Czech-ing In!

Czech Republic, Feature, Travelogue — By on March 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

After a brief stop in Bratislava we rolled into Prague in the Czech Republic, a place I was quite looking forward to visiting.  It certainly has become a tourist haven and it seems that the Czech side won the riches battle when the country split in 1993.  Prague boasts some awe-inspiring must-sees, most notably Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge.

We stayed in an apartment (Museum Inn Hostel – would recommend!) near the National Museum , which over shadows the top of Wenceslas Square, named for, you guessed it, King Wenceslas.  This is more of a busy boulevard rather than the typical town square that we had become accustomed to, although those are not far down the road in Old Town. Wenceslas Square is dotted with hotels, stores, clubs and street food vendors; it’s usually a busy place well into the night.  Be sure and stop for a hot wine, or better yet, a half bottle of sparkling wine and a sausage!

In the old town square the Astronomical Clock comes to life every hour with animated figures and gloomy depictions.  The clock and its origin are satiated with mystery.  Legend has it that when work was complete, the town council had the clockmaker blinded so that he could not replicate his work elsewhere.  The legend further states that in retaliation and grief, he cursed the clock, damaging it by sacrificing himself into the giant gears, in such a way that anyone who tried to fix it went mad or died trying.  Like most legends of this nature, this one is also false – but a great story!  It underwent many repairs and additions over the centuries and narrowly escaped permanent destruction in May 1945 during the Prague Uprising.  A few minutes before the top of each hour a crowd gathers at the base to watch the short medieval cartoon of moving symbolic characters, historical favorites such as Greed and Death and Vanity.  After this short spectacle a trumpeter donned with a traditional robe plays a tune from the very top, high above the square.  He repeats the tune on all four sides every hour, every day, every year…you get the idea.  No one’s dream job, but he insists that it’s an honor and that he loves it and still gets nervous.  The crowd applauds every time to which he responds with a quick wave to the folks below.

Continuing from the picturesque old town square after an ‘old town’ espresso at the ‘old town’ Starbucks, it was on to the fabled Charles Bridge.  Building started in the late 1350s and would take many years to complete.  It has had many names throughout history but has officially been the namesake of King Charles IV for about the last 200 years or so.  This is also a busy place for artists and vendors as the bridge is open to  pedestrians only, and connects the old town square with Prague Castle over the Vltava River.  Standing in the middle of the bridge, it sure is fascinating to look up at the Castle, the biggest ancient castle in the world.  It is home to the crown jewels and is the one time home to kings and other leaders throughout Czech history.  It is a mammoth building which was started in the 9th century and had buildings and palaces added to it over the next few hundred years.  One could definitely spend some quality time exploring the churches of the inner walls.

Not far from the city of Prague is a town in the Bohemian countryside called Kutna Hora.  This is a pretty little town; its town square is a Unesco World Heritage Site (what isn’t?), but the main reason for a visit to this town is the nearby Sedlec Ossuary.  In the mid-1200s a delegation was sent to Palestine (the Holy Land), and one of the delegates returned with some earth and sprinkled it over the cemetery grounds.  When word spread it became THE place to be buried in all of Europe.  Plagues and wars saw the skeletons pile up and when the site changed ownership in the 1800s a wood carver was hired to stack the bones into some kind of order.  He used his creativity and while creating ‘some kind of order,’ he also created things like a coat of arms (no pun intended), piles of bones shaped like bells, and a chandelier made from at least one of every bone found in the human body.  There, you can check something off your list you didn’t even know was on it!

After we returned to Prague, it was to the train station for our continuation ride.  This time, it was an overnight train to the city of Krakow in Poland. A couple of beers and a bottle of wine in hand for the overnighter, we settled in for a night on the rails!

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

View of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Walking on the Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Absinthe Selection, Prague, Czech Republic

Inside the Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic

Side Street, Prague, Czech Republic

Train station in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Bones at the Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

More bones, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Even more bones, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

The bone chandelier, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

The bone coat of arms, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

The night train, Prague to Krakow, Poland

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