Ah, Halloween… a spookily good fun time of year, and also great for travel. Summer crowds have dispersed and you may still be lucky with the weather. So why not take a day to go and discover a new country? Impossible? It really isn’t. Covering day trips ranging from Amsterdam to Zürich, my new ebook Europe in a Day – Day Trips to the Continent shows you what you can see on daytrips to 15 different European countries and gives you tips on how to plan your own trips.
As it’s Halloween, here are just some of the stories of monsters, magic and unexplained I’ve encountered on my day trips around Europe, as well as some sightseeing tips too. What goes bump in the night across the continent? What creatures lurk in the dark? Are you brave enough to head off to Europe for the day? Read on and find out!
MODDEY DHOO – ISLE OF MAN
A large shaggy black dog is said to prowl the grounds of Peel Castle after nightfall. Though the Moddey Dhoo seems indifferent to most humans it encounters, one drunken soldier was foolish enough to patrol the castle alone one night and taunt the spectral hound. No one saw what happened, but they heard the screams. The soldier was so terrified by what happened he couldn’t speak and died 3 days later…
Dare you take a stroll through the Moddey Dhoo’s lair? Walking along the clifftop paths below the battlements of Peel Castle rewards you with spectacular views over the Irish Sea, while the castle itself is a museum. The sunsets here are beautiful– just remember that once the sun goes down, the Moddey Dhoo goes on the prowl…
THE GOLEM – CZECHIA
A creature made from clay and brought to life through ancient Hebrew incantations, the Golem was created by a rabbi to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. The creature did as it commanded to for a time, but its immense strength soon became too much to control. It went on a murderous rampage and had to be shattered into pieces by the rabbi that created it…
The attic of the 13th century Old New Synagogue in Prague is believed to be where the Golem is kept. Some stories claim that people have ventured up there and have never come out, so perhaps it’s best to admire the building from the outside. Besides, you could easily spend hours wandering the beautiful – and hauntingly gothic – streets of the Czech capital!
BANSHEE – IRELAND
If while wandering around Ireland you find a comb on the ground, don’t touch it – a Banshee may have left it there to ensnare you. The cry of the Banshee is said to have slightly different sounds across the Emerald Isle, but it is always seen as an omen of impending death. Though legends say the Banshee cries because she is mourning the departed soul, her shrieking wail is still strikes terror into the hearts of all who hear it…
If you want to tap into the less frightening side of Irish culture, check out the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin. Well over a thousand years old, these manuscripts of the Gospels have been decorated with colourful and stunning Celtic patterns – and not a wailing old hag in sight!
HULDFOLK – ICELAND
Never throw stones as you explore Iceland – you might hit one of the Huldufólk. Also known as Hidden Folks or Elves, over third of the Icelandic population believe they are real. So much so, even the construction of buildings and roads around the country has been halted to not disturb the rocks and lava fields they are said to live in!
Although the Huldufólk are said to avoid churches as they dislike crosses, visitors to Reykjavík definitely should head to Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in all Iceland. Towering over the streets of the capital, it offers some spectacular views over the city and surrounding mountains.
WILD MEN – SWEDEN
It seems that Sasquatch doesn’t only stalk the forests of North America, as sightings of large, hairy, almost-human creatures have also been reported from across Scandinavia. People camping in the woods of central Sweden, only a few hours’ drive from Stockholm, have heard noises they can’t explain and two skinny-dippers claim that they were chased from their bathing by ‘something’ that looked like a giant ape…
Though you’re unlikely to bump into Bigfoot in hip Malmö, you will spot something else massive towering over the city. Spanning 8km over the Baltic Sea with cable towers that are over 200 metres tall, the Öresund Bridge is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe. But if you think you’ll be safe from the wild men across the bridge in Denmark, you’re wrong – they’ve been spotted there too.
VAMPIRES – ROMANIA
You just can’t write about monsters without talking about the man who inspired an entire genre of horror. Vlad III was a 15th century Romanian king whose idea of diplomacy was nailing the turbans of foreign ambassadors to their heads. Thanks to his bloodthirsty and sadistic torture techniques, he earned to title ‘the Impaler’ and inspired one of the most famous monsters of all time – Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.
While you (hopefully!) won’t find anyone impaled on stakes in Bucharest, Vlad’s legacy is still clearly visible in the Romanian capital. At the heart of Centru Vechi in the labyrinth of narrow streets, you’ll spot a bust of the Impaler keeping a stern eye over the ruins of his one-time residence. Enter the lair of the most famous monster in history… if you dare…
Have you seen things you can’t explain while travelling? Heard local legends of monsters? Got your own horror stories? Why not share them on Europe in a Day’s official Facebook page and connect with other day trippers!
Wherever you are this Halloween, have fun and enjoy yourself… just remember to be off the road before sundown… *mwahahahahah*
This Guestpost was written James Scanlan. James has discovered an incredibly interesting alternative system of travelling, which might just unlock the way you travel yourself.
James lives in London, where he works in administration and as a freelance writer. At the time of writing this article, he has visited 38 countries on 3 continents, and is working towards fulfilling his ambition to have travelled to 50 countries by the time he is 30. James is also working on a 2nd edition of Europe in a Day, which will feature guides to new countries across the continent.
For more information about the locations mentioned here, check outEurope in a Day – Day Trips to the Continent by James Scanlan, available on Amazon for Kindle and also smartphones, tablets and computers with the free Kindle Reading App.