The temperature drops ten degrees as you cross the threshold and the air inside is deathly still. Why? Because this infamous church outside of Prague contains the bones of hundreds of people, intricately displayed throughout.
Welcome to the Kostnice Ossuary, easily one of the strangest attractions in Europe. Originally a cemetery dating back to the 12th century, an abbot commissioned a Gothic-style church on the site 200 years later. Then, in the 19th century, a Czech woodcarver by the name of František Rint decided the place needed some sprucing up. He placed the bones in a series of macabre displays, the most grand of which is a chandelier that hangs near the church’s altar.
I visited the ossuary on an unusually warm spring day last March. It’s located in Kutna Hora a small, quiet city about an hour-long train ride from Prague’s Hlavni Nadrazi station. On the walk over from a small depot, which looked like a shooting location straight out of Hostel, I passed an abandoned disco and, more or less, felt completely out of place. The staff at the church though were incredibly friendly and didn’t mind me taking photos and videos of everything in sight.
Back at the depot a few hours later, I found myself waiting for a train along with a dozen Japanese college girls and a grumpy Czech guy in his 60s. He shook his head at the girls and pretended to be asleep as they took photos of him. When the train arrived, they went from gleeful to terrified in roughly ten seconds flat. They had been too busy posing for cell phone snapshots to figure out if this train would get them back to Prague. They spoke only a few words of English and absolutely no Czech, which made their conversation with a train conductor an interesting thing to witness.
Rather than spend the night in the depot, everything got sorted out and they were well on their way. With all due respect to the locals, it’s not the sort of place that an outsider wants to get stranded in after nightfall. Or at least that was my impression, based on seeing about 1/10th of Kutna Hora.
Maybe I should have challenged my biases and spent the night in the hostel, located just a few yards from the chapel. I’m sure that neighborhood takes on an awesome Night on Bald Mountain meets American Werewolf in London vibe after the sun goes down. Ah, well. Maybe next time.