It was during our time in Prague that we met an adorable travelling couple from 42nd Class. Oren & Cassie spent several days with us while we were in Prague from a walking tour, to chatting and just chilling out in our house. Then this came up. When someone invites you to a Bone Chapel you know you are either life long friends or vindictive enemies.
I had never heard of a Bone Chapel and did not really know what to expect on this cold Autumn day. Oren & Cassie had plans to leave that night on a flight so met at our GowithOh apartment. They left their belongings safely in our home and we all walked the 15 minute route to the Prague train station.
Kutna Hora is in Central Bohemia about 70km east of Prague. The train tickets were less then AUD$8 return per person. We had to change trains at one station, but it was fairly easy and not too much of a hassle. The journey was a little more than 1 hour before we found ourselves at the main station in Kutna Hora.
The Bone Chapel’s actual name is Sedlec Ossuary or in Czech, Kostnice v Sedlci. There is a large town map when you get off the train with the ossuary clearly labelled. You can take a bus, taxi or a go by foot for the 15 minute walk – our chosen method.
Our kids were starving by this point, so we spotted a pizza store and picked up a couple slices of Italian happiness for about $1.50 each. Wow, already the difference in price was evident compared to Prague, oh happy day.
The Bone Chapel
The ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath a cemetery. It is estimated to contain between 40,000 and 70,000 human skeletons intricately arranged to form spectacular decorations.
Creepy, right? Well reading about it is not quite as creepy as seeing it in the flesh, er… bones. We walked through a cemetery and descended a flight of stairs underground into a small one-room crypt chapel. At the door we paid the AUD$2 entry fee and were given an information sheet, cheaply covered in a plastic sleeve, describing what happened in this remarkably strange place.
It explains how in the 14th century during the Black Plague, thousands were buried in this cemetery. In the 15th century a blind monk was given the unenviable task of stacking the bones in the chapel. And then finally in the 18th century a local woodcarver was employed to put the heaped bones into some kind of order yielding a macabre result.
The place was eerily quiet as silence is imposed on all visitors, as is also flash photography (for the preservation of the bones). You could hear a pin drop. I could hear my heart beating in my chest.
The archway and walls around the entrance was decorated with an array of bones and a magnificent, elaborate bony chandelier drew the focus in the middle of the room. The chandelier is known to have at least one of every human bone in it.
In the corners of the room were 4 enormous bell shaped mounds surrounded by cages that signalled a high-pitched alarm to discourage wandering hands that strayed too far.
I felt a disturbing appreciation filling me as I stared at the remains of people long gone and what kind of bizarre artwork they had been turned into. It’s disgustingly beautiful. Like a train crash in slow motion, or a YouTube video of a man being hit in the testicles with a baseball bat, it was impossible pull away.
The Church is widely believed to be in a state of decline as the bones are slowly decaying. So if you do want to witness the horrifyingly eerie Bone Chapel, get there as soon as possible.
After our visit to the Bone Chapel, seeing tens of thousands of bones, the next natural progression was lunch. Really! We must be incurably morbid. We decided to catch the public bus into the centre of Kutna Hora. The landlord of our apartment had suggested for us to visit Dacicky, an old Bohemian tavern & restaurant. Smart move.
The bus ride was full most of the time, but very cheap at about 50 cents each. It took about 20 mins to get into the town centre, but with Josh and his trusty GPS we were off the bus, walking the back streets of UNECO heritage-listed Kutna Hora and stumbling into the timber door of Dacicky.
This place is legendary. The restaurant is decorated in an old Czech fashion and serves a great choice of lavishly presented delicacies of classic Czech cuisine, old Bohemian repasts, international specialties and a unique menu of alchemical dishes.
We also noticed very quickly how the prices were almost half of that we found in Prague and thus ordered far too much food as we wanted to try everything on the luscious-sounding menu. Things we tried between us were:
Widow Vojackova’s Pickled Cheese - camembert-style cheese in oil marinade with leek, onion and cranberries.
Beef Baked in Cream - a strange mix of beef, cream sauce, lemon, cranberries, whipped cream and dumplings.
Wild Boar Goulash - chunks of wild boar with cranberries and gingerbread dumplings.
Yeoman’s Goulash Soup - which was like Beef Goulash served in a bread bowl – so delicious and hearty.
Plus lots more!
We decided to walk to Kutna Hora’s central train station to get back to Prague. We strolled through the beautiful town and located it quite easily.
As we were approaching from a distance, everyone seemed a little on edge from a day visiting bones, I guess. But the railway station definitely looked like a scene from a Hollywood horror movie. You know, the one where the (good looking) tourists get murdered by a crazed lone attacker. I might have even seen a lonesome tumbleweed rolling by, or that could have just been my imagination.
It looked like it had been there forever, rundown and worn out, from a bygone era. But when we arrived there were staff working and we had about a half hour wait until the next train. This train took us back to the main station we originally arrived at and then we were on our way back to Prague.
The trains were so comfortable and we found a room all to ourselves. Everyone was fairly exhausted on the way home, but that didn’t stop the fun and games we all had rolling along the Czech countryside.
Surprisingly there were no nightmares that night. The kids didn’t really seem to get the whole Bone Chapel, as creepy as it was. But it definitely was strangely fascinating and totally worth the trip. You can only know what it’s really like when you get there. You can feel it in your bones.