Terra Cotta Warriors


In 1974, a group of farmers digging a well after a winter drought in northwest China, unearthed fragments of a clay figure, that would turn out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. They didn’t know it at the time, but the bronze arrowheads and pieces of pottery the farmers were going to sell in their village were part of a legend. Found near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the self proclaimed first emperor of China, an underground army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, was found, hidden for more than 2,000 years.


Fast forward to 1995. In Katy Texas, the construction of the Forbidden Gardens was announced. The army was replicated in one-third scale on 80 acres of former rice land outside Houston. Six thousand soldiers stand ready on a stretch of land about the size of a football field.  When it was first under development, it was considered to be a 20-year project that would include a hotel, a 60-foot pagoda, a system of colored ponds, a waterway with boat rides and a Chinese-themed water park. The clay used to make the terra-cotta soldiers was said to come from the Chinese province that produced the originals, and the tiny palaces were built of Chinese wood.


The museum closed in 2011 to make way for a new section of a controversial ring road. With the Grand Parkway slated to cut right through it, the 80 acres was about to become very valuable freeway frontage. The soldiers could not be moved being permanantly afixed to their bases. It’s not feasible to save the Forbidden City. It will probably be destroyed because the liability is too great to leave it there.



Paris Suburban Ghost Town


Goussainville-Vieux Pays was at one time a quiet little farming village, 12.5 miles from Paris. In the center is a historic renaissance church. By the 1970s, this once quiet suburban towns ambience took an irreversable turn.


Unfortunately for the town, it was under the direct flightpath of the new Charles de Gaulle Airport. They were now so close to the country’s largest airport in Roissy that the noise from the planes became intolerable. Residents of the  village saw their neighbors and friends abandon their homes one after another.


The airport authorities, responsible for almost 150 properties in the village being deserted, were required to buy the abandoned houses as well as look after them. It had not been taken into account that the Renaissance church, Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul was recorded as an historic monument. Not having the option to demolish the buildings, they were walled up and left to decay. Even the 14th century church began to deteriorate so badly that in 2010, years after abandonment, local authorities finally agreed to begin efforts to restore it.


Abandoned Duke Of Lancaster


A rusting, abandoned ship has become a canvas for world’s top graffiti artists. Once an elegant passenger ferry and cruise ship commanding the seas around the British Isles and North-West Europe, now the former steamer TSS Duke of Lancaster has spent the last 30 years rusting away by the North Wales coast.


Much smaller than grand liners like RMS Queen Mary and configured for more local routes, the ship featured beautifully decorated first and second class interiors. Retired in 1979 and ending her days docked near Mostyn, Wales, original plans to convert the ship to a 300-room hotel failed.


The hull of the rusting ship has been used as a blank canvas by a host of international graffiti artists, who call themselves the DuDug collective.


Turning the ship into a floating art installation was the brainchild of former street artist Maurice Blunt, who spotted the Duke Of Lancaster from a train. Seeing its potential he tracked down the owners and proposed the idea for transforming the forgotten vessel.


Oak Chapel of Allouville Bellefosse in France


Located in a French farming village, The Oak of Allouville-Bellfose is one of the biggest and oldest trees of France. In it are built two small chapels one above the other. Together with the large wooden staircase leading up to the chapels it is one of the most unusual Roman Catholic sanctuaries in Europe.


In the 1600s, the tree was stuck by lightning that burnt the tree right through its center and hollowed out the trunk. Instead of dying, the tree started to sprout new leaves. The tree’s miraculous survival drew the attention of the local Abbot, who determined that the lighting striking and hollowing the tree had happened for a holy purpose. So they built a shrine to the Virgin Mary directly into the hollow of the tree. Later another small chapel and a stair case climbing the outside of the tree was added. The chapels were named Notre Dame de la Paix (“Our Lady of Peace”) and the Chambre de l’Ermite (“Hermit’s room”).


During the French revolution, the tree became an emblem of the old system of tyranny. A crowd descended upon the village, intent on burning the tree to the ground. When a quick thinking local renamed the tree the “temple of reason” saving it from fire.

Today the common oak is showing signs of age and stress. Now held up by poles, part of the 33-foot trunk has died and the majority of the tree has been covered over with wooden shingles where the bark has fallen away.

Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle

Could This Be The World's Most Expensive Dolls House?
One of the most famous dollhouses of all time, is Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle. This detailed and finely crafted miniature house was the creation of the silent film star Colleen Moore. While she made the transition to talkies easily and with success, the Depression put her out of business. Her father suggested that she should follow her passion and create her own dollhouse. After all, her success as an actress meant that she had the resources needed to create something great.
The rooms are all actually modular units made of aluminum. There is functional plumbing for the bathrooms and fountains. From 1928 to 1935 more than 700 people helped Colleen create her dream dollhouse. Her helpers included architects, interior designers, Chinese jade craftsmen and Beverly Hills jewelers.Inside of the house include paintings and murals drawn by none other than Walt Disney himself. Chandeliers are encrusted with real diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones. The books are all real, including the world’s smallest Bible which was made in the 1840s. Some of the statues are more than 2000 years old.faicolleen-moore-fairy-castle-cinderellas-drawing-room
The dollhouse, renamed the “Fairy Castle” now resides in the Museum Of Science And Industry in Chicago. Millions of people from around the world have visited the Fairy Castle, since it was donated to the museum in 1949.

LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans


Marie Delphine Lalaurie and her third husband, a doctor, Leonard Louis Lalaurie, purchased the home at 1140 Royal Street in the early 1830s. A renowned Voodoo Queen named Marie Laveau lived just a few blocks from the Lalaurie House. Although the nature of their relationship is unknown, undoubtedly these two women met and knew each other.


The legend goes that in the LaLaurie household, slaves disappeared on a regular basis. No questions were ever asked. Then on April 11, 1834, a slave provoked by the abuse piled upon her, set fire to the Lalaurie’s kitchen.

While trying to save items from the house, someone began whispering that servants were chained and locked up behind barred doors and would die in the fire. They searched the house  busting down the locked door to the attic. Madame LaLaurie had renovated the large room into a torture chamber of sorts where hideous procedures had been performed on many of the slaves.


Word spread among the people of New Orleans and the LaLauries fled when a lynch mob formed. Some people found evidence that they had fled across Lake Pontchartrain and lived there, while others say she went from there to France, escaping in a horse and buggy on the night of the fire.



American Horror Story: Coven

Baroque Painting-Inspired Photography

Welcome to the dark world of Helen Sobiralski. Just last year, the Berlin, Germany-based photographer won several awards for her original series about opulence and abundance titled Cockaignesque. Inspired by Baroque still-life paintings, she constructed highly dramatic scenes like the one above, which shows a perfectly coiffed woman with candle wax dripping down her bare shoulders. Baroque art is characterized by richness, drama, deep color, and an intense play of light and dark shadows. As you can tell, light played a particularly important role in Sobiralski’s series as she aspired to bridge the gap between painting and photography.
The name Cockaignesque is linked to the word cockaigne which means a mythical land of plenty. It’s an imaginary place where physical comforts and pleasures are always at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life does not exist.
Cockaignesque - Helen Sobiralski


The Dragon Bridge

In one of the most beautiful and ignored cities in Europe is a fantastic and fantasy filled bridge.

Dragon Bridge is the most fairytale of bridges in the fairytale city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Combining old-world charm with medieval mystery, this bridge celebrates its gothic construction and the mythical side of the area’s history. Decorated with ornamental dragon statues among the other ornate embellishments, visitors love to see the playful side of the city through this monument.


While medieval in style, this attraction came into being in the early 20th century as part of a urban renovation. An 1895 earthquake had damaged the previous wooden bridge, and the powers that be decided to try out a new, innovative technology called reinforced concrete, and throw some dragons in for good measure.Slovenia 058

In the early 1980s, the bridge was renovated with a lightweight concrete. The beautiful fantasy-themed bridge holds the titles to a couple of firsts: first Slovenian bridge paved, first reinforced concrete bridge in Ljubljana, and came is a strong third for largest arch in Europe at the time of construction.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All technical marvel aside, obviously the main attraction is the fine example of Vienna Succession style, and the four dragons guarding the bridge on either side, with sixteen smaller ones decorating its span.

The entire country is beautiful and has a wide spectrum of activities and sights.


Ethiopian Caterpillar

Thought to date back as far as 1820, this incredible pre-electronic mechanical robot was made by Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet for sale to aristocratic Chinese buyers. The rare gold, enamel, jewel and pearl-set automaton mimics the gracious undulating caterpillar’s crawl with a clockwork powered mechanism which drives a pair of gilt-metal knurled wheels.

The body is realistically designed to represent a caterpillar comprising eleven jointed ring segments, framed by seed pearls, and decorated with translucent red enamel over an engine-turned ground, studded overall with gold-set rubies, turquoise, emeralds,and diamonds. The underside is decorated with champlevé black enamel. When the automaton movement is engaged, the caterpillar crawls realistically, its body moving up and down simulating the undulations of a caterpillar by means of a set of gilt-metal knurled wheels. The automata work is composed of a barrel, cam and two leavers all working together to create the crawling motion.

Born 1745, Maillardet was a Swiss mechanician who worked in London producing clocks and other mechanisms, including various automata, including a famous set depicting magicians and others which could write in French and English. When one was presented to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute in 1928 it was of unknown origin; but once restored to working order, the robot itself provided the answer by penning the words ‘written by the automaton of Maillardet’.


Traveling Bookcases

Portable libraries have quite a lengthy history, with aristocrats. Very popular in England and France during the 18th and early 19th century, they often saw use on the European Grand Tour, and were also fairly commonplace among military and naval officers (frequently very well educated, at least in England.)
book lv

One of the most elegant is this Louis Vuitton’s combination steamer trunk and portable library.

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This is a  huanghuali wood traveling bookcase dates from the early 1600s. The stain really brings out the wood grain, and it look like the doors were cut from the same board. The metal work is also very simple, but together they make a very elegant package. Inside it contains two small drawers and a single shelf.


Lighthouses were often time located in remote areas and as such had no access to city services such as libraries. One of the items the tender supplied was a library box on each visit as pictured to the left. Library boxes were filled with books and switched from station to station to supply different reading materials to the families.