-the world as I see it
Dobry Den! Good day! When someone talks about the Czech Republic, the words that come to your mind are probably Prague, Czechoslovakia, Communists and and not to forget, beer. Prague, being the capital city of this place is no doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This magical city has left me mesmerized and I would give anything to relive those days I spent in Prague. This article isn’t about Prague though, it is about the different places around the Czech Republic that I got to see during a class trip organized by my University. For those of you who still refer to the country as Czechoslovakia, it is time for you to wake up. Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993 when it split into Czech Republic and Slovakia, two independent nations. What about the Commies? They were ousted in 1989 during the famous Velvet Revolution. Coming to beer- yes, the Czech Republic enjoys the first position in per capita consumption of beer and given that beer is cheaper than bottled water there, you have to be careful or you might just end up with a big fat beer belly. The trip was entirely planned by one of our Professors and was spread across two days. All the destinations we visited are part of the World Heritage list of UNESCO. We started out from Prague at around 9 a: m in two different vehicles. For some reason, probably a morning coffee overdose, we thought, the driver of the vehicle that I was in seemed like he was straight out of a need for speed game. The first stop was Kutna Hora, and man, were we glad to get out of the car. Kutna Hora Kutna Hora was a town that shot to fame somewhere around the 13th century for its silver mines. The word Kutna is derived from the word ‘kutati’ which means ‘to dig’ and the word hora means ‘mountain’. In honour of St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners, stands an imposing church built in the late Gothic style. The construction of the church was carried out for more than 500 years with repeated interruptions owing to various reasons. Standing atop the steps at the entrance, I could see that this place would make a perfect destination for a summer wedding.
In Europe, a lot of the repair and restoration is done before summer, so that when the major chunk of tourists come, the place is in great shape. As we had gone at the end of March, repair was still underway (as is evident from the scaffolding covering the main door in the picture above). One of the engineers involved in the repair of the church gave us a tour around the place and also took us onto the roof of the church, which is usually inaccessible to the public. The interior of the church bathed in sunlight received through the stained glass windows was a picture of tranquility. The stained glass windows have many interesting details, if you look close enough and so do the ceiling frescoes. The roof of the church offers a breathtaking view of the town.
From Kutna Hora, we proceeded to the Sedlec Ossuary, better known as the Church of Bones. Though it is a little eerie at first, you can’t help but marvel at the intricacy of the chandelier, coat-of-arms, candelabra and the chalice which are all made of bones. The chandelier is supposed to have every kind of bone in the human body. The bones are supposed to have come from the thousands of bodies that had been buried in this place, which was once a mass grave. These people had either died in the Hussite wars or had been the victims of bubonic plague. The reason why so many people wanted to be buried here was because one of the abbots had gone to Golgotha and returned with a jar of soil from the holy land, which he placed here.
Zelena Hora Located in the countryside in the place where John (Jan in Czech) of Nepomuk was allegedly raised, this church dedicated to the aforementioned Saint is one of the finest examples of Baroque Gothic architecture. What I loved about the church is its unique shape and the clever use of symbolism. The cloister around the church is in the shape of a ten-pointed star and the church itself is in the form of a five-pointed star, based on a legend that when Jan of Nepomuk had been thrown into the river Vltava at the behest of King Vaclav IV, a crown of five stars had appeared on the surface of the water in the spot where he drowned.The number 5 is used extensively in the church- the five entrance gates, the five chapels and the five altars inside bear testimony to the fact.
In the centre of the dome of the Church is a large red tongue surrounded by a circle of flames and golden rays of light. The tongue is a symbol of the sword of St. John. There are so many other details in the altar and all around, which I either don’t remember or which are too long to write about. I just put in the details I could recall 🙂
Valtice From Zelena Hora, we went on to Valtice, where we were to spend the night. We stayed in a penzion(boarding house/ a small hotel) called Moravska Oaza. As the Valtice region is famous for Moravian wines, a trip here is not complete without having some of their delicious wines. The penzion had an attached wine cellar where wine-tasting had been arranged for the entire group. We went down to the brick cellar and had a small tour of the place where they stored the wine and a sommelier filled our glasses with the different white wines from the region. Our Professors decided that it was best to discuss our grades over wine, so that it wouldn’t dampen the cheer of the group. We thought this was definitely going to be the downer of the trip, but all of us ended up with good grades and that put everyone in “high spirits”. As we sipped our wine, the sommelier gave us a tour of the place and explained the entire process of wine-making.
The next morning we awoke to a lovely breakfast of cold cuts, bread, jams, jellies and different cheeses. We got into the SUVs and drove to the Valtice chateau, which is built in the baroque style. We didn’t get to see the interior of the chateau as it isn’t open to the public from November to the end of March. The wine cellar in the chateau is apparently the oldest one in the Valtice region and when it is open, the best wines of the Czech Republic are on display here and are also available for tasting.
Lednice A few kilometers away from Valtice, is the Lednice Chateau, a beautiful structure built in the Neo Gothic style. The Lednice-Valtice cultural landscape is protected by the UNESCO and consists of castles, chateaus, gardens, ponds and is just so picturesque. If it could look so captivating in winter, I could only imagine what the entire place would be like in the summer! The Lednice Chateau was built by the Liechtenstein dynasty as a summer residence. Although we couldn’t enter the chateau, we took a few pictures of the interior through the windows.
Trebic After spending some time in the gardens and walking along the ponds, we left for Trebic – a place famous for the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Christians since the Middle Ages as seen from the close proximity of the Jewish quarter to the Basilica of St. Procopius. The Jewish quarter along with its houses and synagogues has been preserved in its original state.
The basilica is built in the Romanesque-Gothic style and dates back to the 14th century.
Telc Our next and final destination before we went back to Prague was Telc. Each place kept getting better and better and I must say, we did save the best for the last. We went up the tower of the Holy Spirit church from where we got a panoramic view of the entire town. The place is centred around ponds, and my camera barely did justice to it.
Once we descended the tower, we went around the town and looked at the houses with pretty facades that lined Telc. At the centre of the town is the Marian Column or the Plague Column.
It had gotten a bit hot from all the walking around and some ice cream was in order, so we went to a shop located very near the centre of the town and got ourselves some delicious ice-cream. The guy at the shop was quite fun and whipped up fancy ice-creams without charging us an extra penny. 🙂
With this, we had come to the end of our trip, the end of our journey together as a class. The fact that we weren’t going to be together anymore had sunk in as we made our way back to Prague to have our final group dinner and celebrate all the times that we will cherish forever.