Atlas Obscura - Latest Places
The Interpretation Center of Rock Carvings Benehauno in El Paso, Spain
Wed, 20 Nov 2019 11:00:00 -0500


The island of La Palma is freckled with ancient carvings and caves once lived in by its indigenous inhabitants, the Benahoarite people. Sadly, many of these features were not well-preserved, so many of the surviving examples are either blocked from the public or have monitored tourist access.

The El Paso petroglyphs and caves are such a place. This archaeological site features a visitor center that was built in 2009 following a European Union grant for cultural and historical preservation. Inside the building, you will find a film room with a short movie about the natives on the ground floor and a permanent exhibition on the top floor, which showcases pottery and smaller stones with petroglyphs.

The visitor center also gives information about the two nearby sites you can visit—though you have to pass through the center first. The locations of these petroglyphs are not shared online. Instead, a paper map is handed out to visitors.

Once you leave the paved road, the path to the petroglyphs is well signposted. The trail to two locations, a lookout point with a very densely decorated rock wall and a burial site that consists of a rock with many small caves that were used as burial places. 

Mark's Hot Dogs in San Jose, California
Wed, 20 Nov 2019 11:00:00 -0500

In the 1920s, a businessman by the name of Frank Pohl founded the Giant Orange chain in California. The concept, as one might guess, involved selling refreshments such as orange juice and hot dogs out of roadside stands that were shaped like giant oranges. Pohl sold off a few of the stands before his retirement, and the last operational Giant Orange closed in 1973. Although the heyday of citrus-shaped stands scattered across California's roadways has passed, a few of Pohl's large orbs survive today. One of the last remaining oranges lies nestled amid palm trees in San Jose and still carries on the tradition of roadside dogs and OJ.

Mark’s Hot Dogs has been serving up its beef-and-pork franks since 1936. In 1947, then-owner Mark Yuram moved his joint into a decommissioned Giant Orange. Today, diners can order at the counter and eat their dogs (which can be topped with chili, cheese, or sauerkraut) at nearby picnic tables or, in a nostalgic nod to American fast-food spots of yore, use Mark's car-service option. In the latter case, servers will come right to your car to take and deliver your order. For those who don't feel like the tart chaser of orange juice, there are floats, sodas, and milkshakes to wash down your dogs.

In addition to being an eye-catching oddity, the stand is also historically significant. It's a relic of the mimetic (also known as programmatic) architecture craze that took over California from the 1920s through '60s. In an attempt to catch the attention of the increasing number of drivers on the road, many businesses designed their buildings in the very shape of the products they sold, leading to doughnut-shaped drive-throughs, tamale-shaped tamale stands, and more. While some of these buildings can still be spotted across the state, most have been repurposed. Designated a San Jose landmark, Mark's Hot Dogs is one of the few food-shaped stands still feeding hungry drivers.

Church of the Virgin Mary in Kalamata, Greece
Wed, 20 Nov 2019 09:00:00 -0500

Front of the church.

In the sixth century, a small church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary was built inside the castle walls of a fortress directly over the site of the ancient city of Farai.  Inside this church was an icon of the Virgin Mary with what was described by many as the most beautiful black eyes ever seen on an icon.

The icon became known as “Kalomata” ("Beautiful Eyes” in Greek). Over the years, the city embraced the popular name and eventually Farai became known as Kalamata.      

The castle continued to deteriorated over the next six centuries until it was rebuilt by the occupying Franks after the Fourth Crusade in 1205. The castle changed hands numerous times between the Principality of the Morea, Slavs, Navarrese, Franks, Venetians, and Ottomans until Kalamata was liberated at the start of the Greek War of Independence on March 23, 1821.

The church serviced the community continuously during these times, except when under Ottoman occupation, where worship privileges were allowed inconsistently. While the castle suffered significant damage during the many battles fought for it over the centuries, the church generally escaped major damage. The church did however suffer damage in the earthquake of 1986 however it was repaired shortly thereafter.

Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum in Takayama, Japan
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 17:00:00 -0500

Antonio Inioki and Hulk Hogan.

Emperor Hirohito's reign (the Shōwa Era) was one of the most tumultuous in Japanese history. It began with Japan's slow descent into fascism, and went through the devastation of World War II and nuclear bombing before going through the economic miracle that would make Japan one of the most powerful countries on Earth.

In Takayama's Shōwa-kan Museum, pop culture trinkets from the more than 60-year period are arranged into a free-flowing experience, with something to appeal to every niche and interest. There is barely a blank space anywhere in the building, as each part is used to its fullest. Yet the museum never feels slapped together. A veritable town with stores, shady silhouettes, and sounds can be explored any which way.

You can enter what resembles a 1950s barber shop with Japanese radio blaring out long-forgotten songs to the phantom guests. Nearby, an authentic 1950s Japanese car teases with its invitation to enter. You can gawk and smirk at the cheesy television shows of times gone by, with Astro Boy playing as proudly as it did all those decades ago. 

For cinema buffs, a 1960s-style theater plays old Godzilla films behind a curtain. For gamers, the old NES classics are given their own room for a younger generation to experience. Posters of everything from daily kitchen appliances to wrestling showdowns plaster the walls. A working karaoke machine plays the songs of times gone by.

Hermitage of Saint Onuphrius in Italy
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 16:00:00 -0500

The hermitage.

At about 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level, the ruins of the small hermitage named after Saint Onuphrius provide a breathtaking view over the nature reserve of the Orfento Valley and the peaks of the Majella National Park.

This small stone structure, built like other hermitages in the region against the rock, still preserves some traces of wall painting and a general outline of its architectural plan. Devotees of Saint Onuphrius leave wooden crosses at the site. According to tradition, Saint Onuphrius was a fifth-century hermit who possessed no earthly goods and covered his body exclusively with his long hair and beard. 

The history of this hermitage is uncertain, as it is not listed among the hermitages founded by the Pope and Hermit Celestine V. The site was already abandoned in the 19th century, and it was used as a shelter by travelers, farmers, shepherds, and even resistance fighters hiding from the German troops in World War II. Local lore also recounts the hermitage's use as a burial site for those who died in the mountains.

La Esquina del Camarón Mexicano in Queens, New York
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 15:23:00 -0500

You don't have to wear a chef jacket to make an exquisite meal. You don't even need a restaurant. You could be tucked into the back of a bodega in Queens, earning a cult following selling some of the best Mexican seafood in the borough. 

Pedro Rodriguez made a name for himself selling cócteles de camarones in a small outdoor stand in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. Fans lined up on summer weekends for a sweet, salty, briny cup of Rodriguez's shrimp and octopus cocktails, spreading the word among the Latinx community that it was the go-to corner on a hot day for a taste of the Mexican seaside. Popularity led him to move indoors, to the back of a bodega, where he set up a seated counter and added to his menu.

Today, visitors can shimmy into the rear of the small deli year-round to order the same avocado-crested cocteles he's served for years. He lists its ingredients as homemade tomato sauce, onions, lime, orange juice, and clam juice, but the rest is secret. You can top it with either shrimp, octopus, or a bit of each. Also available to order is an array of Mexican seafood, including a fried flauta de cazón with dogfish, octopus tacos, and a sea-bass ceviche served over a crispy tostada. 

Its location in the rear of an everyday bodega belies Rodriguez's attention to detail, evidenced in his treatment of his sea-bass empanadas. Upon frying, he sneaks mayonnaise, cilantro, and ripe avocado into the pockets' slits, a touch of freshness that brings the beach to you on this noisy corner of New York City.

Chateau de Mores in Medora, North Dakota
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 15:00:00 -0500

Wild West Chateau

In the 1880s, the cattle industry was booming in the western United States. Hoping to strike it rich with his idea of using refrigerated cars to ship beef, Antoine de Vallombrosa, the Marquis de Morès, established a summer home in western North Dakota. A brutal winter would put a quick end to his enterprise, but his house, the Chateau de Mores, still stands in the town of Medora, which was named for his wife.

A nobleman of French and Sardinian ancestry, the Marquis de Morès built this two-story, 26-room house in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory in 1883. He purchased over 44,000 acres of land to raise a vast herd of cattle and set up a packing plant to ship beef in refrigerated railway cars and avoid paying for the services of the Chicago Stockyards. He would entertain dignitaries of his day including his neighbor, the future President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt.. His wife, Medora Von Hoffman of the famous New York banking family, painted watercolors that still hang in the visitors' center. 

