So, I've compiled a quick list of my favourite of these for your curious interest. I've had the pleasure of visiting all but one of these (but it deserves an honourable mention), they're in no particular order and all are great for spending an hour experiencing either on your lonesome or with a few new hostel buds. Enjoy.
Comics Museum – Prague.
This is actually part of a great little bar & club called Batalion in the centre of Prague. I'm not particularly a comic-book fan at all, but I wandered to the museum upstairs out of pure curiosity and was oh so well rewarded. The small and quiet comics museum exhibits original works by one Kája Saudek. Comic-book aficionados may know that name, I certainly didn't but his story is quite fascinating. One of the most important comics illustrators from the 1960s, Saudek's work, as can be seen adorning the walls of this museum, is striking in its sharp visual boldness. It's loud but stylish and intricate while being edgy, confrontational, provocative and controversial. His critique of the communist regime through his creations meant a great deal of trouble with the authorities, censorship and outright banning of his work and indeed more than one prison spell for the artist. The museum (and bar/club Batalion) is owned and operated by a father and son duo, which is quite sweet I think, and the father is actually a good friend of Kája Saudek – which I found to be touching in its own right. The museum visit includes a passionate young guide and true Saudek fan (who will be serving cocktails at the bar if he's not showing someone around the museum) and has a great little souvenir shop where you can pick up reproductions of Saudek's brilliant artwork, posters, postcards, badges and even t-shirts (you're unlikely to bump into someone at a party wearing the same Kája Saudek shirt!).
Ramones Museum – Berlin.
Another Museum which is part of a bar/cafe with a theme. This time the Ramones. The only museum on the planet which celebrates the legendary Punk Rock band from Queens NY, The Ramones museum is fantastic. Berlin loves it's music and particularly Punk - as do I; I'm a big Ramones & punk fan so there is the inevitable fanboy syndrome here, but this place really will be enjoyed by any music lover....indeed it's mission statement is “...to be a place for the fans, not just Ramones fans but music fans...where memories could be shared and stories could be told” and to that end there's regular live performances from local bands and events. It all started 18 years ago when a dude in Berlin kept his ticket stub, poster and shirt from his first Ramones show and so his collection began. Many Ramones-filled years later his collection of more than 500 pieces makes up this museum of memorabilia, letters, photos, articles, videos and much more while documenting the fascinating, if not a bit turbulent, life story of the most influential Punk band ever. For a mere couple of euros you get a lovely little badge which grants you unlimited free entry forever! Nice.
The museum of broken relationships – Zagreb.
Yep. You did read that correctly. Born in Croatia by a guy and gal, this museum grew out of an international touring exhibit to which people could contribute a personal item associated with a broken or failed relationship from their lives and an insight to the story of that relationship. It makes for a wacky enough collection of random things ranging from the likes of mix tapes and teddy bears to fake tits, a prosthetic foot, sex toys and nasal spray. Certainly an interesting ramble around a room.
The National Leprechaun Museum – Dublin.
Being Irish and living in Dublin I have to say I've never had any interest in visiting this museum. As far as I was concerned the whole Leprechaun thing is synonymous with a constructed national identity represented by the Celtic-kitsch icons of shamrocks and little ginger-haired men in green waistcoats meant to appeal to those tourists who count Disney's Darby O' Gill & the little people among their favourites in their DVD collection.
So I was dragged here by a friend visiting Dublin and was actually somewhat pleasantly surprised! It might have been helped by a couple of creamy afternoon pints we had before going in, but it was quite enjoyable without being overly 'tacky'. It celebrates Irish mythology & storytelling - an absolutely hugely important and valuable element of our national heritage and tradition here. It's a guided, interactive experience with a storyteller and you really delve into the 'other-worldly' aspects of Irish folklore which is at times dark, hilarious or just plain strange. I would recommend a couple of pints before though and embracing your inner child to maximise your satisfaction with this museum....especially as it's not cheap.
Natural History Museum – Dublin
A little more in tune with the traditional museum concept, this museum exhibits animal life from Ireland and around the world. Part if a trio of our National History Museums, the Natural History Museum contains many taxidermy displays and skeletons of fish, birds and mammals, some of which are now extinct, in a recently restored impressive historic building. Not a place for zoophobes, even though the creatures are a long time dead there is something slightly unnerving about so many beady eyes watching you stroll among them. It's free in and utterly fascinating. Check out the massive Blue Whale skeleton.
Hash, Marihuana & Hemp museum – Amsterdam
Celebrating the versatility of the cannabis plant and it's place in human civilisation, the Hash, Marihuana (spelled with a 'h' and no 'j') & Hemp museum deals with the history and the role of hemp in everyday life from agriculture, clothing, medicine, travel, industry, ancient rituals, recreational use, creativity, nutrition and more as a natural, renewable & culturally relevant resource....so it's not all about dancing with Mary-Jane and I imagine would be interesting to anyone – not just cannabis enthusiasts and stoners. A sister museum has recently been opened in Barcelona too.
Sex Machine Museum – Prague
Ok, so there's lots of sex museums scattered around the world but this one is (or at least claims to be) the only museum dedicated to sex machines - the mechanical devices of erotica devised to add and intensify pleasure of which there are over 200, highly imaginative, objects which go back in time as far as the swingin' 16th Century. Many of these devices are displayed with dummies demonstrating how to use them, some are fantastically complicated while others are very impressive legacies of the pursuit of ultimate sexual pleasure. Especially when you consider how primitive they seem compared to today's sex toys and machines. Fascinating exhibits and a very interesting way to spend an hour or so, and who knows you may be inspired to create a new pleasure machine the world will remember.
Icelandic Phallological Museum - Reykjavík
I haven’t been to this one yet but it's on my list when I do eventually make it to Iceland because it sounds bizarre and wonderfully odd. A museum of dicks essentially. The largest display of penises and male parts in the world from over 90 species.... including a human cock. I just felt a little bit weak now so, with legs crossed, I’ll sign off.
That's it guys and gals, my most recommended quirky museums - from heartbreak, little fairy men & stuffed animals to good ol' sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll. There are of course many more museums dedicated to particular interests which are worth checking out but hopefully one or more of these have peaked your interest and maybe inspired you to seek out the life less ordinary when you're lucky enough to be bopping around on your travels.