Wednesday, November 21

praha :: day 2 :: kutna "horror"

kutna hora is a quiet small town an hour or so outside of prague. it's famous for its "bone church". actually the bone church is in small "town"/area next to kutna hora called sedlec. the church is decorated with the bones of 40,000 people, which were found at the site.

this is our little adventure on our second day in praha. and, this entry is not titled kutna "horror" because of the bones, but because of our quasi-misadventure (and also because i'm corny).

(view from our window)

we wake up to a rainy day. breakfast is included with our hotel stay, which is nice since it's more than just the typical continental breakfast. the spread includes tons of bread, various types of deli meat, strange watery scrambled eggs, soft boiled eggs, and a salad bar consisting only of cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers. not too bad at all.

after breakfast we figure out that we need to get to the main prague train station, so we get on the tram right next to our hotel. i love our location. it's right next to the "novy smichov" mall, which has everything anyone could possibly ever need (including the Tesco and a Vodafone where we got our SIM card so we could have a cell phone on us, and H&M, Zara...everything!) it is also right around the corner from the Andel metro station, and a tram stop. fantastic!

too bad we did not check the train schedule before we left for the train station. we get to the train station and get completely distracted by a photobooth. many of us cram into it and start putting random coins into the slot. in the end, the photobooth eats our money (for reasons we did not understand because it was in czech). still despairing over the 50 crown coin i just lost, we head towards the ticket booths to face the daunting task of How to Get to Kutna Hora.

by the time we finally purchase our tickets and figure everything out, we realize that the train we should have taken just left 10 minutes ago. had we not been sucked into the photobooth we might have made that one. the next train isn't until noon, which is 2 hours later.

(note very confusing train schedule above)

so we leave the train station and wander into nove mestro ("New Town") to explore. by "explore" i mean that we manage to find a pub that is pretty authentic/local where we kill time. the pub is called "u stare posty" or something like that, and when we see a local crowd and strange looks, we know that we're in the right place. i proceed to have my first morning beer in praha. we simply order "pivo" ("beer") since there is no menu and they bring us .5 liters of gambrinus, which is delicious. destructor and i want potato dumplings but again, there is no menu. he takes out my lonely planet book, looks up the word for "potato dumplings", and shows the waitress. they are confused and ask us, "...goulas?" somehow we manage to communicate that we want ONLY dumplings (which i guess is very strange because dumplings are always given as a side to goulash, etc), and 10 minutes later they come out, plain and simple on a white plate. these are the best i've had so far, and will become the best i have my entire time there.

eventually of course, we make it onto our 12pm train. we have to split up and join strangers in compartments like in harry potter. the ride is pleasant and quick - just a little under one hour. prior to arrival i decide i really need to check out the bathroom. it is remarkably clean.

this map is right outside the kutna hora main train station. it turns out that it is upside down; i think the south arrow is actually pointing where north should be, which is really confusing when we try to navigate around the area.

we follow signs and other tourists in the general direction of the church. it is a good 15 minute walk.

in order to take photos inside, you have to pay an additional 30 crowns (the admission is 40 crowns); i think this is sort of an honor system, because no one really checks once you're inside. i definitely get my 30 crowns worth of photos.

this is the chandelier made out of every single bone in the human body. i have not yet identified all of them but i believe it.

after the bone church, we decide to head towards town to see a church one of my friends really want to visit. supposedly, there is a bus we can take for 30 cents. since we fail to find the bus and my lonely planet book advises that the walk to town is 20 minutes, we decide to just walk. ha!! 20 minutes my @#$. the walk ends up being close to 45 minutes. although we did stop a few times to take pictures, it really was not a good idea to walk.

by the time we finally reach the town we are all close to passing out (having only had breakfast and no lunch). what they say is right. the town is not much. it is so quiet the silence is deafening.

but! we press on and endeavor to eat chinese food. we thought it would be fun to try chinese food here.

