Five Fun Locations with Hidden Geekiness

What better time than now to start planning your next trip–the days are getting longer, the weather’s getting warmer, and places are getting geekier. Are you a self-described nerd who’d love to incorporate that into your vacation somehow? Is the idea of going to a large convention center or theme park not quite what you’re looking for? Do you just want something a little more next-level-geeky? Well, then we have some suggestions for you! Our super top secret sources gave us the run down on some of their favorite places with hidden geeky secrets. Read on, because there’s a little something for everyone!

Neuschwanstein: The Inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

If you’re a Disney fan, and you love fairy tales and old castles, Germany’s Neuschwanstein (or New Swanstone) Castle should definitely be on your list of geeky places to visit. Built in the late 1800s in Southern Bavaria, Germany, over the course of nearly two decades, the king, Ludwig II, paid for its construction with his own fortune. Also called “The Fairytale King,” Ludwig was a big fan of the musical mythology of the operas of his personal friend, Richard Wagner, and was inspired by them in building the castle.

With this sort of backstory, it’s no surprise that Walt Disney imagined Aurora living in a castle just like Neuschwanstein. The rumor goes that Walt Disney, while on vacation in Germany with his wife, Lillian, visited the castle. He loved it so much that he wanted to build his own, albeit on a smaller scale, and when it came time to plan Disneyland, Disney knew Neuschwanstein would be perfect for Sleeping Beauty.

Starfleet Academy: Your First Step Toward the Final Frontier

Starfleet Academy

A visit to the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant may not sound like the trip of a lifetime, but bear with me. Boasting an enormous Japanese traditional garden, this water treatment facility in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles can take you where no man has gone before: Starfleet Academy, gateway to the stars! Not really, but this idyllic garden just happened to have the perfect facility to stand in for the Star Trek academy, an impressive and futuristic-looking building.

Chapelle de Bethléem: A New Kind of Sacred

The Four Grotesques

If you enjoy a mix of gothic architecture and pop culture, this next destination is just for you! Head to western France, to a teeny tiny town called Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau, and you’ll find a small, unassuming chapel from the 5th century along a lonely dirt road. But look a little closer at the grotesques adorning the eaves of the building and what you see may surprise you: is that Gizmo from the Gremlins?! No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Back in the early 1990s, the chapel underwent renovations, as several of the pillars and most of the grotesques were damaged or missing. Since there was no historical record to tell them what used to be there, the architect and sculptor heading the restoration project decided to replace some of the missing grotesques with creatures found in pop culture.

The 28 total grotesques adorn six pillars, each with their own theme (the soul of man, the soul of woman, the unconscious, wisdom, memory, and origins), and were carefully selected to signify the doctrine of the Catholic church. Upon the pillar depicting “the unconscious” we see three of the four pop culture creatures represented: Gizmo and a Gremlin from Gremlins (symbolizing a good and a bad monster), and Golderak from the anime and manga UFO Robot Grendizer (representing righteousness, a knight of modern times). The fourth pop culture creature leers atop the “origins” pillar, a Xenomorph from Alien which symbolizes the Leviathan.

PEEK&POKE: Play Retro Games all Day in Croatia

Peek & Poke

Back in 2007, some intrepid Croatians decided to start a computer club. With the goal of collecting and refurbishing old computers and video game devices so that others could play them, they built quite a collection and began to attract quite a following. PEEK&POKE is now an educational and non-profit project, and their 3,000 square foot space is packed with fully functional machines that serve the goal of being, first and foremost, a gathering place. Featuring calculators, punch-hole computers, early games consoles, obsolete desktops, and, even, a Virtual Boy, there’s something for computer and retro console gamers of all ages.

Dubrovnik, Croatia: King’s Landing

Dubrovnik Old Town

While this may be only one step removed from attending a con or going to a theme park, visiting the set of your favorite movie or TV show gives you a chance to get immersed in a completely different way. One such filming location is not only a great way to see your favorite spots from Game of Thrones, but is a beautiful place to visit in its own regard.

The HBO series Game of Thrones filmed in several locations over its eight seasons, from Malta to Morocco, and Iceland to Spain. One of the most popular filming locations for the series, however, was Dubrovnik, Croatia. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, this ancient city was perfect for King’s Landing, which itself was modeled after coastal medieval walled cities like Dubrovnik. Listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Dubrovnik is famous for its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains. You can virtually tour the filming locations on the Dubrovnik tourism site.

There are of course, many other beautiful places that happen to be filming locations, like New Zealand (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series’), Redwood National Forest (Return of the Jedi and Jurassic Park: The Lost World), Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Avatar), Matmata in Tunisia (Tatooine in Star Wars), and Petra in Jordan (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and Cardiff in Wales (Doctor Who), just to name a few!

Hopefully we gave you some good ideas for your next geeky vacation! What other hidden gems did we miss? Tell us about them in the comments, because we probably want to go there, too!