The Marquis was one of many Europeans who bought large tracts during the boom, not knowing how soon it would crash. The price of beef plummeted in 1885, and most grasslands throughout the West became overgrazed. The summer of 1886 was exceptionally dry and hot, which kept the grass from growing back. Finally, the winter of 188687 was brutal. Punishing snowstorms and below-zero temperatures kept what little grass remained from growing, and an estimated 500,000 cattle perished in what would be called "The Great Die-Up." The Marquis de Morès left the area that November, along with Roosevelt and many other aspiring cattle barons.

Today, the Marquis' home still stands with most of its original furnishings intact, and is available for tours during the summer season. The packing plant burned down in 1907, with only a tall chimney standing in what is now Chimney Park. The Chateau, which is located close to the entrance of Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit, gives insight to a would-be cattle baron's life in the late days of the Wild West.

Gloria Dei Old Swedes' Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 14:00:00 -0500

Gloria Dei Old Swedes Church.

Situated on the banks of the Delaware River, Philadelphia’s historic Gloria Dei (Glory of God) Church is one of the few remaining architectural relics of the city’s Swedish past. Established in 1700 by a congregation of Swedish Lutherans, it's also known as the Old Swedes' Church. Gloria Dei holds the dual distinction of being the oldest church building in Pennsylvania still in use, and the second oldest Swedish church in the United States.

In the 17th century, as Sweden was emerging as a political force to be reckoned with, it sought to extend its influence to the New World. As such, New Sweden, the Swedish colony in America, was founded in 1638. Its geographical boundaries spanned what are now the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. Its existence though was brief, lasting only 17 years. In 1655, the Swedes ceded the colony to the Dutch, who in turn were also conquered by the English nine years later.

The number of Swedish settlers, however, continued to grow. In 1697, construction began on the Gloria Dei Church in Wicaco ("a peaceful place"), the present-day neighborhood of Southwark, Philadelphia. The church was a simple rectangular structure with a tower that was added at a later date.

Formerly a Lutheran church, today Gloria Dei is Episcopalian in its denomination and has been so since 1845. The design of the church is a confluence of medieval, Gothic, and Georgian styles of architecture, the latter of which is featured in several historic Philadelphia buildings. The sharply sloping roof resembles that of Swedish churches. 

The adjoining churchyard is a leafy, tranquil space. One of the oldest burial grounds in the city also exists on the church's property. It has been continuously used since the establishment of the church. The cemetery also happens to be the final resting place of Amandus Johnson, the Swedish-American chronicler of the history of New Sweden. 

The Beaumont Hotel in London, England
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 13:00:00 -0500

The view of the hotel from Brown Bart Gardens.

In Mayfair, one of the most expensive London areas, stands the Beaumont, one of the most expensive London hotels. Surprisingly, this stately structure was a parking garage from when it was built in 1926 until 2009.

The rapid expansion of automobiles in the first quarter of the 20th century demanded the quick expansion of associated services such as gas stations and garages. The car-related needs of Mayfair residents, as well as guests of new stores like Selfridges, had to be accommodated, so a company named Macy’s (no relation to the United States-based retail giant) constructed a four-story parking garage near Oxford Street.

This being Mayfair, the new garage featured a properly styled facade in the popular Art Deco style. Despite ever-increasing status of Mayfair as an expensive commercial and residential location, the building managed to survive as a parking garage (plus a gas station), then as car servicing shop and even, between 1980 and 2009, as Avis car rental.

Finally, the lease to the building was sold in 2009, and by 2014 it was converted into a luxury hotel, with its newly designed interior matching the glamorous exterior. The lease is now owned by the Barclay brothers, who also own the Ritz.

On the one side of the hotel, you can't help but notice a strange-looking cuboid structure. Believe it or not, but it’s one of the hotel rooms! The room was designed by Antony Gormley, who is better known as the creator of the "Angel of the North."

Hofjagd und Rüstkammer in Vienna, Austria
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 11:00:00 -0500

Hofjagd und Rüstkammer.

Upon entering this classic building, you're greeted by large halls and rooms filled with magnificent, courtly coats of armor and weaponry from throughout the Middle Ages.  

Three major exhibits span the museum and showcase a vast array of armor worn by political and military leaders from across Europe. They include armor worn by the imperial family, a collection of arms dawned by military leaders from Western and Central Europe from the 15th and 16th centuries, and artifacts from the House of Habsburg. 

From fancy armor worn by nobles just to show off their wealth to common battle equipment, visitors will find a great selection inside. There is also horse and children's armor, as well as swords, spears, and early models of modern firearms. For anybody interested in armor or the medieval period in general, a visit is well worth the trip.