Atlas Obscura - Latest Places
Shelter of Cervantes in Alcoi, Spain
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 15:00:00 -0500

Main corridor

During the Spanish Civil War, residents of Alcoi in the Valencia region of Spain constructed 25 air raid shelters. These subterranean bunkers were designed to protect the residents from air raids conducted by the Italian Legionary Air Force. 

Italian forces were utilizing three-engined Savoia SM 79 medium bombers from their bases on the nearby island of Majorca to conduct the raids. They made eight major raids on this strongly Republican city from 1938 through 1939.

This shelter is one of the largest buildings in the city and included enough space for more than 1,000 people, however, there were only four toilets and two hand basins. In 2006, the shelter was refurbished and converted into a museum. Much of the gallery area of the shelter addresses the history of the war and shelter through displays, video recordings of personal testimonies, and information boards. 

One of the most interesting sections is the first aid station/infirmary that included its own X-ray machine. The whole experience is thought-provoking and informative, as the perspectives from those wh0 were forced to endure the war are front and center. The setting also provides a personal insight into what life may have been like during this chaotic period. 

Rosomača Canyon in Slavinja, Serbia
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 13:00:00 -0500

Rosomača Canyon.

Rosomača Canyon, also known as Rosomača Pots, is a small river canyon hidden near the village of Slavinja in the Balkan Mountains (known in Bulgarian and Serbian as Stara Planina). The canyon was created by the intrusion of the river flow into the rock mass of the mountain. The layered edges of the rock create an impression of cauldrons and pots, hence the canyon's nickname.

The unusual canyon is about 500 meters (1640 feet) long, and its walls are about 70 meters (230 feet) tall. The walls of the hollowed gorge are made of delicate limestone layers. Limestone shale sediments contain many types of ammonites, extinct marine cephalopods that often had spiral shells.

At the bottom of the canyon, the water is rarely warmer than five or six degrees, but due to the steepness of the rocks the icy water is almost impossible to reach. The river creates an imposing series of waterfalls, and the unique scene of the mountain relief represents a true undiscovered treasure for nature lovers.

Due to its remote location, the canyon is not visited by many tourists except hikers, mountaineers, and adventure enthusiasts. Around the canyon can be found old Serbian villages, such as Slavinja and Rsovci, which is known for its medieval cave church with a "bald Jesus" fresco.

Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge in Sumpter, Oregon
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 11:00:00 -0500

Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge

During the 1860s, massive deposits of gold were uncovered in eastern Oregon. Not long after this discovery came the establishment of the small town of Sumpter, founded by rough and tumble prospectors eager to unearth their fortune in the freezing, isolated landscape. As tales of gold discoveries began to spread and with improvements to transportation during the 1890s, Sumpter transformed into a quintessential boomtown. 

Between 1913-1954, three traveling gold dredges worked the Powder River. In 1934, the current dredge was crafted from pieces of the first dredge and was manned by three employees. The dredge ran for 24 hours, seven days a week, only pausing for Christmas and the Fourth of July. It's said that employees who stayed on the dredge were haunted by "Joe Bush," a spirit they would use as a scapegoat whenever something went wrong.  

The dredge finally closed in 1954. In total, it hauled in an astounding $4 million worth of gold. By today's gold standard, the haul would have amounted to around $150 million. The last dredge sat abandoned for years, though it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It's now a State Heritage Area, and a ranger can give you a guided tour of the restored dredge, with its hard machinery still attached, as it longs for the next gold rush. 

United Shoe Machinery Corporation Building in Boston, Massachusetts
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 10:00:00 -0500

United Shoe Machinery Building, view from Milton Place

The United Shoe Machinery Corporation Building is an Art Deco office building located at 160 Federal Street, on the fringes of Boston’s financial district. It was built between 1929 and 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression. The building is 24 stories tall, and was the first building to take full advantage of Boston's 1928 zoning laws for height. The building was designed by George W. Fuller and the architectural firm Parker, Thomas & Rice. 

This building provides perhaps Boston’s best example of Art Deco architecture. The building is an excellent example of ziggurat massing, where the architect used a series of successively smaller vertical geometric blocks set one on top of the other, to achieve a feeling of mass and scale. It’s a building with a lot to admire walking by at street level, including intricately designed bronze decoration, including fruit, fountains, eagles, abstracted figures, and machine parts. Many of these features, such as pineapples and fountains, are common Art Deco motifs. Perhaps the most amusing feature are the carvings of heads of cattle wearing headdresses, at the upper edge of the architrave, intended to represent the leather used in shoemaking. The lobby is also well-preserved, and worth walking through from High Street to Federal Street.

Amazingly, the building was on the verge of being demolished in 1980. The Boston Preservation Alliance played a big role in securing national landmark status for the building and staving off demolition. Today the building is used as office space. 

