12 Bars in Unexpected Places

It's not hard to find a bar, but if you're looking for something special, you have to do some digging. Here are some bars in unusual places that are worth the trip.


Behind a nondescript door marked with the number “33” sits a swanky, members-only social club right in the heart of the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland. The only location in the park that serves alcohol, Club 33 was established by Walt Disney himself as a haven for important park guests, celebrities, and investors (the bar still contains antiques and decorations hand-selected by Disney and his wife). To join, be prepared to plunk down $10,000 a year, plus a $25,000 initiation fee per person. But good luck getting in: The wait time for this members-only establishment has been known to reach upwards of 14 years! (If you really need some wine at the park, fear not. Recent reports have indicated that Disneyland will have a new private dining venue called 21 Royal Street. It’s going to give Club 33 members priority, but if the location is unbooked on any given day, it will be open to members of the general public.)


On a picturesque cliff in Costa Rica sits El Avion, a bar built in the fuselage of a 1954 Fairchild C-123 transport plane. It's rumored to have been purchased by the U.S. government to move men and supplies during the Iran-Contra scandal; the plane was abandoned by the CIA after its sister aircraft was shot down by Sandinista guerillas. In 2000, the C-123 was disassembled and moved to its current location. Now the aircraft bar is a great place to grab a beer, catch a sunset, and soak up some history. 


Although residents of London’s Kentish Town neighborhood fought against the repurposing of an old subterranean public toilet, owner Will Borrell won out, and Ladies and Gentlemen was born. Craft cocktails and locally sourced bar snacks comprise the highly cultivated menu at this London speakeasy. The entrance is marked by an above-ground sign, but patrons must descend into the subterranean lounge. Visible cisterns and pre-World War II marble on the walls call attention to the space’s former function. 


Have you ever been drinking at a bar and thought, “This is fun, but I wish the decor was a little more funeral-y?” Eternity Bar in the western part of Ukraine has you covered. Made out of real pine and owned by a funeral home, this coffin-shaped bar is the perfect place to have a cold beer and contemplate your own mortality. It features funeral wreaths and smaller coffins inside, and even holds the Guinness World Record for largest coffin. With dishes with names like “Let’s Meet in Paradise,” what’s not to like? 


In a hotel overlooking the Berlin Zoological Gardens, Monkey Bar provides a prime vantage over the garden’s primate habitat, where drinkers can see orangutans, bonobos, gorillas, and chimpanzees. In addition, patrons have a stunning 360-degree view of the city, including the expansive Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park. An express elevator shoots right up to the top floor of the very trendy 25 Hours Hotel Berlin. With live music and world-class DJ events, Monkey Bar caters to all tastes and fashions. 


At this one-of-a-kind watering hole, patrons can sip aged wines in an even more aged setting—the trunk of a 1700-year-old baobab tree. Standing over 60 feet tall with a diameter of almost 35 feet, the tree is regarded by the South African Dendrological Society as the largest example of this baobab species in the world. The Big Baobab attracts visitors from across the globe and serves as a symbol of South African heritage. Within the tree itself, a breathtaking array of caves and caverns have been carved out by a thousand years of natural aging processes, resulting in one of the most unique settings on Earth to enjoy a glass of top-shelf South African wine. 


Floyd’s is a tiny little outpost replete with locals playing dominoes and fresh-caught lobster on the menu. Located in Parottee Bay on the South Coast of Jamaica nearly a mile out to sea, adventurous travelers must take a 20-minute boat ride to reach this driftwood bar propped up on stilts. Many of the local fishermen will take you out to Floyd’s for a small fee, and once you arrive, it’s more than likely that Floyd himself will be there to greet you. The bar has an interesting origin story: Floyd dreamt of owning a bar on stilts, and gradually began transporting driftwood and other building materials using his fishing boat. (The first bar was completed in 2001; after Hurricane Ivan destroyed it in 2004, the bar was rebuilt with the help of donations from the community.) The establishment gets its name from a group of pelicans that would frequent the sand bar upon which Floyd built the bar of his dreams. 


