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10 Strange But Wonderful Monuments From Around The World

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Almost every town has monuments of some sort—war memorials, statues of people long dead, or pieces of art commissioned to celebrate a momentous national occasion, for example. Sometimes we recognize the names on them. Often we do not.

Most of these monuments have become part of the scenery; we walk past them and barely even notice them. However, there are some monuments that can never fade into the background, either because they are too big, too striking, or because they are just plain weird. Here, we take a look at just a few of them.

10 The Child-Eater Fountain At Bern


In 1545, the town council in the Swiss city of Bern commissioned Hans Gieng to create a statue to replace a 100-year-old one that had fallen into disrepair. What was there previously is not known. What Gieng created was enough to give the citizens of Bern sleepless nights ever since. The statue depicts a giant man eating a baby. He is holding another terrified infant as well as a sack also filled with babies.

It is unclear what the meaning behind the statue was intended to be, except, perhaps, don’t bring your children to Bern if they cry. The giant appears to be relishing his meal greatly as he swallows the head of a child.[1]

The Kindlifresserbrunnen (which means “Ogre Fountain” or “Child-Eater Fountain”) is said to be cursed. According to local tradition, the fountain flows with wine on Christmas night, but if it is drank, the imbiber becomes possessed by the Devil. And perhaps develops an insatiable appetite for cherubs?

9 St. Wenceslas Riding A Dead Horse Upside Down

Wenceslas Square in Prague contains a statue of St. Wenceslas, the Good King of the popular “Good King Wenceslas” Christmas carol. The statue looks very traditional, though a little military for a saint, with Wenceslas proudly riding his horse, wearing a military uniform and helmet, and carrying a lance. It might be any statue anywhere in the world.

King Wenceslas is an important historical figure in Prague, ruling the nation in the early 10th century. He was said to be a fair king, unlike his brother Boleslaus the Cruel, who eventually murdered him. (Though with a name like that, it is little wonder he turned out to be a wrong ‘un.)

Tucked away in a corner of Wenceslas Square is another statue. Inside Lucerna Pasaz, you will find St. Wenceslas looking equally splendid, riding a horse which is not only dead but hanging upside down and suspended from the ceiling.[2]

The artist, David Cerny, was believed to have created the piece as an attack, not on a beloved Czech icon so much as on the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus. What exactly he was trying to say is anyone’s guess.

8 Leshan Giant Buddha


There are giant Buddhas, and then there are giant Buddhas. The Buddha at Leshan is an immense 71 meters (233 ft) tall. Carved out of the sandstone cliffs in Sichuan province, China, the Buddha is said to be the largest pre-modern statue and the biggest stone Buddha in the world.

Work began on carving the statue, which overlooks the confluence of three rivers, in the eighth century. The statue remains relatively inaccessible due to the terrain, and this has helped to preserve the Buddha.

The construction was started by a monk named Haitong, who hoped that it would calm the turbulent waters where the three rivers met. When the construction was threatened by local officials, Haitong is said to have gouged out his own eyes to demonstrate his piety and sincerity. He was soon granted permission to continue, possibly because they were worried about what else he would cut off if they refused.

Unfortunately, Haitong did not live to see the completion of the statue, but he would have been pleased to know that the construction of the Buddha caused a buildup of debris in the river, which altered its course and did indeed calm the waters at the point where the Buddha’s eyes gaze.[3]

Of course, even if he had lived to see it, he wouldn’t have been able to actually see it, so perhaps it was just as well.

7 The Alton Barnes White Horse

In 1812, a farmer named Robert Pile paid the grand sum of £20 to a man named Jack the Painter (who was, fortunately, a painter) to design and cut a horse into the hillside in Wiltshire, England. This was one of nine horses that were cut into the hills in this area during this time. No one seems to know why.

The design was carved out of the hill, with tons of soil scraped out and carted away. It was then packed with chalk so that it stood out in stark white against the green hills and could be seen from a great distance.

Jack the Painter, however, was something of a con man and subcontracted the work to another man who abandoned the job halfway through, after Jack had made off with all the money.[4] Despite its inauspicious start, the Alton Barnes White Horse was finally completed after Robert Pile paid again for it to be constructed.

The horse measures roughly 55 meters (180 ft) high and 49 meters (160 ft) long. It has been relined with chalk a number of times since it was created and can still be seen galloping across the Wiltshire Downs looking for its companions today.

6 A Giant Thumb


Cesar Baldaccini was a French sculptor and part of the Nouveau Realisme (New Realism) movement. This French art movement created pieces using unusual materials. Baldaccini crafted a number of startling statues from compacted cars and other pieces of junk. One of his most famous works, somewhat undramatically, is a thumb.

