06-26 Kutna Hora, The Ossuary and several Castles and Churches

In 1278, Henry, the  abbot of the Cistercian monastery  in Sedlec, was sent to the Holy Land by King Otakar II of Bohemia. He returned with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. The word of this pious act soon spread and the cemetery in Sedlec became a desirable burial site throughout Central Europe. In the mid 14th century, during the Black Death, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, many thousands were buried in the abbey cemetery, so it had to be greatly enlarged. Around 1400, a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction, or simply slated for demolition to make room for new burials. In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order, yielding a macabre result.

Kunta Hora - Ossuary coat of arms us 1
Standing in front of the Coat of Arms of the Schwarzenberg family
Kunta Hora - Ossuary 7
1870 the Date František Rint did the work in the Ossuary.

Kunta Hora - Ossuary 1 Kunta Hora - Ossuary 2 Kunta Hora - Ossuary 15

A visit to this Ossuary is a bit macabre what with all the bones around – many in piles, many in decorative forms – actually a little creepy.

Kunta Hora - Ossuary 6 Kunta Hora - Ossuary 10

After our visit, we walked over to the Sedlec – the first Cisterican monastery in Bohemia – founded in 1142.  An unusual feature is the ability to walk above the vaulted ceilings in the attic and see some of the construction required.

Kunta Hora - Church Inside
Monastery Church of the Virgin Mary – Santini’s vaulting
Kunta Hora - Church 1
Entrance to the Church
Kunta Hora - Church alter 1
Alter dedicated to Saint Mary.

On either side of the Alter were two glass cases hold the Relics of two saints – on the left is St. Vincent – Martyr of ancient room donated by Pope Benedict XIV on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of monastery foundation.

Kunta Hora - Church relix right side
Relics of St. Vincent
Kunta Hora - Church view under roof 3
Looking down at the top of the brick supporting of the Arch along the side of the Church.
Kunta Hora - Church view under roof 5
Beams and framework holding up the roof of the Church.

Another church in town is the Cathedral of St. Barbora.  Around the courtyard of the church was a medieval style fair happening with people in costume and period games and entertainment being performed.  We didn’t join in as it was rather cool and looking like rain.  However, we did venture into the Cathedral for a look around.

Kunta Hora - St Barbory inside miner
Silver mining was huge – this depicts what the average miner might have worn while working the mines.
St. Barbora Orgin dl
Very fancy pipe organ.

Kunta Hora - St Barbory side of church1  Kunta Hora - St Barbory inside Kunta Hora - St Barbory inside Side chaples Kunta Hora - St Barbory inside 2 St. Barbora stainglass dl  After a delightful lunch with Ilona, Kunta Hora - Lunch we heading out for more Castle visits.

One more stop for the day was to was to Konopiste.  This Castle had been modified many times ultimately being purchased by Franz Ferdinand d’Este  in 1887.  At the time, he was the richest member of the Habsburg family at the time and at 21 started to make over this Castle to his liking.  Franz was not considered to be a candidate for succession to the throne but that all changed when the King’s brother died of typhus in 1896.  Even with this possibility, he married Sophie Chotek – who was not considered of high enough birth to be present at the court of the King.  Regardless, Franz was in love and they married and lived mostly in Konopiste only visiting Vienna when required to do so.  The castle was modernized during the early 1900’s with electricity and additional bathrooms being installed.

Konopiste side dl  Konopiste exterior dl

The Castle had a large park around it – all the result of Franz buying up everything around and tearing down all the buildings including a small village.  Within the grounds he established various hunting areas, a pond, gardens and all related items to support his luxury lifestyle.

At the moat, just around the Castle, there were kept several bears – still to this day they are present.

Konopiste Beer Pit bear

Don't feed the Bears
Don’t feed the Bears

We didn’t tour the Castle as the last tour was being done in the Czeck language – didn’t think we could following along.

Konopiste interior dl  game on wall
Franz liked to hunt – all over the world.
Konopiste interior dl armor
Hugh collection of armor.

