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Kutná Hora

A day trip from Prague

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This is a really cute little town about an hour outside of Prague and a really great day trip out of the city. We went with a tour company during our stay in Prague and it was definitely worth it. The town itself is really interesting and has a great history, but the most famous site is the ossuary – the bone chapel.

It was definitely the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a small chapel just outside the town which was built on the site of former mass graves from the plague and the Hussite wars. The bones were piled up and a few hundred years later a very eccentric German just had to organize them. The Sedlec Ossuary is the result. There are towers, chalices, coats of arms, pyramids, a chandelier, and all kinds of other religious symbols built entirely out of human bones. The whole thing is very creepy, but if you get the chance Kutná Hora is really worth seeing. There’s also a really beautiful gothic cathedral there.

Kutná Hora used to be the site of a massive silver mining operation, and of course most of the money went into the cathedral, so it’s very extravagant. Being in Europe, though, the construction was interrupted several times by various wars and by the time they finished fighting and had the chance to finish building the church, they had spent all the money on war, so it was cut short – literally. It’s very small, and there’s a huge open space behind it, which is now a park, where you can tell they probably had plans to continue construction.

Even if you’re not into all the weird religious things about Europe, the town has an interesting history and is a very idyllic taste of small-town Europe. It was really great for us since we’ve been spending most of our time in cities. There are lots of beautiful, old, buildings which are all very fancy because of the wealth brought to the city by the mines. One that was really interesting is a house where a guy had “private” mines underneath, so he could steal the silver and not pay any taxes on it. Because of all the mines under the city, it’s becoming a little unstable. One of the other main churches there is starting to sink into the ground, most likely because of the mines and tunnels underneath it. Also, a couple of years ago a huge piece of the ground in the main square of the city caved in. The open spaces which are now “squares” in the town are former entrances to the mines, so it was probably to be expected eventually. They’re glad it didn’t happen about 10 metres to the east, though, where there’s a huge monument.

All the history and architecture was really interesting, but the best part of the tour was the lunch break. We went to a restaurant call Dačicky and it was delicious. We’ve really been enjoying Czech food anyway, but here it was really, really great. Our tour guide grew up in Prague and he said it’s his favourite restaurant in the country. They have all the traditional Czech dishes and a really good house beer with the same name as the restaurant. Everything was pretty cheap and the service was great, which I’ve found to be quite unusual for Europe. Czech food is really delicious, which was a great surprise. It’s got a lot of meat but not just pork. Duck, goose, rabbit, venison, and even veal are pretty common, and there’s a lot less cheese and salty sauces than Slovak food. Unfortunately there’s still quite a bit of sauerkraut, but still less than in Germany and Austria.

Kutná Hora is a really nice town and being only an hour away from Prague it makes for a perfect day trip out of the city. It was a perfect way to get away from the crowds (which I’m still not used to) for a day, learn a lot about Czech history, and eat some of the best Czech food there is. Besides one other tour group there were only a few people out and about in the town, it was really peaceful. It would be worth the 2 hour return trip anyway, I think, just for lunch if you’re in Prague and don’t really care for creepy monuments built out of human bones. There are really great little towns like this one with a lot to offer all over Europe, but this is one that’s definitely worth checking out.


Here are the pictures.

Posted by kmclean 20:26 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged food prague christmas czech chapel hora bone ossuary kutna dacicky Comments (0)

Prague

New Year's Eve and a wonderful week in a beautiful city

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This was another great city. We spent a week here over New Year’s; I can’t imagine a better place to have celebrated New Year’s Eve. It’s a really beautiful city and very European. Lots of character, old buildings, and history. Over the week I feel like we got a good feel for the city, having the chance to see most of it. We did a walking tour the first day to get oriented and spent some time at the castle and in each of the other quarters of the city. Each district has a unique feel with lots to offer. We enjoyed the Christmas markets and the concerts, and were pleasantly surprised by Czech food. We also took a day trip to Kutna Hora to see the ossuary. It was definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Prague was an amazing city, with great food, beer, people, entertainment, and culture. So far it’s definitely up there as one of the best cities we’ve visited.

