Top five quirky destinations in Europe

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The typical visitor to Europe sees cities such as Paris, London, and Vienna, but this continent also offers a wealth of destinations that are much quirkier. From a museum about a non-existent corporation to a hidden underground submarine base, Europe is full of fascinating surprises, but only for those who understand that sometimes, a tourist needs to stray far from the beaten path.

Balaklava, Ukraine

Located on the tip of the Crimean Peninsula, this port city on the Black Sea used to be situated inside the USSR. What makes it truly quirky, however, is a facility that was once one of the region’s most deeply held secrets: a Soviet nuclear submarine base. The underground base is missing all the submarines these days, but because the facility was designed to withstand a direct hit by an atomic bomb, its infrastructure remains intact. The public is now welcome to enter and to explore the tunnels and submarine bays.

Balaklava, Ukraine (1)

Uusikaupunki, Finland

Nearly every museum on earth documents things that are real, but not the Bonk Museum, which goes beyond “quirky” all the way to “wacky.” The museum tells a detailed story of a global industrial giant with operations in more than 50 nations, but all the documentation presented concerns a company that has never existed. Instead, the displays in the Bonk Museum are meant to present a biting and hilarious commentary on modern advertising and business practices.

Bonk Museum, Uusikaupunki, Finland (2)

Yorkshire, England

Billing itself as the “strangest place in the world,” the Forbidden Garden located in the Yorkshire Dales is a place where tourists might suspect that they have fallen down the rabbit hole after Alice. Originally a private wonderland, the Forbidden Garden entertains guests with paths that lead nowhere, shrinking tunnels, underground mazes, and at every turn, the unexpected in the form of fountains that suddenly pop up, and statues that squirt water everywhere.

Forbidden Garden, Yorkshire, England (3)

Alicante, Spain

Situated in eastern Spain, Alicante’s quirkiness is most in evidence at the Rambling Cathedral, which far from being a towering creation with flying buttresses in the manner of the traditional medieval structure is an open-air walking path through the forest, complete with 6,000 steps carved into solid stone. The trail, originally carved by the Moors more than eight centuries ago, passes alongside caves filled with water, ancient Spanish villages, and sheer cliffs.

Bergen, Norway

More than a century ago, Bergen was the largest European center for treating leprosy. Now, the oldest of the leprosy hospitals from that time has been transformed into the Leprosy Museum. Here, visitors can tour the facilities that housed and cared for the lepers – complete with illustrated explanations. Information panels are provided in English so that tourists from the UK and the United States can comprehend every disturbing detail.

Bergen, Norway (4)

Off the beaten track in Europe: fun travel facts

Foreigners are often taken by surprise at the tiny size of some European nations – countries that many may never even have heard of, such as San Marino, a separate nation located within the area usually regarded as Italy and Andorra, sandwiched between Spain and France in the Pyrenees.

If you decide to head for these countries it is advisable to rent a car upon arrival to get around easily to visit the really quirky places.

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