Konopiste interior dl

After walking around a bit, Janeen went to the Gardens of course.

Konopiste garden dl Konopiste peacock jpl 4 Konopiste greenhouse jpl 2

This Castle is significant as the Seat of power for Franz Ferdinand, the successor to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie.  When they were assassinated in 1914 it participated the start of World War I.

 

06-25 A guided Tour outside of town

Prior to leaving for this trip, I had arranged a guide to take us out of Prague and into some of the historical sites.  We were picked up by Ilona and her husband, Peter,  who acted as the driver and off we went.

The first stop was to Český Krumlov Castle located about 2 ½ hours outside of Prague. The Castle dates back to 1240 when the first castle was built by the Witigonen family, the main branch of the powerful Rosenberg family. For the next several hundred years it pass through a number of Noble families ultimately passing to the Schwarzenbergs. After WW II it ultimately became a property of the Czech government. The entire area, castle, village and surround areas, were declared a national monument in 1989 and in 1992 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

We started our tour in the gardens of the castle at the top of the hill   Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Castle Garden JPL  and walked through several squares ultimately getting to the main gate of the castle and into the town. Along the way we had beautiful views of the river, the village and the surround buildings.

Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Castle Overlook of river 3

With each square there were interesting sites to see – faux windows and doors on the walls, Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Castle view courtyard crests Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Castle view courtyard wall at corner Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Castle view courtyard  representations of the coat of arms of the Rosenberg family and historical objects like rock cannon balls.  Interior shots of the Castle show how richly appointed all the rooms are.

cesky-krumlov-stage
The Theatre stage inside the Castle

Český Krumlov Castle Masquerade Hall    Český Krumlov Castle Masquerade Hall 1    Cesky Krumlov Salon

Rock canon balls
Rock canon balls

After leaving the castle we walked through a portion of the village and across a bridge to the main section.

Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Outside village street 6
Note the design on face of this building.
Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Outside castle red gate
The Red Gate – entrance to the Castle.

The village has winding small cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants and open areas – squares. We walked to an over look to look back at the castle and through the church.    Day Trip Cesky Krumlov church

Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Outside village street rocks at corners 1  Note the stones at the corner of the buildings.  This was to protect them from horse and carriage impacts.

View of Cesky Krumlov Castle from the village
View of Cesky Krumlov Castle from the village
Day Trip Cesky Krumlov water wheel
Old mill and water wheel.
Day Trip Cesky Krumlov Outside village street rocks at corners
Corner guards at buildings.

After a lunch of local fare  Day Trip Cesky Krumlov lunch main dish   we headed back to the car to continue our adventure.   Day Trip Cesky Krumlov castle arches and walkways  This view of the castle shows the walkways created to separate various levels of society.  The top level was for the Noble’s to walk from the Castle to the gardens, the middle level was for servants and the lower level was for access to the Theatre from the Castle.

After connecting with Peter, we drove to České Budějovice for a quick tour around the square with it’s impressive buildings.  Day Trip Cesky Krumlov bridge overlook us 2 Day trip České Budějovice square Day trip České Budějovice square 9 Day trip České Budějovice square 7

Budějovice has long been well known for the beer brewed there since the 13th century. For a time, the town was the imperial brewery for the Holy Roman Emperor, and Budweiser Bier (i.e. beer from Budweis) became, along with Pilsner from Plzeň, one of the best-known lagers. Brewing remains a major industry. This is the town that the American brewer took the name for Budweiser Beer

From here we went on to Hluboka Castle.   This historic chateau and is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic. In the second half of the 13th century, a castle was built at this location and rebult several times over the years. Finally being modified into it’s current form by Adam Franz von Schwarzenberg in the beginning of the 18th century. It is in the romantic style of England’s Windsor Castle. The owner fled the country in 1939 to escape from the Nazis.  day trip Castle ala winsor day trip Castle ala winsor us at entrance day trip Castle ala winsor outside day trip Castle ala winsor garden jpl 2 day trip Castle ala winsor garden 6

Today’s adventures were all south of Prague.  Tomorrow we head east to see other sites not normally on the common tour route.

