Weird Europe: A Guide to Bizarre, Macabre, and Just Plain Weird Sights

Weird Europe: A Guide to Bizarre, Macabre, and Just Plain Weird Sights

by Kristan Lawson, Anneli Rufus

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Welcome to Weird Europe...where truth is stranger than fiction.

Thrill-seekers, students of the bizarre, travelers searching for relief from the usual tourist attractions--rejoice! At last, here is a guidebook to Europe's dark side, compiled by Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus. From strange natural wonders to the handiwork of mad scientists, dreamers, and zealots, Europe harbors hundreds of fascinating--and occasionally gruesome--surprises. In these pages, you'll discover:

-Two-headed animals
-Erotic museums
-Creepy catacombs
-A cathedral made of salt
-A railroad operated by children
-The Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum
-An all-ice hotel
-Ancient pagan rituals
-Sewer tours
-A museum of espionage
-UFO landing sites
-Pictures drawn by the dead
-A frog museum
-Pancake races
-Oddball art
-Underground cities
-Giants, freaks, and Siamese twins
-The Temple of Echoes
-And more!

Covering twenty-five countries, with complete directions, opening hours, and admission prices for nearly a thousand wild attractions, Weird Europe is an indispensable guide to a world that you never knew existed. Once you enter Weird Europe, there's no turning back.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466867628
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/08/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus have been combing Europe's underbelly together since 1983 and have written several guides to weird places, including Weird Europe and California Babylon. Anneli is an award-winning journalist and poet. Kristan speaks Latin and can play three games of chess simultaneously while blindfolded. They both live in Berkeley, California.
Native Californian Kristan Lawson is the author of several successful travel guides, including Weird Europe for St. Martin's Press, and America Off the Wall: The West Coast. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Native Californian Anneli Rufus is the author of several successful travel guides, including Weird Europe for St. Martin's Press, and America Off the Wall: The West Coast. She lives in Berkeley, California.

Read an Excerpt

Weird Europe

A Guide to Bizarre, Macabre, and Just Plain Weird Sights

By Kristan Lawson, Anneli Rufus

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1999 Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6762-8



Don't miss:

**** Ordino: Museum of Miniatures


2 km northeast of Andorra la Vella


(Museu de Maquetes d'Andorra)

* Avinguda del Pessebre 16, near the intersection of Avinguda de les Escoles. Open Monday–Saturday, 10am–1pm and 4–8pm. Admission: free. Phone: 86 15 06.

Proving once again this pocket-size country's passion for perpetual shrinkage, the museum houses immaculately detailed scale models of the principality's most notable buildings. Here are stark Romanesque churches, including Sant Miquel d'Engolasters and Sant Climent de Pal, no bigger than toaster ovens. Rendered in tiny brown stones and splinters of wood, all but a few are the work of Spanish painter and model-artist Josep Colomé, who died in 1995 and whose son now carries on the tradition.


7 km north of Andorra la Vella


(Museu de la Miniatura

* In the Coma Building (Edifici Coma). Open Monday–Saturday, 9:30am–1:30pm and 3:30–7pm. Admission: 400 ptas; children 6–12, 200 ptas; children under 6, free. Phone: 83 83 38.

What better place than a teensy-weensy country for this collection of teensy-weensy artworks? Created by miniaturist Nicolaï Siadristy, they're hardly perceptible to the naked eye and can only be viewed through microscopes, which are conveniently arranged above each of the sculptures. These include not just one camel but a whole caravan's worth — complete with pyramid and palm trees — lodged inside the eye of a needle. Also here is a minuscule human figure walking on a coiled gold thread 400 times thinner than a human hair. An audiovisual program tells about the artist, who is normal-sized, and his fascination with the small.


7 km north of Andorra la Vella


(Museu Iconogràfic Sant Jordi)

* In the Maragda Building (Edifici Maragda). Open Monday–Saturday, 10am–2pm and 3–7pm. Admission: 400 ptas; children 6–12, 200 ptas; children under 6, free. Phone: 83 83 76.

The vicious-dragon-slaying patron saint of Catalonia lends his name to this collection spanning three centuries of Russian and Byzantine religious art. An entire room is dedicated to pictures of the Virgin Mary, another to George himself, who mercilessly gores beast after beast against lush golden skies. An audiovisual room screens images of monasteries, cathedrals and yet more icons, as well as Orthodox rituals — a surefire pick-me-up for anyone trapped in Andorra yet homesick for the Ukraine.



Don't miss:

**** Kaag: Franz Gsellmann's World Machine

**** Salzburg: Hellbrunn Pleasure Castle's Water Garden

**** Vienna: Criminal Museum

**** Vienna: Josephinum Museum of Medical History

**** Wattens: Swarovski Crystal Worlds

**** Werfen: Ice Giants' World

**** Zwettl: Museum of Medical Meteorology


Just east of Hallstatt



* On the hillside west of town; signs point the way. Open April–October, daily, 10am–4pm; November–March, daily, 2pm by request. Admission: 135 AS; children, 65 AS. Phone: 03622/71 332-51.

Deep in the mine, a chapel dedicated to the miners' patron saint, Barbara, glows softly. In electric candlelight, the framed painting of the saint and tall golden statues flanking the altar stand in contrast to outcroppings of rough rock surrounding the shrine. The tour reveals how precious artworks were hidden in the salt mine's treasure vaults to keep them safe during WWII, and lets you explore the stage that flanks a silvery underground salt lake.

Bad Ischl

57 km east of Salzburg


(Das Bergwerk des Salzbarons)

* Just southeast of town in the village of Perneck; buses run from the Bad Ischl train station. Open May–September; call for tour times. Admission: 135 AS; children, 65 AS. Phone: 06132/23 948-31.

With its little lamp shining, a mine train carries passengers far into the depths of the mountain, where narrow passageways are ribbed with beams and illuminated for a dramatic light-and-shadow effect. Shoot down wooden slides to see an underground salt lake and hear stories of how 19th-century nobles made themselves even richer with the help of humble salt.


35 km west of Graz


(St. Barbara-Kirche)

* Bärnbach can be reached by train from Graz: from the Bärnbach train station, walk 20 minutes into the commercial center; follow the onion dome to find the church. Open daily. Admission: free. Phone: 03142/62581.

The eccentric artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser got inspired when a friend who lived in Bärnbach told him the old village church could use a facelift. Completed in 1988, the updated edifice sports a roof with huge turquoise polka dots on red tile; sinuous multicolored mosaics and tilework snaking up the clock tower; patchworky pastel paintwork on the walls; and freestanding structures surrounding it that look like stacks of gargantuan beads. It's topped off with Hundertwasser's trademark — an onion dome — and an obligatory cross, though a set of gateways in the garden honors other world religions. Tiled images on the gateways represent Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Judaism, Islam, and African and Oceanic spirituality. Inside, the church is deliberately dull by comparison. The designer decided the outside was to look at, but the inside was for prayer.


85 km south of Salzburg


(Entrische Kirche)

* In the Naturhöhle, off the B167 road at Klammstein, midway between Lend and Dorfgastein. Open April–June and September, Tuesday–Sunday, tours given at 11am, noon, 2 and 3pm; July–August, daily, tours at 10 and 11am, noon, 2, 3, 4 and 5pm. Admission: 90 AS; children, 50 AS. Phone: 06433/7695.

Persecuted Protestants wended their way into this chilly cavern to worship here amid stalactites and slippery walls. Used throughout the Counter-Reformation, their subterranean shrine — nicknamed the "Bat Cathedral" (Fledermaus Dom) — is now a memorial. First explored as early as 1428, the cave is also home to underground lakes.


17 km northwest of Krems


(Winnetou-Spiel Gföhl)

* Just northeast of Gföhl off the road to the village of Mittelberg. Open Saturdays and Sundays in July and August; call for show-times. Admission: 200 AS, children 100 AS; for special shows 250 AS; children 150 AS. Phone: 02716/6401 or 0663/9208349.

The clatter of hoofbeats and the flap of fringed white buckskin transform the Austrian countryside into the Wild Western Prärie every summer, as Teutons and Apaches whoop it up together. Winnetou and Old Shatterhand are the stars among this cast of performers, who enthusiastically reenact rootin' tootin' adventures complete with bandits, feathered headbands, teepees, canoes and burning buildings.



* Located at Stadionplatz 1 in Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, inside the Fitness Paradies health club; enter stadium on Liebenauer Hauptstrasse, walk through parking lot and past a cafe to the health club. To reach the stadium, take Tram 14 from central Graz, south to the end of the line. Open Monday–Friday, 6am–10pm; Saturday–Sunday, 9am–1pm and 4–8pm. Admission: free. Phone: 0316/48 24 82.

Arnold! The larger-than-life, superhuman robot known as Arnold Schwarzenegger started here in Graz as a nerdy schoolboy. A few years ago he returned, and for pocket change built a state-of-the-art sports stadium and named it after himself. The gym at the back of the stadium features a petite but touching museum devoted to Arnold's early years in Graz. See the Terminator as a scrawny kid, then a budding young weightlifter, then winning the 1965 Mr. Austria championship, then launching on the path to world domination in his Pumping Iron phase. By the end he's chumming around with Gorbachev and other luminaries. Also artfully arranged here are positively antique weight sets and exercise equipment that Arnold himself once used to build those arms of steel, back in the early '60s. As you leave, say to the exercise addicts huffing away on the nearby Stairmeisters, "I'll be back."


15 km south of Salzburg



* At Bad Dürrnberg, in the mountains above Hallein. Open April–October, daily, 9am–5pm; November–March, daily, 11am–3pm. Admission: 180 AS; children, 90 AS; children under 4 not admitted. Phone: (0) 6245/85285-15 or 82121.

Yes, it's back to the salt mines — in this case the world's oldest. Ride a mine train through deep tunnels to the heart of the mountain, where miner-guides explain the science, lore and 3,000-year history of the "white gold" that lent its name to the Salzkammergut region. Glide across a mirror-still underground lake in a flat boat and explore a 3D exhibition in which mannequins demonstrate salt-mining methods used in Celtic times. Slide down slick wooden chutes on your derriere at top speed.


73 km southeast of Salzburg



* Kircherweg 40, behind the Catholic church on the hill at the northern edge of town. Open daily, 10am–6pm. Admission: 10 AS; children, 5 AS. Phone: 06134/8279 or 06134/8208.

Because the graveyard has limited space, skeletons are traditionally unearthed to make room for the newly dead. So over 1,000 human skulls dating back hundreds of years are neatly stacked in a quaint little chapel. In keeping with charnel-house etiquette, each skull is carefully painted with floral designs, crosses, the name of its onetime occupant and the year of his or her demise, along with other details. You can trace the names and see whole families' skulls resting side by side, row by row, generation after generation. Leg bones and such are packed tightly underneath like cordwood.


73 km southeast of Salzburg



* The entrance to the mine is on the hill overlooking the city; follow the signs to the south side of town to the cable-car station, which will take you up to the mine. Open May and mid-September–October, daily, 9:20am–3pm; June–mid-September, daily, 9am–4:30pm. Admission: 135 AS; children 4–15, 65 AS. Phone: 06134/8251/46.

Journey back in time to the year 1000 B.C.E. — on your butt. Throw dignity to the winds as you plummet down smoothly polished wooden slides, just like real miners do, to explore one of the world's oldest salt mines. Visit a subterranean salt lake and probe evidence of prehistoric visitors before riding the mine train back out into the world.


17 km southwest of Vienna



* On the road leading to the city of Giesshübl, just east of Hinterbrühl, next to the A21. Open daily, April–October, 9am–noon and 1–5pm; November–March, 9am–noon and 1–3pm. Admission: 55 AS; children 4–14, 30 AS. Phone: 0 22 36/263 64.

Europe may have more underground lakes than you ever suspected, but this one is the biggest. Walk through a labyrinthine network of underground corridors to reach the lake, then climb into a motorboat. Measuring 56,000 square feet, the glassy waters glow greenish-blue, eerily reflecting the cave's low, rocky ceiling and narrow archways. And who would have thought that the world's first jet fighter was built at this very spot? Don't miss the candlelit underground shrine.



(Schloss Ambras Kunst- und Wunderkammer)

* Schlosstrasse 20, southeast of downtown: Take tram 3 from the station or bus 6 ("Tummelplatz-Schloss Ambras"); shuttle buses also run back and forth from the castle to Maria-Theresien-Strasse/Altes Landhaus in Innsbruck, once a day in winter and more frequently in summer. Open April–October, Wednesday–Monday, 10am–5pm; December–March, Wednesday–Monday, 2–5pm. Admission: 60 AS; students and children, 30 AS. Phone: 0512/341 21 54 or 348 4 46.

