Having finished with Dresden, we resumed our trip southwards to Prague, Czech Republic. The first thing we did upon our arrival there was not go through customs, since apparently they don’t care who visits their country or how long they stay. Weird.
Anyway, Prague was great!
Almost stereotypically Europey, Prague is a city of churches, canals, bridges, statues, roadside restaurants and absinthe parlours.
Pro tip: while Prague might be world-famous for its abundance of absinthe, apparently the vast majority of the products for sale here are, as some would put it, crap. Happily, we didn’t have to worry too much about getting scammed, since the green fairy is out of our price range anyway. Hooray?
We spent our first day here as we spend most of our first days, walking around the city to get a feel for the place and to bump into some of the big sights. These included:
A ginormous crowd of people waiting for a clock to strike. The clock in question is apparently the oldest surviving astrological clock or something like that. All I know is that when the clock struck, a model skeleton near its face rang the little bell it was holding, and it was neato.
A giant metronome that overlooks the city, ticking away at an incredibly slow but somehow calming 5 beats per minute. It sits where a giant statue of Stalin used to stand, and is undoubtedly a marked improvement on the previous installation.
A peacock standing on a bench. We ran into this guy (and about half a dozen others) while taking a shortcut through a park. We still have no idea why this courtyard was full of peacocks, which were incredibly tame but otherwise didn’t seem tied to it by anything in particular.
Of course, our walk wasn’t all strange timepieces and peacock sightings. Overall, Prague was peaceful and pleasant, well-preserved and charming. As mentioned above, it was almost too perfect: cobbled streets, accordion-playing buskers, statues, fountains, and cafes. We got turned around and ended up back in the main square more times than we dare admit, but we enjoyed every second of it.
The next day, we decided to take a train to the nearby town of Kutna Hora, which probably wouldn’t even be on the map if it weren’t for the totally awesome church made out of bones that you can find there. We’ll get to the BONE CHURCH in a second, but we have to let the excitement build a little before we do.
Kutna Hora itself is a pleasant, small town which suffers from the affliction of being about 45 minutes’ walking distance from its main train station. Seriously, who does that? Anyway, here’s what it looked like:
The view in the picture above is offered from a walkway leading to one of the town’s many churches, which, like pretty much everything in all of the Czech Republic, has an entrance fee.
Being the conniving rogues that we are, we snuck in at the tail end of a passing tour group. It was all right.
Now, on to the real reason anyone visits Kutna Hora: the BONE CHURCH.
Officially known as Sedlec Ossuary, the BONE CHURCH is a CHURCH made of BONES. Okay, so it’s not actually made of bones, there’s just a huge amount of them— 40,000 skeletons’ worth— in the crypt downstairs. The story runs that a jar of holy soil was sprinkled on the church grounds several hundred years ago, which resulted in many people wishing to be buried there. Having collected more bones than they knew what to do with, the church decided to do something useful with them and make a bunch of furniture and decorations out of them. The end result was this:
To put it simply, it was pretty metal. Note that in the lower-right corner of the family crest in the last picture, there is a human skeleton having his eye pecked out by a bird skeleton— except that both skeletons are made of human bones. Crazy. The giant pile o’ bones in the second picture was about eight feet across, and was just one of four. Like we said, they have a lot of bones.
The next day we opted for something a little less macabre, and visited Prague Castle.
Touted as the largest extant ancient castle in the world or somesuch, Prague Castle is a large walled complex of buildings, and as you might have guessed, a huge tourist attraction. Tickets were rather expensive, and there were about 500 different variations for sale, each of which granted you entrance to some subset of the Castle’s features (but never all of them— that was guaranteed to take at least two tickets). We went for the cheapest option, which turned out to be more than enough. It included entry to a church, basilica, part of the palace, and an alleyway with a grab-bag of features. Even with a ticket, you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside certain areas without purchasing an additional permit, so needless to say we don’t have footage of some of these places.
The inside of the church. One of the grander examples we’ve been in, though to be honest they’re all starting to blend together in our memories.
The other area of note inside the castle was found in the aforementioned alleyway. It was a showcase of medieval weapons and armour, some of which we had a hard time believing were for realsies.
If the bird armour wasn’t enough, check out this collection of totally practical weapons:
Yes, you are looking at a gun, a gun-sword, a gun-axe, and off to the left, a gun-spear. Apparently people went through this phase where they thought that pretty much everything would be better with a gun attached to it. There was even a gun shield on display.
With the castle under our belts, we had one sight left to see: Charles Bridge, one of Prague’s most well-known landmarks. Though it’s only one of many bridges that span the Vltava river, it is the oldest and most ornate. Naturally, it is often obscenely crowded and covered with street vendors, caricature painters, and buskers.
You may have noticed the ominous clouds in the second picture above. Our fellow tourists noticed them, too, which is partially why the bridge was relatively empty at the time of our visit. But we had planned to see the city at night, and weren’t about to be scared away by the threat of a storm.
Long story short, we got rained on. It was totally worth it, though.
Prague was a great experience that was only somewhat marred by its high degree of tourism. Next, we’ll be visiting the town of Ceske Budejovice, where we’ll likely have the opposite problem.
The Eh Team