Superlative

The Truth Behind Iceland’s Most Secluded House

Off the coast of Iceland there’s one particular island upon which is built a single, solitary house. It is a house that looks like the sort the Dursleys could have hidden Harry Potter for his 11th birthday.

Over the years, photos of this house — some snapped from airplanes, most from boats — have circulated around various blogs. And as people have glimpsed the digital images of the abode’s stark setting and seemingly impossible seclusion, internet gossip about the place has mounted.

So, let’s start by dispensing with some misconceptions. Here’s some of what the house is not:

It is not located on Iceland’s third largest island. It was not a gift by the government of Iceland to its most famous pop star, Bjork. The house is not a hoax created using PhotoShop. And it is not inhabited by a secretive billionaire, nor by a religious hermit, nor by a paranoid recluse intent on surviving a coming zombie apocalypse.

In fact, technically, it is not a house at all.

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The Elephant Four Seasons

Four Seasons hotels are known for their excellent service and exceptional luxury — their Tented Camp Golden Triangle property certainly has those qualities. But that Four Seasons — located by the village of Chiang Saen, Thailand near the borders with Burma and Laos — also has a feature not usually associate with the chain: Elephants!

Spot Cool Stuff loves the combination of animals and hotels. We’ve written before about a Kenyan hotel inundated by giraffe, a Japanese style inn where guests bathe with monkeys and an unlikely California bed and breakfast surrounded by lions and tigers. But none of those accommodations offer the pampered, high-end experience that Four Seasons does.

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The Roofless Double Decker Aerial Cable Car

For double decker buses, London is famous. Among double decker airplanes, Airbus has the superlative model. For a double decker sandwich there’s no place like the Blue Ash Chili Diner in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. And for a double decker cable car ride — for that you’ll have to head to Switzerland.

It is there, near the city of Lucerne, that you’ll find The Cabrio, the world’s best double decker aerial tramway.

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7 Amazing Circular Geological Oddities

The man made hole is so large that helicopters and small aircraft can not fly near it without the very real fear of being sucked in!

Spot Cool Stuff has been thinking of cool spots lately. Big geologic spots, that is. Circles on the face of the planet of the sort that would make some one browsing around on Google Earth (or traveling in a spaceship) stop and ask What the heck is that circular thing?

Here’s an overview (literally!) of seven of our favorite such spots. They span six countries on four continents:

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Sponsored Video: Hobbits Return To New Zealand

The last time Spot Cool Stuff flew into the international airport in Christchurch, New Zealand there was a big sign in the customs area that read WELCOME TO MIDDLE EARTH.

That was in 2003. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was selling out in theaters worldwide. Word had spread that the filming location of Middle Earth in the three Rings movies — all the outdoor scenes from the volcanic landscape around Mordor to the lush green elven forest — were filmed somewhere in New Zealand. In fact, even the rings used as props in the movies were made in New Zealand. And suddenly, New Zealand, on the fringe of the planet’s populated masses, became the center of travel for fantasy fiction lovers everywhere.

Then the hype around the movies faded into shadow (as they say). But its power is about to reemerge.

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The World’s Tallest Climbing Wall

The real challenge is the overhang, which curved 11 meters out from the base.

For the ultimate wave challenge surfers head to Hawaii. For ultimate mountains hikers head to Nepal. And for the ultimate rock climbing wall? For that one must go to the north of Holland.

It is there, in the city of Groningen, that daring climbers take on The Excalibur at the Bjoeks Klimcentrum.

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South Sudan: The World’s Newest Country

Happy 1st birthday, South Sudan! Congratulations on making globes everywhere outdated.

After more than two decades of strife and civil war between the mostly African and Christian southern part of Sudan and mostly Arab and Muslim north the two sides officially split. The divorce process started with a 2005 peace agreement that granted the south autonomy and the right to a referendum on independence. Then last January that referendum took place, with the pro-independent side winning an overwhelming majority. Today, the Republic of South Sudan is a sovereign state.

The workings of this new, impoverished, politically precarious state are still a work in progress. A new currency, the South Sudanese pound, is still taking hold. The visa policy is a bit uncertain, though the limited number of South Sudan embassies are issuing them and, as of August 2012 at least, travelers arriving into Juba by air have reported being able to procure one at the airport.

Assuming you can figure out where to get a visa—and what money to use—you may be wondering what there is for travelers to see in what would be the world’s youngest country. Spot Cool Stuff takes a look:

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Badeschiff: Berlin’s Floating Pool

Swimming in Berlin’s Spree River is not something most people will want to do. But swimming in a pool that is in the Spree River—now that’s cool!

And that’s exactly the experience the Badeschiff offers.

The German word translates to “bathing ship,” which is as good a short description as any. The Badeschiff was fashioned from an old river barge cargo container filled with 400,000 liters (about 100,00 gallons) of chlorinated fresh water. The whole thing literally floats in the river, tied to a dock in the same way one might moor a houseboat.

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