Sunday was a long, long trip in a minibus which, while not uncomfortable, would not be my favourite way of travelling four or five hundred kilometres. It had the strategic advantage of being able to stop on demand, which allowed us a stop at the Kaplice Czaszek Ossuary (in German, it’s a ‘beinhaus’), but is was still a bloody long day. Thank the good lord, dinner was a triumph, the accommodation excellent and Prague, even on a tired first evening, looked an absolute treat.
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The four older blokes shared this monument to carnivores —

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I have to at least describe the ossuary while it is still fresh in my mind. Twenty-three thousand bodies are supposed to lie in the crypt of the chapel, which is little more than a bit cellular. The most interesting and cleanest of the skulls and thigh bones have been collected and used to create the inner walls and ceilings of this small building, with the skeletons belonging to victims of the Thirty Years War and the plagues and epidemics which follow it. The original intention was to collect bones from a cholera epidemic that had not been properly buried, but a local parish priest decided, to concentrate many scattered mass graves into this rare site (I think there are sinky four of this type in all of Europe). The parish also has the distinction of producing two beatified priests last century: one a victim of the Nazis in Dachau, the other murdered by the communists in 1984 for his support for the Solidarity Movement.

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One of the advantages of having Rafal as a leader but not a guide is that he is not locked in to a path; so we saw an eclectic mix of things on our walk. The Jerusalem Synagogue is quite beautiful, but we didn’t see the outside — Paula and I decided that it was ok not to inspect the interior of every church and religious monument we visited, particularly as the others seem less keen that we might otherwise have been.

One walk through the old town and by the river gave us a real sense of what a beautiful little city this is, although our walk through the shopping district was punctuated by Paula’s desire to find a shop selling hair-straighteners, as her travelling one had blown up in Berlin. Towers, astronomical clocks, the Charles Bridge in glorious sunshine, all combined to drive anything else out of our mind. Even the dash up the hill — and the stairs — to catch the change of the guard at the Castle was worth it for the glorious view of the city under an intense blue sky. Raf and I kept reminding each other of bits if history and I’m pretty sure I walked past the spot where Heydrich was fatally wounded in 1943.

After a visit to the monastery library, which was a wonder in itself (I’ll have to scan in some of the postcards, because I was to cheap to pay the picture license fee), we had soup and beer at the monastery’s brewery, compete with very cranky waitress who go no tip, and then left the group for a couple of hours to do some retail therapy. Prague is certainly a city in which one could enjoy a week of just living, but the amount of music and culture, as well as the food, would fill the day. A January treat one day, perhaps?

We met up for dinner, and everyone was looking a bit tired. It has been a big day of walking with a couple of good sprints and tomorrow we are back on the train, so it wasn’t a late night. However, even without a tripod, I got a couple of good shots for the bridge of this amazing city.