 

 

06-24 Prague – Jewelry Day

As mentioned in yesterday’s post Janeen found an artist who’s jewelry she liked.  This involved her buying a lovely necklace and a bracelet.  Well, the design was such that it was a gold and silver piece but the two pieces (bracelet and necklace) didn’t match.  So today, as it was HOT, we called an Uber and got a ride to the third shop of the store that represented the artist.  Unfortunately they didn’t have anything that would resolve this issue.  We went for a great lunch at Kampa Park Restaurant for a nice bottle of Sav Blanc and lunch.

Prague Castle Dist - Lunch Wine Prague Castle Dist - Lunch Veg Pasta Prague Castle Dist - Lunch salad Prague Castle Dist - Lunch Rabbit

The critical decision on what to have for dessert required much thought.
The critical decision on what to have for dessert required much thought.

We were right on the river and watched the boats going back and forth on their various tours.

Insofar as we didn’t resolve the jewelry issue, we called Uber again and went back to the original store (also the “flagship” location) to see what they could do.  Well, the staff were very friendly and with only a little prompting by me called the Artist directly to see about making adjustments to the necklace and bracelet.  Well, not a problem they said – we can ship it to you in 4 to 6 weeks.  Naturally I took a picture of them

The helpful staff at the jewelry store.
The helpful staff at the jewelry store.

and with only an addition 200 Czech Koruna (8.40 US) the deal was done.  Of course this only made the total value of our purchases in the 7000 Koruna range. But Janeen will be happy and it will arrive in time for our anniversary (I hope).

On our way back to the Hotel we stopped for a quick picture (standing in the street) of the Powder Tower.

prague - DL & JL at Powder House

An event relaxing day for sure.

06-23 Another Day in Prague

The Estates Theatre was built during the late 18th century in response to the Enlightenment thought regarding general access to the theatre, and theatres themselves demonstrating the cultural standards of a nation. The Estates Theatre was designed and built a little less than two years for the aristocrat Count Nostitz Rieneck. Currently productions include a variety of productions – drama, opera, music, plays – and the schedule changes virtually every day requiring the stage to be reset daily. Our visit included a nice tour of the building, a visit to several boxes and a performance by several musicians.

Estates Theatre outside
Estates Theatre Building
Estates theatre us in seat
A quick picture of us while sitting in the main floor.
estate theatre view from box of boxes jpl 1
Janeen claiming her box for the evening.
Estates Theatre boxes
The boxes were nicely directed and pleasant.
Estates theatre building stage
The Stage crew has permanent employment as the change is reset every day.

After the tour of the Theatre, we went to the Municipal House. This is a civic building originally built in the 1380’s but destroyed but ultimately rebuilt in 1905. It was finally opened in 1912 and has a large auditorium and a number of “waiting” rooms around the outside of the main auditorium. It is notable for having a good deal of art installations done by Alfons Mucha, Jan Preisler and others. Today it is used as a concert hall, ballroom, civic building and I was temped to get tickets to see Diane Reeves who was scheduled for Friday evening.

Municipal house from outside
Municipal Building
Municipal house main hall from balcony dl
Main Auditorium

 

Ladies waiting room b
Mayor’s Waiting Room – with Alfons Mucha artwork depicting some of Czech history.
Ladies Waiting Room a
One of the Lady’s waiting rooms.
Municipal House Mucha glass
Alfonso Mucha stain glass window in the building.

Lunch at the Municipal Building wasn’t anything to write about but at least it was filling and in an interesting environment.

From there we went shopping as Janeen had found an artist’s work in the gift shop she liked so we had to track down where we could see other examples. This ended up as trip to a nice shop at which we purchased a lovely necklace (more on that tomorrow).  This involved going to two of the three shops but again more on that tomorrow.

We did stop in Old Town Square for a nice bottle of wine.  It was SO hot, the water truck showed up to wet down the plaza and people as desired.

