Monday, April 10, 2017

Off the beaten path

Atlas Obscura is to places what Ripley's Believe It or Not is to people. It finds points on the map, usually well off the beaten path, whose very existence can amaze us. There's a lake in Mali where fishing is allowed only one day a year, when at a signal men rush in with baskets to scoop up as many fish as they can. A river in Colombia becomes a liquid rainbow for a few weeks every year because of a rare species of river weed. Residents of a village in Poland all decorate their houses with painted flowers.

Antelope Canyon
And so it goes, country by country around the world. A few countries, such as Botswana and Luxembourg, are omitted, but most nations have at least one oddity worth a mention, and most have a number of them. The book compiled by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton is not necessarily a travel guide, for there are several places mentioned you couldn't visit even if you wanted to, whether because they are on private property or because they are in locations where tourism is not allowed, such as Monkey Island in Puerto Rico, where the monkeys carry a herpes virus that can be fatal to humans.

Most of the places mentioned can be visited, and I have seen a few of them myself, including Antelope Canyon in Arizona and Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, two of the most amazing natural wonders I have ever seen, and such man-made oddities as the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, the Weeki Wachee mermaid show in Florida and Lily Dale, a small town in New York that has long been a hangout for spiritualists.

People everywhere seem to have a fascination with the human body, and the book shows many unusual cemeteries, as well as museums dedicated to torture, mummies, human body parts, undertaking, murders and, tame by comparison, medicine. Quite a number of other attractions are the work of artists, gardeners or people with delusions of grander.

There's an artist in Mexico who built a five-story house for himself in the shape of a nude woman. His bedroom was in one of her breasts. Believe it or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment