“Sorry… Where is it that you are going?” asked the curious Czech girl sitting next to me on the airplane.
“Sedlec Ossuary… In Kutna Hora”
“Sorry… What?” she said. Most words in European languages are easy to pronounce but I knew that Czech was like many of the Eastern-European languages with the numerous j’s that are z sounds and z sounds that are… I actually don’t know. “Ok let me write it down for you” I said back to the woman.
“Hmmm… I don’t know it.” I was surprised because this church should be well-known in the Czech Republic because it is relatively well known outside of the country as it has been thoroughly documented in travel-writing and in television documentaries. I decided to explain what Sedlec Ossuary was. I told her that the place is nick-named ‘The Church of Bones’. She looked at me startled. I wasn’t winning… It is a church and about a thousand years ago the King of Czech Republic sent people to Jerusalem to get soil from the holy land and bring it to the area of Kutna Hora where the church was built. She looked at me confused. “Damn it” I said to myself. In this church numerous people were so keen on getting buried in the cemetery that it became too full and that they had to dig out the bodies and they decorated the interior of the church with hundreds of bones. She looked at me with much perplexity and puzzlement in her face and came another “What? Where?!” I gave up and returned to my humorous book, called Ryanland by the Irish journalist Philip Nolan, that is about travelling around with the budget airline Ryanair. I felt that this is an apt book as I was travelling on the semi-budget airline Aer Lingus.
Our time in the Czech Republic was limited to a Friday from 15:00 to a Sunday at 12:00. Kutna Hora is located an hour outside of Prague, or Praha in the local language – h’s must be g sounds, and I was hoping that this local lady would be of some help to let me know how to get to this place and not waste much time trying to figure it out. Ah well, it will be an adventure trying to get on the right train or bus to Kutna Hora. I just hoped that we don’t end up on the direct train to Bratislava or Krakow. It was part of the trip to find our way to this mysterious place that a local person never heard of and even if it doesn’t exist, as the lady was certain of, I was sure we would have a good time. I said to myself on the plane that I will just have to remember the j, z and h sounds for g’s when I ask the ticket-office person later.
Our time became more limited when we arrived to our hotel, which was located around the corner from the Old Square. We found out that the hotel was currently being renovated and we were sent to a hotel twenty minutes away from the Old Square. This was frustrating as the different hotel was not located near the main sights. The receptionist at the new hotel was a wicked witch with a blunt tongue and rhetoric that would cut through you. We were given out to over the hotel change, that had nothing to do with us, and the room key was slammed down on the reception desk. It is clear that we were not welcome however we decided to stay there as it would have taken longer to find a closer place. We prayed that we wouldn’t meet the witch later in the evening. After about an hour, when the minor drama was solved, we decided to do the best thing two Irish people can do – find a pub!
Czech Republic is renowned for their beer and our decision to find a pub would be fitting to get relaxed again. On almost every side street in Prague there is a bar, which source or brew beers that aren’t found outside of the city. We decided to do a pub crawl around the city to some of the well-known pubs and to some pubs located on side-streets. Our first pub was one of the most famous pubs in Prague called U Zlatého Tygra, meaning ‘The Golden Tiger’, located on Husova Street. It is a traditional pub that has narrow beer halls within former cellars. It is not for people who suffer from claustrophobia! Bill Clinton visited this pub during a trip to the Czech Republic. ‘The Golden Tiger’ sits hundreds of people and serves only Pilsner. One of my favourite pubs was a microbrewery called U Valsu, located on Betlemska Street. It is a relatively new microbrewery that is within an old gothic underground cellar where you can drink opposite fermentation vessels. They brew several beers. My favourite was a dark beer called Pražský Most Tmavé. It is a gorgeous beer that is full of flavours. You get a sharp crisp hop taste that is followed with a hint of smoky roasted barely. For a dark beer it tasted quite fruity. With every mouthful there were unique flavours. They also brew an excellent light pale ale called Pražský Most Světlé that is 12%.
Novomestsky Pivovar is a superb microbrewery, on Vodickova street, that produces a dark beer called Novoměstský Kvasnicový Ležák Tmavý (I have no idea how I ordered this one from the spelling!) as well as a light beer. Both have won several distinctions in both national and international awards. They also brew a light beer that can be served in two-litre glasses! Another excellent brewery is Stravhov Monastic Brewery located near Prague Castle that has a long history of brewing since the 13th century. They have numerous different beer styles to pick from that are all brewed on location. A fun pub to visit in Prague is the “ice-bar” located near the Charles Bridge. It is within the biggest night-club of Prague called Karlovy Lázně, meaning Charles Spa. You get to experience a pub at minus 7 degrees Celsius and drink from glasses made from ice!
After our evening of drinking the beer delights of Prague, we successfully made it to Kutna Hora to visit the mysterious Church of Bones that the single-serving friend on the plane did not know of. The easiest way to get there is on the Prague-Brno train. The church was an eerie place. All the stories you hear of the church is exactly as it is – disturbing. There are literally hundreds of bones inside the church and some of them are used to make chandler-esque ornaments. It was true desecration but it is something I wanted to experience and witness one time in my life as this place is somewhat unique and considered very special.
When we arrived back to Prague our main thing to visit was the Astronomical Clock that is a dominating ancient clock-tower on the old square. We did not find the interior of the clock-tower that impressive and we were quite bored, however when we reached the summit of the clock it was worth it because the views of the old city are spectacular!
After the Astronomical Clock we went on an organised tour of the undergrounds of Prague, which were formerly the ‘ground level’ of the city before the city rose. These ancient underground pathways date back over a thousand years ago. Included on the tour was a guided walk through cellars and catacombs dating back to the 12th century. If you haven’t been to the catacombs in Rome – you will thoroughly enjoy this tour. However, if you have been to Rome, I would pass on this tour – there are plenty of undiscovered pubs and breweries to visit!
Our trip to Prague was brief. It was too brief because we fell in love with the city over a short weekend. It is a city that is loved for its simple beauty. Even if you don’t visit anything in Prague it does not matter because Prague is ‘a walking city’ and it is thoroughly enjoyable talking strolls down the medieval streets, along the Charles Bridge or even just enjoying an afternoon coffee on the Old Square watching the world go by. Prague – We loved you!