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December 20, 2012

5 best places to watch the world end

(Continued)

LONDON —

The visions of a 19th-century German nun provided the road map for the discovery, on the summit of a local mountain called the Bulbul Dagi (Mount Nightingale), of the House of the Virgin Mary. This, the supposed site of Mary's Assumption into heaven, has become a site of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims alike. Although it never received the Vatican's official stamp of approval, three popes have been to the House of the Virgin: Current Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2006, and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, also visited the nearby Panaya Kapulu (Doorway to the Virgin) and beatified the nun who "found" the house in the early 19th century. Her name, Anne Catherine Emmerich, will sound familiar to fans of the apocalypse: Her namesake, the director Roland Emmerich, is best known for disaster movies such as "Independence Day," "Godzilla," "The Day After Tomorrow" — and "2012."

Hotel bookings in Sirince are up, as some speculate that proximity to the location of Mary's assumption will protect them from destruction, or at least enable them to follow her path all the way up to capital-H Heaven. With the business flair typical of Turkish entrepreneurs, local wine producers have produced a special "vintage of the Apocalypse." (Take a few bottles as you descend into your bomb/wine cellar.)

3. Another mountain drawing in survivalists with its alleged magic is Mount Rtanj, about 130 miles southwest of Belgrade, in the Serbian part of the Carpathians. The Serbian peak is curiously pyramid-shaped, which — inevitably — has invited claims of alien involvement, not least by science-fiction guru Arthur C. Clarke, who once claimed the mountain's powerful energy field made it the "navel of the world."

Should the world not have ended on Dec. 22 and you're stranded on the flanks of Mount Rtanj with lots of unexpected time on your hands, you're in luck: Two local traditions might help you wile the days away. Legend has it that Rtanj once housed a castle that contained a golden treasure. A St. George's Chapel on the mountain was blown up a few decades ago by treasure hunters, but no gold has yet been found. Another legend tells of the aphrodisiacal qualities of a local herb, used to brew "invigorating" tea.

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