas of Carpathian region
Virgin Mary's Care Tserkva, Owczary. Built in 1653 and refurbished several times until it got this elegant look.
Image by Henryk Bielamowicz

Wooden Tserkvas Poland
Tserkva of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Chotyniec, 1615, with the domes on octagonal drums.
Image by Paweł Mazurkiewicz

Wooden Tserkvas Carpathians
Inside St. James the Less Tserkva, Powroźnik. It existed since 1600, but from the original building is preserved only one part in the present church. Image by Mik Krakow

Wooden churches Carpathians
St. Michael the Archangel Tserkva, Smolnik. Rebuilt in 1791 after a Tartar invasion burned it down.
Image by Tomasz Bienias

Wooden churches UNESCO
The bell tower of the Tserkva of St. Paraskevia, Radruż, 16th century.
Image by Wlado

Tserkvas Poland
In this picture you can appreciate the size of the church of St. Michael the Archangel, Brunary, 17th century.
Image by Jerzy Strzelecki

Wooden churches Poland
Tserkva of St. Paraskevia, Kwiatoń (17th century), still in Poland.
Image by Pabbloz

Wooden Tserkvas Ukraine
We cross to the other side of the border; the next eight tservas are located in Ukraine. Holy Trinity Church, Zhovkva, 1720.
Image by Sergius Krinitchaya

Wooden churches Ukraine
Descent of the Holy Spirit Church, Potelych. Built in 1502, this is the oldest tserkva of the list.
Image by Ільницький Віталій

Wooden Tserkvas Ukraine Carpathians
St. George's Church, Drohobych. Built in the second half of the 17th c., it looks like a medieval ship on dry land.
Image by Роман Тустановський

Tserkvas Ukraine
The Church of Ascension of Our Lord, Yasynia (1824), with its bell tower at the left.
Image by Elke Wetzig

Wooden Tserkvas UNESCO
The curious St. Dmytro's Church, Matkiv (1838). It features five sloping sections and helmet-shaped domes.
Image by Robert Vystrčil

Wooden Tserkvas Carpathian Region
An old image from the Descent of the Holy Spirit Church, Rohatyn (beginning of the 16th century).
Image by Валерій Ящишин

Wooden tserkvas world heritage
The small but cute Church of St. Archangel Mykhailo, Uzhok, 1745.
Image by Elke Wetzig

Rare wooden churches
The Church of the Nativity of B.V.M., Nyzhniy Verbizh (1808). With this metallic look, like a rocket ready for launch, it seems out of a Jules Verne novel or a comic of Tintin. Image by Тарас Возняк

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Olkhon Island and the frozen waters of lake Baikal

For five months at the year, the unique lake Baikal in West Siberia, Russia, it's sealed by an ice sheet up to a meter thick. To have an idea of its size and importance, Baikal is a massive natural water reservoir: it contains one fifth of all the water found in the lakes and rivers of our planet.

Also, this is a popular stop in the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, near Irkutsk. What is not so popular, is to go there during the bastard-cold winter, and to bring back these amazing shots, as the photographer Marco Fieber did:

Olkhon Island Frozen
Imagine you having the chance of driving over a desert of frozen water, until an oasis of crystallized rock.

Olkhon Island Driving
During the winter months, very few visitors arrive here to experience a tour over the shifting ice plates of Baikal.

Lake Baikal Frozen
The perspective changes completely, and you can have access to other parts of Olkhon Island, like these ice caves.

Lake Baikal winter
The around one meter thick ice cover, is hard enough to resist the weight of the vehicles until approximately March or April.

Olkhon Island Winter
The ice below your feet can be transparent as if you were walking on water, or shiny like a silver mirror.

Olkhon Island Tour
As a tourist you can join a tour, usually leaving from Irkutsk, that can last for a few days.

Lake Baikal Tour
Olkhon Island is a perfect retreat to get away from civilization, almost hermit style.

Olkhon Island Shamans
This place is of great importance for the ancient Siberian shamanistic tradition, the common religion of the indigenous peoples of this land, the Buryats.

Travelling winter Baikal
Travelling this regions in winter maybe a tricky adventure, as many services just don't work and everything slows down.

Baikal winter
But once you get used to the cold, and after catching and almost permanent congestion, you may appreciate the fabulous charms of travelling off-season.

The only tourist in town
Sometimes is good to feel like you are almost the only tourist in town.

View Olkhon Island and Lake Baikal in a larger map


The Monuments Men filming locations: where the Nazis kept the looted art

The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program was established by the Allied armies in 1943 to help protect cultural property in war areas during World War II. According to Wikipedia, about 400 service members and civilians worked with military forces to safeguard historic and cultural monuments from war damage. Also they found and returned works of art and other items of cultural importance that had been stolen by the Nazis or hidden for protection.

Directed by George Clooney and starring a distinguished troop of celebrities, the movie was filmed in UK and Germany. This production brings to the big screen the decisive moments, when many of the major cultural and artistic artworks of our civilization were about to be lost forever.

We will visit the locations where The Monuments Men was filmed, and also we'll travel to some of the places that played an important role in this story, based in the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

Monuments Men filming locations

15 extraordinary reflected wonders

Below we present some outstanding examples of reflection photography, a compendium of small artworks, some of them from extremely popular monuments and tourist attractions, that otherwise we wouldn't show in this web.

Throughout the time we have been collecting and keeping stunning images for this special post, from the four corners of the world. Compositions with one thing in common and an artistic twist thanks to water, mirrors and other reflecting surfaces:

Hierve el agua in Oaxaca, Mexico

The enchanted garden in the jungle of Xilitla

This is the story of a surreal delirium, born from the will of an eccentric millionaire of other times. The attempt of a frustrated artist to raise, in an exuberant corner of the rain-forest in Mexico, what his creativity and wallet would enable him.

The result was a complex almost forgotten for the history of art, a sculptural fantasy straight out of the impossible Escher designs, the decaying remains of a lost civilization or the abandoned the sets of a science fiction film.

Las Pozas of Xilitla was the personal paradise of Edward James, a charismatic character straddling his beginnings as patron of artists such as Dalí and René Magritte, to the old shaman in a tropical retreat, playing to build his amazing dream:


The legendary sound of the singing dunes of the Sahara

Like the sound of horns and tribal drums calling for war, sometimes the endless dunes of the Sahara emit a strange penetrating symphony that fills the air with low frequency vibrations.

The once mysterious phenomenon, documented centuries ago from Marco Polo to Charles Darwin, is produced by the upper layers of drier sand moving over the deepest ones. When a certain level of dryness is reached, the desert itself cries out, like an avalanche rumbling that echoes across miles of emptiness:

The video belongs to the fascinating series Africa from BBC, directed and narrated by the legendary David Attenborough. So far, this is probably the best footage of this eerie sound effect.

The intriguing sonic booms have been reported in other parts of the world, from Mongolia to the Atacama Desert in Chile. In addition, a recent scientific research could recreate their characteristic noise artificially in a laboratory, and confirmed that the pitch of the sound depends on the thickness of the sand grains. This way, each desert has its own musical record.

Singing dunes

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