Here is a Guide that myself and Bruno Bayley knocked up with help from our European buddies of strange and interesting places to go if ever you find yourself in Europe. It was written for the 2009 Vice Student Guide.
Things To See In Europe That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep And Wish You Were Back Home
At some point or other in your three years of minimal activity and maximum sloth you will snap, and want to explore the wider world. This will be an urge stronger in those who didn’t spend a year dicking about it South East Asia after their A-levels. For all those who want to recreate the Grand Tour or pretend they are George Orwell for a spell in the Easter break here are a few of the less obvious attractions that the wonderful continental lands have to offer.
The Forte Prenestino, Rome
Though the idea of travelling all the way to the home of Roman civilization to see a squat may seem a bit odd, you have to take into account that this is the biggest squat in Europe, and therefore of interest. If you are into squats. The Germans think they have the whole squatting thing on lock with their organic beer made from grass and their violin toting punks who do interpretive ballet set to Wagner but The Forte Prenestino is the real deal. The Italians call squats ‘centro sociali’, which sounds far more whimsical than plain old ‘squat’, but the same thing that goes on in abandoned warehouses in Peckham goes on here on a grander and more generally productive scale. Think an old fort full of people putting on parties, concerts and exhibitions of such volume and frequency that it makes London’s anarcho crusty sit-ins look pretty half arsed.
The Vittoriale Degli Italiani. Gardone Riviera
Imagine if, in the early 20th century, the state gave almost unlimited funds to a daredevil fascist poet, allowing him to expand his lakeside villa at will, just in order to keep him from interfering with the government. Well that is exactly what the Italian Government actually did. Those crazy wops huh? The fascist poet Gabriele d'Annunzio's monumental folly on Lake Garda, in northern Italy was built to insane proportions, and successfully kept the busy body poet out of the way. His work is widely credited with inspiring Mussolini and Italian fascism. Oh, and his house has a battleship in the garden.
The ancient abandoned city of Ragusa Ibla
Rgusa Ibla is a perfectly preserved gothic baroque style town in the hills above the modern city of Ragusa, Sicily. It's huge, amazing and practically empty aside from the few old people who never moved to the new town. So if you have a thing for creepy, haunted towns and lonely old women, go check it out.
Not a million miles away from London’s Huntarian Museum, the Narrenturm offers strange biological samples and a cornucopia of repellent human anomalies. It is far less well known than the Huntarian though so you will be able to enjoy its unnerving exhibits without a family with three five year olds crying next to you. It was the building where Vienna’s mentally ill were housed in the ninteenth century so it will make for a sure-fire jolly stop on your tour of merry Austria.
Fucking is a village in Upper Austria. There is absolutely nothing interesting about the town apart from the fact that it has a rude name. The town nearly changed its name in 2004 in an effort to stem the flow of public funds that were being used to replace stolen municipal signage. There are now CCTV cameras around the town’s welcome sign to prevent people from nabbing it, so don’t bother unless you are so broke that you could so with a nice rest up in Austrian jail. If you can get away with nicking it though you will have a real gem to set off that wall of traffic cones that you spent all of last year decorating your front room with.
The Mascaret Bore, Bordeaux
Have you ever wanted to see a French man waist deep in shit and sewage? At the confluence of the Atlantic ocean and the Dordogne River you can find just that. Here, when the conditions are right, surfers line up to catch a wave made of effluence. An occasional phenomenon occurring when the oceanic waves are so strong that they rush up the river and carry with them all the crap built up over the previous year. Charming non? Leopoldine, the favorite child of Victor Hugo, drowned on a big wave of shit caused by this very natural wonder.
Le Palais Idéal de Ferdinand Cheval, Hauterives
A postman from a remote province of southern France, Ferdinand Cheval, spent 33 years around the turn of the century creating an "ideal palace", made from stones he gathered on his daily 32km postal round. Poorly educated and with no knowledge of architecture, he shaped his surreal palace from daydreams, without help. Though all his local contemporaries thought he was a raving lunatic, surrealist artists and modern artists look upon his palace as a high point of “naïve architecture”, which sounds rude, but isn’t, and is a lot more interesting than the Eiffel Tower.
Demeure du Chaos, Lyon
As you are students you wont have had to try and get planning permission for anything yet, but rest assured it’s a fucking nightmare. Seriously, you can’t paint your door red in most of London without giving Boris a handjob. That’s why Thierry Erhmann, a French internet millionaire, is such a swell guy. The ‘artwork’ his home, which he has named “The Abode of Chaos”, has become is based around the transformation of a pretty 17th century building into a replica war zone, including a burned out helicopter in the garden and an imitation oil platform on the roof. Thierry has been battling lawsuits for a while now and this is probably the only fun thing about Lyon, so well worth a look if before they bring the bulldozers in if you ever find yourself there.
