Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Ossuary

Oops!  I've been in Prague for almost two months and I haven't updated this Blague since my first entry.  The course ended February 3rd.

The time leading up to my journey was terribly stressful, the four-week TEFL course was intense, and then I came to a full stop and I've been lounging with extreme prejudice for a couple weeks now while waiting for my Russian work visa.  I've been doing some serious nothing.  If lying around in bed was a sport, I'd be in the Olympics. I had big dreams of taking trains to nearby European cities or of hitting every single tourist spot in Prague with my free time, but ultimately I had neither the budget nor the organizational skills to plan these adventures.

"But surely with no work to occupy your time and no money to do anything, you must have had plenty of spare time to update your blog," you might reasonably suggest, but you'd be forgetting that I had to play hours of Mahjong on my computer, read a 700-page biography of Joseph Stalin, and watch every episode of Downton Abbey... twice.  Oh, Matthew!

I did get to go out and see a few things.  A museum here, a cathedral there.  Since I have to be up in 6 hours to head to the airport, I'm picking one thing to tell you about here:  The Sedlec Ossuary at Kutna Hora.

Kutna Hora is a small town about an hour by train outside of Prague.  On Saturday, I accompanied fellow TEFLer Jamie and her visiting friend Jenny to this adorable but weirdly empty ghost town, and we set off on foot for the famous Sedlec Ossuary.

The Sedlec Ossuary is a Catholic chapel located in a graveyard and decorated almost exclusively with human bones.  There are femurs and fibulae arranged into symbols and letters adorning the wall, hanging garlands made of skulls,  four carefully arranged skull pyramids at which people throw coins trying to score an eye-socket, and most impressively, an ornate chandelier fashioned out of every kind of bone found in the human body.

The skeletons are primarily plague victims from the 14th or 15th century.  They were buried originally in graveyards, but were dug up and moved en masse into an ossuary in order to create more room.  In the 19th century, a man named Rint was given the task of adding a bit of aesthetic flair to the bone shed and this was what he did with the place.

Jamie, Jenny and I ended up walking around for five or six hours taking in all that little Kutna Hora had to offer.  The town was totally adorbs and there were plenty of shops and restaurants lining the cobblestones streets, but unfortunately they were closed and no one was around, and this on a Saturday afternoon.  We saw a few things (including a Philip Morris plant and museum, seriously), but since I like to end stories with a panorama, here's a view of the Kutna Hora from the St. Barbara cathedral. 

In the morning I'm off to Moscow.  My flat and job will be in the outskirts town of Mytishchi, about an hour's journey from the center.  A Wikipedia search of this idyllic Soviet hamlet reveals it to be home to, among nothing else, a monument commemorating Russia's first ever drain pipe.  You can't make this stuff up!  So goodbye, Prague.  Goodbye mild winter and friendly English-speaking folk, goodbye $1.50 pints of beer, goodbye Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.  It's time to leave this merry drunken city of architecture and puppets, and head to snowier and more dystopian climes:  Hello Moscow.

Which reminds me, I'll have to change the name of the Blague since I'm moving.  I'm open to suggestions.

One more cityscape for the road: