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Can't travel to Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, the focus of last week's top Travel story? Now you can take a virtual trip there to see the wildlife. In fact, researchers at the University of MInnesota would like you to do that, and play scientists at the same time. As part of a project called Snapshot Serengeti, researchers have set up 225 cameras in the park to capture wild creatures, from lions strolling through the grasses to hyenas that sometimes chomp on the cameras. Log onto the site, and you'll be given a picture-driven tutorial on how to identify the various animals, from aardvarks to warthogs, a treat in itself for animal lovers. After the tutorial, you can begin looking through the captures (what the site calls a collection of three images captured when an animals movement triggers the cameras to shot) and identifying the animals and their behavior (based on simle descriptors such as "moving" and "interacting"). Speaking of capture -- the whole exercise caught my attention. When you get an image of African grasses through the tell legs of a giraffe, how can you stop?
Here's an oddball head's up for travelers: South Korea recently launched a unique kind of theme park. The Restroom Cultural Park highlights the history of toilets. This news may not nudge you to nab a ticket to Seoul, but it did prompt Roto-Rooter Minneapolis to issue a press release commending the theme park. The new sight is in the town of Suwon, a 30 minute train ride from Seoul. Just so your trip there doesn't all go to waste, stop by the walled fortress of Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This from PR Newswire:
"In recent news, South Korea has gained a lot of pop culture media attention from the rise of "Gangnam Style" to cosmetic trends for men. Now, the innovative nation is responsible for bringing a new theme park to the world. According to a recent Daily Mail article, earlier this year the "world's first toilet theme park" opened, aptly named the Restroom Cultural Park. Created by Sim Jae-Duck, a visionary and aficionado in the toilet market, this theme park features a gallery and sculpture garden of toilet-themed art. Roto-Rooter Minneapolis, part of America's leading plumbing and drain service company, celebrates this new park, citing it as an important reference for those interested in learning more about plumbing and its history.
According to a recent press statement from Roto-Rooter Minneapolis, the company comments, "When people are asked about the history of plumbing, they are most likely only going to be able to remember the lessons they learned during their school years about the Roman aqueducts. South Korea's Restroom Cultural Park shows that the innovation of plumbing is part of global innovation that continues to be treasured by cultures across the globe. Although many may not appreciate the presence of toilets in their everyday lives, this theme park can help individuals gain perspective about the importance of modern plumbing."
The article expresses how the theme park manages to showcase the design of toilets, by using a toilet-shaped building to house the art gallery. In the article, theme park employee Lee Youn-Souk explains the importance of the destination, "We just focus on eating every day, and we sometimes overlook the importance of the toilet. We already know upon waking up in the morning we should go to the toilet but people don't want to talk about this." In agreement, Roto-Rooter Minneapolis explains that this park helps bring the subject of toilets into greater conversation. In its press statement, the company explains, "Perhaps this theme park will get people talking about ways they can improve water conservation and waste-reduction efforts, such as by using ultra-efficient low-flow toilets."
According to the article, the park's host city of Suwon continuously celebrates the importance of sanitation, even awarding local businesses for having optimal toilet facilities. Roto-Rooter Minneapolis concludes in its press statement, "Sanitation is an increasingly important factor in modern plumbing, so it is great that this city has made so many efforts to perpetuate those values."
Like most everyone who's been there and has a soul, I love Venice. But on several visits I've never gone on a gondola ride. The city's fantastic enough without it, I always figured, and the rides are seriously spendy.
Well, now I almost feel as though I've been on one, after checking out this 360-degree perspective. I wish it were longer, and it can be a bit dizzying with an oafish operator such as yours truly. But this video, utilizing the Kogeto "Dot" accessory on an iPhone, is great good fun.
No extra charge for gondolier warbling.
Nice things happen whem groups collaborate. Case in point: Groupon Getaways, the nifty groupon site that offers discounted vacations; Groupon Grassroots, Groupon's philanthropic arm; and buildOn, a non-profit that provides after-school service programs for American students and builds schools in impoverished communities overseas, have come together to offer a pretty cool groupon deal. For $2,583, you can travel to Nicaragua or Nepal on a 7-day all-inclusive trip to help build a school for a community in need. With that fee, you also sponsor an American inner-city student who is a part of buildOn's afterschool program to make the trip, too. For altruistic travelers, it's a win-win-win. The price of the trip includes meals, lodging with a host family and local travel. Fifteen slots available: there are 9 days and 7 hours left.
As a kid, I loved traveling by train. And one of the biggest reasons was where they started and ended their journeys. Glorious buildings, gawk-inducing for their size, scope and architecture.
I grew up in Nashville and was crushed to see Union Station later fall into disrepair before being resuscitated as a hotel (photo below). I can still picture myself at Union Terminal in Cincinnati near old Crosley Field and Grand Central Terminal in the City That Never Sleeps.
So coming across this compilation of once-beautiful, now-abandoned train stations was bittersweet, mostly the first part.
As airline fares go up and the way they treat us go down, I imagine I'm not the only one who wishes this country would take a serious look at making passenger trains, and the stations from which they embarked, a viable part of our culture again.
Not holding my breath, though.
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