On the outskirts of Salekhard, the capital of the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Region, Russia, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, lies the disused remains of the infamous Salekhard–Igarka Railway, known variously as the ‘Railroad of Death’, ‘Road of Death’, and ‘Dead Road’. This planned 1,300-kilometer railway was to be part of Stalin’s Transpolar Mainline, a grand scheme to connect the eastern and western parts of Siberia, stretching from the city of Inta, in Komi Autonomous Republic, through Salekhard to Igarka, on the Yenisei River. The line was never completed, yet tens of thousands workers forced on the project perished while attempting to.
Most of the workers were derived from the Soviet gulag system, where citizens convicted of political offences were sent to. A “political offense” could mean anything from turning up late for work, to writing politically incorrect poetry, to spending time as German prisoners-of-war, or stealing beetroots to feed their children. The authorities branded them “enemy of the people” and sent them to gulag camps where they were subjected to untold miseries and torture.
Rio de Janeiro’s most famous street is actually a flight of stairs connecting the streets of Joaquim Silva and Pinto Martins in the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods. Officially it is known as the Manuel Carneiro street, but most people know it as “Selaron Steps” or “Escadaria Selarón”, named after the Chilean born painter Jorge Selaron, who famously decorated it as a “tribute to the Brazilian people.”
It all began in 1990 when Selaron started renovating the dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbors mocked him for his choice of colors, as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colors of the Brazilian flag, but he remained undeterred. In fact, as time passed this little side project of his became an obsession. Selaron mostly scavenged for materials from construction sites, but sometimes he was forced to sell his paintings to fund his work. Eventually, he had covered the entire 125-meters-long, 250-stepped stairs with over 2,000 colored tiles.
Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village is tucked away in a small residential neighborhood of Simi Valley, California. In an area one-third of an acre, there are over thirty sculptures and sixteen houses built by Tressa Prisbrey out of an estimated one million bottles and other discarded items which she collected from a nearby dump.
Grandma Tressa Prisbrey began building the Bottle Village in 1956, when she was sixty years old. Tressa was collecting pencils, as a hobby, for the last few decades and had amassed 17,000 of them. She needed a place to keep them. At first she thought she would build a storehouse, but when she realized that cinder blocks are too expensive, she decided to make one out of bottles instead. Tressa got the idea after seeing a bottle house at the Knott's Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California.