Our first night in Prague after we returned from visiting Prague Castle we were freezing and keen to eat something warm. We found a traditional Czech restaurant where I saw an interesting delicacy on the menu – “Moravian Sparrow.” Oooh, that sounds intriguing, some little forest bird. Nope. It’s pork. Pork with onions and two kinds of dumplings. I feel like that is false advertising. Do not sell your meat by the name of another meat. It’s deceiving. That being said, it was also delicious, so my intentions to write angry letters to the Czech president were sated with tasty tasty pork ‘n’ dumplings.
After getting our fill of this scrumptiousness, we walked back to our hotel for some much-deserved sleep (remember our truly atrocious travel experience the day before). I realized our hotel butted up against one of the finest examples of art nouveau architecture, the metropolitan pavilion. Even though the chill pierced your clothes and got down to your bones I made Neenernator stand there for a minute while I gawked and sighed and generally had emotions over this building. So good.
Then we went back to the room and passed out. The next morning I was in no shape to get out of bed at 9:00 so Neenernator went to the Jewish Quarter to see the cemetery by herself which is fine, I’ve been before. The tombstones are still wibbly-wobbly. We met in the central square to join a tour I had booked at 11:00 to go to Kutna Hora. I’m glad I left the hotel early because I got an opportunity to see the tiny petting zoo right next to the tree.
Now, both Neenernator and I were looking forward to sitting quietly on a tour bus and having a relaxing time, but I had not read the small print on the tour site so I blew it. We were on a eco-friendly tour that only took mass transit. Lotta trains. Lotta walking in the icy air. I felt terrible. Neenernator was a trooper, but I could tell she was super-bummed. I gave a her a foot massage when we got back to the hotel that night to make up for it. We went to the train station and caught the one that takes one to the bone church. It was about an hour ride which gave me the opportunity to enjoy the communist buildings scattered around the countryside and stare intently at the pattern on the train seats. At first I thought they were abstract elbow macaroni, and then I thought they were peppy modern swastikas. I settled on pasta-inspired third-Reich symbols filtered through the 1960s aesthetic. That seems about right.
After then taking a little tram we finally made it. Now I felt like the last tour guide I went with gave me a nice overview of the interior of the church but this guide elaborated and I discovered some neat new things. Here is the blog entry of my previous visit. Once you’ve read that I will add additional information. So, same place. Walk in, go down steps, be visually assaulted by a colossal amount of bones. Awesome every time. BUT, here’s some things you did not know. For example. the chandelier, contrary to popular thought, does not contain at least one of every bone in the human body because there’s a rinky-dink bone in your ear and it is not represented on the chandelier so to say there is all 206 bones is false. The Schwarzenburg family crest off to the side, I now know what the four quadrants represent. The top two and the lower left-hand one represent land ownership and growing assets through various marriages, but the bottom right one, that one is an event. Right before 1600, the Turks and the Hungarians were fighting over a fortress. The Turks lost and the rule in war is after the fighting is over you go and retrieve your dead for proper burial. But the Schwarzenburgs who were in charge said No, Turks, you leave your dead there and watch crows peck their eyes out. And now that’s what that lower quadrant is – a skull with bones shards coming out the top representing the high ponytail the Turks rocked at that point in time, and a bird off to the side of the eye. Interestingly, the wing of the bird is made using a hand that had such crippling arthritis that all the bones are fused. Altogether a lovely addition to any home.
The other piece of knowledge I acquired was a small display case off in the corner. Several special examples of skull damage are there. The one on the left was whacked with an pickaxe, the one in the middle got a solid wallop from a mace and the one on the right had signs of healing so it appears that that skull had rudimentary surgery performed on it, possibly due to brain swelling. You go Europe, doing brain surgery back in the 1200s.
After we had stayed our allotted time we went to the Church of St. Barbara. I realized that I called it a cathedral in the post from 2010 and I was corrected. Do you know what makes a church a cathedral? I did not. I thought it was about size or how the floorplan was laid out, with transepts and naves and whatnot. Nope. In order to be a cathedral it has to have a bishop. And even though the Church of St. Barbara is huge and was supposed to have a bishop, it never did so it’s still just a gigantic church.
The inside is gorgeous and lofty with remnants of polychrome on many of the surfaces.
Another janky tree on display.
The windows are almost all art nouveau and they’re great.
One window is very clearly late 20th / early 21st century work and even though I don’t love the style I was delighted to see hedgehogs represented. A whole family of hedgehogs.
Most of the chapels have an enormous black and gold baroque altar as the centerpiece.
