San Francisco, California is famous for having a large number of unusual things to do and see.
In tourist shops in San Francisco, Lombard Street is famous for being the 'crookedest street in the world'1. It is really a fairly normal street2 in the northern area of the city's peninsula. It runs from the northeast side of the city eventually to meet the Golden Gate Bridge.
What's really interesting is the stretch inbetween the intersections where it meets Hyde and Leavenworth streets. Leavenworth is at the bottom (where the best view is) and Hyde is up at the top. At a 40 degree slant, this section is one of the steepest parts of San Francisco, going over Russian Hill.
The street winds sharply and is paved in red brick, providing a nice view of the city. Looking towards Leavenworth, west, one can see Coit Tower4 clearly. There are many beautiful (and expensive) houses on each side, with chrysanthemums and other flowers (during much of the year) inbetween the homes and the street. What with the road, flowers and houses, the sight of this section of Lombard Street is very colourful.
The entire street is one-way only, going from the top of the hill down - going east to west. In order to go through Lombard Street, you have to drive to the top at Hyde Street and then through the slow traffic (and there is quite a lot - not so much because Lombard is a major street but because people enjoy the novelty of going through the curves5). Some garage driveways also feed into the street's curves. There is a set of stairs on either side of the street that provide a good, more gradually-observable view of the street and scenery.
The street was built with eight sharp curves because it is so very steep. If someone were to go down a straight street at that angle, it would be dangerous, so the curves prevent anyone from reaching a speed that could hurt or kill a driver. It would have been especially difficult to go down such a street when it was built in the mid-1920s, when automobile technology was rather basic in parking and slowing and preventing plummeting.
Luckily, the street isn't nearly large enough to park on - if it was there could be many accidents with tourists who are unaware of the common procedures involved in parking on a steep San Francisco street.
Our thanks to Tav-Dad for the photograph.