Standing six meters (20 ft) high, the cast-bronze statue of the artist’s own thumb is the second one he produced.[5] Baldaccini famously did not discuss the meaning of his work. However, it seems clear that the meaning of this artwork is, well, thumbs up.

5 The Georgia Guidestones

The Georgia Guidestones were erected in 1980. Commissioned by a man calling himself R.C. Christian, the stones were constructed with fairly elaborate secrecy, and the real identity of R.C. Christian will, in all likelihood, never be known.

However, the stones themselves are a legacy of sorts. Constructed from six huge pieces of granite, the stones have instructions for the survival of the human race carved in eight modern languages. Among the commandments is the edict that population should be controlled, that reproduction should be “guided” to maintain the survival of the fittest, and that disputes between nations should be settled in a world court.

The stones include a few basic astronomical features, such as a hole in the rock through which the North Star can be viewed. The capstone can act as a kind of calendar, should you you need one. The reasons for these features are unspecified. However, perhaps more information is yet to come. The stones are rumored to have a time capsule hidden somewhere at their base, to be opened when Armageddon finally arrives.[6]

So, watch these slabs.

4 Hand Of The Desert

The Atacama desert is one of the driest and most remote places on Earth. Some parts of the desert have not seen rainfall in decades. It is not the sort of place that would attract a lot of visitors. It was a strange choice of venue, therefore, for sculptor Mario Irarrazabal when choosing where to put his latest artwork—a giant hand measuring 11 meters (36 ft) high poking out of the desert.

The hand is said to represent all the victims of torture and injustice who suffered during the military regime in Chile and symbolize their indomitable spirit and the power of love to triumph over evil. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Despite its out-of-the-way location, the piece is a regular target for vandals and graffiti artists, which, we might think, also says something about the indomitable spirit of taggers.[7]

3 The Hanging Man

If you walk down a street in the Old Town district of Prague, you might be startled to see a man suspended one-handed from a flagpole. Emergency services have received several calls from concerned bystanders who believed that they were witnessing a suicide attempt or a man in desperate trouble.

Fortunately, they were not. What they were actually looking at was a statue of Sigmund Freud created by David Cerny (who also made the previously mentioned upside down horse). The piece is said to represent Freud’s pathological fear of death.[8] The man who spent his life interpreting the fears of others had a morbid dread of death.

Cerny is no stranger to controversy. He was the artist responsible for painting a Soviet tank pink. The tank was part of a memorial installed to celebrate the liberation of Prague after World War II. Cerny was arrested and briefly incarcerated for vandalism.

2 The Dunmore Pineapple

In 1761, the earl of Dunmore decided to build himself a summerhouse. He liked summerhouses. And he also liked fruit. So it seemed natural, to him at least, to build himself a summerhouse in the shape of a fruit.

At the time, the pineapple was the most exotic fruit ever seen in Scotland. The summerhouse’s pineapple stands 11.2 meters (37 ft) high. The structure has four “vases” at the base of the pineapple, which are, in fact, concealed chimneys used for the heating system that was put in for the hothouse below. The hothouse propagated a number of exotic fruits and vegetables, including, of course, pineapples.[9]

All things considered, it is probably a good thing that bananas were not widely available in Britain until the end of the 19th century.

1 The Sinking Library

Outside the State Library of Victoria, you might be surprised to see what looks like a remnant of an ancient library sinking back into the ground. Constructed from Port Fairy Bluestone, the structure is 7 meters (23 ft) wide.

Created by Petrus Spronk, the piece, named Architectural Fragment, is one of several sunken pieces the artist has installed around the world and is meant to symbolize the fragile and transient nature of all that is human, which is pretty disturbing.

However, the piece is like one of those “glass is half-full” moments. You can see the sinking of the library as the destruction of civilization and the disappearance of knowledge. Or maybe it is a new civilization breaking through the barriers surrounding the old, bringing forward new vistas of learning and hope.[10]

So, you know, you pays yer money, and you takes yer choice.

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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Trip Ideas

10 Hidden Destinations That Just Aren’t Worth Finding

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Off the beaten track is one thing, but there are places in the world that the hardiest, most intrepid adventurers would think twice about traveling to. Whether because the climate is so harsh, or the place is so remote, some destinations just don’t seem to be worth the effort.

Here, we look at ten locations you probably would not want to choose for your next holiday. That is, unless you like long trips, frostbite, and very few amenities upon arrival. These places push the adage, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” to its absolute limit.

10 Pitcairn Island

Lying halfway between New Zealand and the Americas, Pitcairn Island is one of the most remote places on Earth. Only 10 kilometers (6 mi) long and 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) wide, Pitcairn was first discovered in 1767. The island was famously settled by mutineers from the HMS Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian. The inhabitants of Pitcairn today are descendants of this crew.

