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2 posts from February 2013

02/22/2013

Kutna Hora

By Eleanor Klibanoff, George Washington University

Prague has a lot of churches—it really earns the nickname “City of a Thousand Spires.” It’s hard to imagine you could ever see them all, even if you devoted all your time here to just visiting places of worship. But before we could even scratch the surface of the Prague church scene, CIEE was packing us up and taking us to see other churches in other cities in the Czech Republic. We went to Kutna Hora, a town located an hour outside of the city. Kutna Hora is most famous for it’s two main churches, which are very, very different from each other.

In the morning, we went to the Cathedral of St. Barbara, which is a gothic church from the 1300’s. It is huge and incredibly beautiful. From the outside, it is best appreciated at a distance. The flying buttresses, the stained glass and the stonework make for an impressive site high up on a hill. The inside has countless frescos and paintings, generally depicting St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners. Since Kutna Hora is a silver mining town, it’s easy to see why they chose her as the namesake for their largest church.

After a delicious lunch break, we ventured to the second church, which is unlike any church I’ve ever been to. During the plague and the Hussite wars, so many people died that they were unable to bury all the bodies properly. Eventually, the bones were used to decorate this otherwise plain church. The remains of over 60,000 people create the chandelier, coat of arms and geometric decorations around the church. Some areas just have piles of bones while others used the skulls to create strange towers. The whole thing is incredibly strange, but also makes you realize how destructive the plague must have been. These are the remains of those who couldn’t be buried, meaning thousands more had already died at that point.

The trip to Kutna Hora was interesting, mainly just to show the difference between the two main city attractions. It’s hard to believe that the Cathedral of St. Barbara and the Bone Church are right down the road from each other, but it did make for an fascinating comparison!

Trip to the Opera

By Eleanor Klibanoff, George Washington University

The State Opera House in Prague is one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole city. It is a massive marble building where the wealthiest Czech’s dress to the nines and spend an evening enjoying stunning opera performances. But few people know that if you are a student at Charles University and you show up half an hour before the show, student tickets are only 50 kc or about $2.50 US. That’s how a group of thirty young Americans found themselves watching Nabucco, a classic opera about the Jewish era of Babylonian captivity.

            Marie, one of the Czech buddies, let us in on the secret behind the student tickets and met us to show us the beautiful theater. We all dressed up in whatever fancy clothes we had brought with us and took the metro to Wenceslas Square, where the opera house is located. Despite getting a little lost along the way, we eventually were able to find the group and enjoy the music.

The opera, by Giuseppe Verdi, was first performed in 1842. While the story is about a horrible event in the Israelite history, Verdi also weaves in romance, family drama and martyrdom. Luckily, the opera house provides subtitles in both Czech and English to help those who don’t speak Italian. When the two-hour show got a little slow in places, I entertained myself by trying to identify Czech words I had learned in class that day. Afterwards, we took pictures in the ornate theater and went to dinner right down the street. I enjoyed the show, but I especially liked the price tag—who knew you could get dinner and a show for under $10!