Castle of Agia Mavra (Santa Maura) in Greece
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 09:00:00 -0500

Overview / sea view

On the Greek island of Lefkada, the ruins of a medieval castle overlook the Drepanos Channel. Originally built by a Sicilian count in 1300, the Castle of Agia Mavra (also known as Santa Maura) stood through hundreds of years of conquests, sieges, and natural disasters.

When the Fourth Crusade ended in 1204, it resulted in the dismantling of the Byzantine Empire. Lefkada became part of the Despotate of Epirus, a Greek successor state that encompassed most of western Greece. In 1294, the island was was passed to the Lombard Count of Orsini as a wedding gift. The count turned the island into a center of commerce, and wanted to build strong fortifications to defend against pirates and other invaders.

In 1300, the count began construction of a large castle that covered 25,000 square meters of land and was surrounded by a moat. The complex was completed in 1302. Inside its walls it had 200 stone houses, two baths, a seminary, and two schools, and the whole thing was equipped with 126 cannons. The castle was named in honor of Saint Maura—for a time, the entire island was known as Santa Maura.

The castle held strong until 1331 when it fell to the Kingdom of Sicily. In the late 14th century, Lefkada and other islands in the Ionian Sea were part of an autonomous region within the kingdom known as the County Palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos. In the mid-15th century, when Queen Helena of Cyprus traveled to Lefkada for the wedding of her daughter, she experienced horrible weather and upon her safe arrival funded the construction of a church inside the castle in honor of Saint Maura, whom she believed kept her safe throughout her journey.

Around the turn of the 16th century, the castle continued to trade hands. In 1479, it fell to the Ottomans, who greatly expanded its fortifications, then lost the island t0 the Venetians in 1500. In 1503, the Venetians traded Lefkada back to the Ottomans in exchange for the island of Cephalonia. The castle held strong until 1684 when it was captured again by the Venetians once again. It was around this time a carving of the Lion of Saint Mark was placed above the castle’s gate. In 1797, the castle fell to the Franks and a year later in 1798 it fell to the Russians, who made it part of the newly-established Septinsular Republic.

In 1807, Napoleon's First French Empire held the castle briefly, before the British took control in 1810. In 1817, Lefkada became part of the United State of the Ionian Islands and remained so until 1864 when the Treaty of London officially ceded the islands to Greece.

The Castle of Agia Mavra was used as a base until 1888, when a fire destroyed most of the buildings inside. During World War I, the castle was used by the Allies to hold Turkish prisoners of war. From 1922 to 1932, it housed refugees from the great population exchange. In 1938, the Greek government demolished much of the site and sold the ruins to fund the Hellenic Army Pension fund. Most of what remained was destroyed during the Greco-Italian War in 1940-1941 and the site has generally remained in the same condition since. 

Locomotive No. 2 of the Alcoi-Gandia Railway in Alcoi, Spain
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 16:00:00 -0500

Locomotive No. 2 of the Alcoi-Gandia Railway

Constructed in Openshaw, Manchester, England in 1890, this is one of eight locomotives that once traversed the Alcoi to Gandia railway from its inception in 1892.

The line was used to export textiles and paper to the coast from the inland town of Alcoi (also called Alcoy). It was also responsible for importing English coal from the port at Gandia to power the many steam-powered textile and paper mills in the town. This occurred after the industry largely abandoned the exclusive use of water power from the River Serpis and other rivers that combine at Alcoi. Agricultural produce from the region was also exported via the port at Gandia.

The locomotive sits proudly beside the main road through the town (N-340) and is, like the original eight, named after one of the stations on the line. They were constructed by the Bayer Peacock company and were specifically designed to suit the demanding route. The wheel arrangement was 1-3-1.

Known as "el tren de los ingleses," the railway was actually English owned, as the company had offices in both Alcoi and London. The company was also responsible for the extension of the harbor in Gandia, making it the second-largest fruit exporting harbor in Spain. The line was about 53 miles (85 kilometers) long. In 1907 it was linked to the Villena-Yecla line at Muro de Alcoi. This allowed a greater variety of locomotive power to be utilized on the line into Alcoi, including in later years, diesel multiple units. The combined line was known as "el Xixarra."

During the 1920s, work began on an alternative (broader gauge) line between Alcoi and Alicante. The hope was to be able to get textiles quickly to the coast, however, construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and was never completed. The Xixarra line remained in use until 1969.

There are two surviving, preserved locomotives from that line, 24 miles (40 kilometers) of which has now been converted to a cycle track/footpath called the Serpis Greenway (from Muro de Alcoi to Gandia). The other locomotive, No. 7,  is located near to the coastal terminus at Gandia.

El Bunker de JP in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 15:13:00 -0500

The tiritas.

