Every day our community of travelers and writers unearths fascinating places from the hidden corners of the world and adds them to the Atlas, helping to build our collaborative database of over 9,000 hidden wonders. And while each and every place is worth a wander off the beaten path, some stand above the fray as particularly extraordinary. These seven unusual locales are some of the most curious and enticing places we came across this week.
ZHANAARKA DISTRICT, KAZAKHSTAN
In the center of Kazakhstan, 16 miles of desert away from the nearest road, lies a giant, black monument that only a small handful of people have ever laid their eyes on. This is the Soyuz 11 Memorial, dedicated to the only men to die in outer space: the crew of the Soyuz 11, a Russian rocket which launched in June of 1971. Soyuz 11 was the only manned mission to ever board the world’s first space station, before tragically crashing on the trip back to Earth.
To honor the crew’s memory, the Russian government built a large black monument at the exact location that the Soyuz 11 landed in the desert. The memorial has hardly ever been visited due to its remote location, but it pays due respect to those who lost their lives for the Space Race. Unfortunately, the monument only stayed intact for 39 years. In 2012, a group of visitors found it had been vandalized. Only metal bars and scattered ruins remain.
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago is home to world’s largest third order island. Discovered by Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, this nameless isle within Victoria Island is a sub-sub-sub island. That is: an island inside a lake, which is completely surrounded by another island, which is completely surrounded by another lake, which itself located on Victoria Island, which is located in the Arctic Ocean. And is it is quite possible that this small island has never been visited.
The ornate and cobblestoned Leadenhall Market is one of the oldest markets in London, but more recently gained another kind of fame. The marketplace is featured in the beloved Harry Potter films. It’s used as the original exterior shots of Diagon Alley, the shopping hub of the wizarding world, and the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, through which wizards and witches can enter Diagon Alley from Muggle London.
KARLSKRONA Ö, SWEDEN
On October 27, 1981, the Swedish government was served some Whiskey on the rocks. A Soviet submarine, possibly carrying nuclear warheads, ran aground in the southern archipelago of Karlskrona. The submarine was Soviet, of a class in the West called “Whiskey.”
The Soviet Union and the West were still in the throes of the Cold War, and Soviet submarines in Swedish territorial waters were not entirely unknown. But one running aground so close to a major naval base was something different. The big question, and ultimately the urgency, was about whether there were nuclear weapons onboard. A 10-day standoff ensued.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA
In 1934, Ernest Beaumont Gantt (he later legally changed his name to Donn Beach) opened a bar in Los Angeles. There he made rum drinks—it was the cheapest liquor he could get—and decorated with Polynesian props he had collected while working on the numerous South Seas films Hollywood was churning out, along with buoys and nets he scrounged up from the waterfront. He named it the Beachcomber Café, and he put his all into making patrons feel as though they were in a little grass shack somewhere far off in the Pacific.
The bar known as Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, though not the Hollywood original, is about as close as you can get to that bar, physically and aesthetically. It still serves up classic Donn Beach—rattan furniture, sugary tropical drinks, and midcentury Polynesian pop nostalgia straight from the originator himself.
In many ways, the future of pinball lives under this roof. Twice a year the doors open and the greatest pinball players in the world stream into the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (aka PAPA) World Headquarters. Here in the massive 100-year-old warehouse space the best of the best pinball players go head to head to see who is the most talented, most determined, and luckiest pinball player in the world. It is here where the one and only “World Pinball Champion” is crowned.
Though it has been proven to be an imitation of the legendary table around which King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table congregated, this table hanging in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle was made in the 13th century.
The artwork you see on the table today dates to the reign of Henry VIII who had the table painted with the Tudor Rose at its center. The outer design is thought to portray Henry as King Arthur on his throne, surrounded by 24 places, each bearing the name of one of the legendary Knights of the Round Table.