Some Towns of the Czech Republic (Gothic Style)

The next day we woke up to nasty chilly weather outside which pretty much set the tone for the day… I decided I’d put on my Cheburashka T-shirt I got in Moscow to brighten it up for me. We were to visit some places outside Prague that day. We were given an option to stay in Prague till the middle of the afternoon but we signed up for this trip. One day wasn’t just enough to experience Prague…
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First we were to take a tour of the Sternberk Castle which is located in Český Šternberk which is about 50 km away from Prague. Some Czech musiс was playing and there were some dreary rural landscapes gliding by… The sky was overcast and it certainly didn’t add any charm to our trip. Sternberk Castle was constructed in the middle of the 13th century and is actually one of the best preserved Gothiс castles in central Europe. The whole experience of the day was truly Gothic… It was owned by Zdeslav of Divisov, later called Zdeslav Sternberg, then the property was taken away from him and after that returned till it was nationalized by the Communist government in 1949 and the Sternberk family got it back in 1992. It was actually amazing to find out that one of the descendants of the family agreed to work as a steward and give tours of the castle after the castle was nationalized just to keep in touch with the place. Now this man’s son occupies four rooms on the second floor. The name of the castle roughly translates “a star on the hill” and this is exactly what this castle looks like when you go up the hill towards it… The views around it were just magical, all those endless thick forests and the Sázava river were giving it a touch of Gothic mystery…
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The court of the castle provided some scenic views of the hotel just across the road and it looked marvelous from up there. We had a guided tour of the castle by the same lovely girl from yesterday who didn’t stop amazing me by how brilliant her Russian was.
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The interior of the castle looked just as the weather outside, dull and grey but it truly felt like stepping back in history to find out about the cultural and historical significance of the place. There were lots of exquisite engravings and paintings on the wall. They charged an extra fee for photography and that’s why I don’t have the pictures as I was afraid we might run out of Czech crowns. It was incredible to be walking around this building to get a better understanding as to who used to live there back in the day. From what I saw I don’t think I’d love to live there, I wasn’t feeling too comfortable in the place and I think the idea of having all this space to myself would be unbelievable. We were amazed to find a fresh bottle of wine standing on one of the tables. That must have been the owner of the castle enjoying himself… That just made me think how all those people owning properties like this are like the rest of us… At the end of our visit we got some souvenirs to take back home and took some pictures against the local forest and as we were driving back to our next place of interest, I came to realize there was nothing else I loved more than the lovely landscapes of the part of Russia I am from.
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Sometimes the views seemed a bit like those we have back home but they fail to make your heart and soul smile the way your home landscapes do… I guess there is something in our DNA that keeps us close to where we come from and live…
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The atmosphere of the place was as eerie and macabre as it is said to be but to my utter surprise, I didn’t feel physically uncomfortable standing there looking at thousands of bones around me. I actually thought it would be a good idea for my bones to be used in such an aesthetic way after I die so people from across the world could come and see all those beautiful things… I’m not sure if people whose bones are used in the ossuary would think the same way I do and unfortunately, we are never going to find that out… I tend to think it was a good tribute to the dead and instead of rotting in the earth their bones were used to create exquisite decorations and a whole new spiritual experience… Looking at the chandelier at the centre of the hall where all the bones of a human body were used, I was contemplating life and death and how we need to make the most of our lives and make each day count before we become just a pile of bones in those decorations. In this place, death didn’t feel like something to be terrified and mortified about, it was just what any life ultimately ends in… I’m happy that place made me realize that fact of life and I wasn’t emotionally wrecked after visiting this creepy place, I was just ready to move on with my life which I grew to love a bit more that day. And it has to be many and many decades before I am what people come to this place for…
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… This abbey cemetery we saw looked different from cemeteries here where death is nothing but a sad ending and, in contrast, there it felt more like a peaceful ending or rather a new beginning… I felt really optimistic about life ahead and this is why I was extra amused to see the sign “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie”. I honestly thought that was something local people came up with and knew I had to remember it… Life is so much about those small things that we do on a daily basis…
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The last stop of the day was St. Barbara’s Church (Chrám svaté Barbory) in Kutna Hora which is one of the most famous Gothic churches in central Europe. The whole experience didn’t seem so Gothic now that the sky was clearing up… Just another reason to smile after a pensive visit to the ossuary…
This church took five hundred years to complete. St. Barbara was a patron saint of miners which was the job of many of the town’s residents. The town used to thrive on silver mines. The church was by far the most beautiful piece of architecture I’d seen on my trip. It was just breathtaking and all those trees and flowers around it made it a view to remember forever. I started feeling a bit inappropriate for wearing my Cheburashka T-shirt at the moment… The interior of the church where no fee was charged for photography was just as impressive. There were lots of beautiful engravings there and just like St.Vitus Cathedral in Prague and unlike Russian churches and cathedrals, it wasn’t emotionally oppressing and made everyone welcome to come in and reflect.
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Then we were given a brief tour of Kutna Hora and shown a local version of the Charles Bridge in Prague and also got to make some more wishes near the fountain in the Italian court which is now a museum of coin-minting. Kutna Hora is a comfortable town away from the large mysterious Prague but if certainly had some secrets of its own to hide. Our day trip ended with a lovely dinner at one of the local cafes where we stocked up with some cheap becherovka to take back home.
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The weather got so much better and it was time to go back to Prague to say a proper goodbye and pick up some people from the group who chose to stay there… I wish we had as well because there was so much more to be seen in Prague but in hindsight I have no regrets because now I know Prague is definitely worth another longer visit and those towns and suburbs like those we visited that day give us in-depth knowledge of the country and the way people live there. I don’t think in Prague I would see people casually getting on with their daily routine, for example, drying the linen or playing cards out on the terrace the way I did in Kutna Hora and again these are those small things that we need to see and experience miles and miles away from home.
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Author: Olga

An English teacher and translator, a keen traveller

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