Saturday, January 30, 2016

Holiday Photo Diary: Prague and Kutná Hora

So those of you who are friends with me on Facebook and Instagram will know that I spent three weeks in November travelling around Europe. I was attending a conference in Odense, Denmark but really this trip was a way for me to celebrate finishing my PhD and finally make the trip over to Europe.

Prague wasn't my first stop on the trip but of all my stops this was the place I was most desperate to visit. I literally made my trip as complicated as possible so that I could spend some time in this beautiful city. Sadly I was dead sick when I arrived, so my first afternoon was basically a short walk along the river before collapsing in my bed and overloading my system with vitamin C.

Day 2 began with a free 3 hour tour hosted by my hotel which led me around the main sites in Prague. This trip was the first time I took part in any of these free tours and I have to say they're a brilliant way to get your bearings in a new town and cross off a few of those must-sees (which might not necessarily be sites you want to spend a lot of time at). The tour trekked through the old and new towns, past the astronomical tower, the Jewish cemetery, Wenceslas square, Charles Bridge, the Dancing House - all with a local giving us the history of the area as we went. I felt pretty confident making my way around the city after that tour and I used that quick tour to decide on the areas I wanted to explore in more detail. After the tour I went into the castle proper and visited Strahov Monastery and the Vitrus cathedral, which has a stained glass window designed by Mucha. I love the architecture in Prague so much, it was easily the grandest and most beautiful city I visited in Europe (no offence everyone else).

Day 3 was a national holiday in Prague and my museum day. I walked along the river to the John Lennon tribute wall and paid respect at the French embassy opposite. This was only a couple of days after the Paris attacks and it was so moving to see these gorgeous tributes of flowers, letters and candles in each city I visited. After this stop I headed across to the Kafka museum which, guys, you've got to visit if you're in Prague. It isn't really a museum museum, but more an experimental art space and installation to display Kafka's work and explore his life. There's also a brilliant pixelated moving statue outside the museum which needs to be seen rather than described. There's a little book store around the corner called Shakespeare and Sons (Shakespeare a synové) which is also worth a drop in. After Kafka I visited the Mucha Museum which again, not really a museum but more of a gallery space. I love Mucha, I could have stood and stared at the Sarah Bernhardt pieces for hours (*ahem* and perhaps I did). I finished the day with a walk up Petrin Hill where I saw the memorial to the victims of communism and walked up to the Petrin Lookout Tower which gave the most beautiful view over Prague. Seriously, this city is out of this world stunning.

Day 4 I left Prague and travelled out to Kutná Hora with a girl I met at my hotel. Kutná Hora is a small town about 45 minutes outside of Prague. It's a pretty unassuming place but it's home to the Sedlec Ossuary, the chapel of bones. It's absolutely stunning and completely macabre. There are four pyramids of skulls and bones in the corners of the underground room and the rest of the room is literally crowded with skulls formed into crests, candelabras, words and embellishments. It's amazing. About 10 minutes further up the road is the proper town of Kutná Hora, a small medieval town with the original buildings still standing. It's very small and doesn't take long to explore, but it makes a charming accompaniment to the Ossuary.

Vitrus Cathedral

John Lennon Wall
Memorial to the victims of communism
Kafka Museum

The Dancing House

Sedlec Ossuary

Kutná Hora
Kutná Hora


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