Intriguing Attractions & Unusual Museums - Touring Week

By Tanya Silverman

Went to the Louvre when you were in Paris? Who hasn’t…

Of course, mainstream museums hold famous works while harboring impressive historically and culturally relevant collections. However, renowned institutions like the Louvre, the Met, and the MoMA are certainly not the only way to explore unique cultural artifacts. There are lots of alternative options of places to go, whether they value censored art, support rescued animals, or focus on highly-specific subjects.

Sedlec Ossuary
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Photo courtesy of Lyn Gateley.

If you’re spending more than a couple days in Prague, it’s definitely worthwhile to take a bus out to see the Sedlec Ossuary. Also known as the Bone Church, its interior is decorated with over 40,000 human skeletons. Skulls are stacked, femurs are connected and spines are suspended, and in the middle, hangs an impressive skeleton chandelier.

Perhaps traveling to the Czech Republic is not realistic for your current life, but you can watch Jan Svankmajer’s piece, “The Ossuary.” Watching this experimental short film is almost as good as being completely surrounded by bones.

The Museum of Sex
New York, New York

Photo courtesy of Diego Dacal.

A newer institution in the Flatiron district, the Museum of Sex explores its subject matter throughout different perspectives, be it scientifically, aesthetically, or sociologically.

One artistic exhibit that’s currently on display is “My Life Ruined by Sex – Works of William Kent,” which consists of several pop-art posters and finished sculptures that had once been censored, and insight into how and why they were nixed from various places. Down the hall, visitors can look at displays on animal habits, such as videos about the homosexual tendencies between primates or photographs of the impressive male loins of ducks.

For a more culturally-inquisitive delve into human sexuality, there’s also the “Universe of Desire,” in which the museum appointed two neuroscientists to gather sexual searches on the internet over the course of a year. After cataloguing and analyzing the material, they were able to further look into what humans’ core desires are, along how human sexuality has transformed in and with the digital age.

The Elevator Historical Society
Long Island City, New York

To try an interesting adventure, take the subway over to Long Island City in Queens, and walk down past a few warehouses, through 44th Drive, 44th Road and until you get to 44th Avenue (this is how Queens works!) and turn onto 21st Street.

Then, make your way into the Q Medallion Taxi Building, pass some cab drivers taking breaks in massage chairs, climb up a flight of stairs and walk through a brief maze of hallways to arrive at the destination, The Elevator Historical Society. (Just don’t forget to call in advance to book an appointment.)

Founded and managed by Patrick Carrajat, this friendly guide will be happy to show you on a tour of his personal collection of elevator material, all set throughout his single-room museum. Artifacts include elevator plates, cufflinks, advertisements, tool kits, belt buckles, books, comics – not to mention documents like elevator operators’ licenses, stock certificates and hand-written orders. There’s even an elevator push-button apparatus from the former World Trade Center.

All of these marvels are Patrick’s personal collection which he has been amassing since he was 11. Now a proud curator, he will also be happy to tell you about the history of American elevators, including defunct companies, not to mention anecdotal accounts of his long career in the elevator industry. According to Patrick, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life!

De Poezenboot
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Adding to the line of must-see masterpieces at the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are none other than the cats at De Poezenboot. Translated from Dutch as the “Cat Boat,” it has earned the merit of being “the only animal sanctuary in the Netherlands that actually floats.” of A scenic setting surrounds the floating feline refuge with the canals and houseboats that one usually envisions for this city. Nothing to stay at all day, but it’s a pleasing place to stop during a stroll or bike ride.

Jagalchi Fish Market
Busan, South Korea

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jagalchi Fish Market is the largest of its kind in Korea. Though not visually pleasing for the squeamish, it doesn’t actually smell as bad as you think it would.

When approaching the main market house, you’ll walk down wet, narrow paths covered by umbrellas, nudging against other pedestrians and glancing to the sides at plastic bins of slimy silver fish and mysterious brown crustaceans. If you’re lucky, you can catch glimpses of older women with permed hair clad in rubber boots and visors peeling the skin off living eels or smearing octopus heads against the pavement.

The market house itself is more orderly, with tightly-fitting clear tanks holding assorted clams and crabs. For people who somehow get hungry from exploring this fishy madness, there are places that sell whale meat, live squid and giant prawns for consumption. (It’s reccommended that vegetarians venture elsewhere.)

Haesindang Penis Park
Sinnam, South Korea

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

On a simple, grassy cliff that overlooks the sea on the hilly east coast of South Korea, dozens of carved wooden phalluses stand strong. The interesting oddity that exists in the small fishing village of Sinnam is called Haesindang Penis Park, and offers many spectacles: twelve Chinese zodiac years carved into phalli, masturbating warriors, fertility-minded statues.

If you get tired from hiking around outdoors, you can relax by sitting on a penis-shaped bench and staring off at the peaceful sea.