Offbeat Traveler: Unromantic places around the world
Aside from the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, often called the City of Romance, is also home to the Musee des Egouts de Paris, or Paris Sewer Museum. Museum visitors can tour part of Paris’ extensive underground sewer system. This stretch, fortunately, is protected from raw sewage, so the smell isn’t too bad. The museum, located within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower, also includes displays about the past and present of Paris’ sewage system, which dates back to the 1200s.
Skull Rock, which was carved by erosion, stands along Loop Road about 10 miles south of Joshua Tree’s north entrance in Twentynine Palms. Imagine trying to cuddle at the base of this formation. Think of those eye sockets staring out at you. Even amid the park’s stark beauty, you won’t be in the mood.
Ordinarily, Seville, capital of the Andalucia region in southern Spain, is quite romantic with picturesque plazas, palaces, museums and eclectic architecture. A recent garbage strike, however, left the city under 7,000 tons of trash. The strike ended on Thursday and a cleanup is underway, but it might be a while before the odor dissipates. (Raul Caro / EPA)
This 15th century castle, nestled in southern Ireland about 150 miles southwest of Dublin, would be considered romantic if it weren’t for its most popular attraction, the Blarney Stone. According to legend, the stone grants eloquence to those who kiss it. So statesmen and tourists alike have been puckering up for hundreds of years in hopes of gaining the gift of gab. Think of the germs from all those smooches. To make matters worse, you have to lie on your back and tilt your head back to get cozy with the stone.
This group of islands in Indonesia is the only place in the world where you’ll find Komodo dragons, the world’s largest extant lizard species, in the wild. They grow to about 10 feet and they’re as close as you’ll get to living dinosaurs. Oh, they’re also nimble and venomous. Even less romantic is that these lizards have been known to reproduce through virgin conception.
At this museum in central Mexico, you’ll find over 100 mummies exhumed from a Guanajuato cemetery between 1870 and 1958. In 1870, a local law required families to pay a tax to ensure that their deceased loved ones stayed buried. The penalty for not paying was disinterment.
A museum isn’t a bad place to take a date, unless it has earthworms as big as snakes. Wildlife Wonderland, located in southern Australia about 50 miles southeast of Melbourne, is one of the few places on Earth where you can see Giant Gippsland earthworms, which can grow to about 3 feet. These creatures are only found in the Bass River Valley of South Gippsland in Victoria, Australia. (Google Maps)
It’s hard to find romance at a place sometimes referred to as the “Gates of Hell.” In the Karakum Desert in northern Turkmenistan, this fiery pit has burned since at least the 1970s. The burning crater was formed by accident when engineers drilling for natural gas stumbled upon a cavern emitting gas. To contain the potentially harmful gas’ release, they set it ablaze, hoping it would burn out in a few days. It didn’t. (Chris Wright)
The Gum Wall, in Pike Place Market, originated in the 1990s when Market Theater patrons began sticking their chewed gum on the venue’s wall as they waited for shows to start. Theater owners tried to remove the gum, but they eventually gave up as the wall began to be known as a tourist attraction. The wall of vintage gum rises 15 feet high and stretches across about 50 feet. When you think of all the mouths that these pieces of chewed gum came from, you won’t be in the mood for smooching. (Alex Trautwig / Getty Images)
Adding millions of jellyfish to anything will make it less romantic. Jellyfish Lake on Palau in the western Pacific is no exception. On the bright side, these jellyfish are harmless to humans. They’ve been isolated in the lake for thousands of years without formidable predators, so their stingers have lost their potency. They still function, though largely effective against tiny prey. If you can overcome your unease, take a dip. You’ll have a lot of company. The lake, which locals call Ongeim’l Tketau, is on Mecherchar Island on the southern end of Palau. (MacGillivray Freeman Films)