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Atlas Obscura  Discover the world's strange and wondrous side. Tag us or use #atlasobscura for a chance to be featured!

Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands,” is a hard-to-access group of five candy-colored villages on the Italian Riviera, that date back to the 11th century. The pastel colors, sun-faded and rustic, were said to date back to the beginning of the village, when fishermen painted their homes bright colors so that they could spot them from the sea amid the jumble of seaside buildings. (Reality check for the cynical: the pastel paint jobs showed up in the 1970s along with the tourists.) These beautiful time lapse shots were taken by intrepid explorer and photographer @shainblumphotography.

This abandoned Brutalist treehouse is a hidden architectural relic just outside Rome. Casa Sperimentale has fallen into disrepair since its builder passed away in 1995. The eclectic building is made from a mishmash of shapes and building materials, creating a striking geometric masterpiece. The home is elevated and built around the surrounding pine forest, and is only accessible by one bright red staircase, which functioned as a drawbridge and could be lifted to cut off the outside world. These photos were taken by intrepid explorer and photographer @oliverhl.

From our friends at @HISTORY: Austria is home to the world's largest monastery library. Admont Abbey itself was completed in 1074, and the library was finished in 1776. It's 230 feet long (70m) and the ceilings are covered by frescoes by artist Bartolomeo Almonte depicting ‘man’s exploration of thinking and speaking from the sciences to Divine Revelation in the central cupola’. In total, the library's shelves hold roughly 200,000 books, including over 1,400 manuscripts from as early as the 8th century.

Malabar giant squirrels are, well, giant. The squirrels, native to India, are twice as large as your standard eastern grey squirrel, with bodies that span 3 feet, or 90 centimeters, from head to tail. Not only are they huge, they’re also gorgeously technicolored. Their fur ranges from black, brown and orange to maroon and purple.

Joshua Tree’s World Famous Crochet Museum started as an old photo processing kiosk. Shari Elf had been collecting crochet items since the early 90s, and when she purchased the roadside hut and painted it lime green, it made the perfect home for her quirky collection. On a recent road trip along the Pacific Coast with @npratc, one of our cofounders, @dylanthuras, got a chance to talk with Shari and learn more about the space and her artistic life in the desert. These photos were taken by our deputy editor, Samir Patel. Check out the link in our bio to listen to the interview or learn more about their trip.

In case you need a reminder that it won’t be summer forever... we’re loving this old shot of a snowy Craigievar Castle by @monalogue. Located in Alford, Scotland, the castle has a Great Hall which is connected to the high tower via a secret staircase. Supposedly, it served as partial inspiration for the castles in some of the early Disney princess movies.

This Minneapolis mural shows the musical icon Bob Dylan during three stages of his life. It is the work of renowned Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra. He and a team of five artists painted the artwork over a five-story building. Given the ever-evolving nature of Dylan’s music, the lyrics painted brightly next to his head (which also happen to be the mural’s title) indeed seem apt. 📸: Photo by explorer and Atlas Obscura user Dr. Alan P Newman

A foggy Iceland from @everchanginghorizon. What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

It wasn’t until 1982 that China created its first national park: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. They couldn’t have chosen a better site - Zhangjiajie is famous for its 3,000 vertical pillars, each hundreds of feet tall and covered in dense green foliage. One of these pillars was named the “Southern Sky Column,” and it stretched 3,544 feet into the air, the length of 78 school buses. In a strange turn of art imitating life imitating art, in 2010 the name was changed to “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain” after the highest-grossing film of all time, “Avatar,” used photographs of the pinnacle as inspiration for the floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora. Regrammed from @kitana_mai_

“It’s pitch black on Taiwan’s waters, and in a few minutes, all hell will break loose. A boom and blaze of fire explode into the night sky, followed by the sour stench of sulphur. Thousands of tiny, ray-finned sardines suddenly leap out of the Pacific Ocean—in a wild, graceless dance—hurling themselves towards the scorching flames.” This is Leslie Nguyen-Okwu’s account of sulphuric fire fishing, a century-plus-old practice found only in Jinshan, Taiwan. Fishermen use a bamboo torch and sulphuric rocks to drive sardines to the water’s surface before scooping them up with nets. But there’s no room for mistakes. If the fire lingers too long, the boat could explode. 📸: Photos taken by explorer and photographer @ballisticlight.

These dangling lemon and chili peppers are meant to ward off a goddess of misfortune. In New Delhi stalls you can often find the food that vendors have created not for customers, but for Alakshmi, goddess of poverty and misfortune. As spicy and sour are Alakshmi’s preferred flavors, residents and shopkeepers hope that she will head to the hanging citrus fruit and peppers to satiate her needs rather than go inside and wreck havoc on their lives and finances. 📸: Photo and entry by intrepid explorer @the_goodish_traveler!

A traditional Cajun crawfish boil consists of crustaceans, corn, and potatoes boiled with the likes of mustard seed, cayenne pepper, and allspice. Houston-based Vietnamese cooks take this recipe a step further, tossing the crawfish in a butter-based sauce that mixes lots of garlic with seasonings like ginger, orange wedges, and lemongrass. The fusion dish’s journey began in Louisiana, where many Vietnamese refugees immigrated during the Vietnam War. In the mid-2000s, Vietnamese communities in Houston, Texas, started experimenting with crawfish boils, and Viet-Cajun crawfish became the flavorful blend of cuisines it’s known for today. Regrammed from @damrunner

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