Bones and Silver…
After a maintenance check on the bike (tightening the chain again!), we left the beautiful city of Vienna making tracks towards the small medieval town of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic, the journey is less than 300kms, just just a short ride today, thankfully as the weather was not in our favour again. (hope the rest of Europe does not dish out this ghastly weather!).
Once out of Vienna we were back riding through the beautiful green country side, passing through small towns and villages along the way.
In the distance we could make out a couple of small tatty buildings on either side of the road, these must be the old border control huts at Hatě, Znojmo, Wahoo our next country, the Czech Republic…
No checks at the border for us, not even a half hearted glance at our passports!
We pull up at a petrol station right near the checkpoint and put on our waterproofs, we’re heading into some rain by the looks of it..
A few minutes of arriving in the Czech Republic we came a cross a strange site, Excalibur City a theme park in the middle of the country side, it seemed an odd place for it, feeling curious and in need stretching our legs we rode into the car park and found the perfect spot to park, under the wing of a plane, where else would we park? ha ha
Our undercover bike spot is a decomissioned plane is a Illuschin UK-62, which is now a diner, the colourful paintwork was designed by artist Ernst Fuchs, one of the founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism!
Taking a look around we found lots of restaurants, shops and rides for the young ones, it was a great place and not what we expected as soon as we crossed the border.
That was a bizarre place, right out in the middle of nowhere…
The rain was now relentless and depressing and it was getting very cold, we stop to fill up on fuel, while paying i noticed that the fuel shop had a little cafe, and in need of warming up i wave to Clive to park up and come in, we both were cold, and in need of a warm drink, the Hot Chocolate was pretty good and we weren’t too keen to get back on the bike, we would have been quite happy to stay in the warm cafe, the shop assistants didn’t seem to mind we were forming great puddles underneath our seats from our soggy clothes, on using the cafes Wi-Fi we found that we were not that far for where we had to go, so back on with our wet gear and on the bike, we set off in the pouring rain towards Kutna hora.
Within minutes of arriving in Kutna Hora we found Hotel U Kata, while Clive unloaded the bike i checked in…
Our room was large, so lots of space to spread out, with our ever faithful mini kettle (that we purchased in India) we made a cup of tea, which was just what we needed as we were both still feeling cold.
After a hot shower we decided to make the most of the afternoon, as thankfully the rain had eased off so we could now go off and explore for a while.
Kutná Hora developed as a result of the exploitation of the silver mines and reached its climax in the 14th and 15th centuries when the city became one of the richest places in Europe…its built above the steep descent of the Vrchlice Creek, in the Kutna Hora plateau, 254 m above sea level and about 60 km east of Prague.
Walking up the cobbled streets past the charming old coloured terraced houses and shops was peaceful, just a few locals going about there daily chores, it hard not to get swept up in the charm of these old building, as we continued up the hill towards the town square…
There were lots of tiny cobbled ally-ways branching off the main streets, some going down and some up towards St. Barbaras church, we decided not to go up to the church as daylight was slipping away, plus it has started to rain again also the cobbled stones were getting slippery, so we carefully walked back to our hotel.
Some amazing smells were coming from the hotel restaurant so we decided to eat in…
OMG the meals were gigantic Clive had two whole wheels of Camberet on top of his huge chicken breast, Clive really struggled, but managed to finish the lot.
While enjoying a drink after dinner, a young man approached us and asked us if the bike in the court yard was ours as he had been looking at the map on one of the side boxes, we said it was our bike, he interduced himself as Jakub and wanted to buy us another drink as he was so impressed with our trip, he told us that he has plans to do a trip one day but needs a suitable bike.
Jakub was very passionate about his home town of Kutna Hora, that he wanted to take us for a walk to show us the delights of the town at night, even though it was raining, how could we refuse such enthusiasm.
After quickly retrieving our coats and my now very useful umbrella we head out into the dark softly light streets, there was barely anyone around, it was so quiet, except for the gentle rhythm of the rain coming down around us.
Jakub told us that not many tourists stay in Kutna Hora, as they all stay in Prague and come here for day trips, from what we have seem so far i think the tourists are missing out big time.
