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One Summer in Europe: Czech Republic

Kutná Hora

I wandered about Kutná Hora’s historical center, with its vast collection of large, old churches. They were impressive, but all the large Gothic churches across Europe were starting to look the same to me. I visited the Alchemy Workshop in the basement of the town’s visitor center. It was a real alchemy lab hundreds of years back, but now was done up with cheesy-looking figures and rooms decorated with stereotypes from bad sci-fi movies. I did learn though that in additional to trying to turn metals into gold, alchemy had a spiritual and almost mystic aspect to it.

The real reason I came to town though was for the Sedlee Ossuary. It had a massive collection of human bones artistically arranged into formations that including a chandelier, a coat of arms, cup, cross, and other decorations around the room. There were also a couple large piles of bones and skulls stacked into a pyramid. It was a little weird walking around and looking at all these bones. I never quiet figured out how this ossuary originally came about, but its basis was Christian. The bones were representing eternity and the multitudes before God.

Church of St. Barbara and the Jesuit College in Kutná Hora
A chandelier and ceiling decorations made from human bones at the Sedlee Ossuary

Sedlee Ossuary


I happened to pass by the Muzeum Lega on the streets of Prague and had to stop inside. It was basically an unofficial Lego store, which also included a “museum” in the back consisting of many assembled Lego models. There were not many original creations or large sculptures, but was basically just the collection of some guy that had bought half the Lego catalogs and now displayed the sets in a haphazard way on shelves and in cases. I recognized too many models though, as ones I have in storage.

I took a guided tour around Prague, which showed some of the cities highlights, including the astronomical clock with its underwhelming mechanical figurines. The city also had a wide variety of many interesting churches. Prague’s history has had a mix of rulers, from great kings to Nazis and Communists. Our guide said the Czech language was basically invented by one person trying to save an old tongue, but also had many “Czechified” words from Russian and German.

The Jewish Quarter was interesting, with its history as a ghetto long before the Nazis. The old cemetery could not be expanded due to Jews being confined to this limited area, so it was instead built upward. After the graveyard became full, a new layer of dirt was added to allow new burials on top of the old graves. The cemetery now stands several meters higher than the surrounding streets.

Hitler planned to use the Jewish Quarter of Prague as a museum, extolling the Jews supposed inferiority after they were eliminated. For this reason it was of the few Jewish areas not razed by the Nazi. A synagogue in the area also contained thousands of drawings by children that were murdered in the Holocaust.

The Charles Bridge across the Vltava River had many street vendors and interesting statues, but was not that inspiring. The Prague Castle atop the nearby hill was likewise impressive to look at, but did not offer much for me.

The Communism Museum told the history of the Czech Republic from around the end of WWI to the fall of Communism. It gave the history of events through that era and had a few artifacts. I was disappointed that it did not convey what life was like for most Czechs under communism. It only mentioned that very little was available to buy. Still, this museum was a stark reminder that I was in a former communist country that faced mass oppression, even if no obvious traces of that past were visible to a tourist passing through.

St. Nicholas Church
Charles Bridge
A Lego “Museum” in Prague