Old Town Square water truck 3

Heading back to our hotel took pictures of a couple of interesting buildings.

waling tour cubist bldg 1
This is called the ‘cubist’ building as it represented that style when it was built.
waling tour cubist bldg 2
Hard to see but there is a Black Madonna on the corner of the cubist building.

waling tour interesting bldg

That evening we connected with Jerry and Gloria and took another Uber to dinner at Divine Cafe and Wine Bar.  Sitting in the patio we enjoyed a lovely dinner of the special of the day.

Divine Dinner wine
Of course there was wine – 2 bottles of nice local Rose
Divine Dinner salad
We all shared a salad – goat cheese and rocket.
Divine Dinner Ravilloi
Open Ravioli with Lamp – pea, radishes and local farm yoghurt.
Divine Dinner Pork belly
Local Farm Pork Neck – carrot, onion, ash-roasted potatoes, smoked pork belly and mustard demi-glace
Divine Dinner dessert 1
Yoghurt Panna Cotta – cherries, chocolate, rosemary and meringue.

The following day Jerry and Gloria were to fly home so this was to be our final meal on this trip with them and it certainly was enjoyable.  A cab ride back to the hotel and the day was finished.

06-22 Prague – The Golden City

Prague is widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its called the Golden City. The variety of architectural forms is an extraordinary harmony, the city can watch all directions and styles, where Romanesque and Gothic buildings, Prague wlaking street 1  Prague wlaking etched bldg 2built in Renaissance and Baroque whimsically combined with more recent trends: modernism, cubism. It will take several days to experience all the splendor of the Czech capital.

On our way into the city, we passed by this building – called The Dancing House, or Fred and Ginger, is the nickname given to the building designed by Frank Gehry – that’s right the same architect who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA.

Gehry Bldg Prague

 

We arrived at the Art Deco Imperial Hotel just a few blocks from the Old Town Square.

Art Deco hotel side

After getting checked in, we went down the street to a burger place and had a wonderful lunch (with a couple of brews) and chatted up locals at the adjacent tables. It is amazing to me that English is so common in Europe and yet we don’t speak other languages. O’well, maybe I start classes at PCC.

Prague Lunch Burger Joint all of us 1Prague Lunch Burger outside Prague Lunch Burger next table 1

After lunch we walked along the river ultimately finding our way to the Old Town Square passing interesting restored buildings,Prague wlaking around shop window janeen the Astronomical Clock. This was installed in 1410 making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. We were there in time for the 4 o’clock strike where all the movement operates – really something to see.

Prague wlaking street square clock tower  Astronomical_Clock

After another break for a beverage we went to our dinner spot – Wine O’Clock Shop. Prague Wine O'clock entrance door 1  This was a small place with basically small plates available and lots of Italian Wines. It appears Veronika, the Owner, likes Italian wines and imports them from a small region along the eastern coast down by the boot. As part of our small plate dinner, Veronika made this really wonderful blue cheese dish.

Prague Wine O'clock Veronika 1

After finishing we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next day in Prague.

06-21 A Bavarian Forest Visit

As the river would not allow the boat to go further along our path, UniWorld arrange a Coach tour into the Bavarian Forest.   Jerry and me at horse Bavaria day with janeen & david in carrage 3 Bavaria day with  in carrage horses on trail  This was a nice alternative and included a site seeing tour along the route, a horse drawn coach adventure through the forest, a visit to a glass museum, Bavaria day glass Bavaria day glass 3 Bavaria day glass 1a glass factory and a lovely lunch.

Bavaria day glass blowing 6 Bavaria day glass blowing 3 Bavaria day glass blowing 2 Bavaria day glass blowing 1

After we returned we packed up for tomorrows trip to Prague and had the Captian’s Farewell Dinner. Captians dinner 1    All and all a very nice day.

06-20 Regensburg

Regensburg is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Naap and Regen Rivers  and is the 4th largest city in the State of Bavaria in Germany. The medieval center of the city is 2,000 years old having been originally settled by the Romans. Many of the buildings have been restored and the entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus is protected from any changes being made.   We visited this city during our last adventure to this part of the world and I was looking forward to returning for a visit.

