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Two Men Claim to Have Found a Missing Nazi Train Full of Treasure

In 1945, World War II was all but lost for Nazi Germany. As the Allies advanced on the West and the Soviet army advanced on the East, the Germans sought to consolidate their valuables deep within the territory they still controlled. One particular train, supposedly full of gold and treasure, departed from what was then the German city of Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) but then disappeared somewhere in southwestern Poland.

For decades, rumors have flown about the train's possible location. Some speculated that it was hidden in one of the many tunnels dug near Owl Mountains and Książ Castle as part of Germany's POW-powered Project Riese, which was never completed. Since the war ended, parts of this underground network (pictured above) have been excavated and even opened to the public, but much of what is presumed to be there has never been explored.

For more than half a century, treasure hunters—some even supported by the cash-strapped Polish government—have searched for the missing train. But no one had ever uncovered the missing train—until now. Maybe.

A few weeks ago, two anonymous men (one Polish, one German) sent a letter to authorities via a law firm claiming to have found the train. According to the Associated Press, the letter from the lawyers describes a train 150 meters (490 feet) long full of weapons, valuables, and precious metals. An anonymous source close to the men say they spent several years searching for the train and that it's buried some 70 meters (230 feet) underground. But they’re not revealing the exact location of the train yet. By law, the train and anything in it—be it 300 tons of gold, as one local paper is reporting, or nothing much at all—are the property of the state. But the finders are looking for a fee, namely, 10 percent of the overall value.

Some locals are insisting that the rumors are just that. Joanna Lamparska, an expert on the area’s history, told the AP that similar stories have never panned out. According to The Daily Beast, she also called in to RMF24, a radio station in Wroclaw, to caution that, "I don’t know of any confirmed account that states that these trains really existed.”

But the local officials are taking the reports of the train very seriously. Marika Tokarska, a member of the Walbrzych district council, told the AP that the law firm lends credence to the story and that the council believes the train has truly been found. If the information proves accurate, she said that officials are willing to pay the finders fee. Tokarska also told Reuters, "Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this. The area has never been excavated before and we don't know what we might find.”

The emergency responders will be on hand not just for what they hope to find onboard but also what they fear might accompany such treasure. The excavation team will need to be prepared for the likelihood that such a train would have been protected by explosives.

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You Can Now Rent the Montgomery, Alabama Home of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald Through Airbnb
Chris Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The former apartment of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, perhaps the most famous couple of the Jazz Age, is now available to rent on a nightly basis through Airbnb, The Chicago Tribune reports. While visitors are discouraged from throwing parties in the spirit of Jay Gatsby, they are invited to write, drink, and live there as the authors did.

The early 20th-century house in Montgomery, Alabama was home to the pair from 1931 to 1932. It's where Zelda worked on her only novel Save Me the Waltz and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote part of Tender Is the Night. The building was also the last home they shared with their daughter Scottie before she moved to boarding school.

In the 1980s, the house was rescued from a planned demolition and turned into a nonprofit. Today, the site is a museum and a spot on the Southern Literary Trail. While the first floor of the Fitzgerald museum, which features first-edition books, letters, original paintings, and other artifacts related to the couple, isn't available to rent, the two-bedroom apartment above it goes for $150 a night. Guests staying there will find a record player and a collection of jazz albums, pillows embroidered with Zelda Fitzgerald quotes, and a balcony with views of the property's magnolia tree. Of the four surviving homes Zelda and F. Scott lived in while traveling the world, this is the only one that's accessible to the public.

Though the Fitzgerald home is the only site on the Southern Literary Trail available to rent through Airbnb, it's just one of the trail's many historic homes. The former residences of Flannery O'Connor, Caroline Miller, and Lillian Smith are all open to the public as museums.

[h/t The Chicago Tribune]

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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