Waiting for armageddon that never showed up
“I am making an appeal to the world,” he said. “Do not come to Bugarach.”
Apocalypse ground zero
Reports also surfaced about Chechnyan and Russian politicians soothing masses of superstitious residents panic-buying candles, and of a Chinese farmer who spent nearly €40,000 to build a waterproof spherical pod from fibreglass and steel to save 14 possible occupants from inundation.
Then there is Mexico, home of the Mayan people and ground zero of the 2012 apocalypse business.
Mexico’s tourism board launched a “Mundo Maya 2012” website with a countdown to today and information on how to navigate the “Mayan world”. The country’s federal government is not officially marking today but as many as 200,000 people were expected to arrive at iconic Mayan temple Chichen Itza on the Yucatan peninsula.
Elsewhere on the peninsula, the village of Xul – “the end” in Mayan – has a special resonance as it is near where the Chicxulub asteroid fell about 65 million years ago, a disaster scientists suggest was the cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs.
A group of Italians settled on a 250-acre farm near the village five years ago and developed what looks like a retirement home.
“They’re getting a lot of business now saying they’re an eco hotel,” said journalist Gabriel Stargardter, who spent the past week travelling to seven Mayan sites at which Armageddon frenzy has festered.
Stargardter noted how few people he encountered thought they were going to die: “It’s a spiritual event for New Age people. The biggest thing happening is a three-day festival in Chichen Itza.”
While some saw today as an excuse to party, and others including Nasa scientists and the US government dismissed doomsday marketing ploys, 10 per cent of the world’s population thought the Mayan calendar could signify the world’s end, according to an Ipsos poll.
Of that minority, hundreds sought refuge in Rtanj, breathing in the mountain’s allegedly special air and drinking a signature tea made from a plant that grows exclusively on Rtanj.
South of the Millennium Hotel, under thick snow, another guesthouse also found itself filled to capacity this week.
“We’re organising a New Year’s Eve party this Friday,” said Natasa Ilic Milovac at the Ethno Centre Rtanj. “At least those poor worried people who called and called but couldn’t get a room can come here and feel safe among friends.”