One of the most remarkable qualities of human nature, along with adaptation and survival, is morbid curiosity. Is your life too simple? Are you bored of the normalcy the comfort of your home provides? Do you enjoy watching people live on the cusp of death? Or do you perhaps have a general disregard for your own health? Then maybe after you’ve gotten some help, you should check unusual cities and towns;
Neft Daşları is an Industrial settlement that is 100 kilometres away from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and about 55 kilometres from the closest shore in the Caspian Sea.
In 1945 USSR discovered oil of the coast of the country and having no other offshore oil rig mechanics to rely on, USSR did what USSR does; built an oil rig smack dab in the middle of the ocean. Upon discovering more oil next to the new oil rig, they simply expanded it using a retired boat. The expansions continued and eventually a complete city full of oil workers, roads and even entertainment centres came to life. The city has started falling victim to the sea for the most part and is now being held together by sheer force of will.
Fair warning; visiting this unusual city isn’t exactly easy, you’ll need special authorisation from the state oil company Socar and even then you’ll need to go through great pains to just get a glimpse of it, but if you like industrial places, especially when they are run-down, it might be worth it.
Technically, Miyake-jima Island has a village named Miyake village not a city or a town, but also technically it would be a great sin to not include this gloriously unusual place in this list of unusual cities and towns.
The people basically live as neighbours to an active volcano and with a constant threat of death by sulphuric gas. It’s compulsory that all people must carry a gas mask with them at all times, in case a siren goes off when sulphur in the air reaches fatal levels and warns them of impending doom. The volcano has erupted several times causing destruction in parts of the village and complete evacuation for a while. But since 2005 many people returned to rehabilitate the village when sulphur levels dropped.
There are tourist agencies that provide safety masks and allow tours of the Island where you can also visit abandoned houses, burnt cars and a school gym half-destroyed by volcanic emission. There are also hot spring baths to distract you from your conscience and the realisation that you are basically enjoying mass destruction.
Also known as Kingdom of the little people, Dwarf city is actually more of a controversial amusement park than one of the unusual cities and towns, where little people of China capitalise on their short heights.
Over a 100 employees live in nearby dormitories that are exclusively accessible to short people. Their ages are between 20 and 50 and are required to be less than 130 centimetres tall. The employees give performances where singing, dancing, scenes from fairy tales and even ballets are included.
Human rights groups criticise the park, accusing it of making fun of people with dwarfism. Whereas Chen Mingjing, the founder of the park and the employees say that it gives such people a place and a community to belong to in an otherwise country where political correctness is still a blurry concept.
Everyone has a different set of priorities; some people don’t think breathing is all that important, some don’t believe water is actually necessary for sustenance. The people living in San Pedro de Atacama are the second group of people.
Believing dehydration to be a myth, these people set up town in the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile, a desert in which rainfall is some kind of mystical happenstance. There is very little moisture to be found in the desert and what little water does exist is basically toxic with nearly fatal amounts of poison. The locals, the extraordinary creatures that they are, have grown immune to it. However, they were nice enough to set up filtration systems for visitors.
Which is important considering tourism is the main source of income for the city. NASA conducts test runs in the Atacama Desert because the lack of moisture and life mimic the terrain of Mars. Along with that , remarkably one of the most unusual cities and towns now has a museum, a national monument and several souvenir shops.
Located near the border of Belarus is the husk of a city which once had nearly 50,000 occupants. It was founded on 4 February 1970, and housed the workers and scientists of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. In 1986, there was a malfunction in the Chernobyl reactor and the entire city had to be evacuated.
An amusement park had been built for the workers and their families which surprisingly opened a day after the reactor malfunctioned and in the midst of evacuation. Now all that remains is an abandoned radioactive city where vegetation grows amok, in other words; the perfect setting of a post-apocalyptic game.
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