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Weird Europe - How to Find Unusual Attractions

Frightened tourists on an Edinburgh ghost tour.
When I'm traveling, I usually try to find if there's something unusual or exceptional to do or to see in the area. Sometimes even the most common touristy places have totally 'something different' to offer. For example, I never fancied the idea of going to Spanish Costa del sol, which has practically been covered with concrete over the last five decades and which annually sees way more tourists than local people. Of course, there are the wonderful caves of Nerja and the magnificent Alhambra castle in the area, which despite their being perfect school-book examples of tourist traps, are truly mystical and awe-inspiring must-see destinations for anyone. Then again, I dug some more and found out about El camino del rey, the infamous scariest footpath in the world. It's just around the corner in the Sunny Coast, but when I was there the first time I had no idea of the place. The second visit, after some research, resulted to one of the daunting trips I've ever made. Read more about it here.

Lurgrotte Semriach (Austria) gone phallic.
But how to find those different places? How to find the path less travelled? Most tourists don't have the opportunity to spend months and months drifting around, finding the coolest places and the secret beaches that no one has ever heard of. Usually it's the one or two week dash to the destination, some hanging around there, then back home and to the rat race. You can be lucky and find that awesome waterfall or that spectacular food selling street vendor, but it never hurts to do your homework before you even start packing. Usually I start by Googling if there are caves near the destination. Caves are cool (yes, literally too). I mentioned the Nerja caves above, but I've visited also couple of others. Sailed on an underwater river in Belgium. Become awestruck by the Naida caves on an Indian island (video link). Another must-Google for me are ossuaries. I've seen only few of the many European ones and they're fascinating. I'll definitely visit any if there's one nearby my destination.

So Google is your friend. But how did travellers find those coolest places before internet? Believe me or not, but there are these things called books! I ran into a wonderfully named guide, Weird Europe (by Kristan Lawson & Anneli Rufus), which is already quite old, my copy being 1999 edition. But it promises bizarre, macabre and just plain weird sights to its reader, including sewer tours, two-headed animals, pictures drawn by dead people and underground cities. It's just a book for me, and despite its age, most of the attractions are still there. Well, the Beatles Museum in Cologne has moved, but the caves, crypts and tombs seldom wander away from their present location. With this book I found about this awesome hedge maze next to a three-country-borderstone, got reminded of certain church chamber that has walls decorated with human bones (video link) and discovered an underground river in Belgium (who would have thought that there are such a many caves in Belgium). Many of the places I have already visited, and I happen to know few attractions that should be mentioned in the book that aren't there, but one thing is sure: I'll never leave for a European country any more without checking Weird Europe contents and index first.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Good idea. I never know that there are such weird destinations in Europe. I had a great time caving in some Asian destination. I'm just too excited to try new travel experience. With jetLAGFX, I have no worries about jet lag which means more fun.