Creepy Europe

sedlec ossuary 2It’s mid-October, which means that Prague looks like the set of a vampire film. It’s getting darker earlier and long stretches of fog hang above the Vltava in the night and early morning. The fog sits in front of the castle as well, so that Prague Castle looms creepily above the city. There are baring trees reaching out at you on windy days. It’s pretty awesome.

This time of year always brings to mind the creepy and eerie. And if you want creepy, come to Europe. Nobody does it better. Undoubtedly, this is partly due to Italian teens in furry collars, Czechs in socks and sandals, and French people. But Europe has some seriously creepy spots. Here are five.

Sedlec Ossuary

The good old Czech Republic has one of the creepiest spots in Europe – the Bone Church. What to do with the bones of 50,000 Bubonic Plague victims? Naturally, you build them into the inside of a church. You then use the rest to make a huge coat-of-arms of tibiae and fibulae and a grand chandelier using at least one of every bone in the human body.

Built in the early 1400s, the Bone Church stands in the grounds of an old abbey’s cemetery and by the 1500s had acquired quite the collected of skeletons. František Rint was hired by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bones in order and, being the first and last Czech person in the history of the world to take initiative, he created this artistic horror. To finish it off, he signed his name to it – using finger bones.

City of the Dead

Ah, yes. Leave it to the Russians to outcreep the Czechs. In the remote Dargavs in North Ossetia, the Ossetians have long had an interesting manner of housing their dead. Literally. The dead spend their eternal nap in little crypts inside of tiny houses. These dot the hillside and bring a much-needed levity to the otherwise harsh and eerie landscape of the Dargavs.

One wonders when someone said “I know! Let’s give them little houses.” Legend says that those who visit the City of the Dead do not return. I have heard the same about Moscow Airport’s McDonalds.

Capuchin Catacombs

These catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, house the mummified remains of almost 80,000 people. The mummified remains are arranged by gender and social status, which just proves to me that even after death I will still not be allowed to hang out with rich people. Or women. Apparently, the idea to go from traditional cemetery to catacombs all started with the decision to mummify one monk in 1599.

This really brings up a question – why? What is it about monks and the desire to mummify their remains? Perhaps the creepiest aspect of the Capuchin catacombs is that they are not nearly the only ones in Europe. You can’t throw a stone on this continent without hitting the mummified remains of a guy who took an oath of poverty and shaved the top of his head.

hill-crossesThe Hill of Crosses

Yep. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Near the town of Šiauliai in Lithuania, there is a hill of crosses – well over 100,000 crosses. There is no cemetery here, no church, no nothing, except thousands and thousands of haphazardly arranged crosses and crucifixes.

Nobody really knows why this started, but the most widely held belief is that it started after the November Uprising against the Russian empire in 1831, when relatives of the dead had no bodies to bury and so they came here to plant a symbolic cross.

Though the Hill of Crosses has been called a place of hope and peace by Pope John Paul II, it just remains a creepy sight on a lonely hillside. It’s resilient, too, having survived two KGB bulldozers and the career of Yakov Smirnoff.

HollowayEurope’s Holloways

A holloway is essentially an ancient sunken lane worn in by thousands of years of walking and herding. They exist all over Europe, America, and Africa. One imagines the millions of journeys, midnight escapes, and peasant intrigue these holloways may have seen.

Creepy? damn right. Perhaps it’s their timeless, haunted look or the fact that their appearance conjures names like Sleepy Hollow. You look at that picture and tell me you don’t get the willies.

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