Europe’s strangest landmarks

Josh Ferry Woodard

From alien bridges and botched celebrity statues to wacky pop-art houses and contemplative golden egg saunas, the Continent really does have some incredibly strange and interesting landmarks.

UFO Bridge, Bratislava, Slovakia


Image via Journey Around The Globe

Aided by the longest single-pylon, cable-styed bridge in the world, a large UFO hovers over the Danube in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.

The space-age silver disc, complete with bar and restaurant, stands opposite the ancient Bratislava castle and affords sumptuous views of the Old Town’s terracotta roofs and turquoise spires. While abductions have never been an issue, the extra-terrestrial capsule does have the ability to predict the weather, shining different colours each night to let the city know whether it will be rainy, cloudy, sunny or windy the next day.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo Statue, Madeira Airport, Portugal


Image via Sky Sports

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world’s greatest-ever football players. So it’s no surprise that the Portuguese island of Madeira would choose to immortalise its most famous son in a statue.

However, what did surprise many fans was the unveiling of the bizarre bronze bust. Eschewing Cristiano’s celebrated strong cheekbones and chiselled features, the tribute wears a grotesque lopsided grin.

In response to criticism, the statue’s sculptor Emanuel Santos replied: “It is impossible to please the Greeks and Trojans. Neither did Jesus please everyone.”

 

Happy Rizzi House, Brunswick, Germany


Image via Unusual Places

Another strange landmark that splits opinions is the Happy Rizzi House in Brunswick, Germany.

Its pastel colour palette, pop-art contours, cartoon sketches and wonky frame certainly stand out from the traditional buildings that surround the wacky structure. While older residents initially complained that the psychedelic stylings would compromise the town’s old-world charm, most have been won over by the happy house’s smiling faces, crazy shapes and cheerful creatures.

Pop-artist James Rizzi, who built the house, intended the landmark to celebrate how children see the world and express themselves freely.

 

Office Centre 1,000, Kaunas, Lithuania


Image via Futurist Architecture

Novelty oversized cheques are one thing, but a massive banknote built into a ten-storey building is much more impressive—and weird.

Commemorating Lithuania’s accession to the European Union in 2004, the Office Centre 1,000 building in Kaunas is made up of 4,500 glass panels that form the image of a now-defunct 1,000 Lithuanian Litas banknote.

The striking landmark faced criticism from the Lithuanian Central Bank, who advised that such a prestigious construction should be in the capital Vilnius, not the country’s second city. Luckily, the bank relented and granted permission for use of the 1926 banknote, which now shines brightly in fluorescent colours each night.

 

Crooked House, Sopot, Poland


Image via Nightlife City Guide

Krzywy Domek, or “crooked little house” in English, is a real mind-bender. Looking at the contorted building can feel like you’ve entered the house of mirrors or put on a pair of distortion goggles.

Inspired by Polish fairy tales, the warped structure is home to shops, restaurants and even a radio station.

 

“Man Attacked by Babies” Statue, Oslo, Norway


Image via Twitter

The Vingeland Park in Oslo is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. Through 212 of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vingeland’s bronze, granite and wrought-iron works, the park examines the art and aesthetics of the human form.

While many of the sculptures are startlingly harrowing, one really stands out. “Man Attacked by Babies”, bizarrely, depicts a naked male in the throes of violence with four infants. It’s difficult to make sense of the tableau, but the title would suggest that the subject is actually defending himself from the babies.

 

Solar Egg Sauna, Kiruna, Sweden


Image via Dezeen

The people of Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden, are undertaking a huge challenge: to move their town centre two miles to the east. Years of mining iron ore has compromised the town’s foundations, making the switch essential unless the mine, which is the region’s lifeblood, is shut down.

It was difficult for some residents to come to terms with the move, so the town commissioned architects Bigert & Berstrom to build something that would help bring people together and foster “thoughts of rebirth”. The artists came up with something quite magnificent: the glistening golden Solar Egg Sauna.

The sauna’s sleek gilded sheeting cuts a peculiar figure on the snowy white planes—almost as peculiar as the story behind the sauna itself.

 

Inntel Hotel Zaandam, Zaanstad, Holland


Image via Wam Architecten

Inntel Hotel Zaandam, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, is a madcap hotel taking on the appearance of a dozen or so traditional Dutch houses, all jammed together haphazardly.

The hotel is designed to give each and every visitor a happy “home from home”, rather than a uniform, anonymous space. Architect Wilfried van Winden was careful to use only authentic house styles from the Zaanstad area, to make sure the innovative inn would belong among its surroundings. One of the blue houses near the top even featured in a Claude Monet painting, produced on a trip to Zaanstad.

 

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