After all, isnt it really entertaining to see million of bones and skulls dating back to the 18th Century stacked along subterranean corridors (best visited on a cold rainy afternoon will dripping water here and there and forming puddles)? What could be more fun in the City of Light than wandering along these darkened corridors with flash lights or Black Diamond head lamps (so our hands are kept free at all times to protect ourselves) looking at femurs, vertebra and skulls withhollow eye sockets?
The other day, after an early breakfast meeting with an associate near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, during which we discussed unique places to visit, he inquired if I had ever been to the Mutter Museum at The College of Physicianshttp://www.collphyphil.org/mutter.asp ?
Never been to it.never heard of it.
He bet me lunch, if I visited it, I would rate it among the Top 10 strangest places I had ever been! I always enjoy a good natured wager.
Having the balance of the morning free before meeting up with him for lunch and then catching an afternoon flight home, I decided to split with the $12.00 and take peek inside. I should have guessed right away the exhibition entitled Sliced Sections of the Human Head was going to be something different (also picked up some much needed information on Trephination (never will I complain again about having a splitting headache). I cant begin to pronounce Cephalothoracopagus Monosymmetro (and now I wish I had never seen an example of the condition). The Soap Lady is quite unusual..so this is how we spend the after life!
By the way, the Docents are extremely well informed and happily share all of the disconcerting details, if asked a question.
If your travels take you to Philadelphia and you have a little time on your hands, consider an informative (if somewhat unsettling) couple of hours at the MutterMuseum at The College of Physicians in Philadelphia.
I bought lunch for my friend and I just drank tea!
Have you visited similar places...why not share with the rest of us?
I'm probably one of the few people who would actually take you up on the suggestion to visit the medical museum -- I developed an interest in the history of medicine while in medical school, and I've enjoyed visiting medical museums in a number of different countries (non-Western ones are generally more interesting). Fortunately I have a very high gross-out threshold!
The one place I really regret visiting was the Lion Park in Johannesburg. This was a long time ago on my first trip to South Africa, and I'd already had the chance to stroke some orphaned cheetah cubs who were part of an endangered species breeding programme, which was a very positive experience. The cubs had a large grassy enclosure with plenty of space to run around, with shady and sunny areas, and fresh running water. They were always in control of how much contact they had with people -- you sat still and the cubs could choose to come near you or not -- and their adoptive parents made it clear that their well-being came before the desires of any tourists who wanted to see them. One of the adoptive parents was always in the enclosure so the cubs never felt alone or abandoned to the mercy of strangers.
Well, the Lion Park couldn't have been more different. It was pitched as being a similar experience, though I had some misgivings when I couldn't find out much about the conservation aspect of their programme. The idea of being able to pet a baby lion was too much to resist, so I joined a tour (my second big mistake, the first one being suckered into going there in the first place). The online photos showed the lion cubs romping happily while visitors sat on the grass nearby, but the reality was so pathetic I wanted to turn around and leave immediately (but couldn't because I was on a bloody tour). The cubs are taken away from their mums and kept in a small wire enclosure. There was one staff member in the enclosure but his only job was to rap the cubs on the nose with a stick if he felt they were getting too 'feisty' and they were clearly scared of him. The cubs were listless with dull, dirty fur and glazed eyes. There was no shade and only one dirty water bowl. I felt terrible for having contributed in any way to their sorry state and left as soon as I could.
I love South Africa and have returned many times as you know, but I'll never return to the Lion Park and urge everyone else to avoid it as well.
Although nothing compares to the sad state of affairs at the Lion Park jasher visited, I tend to visit one pathetic museum plus one cheesy tourist "dinner" attraction during every major trip abroad. My husband and I manage to continuously be wrangled into these things, it took about 6-7 trips to finally learn to say no to the tour guides.
One that sticks out in my mind is the National Rail Museum in New Delhi, India. Unfortunately we were brought there by our otherwise wonderful tour guide on our first day in India and we were afraid that it was an omen of future horrible museum visits to come. Our tour company for some reason thought it to be a fantastic museum and was justifiably proud of the interesting history of the Indian train system (the world's largest) but this museum was dated, dirty, empty, dark, disorganized and everything a museum should not be. A real waste of time, especially when we realized that we'd missed the opening hours at the Gandhi Memorial and probably wouldn't have another good chance to visit throughout the course of the trip. We learned afterward that the train museum was standard fare for our tour company's trips even though the guide didn't think it was worthwhile.
Truly, though, each and every trip we've been on lately (until we finally decided to "just say no" on a recent trip in Vietnam) the hotels or tour guides pitch some must-do "cultural" activity which pairs dinner and watching native dancers or some sort of puppet show or something. Every country has these, and as I've now been to 12-15 over the years I have to say that it barely ever feels authentic or is very enjoyable. We did this in China, Tibet, India, Peru, Egypt, Turkey, Japan, Vietnam (we did say no a couple times but did watch the fun-for-five-minutes Water Puppet show in Hanoi), etc. and although these can be somewhat novel for a few minutes they are usually filled with busloads of bored tourists and seem incredibly staged and tired. Really these are just a sad revenue source from tourists, which I supposed in the more impoverished areas isn't the worst thing in the world.