We arrived in the evening on boxing day and spent the next day touring the city. We did a general walking tour and walking tour of the Prague Castle. It’s the biggest medieval castle in the world and it has some great cathedrals and basilicas. I can’t say enough good things about these tours. It’s only a couple of hours and you get a great overview of the history and culture of the city, see the highlights within walking distance and can usually get some great recommendations for other things to do from the guides. Now it’s usually the way we start our visit to any city.

The second day we spent the day seeing more of the sites – the Charles Bridge, the oldest synagogue in the world, the New Town, and in the evening we saw the Nutcracker at the National Theatre. After seeing the highlights of Prague, we left for a day trip on our third day in the city. We went to Kutná Hora on a tour with the same company we did our walking tour with. It’s a really beautiful little town about an hour outside of Prague with an extravagant gothic cathedral and a really great restaurant, but what it’s most famous for is the “bone chapel”.

The next day we also spent just touring around the city. It was a Sunday so we didn’t plan to do much, but it turns out Sunday is just another day in the Czech Republic. The country is mostly atheist, so I should have figured, but everything was open and running as usual; the stores don’t even have reduced hours on Sundays. It was really nice change compared to Germany where you can’t find a coffee shop that’s open at 9:00 am on a Monday and entire cities shut down for an entire day every week. We ended up heading up past the castle and seeing a “miniature museum” in the monastery complex up there. It’s a collection of small – really small – artwork and objects made by a Siberian guy with a lot of time on his hands. There’s a picture of Jesus on half a poppy seed and a caravan of camels inside the eye of a needle, also the smallest book in the world is there, among other things. It was a fun way to kill some time during the day, and in the evening we went to see Carmen at the State Opera. So far that was the most beautiful performing arts venue we’ve been to. It’s very extravagant.

We saw a couple of other concerts the next day. It was New Year’s Eve, so during the day we went to a concert in a palace at the castle and then a show at the last minute inside one of the basilicas up there. Both were classical music. I love cities like Prague where there’s classical music playing anywhere, any time of the day, all over the city. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out around the castle before we went out to supper for New Year’s Eve. We spent the night at a restaurant called Lvi Dvur. The food was excellent but the portions were tiny, and it was rather expensive, but what can you expect on New Year’s Eve. It was definitely worth it, though; there was a band, fireworks from their terrace, and they gave us champagne at midnight. It was definitely a New Year’s Eve I’ll never forget.

We didn’t do a whole lot on our last day in the city. Just walked around, picked up some souvenirs, and saw the “official” fireworks show at 6:00 pm. I don’t know why the city had their fireworks show in the evening on New Year’s Day. I guess all the restaurants and people fire their own fireworks on New Year’s Eve, so this way it doesn’t get interrupted as much, maybe. Either way, we made it up to the castle just in time and saw a great show.

It’s sad to be leaving the city after such an amazing week, but there’s still a lot to see so I guess it’s time to move on. It’s nice to stay so long in one place once in a while, you really get a feel for the city and start to figure your way around. The only reason it’s not my favourite is that it’s very touristy. There are shops around every corner full of mugs, magnets, t-shirts, crystal, glass, absinthe, and everything else. It’s also very crowded, but that happens this time of year. It probably isn’t so bad most of the time.

Of all the cities we’ve been to so far, this one is probably the most “European”. It’s got great music and theatre, beautiful architecture, amazingly rich history, good food, and friendly people. On top of that it’s very cheap and well connected. It has some of the oldest and biggest buildings in Europe and the world and a lot of really recognizable sites. If someone could only visit one city and wanted to experience Europe, this would be the place to go. I hope we get the change to come back someday.

Here are some pictures.

Posted by kmclean 20:24 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague eastern christmas castle europe czech concerts republic hora kutna Comments (2)

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