Today, there are only a few islanders left, despite efforts to recruit incomers. It appears that no one wants to move to an island with one shop, where orders need to be placed three months in advance. Though the island now has electricity and even the Internet, it is so isolated and barren that its major export used to be stamps. But who uses stamps anymore?[1]

If you fancy a visit, you can either try to hitch a ride with a passing container ship or fly to French Polynesia and then take a 30-hour boat ride. However, even if you do want to visit, you need to fill out an application, which will probably be refused. It seems that the Pitcairn residents are determined to remain cut off from the rest of the world and have adopted their own, sometimes peculiar, way of life.

9 Ittoqqortoormiit


Ittoqqortoormiit is the most isolated town in Greenland, a country not known for its accessibility. The area’s inhabitants are mainly reindeer, musk oxen, and walruses, with only the occasional human. It is hard to reach, being cut off from shipping by ice for nine months of the year, and the land is crisscrossed by fjords.

The 450 locals survive mainly by ice fishing and hunting, as well as some tourism during the three months that ships are able to dock. They also seem to spend a lot of time painting their homes in bright colors.

Those visitors who do make it in come for the wildlife and the scenery. Ittoqqortoormiit is surrounded by national parks and magnificent fjords.[2]

Ittoqqortoormiit is completely dark for two months from mid-November to mid-January; the Sun does not rise at all. During this time, locals mostly sit in their homes and look through color catalogues to decide what color to paint their house next year.

8 Edinburgh Of The Seven Seas

In the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, on the volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha, you will find a settlement named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Its nearest neighbor, Saint Helena (the island where Napoleon was imprisoned) is 2,173 kilometers (1,350 mi) away.

Getting to the island is difficult. Few ships pass that way. Visitors usually catch a lift with polar explorer vessels from Cape Town, which pass around nine or ten times a year. There are around 250 inhabitants on the island, along with a load of penguins, its very own albatross, and a nine-hole golf course that was built by a homesick British official once stationed there. However, the fierce winds and steep slopes make play somewhat tricky and are unlikely to improve your handicap.

The inhabitants of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas are all descendants of the original garrison, stationed on the island to prevent it from being used as a staging post in a rescue mission for Napoleon. After the garrison withdrew, a few men chose to stay behind and started a community founded on cooperation and equality.[3]

However, the community is shrinking, and the islanders have begun to try to recruit newcomers to boost their numbers. They have recently advertised for farmers to join the community and help grow its staple crop of potatoes. Applicants must enjoy their own company and be prepared to give it a good try.

7 Changtang

Changtang is situated on the Roof of The World. With an elevation of over 4,000 meters (13,000 ft), it covers a large area of Tibet, on the border with India. The area is vast but mostly uninhabited except for the snow leopards, brown bears, blue sheep, and wild yak.

Changtang is home to a few nomadic people who make a living from herding animals through the land. At one point, there were up to half a million people eking a living on land too barren for crops. The weather in Changtang is unpredictable at best, with short summers, bitter winters, and frequent storms, but those who brave it are rewarded with spectacular views and amazing wildlife.

Those inhabitants that there are have managed until recent times without the need for money, having established a sophisticated barter system. However, this is changing due to government regulation and taxation. Ah, progress.[4]

6 Utqiagvik

Formerly known as Barrow, Utqiagvik, Alaska, is the northernmost town in the United States. It occupies 55 square kilometers (21 mi2) and is 515 kilometers (320 mi) north of the Arctic Circle. Its population totals roughly 4,000 people, mostly Inupiat Eskimos. There are few attractions for visitors who do make the trip, unless they are particularly fond of ice and snow, although there is always the possibility of catching sight of a polar bear scavenging for food around the municipal dump.[5]

However, changes in global temperatures are affecting the region, and sightings of animals previously unknown in these areas are being reported. There are even reports of polar bears and grizzly bears mating, producing hybrid “grolar” bears. It is believed that this is not the first time that these species have interbred. Scientists have noticed similarities in the bears’ DNA structure which leads them to believe that the two species have crossbred in the past when the destruction of their habitats has threatened their continued existence.

Though the wildlife may have adapted to the changes in habitat, the Inupiat Eskimos have sometimes struggled to adjust to the growing economic development of the area, and rates of depression and suicide have increased as a result.

5 Easter Island


One of the most famous and mysterious places on Earth, Easter Island, well off the coast of Chile, is still one of the most inaccessible. It was “discovered” on Easter Sunday 1722 by a group of Dutch explorers, thus ignoring the island’s indigenous population, such as it was. The island once boasted a population of 12,000, but this had dwindled to 111 by the time the explorers arrived, and to 101 ten minutes later.

