Central Europe Road Trip Part 1
Leaving sunny Krakow, we headed into eastern Czech and the city of Brno. There we enjoyed the still-running Christmas market, an ossuary, and– of course– beer.
We drove into non-Bohemian Czech in the areas known as Moravia and Silesia. Silesia is actually a traditional area shared with Poland. The Czech language is related to Polish so we didn’t have too difficult of a time getting our ‘vignette’ which is needed to drive through the country. The currency is the koruna or ‘crown’. And currently, its value compared to the dollar (and euro and zloty) is quite low making Czech a very affordable destination.
Because the weather was foggy, we decided to explore a city instead of the countryside. We ended up in Czech’s second largest city, Brno (in English, BER-no). Unfortunately we could not see the cathedral or castle atop the hills because of the weather. It was only a few days after Christmas so the market in the city center was still running. We sampled some central European-level spicy (i.e. not spicy at all) meat and vegetables and sausage. To keep warm, there were plenty of warm drinks like medowina (mulled wine) and for my driver, apple cider.
In the market square there is a strange clock. It commemorates a historic victory won by the city through guile. In 1645 the city was under siege and the besieging general decided to lift the siege if he didn’t conquer the city by noon. So the residents rang the church bells an hour early at 11 and the attacking army left. Today at ‘Brno noon’ the clock drops a glass ball that tourists can take as a souvenir.
The highlight of the visit was the ossuary. It is found by walking down an unassuming staircase next to a cathedral. The whole place is small and dim. Since we arrived right at closing, we had the place to ourselves. Creepy music composed specifically for it plays while you walk through cold corridors to view ‘artistic’ arrangements of human bones. You are close enough to touch them (but don’t, it’s both disrespectful and gross). You don’t need to be an expert to notice differences in the shapes and sizes of the skulls and wonder about the faces they once supported. Perhaps some people would feel their trip ruined by such a macabre display, but I found it a little comforting that the people will forever be part of something beautiful.
Let’s end with something lighter. I’m pretty sure it’s a crime to visit Czech and not taste some of their famous unfiltered and unpasteurized beers. They also have to be the size of your head. Poor Tanner had to drive.
The next parts of our Central Europe Road Trip are coming soon. Part 2 is Austria.