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StrangeSights: A stone Mercedes in Croatia; an unusual perfume; and, a recycled wood Eiffel Tower

DAVID ADAMS provides a round-up of some stories on the odder side of life…

An artist works on a life size Mercedes monument in Imotski, Croatia, on 15th February, 2024. PICTURE: Reuters/Antonio Bronic

• Local Croatian sculptor Roko Drzislav Rebic is carving a life-sized stone replica of a Mercedes Benz Minika car as a monument to the thousands of workers who left their homeland in search of a better fortune abroad. The Mercedes came to be known as a symbol of success for those workers, who would drive home in their cars to show they had made money after fleeing poverty and unemployment. The monument will be revealed on 8th June in Imotski, a small town situated on the slopes of the Dinara mountain, 30 kilometres from the famed Adriatic coast. The town’s population has decreased over decades due to successive waves of migration. “Our fathers and grandfathers moved away, mostly to Western Germany at the time to earn something. To show they have earned some money they would drive back home in their Mercedes car,” Ivan Topic, who runs a club of old-timer vehicles told Reuters. “Out of gratitude to them we are building this monument today,” Topic, who owns eight Mercedes cars, told Reuters. One of the biggest waves of economic migration began in 1971, when thousands left for Germany in search of work. Another was in 2018 after Croatia joined the European Union and thousands of young people left the country to work in Western Europe. Rebic told Reuters that the stone was brought from areas near Imotski and once the monument is finished it will weigh 50 tonnes.  Topic said that according to his estimates there are up to 8,000 Mercedes cars in Imotski which has the population of 25,000.  “Not all of the cars are registered.” he said. – ANTONIO BRONIC, Imotski, Croatia/Reuters


Tobacco leaves hang inside a curing barn at a farm in Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Rio, on 16th February, 2015. PICTURE: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini/File photo

A Cuban entrepreneur believes she has hit upon a formula for a unique homegrown perfume she hopes someday to sell to the world. Her secret ingredient? Cuba’s prized tobacco leaf. Tobacco, one of Cuba’s top and best-known exports, thrives across much of the western half of the Caribbean island, and especially in Pinar del Rio province, home to the world’s finest tobacco and cigars. The cigar leaves, green and veiny, are crushed and their fragrant-filled juices blended with alcohol and other essences, Clara Camalleri, 53, told Reuters in her small laboratory next to her family home. “It gives it a special touch and smell, more well-rounded,” she said.  She describes the smell of the tobacco-based perfume, which she calls “Vitola Cubana”, as “exotic” with hints of “acid and wood that confer a seductive and distinctive character.” Camalleri said she began making perfumes at home in 2018 but created the business not long ago, after Cuba’s communist-run government lifted a ban on private companies that had been in place since just after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Entrepreneurs in Cuba, battling through its worst economic crisis in decades, face particular challenges, said Camalleri who worked through a blackout on a recent morning. “[Making perfume] is complicated, not just in Cuba, but anywhere. And here we have many more obstacles,” she said. Obtaining raw materials, imports and even the basics such as electricity and packaging can be challenging, she added. Despite the hurdles, Camalleri also produces other perfumes, antibacterial gels and colognes from essences derived from sunflower, chocolate, coffee and cinnamon. Working alongside her mother, father and two daughters, she said she hopes that one day she will be able to export her products but in the meantime, has found a strong market at home.  “In Cuba, there’s a shortage of perfumes…and so we’re trying to meet that demand,” Camalleri said. – ALIEN FERNANDEZ and CARLOS CARRILLO, Havana, Cuba/Reuters


•  Two friends in western France have built a 16 metre high replica of the Eiffel Tower from recycled wood, which they hope to display along the path of the Summer 2024 Olympic torch relay and on Olympic sites. Frederic Malmezac, a 38-year-old carpenter, paired up with 46-year-old Sylvain Bouchard to build the model, using wood that would otherwise have been thrown away. “The project was to build a wooden Eiffel Tower replica using as much recycled material as possible…to show that with material due to be thrown away, we can build great things,” Malmezac said. The pair used about 825 pieces of wood, Malmezac said, starting their project in September, 2023. They are hoping to soon get authorisation to display their mini-Eiffel Tower near Olympic sites. – STEPHANE MAHE, La Chevroliere, France/Reuters



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