“Visiting the Czech Republic and not leaving Prague is like traveling to the United States and not leaving Manhattan.”
Kutna Hora is a small town of about 20,000 people that is located about an hour east of Prague, and I visited with two friends last Friday. It’s famous for the Sedlec Ossuary, a small Roman Catholic chapel just north of the town limits containing an estimated 60,000 skeletons spread around its interior. I’ve read about the ossuary, but seeing it in person was insanely creepy. The skeletons aren’t just thrown in a pile, rather, they are laid out in intricate designs, covering the entirety of the modest cathedral. Once the wave of creepiness subsided, I felt something that I didn’t expect: Humility. It was weird to conceive that every one of the skulls, of the thousands that laid before me, was a person with a life. By the time the three of us left, we still had nine hours to go before our train back home, so we went into town.
Seeing as this was the first place I’ve seen in the country besides Prague, I was shocked to find something that has eluded me no matter where I look in the city: Silence. The kids were in school. The adults were in work. The tourists were either in Prague or the ossuary. It was just the three of us. There were times where it felt like a movie set for a central European-set biopic and we were the stars. The town was quaint and lovely, but we decided to spend some time as the locals do by going inside and drinking. We found a cozy pizza place on a picturesque cobblestone street and got lunch and “pivo” (beer). Well, cards on the table, they did and I didn’t (see: marginally hungover). When people say that beer is cheaper than water here, it’s not a figure of speech – it really is. One of the more annoying Czech customs is that water is not a common courtesy at dining institutions; you have to order it and it actually costs money. After about four weeks of research, it seems that the average price for still water is about 30 korun (about $1.30). On the flip side, a half pint of beer at this pizza place was 28 korun ($1.24). That’s a big glass of quality Czech beer for less than a Bud Light at any bar in Storrs.
Two and a half hours later, we emerged to find the town a smidge busier than how we left it. It felt like a full-fledged town. We walked to the southern part of Kutna Hora to admire St. Barbara’s Church, one of the most famous Gothic churches in central Europe and a UNESCO world heritage site. We sat down to drink mulled wine as we witnessed the golden hour wash upon the stained glass. That moment tied a beautiful bow on our day in Kutna Hora.
I’d imagine most of you are reading this because you picked up a paper, and in that case, hi! However, I’d like to hope that some of this column’s followers are reading because they’re thinking about studying abroad someday like I chose to do. No matter where you end up, make sure to travel within that country. If you end up in Europe, it can be easy to bounce from metropolis to metropolis, but countries are bigger than that. France is bigger than Paris. England is bigger than London. The Czech Republic is bigger than Prague. Check out some of the smaller towns.
Besides, they might even have a bone church!
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.