After a few days of walking the streets of Prague, we felt like we needed to get out into the countryside and away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Knowing that we would feel this way, I had arranged to have a private guide and driver take Blogger Hubby and myself as well as four other people in our group out to Kutna Hora and the Sedlec Ossuary.
We booked with Personal Prague Guide and after a number of emails, I firmed up our itinerary. I also received a picture of our tour guide, Milan, which was handy in meeting him in our hotel lobby as well as his biography. I’m grateful that his biography accompanied his photo because it eased my mind that he was indeed a licensed tour guide and his interests were varied and very interesting. Being a “senior” like us, he fit in just fine. Here is his bio and tell me what you think of him:
Milan is a licensed tour guide of the Czech Republic and Prague. He has worked as a tour guide for 15 years for several local companies, so he can speak English very well (and also German, French, Italian). He is very informative guide with a human approach and a great sense of humor. He can bring the history alive and let you understand the fears and the dreams of local people. He was an active member of the anti-communist Velvet Revolution 1989, so his stories definitely cross the borders of the guidebooks! Milan is the co-founder of our company, and by the way my – Sarka`s – father (and a big tutor!). We have a very similar guide style. In a joke we always used to say “he’s as smart as a radio” 🙂 As he is getting older, he sometimes talks longer – mentioning all the details and context. But he also gives a lot of tour time for free to his clients … so you do not pay for his “talkative moments” 🙂 He is very entertaining – a local character! Do not be surprised if he plays the songs of the Velvet Revolution on his flute during the tour. His hobbies are numerous: sightseeing, history, traveling, diving – Ceylon, catamaran boat in Croatia, languages, bio-farming …
The cost, for May 2015, was 6100 CZK which worked out to be $45 per person for our group of 6 plus entrance fees of places that required them. This was much less expensive than the tour guide that our local travel agent suggested which was 100 Euros per person. Our tour was to last 6-7 hours and if it went beyond that, then there would be an additional charge. We didn’t think that would be necessary and that 6-7 hours would be more than sufficient. We had only planned to go to St. Barbara’s Church and the Sedlec Ossuary (known as the bone church). Both St. Barbara’s Church and the Ossuary, in Kutna Hora, are on the UNESCO World Heritage site. As we are traveling more, we are drawn to sites that are listed as UNESCO sites. Trivia question – what is the abbreviation UNESCO stand for? Answer at the bottom of the blog.
It took about an hour to drive from Prague to Kutna Hora. Milan was able to talk to us while the driver was negotiating the traffic and roads and tell us about the history and importance of Kutna Hora. Kutna Hora was a silver mining town and a very prosperous one. In fact, most of Europe’s silver coins came from the silver that was mined here. and the wealth it brought to the mine owners.
Because of the mines, Kutna Hora became one of most important cities in Bohemia and was also one of the richest cities in Bohemia. The Church of St. Barbara was founded by Kutná Hora’s rich mine owners in 1388. It became the second most important city in Bohemia during medieval times. You can go down into the silver mines if you make an appointment in advance but be forewarned, I’m told it is very narrow using the original narrow corridors and is 50 meters underground.
The Cathedral of St. Barbara is one of the most famous buildings in all of central Europe. It was built in the Gothic style and later, as the building process continued for over 500 years, Baroque began to take over. St. Barbara, as we learned from Milan, was the patron saint of miners which is important to note as this area received most of its wealth from the silver mines. St. Barbara’s is the most spectacular gothic cathedral in the Czech Republic. It’s difficult to appreciate the cathedral from close up as there is so much to see, and almost impossible to capture it in a photograph though I did try. The intricacy of the flying buttresses, the unique tent-like sailing spires, and the marvelous cliff-top setting just made this church absolutely beautiful inside and out.
Milan also showed us some of the markings on the pillars in the church. Each straight line represented work that the stone carver did on the pillar and this is how they were paid. Sort of a medieval bookkeeping system. If you go to this church see if you can find some of these markings on the pillars. They look like this:
The church itself is very beautiful. We walked in and immediately our eyes were drawn upward to the “ribs” on the ceiling. To think about how they constructed this building without all the modern machinery that we have now is mind bogging. The stain glass windows, the mosaics and when you looked up, you saw coats of arms from many of the miners. I wished I had thought to bring binoculars to view the details in the ceiling.
The church also had a statue of a miner who represented all miners in the town. Miners would come and pray to St. Barbara at her church and they would also pray to her while underground particularly during the cave-ins.
After viewing the church we left and walked down a wide cobblestone pathway that was lined with statues that lead us to the center of town. To the left of the pathway was a Jesuit college and to the right was a beautiful vista of vineyards and gardens.
As we were walking to town, about a ten minute walk, Milan explained and showed us what a real cornerstone was. Apparently homes had place outside of their homes so that horse drawn carriages would not run into the homes and destroy them.
Once in the town, Milan took us to one of his favorite restaurants where we ate in the back gardens – a very relaxing luncheon. We tried to pay for his lunch but he would not hear of it. Apparently he tells his guides not to accept anything other than the fee for the tour and tips. He did buy a glass of the special liquor that the Czechs drink in order for us to have a taste.
Trivia Answer: UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Our next stop – the Bone Church otherwise known as the Sedlec Ossuary. Wait till you see the pictures I have of that! Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures of St. Barbara’s and Kutna Hora