Having left the masses gearing up for another day at Oktoberfest, we hit the road to the Czech Republic. Our first day and a bit were spent catching up on jobs, so when we finally made it into central Prague, we decided to go on a few walking tours to make the most of our time there. The tours we chose (Discover Walks) are given by locals and, whilst they’re generally students, are still able to give a good account of the history and how it’s impacted on them or their family’s lives.
So what were our impressions and highlights? We were again struck by how friendly and eager to help everyone was. We were also very grateful that everyone spoke English as, despite studying our phrasebook, our attempts to pronounce Czech were like something from a sketch show!
Whilst it didn’t affect us, there was a prohibition in place when we were in Prague. People had been poisoned and between 20-40 killed by spirits being mixed with meths, so any drinks over 20 per cent volume were banned. We’re sure a few stag and hen dos were very disappointed not to be able to sample the local tipple of absinth!
Our sightseeing centred around the main attractions: Prague castle, Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square, the astronomical clock, John Lennon wall … Whilst we’re sure there are plenty of sights further afield, we found Prague easy to get around and it certainly made life easier to have the main attractions within easy walking distance.
Prague’s architecture is without doubt impressive. Just in the Old Town Square there are examples of styles from many eras, including gothic, renaissance, baroque … What makes this even more remarkable is when you see photographs of what happened to these buildings during the War and then communism. You would never guess how badly they were damaged to look at them today and it’s a credit to the people for how well restored they are, particularly in such a short space of time. Once communism had come to an end, buildings were sold very cheaply on the condition that the new owners restored them. There are still a few examples around of what it must have been like during those times, and we’re sure that the further outside the city centre you go the more examples there are, but Prague should be very proud of what it has achieved.
We really enjoyed our short time in the city and would love to go back to explore in more detail. We’d definitely recommend the walking tours to anyone wanting a bit of insight into a city. It’s also a great way to meet other travellers and we especially enjoyed our evening testing out the local beers with Aussies Georgia and Lachy and a nice Russian girl whose name escapes us.
So, we were on the road again, with two free beers from the campsite owner cooling in the fridge. Before leaving the Czech Republic we stopped at Kutna Hora, about an hour out of Prague, to visit the “Bone Church” (Sedlec Ossuary) – something Georgia and Lachy had told us about. It’s a church where the bones of around 40,000 people have been arranged into pyramids, chandeliers, coats of arms and other decorative features. The church was a desired burial site after a small amount of earth from the Holy Land had been sprinkled there. It’s believed that the bones were exhumed when a new church was being built and the bones were kept in the ossuary of the church. The ultimate decorations were done by a woodcarver in 1870 who’d been employed by an aristocratic family to put them into order. The result is somewhat creepy to say the least, but also fascinating. You can’t help but admire the inventiveness of the woodcarver and would it not be more comforting thinking that your bones have been used for something thousands of people a year come to admire, than have been destroyed? We’re not sure, but it was definitely an interesting place to visit.
On leaving the bones behind, we continued on our journey – this time returning to a country we’d not long left behind: Austria.