India Is Now Home to the World's Largest Statue

Prime Minister,s Office, Press Information Bureau, Wikimedia Commons // OGDL-India [PDF]
Prime Minister,s Office, Press Information Bureau, Wikimedia Commons // OGDL-India [PDF]

At nearly 600-feet-tall, the world's largest statue was just recently completed. Depicting India's first interior minister and its most beloved deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the statue was unveiled in late October 2018 and is nearly five times taller than Brazil's famed Christ the Redeemer, twice as high as the Statue of Liberty, and 180 feet taller than the previous record holder, China's Spring Temple Buddha.

The statue's subject, Vallabhbhai Patel, holds a special place in the country's history. Called the "Iron Man of India," Patel was one of country's modern founding fathers and was instrumental in the fight for India's independence, having worked directly with Gandhi to organize non-violent campaigns of civil disobedience. He was also a vital broker of peace, using his political acumen to convince more than 500 princely states to unite following the 1947 partition of India. For that reason, the memorial is called "The Statue of Unity."

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Statue Of Unity
Government of India, Abhinay6597, Wikimedia Commons // OGDL-India [PDF]

Not everybody is a fan of the new landmark. The sculpture is located in a relatively remote part of Patel's home state of Gujarat and cost $430 million to build. Local farmers, who claim to have lost land because of the project, have protested construction and argue that the funds could have been put to better use. (Half of the money was provided by the Gujarat state government.) "Instead of spending money on a giant statue, the government should have used it for farmers in the district," farmer Vijendra Tadvi complained to the BBC.

The Statue of Unity, however, may not hold the title of the world's largest statue for long—although, if it does lose its title, the distinction will likely remain in India. Over in Mumbai, the Shiv Smarak statue is being constructed to honor the 17th-century Hindu warrior and Maratha kingdom founder, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. By its estimated completion in 2021, the memorial will tower at 695 feet.

Australian Island Wants Visitors to Stop Taking Wombat Selfies

iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography
iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography

Spending a day observing Australian wildlife from afar isn't enough for some tourists. On Maria Island, just off the east coast of Tasmania, many visitors can't resist snapping pictures with the local wombats—and the problem has gotten so out of hand that island officials are asking people to pledge to leave the cute marsupials out of their selfies.

As CNN Travel reports, the Maria Island Pledge has been posted on signs welcoming visitors to the national park. It implores them to vow to the island to "respect and protect the furred and feathered residents." It even makes specific mention of the wombat selfie trend, with one passage reading:

"Wombats, when you trundle past me I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild."

The pledge isn't a binding contract guests have to sign. Rather, park officials hope that seeing these signs when they arrive will be enough to remind visitors that their presence has an impact on the resident wildlife and to be respectful of their surroundings.

The adorable, cube-pooping wombats at Maria Island are wild animals that aren't accustomed to posing for pictures, and should therefore be left alone—though in other parts of Australia, conservationists encourage tourists to take wildlife selfies. Rottnest Island off the country's west coast is home to 10,000 quokkas (another photogenic marsupial), and the quokka selfies taken there help raise awareness of their vulnerable status.

[h/t CNN Travel]

The Picturesque Italian Town of Sambuca, Sicily Is Selling Homes for $1

iStock.com/DeniseSerra
iStock.com/DeniseSerra

If you want to impress your friends, take them to the swanky new bar in town and order a round of flaming sambuca shots, which are made from Italian anise-flavored liqueur. If you want to impress them even more, tell them you just bought a home in Sambuca, an old Italian town on the Mediterranean island of Sicily.

A little extreme? Maybe. But with homes selling there for as little as €1 (roughly $1.14), you can't beat the price. As The Guardian reports, dozens of homes in Sambuca are currently on the market "for less than the price of a takeaway coffee" as local officials attempt to lure newcomers to the hilltop town. Over the years, many of Sambuca's residents have moved to bigger cities, leaving their former homes deserted.

Sambuca was founded by the ancient Greeks but was later conquered by Arab groups, which explains the blend of Moorish and Baroque influences that can be seen in the town's architecture. City hall owns the homes that are currently up for sale, and locals officials have been singing the town's praises in hopes of wooing buyers.

"Sambuca is known as the City of Splendor," Giuseppe Cacioppo, Sambuca's deputy mayor and tourist councilor, tells CNN. "This fertile patch of land is dubbed the Earthly Paradise. We're located inside a natural reserve, packed with history. Gorgeous beaches, woods, and mountains surround us. It's silent and peaceful, an idyllic retreat for a detox stay."

(Lowercase sambuca, by the way, originated in the Italian port Civitavecchia, not far from Rome. However, Sambuca is home to many wineries.)

Officials say buyers will be able to move in quickly, but as always, there's a catch. Some of the homes are "badly in need of a makeover," Cacioppo says, and buyers will have three years to devote at least $17,000 to home repairs. They will also need to fork over nearly $5700 for a security deposit, which will be returned once the work is complete.

If this still sounds like a good deal to you, email case1euro@comune.sambucadisicilia.ag.it for additional details.

[h/t The Guardian]

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