Czech churches – grand and bizzare

Monday 3 to Wednesday 5 July

After we left Telč we had a pleasant drive through villages until we reached Havlíčkův Brod where we were stuck in a massive traffic jam for 45 minutes.  It turned out to be one set of badly coordinated traffic lights. The locals seemed to know how to navigate around it and left just us and the trucks to wait our turn.

Country roads are easier to drive than the main thoroughfares, but with villages every 2.5km, and no passing lanes it can be slow going, what Bruce calls slow-fast driving.

We arrived in Kutna Hora, checked that the internet worked before we went out for a drink at the local Italian restaurant in the square. The waiter was hilarious, reminding us of the USA style of grovelling for tips. Somehow he seriously mucked up our order and then offered a free dessert which we traded for a limoncello. 

Next day we were expecting the Renault to arrive. We ordered the Eurodrive Renault in March, and when we arrived to collect it in Frankfurt there were no licence plates. After much negotiation we finally got onto the road with an Avis rented Opel and a promise that somehow our Renault would meet us on our travels. Finally word came through that we would have the car today.

We visited St Barbara’s Gothic cathedral with its famous buttresses and climbed to the second level for an amazing view of the buttresses and inside the cathedral. 

Still no word on the Renault. After making a couple of phone calls, we learned someone had taken the train from Paris to Frankfurt but still there were no licence plates, so he was going back to Paris to get the licence plates. We are still driving the Avis rented Opel which is comfortable but it isn’t our car. Bruce’s frustration is turning to anger. 

The next best experience in Kutna Hora is a visit to the Silver mine. We made enquiries and were told it was a dangerous excursion.  It is a 1.5 hour tour, 35m underground and the passages were narrow and low so people with heart conditions or who suffered from claustrophobic are advised not to do the tour. After some deliberation and concern on Bruce regarding low passages and wonky knees, we decided to make a brave move and join the tour.

There are many mines in the area, and we were taken to the St George mine (not the famous donkey mine which still hasn’t been located).  The narrow & low walks and claustrophobic environment was not as uncomfortable as they made out.

Mines in this area extracted silver for 400 years between C13 & C16. They ignored all other metals & gems, even the lead. With the silver they extracted, they made high quality, very exchangeable coins using silver & copper, which was also mined from this area. It is estimated that two thousand five hundred tonnes of silver and twenty thousand tonnes of copper was mined. Nothing of note was left. Huge slag dumps were created just 2cm below the surface. These are known to be dangerous with traces of poisonous metals such as arsenic. 

The tour was great – an insight to early mining techniques and the dangers and riches associated with them.

We finished our day visiting some of the other sights in Kutna Hora – the stone fountain, the Burgher’s stone house and even the lookout to get a wonderful view of St Barbara’s with her night light on.

Flowers in this part of the world are fantastic in Summer – geraniums, lobelia, petunias all brighten the squares of cities and towns.

It was about this time that I realised that we could catch up with Kate and Mark. They were driving from Italy to Berlin and were in Austria. We needed to make a small adjustment to our typically fluid plans to spend 24 hours with them in Brno. It was our last city in the Czech Republic and their first. There was so much news for us to share. Alex & Sarah have announced a pregnancy, we had visited both Evan & Steph and Hayden & Andrea and they would be visiting them. Plus – you know – just chatter. 

Bruce & I do well travelling as just him-and-me but an occasional diversion is nice. 

After wasting time waiting for the Renault we ran out of time to visit the famous Ossuary at nearby Sedlec. It is one of the famous tourist destinations in the Czech Republic, so the next day we left Kutna Hora after the obligatory coffee and stopped at Sedlec. 

We visited the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist (what a mouthful). It is a magnificent church but the tour above the ceiling and below the roof was magic. You look up in so many churches and palaces to see a beautiful ceiling, but I had never realised that there is a space between that ceiling and the roof.  This cathedral opened it up to visitors. There was a walk way leading from the front of the cathedral to the choir stand at the back. A real insight into the architecture of these amazing buildings.

Then to the Ossuary. Such a bizarre place. There are 40,000 sets of bones of humans, creating patterns of chandeliers, family crests, and decorations of the church. It is truely a bizarre sight. The argument was that all bodies are assigned to the afterlife ‘heaven’ and so the bones should be preserved. In later years the bones have been cleaned and soaked in chlorine and so there was a somewhat pristine look about them. 

To add to the interest, there was an archaeological dig around the footings of the church, and a grave yard around it.