In 1722, the inhabitants of Easter Island were slowly starving to death. The population had dwindled over the last few centuries, it seems, from starvation due to the felling of the trees on the island. Some of the trees would have been cut down to transport the stones, while others would have been burned for firewood or cleared for growing crops. It is also believed that the seeds of the great palm trees were eaten by rats, which prevented further growth. Unfortunately, the explorers were not to be the islanders’ salvation. Those of the natives who were not shot as the incomers landed mostly succumbed to smallpox and syphilis, and soon, the native population was completely wiped out.

How the original settlers arrived there is a mystery, as is the reason they populated the island with stone carvings that perpetually looked out not to the sea but over the island. There are nearly 900 moai (the local name for the statues) on the island, some of them unfinished. The stones weighed up to 80 tons and were somehow moved from the quarry to their lookout posts around the island.[6]

4 The Kerguelen Islands

Once called the Desolation Islands, the Kerguelen Islands’ rebranding doesn’t quite disguise the fact that the islands really are among the most desolate places in the world. Situated in the Southern Indian Ocean, Kerguelen is made up mostly of inhospitable peaks and active glaciers.[7]

The islands are home to large penguin and seal populations, though not many people. Most of the residents are French scientists who are studying the weather and climate change. The islands contain no native mammals, though the marine ecosystems are teeming with life. The whaling ships that were once a common sight in the area have now been banned, and the numbers of whales and seals are increasing every year.

Unless you are a marine biologist or a meteorologist who speaks fluent French, it is unlikely that you will ever visit the Desolation Islands, but as there is little there but marine biology and weather, you probably wouldn’t miss it.

3 McMurdo Station

McMurdo Station is built on Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island. This is the most southerly piece of solid ground accessible to ships. The station was established in 1955 as a hub for the US Antarctic Program. It boasts a harbor, a landing strip, a helipad, and all the facilities needed to provide year-round support for scientists and researchers working in the area.

The inhabitants number around 250 during the winter but can rise to over 1,000 during the summer months. Ross Island itself contains a number of research stations, a large penguin population, and Mount Erebus, an active volcano.

Hut Point gets its name from the wooden hut erected by the famous explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott. The hut was later used by Ernest Shackleton in his 1907 Nimrod expedition. It is now protected by the Antarctic Treaty as an Area of Special Protection. The area also contains a number of memorials to Scott’s ill-fated expedition, including a cross on Observation Hill to commemorate the explorers who didn’t make it home.[8]

2 Socotra


Socotra lies off the coast of Yemen. The island has been isolated from its neighbors for millions of years and has developed its own unique species of flora and fauna. One of the most startling-looking plants found on the island is the dragon blood tree. It was said to have first grown on the spot where two brothers fought to the death. The blood of the two brothers was said to have nourished the tree, which explains why its sap is a crimson red color. Where dragons come into it is anyone’s guess.

The island, known as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, is home to over 700 endemic species. Nomadic Bedouin tribes still roam the island, sleeping under the stars in the summer and sheltering from the rain in the winter. However, recent influences from the United Arab Emirates have begun to change Socotra, and the once-remote island is fast becoming an outpost of the UAE.[9]

1 Oymyakon

Oymyakon is officially the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth. Situated in Siberia, temperatures at Oymyakon have been recorded as low as –67 degrees Celsius (–80 °F), the lowest temperature ever recorded outside the Antarctic. It is so cold that the town’s official thermometer, installed by some misguided official as a tourist attraction, broke when the mercury inside it froze.[10]

Oymyakon, meaning “water that never freezes,” is home to a thermal spring, which is probably just as well. Originally built as a stopover point for reindeer herders, who watered their animals at the spring, Oymyakon now has around 500 permanent residents, a shop, and even a school, although this will close if the temperature drops below –50 degrees Celsius (–58 °F). Big softies.

If you travel to Oymyakon, and why wouldn’t you, you can expect to see a lot of snow and not much else. Except, of course, a thermometer. Slightly used.

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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10 Terrifying Bridges You Won’t Want To Cross

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Some people have always been frightened of bridges. Gephyrophobia sufferers often try to avoid crossing bridges altogether, driving miles out of their way to avoid them. Of course, quite a few bridges can be rough experiences for those with acrophobia, as well.

With some bridges, however, terror seems to be the only sensible response. Here, we look at ten bridges that would turn anyone’s legs to jelly. Read on, but don’t look down.

10 Royal Gorge Bridge
Colorado


The Royal Gorge Bridge, the world’s highest bridge until 2001, was built in 1929 for a paltry $350,000. The bridge spans 384 meters (1,260 ft) across Colorado’s magnificent Royal Gorge. The Arkansas River thunders by 291 meters (955 ft) below, occasionally carrying white-water rafters battling against the elements.

