I have written before in this space about being in some faraway place for what is likely to be the only time in your life and later finding out that you missed seeing something you would really have liked to have seen. Given the insane number of cool things in the world, that’s almost a given. It’s just about impossible to squeeze everything in, no matter where you go. It happened to me at least once more on that same 2011 trip through Eastern Europe during which I did not see Bela Lugosi’s bust.
It was early June in the Czech Republic, as it was still called in those days. Our Mercedes-Benz bus had left Brno behind after lunch and we motorvated towards the absolutely gorgeous city of Prague. As we neared the capital, we passed south of the town of Kutná Hora. Located in a suburb of that city is the Sedlec Ossuary, in which the bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 human beings have been repurposed as decorations and furnishings for a chapel under Hřbitovní Kostel Všech Svatých, the Cemetery Church of All Saints, in the former Sedlec Abbey.
As much as I would have liked to make that detour, we were well into the second week of our journey and ready for our last major stop. From Prague, we had only to drive back to Frankfurt-am-Main, with a lunch stop at Rothenberg, before heading home. There were forty-some of us on that bus including the driver and guide, and we were all in agreement that it was getting close to being time to break up the band. It had been fun, especially with so many Australians aboard, but we all longed for home and hearth.
Besides, we had spent an afternoon just a few days before exploring the Kaisergruft in Vienna, the crypt beneath a Cistercian monastery in which the remains of almost four hundred years worth of Austro-Hungarian royalty had been interred. That had been just about enough death, I suspect, for most of my traveling companions. Another dose might have proven fatal to what was left of our congenial fellowship.
And thus it was that we skipped the Sedlec Ossuary for a cruise on the Vltava River, a tour of St. Vitus Cathedral, and a walk across the Charles Bridge instead, as well as good food, great beer, and a fountain in the form of two men urinating at one another. Google search that on your own time. Warning: NSFW!
So, we ate, and we drank, and we were merry, and then we scattered to the four corners of the Earth and basked in the warmth of our memories, which did not, alas, include the Ossuary. I would like to direct your attention to a short film on YouTube that describes what we missed better than I possibly could. It’s only about ten minutes long, and in Czech, but it does have English subtitles. I recommend it highly.
There is a statue about halfway across the Charles Bridge that, when touched, is supposed to bring its molester back to Prague within a year. It didn’t work for me, but I do hope to return to that wonderful city someday and take that short trip to Kutná Hora as long as I’m in the neighborhood. I hope you can, too. Maybe we’ll meet in the Old Town Square in view of the Church of St. Mary before Tyn afterward, and talk about bones over a bottle of Becherovka.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
I will expound more fully on the Kaisergruft in a future column, by the way, as well as some of the other places I have visited wherein the deceased have found their perpetual rest. Something to look forward to, n’est pas? Do stay tuned.
Our lagniappe is the opening salvo from a collection I cannot recommend to the populace too highly, The 99 Darkest Pieces of Classical Music. While I don’t necessarily agree with all the selections being particularly dark, and certainly find a few of their omissions surprising, it is a good place to start for the budding aficionado of spooky classical music. For your cultural edification, I, therefore, present Franz Liszt’s Totentanz (Dance of Death). Enjoy!
In our next episode, we’ll be taking a look at a variety of games available to kids of my antiquated generation, pastimes designed to circumvent that veil that separates we mere mortals from the spirit world, as well as from future events. For, as Criswell pointed out in Plan 9 from Outer Space, the future is where you and I will be spending the rest of our lives! Join us for some spooky playtime.
And, as always, ye yearners after yeti…
Be afraid. Be very afraid.