First weekend in Czech Repbulic

On Friday I was done with my first week of classes and I now had a working washing machine so when Jacqui and Louis went out to do their one on one teaching I got up and did some laundry.  While we had a washing machine in the apartment we did not have a dryer.  It seems to me those are a very rare thing in Europe overall so it didn’t really surprise me.  We did have something called a clothing horse which basically was a table type thing that you laid on or pinned your wet laundry to so that it eventually got dry.  This does work much better outside on a line since there is usually sun or a breeze or both!  Inside there was neither and once you laid the clothing out you needed to expect that stupid thing to be in your way for at least 24 hours.  So after I had spent enough time in bed, walking around in my underwear and waiting for my clothes to dry and walking around the “horse” that was always in the way I got dressed and went to Starbucks to email Ashley.

Water fountain in Kutna Hora

We had decided we should get out of Prague for the weekend like the locals did.  Only difference is we didn’t have our own cottage and we didn’t want to spend too much money.  So we made plans to go to a place called Kutna Hora where we could see a very nice church (they are in excess in Europe but it’s something to do so you go anyway) and of course whatever else there was to see there.  Turns out there were at least 4 churches so we lucked out on that.  Then from there we would take another train and see another small town called Sedlec where there is a famous Ossuary also know as the “bone church”.  So consider this your history/culture lesson of the day – this is a direct quote from Wikipedia:

The Sedlec Ossuary (CzechKostnice v Sedlci) is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have in many cases been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The ossuary is among the most visited tourist attractions of the Czech Republic, attracting over 200,000 visitors yearly.

Ceiling and pipe organ in St. Barbara’s Church

If you want to read more you can click here for a direct link to Wikipedia.  Anyway we figured how can you go wrong with decor made of bones and it was in all of our guide books as a good place to go out of the city.  So we made plans to meet up on Saturday morning and go.  We asked the others but nobody else seemed much interested in getting lost in the Czech Republic countryside.

The next morning we met up at my home away from home, Dejvicka Starbucks, because it was coincidentally the place where my tram and her bus dropped her before we could get on a subway train.  From there we took the subway to the train station.  We went straight to the domestic ticket counter and asked the lady for 2 return tickets (that’s round trip for you Americans reading this).  She typed stuff in the computer and gave us a price which seemed a bit small, apparently 2 tickets gets you a group price in Prague.  We questioned that she got all the correct information like 2 people, 2 ways, to Sedlec etc.  She ignored our questions (or didn’t understand them) and instead just handed us the ticket (which was one piece of paper for all the travel) and we handed her the money. Then we asked what track and what time and she sent us to the information booth.

We waited on that line with our ticket and when it was our turn we handed it to the guy behind the desk and asked again, “What track and what time?”  He proceeded to type into his computer (saying nothing) and handed us a sheet of paper with an itinerary.  We had to take 3 trains (that is 2 changes in rural areas where probably nobody has even heard of English let alone speaks it) and the first one left in 5 minutes from a West side track to which he pointed to a sign, handed us the ticket and said – “Go fast!”.  So we did.  We found the track and started to board the train when I remembered that some trains in Europe detach at certain points so not all cars go to the same place.  So I flagged down a lady on the track that was closing all the doors and asked her which train car to get in.  She just pointed to the one in front of us so we got in and she shut the door.

Ashley on the train

This train had private cars though they were not assigned so we just found one that was empty (save one poor lady that was stuck with us for a while) and got in.  Ashley was reading the Hunger Games and pulled out her book.  I pulled out my Czech dictionary and read over the ticket just to be sure it was what we actually asked for.  It was!  So far so good.  We managed to make our connections (both of them) correctly and with ease and we were extremely proud of ourselves.  We got to Kutna Hora about 1 1/2 hours later and got off the train there.  We figured we’d walk around that town first, then re-board the train to Sedlec afterwards.  We had no map so we went into the station to see if there were any tourist maps laying around, but there weren’t so we set out on foot and managed to find the village by simply walking uphill.  At the top of the hill we wound up in a square and at the door to the Visitor Information Center where they had maps (free ones), a guy who spoke English and outlined what we should see on said map, and refrigerator magnets which you know I had to buy for the collection.

Maps were all over Kutna Hora embedded in the brick like this one.

This was a very cute, but very empty, town.  It was pretty and quaint and we found some useful maps in the street (meaning they actually were part of the street).  We went to St. Barbara’s Church which was built by the miners and very pretty.  We saw the other churches, a school museum, a big water fountain and some nice views.  This all took about 1 1/2 hours.  Then we walked back to the train but on the way we saw a little pub with a chalkboard sign out front that said beer was only 18 CZ crowns (that’s about 80 cents).  So we figured we’d head in and have a beer.  We walked in the door expecting nobody to speak English but not really caring.  As we walked into the bar everybody in the place was suddenly stone quiet.  I looked at her, and she looked at me and we backed out back onto the street.  Clearly we did not belong so we continued on to the train to go on to Sedlec.

But the train didn’t come right away so we waited in the station for about 15 minutes.  While we were waiting a group of 4 Americans got off the train – 2 girls and 2 guys.  They were all in their early twenties and seemed to have no clue where they were going (just like us when we had first got off the train).  The girls walked into the station but the guys (hearing us speaking in English to each other) stopped to ask us for directions.  We gave them directions to the town and told them where to get a map and what to see, like we lived there or something.  It was pretty funny as only an hour or so before we had no clue, but now we were like the experts!  They went to find the girls and our train came in so we boarded and asked someone how we get to Sedlec.

Here is how you do it; first thing you get on the train and when you get to this kind of hut with a sign that says Sedlec (about 5 minutes or less on the train) you push a red button located by the door and the train stops in the middle of nowhere.  You get off on the tracks and walk towards the hut and then beyond to the village.  When you want to return you come back to the hut and flag down the train as it comes by and they’ll stop for you.  Sounds bizarre but easy enough.  So this is what we do and it was pretty easy but of course when we got off it decided it was a good time to start raining.  We walked to the first church we saw and learned that it used to be a church and monastery but now it was just a church and what had once been the monastery was currently a Philip Morris factory where they rolled cigarettes.  It doesn’t sound very Kosher to me but there you are.  It was what it was.  Possibly the Marlboro Man was a Catholic?

Little hut which denoted Sedlec’s train station. Just press the red button to get off and flag down a train to get back on.

We walked further up the street and came to the gate of the Ossuary.  There was a line.  Who would have thought there would be a line in the middle of this tiny town pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but there was.  And we were the only ones that had gotten off the train at our stop?  I got on line.  Ashley got on line.  A big group of Asians didn’t bother and just walked straight in and didn’t pay the entrance fee.  Ashley, for some reason which I will not be explaining here, really dislikes Asian tourists.  She got all freaked out because they didn’t pay so why should we?  Fair point.  I had no answer so we walked in with the rest of the group and went to check out the bones.  Probably you should never not pay for a church entrance fee for fear of being struck down by god, but if the Asians could do it then hell, who am I to argue?

Amour made of human bones

There are bones everywhere in this place.  But mostly they are piled up behind some chain linked fencing in the corners with big signs on them that say “Do Not Touch”.  So we wandered around taking pictures for a bit and it isn’t that big so really paying would have been a complete rip off.  I was done in about 5 minutes (or less) but as I was walking towards Ashley I see her trying to take a close up picture with her iphone of some of the bones behind the chain link fence.  She was trying to put the lens in between the bars so as to not get the bars in the photo.  She touched the fencing with the camera.  All of a sudden an alarm starts going off – very loud and shrill.  Ashley steps back and turns to look at me.  I look at her and come closer.  I tell her I think this is a good time to get out of here before they come looking for whomever set off the alarm (meaning her) and find out we didn’t pay to get in here!  We both turned and headed out of the bone church and probably straight to hell for not paying.

Ashley right before she hit the bars and set off the alarm.

We wandered around the cemetery of the church and then walked back to the hut to flag down the train.  We sat at the hut in the rain and waited, and waited, and waited.  It stopped raining and Ashley wandered up and down the tracks occasionally squatting here and there looking for the train.  Then we waited some more.  After about 30 minutes but what felt like an eternity the train finally came and we waved it down.  It stopped and we boarded and began our reverse journey back to Prague.  We never did get the times of the return trains but it seemed to not matter because each time we changed trains the next one was there waiting for us till we got back to Dejvicka and each boarded our respective vehicle back home (she on the bus and me on the tram).  We were so proud of ourselves!  You would have thought we just won some Gold Olympic medals in train riding, but it really had felt great to get out of the city and see some of the countryside.

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