Prague # 2
Gastro pubs line the streets under lantern lights. A group of American college students
studying abroad naturally insert themselves within the locals. The nightlife of Prague is given a
boost with the aid of the city’s public transportation system. With a flurry of trams, buses, and
the metro, getting around Prague is relatively easy, but may seem a bit unusual for tourists.
Instead of locations, times are stamped onto your tickets allotting you a 30 or 90 minute
pass for all transport. Beware of disobeying Prague’s seemingly lax ticket security system. While
it may seem relatively benign to sneak your way onto a bus, surprise ticket inspectors know to
target unwitting tourists and nail them with a heavy fine. Lastly, purchasing a ticket is
impossible unless you have coins. The machines only accept coins and there is no exchange
machine. But once you do get used to the rules the transportation system is actually a lovely
way to travel.
Now that you know how to travel let’s see what there is to travel to. Our first stop of the
day was St. Vitus Cathedral. The cathedral is a great example of Gothic architecture, but its
gloomy exterior houses one of the most ornate rooms inside. The St. Wenceslas Chapel inside
the church is covered in rich wall to wall paintings of the Passion of Christ and the lower part if
decorated in semi-precious stones. The room is illuminated with a tall window and bathed in
warm light from the chandelier. You won’t be able to stand in the room, so make sure to
stretch your back before bending over backwards to take a picture from the doorway.
Another famous chapel is inside the Archbishop Palace on Hradcanske square. Legend
has it that the altar in that chapel was a beautiful painting of Christ’s crucifixion. The artist
painstakingly tried to capture every detail, going so far as to tie a beggar to a cross to capture
Christ’s face of suffering. However, the artist still was not satisfied and stabbed the beggar in
the heart, painting his anguished expression before he died. Going mad after doing so, the
painter leapt off a mountain killing himself. It’s safe to say this story is absolutely insane, but at
least pretty fitting that a painting of Christ’s sacrifice required two sacrifices itself.
Well if you thought that was pretty macabre, you’ll love our visit to Kutná Hora. As one
part of the group went out to watch a ballet opera performance, the rest of us went to the
Sedlec Ossuary, or the “Bone Church.” Estimated to contain the skeletons of around 40,000 to
70,000 people the church is located within a cemetery. Skulls and fibulas are artfully arranged
into pyramids and chandeliers. Rint, the artist responsible for the boney architecture, even
signed his name with clavicles and other bones on a side wall. The story goes that the abbot
brought back soil from Jerusalem to sprinkle over his cemetery. Soon enough too many people
wanted to be buried there that they needed to expand. Without enough room to expand, they
got a little creative and asked a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint to make a chapel of bones.
Judging by the coat of arms fashioned out of bones, I’d say he did his job. The chapel is pretty
small, so don’t expect wall to wall skulls but is still pretty impressive. The multitude of child-
sized skulls is, I guess, proof enough of mortality rates at the time.
I hate to end this series of articles on such a somber note, so I’ll lighten it up with the
Trdelnik. Those strong-armed women beating up dough in stalls aren’t funneling out their
frustrations, they’re actually making pastries. Flattened and then rolled around sticks over an
open flame the pastries are baked golden brown and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Paired
with a strong cup of hot chocolate, this was my 2 year long redemption for never getting a
cronut that rainy day in New York. Sure the cronut is a masterpiece of butter and flour, but
looking at Prague castle over the Vltava River; yeah I’d say this is a pretty sweet consolation