It took just six months to construct the bridge. The two main cables each weigh 200 tons and consist of 2,100 individual cables twisted together. 1,292 planks of wood were bolted to the base to form the deck of the bridge. As there is no vertical truss to the bridge, it has a tendency to move with the motion of the footfall, which can be disconcerting when you’re crossing a gorge with a raging river almost 300 meters (1,000 ft) below you.[1]

If you don’t fancy taking the bridge, you could always try the aerial gondolas, which will get you to the other side without the need to panic.

9 Titlis Cliff Walk
Switzerland


In order to cross the Titlis Cliff Walk, you will first need to climb Mount Titlis, where you will find the bridge waiting for you at the summit. You will then walk through the glacier cave via an underground tunnel to reach it.

The Titlis Cliff Walk is around 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) above sea level and 100 meters (330 ft) long but only 1 meter (3.3 ft) wide. It stretches from one rock face to another in the Swiss Alps. The bridge crosses a roughly 500-meter-deep (1,600 ft) chasm. Walking in single file, it is said to be 150 steps to the other side. Over a chasm.[2]

Once you get to the other side, you can then take the “Ice Flyer” chairlift to the top of the other side of glacier. We can only wonder why no one thought to just climb up the other side in the first place.

8 Marienbrucke
Germany


Marienbrucke (Queen Mary’s Bridge) in Bavaria is on the estate of Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle is everything that a castle should be. Perched on the top of a cliff, it looks as if it should be occupied by a princess and a couple of dragons. The bridge is no less fantastic than the castle. It passes 90 meters (295 ft) over the Pollat River and offers brilliant views of the castle.[3]

The bridge was constructed solely for the purpose of enjoying the view. Maximillian II had had lookout posts created around the area to admire the castle, and in the 1840s, he commissioned the building of the bridge as a birthday present for his consort, Marie, who, luckily, liked mountain climbing and therefore had a head for heights.

7 Puente De Ojuela
Mexico

Even the road leading up to Puente de Ojuela is difficult to traverse, but the bridge itself is terrifying. The bridge is around 300 meters (1,000 ft) long and is suspended nearly 100 meters (327 ft) above a ravine. The bridge is only 0.6 meters (2 ft) wide. Thankfully, Puente de Ojuela is now only used by pedestrians, but it was used by pack animals in the past.

The bridge was originally constructed in 1898 and was used to move gold and silver taken from the local mines and bring supplies in. The bridge sways as you walk on it, and although it has handrails, the spaces between the planks are wide, which means that you have a good view of the canyon below if you are foolish enough to look down. Traffic also moves both ways across the bridge, so you may find yourself jostled as you walk.[4]

If you are brave enough to cross the bridge (designed, believe it or not, by the same people who designed the Brooklyn Bridge), you will be able to visit the ghost town museum and one of the abandoned mines. Hmm. Maybe not.

6 The Hanging Bridge Of Ghasa
Nepal

The Hanging Bridge of Ghasa should perhaps be called the Swinging Bridge of Ghasa. Due to the altitude and the area’s susceptibility to high winds, the bridge sways precariously as it is crossed by locals, visitors, and cattle.

Though the bridge looks rather fragile, it is said to be quite sturdy. It is still used to move cattle, though the beasts are sometimes blinkered to stop them from panicking as they cross the bridge. And you can see why. If only you could blinker the people, too.[5]

The bridge is said to have been built to ease congestion across other bridges and is used daily by locals driving their animals across it, which makes the idea of traffic jams interesting.

5 Iya Kazurabashi
Japan


One of the more unusual-looking bridges, Iya Kazurabashi is found in Japan’s Iya Valley among mountains and hot springs. The vine bridge is 45 meters (148 ft) long and only 14 meters (46 ft) above the Iyagawa River, but what it lacks in scariness, it makes up for in weirdness.

It is constructed from a plant called Hardy Kiwi, which, though relatively strong, is not really suitable for bridge-building because it is not durable and is prone to rotting. Not a good quality in a bridge.

However, the Hardy Kiwi was used, it is said, deliberately so that the bridge could be cut down quickly in case of invaders, thus preventing the invading army from crossing the gorge.

The bridge is rebuilt every three years, and the vines are lashed to tall cedar trees at either side of the gorge. In these days of health and safety, the vines also hide steel ropes inside them, just in case. However, the wide gaps between the steps of the bridge, giving a vertical view of the river below, and the wild swinging as you pass along it are still enough to frighten the life out of most visitors.[6]

4 Q’eswachaka Bridge
Peru

The Q’eswachaka Bridge, sitting on the Great Inca Road through the Andes, is the finest remaining example of an Inca suspension bridge. The bridges were of vital importance in connecting and consolidating the Inca Empire, and they continued to be used as ordinary parts of the road system for centuries afterward.

Again, in times of conflict, the bridges were cut down to protect the inhabitants from intruders. When the Spanish invaded, many of the bridges were burned.

