Vasa Museum

Vasa Museum (Stockholm, Sweden)

On August 10, 1628, the Swedish warship The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage, killing 30-50 of the 150 sailors on board. The ship sank to its resting spot in the mud at the bottom of the Baltic Sea where it remained until it was discovered in 1956. The ship was miraculously intact, having been preserved by the mud and cold water, and was raised in 1961. (Archaeologists found the skeletons of 25 sailors during the salvage operation.) And you can see the Vasa today, in all its majestic glory, at the Vasa Museum. Paul gives it rave reviews: “If you’re ever in Stockholm, you MUST stop in at the Vasa Museum! After the ship sank, it lodged in the mud at the bottom of the harbor… and the mud somehow preserved it for hundreds of years. It’s been dug up now, and it is simply breathtaking. I don’t really know how to describe it, or why it’s so awesome, but it might very well be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Merry Cemetery

Merry Cemetery (Sapanta, Romania)

Per Wikipedia: “The Merry Cemetery is a cemetery in the village of Sapânta, Maramures county, Romania. It is famous for its colorful tombstones with native paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives.” Looks like a fun place to visit if you’re ever in the area. Thanks to Ms Jukes for the suggestion.

Cemetery of the Capuchins

Cemetery of the Capuchins (Rome, Italy)

Chris wrote to recommend this unbelievably beautiful chapel which is decorated with the bones of Capuchin Monks. As described in the website linked to the left: “The crypt is located just under Santa Maria della Concezione, a church commissioned by Pope Urban XIII in 1626. The pope’s brother, Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who was of the Capuchin order, in 1631 ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin monks exhumed and transferred from the friary Via dei Lucchesi to the crypt. The crypt now contains the remains of 4,000 monks buried between 1500-1870, during which time the Papal States permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps which cast strange shadows.” Definitely a must-see when in Rome!

Capuchins’ Catacombs

Capuchins’ Catacombs (Palermo, Italy)

In 1599, Capuchin monks made a shocking discovery while exhuming bodies from the catacombs of their monastery — many of the bodies had been naturally mummified. Following this discovery, the monks decided to mummify one of their own, and the Palermo townspeople soon joined in. Deceased members from all social classes were mummified and placed in these catacombs until the 1880s, when the practice of mummification was banned. But that didn’t stop the curious townspeople, as the last mummy was laid to rest here in 1920. As a result of this “mummification trend,” the catacombs of the Capuchin Monastery have become one of the largest, and most eerie, collections of mummified bodies in the world.
Thanks to Carolyn for the suggestion.


Specola Museum

Museo La Specola (Florence, Italy)

Suggested by John: “The Specola museum in Florence, Italy is a most fascinating museum. It is a natural history museum and is laid out starting with insects and mollusks, then birds, fish, mammals (all stuffed, sometimes very weirdly) and ending with the most stunning wax anatomical models of humans and their parts. There is a book published by Taschen called: Encyclopaedia Anatomica. If you ever find yourself in Florence, I strongly advise you go there. It’s near the Pitti Palace.”

House of Terror

House of Terror (Budapest, Hungary)

mattsochoki writes to recommend this site: “I found an article about this place which is a museum in Budapest to the communist secret police, it was also their former headquarters. The real treat is that I did some searching and found the official website for the place. [There are] some really interesting photos of the inside of this place. I highly recommend checking it out. I found it incredibly interesting that they not only acknowledged the communist secret police but made a whole museum.”

Rick Steves has an excellent article about this site, which includes the following fascinating info: “Budapest has recently opened one of the most powerful museums in Europe. Featuring the grim decades of Nazi and Communist repression, the museum is the former headquarters for the secret police of both the Nazi and Communist governments. The building’s awning has the word TERROR cut out of it, and when the sun projects through these letters, it symbolizes the terror which was projected onto the Hungarian people for fifty years. After allying themselves with Hitler to save their own skins (and their Jewish population), Hungary was overtaken by the Nazi-affiliated Arrowcross in the waning days of World War II. Arrowcross members did their best to exterminate Budapest’s Jews. They killed Jews one-by-one in the streets, and were known to tie several victims together, shoot one of them, and throw him into the freezing Danube—dragging the others in with him. They executed hundreds in the basement of this building.”

Medieval Crime Museum

Medieval Crime Museum (Rothenburg, Germany)

TandoMando highly recommends this site: “If anyone gets to the medieval walled town of Rotenburg ob der Tauber, in the Rhine valley, I highly recommend the museum of torture and death! It’s located at the far end of the entrance to the city. They have all the standard medieval torture devices like iron maidens, stretching racks, large metal hoods worn for various transgressions, for all manner of punishment meted out way back in the day. Some were positively bizarre, including one that was basically a table to which the victim was tied, and had a spike that went in the anus, forced into the body so far it resulted in death.” Sounds like my cup o’ tea!

Holocaust Memorial (Berlin)

Holocaust Memorial (Berlin, Germany)

Berlin Holocaust Memorial by K.

Berlin Holocaust Memorial by K.

K. suggests this site: “I don’t know I would strictly say this is a morbid sightseeing example, although if you include the museum underneath it might qualify. Regardless, it certainly is worth a wander through if you are in that part of the world.

“In 2005 I was backpacking through Europe, and made a point of getting to Berlin to do a tour of the city. On the tour we stopped at many places including the remaining sections of the wall, Hitler’s hiding place and the Holocaust Memorial. It was the memorial that intrigued me the most. It is made up of hundreds of pillars all of differing heights, and placed on the ground which was a series of dips and rises. Our guide explained that part of the reason for the design was to show how you might meet up with people for a while, but then turn off and only see people for a second before they disappear behind another pillar, which was an effort to show how people passed each other in the death camps during the Holocaust as they were shifted around.

“The thing that really intrigued me was part of the controversy of the memorial. Each pillar is covered with what they call an ‘Anti-graffiti agent’, made by a company called Degussa, making it possible for any graffiti to be easily washed off. Yet Degussa also made Zyklon B Gas, which was used by the Germans in their gas chambers during the Holocaust.

“A lot of people on the tour thought this was appalling, however I thought it to be quite fitting. Sure it could more than likely come down to their bottom line and how much profit/publicity they could get off it, hell that is what business is about after all, but I prefer to think they saw how they had contributed in such a horrific way, and this is some small way of saying sorry.

“There are heaps of articles about it on the net, here is one where I checked info:

“I have attached a photo I took while in the middle of the memorial. You can see how the ground looks like a wave, and how high the pillars get. It really is quite unnerving being in there after hearing all the tales of what happened.”