kutna hora: the good, the bad, and the scary
In the last few weeks, I've had the distinct privilege of going to Kutna Hora, a historic Czech city, not once but TWICE! I did the trip once solo while I was in the in between and then once last week with the university students in our program. Y'all, it was a ride. There were several things I loved and several things I wish I would have known going into both trips. That being said, I learned new things about the city both times I went and learned a few things about myself as well. So let's dive right in and talk about it.
Kutna Hora is sincerely one of the most interesting places I've been within the Czech Republic. Our guide on the second trip called it a medieval Detroit. The city used to be incredibly wealthy from silver mines (more on that later) but then the money ran out, which halted some development, but also saved those historic buildings from being demolished. Kutna Hora used to be the capitol of Bohemia before the republic was formed, so expect architectural feats that have been somewhat saved from the commercialization one experiences in Prague.
Kutna Hora is also super walkable when the weather is good. The enchanting, winding little streets lead to lovely places, like scenic overlooks, tiny chapels, and delicious restaurants. Purposely get lost here. It's worth it to find anything you wouldn't normally see.
The architecture, friends! This town is like stepping back in time. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to sing songs from Disney fairytales while frolicking through the streets. The cathedrals were magnificent and varied in all their forms. The best value I found was the all-access ticket. As a youth (up to age 25 here) I could see all of the major attractions for around 125 crowns, or $5. Group tickets save you even more money. From that perspective alone, it's worth the trip. Literally 500+ years of architecture within a few kilometers for almost no money-- sign me up!
When it comes to transportation, I would definitely recommend taking a train if you have the choice. As travelers, we often have less time than money, so spend the extra few crowns (honestly, the difference is tiny) and take the train and save yourself almost two hours. The trains run frequently and often the tickets are flexible so you can return on your own schedule.
If you're not super into religious architecture, this is not for you. Expect to spend significant time touring churches and not much else. They're all stunning, but it can be easy to get tour burnout from this, so be sure to think about taking time to chill out. Find a coffee shop, eat some ice cream, duck into a shop and buy a postcard. Find something that gives you a break so you can enjoy the rest of your day. Remember: this town was shaped by the religious orders that were in it, so its' going to be very cathedral-heavy. Take it for what it is and choose to have a good day.
The university booked us a tour of the silver mines. Great in theory, but definitely not for the claustrophobic. I had the bad luck of finding out I was claustrophobic in the mines. The spaces are tight and were difficult to navigate. Even the smallest among our group was having to bend over and turn sideways to get through the tiny shafts. Not ideal. I wish I could say there was something cool about it, but I don't think I could, in good faith, recommend this to anyone.
I love traveling with the students. You'll never hear me say anything other than that. They're so much fun and they all have such positive attitudes about trying new things. My one gripe about the group trip was that our group was slightly too large. It was hard to keep our schedule and see all the things we wanted to see. This could have been easily solved by breaking us into two groups. Ultimately it was only a minor inconvenience but I would still recommend going in a smaller group so everyone can fit into smaller rooms and see everything.
Kutna Hora is most famously know for it's "bone church" or the Sedlec Ossuary. It's eerie in all the best possible ways. You walk into the ossuary and all you see are bones-- like 40,000 skeletons worth of bones. Skulls sporting various war wounds gape at you from various creative arrangements and
I will say this time and time again: NEVER ignore weather warnings, wherever you're traveling. Ever. Those weather advisories are in place to keep you safe. The first trip I made to Kutna Hora was dangerously hot. I'm talking 96 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 36-37 degrees celsius) and remember: air conditioning isn't really a thing here. I had nearly the whole town to myself, but by the end of the day, I walked over eleven miles, according to my smartwatch. I was physically ill from the heat. Plan your trip on a much milder day and that solves that problem.
Kutna Hora is definitely worth it-- and you can see the best parts of the town in about 5 hours. It's a perfect daytrip from Prague and you'll be back in time to enjoy your evening. Overall, I was really happy I got to experience this city twice in a few weeks. I would also recommend taking this trip solo or with a very small group so you can take the time to enjoy what interests you the most. Be smart about your planning, but this is a do-not-miss in the Czech Republic!