We arrived in the Czech Republic on New Year’s Eve. This time of year, it was hard to find accommodations–there were just a few air BNB’s available in Prague, all out of our budget. Initially, I had us booked to stay in a rustic little place an hour outside of the city, but it turns out there was no heat in the place so I cancelled that one and booked a place two hours south in a little town called Trebon.
Trebon–Trebon turned out to be a sleepy little town this time of year. I chose it because of it’s proximity to Czesky Krumlov, a picturesque town that is a popular destination.
On New Year’s Eve, we wandered the streets of our sleepy town, stopping to watch the few revelers in the park fire Roman candles at each other (a favorite tradition of young men everywhere you can buy Roman candles).
Cesky Krumlov–On New Year’s Day, we drove into Cesky Krumlov. Despite the cold temperatures and the fact that it was New Year’s day (and thus many attractions were closed) this picturesque little town was fairly well packed with tourists. We wandered the streets, ate some Czech street food, and then headed back to Trebon.
More Trebon–We spent the next day in a “natural area” near Trebon that turned out to be a pond in a strip of trees. While Nolan chopped ice from the puddles near the pond for sale in his “ice shop”, and Jane wandered around listening to an audio book (Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary), Margaret and I ice skated in our shoes around the edge of the pond. Turns out that four hours of this monotony was not enough for the kids who all melted down when it was time to leave.
Kutna Hora–Our third day in the Czech Republic was spent driving to and exploring Kutna Hora, another quaint and picturesque town (Czechia is filled with them) whose main attraction is an ossuary–a bone depository.
In the thirteenth century, an Abby of the church on Kutna Hora was sent to the Holy Land. When he returned, he brought with him a container of soil collected from Golgotha which he sprinkled around the small cemetery surrounding the Sedlic Chapel in Kutna Hora. This connection to the Holy Land resulted in thousands of people desiring to be laid to rest in the small cemetery. Over the years, so many people were buried there that the bones of the deceased had to be exterred to make room.
The dilemma of what to do with the bones of an estimated 40-70,000 skeletons resulted in the macabre display within the Sedlic Chapel. The bones were used to create coats of arms, chandeliers, and other decorations within the chapel. Skulls and femurs were stacked into floor-to-ceiling pyramids.
As the popularity of the Czech Republic as a tourist destination had increased, so has the popularity of the ossuary at Sedlic Chapel. Over the years things have gotten so out of hand with tourists trying to get the perfect selfie along side the bones that they just flat out banned any photos (the ban going into effect Jan 1, 2020).
We checked out a few more of the sites in Kutna Hora, and Jane found a little cafe that served hot chocolate and pancakes. Then we drove into Prague.
Bohemian Switzerland— For our first day in Prague, we drove out of the city to an area known as Bohemian Switzerland. Two Swiss artists who visited the area named it as such because the geography reminded them of their homeland.
We reached the area after another drive through the Czech countryside filled with farm fields and small towns.
We made the hike to a large arch in a narrow sandstone rock formation called Pravčická brána.
Margaret is getting older, but is still the baby and gets “too tired to walk” after a few steps and ends up being carried up the mountain and back down again.
The day was gray and we got a little wet, but it was a fun trek.
Prague –We saw a few sites around Prague for our second full day in the city. For a few other days, Ashley and I took turns taking independent excursions into the city while the other entertained the kids who at this point completely lose it at the thought of seeing sculptures, cathedrals, castles, etc.
Prague is a truly beautiful city. It was spared the bombing that destroyed so many old towns in Europe during the second world war.
Over the last twenty years, it has become a popular tourist destination. While summer is the height of tourist season in Prague, the winter holidays also draw quite a crowd. The streets and squares of old Town are filled with Christmas markets and tourists.
Ashley and I both walked the town after the Christmas markets had closed and there were much fewer tourists then, which was nice.
Brno--we drove a few hours to see the second largest city in the Czech Republic. We checked out since local sites and ate some local food, which for Ashley and the kids was chimney cakes, something we first encountered in Georgia, but can be found all over Czechia, and for me was a baked pork knuckle.
Czechia was great–lots of fun, easy to drive in, good food, very picturesque. But now we are headed to warmer climes.
As this is expected to be our last time in the cold (we’ll be back in Europe later in the Spring), we offloaded some of our warm clothes and hopped the plane for the long overnight flight to Thailand!!