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Rebecca O'Connell
Rebecca O'Connell

A Look Inside Austin's Cathedral of Junk

Rebecca O'Connell
Rebecca O'Connell

Tucked away on a residential street in southeast Austin, you can find action figures, broken toilets, bicycle parts, and assorted knick-knacks all woven together to form a looming, strange castle-like structure. Known as the Cathedral of Junk, the massive castle stands a little over 30 feet tall. Its creator, self-proclaimed “Junk King” Vince Hannemann, has been working on it since 1988, much to the chagrin of his neighbors. 

The King stands at the gate of his house with his trusty companion—an Australian cattle dog named Smoky—and lets in visitors. He asks that guests make a reservation and that they park on a side road to keep neighbor agitation at a minimum. A red box sits nearby asking for $10 donations. Once inside, visitors can explore the 60-ton structure, which has an elaborate system of stairs, bridges, and even a slide.  

The Cathedral of Junk is a testament to the slogan “keep Austin weird,” which, as Vice puts it, is a sentiment that has lately been reserved for sorority girl bumper stickers. In 2010, the city asked Hannemann to dismantle the cathedral, as it was upsetting the people who live in the neighborhood (if you climb to the top of the structure, you can peek into the neighboring backyards). Austinites take their weird art seriously, and after a bit of a kerfuffle, Hannemann received a building permit and the Cathedral of Junk made a triumphant return. A few hundred volunteers came to help the rebuilding. “It was very motivating to have the public support,” Hannemann said.

Taking a stroll around the structure, you can find plenty of oddities, from strings of AOL CDs to motorcycle helmets on stakes. It has everything—kitchen sink included. In the interior of the building (the foyer, if you will), the massive clumps of junk are color-coded, with items sometimes being painted to match the theme. The green section features a number of different-sized Gumbys, while the pink section predictably boasts a wide selection of Barbie dolls and accessories.

The outside is just as interesting as the inside, and offers guests a number of stairways to higher levels. Thanks to a bit of concrete, the structure is surprisingly sturdy—the city has actually sent engineers to shake the building and look for weak spots. At the top of structure, there is a small bench from which to take in the view. 

Despite being made of decaying toys and broken technology, the Cathedral of Junk is actually pretty romantic. Bachelor parties, engagement pictures, and even actual weddings have used the odd attraction as a venue. Nature intermingles with the junk, in what Hannemann refers to as a “critter condo.” You can find children and wildlife alike happily enjoying the architecture. 

Despite creating a junk kingdom, Hannemann is pretty modest about it. "I just did it because it was kinda cool," he told Roadside America. "It's my clubhouse. It's fun. Kids, when they come through, they know what it is." Hannemann fields questions from his seat in the Junk Throne Room. Made from a collection of chains, toys, and even a Jesus statuette, the chair looks a lot like the Iron Throne if Aegon the Conqueror was really into garage sales. As Roadside America describes it, the effect is impressive.

Hannemann told me that he plans to keep building and adding onto his strange structure. As people continue to donate their junk to him, he has more materials to expand. He even has the nose of an airplane, though he refused to reveal where it came from.

“The Cathedral really is a cathedral,” the Junk King told filmmaker Evan Burns. “It has a congregation. It has a life. It serves a public purpose. It really is owned by all these other people too—not just by me. It will go on without me, I’m sure.”

Images courtesy of the author.

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Move Over, Hygge: Còsagach Is How You Get Cozy In Scotland
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Hygge, a concept related to the warm, contented feeling of being indoors during wintertime, originated in Denmark. But Scotland has made it clear that Danes don’t have a monopoly on coziness. As The Scotsman reports, VisitScotland—the country's national tourism agency—is reviving Còsagach, an old Gaelic term that could unseat the hygge trend this season.

Còsagach, like hygge, is the sensation you get when you’re snug, sheltered, and cozy. According to VisitScotland, Scotland is a popular destination for tourists looking to unwind, and the organization predicts that Còsagach will be a hot trend with visitors in 2018.

“It’s no secret that Scotland can have, at times, rather harsh and ferocious weather,” the trend forecast from the company’s insight department [PDF] notes. “In the winter when the storms rage and the waves crash against the rocks, there is nothing more satisfying than being curled up in front of the fire, book and hot toddy in hand, listening to the weather outside.”

However, you don’t need to be under a blanket at home to properly experience Còsagach. The comforting feeling can be found almost anywhere—at a restaurant, ski resort, or, in true Scottish tradition, a pub. And though it is a great antidote to winter blues, VisitScotland emphasizes that it’s not exclusive to any one season.

Even if you aren’t planning a trip to Scotland in the near future, there are ways to incorporate Còsagach into your routine. Try repurposing some of the activities associated with hygge—just don’t tell your Scottish friends where you got your inspiration.

[h/t The Scotsman]

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Want Priority Boarding On Your Alaska Airlines Flight This Holiday Season? Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
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Between steep fares and crowded terminals, flying during the holidays isn’t fun. But on Friday, December 15, a special Alaska Airlines promotion will ease boarding stress and transform packed planes into mile-high ugly sweater parties, in honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the airline will offer free early boarding to travelers willing to don their holiday worst at the airport.

The promotion is good for all Alaska Airlines flights in the airline’s 115-city network, and for flights offered by Virgin America and Horizon Air (both of which are operated by Alaska Airlines). In addition to escaping the waiting crowds, passengers who share the most festive knitted looks will be featured on Alaska Air's social media pages if they tag their photos and videos using the hashtags #UglySweaterDay and #MostWestCoast. And since no plane aisle-turned-catwalk is complete without a soundtrack, “festive holiday-themed boarding music will play all month long to help get guests into the holiday spirit,” according to a press release.

Worried you’ll be the only person on the plane wearing a sequined Rudolph cardigan? Even if other passengers don’t get the memo, airline crew will also be wearing ugly sweaters—so feel free to unleash your inner Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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