Amsterdam’s Torture Museum

torture, Amsterdam, torture museumLike many travelers, I have a soft spot in my heart for tourist traps. Whether it’s the politically incorrect cheesiness of South of the Border or the shabby weirdness of The Thing, nothing brings a smile to my face better than some cheap, gaudy attempt to capture my attention.

Amsterdam’s Torture Museum fits the bill perfectly. Behind a pseudo-spooky facade are reproductions of torture instruments from the Bad Old Days. You’ve got famous nasties such as the rack and the stocks, as well as lesser-known evils like the Flute of Shame. Pictured here is the Inquisition Chair. The victim was strapped in and the weight of his own body caused him to sink onto the spikes. Check out the gallery for more photos and descriptions.

The whole place is lit by weird red, orange, and blue lights and is a maze of stairs and hallways that makes you feel like you’re in a medieval dungeon. Signs in several languages (including English) give basic descriptions of what you’re seeing, and images pulled from old books show the torture instruments in action.

It’s all very garish and exploitative. No attempt is made to be socially redeeming by discussing modern torture. For example, there’s no display about waterboarding, used by the Spanish Inquisition, the Khmer Rouge, and the U.S. government. Of course there shouldn’t be because the U.S. government says waterboarding isn’t torture and they only use it on the guilty anyway. I know they’re speaking the truth because the U.S. government never lies and never makes mistakes.

The Torture Museum’s garish displays and Wikipedia-style descriptions are mere low-brow titillation. It’s when you think of what these objects really mean, and how similar instruments of cruelty are still in common use today, that this horror show becomes truly frightening.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Amsterdam day trip: Van Brederode castle!

This trip was partially funded by Amsterdam’s Tourism and Congress Bureau and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.

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Video: Eating live octopus in Korea (Warning: Graphic)

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The team here at Gadling has seen our fair share of shocking internet videos, and some of us have worked up the courage to eat some pretty questionable fare during our travels, but this clip from Fuel TV’s Strangers in Danger might just be the most revolting thing we’ve ever seen.

Eating live octopus, or san nachi is widely practiced in South Korea, but the octopi being served are typically small enough to be wrapped around chopsticks and eaten in one bite. In this graphic clip, BMX pros “Catfish” Yankush and Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla decided to take it to a new extreme by choking down some unusually large cephalopods – with mixed results.

If you’re hungry for more, check out what the guys decide to do at Korea’s DMZ after the break; or catch the full episode tonight at 10:30PM E/P on Fuel TV and tune in every Tuesday as these two athletes travel through 13 different countries to take on the best, worst, & wildest challenges in each culture.

Copenhagen city square built on poop

CopenhagenBeing an archaeologist can be a tough job–hot weather, frustrating digs that don’t turn up any finds, dirty conditions. . .especially the dirty conditions.

A dig in the Danish capital Copenhagen has turned out to be dirtier than usual. Archaeologists excavating under Kultorvet Square have found two 18th century outhouses that are literally filled with historic faeces.

Kultorvet means “Coal Square” and was where people bought and sold coal. Now it’s a popular meeting place full of cafes and restaurants, as shown in this photo courtesy Leif Jørgensen. These historic toilets would have been used by coal vendors and buyers, mostly working class people. The privies seem to have been popular because both are heaped with the stinky stuff, and the local soil’s low oxygen levels have preserved it in a pristine state.

Wading through offal is good news for archaeologists. Old turds can tell a lot about the people who dropped them, like their diet and general health. One slow-witted Dane from days gone by even ate an apple core. It was found encased in his poop, having passed through his system whole after probably causing some indigestion.

A large subway expansion project has led to lots of archaeological finds in Copenhagen. If any more disgusting discoveries turn up, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Name a cockroach after your lover: Valentine’s Day at the Bronx Zoo

cockroach, cockroachesThe Bronx Zoo has come up with a good way to show that special someone you care–name a giant cockroach after them.

The BBC reports that for ten bucks you can buy the rights to one of the zoo’s 58,000 giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and name it after that special someone who bugs you more than anybody else. The zoo says they sold 1,000 dedications in the first day of the promotion. Perhaps their tagline helped: “Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever.”

Indeed they are. They’ve been around since before the dinosaurs and they’ll probably be around after we’re long gone. The Bronx Zoo has some interesting facts about the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, like that they can grow to three inches long and the hiss they make can be as loud as a lawnmower.

They’re nutritious too. Check out our 8 bug-eating videos including two on eating cockroachs. Also check out the far less disgusting but much more educational the video below.

[Photo courtesy user Husond via Wikimedia Commons]

Airlines try for more edible food options

Let’s not even bother with the jokes – we all know airplane food is awful. But these days, with most carriers looking for new sources of revenue, several of the major airlines have been stepping up the quality and taste factor of their on-board food offerings.

The days of free (and terrible) airplane meals are coming to an end. With Continental, the last carrier to offer complimentary in-flight meals, discontinuing its free service this fall, the in-flight meal industry is ramping up to better serve customer demand. Airlines ranging from Air Canada to United and American are shuffling their food offerings, realizing that if customers have to pay for it, it better bear some resemblance to something edible. Air Canada is introducing healthier food options like veggie sandwiches and yogurt, American Airlines is partnering with Boston Market and United Airlines will be letting customers pre-order in-flight meals before the end of 2010.

So will customers find these new in-flight food options more enticing? Not necessarily. Many frequent travelers have given up finding food on board, opting instead for the array of food options in the terminal like Cibo Express, Wolfgang Puck Express and the ever-popular fast food vendors. But for those looking for tasty, quality food to go with their air travel, keep looking. A top-notch meal on the plane or even at the airport remains a fantasy.