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Ferdinand Cheval was born in 1836, in the French commune of Charmes-sur-l’Herbasse, in the Drôme department. Cheval left school when he was 13, in order to become a baker’s apprentice, but ended up becoming a postman instead. Although he didn’t seem to be, in any way, an extraordinary young man, he went on to become the creator of one of France’s cultural landmarks.

The ‘Palais Ideal’ came to him in a dream, as he reported in 1879. According to his writings, he had a dream in which he was building the ideal castle but decided not to share his dream with anyone, because he was afraid of being laughed at. Fifteen years later he had almost forgotten his dream until one day, while on his everyday route, he stumbled and almost fell. When he turned to see what he tripped on, he found an oddly shaped stone. He decided to put it in his pocket and look at it later. The next day, he returned to the same place and found even more rocks, that he gathered them up. He described the stones as being made of sandstone that has been shaped by water and hardened over time. Cheval was so impressed with mother nature’s ‘sculpture’ that he believed no man could ever reproduce it, deciding that, if nature was the sculptor, then he would be the mason and the architect.

He spent the next 35 years building his ideal castle, building the outer walls in the first 20. He would pick up stones on his daily route, at first carrying them in his pockets, moving on to baskets and eventually a wheelbarrow, even working at night; he bound the rocks together with cement, lime and mortar. Cheval wanted to be buried inside his creation, but French law forbade it, something which motivated him to spend the next eight years building a mausoleum for himself to be buried in, in the Hauterives cemeteries. A year after completing his mausoleum, on August 19th, 1924, he passed away. He is currently buried inside his creation.

A mixture of various inspirations and styles, the Palace perfectly reflects how Cheval saw the world, featuring a wide variety of cultures and religions. Today, the ‘Palais Ideal’ is currently considered to be one of the most extraordinary examples of naive art architecture. Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux, declared the Palace a cultural landmark in 1969, meaning that it was officially protected.

Location: 8, rue du Palais 26390 Hauterives – France

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The Die Rakotzbrücke bridge, or the Devil’s Bridge, is an iconic arched bridge located in the picturesque Kromlau Park in eastern Germany. Constructed in 1860 is famed for its unique man-made construction accuracy, with the bridge and its reflection over the still water merging into a complete and perfect stone circle, no matter where you see it from. This is probably why the bridge is also known as the ‘Devil’s Bridge’. It seems that the makers of the bridge emphasized more on its aesthetics than its utility. Both the ends of the Rakotzbrücke have thin rock spires installed, to make it look like natural basalt columns, which commonly occur in many parts of Germany.

There are dozens of so-called Devil’s Bridges located around Europe, each one with a local myth or folktale associated with it, all built during medieval times. Most of the devil’s bridges are stone or masonry arched bridges and became known as devil bridges due to their mythical qualities and tales of interactions with the Devil. These bridges are masonry bridges that are either so spectacular or so challenging to build that only the devil could have helped with their construction. The legend goes that the devil helps to build the bridge in exchange for the soul of the first human who crosses the bridge.

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Keeping a collection of books in a city where the roads are made of water is a dangerous idea to begin with, but Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta has nothing to fear since they just keep all their titles in waterproof basins. The bookstore name translates to “bookstore of high water” due to the store being plagued by Venice’s rising waters. The shop sits along a canal and can be subject to flooding when the city experience “acqua alta.” These exceptional high-tides, combined with winds that usually arrive in October or November, can place the lowest parts of the city under several feet of water.

The self-proclaimed “most beautiful bookstore in the world” is composed of a number of over-stuffed rooms stacked wall-to-wall with books, magazines, maps, and other ephemera. Due to Venice’s constant flooding, the bookstore’s owner, Luigi Frizzo, piled all of the books into waterproof bins, bathtubs, canoes, and even a full-sized gondola in order to protect the literature.

When the local waterways rise to fill the store, the water can rise inches off the floor, which would destroy any other collection. The store’s whimsically cramped atmosphere is even reflected in their “fire escape,” which is simply a door leading directly out into a canal. And you can’t miss the courtyard turned art project where you can literally walk up a flight of colorful old encyclopedias and get yet another peak of the neighboring canal. To really complete the look, the store has become home to more than one stray cat, who are also able to escape the rising tides by hanging out atop the stacks.

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