Seafood and car washes don’t tend to be the stuff of stellar pairings, but at El Bunker de JP, some of the finest ceviche and sashimi in Puerto Escondido lies hidden behind giant water tanks and soaped-up vehicles.

Wander down a narrow path and you’ll hit an open-air restaurant filled with locals. They’re tucking into lightly spiced, salty-sweet ceviche, chewy pulpo (octopus), and onion-and-cilantro topped tiritas (strips of fish marinated to umami perfection). Everything gets paired with the satisfying crunch of toasted tortillas and washed down with beers (which come in standard 12-ounce or jug-like "mega" sizes), mezcal, or soda. It’s comfortingly informal—with plastic tables and chairs, motorbikes propped up against its perimeter fence, and plants scattered across the dirt floor—but the food far outshines most of the fancier tourist-strip options.

The secret may be out about the once lesser-known surfer haven of Puerto Escondido (its name even means "hidden port"), but this bunker remains a tucked-away treasure.

Hotel New York in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 15:00:00 -0500

Hotel New York

During the late 19th to early 20th century, many people immigrating from Europe often took the Holland-Amerika Line, which chartered a regular stream of ships to the United States. From around 1900 to 1910, more than 15 million people immigrated to the United States. A large portion were from non-English speaking European countries

With so many people heading over to the United States, the office building of the Holland Amerika Line soon began providing accommodations for those with tickets. They would often include a trip to New York, which took around a week, and a stay in the building, although it wasn't officially a hotel.

The offices served as one of the main hubs between the U.S. and Europe for around 60 years, until air travel became much more commonplace. The last ship to set sell for New York from the office building was in 1971. A few years later, the building began to deteriorate along with its robust history. As it fell into disrepair, two entrepreneurs, Daan van der Have and Hans Loos, saw potential in the building. They teamed up with a design team and transformed it into a hotel, and in 1993 Hotel New York opened. 

The new hotel became the first business on the east side of the river, a hard to reach location that depended on water taxis. However, this proved to be a genius move, as a few years later the rapidly expanding city fully engulfed the region. 

The hotel now contains 72 rooms, including one in each tower. There are also two restaurants inside along with a conference center. The hotel has been a national heritage site since 2001. It's also filled with memorabilia from its days as the last rest stop for Europeans heading to the U.S. 

Naters Beinhaus in Naters, Switzerland
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 13:00:00 -0500

Naters Beinhaus

Nearly two hours outside of the Swiss Alps in the small town of Naters is a 6th century ossuary filled with hidden wonders.

Constructed in 514 by Ulrich Ruffiner, the ossuary houses more than 31,000 skulls, including 1,857 that are visible from the front wall. The upper floor of the ossuary is home to a chapel dedicated to St. Anna. The bones housed below were sourced from the town's old cemetery which surrounded the church until 1869. Apart from a few minor renovations conducted during the mid-late 1980s, the ossuary has remained virtually untouched since its creation. 

During renovations, the northern opening of the ossuary was placed behind a barred wall to protect the skulls from theft. The construction of the wall was a welcome addition as it has protected the site and had helped preserve the skulls, many of which are entirely intact. 

Amid the skulls on the northern wall, a central support beam contains the inscription, "Was ihr feid, das waren wir, Was wir feid, das werdet ihr," which translates to, "What you are, we have been, What we are, you will be."

It's a poetic reminder of the fleeting nature of our existence.

Monument to the Flagstaff Flag Staff in Flagstaff, Arizona
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 11:00:00 -0500

The replica flag staff.

In the summer of 1876, a group of settlers from Boston, Massachusetts crossed into the Little Colorado River Valley in northern Arizona. They had been drawn to the area by rumors of fertile land for farming and easily accessed mineral deposits for mining. However when they arrived, they were disappointed to see that the area was much more arid than they had been led to believe and it was already being settled by Mormon pioneers who had come south from Utah. Still, having come so far, they continued on towards the snow-capped mountains within sight to the west.

In early July, the Bostonians reached a ranch owned by Thomas McMillan and camped nearby. On July 4, 1876, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States' independence, the settlers chopped down a large Ponderosa pine tree, stripped it of its branches, attached an American flag, and stood the tree back up.

In the following years, the area around McMillan's homestead began to be developed. An economy grew around timber and ranching, and soon the community was large enough to warrant having its own post office. With the arrival of the post office, the community needed a name and chose to name itself after the landmark created on the nation's centennial.

The town of Flagstaff, Arizona continued to grow and became a major regional transportation hub. By 1886 it was the largest city on the railway between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California. At some point, however, the original Boston party Ponderosa flagpole fell and its precise location became lost to history.

In 1985, a monument to the original Flagstaff flag staff was constructed in the general area of where the original group of settlers from Boston camped. The governor of Arizona dedicated the monument to the spot from which the city of Flagstaff grew.