In Search of a Corner – Unusual destinations from across the world
“In every journey there are secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.”, a few golden
words spoken by the great philosopher, Michael Buber.
While this might not necessarily be true at a time when satellite powered GPS systems have made
pretty much everything visible on the map, there might be that odd corner tucked away in those
mysteriously blank places without any labels which can be full of small surprises- some pleasant,
others, not as much. Writing about travel has become difficult, to say the least. There are about a
million blog spread across the tip of the internet iceberg called the “open web” and these blogs
are compared much like insurance policies these days. A thing that does work, however, towards
limiting the ever fading attention spans of readers is the prospect of something unheard of. And
that is a bit of what I shall attempt to do in this feature – below is a collection of some of the
rarest places one may come across on their many travels. A few places on this list have my
footprints on them, the others have been sourced from very reliable accounts from within my
circle of ever more foolhardy friends. So, without further ado, let’s take a look!
The Hofskirkja Church, Iceland :
There has been a lot of Iceland in the news lately, with the Euro flourish, their pristine towns, the
Icelandic Viking chant welcoming their heroes home from the tournament and some of the most
gorgeous landscapes one can come across anywhere in the world. Add to this a church with a
roof that look like a carpet of grass and you have an irresistible combination of beauty and
mystery. It is the last turf church built in the classic architectural style of old Iceland which still
Apparently, this penchant of having a rooftop garden to supplement spiritual awakening
appeared way back in the 18th century, with several such churches. It used to be a way of
protecting the people inside from the tough climes of the area. This church is, however, the last
such surviving church in Iceland, having been built in 1884. The entire structure is made up of
wood, except for the roof which is made of grass covered stone slabs – a typical architectural
trend of the era. It served the dual purpose of keeping the people inside warm and camouflaging
the church from marauding invaders.
Visit Norðausturvegur, the town which houses this quaint little relic for its undulating meadows
and spectacular sunsets. Though you may not be able to stay here for long, it being a part of the
Icelandic Historic Buildings’ Collection, a day trip culminating in the sunset is absolutely worth it.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California:
This is one of my personal favourites. The emperor of modern capitalism has provided itself with
a wonderful treasure from years of dumping waste on the coastline. Way back in 1906, the
residents around this area created a series of water dump sites and to get rid of old and broken
glass and plastics, often burning trash in this area along the coast. There were three sites, created
one after the other, which are presently the three locations over which the glass beach is spread.
There is literally piles of glass everywhere! Try finding the trails that have not been frequented by
visitors and you might just stumble upon a kaleidoscope of glass and plastic formations. Visit this
place around sunset and let the brilliant colours wash over you as the sun’s rays penetrate the
millions of smooth shards on the beach.
A note of caution – the parking lots around this area are almost always choc a bloc, especially on
holidays, so you better plan your travel accordingly. Plus, it is quite a hike to get to the beach, but it
is relaxing and often very enjoyable. Furthermore, tempting as it may be, collecting souvenirs from
the beach is a punishable offence with hefty fines being imposed on many visitors who try to
smuggle out some tiny memorabilia.
This is a major tourist attraction for the people of this area but is somehow not very well known
to anyone outside California, which is how is found its way into this list.
Medieval Europe has thrown up some quite macabre relics – one of them being the famed
catacombs of Paris. This, by no means, is an unheard of tourist attraction, but the fact is that
many tourists who visit Paris just do not venture into this “underworld”, quite sad for an
attraction that has consistently been listed within the top ten tourist attractions in the city of
The basic definition of this place is an “ossuary”, or an underground systemized mass burial site.
And there’s quite a story to it. Paris, apart from being the city of love can safely be called a city of
a million cemeteries as well – there is one at almost every turn! In the old city, with the turn of the
tenth century, the graveyards started busting at the seams, with more and more people flocking
into the great city – traders, merchants, workers, crusaders and beggars, and along with them
came diseases and the plague. As the parish territory became quite inadequate, those who had
been buried a long time ago were exhumed and replaced with new bodies. The remains were
collected and buried in ossuary annexes built into cemetery walls. By the late eighteenth century,
the cemetery too, overflowed and they were then moved into the catacombs. However, it wasn’t
until 1810 that the ossuary began to take the shape it has today. The head of the Paris Mine
Inspection Service back then, Louis-Etienne Hericart de Thury, came up with the idea of turning
the place into a mausoleum. Each skull and bone was placed on top of others, resulting in walls
covered with human remains.
Safe to say, the moment you enter the catacombs through the Gate of Hell, you shall be greeted
with some pretty unforgettable sights. Skills, engravings, dates and rotting regalia adorn these
walls and the narratives from the guides are often hyperbolic and thoroughly entertaining.
Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Greece:
This place brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “being closer to God”. Although many
people flock to Greece for the sea, its pristine beaches, old homesteads and its rich history,
somewhere deep within the collection of islands lies a church which is perched 400 meters above
sea level on an island of rocks geologically dating back over 60 million years. It is one of the
twenty four Meteora monasteries located in and around Central Greece.
It lies aloof, lonely, but not forgotten – it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, though not
quite as glamorous as some of the ruins in central Asia or around the Mediterranean Sea. The
word Meteora literally translates to “suspended in the air”. The sight is quite breathtaking.
This Eastern Orthodox monastery shot into the wider public glare when it was featured in the
1981 Bond classic, For Your Eyes Only. In its heydays, it used to house over 50 priests and monks,
but, over the years, the number of residents has dwindled to five. It is open to tourists every day
of the week. Take a stroll through its quaint little gardens, stone sepulchres and enjoy the
absolute quiet of this little nook, broken only by the avian residents of this island.
There. At first glance, this list is extremely random, without a common thread stringing the
places and what they have to offer, together. But perhaps that is the intention – a stroll through
the destinations of the world, stumbling upon the rarest of the rare, or some which are there for
all to see but not very appreciated by everyone.
Written by Anandarup Dutta,