We head up town towards the silver mine which was discovered in the 13th century, the mine brought great wealth to the town and the royal mint was established in 1300, Kutná Hora then started producing the Prague groschen coins, thus becoming the second most important town in the Kingdom of Bohemia, in the 14th century many new buildings were built as a result of the wealth of the town-residential houses, churches, one of the country’s most significant monasteries, and the majestic Church of St. Barbara, when fires damaged or destroyed many of Kutná Hora’s buildings but the town was quickly rebuilt thanks to the income from silver mining.
The silver mines were depleted in the 16th century, and Kutná Hora’s wealth took a sharp decline as did the growth of the town. The miners average ‘life’ age was 35, thats very sad.
Walking in the dark and up the wet cobbled path we came to a magnificent building- St. Barbara’s Church (Chrám sv. Barbory) my its spectacular, i could just imagine that it looks even better in the day light, we took a few photos and left, we’ll be back tomorrow afternoon for sure.
Today our plan is to walk the Ossuary / Kostnice (Bone Church), we have always wanted to come here since we saw it on ‘The long Way Round’ documentary by Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor and finally today we were going to see it for ourselves.
We decided not to take the motorbike as the ‘Bone Church’ was only about fifteen minutes away from our hotel and the skies were blue with just patches of black dotted about.
The old Catholic Church is surrounded by a huge brick wall, we walk up the old cobbled path and decide not to go straight in to the church as a bus load of tourists had just turned up, so we took a walk around the small cramped graveyard first.
A little information on the Church:
There are over 40,000 bodies bones here! You may wonder how all these bodies bones ended up being craved in a small chapel, well it all goes back to 1278 when the King of Bohemia sent the Abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem, the abbot came back with a jar of soil from the Golgotha, that was known as the “Holy Soil”, and sprinkled it on the cemetery surrounding the Chapel of All Saints.
This direct association with the holy land led to the graveyard becoming a sought after burial site among the aristocracy of Central Europe, and after thirty years of war in the 17th century, the number of burials outgrew the space available, the older remains had to be exhumed and stored in the chapel.
An Urban myth has it that a monk went mad and made objects from the bones, and there are stories to suggest that partially blind monks entrusted with the care of the chapel were the first to begin piling the bones into geometric shapes!
But we also heard that the decorations and sculptures were created though by a woodcarver named František Rint. In 1870, and he was commissioned by the landowners of the time, the Schwarzenberg family, to decorate the chapel with the bones and create a reminder of the impermanence of human life and inescapable death.
It will cost you 40K (AU $2) entrance fee, not too sure where the bus load of tourists were but there weren’t too many people inside the church.
This place is amazing, totally bizarre bone ‘bunting’ hangs from the domed roof like Christmas decorations, and tall bone and skull pyramids are presented in the middle of the church, there was even a family crest made up of various bones, the centre piece for me was the chandelier, Undeniably brilliant, theres so much ‘art’ here in this special little Church.
The Church was now getting busy, i think a few coaches have pulled up, thats our exit! but not before we take a quick peek upstairs at the chapel that still holds regular Mass.
On the way back to the hotel we decide to make a quick stop at the supermarket to get some stuff for lunch, when we get out of the shop the ground outside was soaking wet, looks like we missed that down pour.
After lunch we head back up into the old town through Palackeho Square and up to St Barbara’s church, its as stunning in daylight as it was last evening.
The UNESCO-listed Church of St. Barbara is a monumental Gothic church consecrated to St. Barbara, patron saint of miners.
Its an exceptional building is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture, symbolises the power and importance of the mining city, which is linked to deposits of silver ore.
Building started in 1388 and after 500 years (construction was stopped several times during this period) it was completed in 1905 with a Neo-Gothic restoration.
The roof has a unique design with a three-tent roof that reminds me of a circus tent and intricate flying buttresses make it a show piece.
The cathedral sits at the top of the town proudly over looking everything below it.
I have to say this is one of the most beautiful churches we have ever seen, after walking around the outside trying to capture it by camera proved hard to get the whole building in.
We found a bench in the beautiful manicured gardens and admire this stunning church and its peaceful surroundings.
On the way back to the hotel we take another look at this pretty little town…
The tourists that just come here for a few hours on a day visit from Prague are missing out on a beautiful place, Kutna Hora is well worth more than a hurried visit. We have a very long list now of places we would like to revisit…
After another wonderful dinner and beer at the hotel…We went for the same meal again! yet again fantastic- we then turn in for an early night, as we have a big day of walking tomorrow, we are heading into the city of Prague by train…