Prague Day 5: Kutna Hora and Mother Russia

One of the things that I like most about Prague is that it’s like this weird time capsule/melting pot. Every morning when I get up it’s like time has literally stood still.

I look out the window and it could be 1348 or 2015…..but this morning it is 2015 and I know that because once again I’ve not been able to sleep a complete night and I’ve watched the minutes tick by on my iPhone.

This morning we plan on touring Kutna Hora, a mining town to the south east of Prague. There we plan on seeing the Bone Chapel and St Barbara’s Cathedral as well as the Italian Court.

As per usual we start our morning with a bit of cereal, eggs, and large amounts of coffee. Every single morning I look at the hot dogs and bakes beans and wonder who in the world eats this for breakfast and every single morning someone grabs a large portion from the chafing dish……why this should perplex me so bad I have no idea but for some reason it just does.

And yes those are supposed to be ‘scrambled’ eggs.

Our tour company will come to collect us at 12:30 so again we have a whole morning to wander around and find things to do to pass the time. Surprisingly our feet aren’t too sore in the mornings considering how much we have walked. We each brought multiple pairs of shoes so that made things easier. I packed 2 pairs of boots (1 pair of Hunter rain boots that were the best $158 I ever spent, and 1 pair of Naturalizer books which also held up well)…..I never once wore the tennis shoes I brought, walking on cobblestones demanded the ankle support of boots so if you are heading to Europe, I recommend a boot rather than a sneaker.

Sam on the other hand…..his feet weren’t ‘sore’ but the first day where we walked 27,000 steps, he wore his Nike Free’s and the top of his foot was swollen and it ‘hurt’, not ‘sore’ but ‘hurt’…..and by the 4th day I was ready to saw his foot off in the night if it would save me from listening to his complaining about it one more day. He never wore his sneakers again after the first day but instead wore his boots which provided ankle support and a thick sole to absorb the impact of walking on uneven cobblestones. So again…I recommend boots with a thick sole for guys and girls if you are going to be walking a lot on uneven pavement.

A coffeea and a trdelník kind of morning

After breakfast we decided to explore our neighborhood and maybe check out the KGB Museum that was right down the street from our hotel and supposedly opened at 9 am. When we arrived at the KGB Museum it was 9:15 and it was still closed.

So we walked down to get a coffee and another trdelník which took a grand total of 30 minutes. We had our coffee outside since it was marginally warm out that morning and then decided to walk back to the museum…..by now it’s like almost 10 and it’s still closed.

All you need is love. Us in front of the John Lennon Wall

At this point we decide to just wander around the neighborhood and just see where we end up. As we walk along the cobblestone streets we turn a corner and we see the John Lennon Wall. This wall was a source of great irritation during the Communist rule, particularly in the 1980’s leading up to the Velvet Revolution.

The wall is full of Beetles lyrics, poetry, and art…..it’s very colorful and oddly enough smaller than I was expecting. Not that I thought it would look like the Berlin Wall or anything, I just thought it would be larger some how.

Around the corner from there was a bridge with hundred of pad locks. Each lock had names, initials, and dates on them…..it’s not like there is a sign anywhere saying ‘hey this is what this means’ so honestly Sam and I had no idea what we were looking at any why people were taking pics of this strange monument but hey f it, why not a selfie?!

Me in front of the love locks

Throughout the rest of our visit we did see a lot of pad locks on random things and locations throughout the city and even in Germany. Later when I got back to the hotel, I Googled it and apparently its a rising trend in Europe…..couples have their names or initials or wedding date engraved on padlocks and put them on special places to represent the bond they have made. They are called ‘love locks‘…..seems a little ‘ball and chain’ to me butI guess I can see how it would be symbolic as well.

So after wandering around Mala Strana for the better part of the morning, we headed back to the KGB Museum to see if it was open now since it was like 10:45. When we got there it was open but the guy said he couldn’t do a tour until 11:15 and that it would take about 1.50 hours to get through. So we thanked him and said we could come back. We were able to see inside a little and it looked cool….small but cool…..however the price was 350 CZK (about $14.00 per person). Basically we didn’t think it looked that cool so we decided to bag it unless we had time later on during our visit.

More form the John Lennon Wall

So we returned to our hotel to have yet more coffee and wait for our tour company to pick us up. Before we left the front desk asked if we would consider moving rooms. Apparently they are doing some construction on their hotel and it would be easier for them to move us to another room.

We agreed and promised to move to another room when we returned from the tour in the evening. The hotel manager said we would have the same size room but it would be on the second floor and would have a view of the city. YES PLEASE.

