City of Churches and Bones

Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
Trip End Dec 14, 2015

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Central Bohemian Region,
Monday, October 7, 2013

Howdy folks,

Having pounded the pavement in Prague for two consecutive days, it was time to mix things up a bit. We considered taking an organised bus tour to Kutna Hora which would take 5 hours and cost 52€, but we figured we could do it cheaper alone! We bought our train tickets the day before and return for two people cost only 342CZK or 13.50€. Not bad! It is a pity that the Deutsche Bahn isn't so cheap.

Because we wanted to have an early start, it meant having to rush around a bit which I am never too fond of. After a short breakfast with Ota, we paced our way to the metro station and just made the next train to Prague (they come every 5 minutes anyway). After making our transfer to Praha hlavní nádraží (main station), we still had 15 minutes to wait until our train came! Better earlier than late. Praha hl.n is quite modern inside although the outside walls are crumbling down and partly under renovation. Definitely no Grand Central Station!

With the internet, it is quite easy to find out this sort of information without trawling through a guidebook or pamphlets for different options. Usually travelling through Eastern Europe is supposed to be cheaper, so we thought we could give it a go. Being in the Czech Republic isn't too difficult to navigate as we had our own map and most signs in trains or restaurants are stated in English and Czech. Good for us!

The train journey took an hour and was on an old Soviet style commuter train with individual cabins and sliding doors which definitely made it quieter. We had plenty of time to enjoy the countryside after our tickets were stamped. There were a few other tourists who got out at Kutna Hora hl.n. It was a bit of a walk from the station back into town, but we are used to that.

Our first stop was at the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady which was impressive looking from the outside and from the inside even more so. It was lined with different, ornately carved confessional boxes, different shrines and even a few paintings. Normally the day trippers don't get to see this, so we felt special.

Just up the road is the Sedlec Ossuary, together with the towns churches, are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Kutna Hora has a long history of silver mining dating back to the 13th Century and was once the producer of 1/3 of the silver in Europe. Today Kutna Hora and Sedlec seem to be milking the tourists which come to visit the churches of its glory years which have long past. Nevertheless, it was good to see something different.

The Sedlec Ossuary or the Bone Church is probably the main reason people come here. It is a graveyard chapel decorated with the bones of between 40-70,000 people. Nobody really knows exactly, but I had a weird feeling about the whole place. First of all the graveyard is pretty small and the chapel in the middle looks more like a nuclear bunker with pieces of concrete lying around which have fallen off. Just outside the front concrete wall is where all the tourist´buses drop off their load to mingle around, take 100 photos then leave again. It was all just a bit tacky and given that it wasn't maintained properly, a little disappointing.

Inside we had our tickets stamped and grabbed an English guidesheet. It was a little better once the tour bus had left because we had some room to move around the place. Apparently in 1870 a woodcarver named František Rint was employed by the Family Schwarzenberg to organise all the piles of bones that had been collected in the crypt. In each four corners, stood huge piles of human bones and in the middle there is a candelabra made from all the different bones in the body surrounded by four candle sticks. In the corner is the Family Crest made out of bones and nearby is a place where people throw small coins for luck. It was something more like a horror movie set than anything else. There was no sense of death or foreboding or explanation about how so many bodies came to be here other than the Black Death and the Hussite Wars.

And that was about it. There was a tiny chapel above with a few chairs, but for so much fame the place was disappointing. There was no respect for the dead, just money to be made. I guess that is life these days. Different cultures have different values and traditions surround death and dying.

For us, it was time to keep moving and we walked into Kutna Hora. Because we didn't have a proper map, I managed to get us a little lost, but we found the town square in the end after climbing up through the Italian Court Gardens. We had a Döner Kebap for lunch which was terrible and here is a hint: when the woman has to turn on the rotisserie and touch the meat after 2 minutes to see if it has warmed up, then it probably not a good idea. Thankfully we didn't have any food poisoning!

After looking out over the gardens once more, we headed around to St Barbara's Cathedral along a cobblestone street with plenty of statues lining it. Also present were a Czech film crew who seemed to be filming in the building next door although we couldn't work out what! We walked completely around before we found the entrance and inside we weren't disappointed. High ceilings and dark wooded altars gave the place a unique feel and it was just as impressive from outside. The flying butresses were quite different and you could tell that the church had been built out of the prosperity of the city.

Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to get back to our train in time and ended up catching a local bus which cost around 1€ for both of us. We caught the next one at 3:45pm and had to switch at neighbouring Kolin which caused some confusion as the train schedules were a little hard to read! Nevertheless we made it back into Prague by 5pm and caught the metro to where we were planning on having dinner. Anděl in Prague 5 seems to be where the locals hang out, go shopping or to a restaurant, but it was too early for us.

We caught the tram up towards the castle because we had been planning on going up the Bergbahn to get one last look over the city. Sadly it was closed, but we had a good time walking along Kampa Island. The island was full of local art which I always like including some interactive pieces. Back in Anděl, we went to a local restaurant which was recommended to us by our Banff friend Lenka called Restaurace Kozlovna. The beers were good although my goulash was a little salty. Steffie ordered a platter which was pretty good as well. The bill came out to 399CZK or 16€ for 2 people!

On the way back Steffie wanted to check out the local supermarket which just happened to be a Tesco, a British owned Walmart style supermarket. We had a look around and bought some local beers and went back to the B&B to have a chat with the Polish couple who were upstairs.

I call that a successful day!
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