Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PRAGUE, Part 5: Day Trip to Kutna Hora

One of our days in Prague was actually spent an hour or so outside of Prague in a very old silver mining town called Kutna Hora. We went with a tour group booked through Sandeman's New Europe tours.  Our excellent guide, Christian, was half Czech and half Swede. There he is in the picture below wearing a red shirt and a white hat with a black band. I'll get back to him later.

The first thing we saw was a memorial to the Black Death, which hit Kutna Hora in the mid-14th Century and killed 13,000 local residents--only half of the population, which is why I guess they were grateful enough to erect this monument. 

It was next to the Chapel of All Saints, a small, unassuming structure . . .
. . .with a rather unusual graveyard attached to it.  In the 13th Century, the abbott of the nearby monastery went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  He brought back some dirt he'd collected from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the ground here.  Word spread around the area, and suddenly everyone wanted to be buried in Kutna Hora.  Apparently they still do, because many of the stones look pretty modern.
I have to assume the guy buried in the grave with a steering wheel on the stone is . . . a race car driver? a car lover? a traveling salesman?
A few other headstones I really liked:

 Hmmm, I'm sensing a theme here:
After the Black Death, a small chapel was built on the site.  During excavation, workmen discovered thousands of bones of plague victims.  The bones were stacked in piles until 1870, when a man named Frantisek Rint was hired by the Schwarzenberg Family, local benefactors, to "organize" the bones.  The result is the Sedlec Ossuary, a downstairs "chapel" decorated with bones from almost 40,000 human skeletons.

The artist's signature--written in bones:
Wouldn't this chandelier look lovely in YOUR living room? It supposedly contains at least one of every bone in the body:
Or perhaps this etagere:
I especially like the coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg Family and would like something similar done for the Cannon crest:
AMAZING detail!
This church made me happy to have some flesh still on my bones. In fact, it think it's time for more gelato.
While we were waiting for the bus to take us to our next destination in Kutna Hora, Chris and I started chatting with the guide.  When we told him we were sisters, he looked right at me and said, "And you're the evil one."

I kid you not.  Remember how I said he was an excellent guide?  Scratch that.  I'm pretty sure someone paid him to say that.  Chris? Stan? DAVE?

The next stop was St. Barbara's Cathedral, the second largest church in the Czech Republic behind St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.  It is not really a cathedral as it is not the headquarters of a bishop or archbishop, but it is often called a cathedral just because of its immensity.
Construction on this Gothic-style church began in 1388.  Its flying buttresses, pointed arches, and long, slender pillars were engineering revolutions, and inside it is light and airy compared to the earlier-style Romanesque churches, and even compared to other Gothic churches we've seen.  However, it is not really about God, according to our guide (but who would believe him???), but about the wealth and power of the mining families who built it.

It had a great ceiling, but right above the altar were a few dozen coats of arms of the richest families in the city:
Just a bit tacky if you ask me.

This church wasn't actually completed until 1908. That's 620 years of construction (and I thought the two years of freeway construction by our house was bad.)  As a result, while the basic structure is Gothic, many of the embellishments are from much later eras, such as this beautiful Baroque organ:

I'm not sure what time period this painting is from, but it was just about my favorite thing in the church.  Take a close look.  See anything unusual?
Like maybe a flying lobster?  It has something to do with the zodiac sign for Cancer, but I was still fuming at the guide and can't remember what he said.
While there were religious paintings and sculptures, there were also tributes to the saintly miners themselves that I quite enjoyed.  Not your usual cathedral fare:
Check out this carved bench end.  Awesome!

The stained glass is actually painted glass and was added in the 1900s. The third one below has a real Art Nouveau feel to it:


In contrast to those bold colors and intricate scenes, I really loved this simple window with very old frescoes surrounding it depicting not only angels, but ordinary working folk as well:

Quite the altar, again more Baroque than Gothic:
We walked from the cathedral to a restaurant for lunch down this statue-bordered walkway:

Kutna Hora is a beautiful and unusual city, one I had never even heard of prior to this trip, but one I would recommend visiting if you are ever in Prague. (Just don't get Christian as your tour guide. But don't tell him I said that. He might think I'm evil.)
The large church left of center is St. James Church, and after the first tower was built, the authorities realized that it was leaning to the right, so they opted not to add a second tower.
 
Dacicky Restaurant, where we had lunch, was also very unique, with interesting lighting and bathroom doors:
  

Clockwise from top left: dumplings, cabbage, goose breast, and fat-laden potatoes
. . .and wonderful traditional Czech cuisine--heavy, rich, and meaty, which is everything fat-free vegan Bob was trying to avoid.  But hey, I sure enjoyed it!  (Oops, more of my evil side coming out.)

Bob with his rice and vegetables.

Next: Nightmares and Sleeping Cars

4 comments:

  1. Surely it is no coincidence that our guide's name is Christian. Christian recognizes evil when he sees it. No one has to pay him.

    I appreciate your well-organized posts. So much of that part of the trip ran together for me, even with my notes. I've got some pictures I just couldn't figure out, but you've helped immensely!

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  2. The grave with the steering wheel was of a Soviet race car driver. Kutna Hora was a great day trip. Wish we could have spent more time seeing other places. I don't know if it is any consolation, but I for one have embraced and love evil, that is the Evil One.

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  3. The guide got mixed up. He meant "clever one." Not evil.

    Fun to see these sights, as we didn't get outside of Prague. Your travel writing is interesting to read, and I'm enjoying my armchair trip!

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