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Czechia: Part Deux

Detail of a coat of arms at Kostnice Ossuary. Yes, those are real human bones!

This was my second trip to Europe, and the Czech Republic. It was primarily a family visit trip, but Roman and I did spend a bit of time touring places we had not seen the last time out. The highlight of our travels, for me, was Kutna Hora and the Kostnice Ossuary in Sedlec. This unique old church holds the remains of over 40,000 people – in 1870 an artist arranged many of these bones into fantastical sculptures and works of art.

Towers of bones in the chapel.
I apologize for the photo quality - we actually forgot to bring our normal camera (left it in the car before we got to the airport - thankfully it was still there when we got back!) so these were taken with my little Flip camcorder).

Skulls and crossbones along the wall.

Bone sculpture. Somehow I imagine this with a floral arrangement of dried pussywillows and dead irises.

Enormous bone chandelier, probably the most famous pieces in the church.
There was a nice little shrine to the deceased with candles lit nearby.

Hanging over the exit from the main church area.

My favorite piece – an intricate coat of arms. This is the piece the first photo (detail of the bone raven picking at the skull) is from.

Skull detail. There was an exhibit along one wall that had skulls with healed bone scars or grievous (deadly) impact injuries - they were quite interesting (one of the skulls looked like a cleaver had gone through it) but I didn't get any good photos of them.

Enormous bone chandelier, probably the most famous pieces in the church.

Another view, looking in from the entrance.

Excess bones stacked in the corners of the church.

The original Lord Voldemort.

I was very impressed by the ossuary. I was expecting it to be a dark place – like a haunted catacomb – instead, it was more like an art gallery; well lit, interesting structures and a distinct lack of spiderwebs and dimly lit corridors. It’s just such a unique structure – I can’t imagine seeing something like that in the U.S. Spending time in buildings, areas with over a thousand years of human history – really amazing.

Beautiful, scenic walk in a park outside of Prague.

An intricate mural on a wall in Prachatice - South Bohemia.

Mural detail.

In Czechia even the sewer covers are cool.

This was a little village we stopped at that had baroque style facades on the outsides of all the buildings.

Another interesting facade.

One ulterior motive we had to this trip was to look at land as we had considered moving out there for some time. We found out (not surprisingly) that any places with a significant acreage were all so remote there would be no way for Mbala to commute back and forth to work. If he didn't have to commute we could just buy 1000 acres in Wyoming. :P It was neat to see what a rural 'country' house in CZ consisted of. When we were checking out this place, we met with some neighbors who were walking Ovtcharkas (looked to be of the Caucasian variety) which was neat - I'd never seen them in person before. Very impressive dogs!

One other neat thing in CZ - we were driving in the country and came upon a little village where there was a big sign of a pig in the middle of the town, outside this pub/tavern type place. We stopped and sure enough - it was a village pig roast. Where a pig is slaughtered then all different foods/meats/sausages are made and everyone comes to eat. It was really like stepping back in time. Well, except for the little gas-station style freezer with Russian ice cream in it (which I enjoyed immensely!) - it's amazing to me that places like that actually exist.

I am really lucky to have the chance to visit this amazing country regularly to see family - I just wish it was closer ;).


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 4th, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
DUDE! No doubt those bone-arts were inspiration for some of the interior structures in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans"... the Vampire Castle had those all about. I'm sure they drew a lot of inspiration form it!

Dear god, why is it EVERY post of mine has to come back to werewolves SOMEHOW?!?! XD

Many people forget how Europe has it's own charms- as every place does. Especially since they are not rooted in the same mentalities of the West- so things like Bone ornamentation and pig-slaughter pubs that would never fly in Americas are of the basic culture in Europe. It's nice to see some of the old Ethnic Cultures that have died away still be practiced, even if on the small scale. XD
Mar. 4th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
Hehe... because werewolves are *awesome*!
I was amazed in Europe how it seems nothing is 'stupid proof' like it is here in the U.S. Like how you could just trip over a root or piece of raised cement in a park or fall into a subway hole that doesn't have guard rails. It's weird but also cool - people have to be more aware of themselves and what they are doing.
I agree, it is really cool to see the culture surviving in places - it was kind of surreal for me, seriously like being in a book at times - but helps a lot to widens ones perspective!
Mar. 4th, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
That church comes from such an *interesting* time in human history. So much amazing and different art came out then.. I'd love to see it someday.
Mar. 4th, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
Before going to Asia, I loved to travel, but I never did too much of it due to a lack of funds and a lack of imagination; therefore, I learned to travel vicariously through others. Naturally, journals like this are things I take great pleasure in. Wonderful stuff.
Mar. 4th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
Thank you! I love traveling vicariously through others as well - I know there's a lot of places I'm likely never to get to - or just being able to see it through someone else's eyes is awesome. :)
Mar. 4th, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Those are fantastic! God.. I'd love to visit an ossuary like that!

