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My Bucket List – places to visit

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In case you do not know what a Bucket List is, and it appears these days that a lot of people don’t, it is a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.  Basically, a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. Cheery, huh?

Anyway, having watched a few travel shows and vlogs over the weekend I have started to compile a list of places I would like to visit.  Assuming that I win the Lottery before I die as most of these places are currently well outside of my budget.

So, in no particular order…

Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh.

One of the more affordable wishes on my list, Mary King’s Close is hidden beneath the characteristic and lively streets of Edinburgh’s busy thoroughfare – the Royal Mile.

Shrouded in myths and mysteries, the Close and its warren of streets, homes, and passageways offer a truly unique experience. Unlock the secrets of Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th Century street, wander through a labyrinth of Old Town alleyways, avoid the cry of gardyloo (if you don’t know what that means, look here), and discover the stories of the people who lived, worked, and died here.

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Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls), Mexico.

Don Julian Santana Barrera was the caretaker of the island. The story goes that Julian found a little girl drowned in mysterious circumstances near the island. Shortly thereafter, Julian saw a floating doll near the canals. Most probably, the doll belonged to the girl.

He picked up the doll and hung it in a tree, as a way of showing respect and support the spirit of the girl.

Julian was apparently haunted by the spirit of the girl and started hanging more dolls in an attempt to please her spirit.  He soon realized the dolls themselves were possessed by the spirit of the dead girl and continued to collect dolls hanging them over the entire island.

According to those close to him, it was as if Julian was driven by some unseen force that completely changed him. Apparently, he was very marked by the fact that he was not able to save the little girl’s life. After 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them on the island, Julian was found dead.  Drowned in the same spot the girl did.

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Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic.

As you enter the Sedlec Ossuary you will soon realize why it is one of the most amazing and unique churches in the world. The Sedlec Ossuary is artistically decorated by more than 40.000 human skeletons.

Thus it is also known as the Church of Bones or as the Bone Church.

One of the most fascinating artistic works inside the Sedlec Ossuary is the big chandelier of bones that lies in the centre of the Church of Bones. The immense chandelier contains at least one of every human bone.

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Bran Castle, Romania.

Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” it is located in the Călimani Alps near the former border with Moldavia. Stoker’s description of Dracula’s crumbling fictional castle also bears no resemblance to Bran Castle.

The castle is now a museum dedicated to displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. Tourists can see the interior on their own or by a guided tour. At the bottom of the hill is a small open-air museum park exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures from across the country.

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Hashima Island, Japan.

The 16-acre island was known for its undersea coal mines, established in 1887, which operated during the industrialization of Japan. The island reached a peak population of 5,259 in 1959. In 1974, with the coal reserves nearing depletion, the mine was closed and all of the residents departed soon after, leaving the island effectively abandoned for the following three decades. Interest in the island re-emerged in the 2000s on account of its undisturbed historic ruins, and it gradually became a tourist attraction. Certain collapsed exterior walls have since been restored, and travel to Hashima was re-opened to tourists on April 22, 2009. Increasing interest in the island resulted in an initiative for its protection as a site of industrial heritage.

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The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California.

Since its construction in 1884, the property and mansion were claimed by many to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. Under Winchester’s day-to-day guidance, its “from-the-ground-up” construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption, until her death on September 5, 1922, at which time work immediately ceased. Sarah Winchester’s biographer, however, says that Winchester “routinely dismissed workers for months at a time ‘to take such rest as I might'”.  They also note that “this flies in the face of claims by today’s Mystery House proprietors that work at the ranch was ceaseless for thirty-eight years.”

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Pripyat, Ukraine.

Pripyat was founded on February 4, 1970. The main reason for the foundation of the city was the construction and subsequent operation of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In this connection, Pripyat was also called the city of nuclear scientists.

On April 27, 1986, the whole population of Pripyat was evacuated because of the Chernobyl accident. A new satellite city of Slavutich, 50 km from the nuclear power plant, was built to accommodate the personnel of the Chernobyl NPP. Today, Pripyat is in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

After the accident, much was done to decontaminate the city’s territory, which led to a significant reduction in the level of radiation contamination.

In Pripyat, there is still a lot of radioactive dust consisting of relatively long-lived radioactive elements. The city is overgrown with bushes and trees turning it into a real forest. In another 10 to 15 years the buildings will collapse massively.

After decontamination, some city buildings and structures were used by various organizations of the Exclusion Zone, but to date, almost all of them have been abandoned. Today, the city of Pripyat is closed and turned into a Soviet city-museum under the open sky. Regular tours of the city are conducted by several Kyiv travel agencies.

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Poveglia, Italy.

In 1776 the island came under the jurisdiction of the Magistrato alla Sanità (Public Health Office).  It became a checkpoint for all goods and people coming to and going from Venice by ship. In 1793, there were several cases of the plague on two ships, and consequently, the island was transformed into a temporary confinement station for the ill (lazaretto).  This role became permanent in 1805, under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, who also had the old church of San Vitale destroyed.  At the same time, the old bell-tower was converted into a lighthouse. The lazaretto was closed in 1814.

In the 20th century the island was again used as a quarantine station, but in 1922 the existing buildings were converted into an asylum for the mentally ill and for long-term care. After 1968, when the hospital was closed, the island was briefly used for agriculture and then completely abandoned.

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Pennhurst Asylum, Pennsylvania.

With a history riddled with strong accusations of neglect, abuse and torture combined with tales of mental patients being chained to the walls, children kept for years in cribs and even murders, it’s not surprising that Pennhurst Asylum is one of the scariest places in existence. The building was opened in 1908 as a state school for the physically and mentally disabled and covered 120 acres.  It housed more than 10,000 patients at any given time.

There are plenty haunted asylum stories emanating from this foreboding building. Several reputable ghost hunter groups have visited Pennhurst Asylum, where they documented spooky audio recordings, sudden changes in temperature and the unexplained movement of objects throughout the grounds. Spine-chilling recordings of voices exclaiming: “Go away!”, “I’ll kill you!” and “Why won’t you leave?” seem tame when compared to other reports.  These include various objects being hurled across the room, visitors being physically pushed and multiple EVPs.

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