By Roberta Beach Jacobson
Europe feels a wee bit spooky now and then, you say? No, it’s not your imagination. The continent is filled with creepy, crawly things of all manner. Here are some of the ghoulish highlights:
Skulls and Skeletons
Due to lack of burial space, these skulls and skeletons were removed from area cemeteries during the Plague years and the Palatinate War. They have been stored in the cellar of St. Michael’s Church in Oppenheim, Germany.
The Sewers of Paris
Who knows what sort of monsters inhabit the 2100 kilometers of the city’s famous sewers? Find out for yourself. Guided tours are given Wednesday to Saturday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). You enter at Pont d’Alma, two bridges upstream from the Eiffel Tower.
A Grave Matter Indeed
Did you know you can crawl through the Royal Crypt of Brussels every Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. and it’s free? The place to head is the Church of Our Lady in Laken, Brussels. Be careful.
The Romanian town of Sighisoara (about 180 miles northwest of Bucharest) plans a Count Dracula Theme Park. It is set to open in 2003. How can this idea miss? Don’t you agree it has a certain bite to it?
Witches of Belgium
The annual Witches’ Festival takes place every June in Ellezelles, Belgium.
Dead Rat Ball
The Anglo-Belgian painter and printer, James Baron Ensor made much use of masks in his paintings to better emphasize the qualities of the people in his crowd scenes. So it came to be that the Dead Rat Ball is held every year in Carnival season in his memory in his home town of Ostend, Belgium, The event has nothing to do with ex-rodents, but is named after Le Rat Mort, the artist’s favorite cabaret in Paris.
Medieval Crime Museum
Go surround yourself with torture from the Middle Ages. This four-story museum in Rothenburg, Germany is bound to give anybody the willies, as you view fingerscrews (to make people tell the truth) and masks of shame (for people who missed church). The Middle Ages offered all sorts of unusual punishments for citizens, as evidenced by the so-called “baker’s chairs”&emdash;for those bad bakers who dared to short customers on loaf sizes. Tsk-tsk. There is a large display of chastity belts, too. The address for the Kriminalmuseum is Burggasse 3-5. You must request guided tours in advance, but all displays are also in English. Visit their website at http://www.kriminalmuseum.rothenburg.de.
Savoring Scorpions and Spiders
If you like amazing tales, this Copenhagen museum is for you. Find out how people enjoy dining on spiders and scorpions (and maybe you can get a few good recipes to try at home). You’ll discover 13 galleries full of the unusual, including art made from cockroaches. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum is open daily and is located in Copenhagen at Radhuspladsen 57.
(Keith Kellett contributed to this article.)