I will say that of those listed the Beijing Acrobatic show was very worthwhile as was the Sichuan Opera in Chengdu, China (although that was the site of what I nominate "World's Worst Toilet" - another one for your Adventure and Luxury thread! Another that is more funny than dismal is the laser and light show at the Pyramids in Cairo - it's pretty difficult to take seriously.
I have a long list of places I should never have visited. Two years back, during a business trip to Chicago, I decided to meet an old college friend who resides in one of the suburbs of the city. His family has been involved in the funeral industry for several generations and he is a licensed embalmer, although his principal activities are crunching numbers rather than pumping embalming fluids. His family owns a large working farm outside of Springfield, IL and he invited me to spend a country weekend among the field crops and livestock. He extolled the virtues of operating a John Deere to offset the daily pressures associated with his job. Sounded like a real change of pace for me, so I accepted the invitation.
By Saturday evening, we had collected enough mud in the fields, proven conclusively that neither of us were really qualified to operate much of the farm equipment without risking personal harm and inhaled too many animal odors.
Sunday morning, we had late breakfast at the main house and then he inquired if I would like to visit the Museum of Funeral Customs http://www.funeralmuseum.orglocated there in Springfield. He assured me I would find it an interesting place, filled with historic information and displays unrelated to my normal routines. When I waffled a bit, he promised there would be no dead bodies and no bereaved with whom to deal. Not wanting to appear totally spineless, I reluctantly agreed to go as his guest.
Well, he kept his promise.there were no deal bodies. The repulica of Abraham Lincolns casket was interesting (one of only two in existence) and the information on the challenges of preserving Lincolns body for his final cross country train journey from Washington to Springfield was interesting http://www.funeralmuseum.org/pdf/embalmlincoln.pdf
One of the friendly docents asked if I knew the difference between a casket and a coffin..of course I did not. She smiled and told me a casket has only six sides, while a coffin has eight sides (information I have retained just in case I am every asked the question on a TV game show).
My friend purchased several of the small milk chocolate coffins (not caskets) available in the gift shop
and gave them to me as a remembrance of my visit..I thanked him and took them back home, but never ate them.
You certainly seem to have gotten off the beaten track in terms of museum-going! I think there may be a book in the making here, detailing truly weird little museums the world over. I've noticed that smaller museums tend to have a much more pesonal stamp to them than large ones, perhaps because they're often the product of one eccentric person's collection.
If your experience at the medical museum hasn't scared you away from medical museums for life, there's a very good collection of eccentric medical artefacts maintained by the Wellcome Trust in London. Henry Wellcome, the wealthy philanthropist who founded the trust, was one of those Victorian gentlemen who made a habit of picking up bizarre things that caught his fancy. One of the more interesting items is what is quite likely to be the largest collection of false eyes in the UK, if not the world.
omegaet, jashermd and claassenam, this thread is starting to stumble down a less traveled path fromthe typicalpostings in this community. What would cause this unusual and unexpected departure from most of the other information shared here? Does anyone have an idea? Can anyone explain this? 'Tis the Season to be........to be........to be? On the other hand, I too have ventured into places not generally included on many tourist itineraries
t-2-f....over the months we have participated in this community, we have yet to establish what is "typical" for postings. There seems to be room in the communityto explore the "unusual" and "unexpected" encounters many of us have already and will likely encounter in our travels.
Inour case, we tend to be introduced to "off the beaten path" encountersas a result of recommendations and suggestions from friends and associates. Perhaps, that leads to an entirely different matter more focused on the types and nature of our friends and associates.Our travels through life seem to take usalong the "byways" rather than the "highways." We almost never travel with groups or follow "formal" itineraries.....as such, we have and take the time to "explore" and "investigate."Hence, the uneaten chocolate coffins!
If you feel comfortable, it might be interesting for you to comment on one or more of the places you describe as "not generally included on many tourist itineraries."
I'm not sure where this thread came from, but it's certainly interesting, particularly in light of the unfortunate flood of banal '100 Things to See/Do/etc Before You Die' books making their annual Christmas appearance in bookstores around here. It's always fascinating to learn about the different things people have experienced -- Omegaet's funeral museum is certainly something I wouldn't have discovered on my own! Going off the beaten path is often very rewarding, but sometimes...less so. Though I suspect the coffin story makes great cocktail party fodder .
claassenam, I wish I had all of the money back I have spent over the years on special dinners and native dance presentations, not to mention half-day guided tours of must see local sights. At least I gave up on large group tours years ago and stick to being a traveler these days. Isn't it odd that so many of us fall for the same stuff, country after country. I don't even want to start listing the things I should never have done - - - just would take up too much space in this thread.
In looking back, I have no one to blame but myself. But why it take so long to learn?
I agree with Mountie on finally realizing that the special dinners, dances and bus tours of "must see" highlights have, for the most part, been a total waste of money! I loved all the odd museums listed below. I have a 13 year old boy who would love to visit every one of these listed! I agree that a book with these weird and creepy sights should be made, and especially geared for teens. Included in the book should be the Crypt of the Capuchines in Rome. Awesome, somewhat goulish and truly different!