Popular in the 16th century, lavish "chambers of wonders" mingled artworks with natural curiosities to reflect the world's strangeness. Ranging from cookbooks to sandals to abnormal antlers, Archduke Ferdinand's collection includes poison made from goat intestines; portraits of human freaks and bloody accident victims; sinister mechanical toys; a painting of the real Count Dracula; little suits of armor for children; and creations so intricate their makers may have gone insane putting them together. A shell grotto sprouts sea monsters, mermaids and a coral crucified Christ. Stuffed sharks dangle on chains from the ceiling.


5 km north of Edelsbach, which is just northwest of Feldbach



* House 14 in the village of Kaag: to reach Kaag from Graz, take the train to Feldbach, and from there a bus to Edelsbach; from Edelsbach follow the signs pointing to the Weltmaschine (about a one-hour walk). Alternatively, you can get off the train two stops before Feldbach at Rohr; head up to the main road from the train station and look for the Weltmaschine sign, then walk over the hill to Kaag (one and a half hours). Or simply take a taxi from Feldbach. Open Wednesday–Monday, 9am–6pm; the proprietors usually turn on parts of the Weltmaschine whenever visitors arrive, so stick around until you get to see it in action. Admission: voluntary donation. Phone: 0 31 15/29 83.

Without the slightest mechanical or artistic training, a humble farmer named Franz Gsellmann spent 23 years creating a mind-boggling masterpiece of eccentricity, a contraption that he dubbed the Weltmaschine. Filling a large room at the Gsellmann farm, this whirling, spinning, frenzied machine is unlike anything else you are likely to see in this life — or the next. Amid an overwhelming concatenation of red, blue and green gears, wheels and drive shafts, you will find a xylophone, toy gondolas, hula hoops, bells, metronomes, Christmas lights, a roulette wheel, fans, chains, electric candelabras, a plastic Mary and Jesus, tiny boats, cages, clocks, bejewelled crowns, crystal decanters, miniature windmills, an iron rooster, a spaceship, model atoms, a barometer, an oxygen tank and much more, all interconnected into one vast, incomprehensible mechanism. The crucial question has always remained unanswered: What exactly does the Weltmaschine do? Is it a perpetual motion machine? Does it make the world go around? Gsellmann died in 1981 without ever fully revealing its intended function, though devotees think it reveals the inner workings of the human soul. See for yourself.


Near the Slovenian border, 130 km southwest of Graz


* Villacher Str. 241, west of the center, just across the park from the eastern shore of the Wörthersee. Open April and October, daily, 9am–5pm; May–June and September, daily, 9am–6pm; July–August, Sunday–Tuesday and Thursday–Friday, 9am–7pm, Wednesday and Saturday, 9am–9pm. Admission: 90 AS; children, 30 AS. Phone: 0463/21 1 94 0.

But isn't that the Sydney Opera House? Jawohl, and just an alpenhorn's throw away from the Eiffel Tower. While it would take a long time to walk around the real world, it's a snap here, where over 170 famous buildings are reproduced on a 1:25 scale. Model ships glide up and down waterways, and model railroads chug along their tracks in the shadow of miniature castles and cathedrals. The shrunken landmarks, lovingly shaped and tinted down to the last minuscule brick, make the normalsized plants growing in flowerbeds alongside them look like grotesque triffids.


25 km east of Linz


(Öffentliches Denkmal und Museum)

* Just north of Mauthausen village. Open April–September, daily, 8am–6pm (last entry, 5pm); October–December 15 and February–March, daily, 8am–4pm (last entry, 3pm). Admission: 25 AS; students and children, 10 AS; former inmates, free. Phone: 07238 / 2269.


Excerpted from Weird Europe by Kristan Lawson, Anneli Rufus. Copyright © 1999 Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Photo Credits,
Key to Symbols,
How to Use This Book,
Czech Republic,
Great Britain,
The Netherlands,
Vatican City,
Calendar of Weird Festivals,
Category Indexes,
General Index,
Also by Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus,

Customer Reviews