Our last three days in the Czech Republic were very busy visiting 5 towns. Our first stop after leaving Prague was the town of Kutna Hora, it has Unesco sites and one of them was of particular interest to Ewout, the Sedlec Ossuary. It is a chapel where over 40,000 remains of people are displayed in unusual and interesting ways. The bones are in several piles throughout the chapel and they have used bones as artwork displayed on the walls. In the centre there is a large chandelier also made from, yes, human bones.
We paid for our ticket which included two other churches, one up the road and the other in the town about 3 kilometres away. After having a good look around the chapel and taking some interesting photo’s we walked for 5 minutes to the next church, The Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John The Baptist, a long title for one church. Here we were given a page of notes in English with the best features of the church, the route even took us into the ceiling, which is the second floor to the choir area. An interesting church which was very bright inside unlike most which are usually dark and gloomy.
Back in the motorhome and a short 3 kilometer drive to the town where we found an easy park near to the town centre and to the next location on our ticket, the Cathedral of St. Barbara. A very different church than the last one but still worth having a look through. We found the roof had an interesting shape and there were many beautiful stained glass panels in the windows. The town itself was very quiet and after strolling through, stopping for a drink in one of the squares we headed back to the motorhome and took the main highway in the direction of Prague and then north to the town of Terezin , arriving late in the day so we stayed overnight in a car park near to the small fortress.
The next two places we visited were to us extreme opposites. I couldn’t help comparing the lives of the people who had lived there. One place designed to imprison, deprive and ultimately destroy its inhabitants. The other a place for the privileged, spa treatments for sickness and beauty, expensive hotels and restaurants, designer clothing shops and everything you could want to make your life more pampered. The sobering thought was it was going on at the same time not that far from each other.
This town was originally built as a fortress by the Hapsburgs in the 1800’s but its more recent history is why it is still visited today. During the Second World War it was used by the Germans as a Ghetto camp for the Jewish population of Czechoslovakia and other countries. Telling the people this was a last stop then from this place the people were transported to the death camps. Although not an extermination camp many thousands of people died in the ghetto from poor food and lack of decent facilities, they were crammed into the buildings with little personal space.
The Museum was particularly interesting, originally a school it was used as a children’s home during the war and many of the children’s artwork is displayed in the building. Our ticket included the Ghetto museum which was situated in the centre of town a short drive from our overnight park. . The small fortress was used as a prison for partisans and other opponents to the Nazi regime. Our visit that day included the small fortress where we were given a guidebook detailing the various parts of the fort. It was interesting but I would not say it was pleasant, as it was hard not to contemplate the suffering that took place there.
After Terezin we drove to the town of Karlovy Vary. It was about 3 in the afternoon and we planned to go to our overnight parking place and take it easy for the afternoon but we wanted to have a look at the parking in town to prepare ourselves for the visit the next day. We drove to the car park near to the centre and found a suitable park and decided to pay the fee and go and have a look. If the car park was any busier we would not have found a spot. Getting a map of the town from the elusive tourist information office, which we found after about 20 minutes looking, (it was only 100 meters from our car park but the signs gave us the run around). This is a very up market tourist place where the restaurants have photos of the celebrities that have frequented their establishments. Full of fancy hotels, spa resorts and overpriced cafes, Jenny’s black coffee cost more than the three course meal we had in Tabor.
Throughout the town we saw people drinking out of strange looking ceramic cups. As it turned out it was spa water from taps that were positioned all through the town. Jenny bought one of the cups from the souvenir shop and tried the spa water, hot with a strange taste, it is supposed to be good for your health. It was over 4 hours until we were back at the motorhome, luckily we were only a few kilometres from the overnight car park which was up the hill from the town. A very quiet spot which we were grateful for as we had a busier day than we had planned, visiting two places in one day as well driving. You would have thought we would learn but no the next day we did the same thing.
Saturday 6th September. We are gluttons for punishment, after our busy day on Friday most sensible people would have had a day rest, read a book or watch some TV but not us we visited two town and even went for a swim to finish off the day. Our day started with a visit to the town of Loket a small picturesque place surrounded by a river and having a castle near the entrance. Locket castle is a 12th-century Gothic style castle on a massive rock. It is surrounded on three sides by the Ohře river. Once known as “the Impregnable Castle of Bohemia”, because of its thick walls, it is one of the oldest and most valuable historical stone castles in the Czech lands. After visiting more castles than we can remember we thought one more couldn’t hurt. The feature of this castle was the torture chamber with grizzly scenes of what may have happened here in days gone by accompanied by screams of the victims played over the sound system. The town was not very big and after having lunch at a café we headed off to Cheb.
We were passing by this town and had read that it was an interesting place to visit so we thought again, why not? Parking close by the centre we thought we might as well have a look at the town centre. Cheb is close to the German border and has been a busy trading town for centuries. The main square attests to this with the large ornate merchant houses lined up around the generous area. We sat for an Iced Coffee in a Café then walked around the most interesting parts of town. Two hours later we returned to our parking place having not only visited the town square but also walking around the out skirts of the town through the monastery gardens and around the old fortress area.
Sadly our time in the Czech Republic had come to an end. We had spent two and a half weeks driving through the countryside, visiting towns, villages, castles, caves and revisiting Prague. We feel that we now know the place a bit better and have enjoyed every moment of it. Most importantly the people we had come across have been friendly and welcoming. Special thanks to Stepan, Lenka and Jan for a great night out.