The Obersalzberg one of the oldest tourist hot spots in Germany. It’s got loads of really pretty mountains and things that make you glad you aren’t in a city. So much so that the area was Hitler’s favorite spot to hang out in his free time. It is in fact the setting of the infamous Eagle’s Nest. Though the Bavarian government have been doing their best to bury the region’s National Socialist past you can still see remnants of buildings and fortifications, some of which have become museums or hotels so that you can have an Appletizer while reflecting on one of Europe’s top mass murders.
The Spreepark, also known as Cultural Park Plänterwald, is a Coney Island-esque creepy abandoned theme park with overtones of Chernobyl. Only without Coney Island’s hobo armies or Chernobyl’s lethal radiation. The park was the only permanent fun fair in Berlin at the time of the unification, but went into insolvency in 2002 after the park’s owner and his entourage did a runner to Peru with six of the key attractions. As an interesting side note: the park’s owner was later caught attempting to smuggle 180 kg of cocaine back from Peru to Germany in the masts of the park’s flying carpet ride.
Frauenhofer Schoppenstube, Munich
If you have been traveling wearily around Germany and need a good feed, our German office assures us that this place is great. It’s small and informal, but a great place to get insanely drunk and eat the best fleichpflanzerl (meatballs) in the whole of Deutschland. Go trough.
Truckstop Alaska, Gothenburg
This is the seediest bar in Sweden and, quite possibly, the world. It's run by anarcho-feminists and we are not totally sure it's legal. Last time we went there two different people fell over and landed on our table, and the band on stage chanted "våldtäkt, våldtäkt, våldtäkt". That means "rape, rape, rape" in Swedish. Not for the faint hearted.
Studio Andromeda, Saltsjö-Boo
The girls in our Stockholm office are friends with the guy who runs the studio which we featured in our recent Technology Issue. They assure us that a request for a guided tour of the studio to +46(0)8-55660099 will result in a fascinating trip, as long as you are happy to either pay the guy some money, or buy some of his records.
The Apple Capital of Sweden, Kivik
Maybe this will sound a bit wet and whimsical compared to Czech sanatoriums and Italian fascists, but this is the region where all of Sweden’s apples are grown. There are little B&Bs everywhere, the hills are covered in wonky looking apple trees, and kids line up along the roads selling fresh apples and "must" (think cider) along the roads. If you want a taste of quaint old time Sweden, go here, but make sure it’s apple season or it will be a total waste of time.
Sanatorium Bohnice, Prague
While you can traipse around an ex-sanatorium in Austria, Prague offers the real thing, with live inmates and all. You are literally free to walk around the mad house. It is probably a bit like walking around Bedlam in its heyday, though hopefully they have stopped putting cages on peoples heads and making them have sex for the visitors. There's even a pub where patients cook and serve you beer. Fun, if potentially unnerving.
Sedlec Ossuary, Sedlec
This is like a Czech version of the Santa Maria Della Concezione Dei Cappuccini chapel in Rome. A small chapel decorated lavishly with a huge number of human bones. It’s not an interior design choice you see a lot of, but it looks pretty great. Sedlec is a suburb of Kutná Hora. The bones of tens of thousands people are buried in the grounds of the chapel, and a lot of them are arranged around the place in creepy, macarbre decorative layouts: pyramids of skulls, chains of hip bones, butterflies made from shoulder blades, fruit baskets made of knuckles and, well, you get the idea.
Studio 80, Amesterdam
A club which lies on the Rembrandt Square aka the worst, most tourist-y bit of the whole of Amsterdam. But, tucked right inbetween the Escape which might just be the worst club in the worst, most tourist-y bit of the whole of Amsterdam and an Irish pub that doubles as an all-you-can-eat spare ribs joint is Studio 80. It is the club with the nondescript entrance and it is home to some of the best dance parties the city has to offer. It’s a bit like an ornate Fabrege egg wedged between two steaming turds.
About 99% of people who travel to Holland end up getting an Easyjet flight to Amsrerdam, smoking too much weed, throwing up in a canal and slobbering through a plate glass window at some haggard hookers thrusting their labia’s around like opiated ostriches. However, as it wouldn’t take a genius let alone someone of your higher educated mind to work out, there is more to the low country than Amsetrdam. Tilburg is the Netherlands’ hidden gem of a city with its gothic cathedrals and rolling countryside. As well as being the growing up place of some painter guy who got pissy and cut his own ear off it features the biggest fun fair in Benelux which goes on for a whole ten days. It is also home to the Roadburn festival which is great if you are into things like ogling Kerry King guitar solos.
The Efteling, Kaatsheuvel
One of the oldest theme parks on the planet and the one place every kid in Holland knows about. It’s kind of everything that you wanted Euro Disney to be when you were five but scripted by the Brothers Grimm. As well as popular freaks like Langnek the long-necked dwarf and a tonne of haunted castles and mazes you can also ride on the pant-filling Flying Dutchman. Think being trapped in that David Bowie film Labryinthe minus the annoying girl who thinks she can escape by marking an escape path in lipstick and you’re not a million miles off.