Inca bridges are made by braiding natural fibers to make the floor, handrails, and vertical ties between the base and the handrails for protection. Stone pillars anchor the cables on either side of the bridge. Crossing the bridge is not a smooth experience, it has to be said, and the “loose” nature of the construction allows walkers to get a good view of the river below.

Local communities replace the bridge each year, harvesting the grass and weaving it into cables. The inhabitants of each side of the bridge then work together to pull the ropes across. They do not demolish the old bridge until the new one has been built alongside it. Each community begins work at their own end and meet in the middle of the bridge. The whole bridge can be rebuilt in three days, after which the communities gather for a celebration, which seems only right.[7]

3 Kuandinsky Bridge
Russia

The Kuandinsky Bridge stretches for 570 meters (1,870 ft) over the Vitim River in Siberia. Originally a railway bridge, this is now an unofficial vehicle bridge. The term “bridge” is used extremely loosely. It is just over 2 meters (6.6 ft) wide, and it has no railings or safety precautions of any sort to prevent cars from toppling into the frozen waters below. It is rusted, and the wooden sleepers have rotted in the harsh conditions. No major repairs have ever been carried out on the bridge, since the railway company that built it never used it, and no one else will take responsibility for it.[8]

The locals, who’ve perhaps had their brains addled by the constant cold, began to use the bridge as a shortcut across the river. Heavy cars are apt to break the sleepers, and holes are covered with any spare planks or bits of wood that can be found lying around. This means getting out of the vehicle and fixing the bridge en route. And, just to make it more fun, the wood is known to be extremely slippery when wet, which is all the time. There is, it seems, much to be said for the long way around.

2 Hongyagu Bridge
China

Sometimes, it seems that bridge designers are twisted, sadistic people. Take the designers of Hebei’s Hongyagu Bridge, which opened in the end of 2017.[9] They have constructed a bridge which spans 488 meters (1,601 ft) over a vertical drop of 220 meters (722 ft), which is nerve-wracking enough for most people. But the designers decided to add a glass floor so that users could have a great view of the valley below them and trick their minds into believing that there is nothing holding them up. And as if that isn’t enough, they decided to give the bridge added “sway.”

The glass panels are 4 centimeters (1.6 in) thick, which doesn’t seem like a lot when it sits between you and certain death. The bridge is capable of accommodating 2,000 people at a time, but only 600 are allowed to walk on it, just in case. Visitors have to wear “shoe gloves” to protect the glass from scratching or breaking. (This is apparently a thing with glass bridges. Who could have known?)

The bridge authority has stationed staff members at points along the bridge to assist those who feel faint. Still, it could be worse. The creators of the glass suspension bridge have designed it with added sound effects. As you take each step along the glass bridge, it sounds as if the glass is cracking beneath your feet. Nope.

1 Hussaini Hanging Bridge
Pakistan

The Hussaini Hanging Bridge in Pakistan hardly deserves the name “bridge.” The current bridge is the new, improved, version, the first (even scarier) version having been destroyed by the weather. The bridge is made of rope and planks. There is a constant icy wind blowing, too, which makes the bridge sway violently. At least ten people have died while crossing the bridge, according to locals.

If you were to fall, you would be plunged into the river below. Many tourists come to the bridge, often taking two steps onto it, taking a picture, and jumping hastily back. For the local people, however, it is not so easy. They still regularly make use of the crossing, even carrying large packs on their backs as they walk across.[10]

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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10 Strange Cemeteries You’ll Be Dying To Visit

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Most people do not like to think too much about cemeteries. We tend to visit them only as often as we need to and then leave as quickly as is decently possible. This is a shame, because there are some cemeteries that are well worth closer inspection.

Though in modern times, we tend to be somewhat squeamish about the process of death and mortal decay, it has often been celebrated in ways that are endearing, interesting, or, sometimes, downright strange. Here, we look at a few of them.

10 Merry Cemetery

The Church of the Assumption in Sapanta, Northern Romania, serves a small town of only around 3,000 people. Life there is often hard, and the townspeople are mostly poor. Though they may not have much wealth in life, they are guaranteed a lavish and rather unique final resting place.

Since 1935, the buried dead have been interred in Merry Cemetery. Each grave is given a hand-carved headstone, colorfully decorated in, shall we say, a naive style and adorned with a bespoke poem that celebrates their life.

If your Romanian is good, you can wander around the cemetery reading the inscriptions, written in the first person from the dead person to you. Some poems are funny, such as Ioan Toaderu’s, which reads:

One more thing I loved very much,
To sit at a table in a bar
Next to someone else’s wife

And some are sad or even angry, like this one from a three-year-old girl, which is directed at the taxi driver who ran her over:

Burn in hell, you damn taxi
That came from Sibiu.
As large as Romania is
You couldn’t find another place to stop,
Only in front of my house to kill me?

If your Romanian is not so good, you might just enjoy looking at the colorful carvings which sometimes depict the manner of their subject’s dying in a disturbingly comic fashion.[1]

9 The Hanging Cemetery

For centuries, the people of the mountainous region of Sagada in the Philippines have chosen not so much to bury their dead as to hang them out to dry. The period from death to interment is a relatively long one. The deceased is first placed in a “death chair” inside their home, and the chair is positioned facing the front door so that they can “welcome” visitors. The corpse is covered with rattan leaves and smoked, which serves to preserve the body and also to help rid the home of that just-dead smell.

The corpse remains in the chair for several days before it begins the next stage of its final journey. Traditionally, it is placed in the fetal position, with legs tucked under the chin. Limbs will be broken to accomplish this if necessary, though in more recent times, fewer families are willing to do so. The body is then wrapped in fresh rattan leaves and a blanket and carried by mourners to the cemetery. There is often a large number of people willing to act as pallbearers, since it is considered lucky if any of the bodily fluids leak through the leaves and drip on the mourners.[2]

Once at the cliffside cemetery, the body is fitted inside a coffin, usually only 1 meter (3.3 ft) wide. The coffin is then nailed to the side of the cliff. The higher the coffin is placed, the greater the person’s position in the tribe was in life. It is believed that the elevated coffins will bring them closer to their ancestral spirits.

The privilege of a hanging coffin is not open to everyone. It is reserved mostly for tribe elders, as it is believed that the corpses of those who died young are considered bad luck.

8 The Underwater Cemetery

An interment at the Neptune Memorial Reef gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “He sleeps with the fishes.”

Found about 5 kilometers (3 mi) off the coast of Florida, the Neptune Memorial Reef has been artificially created in around 12 meters (40 ft) of water. It has several classical-style statues to give it an Atlantis feel and would be a paradise for scuba divers. However, not only has the reef been built to encourage marine life, but it has also been specifically made to hold the cremated remains of those who want to be buried at sea.[3]

It is hoped that the remains will help to feed the coral and expand the reef. Although the burial of uncremated remains would be more nutrient-rich, they are currently not permitted.

7 Cross Bones

The Southwark area of London, where Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre once stood, was always a rather seedy place. There were a large number of taverns and a large amount of prostitution. During the 12th century, the bishop of Winchester had the right to license and tax prostitutes, who were known as the “Winchester Geese” because of their habit of exposing their white breasts to passersby. The phrase “bitten by a Winchester Goose” meant “contracted a sexually transmitted disease.”

The brothels, known as “stews,” thrived despite periodic attempts to close them down, so they were brought under the control of the Church, and regulations were drawn up requiring that prostitutes be registered, did not work on religious holidays, and did not sleep with anyone for free (presumably so that no one would feel hard done by).[4]

Although the bishop was content to tax the working girls, he was not prepared to bury them in holy soil. A plot of unconsecrated land, officially called the Single Woman’s Churchyard but unofficially known as the Cross Bones Cemetery, was set aside for their remains.

In the 17th century, Cross Bones became a graveyard for paupers and those without the means to pay for their burial. As a final indignity, their corpses were often stolen by body snatchers.

In 1992, the Museum of London carried out an excavation at Cross Bones. They found bodies crammed in on top of each other and, most surprisingly, discovered that over half of the bodies were from those aged under five years old at the time of their deaths.

6 Napoleon’s Cemetery

The island of San Michele stands in the Venetian Lagoon, and its cemetery is hidden by high walls, although it is open to visitors. The island was inhabited by monks from the 15th century until comparatively recently. Their monastery boasts a domed roof and a magnificent statue of an angel over the entrance.

When Napoleon invaded Venice, he decreed that, because of Venice’s tendency toward flooding, it was unhygienic to bury the dead on the main island. (You can see his point.) San Michele was designated as the official Venetian cemetery, and it is still in use today. The island offers fabulous views in a prestigious location, sitting as it does between Venice and Murano.

The dead may have expected to be able to rest in peace there, but since 1995, overcrowding at San Michele has meant that “inhabitants” can only be granted a ten- or 20-year lease, after which their remains are evicted to make way for new tenants.[5]

5 The Cemetery Of 200,000 (And 1)

Okunoin Cemetery in Japan contains almost a quarter of a million graves but is the focus of only one. It is the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most important people in Japanese religious history. He is said to be resting in eternal meditation while he awaits the coming of the Buddha of the Future.[6]

While he waits, Kobo Daishi is said to provide help to those pilgrims who ask for it. Visitors must bow before crossing a bridge into the cemetery, which contains 200,000 tombstones, all of which are set out to line the way to his mausoleum. Many prominent people and religious monks chose to be buried here in the hope that being close to his remains will bring them closer to salvation when the Buddha of the Future arrives.