Located at the end of the world, in Vernadsky Research Base, a Ukrainian research station in Antarctica, Faraday is the perfect—and only—spot to enjoy a libation for hundreds of miles in any direction. The watering hole was constructed 30 years ago by carpenter Keith “Cat” Larratt and named after what the research base was called before the British sold it to Ukraine. Now, an eclectic mix of British and Ukrainian paraphernalia adorns the walls, creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in one of the most desolate places on the planet. The customer base includes a rotating cast of scientists and passengers from Antarctic cruises; the food and supply shipment comes once a year. 


The space is used as a local meeting place, concert venue, and events center. Reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, a hole in the center of the arched bamboo ceiling lets hot air escape, creating a window to the sky. The remarkable structure uses cool lake water as well as wind to create a natural air-ventilation system. To reach this bamboo bar situated in the middle of a lake, drinkers must cross a path of stepping stones—a much easier task before you’ve had a few Tiger beers!


Instead of craggy stalagmites jutting out from every angle, this cave in the ancient city of Petra has spectacular columns carved out of the rock. Originally used as a tomb by the Nabatean people over 2000 years ago, the site of the Cave Bar features rough sandstone walls, massive, monolithic rocks, and stunning archways. Open until the early hours of the morning, the massive caverns that comprise the bar are lit in dreamy fashion by a series of lanterns, which illuminate the pouring of expensive champagne and hookah smoke. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, including the 26 percent tax!


Located underneath a nondescript barbershop, this Edinburgh speakeasy allows you to live out your James Bond and Batman fantasies—to enter, you need to pull the correct book out of an overstuffed bookcase. Featuring many touches straight out of the Prohibition era, including a plush carpeted staircase, lamps made from vintage hair accessories your grandmother might have used, and glass cabinets full of exotic-looking liquor, Panda and Sons captures the mood and spirit of the 1920s perfectly.


The term “speakeasy” doesn’t fully capture the magic and mystery of Foxglove, a new drinking establishment set behind the facade of an English umbrella shop in Hong Kong. Touch the correct silver-handled umbrella and you’ll find yourself transported to what feels like a different world. Foxglove is replete with secret passageways, hidden compartments, and even a pressure-sensitive painting that grants patrons access to an extra-secret library-themed barroom. Head to 6 Duddell Street, walk up the stairs to the second floor, and let the adventure begin.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Live Smarter
Working Nights Could Keep Your Body from Healing
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The world we know today relies on millions of people getting up at sundown to go put in a shift on the highway, at the factory, or in the hospital. But the human body was not designed for nocturnal living. Scientists writing in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine say working nights could even prevent our bodies from healing damaged DNA.

It’s not as though anybody’s arguing that working in the dark and sleeping during the day is good for us. Previous studies have linked night work and rotating shifts to increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and car accidents. In 2007, the World Health Organization declared night work “probably or possibly carcinogenic.”

So while we know that flipping our natural sleep/wake schedule on its head can be harmful, we don’t completely know why. Some scientists, including the authors of the current paper, think hormones have something to do with it. They’ve been exploring the physiological effects of shift work on the body for years.

For one previous study, they measured workers’ levels of 8-OH-dG, which is a chemical byproduct of the DNA repair process. (All day long, we bruise and ding our DNA. At night, it should fix itself.) They found that people who slept at night had higher levels of 8-OH-dG in their urine than day sleepers, which suggests that their bodies were healing more damage.

The researchers wondered if the differing 8-OH-dG levels could be somehow related to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our body clocks. They went back to the archived urine from the first study and identified 50 workers whose melatonin levels differed drastically between night-sleeping and day-sleeping days. They then tested those workers’ samples for 8-OH-dG.

The difference between the two sleeping periods was dramatic. During sleep on the day before working a night shift, workers produced only 20 percent as much 8-OH-dG as they did when sleeping at night.

"This likely reflects a reduced capacity to repair oxidative DNA damage due to insufficient levels of melatonin,” the authors write, “and may result in cells harbouring higher levels of DNA damage."

DNA damage is considered one of the most fundamental causes of cancer.

Lead author Parveen Bhatti says it’s possible that taking melatonin supplements could help, but it’s still too soon to tell. This was a very small study, the participants were all white, and the researchers didn't control for lifestyle-related variables like what the workers ate.

“In the meantime,” Bhatti told Mental Floss, “shift workers should remain vigilant about following current health guidelines, such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.”