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Photo: National Museum of Denmark/Roberto Fortuna

The National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen has a formidable collection of animal-skin garments once worn by the indigenous people of Greenland, North America, North Scandinavia, and Siberia.

Among the usual furry boots, mittens, capes, and leggings made for these perilously cold climates is a garment worthy of particularly close inspection: Item Ld.132.4, a 19th-century beaded seal-fur g-string.

The indigenous people of East Greenland made this sort of underwear, known as naatsit, by sewing strips of seal pelt together using a thread of reindeer or whale sinew. The naatsit above, decorated with glass beads tied onto seal-skin fringe, was made for women and worn under seal-skin trousers. Explorer Captain C. Ryder acquired the item in the southeast Greenland settlement of Ammassalik during an expedition in 1892.

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A candy elephant at Amezaiku Yoshihara. (Photo: wombatarama/Flick.)

At a tiny shop in the old downtown of Tokyo, you can see an art form that almost died out—and eat it, too. The craftspeople at Amezaiku Yoshihara make intricate candy creatures by hand as you watch, forming sugary starch into delicate legs, wings, and ears in just the couple of minutes before the candy hardens. 

Amezaiku was once a common street entertainment for children, but the traditional carts were outlawed in the late 20th century and until recently it could only be seen at festivals and special events. Amezaiki Yoshihara, which opened in 2008, was the first permanent shop devoted to this craft. Its owner apprenticed with a master for two years and worked by himself for four years before going into business. You can buy ready-made items, but for the full experience, customers pick a creature from their catalog and have it made on the spot.

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The artisan sculpts the sugary concoction. (Photo: wombatarama/Flickr)

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For the past couple of years, a young woman known only as “Bionerd23” has been making strange, dangerous videos in and around one of the most infamous nuclear zones on Earth—the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Nothing is too radioactive or risky for her. She has shown herself getting injected with the radionuclide technetium, eating radioactive apples from a tree in Chernobyl, being chased by a possibly rabid fox, and picking up fragments of the nuclear plant’s reactor fuel with her bare hands. When a freakishly large catfish appears on camera, she calmly explains that it’s probably not a mutant—“They are just that way because nobody catches them,” she says in a video, watching a six-foot-long catfish, eerily like a shark, swim around a murky pool of water.

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article-imageThere are more than 100 enormous topiary sculptures in the Municipal Cemetery in Tulcán, Ecuador, five miles from the border with Colombia. (All photos: Eric Mohl)

Across the Americas,  border towns are more often than not sketchy, Wild West-like places with an aura of desolation. Usually, the only reason to stop is to endure the draconian and dismal passport stamping procedures required to travel from one country to another. However, the border between Ipiales, Colombia and Tulcán, Ecuador has been blessed with the most improbable church in Colombia and the most high maintenance cemetery in Ecuador. 

On the Colombian side, less than ten miles from the border with Ecuador, the Las Lajas Sanctuary dominates a narrow, deep gorge with its stony bulk. The Gothic revival style church, built between 1916 and 1949 on a Virgin Mary apparition site, rises 330 feet from the bottom of the canyon. The Guáitara River rages below the structure, which is accessed via a 160-foot-long stone foot bridge. 

Across the border and 12 miles from the church, the town of Tulcán, Ecuador, holds two distinctions: it’s the highest city in Ecuador at 9,680 feet above sea level, and it’s home to one of only a handful of topiary cemeteries in the world. For the latter, you can thank local gardener JosèMaria Azael Franco.

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Yehlui Geological Park (All photos: Giulia Pines)

 

Yehlui Geological Park is a misty oasis, a sprawling moonscape of pockmarked rock towers. You can climb over crevasses and in between cliffs, with the delicate outlines of fossilized sand dollars underfoot. 

But over this tranquil scene, superimpose the image of hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese tour groups, all clamoring to nab a spot in front of the most impressive rock formations. This is the other experience of the park, a spit of land jutting out of the northeast coast of Taiwan, a little over an hour by bus from Taipei.  

It also represents one of the biggest debates in geology today: At what point do you risk destroying a place in order to save it?

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