Regensburg walking tour - town from bridge overlook
View of a part of Regensburg from the Stone Bridge

Between 1135 and 1146, the Stone Bridge (so called as it is made of stones across the Danube was built. It is undergoing a renovation to restore the road surface and walls so we could not walk the entire length of it only a portion. This bridge opened major international trade routes between northern Europe and Venice and this began Regensburg’s golden age as a residence of wealthy trading families as it provided a major access point across the river.  Regensburg Stone Bridge Regensburg Stone Bridge us

Wealthy merchants would build towers to impress – not for any other function. There are still a number that are evident throughout the city.

Regensburg walking tour - merchant square 1
Merchants Square – nice gathering point
Regensburg walking tour - tower
The tower is really unoccupied – the area above the adjacent roof line is empty – no floors or access.

Regensburg walking tour - street Regensburg walking tour - merchants square b

After our guided tour we stopped in for a nice lunch – with beer of course.

Regensburg walking tour - jpl beer lunch   Regensburg walking tour - dcl lunch

Along the banks of the Danube is the oldest Sausage Kitchen originally felt to have stated with the building of the Stone Bridge around 1146 – and is notable as perhaps the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world. We stopped for a Sausage prior to rejoining our group for the return to the boat.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
This has been flooded repeatedly over the years as the River is very close.

06-19 Passau

Just before we got to Passau, we had a lock to pass and a spillway – which I believe is a generating power plant. This lock was about the separate from Austria to Germany.  Lock at border to Germany  Once we docked, I noticed this canoe group bailing out the rain water that was making their trip quite an adventure.  canoer's bailing 2  Why you would want to canoe on this river is beyond me.  Altho, there was a group of our fellow passengers who decided to do a bike adventure – 17 miles – from our last port of call to Passau arriving just before lunch.  Gloria, our friend from North Carolina was part of this group – it rained virtually the entire time of their ride.  Passau bikers return gloria 1  Again, not sure why this group did this but they all said it was fantastic and thAfter docking in Passau, which is situated in Germany along the Austrian border and lies at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Known as the Three Rivers City, it is overlooked by the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th-century hilltop fortress housing a museum and observation tower. The old town below is known for its baroque architecture, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, featuring distinctive onion-domed towers and an organ with 17,974 pipes. We arrived late morning and after lunch boarded the bus for a tour of the city.

From the hilltop fortress we could see down to the city and the various buildings and see how the rivers converge on this city.

Passau view from overlook

Passau view from overlook 3

Passau view at overlook city hall Passau view at first forturess Passau view at overlook st marie to st stephens

After returning to the boat we learned there was a significant high water issue and we may not be able to proceed further. Time will tell on this issue – tomorrow we head to Regensburg.

 

06-18 A Visit to Spitz Austria

We motored along the river, passing lovely little villages like Durnstein

Vineyards along the Danbue
Note the terraced vineyard on the hillside.
castle ruins on hillside
Castle Ruins above the town.

village along the way church along the wayas we found our way to Spitz for a day tour of this little village.

spitz walking us at sign 2  We started off with a visit to a nautical museum – showing the various boats used on the Danube over the years and how they moved these boats both down stream – easy of course – and upstream – very hard for sure.  boat museum model boat museum boat model 2.1 boat museum boat bow

To bring the boats back up river they would use horses to pull them – and depending on the size of the boat there could be up to 100 or so horses all linked together. Needless to say, not a rapid process of moving along.

They even built a large sailing ship in an attempt to work their way up and down the river.  This model included the ‘poop’ deck at the bow.

boat museum boat large sailing  boat museum boat large sailing poop 2

After our tour, we walked through the little village of Spitz – fortunately it was Sunday so all the shops (of which there were very few) were closed. It was interesting, however, how the Village has created a wall they can install along the river bank to protect them from flooding As you can see by this picture, they have had a bit of a problem with high water over the years.  spitz high water marks – Version 2  The high water marks along this building were very telling – we were about 5 feet above the current water level of the river already.  To try and save the village they created a barricade wall they can install along the bank of the river.  This is a removal iron wall that takes a couple days to install but certainly makes a difference in the safety of the village.

spitz wall  This is the starting point of the wall and insets between the concrete column in the above picture along the curb wall along the river.

