Prague is a city that is included in pretty much any itinerary of Europe – as well it should be. Prague ranks as one of my favorite cities in Europe. But unlike many of my friends who, like me, were trying to get as many major cities under our belts as possible, I made a point of getting outside of Prague for a day to see more of the country. I think this was important to my understanding of the Czech Republic.
It’s no surprise that Prague, especially the heavily-touristed city center, is a world unto itself, and not always the best representation of the rest of the country. Besides wandering through some other parts of the city on the way to the zoo, my friend and I hadn’t ventured outside of the city center. Prague is a beautiful, modern city, and you really wouldn’t think that less than twenty-five years ago this was a communist country. The train station was the first place we went where we could tell that we were in a former communist country. Not that the trains were awful, but they certainly didn’t live up to the standards of the rail system of Western Europe.
We had decided to visit the town of Kutna Hora, a beautiful town with a morbid history. The main draw of this town for tourists is the unique chapel. Where else are you going to find a chapel decorated with human bones? The Sedlec Ossuary is decorated with the bones of somewhere around 50,000 people. The decorations were completed by a 19th century architect, so they aren’t just thrown together; rather, they are well thought out and intricate.
Kutna Hora is a one-hour train ride from Prague. The trains aren’t air-conditioned, so you may not want to go on a sweltering day. Once in Kutna Hora, it is a bit of a walk across town to the church, but it’s certainly doable. Part of the walk is through a more suburban part of town, but once you get into the city center the views are gorgeous.
It is, of course, hard to know what to feel in the Ossuary – it’s fascinating and repulsive at the same time – but that’s probably what makes it such a must-see destination. Kutna Hora is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it is definitely worth a visit when you are in the Czech Republic.