One had a considerably older Madonna and Child with it. I started chortling because for a long time sculptors didn’t understand how to distribute weight and balance in their figures, and in this Madonna, combined with her bored-looking expression, made me think she was mid-neck swirl. “Oh no you dint!”
Another altar had a suit of armor with a bit of muffin-top and a bellybutton.
The pulpit was also clearly baroque.
The tour guide took us to several different important things in the church. One was a sculptor of a miner holding a lamp. Kutna Hora used to be a major source of silver and was the mint of the area so most of the people working there were miners. Our guide explained to us that the reason the miner is wearing an leather apron backwards is because it took them two days to climb down into the mine. Eventually they built a wooden slide to get them down faster but it still took forty minutes and HOLY CRAP BUTT SPLINTERS ergo the leather apron to cover your hind-bits.
The miners are represented in various places throughout the church. There are these smarmy rich guys who owned the mines. “I’m Duke de Wealthy Off The Backs Of Others!” “Oh, are you? I’m Lord Haven’t Done A Day Of Hard Labor In My Life! Pleased to meet you.”
In one area they show how the money was actually minted. There were two people. One had a decent job, the man who swung the mallet. The other guy, wow. Rough. He had to hold the slug of metal and pray that hammer-dude didn’t miss his mark and smash his fingers. This job was so disliked it was offered to prisoners who had committed robbery in exchange for a substantially reduced sentence. The theory was after six months of holding this position their hands would be so permanently destroyed they would never be able to steal again.
After four hundred years of rockin’ this terrible technique they finally figured out a system that maimed no one and that was implemented.
There were many medieval paintings throughout the church. Sadly, we as a people did not know how to “make art good” at that time. Perfect example ? an enormous painting of St. Christopher. St. Christopher was a giant, so large that he used a tree trunk as a walking stick. There was a river that would flood and he would carry people across it, giving him the name “Opher” or “One Who Carries.” At one point a small child came to him late at night and begged St. Christopher to carry him over. Even though it was late St. Christopher obliges, and strangely the child gets heavier and heavier as they are crossing, almost drowning them both. But they make it and when they reach the other side it is revealed that the child was Jesus Christ, which is how the “Christ” got added to the “Opher” making his name “One Who Carries Christ.” The act of St. Christopher crossing the river is supposed to be depicted in this mural but no one knew how to paint water so they put fishes near his legs in the hopes that you, the viewer, would understand that St. Christopher is crossing water. But mere fish wasn’t enough, the artist thought. Let’s throw a lobster in there. And hey, why not add the ugliest mermaid in the world? Put her in there too. Every little bit helps.
While the paintings got better in the Renaissance, there was still some struggling. Another example – This huge mural of St. Ignatius sick and in Africa. Considering that this was probably painting in the mid-1600s, the artist had not been to Africa and had to resort to heresay about how to represent the continent. So, starting from the lower right-hand corner, there’s a blue genie (à la Aladdin), a horny camel making sexy-face at the viewer while licking his lips, a bunch of guys in turbans, a valiant attempt to render a lion, an equally valiant attempt to render an elephant, and one black guy who might be Indian. Africa!
After the church we went to an authentic restaurant for lunch where I had, what else? Meat and dumplings. This time it was wild boar goulash. And it was lovely.
The restaurant itself was amazing. First of all, they had a great menu translated in English. Both Neenernator and I had a giggle over 3A.
A freaking sword, people!
Whoever decorated the restaurant really embraced the weirder side of old European painting. I was totally loving it.
Post-lunch we headed over to the mint as the sun was setting. We only had a short time there, but we got a chance to see the now-cemented-over doors of the individual money-makers.
And the fountain that they really should have turned off before it got so cold out.
As we headed away from the church down the hill to the train I turned around and got this neat shot.
The next day we flew back home. That was my trip and it was great. Once again, much thanks to Neenernator and her family for making me feel so welcome. Here are a few pictures that were left over.
The train station in Neenernator’s home town. That particular area of Germany uses bricks predominantly in their buildings but they’re all these grim brown ones. The train station used these delightful orange ones. C’mon, rest of Ottersberg! Orange bricks! Get on board!
This bakery is called Le Crobag. It seems like an insult. I have taken to calling people “crobags” under my breath.
The perpetual rain in Germany isn’t all bad. Some beautiful moss grows because of it. This was a rock right outside Neenernator’s front door.
A sign on the side of a German elevator. It appears from the picture that you should not elevator. I wish it was more specific.
The most terrifying stairwell I have ever seen. It was in the Bremen town hall. The fact that the Amnesty International booth was directly under a railing that looks like a torture device was not lost on me.
Some beer tankards in Prague that look like startled fish.
And a stone carving.
That’s it. My trip to Germany.