The driver arrived right on time and took us to the typical meet up spot where we would again be part of a larger group. We boarded the small bus and the guide told us that we would be having a duel language tour……half in Russian and half in English.

Sam and I were like wait wait wait wait……we don’t speak Russian!!! She said she would do the tour in both English and Russian for us. Apparently this guide spoke English, Czech, Russian, and German all fairly flawlessly! Our guide from the day before to Terezin spoke English, Russian, Czech, German, Spanish, and Italian. I am literally in awe of how well these people speak multiple languages and know multiple cultures. I feel lucky to know English and elementary Spanish let alone be fluent enough in 4+ languages to do bilingual tours!

Sedlec Ossuary exterior (Bone Church exterior) it was also being renovated/cleaned

As promised the drive did conduct the tour bilingually…..thankfully she would do the English version first and then would switch to Russian which was actually kind of cool because there were a few words in Russian that I was able to pull out from the translation.

So we arrived at Kutna Hora in about 30 minutes. It was first established as a monestary in 1142 and later in 1260 it became a mining town when silver was discovered in the mountain regions of the town. Kutna Hora rivaled Prague in economic importance. The Italian Court was establish which was the center of economic power in Bohemia, it contained the royal mint and was the royal residence when the king would visit the silver mines in Kutna Hora.

Kutna Hora is also home to St Barbara’s Cathedral which is one of the most famous gothic style church in all of Europe. Construction began in 1388 but was not actually deemed ‘complete’ until 1905.

Entrance to the Bone Chapel

It is an interesting church to walk through…..the outside spires and even the nave are done in traditional high gothic style, while there are original frescoes from the 14th century on a few walls and private chapels, some of the stained glass windows and chapels are done in art nouveau style while others are grand examples of baroque art and architecture the next chapel over. So basically the church represents multiple styles of art and architecture.

The first place we stopped on our tour was Sedlec Ossuary or ‘the Bone Chapel’. It is estimated to contain the bones of 40,000-70,000 people. The bones have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The large chandelier that you can’t miss when you enter, contains at least one of every bone in the human body.

Ok so why the f would someone make a chapel entirely out of bones?!?! That’s what you are asking right?? Besides being completely macabre and creepy, it’s oddly fascinating and beautiful. I was in complete awe over the detailing and beauty of the design.  But again……why?!?!

The chandelier made using every bone in the human body

In 1278 the Cemetery of All Saints was established after an abbot returned from the Holy Lands and deemed this location a holy burial ground. It was a popular burial location in Europe at the time. Then, in the 14th century during the Black Death and after the Hussite Wars of the 15th century, the ossuary was basically used as a ‘mass grave’.

In the early 15th century, the gothic style church was built, the Cemetery Church of All Saints. In the 16th century, a half blind monk was given the lovely task of exhuming the bones and doing ‘something’ with it.

Well it wasn’t until 1870 that someone actually DID something with the bones. František Rint was hired by the Schwarzenberg family to do something with the mass grave…….well seeing as how the Victorian age was a time for macabre obsessions, voila we have the Bone Chapel.

Schwarzenberg family crest made from bones

The Bone Chapel was absolutely FREEZING. I walked in and I could see my breath but I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting feeling for the crypt. It was PERFECT! Entering it was surreal…..the skulls and bones that cover every corner or the chapel are oddly beautiful and intriguing.

It really makes you wonder who all these people were and what life must have been like. It was actually smaller than I was expecting. From the outside it looked like it was going to be much larger, but just because it was small didn’t make it any less impressive.

My absolute favorite display was the Schwarzenberg family coat of arms made out of bones…..the chandelier was stunning but it was the coat of arms that captured my heart. Sadly we only had about 20 minutes at the Bone Church, while it was plenty of time to look at everything, I could easily have spent much longer there staring at the displays of bones.

More from the Bone Church

Out next stop was St Barbara’s Church, which as I have said was an interesting church to look at. There were so many different art and architectural styles that it was a real treat. Well when we got back in the bus it was actually pretty warm outside and in the bus.

So I decided to take my jacket off and leave it in the bus…..I figured I would be ok because we were going to a cathedral so I would be inside and I had a long sweater on so I didn’t think I would be cold. Well the second we step off the bus, the driver takes off and I immediately want my jacket.

More from the Bone Church

We walked down to the church entrance and apparently there is only one way in and out of the church.

As we are trying to make our way in, a large group of Asian tourists are trying to make their way out. So I am literally standing there with the door open and watching one Asian after the other exit the church. I can’t get in and I can’t move….I am literally stuck holding the door for every single one.

Once we make it inside the church where I hope it will be marginally warm, I discover that heating a 500 year old church made of stone is just not something that’s done anywhere in the world……it’s colder inside the church than it is outside. Sam offered me his jacket but I was too pissed off at myself to accept it…..after all I didn’t want the Russians looking at me like you stupid American why didn’t you bring your jacket!

Entrance at St Barbara’s

So I decide to tough it out…..besides I thought our guide would pick us up to take us to the Italian Court so I could get my jacket then. Our guide took us through the entire church and pointed out all the different styles of art and architecture….again in English and Russian however the Russians had a lot of questions about the church and Sam and I were more interested in our selfie stick and taking pics than hearing about every single period in the church’s history.

Though the parts that were in English were very interesting and informative. A lot of the paintings in the church contained miners since mining was vital to the community for many years. I thought that was very interesting…..some of the statues that would normally be to saints were actually made as miners.

The nave of St Barbara’s

After about 30 minutes in the church we left and I figured we would be going back to the bus…..wrong. Our guide informed me that we would be walking to the Italian Court and taking a 1.50 hour tour through there. Still I refuse Sam’s jacket because I am just pissed.

We walked down an original medieval road and pass the Church of St James (1330) that was being renovated and on to the Italian Court. When we arrived at the Italian Court, I was completely frozen but again….refused Sam’s jacket. The tour guide only spoke English and Czech so the Russian family had to read along on a Russian hand out for our tour.

Sam outside of St Barbara’s

The Italian Court was really interesting…..I am normally not really into minting or coin but seeing where the workers would actually make the coin…..by hand…..for the entire country to use…..was very interesting.

The palace itself was full of historic info, though out guide spoke English, she was hard to understand at times. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the buildings, but let me just say the chapel was one of the best art nouveau examples I’ve ever seen….stunning.

Back side of St Barbara’s

The colors were beautiful. I enjoyed the Italian Court much more than I had expected. I did feel bad for the Russians though because they seemed completely lost and uninterested in the tour…..I would suspect due to language barriers.

After that we completed our tour, our bus was still no where in sight and the wind was picking up. Out original guide told us that we had about 45 min to kill before the driver came back to take us home, so the Russians grabbed dinner from a pizzeria close by while Sam and I preferred to keep moving….me so I could stay warm and Sam so he could take more pictures. We did actually grab some ice cream to tide us over until we got back to the city where we could eat dinner.

Our driver was there right on time and took us all back to town. Thankful to have my jacket, as I sat down it suddenly hit me……I’m tired.

The court yard at the Italian Court

The bus dropped us off by Old Town Square as per usual, at about 5:45. So rather than head immediately for our hotel guess what we did……ya you guessed it, we walked around and took more night pics. So this was the only night that I was like….Sam if you take one more picture I am going to kill you. I was hungry, cold, and suddenly very very tried.

But like a good wife, I waited patiently for him to take every single photo that he wanted and honestly, he took some AMAZING shots with the traffic whizzing by in front of the castle at night….stunning Sammy, really! So once Sam had gotten ‘the shot’ we decided that we better move our room and then eat since the second I sit down and eat, I won’t want to do anything.

Original 14th century frescos at St Barbara’s

We arrived just as the manager was off work, so he showed us to our new room which was up the scariest and narrowest flight of stairs that I have ever seen. Thank GOD we only packed a carry on size suit case because God damn there was no way I could have lugged 50 lbs of luggage up that stair case and I’m in decent shape! So we literally stuffed our shit into our bags and made the move. Getting the suitcases up the narrow ass stairs was interesting and I knew immediately that it was only a matter of time before I ate shit going down those bad boys.

The most delicious and probably fattening pizza I’ve ever had

We had diner at the pizzeria across the street from the hotel again because let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with cheese pizza. Let me just say, their 4 cheese pizza was like sex on bread……munster cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese (no it wasn’t gross and it probably kept me from getting sick), and mozzarella cheese melted to perfection on a soft pillowy crust…..pure love. I gained 50 lbs just looking at that cheesy deliciousness and I didn’t even care because that would become my favorite meal from that night on. DELICIOUS.

After eating we made the hike to our new hotel room and crashed. The next two days were our free days so there was no need to get up ‘early’ or ‘be somewhere’ on time so we hoped that we could get rid of some of our jet lag by sleeping in a little. After removing my boots and checking my pedometer (22,500 steps or 4+ miles), I finally admit that my feet are feeling quite fatigued….but it’s more my keens that are doing me in from all the uneven pavement, stairs, and walking…..I literally feel like I’m 100 years old right now.

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