Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Starting at the main Prague train station, I looked for the ticket vendors to go to Kutna Hora. It is not hard to spot them with each stall lined up neatly against a back wall. I approached the first available stall. There weren’t many people that day in the train station. The vendors selling pastries and drinks were still setting up this morning.

I told the ticket seller Kutna Hora and motioned a back and forth motion meaning return trip. She gave me a one way trip ticket. I had to say ‘Praha’ pointing with my index finger one point on the counter, say ‘Kutna Hora’ on another point on the counter, and then ‘Praha’ again to my original point. She rolled her eyes and printed out my return ticket. I heard about surly bureaucrats when you head further east in Europe, but I didn’t think it would be as soon as Prague. I smiled a little at my discovery.

On the hour-long train ride from Prague to Kutna Hora, I recalled the reason I wanted to come here. I read in my second guide book about their Ossuary and the bone art that was on display. An artist took the bones of about 40,000 people who died during the black plague and arranged them into chandeliers, hanging garlands, towering shrines, and even a coat of arms. ‘A macabre sight’ it says. I couldn’t pass up something so out of the ordinary.

Sedlec Kostnice was the name of the ossuary. As I disembarked, there was the sign right in front of me. Heading down into the ossuary, I was struck by just how many bones were used. Forty-thousand is a lot but I was not prepared for that. There were giant vases made out of bones. Ornament railings made out of bones. It was definitely not for the squeamish. It is a fairly small ossuary, which made the density of the bones inside the ossuary much more apparent. There were several other tourists here and I asked when one of them to take a picture of me and a skull. I felt uneasy about it then and still a little bit now.

After taking a few more rounds in the ossuary, I decided to see what else the town had in store. Kutna Hora is actually a really beautiful town. It is a small place that I suspect to be held up by tourism income. The small town square has one or two charming cafes where I stopped for some ice cream. I didn’t even have lunch yet but I figure it anything will ease my mind from the heavy sadness of the ossuary.

The second sight I wanted to see was St. Barbara’s Cathedral. My guide book said that it rivals the St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague in size and magnificence. It was about a leisurely ten minute walk from the town center to the cathedral. On the way there, I noticed a small beer garden with large trees shading the tables. It looked like a nice place for a bite. I kept it in mind for after my visit to the cathedral.

St. Barbara’s Cathedral is a towering complex. This was the first cathedral I visited during my trip but it definitely left a lasting impression. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed here. I was the only visitor there at the time. I assumed everyone else saw the ossuary and left. However, the solitude added to the gothic atmosphere. It was humbling to stand in a building with such craftsmanship. Coming from California, the most detailed craftmanship anyone took to make a building could probably only be found in San Francisco.

I bought a few souvenirs from the cathedral gift counter and headed to the beer garden for lunch. The waiter was surprised to see me. Maybe because I was their only customer or maybe because of my skin tone. Either way I didn’t mind. He was very attentive. I ate my porkchop and relaxed a bit in the summer sun of the Czech Republic. It was the perfect way to end my day trip to this sleepy town. I wonder how many more perfectly small quaint towns there are in the Czech Republic and I wished I could see them one day. I finished my lunch, thanked my host, and took that hour train ride back to Prague.

Parting Words

Kutna Hora is a perfect place for a day trip or even a couple of days of just lounging around. It felt like an escape from the hustle and bustle of life. Although the ossuary is its main draw, I think there is more this tiny hamlet has to give.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.