In front of the mausoleum itself is the Hall of Lamps, which contains 10,000 lanterns, which are always lit, and 50,000 tiny statues, all of the great man. Visitors are able to leave Kobo Daishi offerings in the aptly named Offering Hall, though, word to the wise, he is probably okay for a while when it comes lamps and statues.

4 Dracula’s Cemetery

St Mary’s Church at Whitby was built in 1110, and its churchyard dates from around the same time.

The graveyard must have always held a certain amount of Gothic fascination, because it was the inspiration for a scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the novel, the vampire lands at Whitby and leaps from his ship (whose crew is mysteriously dead) and hides himself in an abandoned crypt in a church that very much resembles St Mary’s. Stoker stayed in the town while writing his novel, and he was said to have been very much taken with the atmospheric surroundings.[7]

Current visitors may find more gore than they were hoping for, however. The pounding of the sea has caused erosion along the cliffs, and subsequent landslides have exposed a number of corpses, though none so far have been sporting elongated teeth and a theatrical dress sense. Work is ongoing to try to prevent the churchyard, and its contents, from slipping into the sea.

3 The Cemetery Of Shame

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France is a military burial ground dedicated to those killed in action during World War I. There are 6,012 soldiers whose graves are proudly marked in four plots, marked A to D.

However, there is another plot at the cemetery, separate from the others. Plot E can only be accessed through the office of the superintendent. This plot contains 96 unmarked graves belonging to American soldiers who were dishonorably discharged and executed for crimes committed during World War II. None of these graves are mentioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission’s website for Oise-Aisne.

Between them, these men are alleged to have murdered 26 American soldiers. They are also alleged to have raped and/or murdered 71 civilians of other nationalities. The plot was designated as a place of burial for the “dishonorable dead.” The graves are identified only by number, and the dead are set with their backs to the rest of the fallen. The American flag is not permitted to fly over Plot E.[8]

The only inhabitant of the plot not convicted of rape or murder was Private Eddie Slovik, who was executed for desertion on January 31, 1945, the only man to be executed for this crime since the Civil War. His remains were removed in 1987, and he was reburied next to his wife after his family petitioned President Reagan for a pardon.

2 The Cemetery Of A Million Mummies

In an Egyptian cemetery whose name means, for reasons unknown, “The Way of the Water Buffalo,” archaeologists have discovered a million mummies. Literally.

The burial ground dates from the first to the seventh centuries, and most of its dead were buried without coffins or grave goods of any kind, so those hoping for a Tutankhamen-style treasure trove are likely to be disappointed. The cemetery was used by poor, low-status citizens of Egypt while it was controlled by the Roman Empire.

Although they couldn’t afford the lavish funeral rituals of the pharaohs, great care was taken by mourners in the burying of the dead. Scientists have yet to discover the reason for the incredibly large number of bodies, since it is unlikely that they were all local inhabitants.[9]

The archaeological dig has uncovered some surprising specimens, including one mummy that was over 213 centimeters (7′) tall and had to be bent in half to fit inside the grave as well as a number of blond and redheaded mummies. It may be that the cemetery authority buried people according to hair color, as clusters of redheaded and blond mummies have been discovered throughout the site. Then again, of course, they may have just buried families together.

1 The Plague Cemetery

In 1665, a tailor in the small parish of Eyam ordered a bale of cloth from London. When it arrived, the cloth seemed somewhat damp, so he put it in front of the fire to dry. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Eyam, the cloth contained a number of fleas. And even more unfortunately, the fleas were carrying bubonic plague.

Within two months, the tailor was dead, along with 42 other souls. The church rector, believing that he had a duty to prevent the disease from spreading to neighboring villages, decided that the entire village should quarantine itself. He told his parishioners that if they agreed to stay, he would remain with them and do everything in his power to relieve their suffering.

Knowing that he may well have been signing all their death warrants, he set up a “cordon sanitaire” around the village. Almost no one tried to escape, even as the death toll mounted. Some people lost almost their entire families to the disease. A woman named Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children in only eight days. She had to dig the graves herself, since none of the villagers wanted to go near her.

The task of burying the dead was a dangerous one. Marshall Howe, who had been infected early on but survived, volunteered for the task, believing that he was now immune. He often helped himself to the deceased’s possessions by way of payment, and it is believed that his wife and two-year-old son probably caught the disease from the stolen items. They were not as lucky as Mr. Howe, and he soon had the job of interring them, too.

The graves of the plague victims can still be seen in Eyam Parish Churchyard. Marshall Howe survived the plague, as did the church rector, though the rector’s wife succumbed after prolonged contact due to nursing the dying. By November 1666, with half the village dead, the plague was eradicated, and the neighboring villages were saved.[10]

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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