Europe has no shortage of charming towns worth a visit. However, there are some places that deserve a stop because of peculiar historical reasons. Ranging from a town built inside the crater of an asteroid, to a movie set that evolved into a town with its own postal code, the Old Continent boasts a number of small towns that have some crazy stories attached to them.
This ghost town located in northern Ukraine is only meant for the bravest of visitors. It will always be remembered for the Chernobyl disaster, which wiped away a prosperous community just over thirty years ago.
In 1986, a reactor from the Chernobyl Nuclear Station, about two miles away from Pripyat, exploded and released extremely dangerous amounts of radioactive chemicals. In fact, according to The Independent, 400 times more radioactive material was unleashed into the air than by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
Today, Pripyat is Ukraine’s most popular tourist destination. It has an eerie feel, with Soviet propaganda still on the streets and all clocks frozen to 11:55, the moment the electricity was cut just over 30 years ago.
To visit the town’s abandoned schools and amusement parks, it’s necessary to first obtain an official government pass. This is to ensure all visitors understand the risks of going into a zone which was very much affected by radiation.
Tucked away near the Alps sits Nördlingen, a quaint German gem. A few decades ago, it was thought that the terrain’s unique geological structure was due to a prior volcano eruption. However, in 1960, geologist Eugene Shoemaker discovered the rocks that were in the area came from an asteroid. The giveaway was that the type of quartz found in the terrain only appears in metamorphic rocks which have gone through strong impact. Shoemaker then concluded that Nördlingen exists within an asteroid crater.
Research suggests that the asteroid hit Earth 15 million years ago. Today, visitors can still find evidence of this throughout the town. The Suavite rock used in Nördlingen’s structures is made up of glass, crystal and diamonds. Visitors can also see the entire contour of the asteroid crater, which borders Nördlingen like small hills.
Credit: Botond Horvath/Shutterstock.com
Spanish people often say that Cordoba has some magic in its air. There seems to be a unique local feeling in this town, with its history rooted in the Moorish and Christian quests for power in Spain.
One of its most visited sites is the imposing town mosque, which was taken over by the Christians in 1236, when they regained control of Cordoba. The stories told about this stunning place of worship are popular folklore in Cordoba, for it gives the southern town more mysticism.
For instance, one of the 1,300 columns inside has a crudely-drawn cross carving. Legend has it that a Christian man carved it while being imprisoned inside the mosque. He had fallen in love with a Moorish woman, who had promised to convert to Christianity and run away with him. Both were captured, and she was executed, which drove him to carve a cross onto the marble column using his own fingernail. The Moors then executed him, but never found a way to get rid of the cross, which is now protected by a small iron gate.
Through its intertwined history, Cordoba presents visitors with a cultural mix that is very much alive today.
Popeye Village, Malta
It’s not often that movie sets become towns themselves. However, such is the case in Malta’s very own Popeye Village, built in 1980 for the popular musical, Popeye.
The colorful town was never intended to be kept past the movie’s release. However, locals felt that it was too beautiful to be taken down, and decided to keep Popeye Village. Though small, some locals live in this former movie set, which now has its own zip code.
Today, the seaside town receives visitors who are looking to connect with a childhood favorite. Activities include boat rides, mini golf and set tours.
The spinach-loving sailor was played by the late Robin Williams. Today, Popeye Village is considered a live tribute to his work.
It’s impossible to talk about crazy European history without referencing the world’s favorite bloodsucker. Dracula’s castle and crimes are set throughout Romania, but what most travelers don’t know is that the cottages and streets that inspired author Bram Stoker are in the coastal town Whitby, England.
Whitby has a reputation for being spooky, as it’s surrounded by gravestones. In fact, when Stoker toured the gravestones he came across a few names he included in his novel, including that of Count Dracula’s first victim, Swales.
This historic town is in Yorkshire, in northern England. While English is the main language, this county has its own dialect, which Stoker also included throughout the dialogues in his novel.
While Dracula aficionados visit Whitby throughout the year, there are a special times when Whitby becomes especially popular. Thanks to the dark reputation Whitby received after Stoker’s novel was published, the town began hosting the largest goth music festival in the world. During April and October, visitors can check out women wearing 19th-century corsets and punks with pink hair and heavy eyeliner. The festival makes Whitby look like it has been ripped right out of a modern version of Stoker’s everlasting novel.