The World's Strangest Monuments
From a baby-eating sculpture in Switzerland to Mongolia’s giant statue of Genghis Khan, the world’s weirdest monuments display local quirks.
A sculpture of a dead horse strung upside down, with Saint Wenceslas mounted on its belly: that’s the odd sight that greets visitors to Prague’s Lucerna Palace. In a city revered for its
Gothic beauty, this supine equine—with its tongue lolling out of its mouth and its tail
hanging lifelessly—catches most people off-guard. Yet its subject and placement are hardly
random: in 1999, artist David Cerny created it as a spoof of the right-side-up
Wenceslas horse sculpture nearby.
Typically, of course, monuments are built to commemorate a significant event or celebrate an
extraordinary life. But not all of them are heroic paeans to military victories; plenty, like
Cerny’s dead horse, tend toward the bizarre. Some are created to shock and disturb, while
others are meant to make a statement, tell a story, or just entertain. Still others have unknown
origins. Either way, these strange creations are often worth seeking out, as they can help visitors
get to know a place through its quirky traditions and local oddities.
Quirky tradition, in fact, is the entire reason that a number of travelers visit the Duke of
Wellington statue in Scotland. The monument itself is
so typical as to be unremarkable: a poised aristocrat rides atop a regal steed. But for the last 20
years it has been a magnet for pranksters, who scale the statue most nights to top the
nobleman’s head with traffic cones. Though it started as a weekend prank for locals wandering
home after a few drinks, the coning of the Duke soon escalated into a year-round game.
But strange monuments can reflect a more serious side of history as well. Statues like Cerny’s horse in previously Communist countries are often meant to demonstrate the sense of humor that survived in spite of an oppressive regime. Others reconfigure Soviet-era relics to serve as a
reminder of the painful past, like the collection of cast-off Communist statues in Budapest’s
Memento Park. Not surprisingly, visitors here find an unending parade of grandiose monuments
saluting the red regime. But one of the park’s more unique pieces is a colossal pair of boots
standing alone on an even larger pedestal—a replica of what remained after a mob toppled a
27-foot-tall Stalin statue in 1956.
For some unconventional statues, sheer size is what sets it apart. And size was clearly the
point of the 131-foot-tall, 250-ton Genghis Khan statue unveiled in 2008 in the remote Mongolian
steppe. The stainless steel giant—an epic symbol of the rapidly growing Mongolian nationalist
movement—is visible from miles away.
Charge your camera batteries before visiting these monuments: You might need photographic
evidence to prove that they’re not just a figment of your jet-lagged mind.