Once completed with our adventures in town we returned to the boat for a little wine tasting of local wines. The primary wines are all whites – with Gruner Veltlier being the primary varietal. This was a pleasant tasting and had the wine shop been open I would have picked up a bottle or two. The wines we tasted are only available locally.  Wine tasting all 4 bottles spitz wine tasting on board speaker 4 best

 

For lunch we enjoyed a light repast on the Sun Deck of the ship – very pleasant.

lunch on the sun deck

06-17 On the River and Vienna

By late afternoon on Thursday we were underway – heading towards Vienna some 300 Kilometers away.  There is something peaceful about cruising along the river with beautiful hillsides, small villages and vineyards along the way.  The further along we went the more dramatic the scenery – steeper hillsides, terraced vineyards, castle ruins.

Castle ruin 1  Vineyards along the Danbue

As we got close to Vienna, we went through our second lock (the first was at 1AM so I didn’t take any pictures).

danbue lock 1
Entering the lock
danbue lock looking back 1
The Captain checking our “fit” as the gate at the stern starts to close.

With still 1 1/2 hours to Vienna, there was still lots to see along the shore.  This place looked like a nice weekend cottage – maybe it’s a AirBNB.Danbue house on bank  Further along was a freight area and train yard.

Danbue silos?
Could not decide if these were silos or apartments! Very strange either way.
danbue freight yard
Train freight yard close to the river – stuff could go on barges or rail from here.

As we drew to our dock in Vienna, this church – Saint Francis of Assisi.  Church    Once we were all docked and organized, we got on the bus for the tour of Vienna including a visit to the Opera House.  Along the Ring Road – where the moat and wall used to be located around the city is now the major road that circles the inner city.  The City is a mix of old and new – all depending on what was destroyed during WW II.

Vienna street scene 1
Pedestrian streets in the center of town make it very pleasant to walk around.
Vienna bus tour horse statue
Of course there were statues.
vienna tour outside opera house 1
This was right outside the Opera House.

We were dropped off and walked past this lovely fountain

Vienna fountain
This fountain had Danu representing the River and Gaia earth mother representing Vienna.

The Opera House was significantly damaged during WW II – a bomb fall through the roof into the audience area destroying all the boxes and stage.  It was rebuilt but can never recapture the original grandeur of the original.

Vienna Opera House stage
Resetting the stage for the nights performance.

The Theatre cycles a different event every day – with about 10 different things happening every two weeks.  That means, every day they have to break down the stage and resent – could be opera, could be ballet, could be a concert.

Vienna Opera House boxes

 

Vienna Opera House seats us 5
I was ready!

After we had our tour of the Opera House, we walked around the shopping area and eventually we stopped for a sweet and a beverage.

vienna cafe cake vienna cafe cake 1

I had the Chocolate and Janeen had the Apricot.  Both were out of this world.

On the way back to the boat, I took this picture of a floating swimming pool in the canal next to the river.  Vienna floating pool I also did a quick grab picture of this hardware store.  Note the display on the right side of the window.  gun shop 2

After dinner we headed out again – this time to the abbey of Klosterneuburg.  This abbey was built 1000 years ago and is still maintained by the church.  About 5 years ago they had the exterior of the buildings cleaned – really making them beautiful.  As part of our tour we went into the Church, along some various hallways, saw some relics and the monks private garden.

music night outside of church music night chruch inside music night alter music night hallway inside church music night garden  The trip to the abbey was really for a concert of Mozart and Strauss music.  music night violin players music night singers

After a very full day, we got back to the boat and off we went again along the Danbue.  I was sorry we didn’t have more time in Vienna but I can certainly see us coming back here again sometime.