Five Dark Destinations in Europe by Train
As Halloween approaches we thought we’d take a look at some dark and spooky tourism sites in Europe you can reach by train…suggestions made by Sophie Collard at TravelDarkly.com
Saint Bernadette’s Dead Body, Nevers, France.
To be sainted you must have two miracles attributed to you post mortem. For this mysterious tale Saint Bernadette’s first miracle is that she has stayed ‘eternally intact’ – more on that later! The second is that as a child she saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a cave near Lourdes. A spring, said to have healing properties, was subsequently discovered there. 69 miraculous recoveries have been attributed to it since its discovery 150 years ago.
Saint Bernadette died in 1879 and her body was first exhumed in 1909. It was perfectly preserved. The body was exhumed a further two times after this. The second time, wax coverings were put over her face and hands and she was moved to what was known as the Convent of Saint Gildard of Nevers, now called Espace Bernadette Soubirous – Nevers. Move over Saint Gildard.
The journey from London to Nevers takes around 5 hours 40 minutes via Paris with fares from £95 standard class return per person
Palermo Catacombs, Sicily, Italy.
There are more than 8,000 mummies lining the walls of the Capuchin Catacombs in Sicily. The first of the corpses to be placed in the catacombs were exhumed in the sixteenth century and the Monks from Palermo’s Capuchin Cemetery saw that the hot Palermo soil had mummified them. The monks then preserved the body of Brother Silvestro so that it could go on public view. After this, wealthy residents of Palermo started requesting their bodies be preserved and put on display in the catacombs. The last to be interred was two year-old Rosalita Lombardo in 1920. Nicknamed ‘Sleeping Beauty’ her perfectly preserved form is perhaps the most shocking of the bodies in the catacombs – and visiting is not advised for children. You will see many of the monks themselves in the catacombs, pinned to the wall, eye sockets peering out from underneath their brown-hooded robes. The catacombs are open from 9am – 1pm daily and then 3pm – 5pm every day but Sunday.
The journey from London to Palermo takes in Paris, Milan, stunning scenery and a train carrying ferry from Reggio Calabria to Sicily. Fares start at £420 return per person.
This cathedral filled with bony artwork is one of the most aesthetically impressive of the many ossuary (or catacombs) dotted around Europe. The catacombs are in a small chapel, below the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, walking distance from the train Station in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. In 1870, woodcarver Frantisek Rint was commissioned to put in order the 40,000 – 70,000 human skeletons in the ossuary. His work was so impressive that Sedlec is now a World Heritage Site. From the massive chandelier centrepiece, to the family crest of the Bohemian nobles, the House of Schwarzenberg, both made of bones, the Sedlec Ossuary is well worth a visit. Open 9am-5pm in the darker months, 8am – 6pm in the lighter ones. There is a small entrance fee.
Kutna Hora is approximately one hour from Prague. Fares start from £38 return from Prague. From London, travel to Cologne, via Brussels then take an overnight train to Prague before continuing on to Kutna Hora the following morning. Fares from £327 return per person.
Saint Canute’s Bones, Odense, Denmark
Odense is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is also where you will find the bones of Saint Canute, or Canute IV, as he was formerly known, grandnephew of Canute the Great who reigned over Denmark, Norway, England and parts of Sweden almost 1,000 years ago. During a peasant revolt in 1086, Canute IV and his men were sheltering in a church when it was stormed by the rioting peasants. Canute IV and his men, as well as his brother were killed in front of the church altar. The Cathedral website tells us that, “The skeleton in the casket to the right bears evidence of a lesion in the pelvic region, presumably caused by a club swung from behind. This detail supports the tradition that King Knud was murdered while on his knees praying in front of the altar!” Odense is also the birthplace of fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen and you can see his home and explore the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in the city.
Odense is one hour fifteen minutes from Copenhagen. Fares from £56 standard class return from Copenhagen.
The Museum of Funerary Carriages, Barcelona, Spain
Situated in the city’s Montjuïc Cemetery, where Joan Miró is buried, the Museu de Carrosses Fúnebres is a free museum that displays funeral carriages that served the city of Barcelona for 90 years. Alongside the ornate carriages there are funerary outfits and information about the history of Barcelona’s funeral rites and customs.
Thirteen funeral carriages, six coaches for taking families between church and cemetery and three motorcar hearses are a part of this unique museum.
The museum is open 10am – 2pm Wednesday to Sunday (with guided visits Saturdays at 12pm) and it’s worth calling ahead to check.
For Barcelona, take Eurostar from London and change in Paris to the high-speed train to Barcelona with fares from £161 standard class return per person. Journey time from London from 10 hours 17 minutes.
Reservations and information – To book or for more information, visit www.voyages-sncf.com, download our free app or call 0844 848 5 848*. You can also book through hundreds of appointed travel agents throughout the UK.
*calls to 0844 numbers cost 7p per minute plus the phone company’s access charge
Note to Editors:
About Voyages-sncf.com: Voyages-sncf.com is a subsidiary of the French National Railway Company SNCF and an expert in railway travel to Europe and French destinations. It is a key player in the European tourism industry employing up to 1,000 people across its European business. In 2014, the group sold 78 million tickets with annual sales revenue of € 4.2 billion, across more than 30 countries. Voyages-sncf.com comprises 15 websites in 8 languages, mobile sites and apps and an integrated call centre service.
About SNCF: Present in 120 countries, SNCF is a world leader in mobility and logistics. Its total workforce of 250,000 generated revenue of €32.2 billion in 2013, with over 25% of sales from markets outside France. A public sector group dedicated to public service, SNCF builds on its foundations in rail to offer a broad range of services, delivering seamless door-to-door mobility for transport and logistics operators, passengers and the regional and local governments that are its organizing authorities. www.sncf.com
About Sophie Collard: Sophie is a travel writer and founder of Travel Darkly. She’s had a long affair with all things morbid as well as with travel. Put the two together and you get dark tourism. Winning. She’s wandered through many ‘dark tourist’ sites, including the place where Ho Chi Mihn’s body is displayed, the Killing Fields and Teoul Seng in Vietnam and Cambodia with co-founder Katherine. She’s been to cemeteries all over the world too, from Recoleta in Buenos Aires to Pere Lachaise in Paris, and spent many lunch breaks in her (once) local, Hampstead Cemetery. Sophie is also known for writing about train travel both freelance and on her blog sophieontrack.com