day trips from prague
Seen enough of Prague? Tired of the crowds? If you read up on any day trip excursion ideas, you’ll notice it’s a bit repetitive. Many guided tours include Terezín Concentration Camp, Vienna or a Pilsner Brewery Tour. We opted for something different. We decided to rent a car and explore other places around the CR.
To be honest, the drive around Prague can be very stressful. The signs are not in English and in general, just damn confusing. But with that, there were seas of yellow flowers to admire and infrequent speed limits to abide by.
Our day trips:
Day 1 at Terezín, Bones Church and St. Barbara’s Church
Day 2 at Hluboká Castle and Cesky Krumlov
Sedlic Ossuary ‘Bones Church’ (1 hour from Prague)
We wouldn’t recommend this place for the average bible-thumper, or those easily offended. This place is a little morbid. After seeing it ourselves, we felt it was more of a tourist trap of the 17th century. It was also a very far drive for, well, nothing much. Unless you’re Morticia Adams. Or a huge Rob Zombie fan.
We will say it was worth a good 10 minute pop-in if you are nearby, but we don’t suggest the drive to see it. It’s a very small room, probably much smaller than your church back home. The main difference, other than size, would be the decorations which we’re sure was already a giveaway by the title: bones. The bones belonged to an estimated 40,000 people who died from the Black Death or those involved in the Hussite Wars.
Hence the Rob Zombie reference above. This church was the inspiration for the film: House of 1,000 Corpses.
So, why Bones? Simply, they were there and the landowners at the time, the Schwarzenberg family, wanted people to remember “the impermanence of human life and inescapable death.” Or, in other words, “Don’t take life serious, you won’t get out alive.” They hired a woodcarver named František Rint to decorate the chapel.
It piqued our curiosity enough, so we drove east to check it out ourselves. After arriving, it was over before it started. Like we mentioned, it was very small. The one thing we did take away from visiting was what we read on the information sheet- the artistic vision. We think that the creator had wanted people to feel good about visiting the church, not leave feeling creeped out. His excuse for using the bones is to share God’s view of all his children. Looking at just the skulls or the bones, you cannot tell if a person was a man or woman, black or white, gay or straight, etc. Reading that definitely made the place feel a little less gruesome.
Whatever version you prefer of why bones were used, it makes for an interesting stop.
St. Barbara Church, Kutná Hora (1 hr from Prague)
We made our way from Bones Church to a much different place of worship. We did not see any bones, but we did see the sky-high arches, dozens of spires and elaborate design in the architecture. Really though, since it took about 200 years to complete, the town of Kutná Hora deserved a priceless view to appreciate and admire after years of looking at scaffolding and unfinished construction. It all started back in 1380, when Peter Parlér began with a vision. He passed the torch to other “Gothic masters” Matthias Rejsek and Benedikt Rejt. And the results? Well, it is a UNESCO site… so it has that going for it. But, to be honest, there are other churches in Europe that may top this one. Maybe we just aren’t the type of people to appreciate churches, but we definitely kicked ourselves after driving out there. All in all… east of Prague? Don’t bother.
Hluboká nad Vltavou Castle (1 hr from Prague)
Voted the most beautiful castle in all of Czech Republic, it was not as impressive as it was cracked up to be. Because we were already heading south, we stopped to see what the fuss was about- and it was Devin’s first castle. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown. The small town had an equally small charm, offering horse and carriage rides up to the castle from the center of town. We purchased our tickets and waited about five minutes before the next tour. The tour was in Czech, and like many other visitors, were handed information packets in English. To be honest, the tour sucked. The guide crammed all twenty or so of us in each room, shutting the doors behind us as we went. It was very secure, understandably so, but because of this, wherever we managed to stand was what we saw. We shuffled from room to room, with no time spared to look around, nonetheless wander. Ryann assured Devin that not all castles were like that, especially not Versailles or some others we would see. The history included in the information was lacking as well. Ryann looked up information prior to visiting, and read that the Nazi SS soldiers forced its occupants out and took over the castle. There was no mention of this in the tour, and we were hoping for some more interesting stories other than the Princess wanting to redecorate a room. In our opinion, skip it. Save your castle quota elsewhere. It was boring and lacking a lot.
Cesky Krumlov (2 hours from Prague)
Okay, okay. We know what you’re thinking. Jeeze, can they say anything positive? I thought they were the HAPPY Nomads. Yes, we can. THANKFULLY we took the chance to visit Cesky Krumlov, because it was definitely a highlight of our entire trip to the CR!
After just leaving the Hluboká castle, and stopping at the Ossuary and St. Barbara’s Church the day before, we were looking for better reasons to leave Prague. We felt a little unimpressed with the other stops and really hoped our drive and time spent was going to be worth it in Cesky Krumlov. As it turned out, IT WAS.
We quickly fell in love with this medieval town. It was simply storybook: narrow streets, wooden bridges, tiny shops selling puppets and antiques, mouth-watering aromas, even a BEAR guarding a castle- it was truly begging to be enjoyed and explored.
We’d recommend staying here at least one night, because it is a bit far and there is definitely enough to see and do to justify it. Devin wished we had more time to sit at one of the cafés and drink a few piva’s each and then wander the side streets. Or, better yet, maybe even paddle around the moat? Next time. Rather than the beer, we spoiled ourselves with some authentic Czech gingerbread.
So if you haven’t gathered it yourself, here’s a breakdown:
Terezín Concentration Camp: Yes, spend a half-day, don’t rush it.
Bones Church: No.
St. Barbara’s Church: No.
Hluboká Castle: No.
Cesky Krumlov: Yes, absolutely.
Map and Locations of Attractions from Prague:
Day 1 to Terezín, Bones Church and St. Barbara’s Church
Day 2 to Hluboká Castle and Cesky Krumlov