The one time I was in Paris, the catacombs were *closed* to tourists for some reason.
Mar. 4th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
I was really thrilled to get to go - I remember being pretty young and seeing photos of the Ossuary and being absolutely stunned that there were actually places like that and wishing I'd get to see one (and figuring I probably never would) - it's kind of ironic that it was one of the first 'world travel' experience I got to have. :)
That is so dumb about the catacombs being closed - I'm sorry to hear that! You'll just have to visit Paris again. ^.^
Mar. 4th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
Stunning! I remember you talking about your trip. It's nice to see the pics of it! Thanks for sharing! :)
Mar. 4th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
It is an amazing place to be...I really want to visit the Ossurary myself.
Mar. 4th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Oh wow, I'd read about the Kostnice Ossuary, that must have been amazing to see.
Very neat photos, thanks for sharing.
Mar. 4th, 2010 05:07 am (UTC)
Mar. 4th, 2010 05:28 am (UTC)
Wow! I can't imagine how I'd feel in that bone church. It's so creepy and beautiful at the same time.

I love the architecture there too. Thanks for sharing these with us!
Mar. 4th, 2010 06:17 am (UTC)
It reminds me of the catacombs in Paris - huge open vaults under the city, with all the interior rooms/walls etc made of dead people. Skulls on top. All free to see and touch and smell (and taste, I guess, if you're odd).

There was also a place in Rome also eerily similar - more arty like the one you went to with everything arranged nicely. Lovely bone animals and light fixtures as well.

There was one final one in Ireland. Not so much with the decoration, but if the coffins fell open by mistake, they were allowed to keep them open. So we got to see some ancient dead guys and shake the hand of the Crusader. This was also the place where a very messy execution coined the modern rules about "Cruel and Unusual" punishment.
Mar. 4th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
I'm amazed!
I did not see people tasting the skulls, but they did leave some graffiti. Just imagine having "John loves Mary" or "Megadeth 4ever!" inscribed on your skull one day!
Mar. 4th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
Re: I&#39;m amazed!
Not something I'm really looking forward to. I always wanted to be frozen in ice to be revived in the next few generations anyhoos. :P
Mar. 10th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
Re: I'm amazed!
That is a jarring thought. One could imagine it figuring in a macabre story.

"And so the cruel woman died, and was entombed, and hundreds of years later her tomb and thousands of others like it were destroyed by an earthquake, and enterprising locals sought out her skull, along with hundreds of others, and crafted them into the edges of a great obelisk. At first this obelisk was visited only by the ordained, but later it was thrown open to the public, and little kids came by with their wide-eyed parents, and while the parents were distracted, one of these kids took a pocketknife and carved "SONIC 4EVER" into her forehead, in honor of his favorite character in an interactive story told through technology powered by the very oddments of atomic matter. This character was a hedgehog, blue of spine and fleet of foot, and everafter in the afterlife, she saw blazed before her eyes the image of this hedgehog, running, and suffered from a constant high-pitched whine, a sonic fixture wherever she went and whatever she did, with the vague melody of a tintinnabulating theme, which would repeat until the end of days."
Mar. 10th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
I'm amazed!
Wow. I really really do not want SONIC 4EVER. :) I am quite sure that is not how afterlife works, though, otherwise quite a bunch of the people would see earthworms blazing in front of their eyes, and I just cannot accept such vision of afterlife. :)
Mar. 4th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
I know that ossuary, it's simply impressive! =D (Even if I strongly disagree about that kind of 'art': bones are always bones ... I'd not be happy to know that somebody used pieces of my body to build a sculpture!) XD
Mar. 7th, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
That looks like an awesome place to visit. We've been thinking about travelling for a few years now, but I am a bit skittish about doing so. Partially because I feel like a "stupid American", and partially because I don't want to have to go through a huge series of vaccinations before leaving the country.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )