8 Bizarre European Tourist Destinations
Photo by Flickr user m.prinke
by Theodoros II
The next time you’re backpacking through Europe, forget the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Instead, venture into the unknown lands of Europe’s quirky landmarks and tourist destinations.
1. Medieval Crime Museum, Germany
Photo courtesy of Flickr user craigemorsels
The charming medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, located in the Franconia region of Bavaria in Germany, has become a tourist hot spot. But one of its chief attractions is decidedly not charming: the Medieval Crime Museum, which is dedicated to the horror of the Dark Ages. It’s full of creepy exhibits and instruments of torture, including the Schandmaske—a mask of shame made for public humiliation and ridicule. Each mask is designed to fit its victim’s crime (one mask on display even has a muzzle shaped like a pig’s snout). There's also a torture chair for bakers who sold undersized loaves of bread and a spinning Catherine wheel that victims were strapped to during public execution.
2. Petrified Forest of Lesbos, Greece
Greece's Petrified Forest of Lesbos has been declared a protected monument of nature. The protected zone covers an area of 150,000 acres and includes hundreds of fossilized conifer trunks and fruiting trees. Volcanic materials blanketed the forest more than 20 million years ago, which caused it to become petrified. Now, as the volcanic material erodes away, the beautiful colors and patterns of the stone tree trunks are exposed.
3. Lighthouses for Rent, Croatia
Photo courtesy of Flickr user m.prinke
Croatians have taken the modern-day hostel and transformed it into a unique experience with their rented lighthouses, which stretch along the Adriatic coast from Istria to Dubrovnik. For only $55 to $85 a day, visitors can spend the night in a private lighthouse on an isolated island. But the stay definitely isn't as glamorous as it might seem: Visitors report that the sheets are changed only once a week, and tourists need to bring their own water and supplies if they want to avoid drinking the reservoir water.
4. Avanos Hair Museum, Turkey
Thirty years ago, one of Chez Galip’s friends left town for good. Before leaving, the woman left him a lock of hair for him to remember her by. So the Turkish potter and artist created the Avanos Hair Museum under his pottery shop in Cappadocia. Since then, most women who visit the museum leave locks of their hair—labeled with their addresses—behind. The museum is filled with more than 16,000 hair samples, which adorn every surface but the floor.
5. Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania
Vampire lovers who find themselves in Transylvania might want to swing by Bran Castle, which is marketed as the home of Prince Vlad of Wallachia, aka Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. Located in the village of Bran on the border of Transylvania and Romania, the castle was the second-most expensive property in the world and valued at $140 million, according to a 2007 Forbes article.
6. Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine
At the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, daring tourists who aren't afraid of a little radiation can learn every detail of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and its effect on those who lived and worked around the area. Visitors will see a nuclear reactor, the ghost town of Pripyat, and the “red forest”—where nuclear radiation caused surrounding pine trees to turn a reddish orange. There is also the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev.
7. Museum of Broken Relationships, Croatia
Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić first conceived the idea of the Museum of Broken Relationships when they combed through their collection of tokens and gifts they had exchanged during their relationship. They decided to exhibit them and asked their friends to contribute their own collections. Over the years, they created a huge collection of items donated by divorced couples. Lingerie, toothbrushes, clothes, wedding dresses, and dental floss are among the items on display in the museum.
8. The Phallus Museum, Iceland
Photo by Flickr user magic_bee
The Icelandic Phallological Museum is located in Reykjavik and houses the largest collection of penises in the world. Retired teacher Sigurður Hjartarson founded the museum in 1997. The museum is now run by his son, Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson, who is—according to Slate —“the world’s only hereditary penis-museum operator.”
The exhibits display penises kept in glass vessels or mounted on plaques and include all 93 species of indigenous Icelandic mammals. There are 280 specimens in all, including penises from whales, walruses, seals, and a 95-year-old human donor who died in July 2011. The museum also contains a large collection of objects with phallic shapes, including a lampshade made from a bull scrotum.
According to the museum, “Phallology is an ancient science which, until recent years, has received very little attention in Iceland, except as a borderline field of study in other academic disciplines such as history, art, psychology, literature and other artistic fields like music and ballet.”