(kung pao chicken - surprisingly tasty but too saucy/salty; but exactly as an americanized version would be)

(some sort of chow mein with pork and mushrooms - really weird and just doesn't taste right)

(my friend's sweet and sour pork - this is NOT sweet and sour pork. it tastes like krispy kreme donuts with pork inside)

after "lunch" which takes nearly 2 hours (we were the only ones in the restaurant and it took them nearly 45 minutes to cook everything fresh, plus it was 3:30pm when we got there), we head towards st. barbara's church. by now it is dark outside, about 5pm.

the church is absolutely stunning but sadly, it is closed! had we done our research beforehand we would have known that it closes at 4pm. but alas, we were too busy stuffing our faces with czech chinese food.

so, after this photo op, we decide to hurry back to the train station so we don't miss our 7pm train back to prague. who knows how we would get back there? one thing for sure is that we were not going to walk.

we drag ourselves into the main "town square" passing by a museum of alchemy on the way (there are so many random museums like this all over prague/kutna hora). there's a hotel and thankfully, the kind gentleman at the front desk speaks english. he tells us to go to the train station down the street, which will take us back to the main kutna hora station.

you mean, this whole time there was an easy way to get from the main station where we arrived, into the town center???

we make our way there through the dark, silent streets (with some of us repressing the urge to mention "hostel" - which i have not seen but know what the general reference is about). i officially decide that this is really creepy.

finally we get to a tiny station shrouded in darkness; there is a "train" on the tracks. but this train is really some weird little cart. it reminds me of one of the cars from a toy train set i used to have. maybe this is what the lonely planet book meant by "bus". i need to write a complaint to them; the walk from the church to town was not 20 minutes!!! also, how come there is a secret shuttle between the main station and town?

when we get to the main station, it is only 6pm. some of us sleep, but destructor and i kill time by playing with a water bottle we have. it has one of those sport tops with a valve that squirts water. if you pump the bottle just enough, you could shoot out a drop of water fast enough to surprise someone. we're so bored we take videos of us squirting each other.

our train is scheduled to arrive at 6:59pm. on the platform, we ask a very annoyed lady, "praha?" and point to the first train we see pull up (at 6:50). i think she says "ano". (which means "yes"! but we think this means "no"). the lights in this train shut down. then, another train pulls up on the opposite platform. there are no signs anywhere. we point to the new train and ask, "praha??" she nods and prints out a mini-schedule for me showing that the praha train is at 6:59.

we get on this train. after an hour, we look outside and are puzzled when we don't see the "praha" train station sign. where are we? shouldn't we be in prague by now? we re-group, wondering out loud if something was wrong. some of us want to go back to sleep in the cozy compartments. at that moment the train conductor comes to check our tickets. he looks at the first one, frowns, and says disappointingly, "no praha."

"no praha???" we all jump up, panicking. since we are at a station, he points to a train next to ours and says, "praha.". we throw ourselves out of the train and through the underpass, racing to the other train which happens to be stopped. we get on and stare at each other in disbelief. the train conductor approaches us and we ask "praha?" and he nods. he looks at our ticket and barely suppresses a sigh/look of disgust. he rolls his eyes and uses a special hole puncher to mark our tickets. i ask desperately, " long?"

he pauses, then slowly reaches for a pen in his pocket. then he takes my ticket and writes: "22:00"

i have to take a fraction of a second to subtract 12 to understand the time. then i sadly wail, "10 o'clock??" by now the girl sitting in the seat next to us feels compelled to jump in and help. she and the train conductor start speaking to each other rapidly in czech. she tells us that we had been on the train going the opposite way, to brno ("bruno").

so, we had gone an hour the opposite way, but were lucky enough to hop on the train going back to prague. but from here it would be 2 more hours. we were supposed to have arrived in prague at 8pm, but now we wouldn't get there until 10pm.

this is really sad, as the time needed in kutna hora was really no more than 3 hours, but somehow we managed to spend an entire day on this trip.

at least we are well rested by the time we arrive in prague. determined not to let the day go to waste, we venture out to stare mesto ("old town"). it is midnight and everything is closed! this is the strange thing about prague. a lot of places shut down so early (mostly pubs). finally we find a friendly little bar where we warm up with beer and the local absinthe. the bartender is nice and shows us how to light it on fire.

we imitate the train conductor to amuse ourselves: "no praha!" we also hate brno now.

at the end of a long day, we manage to find a cab (although we can't find the first two we call, which kept sending text messages in czech to destructor's phone). we tip the driver 50 crowns on a 180 crown fare. (especially since he didn't try to rip us off like all the warnings say they do here) he looks at us incredulously and asks, "is for me? ...really??". we insist. when i know someone truly deserves and appreciates a gesture like that, i feel happy. the day ends well.

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