Penises, brains and toilets – Weird museums worth travelling for
Show me the Mona Lisa and I’ll raise you a room of 62 penises
Nobody really liked holidaying with mummy-papa after a point. Instead of spending the day unleashing our inner khatron ke khiladi at an amusement park, you’d get dragged to ‘boring’ museums instead for an ‘education’. As you grow up, you realise just how lucky we were that our parents were willing to pay the high museum admission fees. You kick yourself for not fully enjoying the vivid abstracts of SH Raza and gentle brushstrokes of Leonardo Davinci. When we had Tetris consoles and game boys to keep us entertained, you can’t blame us kids for not appreciating art. Maybe if they took us to one of these weird museums we’d have paid more attention.
Weird museums and exhibits – ranging from toilets, torture and ‘celebrity cheese’ made from armpit and bellybutton bacteria – provide (cheap) thrills of their own. When you’re planning your next vacation to any one of these cities, add these to your travel itineraries. You won’t regret it.
Weird museums around the world worthy of your travel bucket list
1. NIMHANS Brain Museum, Bengaluru, India
We like our brain in many styles. In crunchy cutlets. Scrambled and fried into bheja masala with heaps of caramelised onion. What we’re not used to is holding a human brain in our hands. Bengaluru’s Brain Museum sounds like the morbid setting of a horror film but it’s a truly fascinating peek into the workings of the human brain under the guidance of the museum’s curators. You get to see a collection of all shapes and sizes: human, animal, overcome with disease and other disorders. While the purpose of the Brain Bank is to raise awareness and intrigue young minds, no pun intended, you can’t help but question whether this would be the birthplace of the zombie apocalypse.
2. Plastinarium, Guben, Germany
This one may not be for those with IBS. The Plastinarium was started by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the creator of this controversial embalming process. What you’re looking at here is basically real, skinless human bodies. You read that right. The Plastinarium is a one-of-it’s-kind experiential study of human anatomy in a manner you would have never experienced before. There are bodies in motion, with the institute describing itself as “a modern day anatomical theatre.” Visitors get to walk through the horrifying yet captivating process of preservation at their lab. They supply the exhibits for the famous Body Worlds travelling exhibits. Sober or not, who hasn’t looked at their limbs and wondered what lies beneath?
3. Museum of Sex, New York, USA
New York’s Museum of Sex comprises of artworks, photography, historical artefacts, clothing and costumes that trace the evolution and cultural significance of sex and sexuality. Their mission is to “open discourse surrounding sex and sexuality as well as striving to present to the public the best in current scholarship unhindered by self-censorship.” From the history of pornographic films to photo-series exploring the radical sexual and social ramifications of ’70s disco clubs as an epithet of multiculturalism. The multimedia collections and exhibitions look at sexuality through a very unique lens.
4. Iceland Phallological Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland
This is the world’s largest display of penises, penis-related and penis-shaped objects… Phallology is actually a little-known science, for obvious reasons. Here lie phallic specimens belonging to various mammals. It started when Sigurður Hjartarson, the founder of the museum, was handed a bull’s penis in 1974. By 1980, he had 13 specimens and when the museum opened in 1997, the specimens had only grown. While it would be a lot more interesting questioning him on his fascination for mammal penises, spending an afternoon inspecting 62 varieties will do too.
5. Torture Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This is a lot more of a sombre experience than it sounds. The Torture Museum holds within painful histories of punishments from across Europe. From the guillotine to ‘skull crackers’, the medieval torture techniques are engraved with the historical facts and background information. This definitely takes a dip into dark tourism but is knowledge we should have to know how far the human race has come (and still needs to go).
6. Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets, Delhi, India
The Museum of Toilets is a showcase of the history of hygiene and sanitation. It’s ironic that it’s located in India. It was founded by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, sociologist and social reformer who founded the Sulabh Sanitation Movement. He scoured the world for the biggest and smallest details, images, specimens and more for this collection. While the facts themselves may not intrigue everyone, it’s fun seeing all the different thrones you could possibly poop in – from bone china to ones inbuilt into loungers for the shockingly lazy.
7. Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia
When a relationship comes to an end, it’s hard to let go of the things your ex left behind. An old love note, a pair of socks. It feels like each object has its own story and history. It’s this thought that led Zagreb-based artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić to start this addition to the weird museums list once their own four-year relationship ended. They collected personal items left behind from friends and peers and the collection was formed, showcased for the first time in 2006. Now it’s both a physical installation in Zagreb as well as a virtual project people can contribute to and share their stories of painful heartbreaks.