Magical Places: The Hill Giant, Austria

hillgiantaustriaIn the small town of Wattens; located in Tyrol, Austria; is the world famous Swarovski Crystal factory. In 1995 they had their 100th anniversary and to celebrate they commissioned Viennese artist Andre Heller to design a series of unique attractions designed to please crystal lovers around the world.

To enter the “Kristallwelten” one must pass the eye catching Hill Giant that marks the entrance. His eyes are none other than large crystals and a waterfall flows from his mouth. The Hill giant was constructed in 1983.  Inside the Kristallwelten you can find the “Wunderkammern” (or “Cabinets of Marvel”) where each of the artists involved in the project has their own installment.

Later, in 2003, the Kristallwelten was expanded to include several other attractions including a 3D projection “Planet der Kristalle”, the “Kristalldom” (or “Crystal Cupola”), and the giant kaleidoscope filled with healing crystals, the “Kristalloskop”. Outside there is a maze in the shape of a hand

Related sites:

Travel Spotting: The Hill Giant, Austria

Swarovski Kristallwelten

Magical Places: ‘Becoming’ by Ted Metz

There is a stunning piece of sculpture at the University of Montevallo created by Ted Metz, an art professor, and forty of his students.  The piece, entitled “Becoming” is explained in a UM brochure in these terms:

“The younger hand, that of the student, reaches skyward. It’s pose and size suggest the potential for continuous growth and development.

The more mature hand, that of the teacher, appears to have been guiding the student’s hand but has now fallen back, representing a new role of support for the student.

The space separating the hands represents the student’s graduation, the event when the student takes what he as learned into the next phase of life.”

The sculpture was dedicated on February 15, 2003 on the UM campus opposite Bowers Colonnade on the corner of the King House quad.

Related articles:

UM Campus Tour Brochure

Shelby County Reporter: ‘Becoming’ sculpture dedicated at UM


Magical Places: The Kelpies


The Kelpies are 30 meter tall (nearly 100 feet) horse head sculptures in Falkirk, Scotland and were finished in October of 2013. They opened to the public in April of this year. They commemorate the completion of a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Historically, Kelpies are mythological water creatures that have inhabited Scotland’s waterways and lochs for thousands of years. They can appear in many forms, including human, but are most commonly associated with horses and are said to have the strength and endurance of 10 horses.

In the Falkirk area horses have played a major role in the economy and industry and were used to pull the wagons, ploughs, barges, and coalships along the canals. The sculptures pay homage to this heritage.

From the Wikipedia entry:

According to sculptor Andy Scott “The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures.”[7] “I took that concept and moved with it towards a more equine and contemporary response, shifting from any mythological references towards a socio-historical monument intended to celebrate the horse’s role in industry and agriculture as well as the obvious association with the canals as tow horses.”[8] 

According to Scott the end result would be “Water-borne, towering gateways into The Helix, the Forth & Clyde Canal and Scotland, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians.”[7]

Read more about the Kelpies:

Magical Places: Cleopatra’s Kingdom

Cleopatra's kingdom


Deep in the Mediterranean Sea is a treasure trove of ancient Egyptian artifacts. So far over 20,000 objects have been found, giving archaeologists clues to Egypt’s intriguing past.

Some of the most interesting discoveries found at the site of Alexandria, Egypt’s ancient capital, are those pertaining to Cleopatra. Royal quarters, including a palace and temple complex were discovered under the waves. These are findings that were thought to have been lost over 1,600 years ago.  These discoveries give us a better understanding of one of Egypt’s most iconic (thanks to Elizabeth Taylor) females.

Ideas for an underwater museum are in the works where scuba divers can dive and experience a the magic of this lost era.

Learn more:

National Geographic

The New York Times

The Telegraph

Magical Places: Hand of Harmony

Hand of Harmony

This is the Hand of Harmony rising from the beach at Homigot, Korea. Up on the shoreline there is the other hand making a matched set. The palms face each other symbolizing harmony and unity. The sea side hand marks the easternmost tip of Korea, also referred to as the tiger’s tail, and is said to be an obscure tourist trap, especially photographers.  Every year they have a huge New’s Years festival here and release thousands of balloons symbolizing the hope and dreams of the new year and serve ddeokguk (rice-cake soup) to the hungry masses.

Photo from: