This is it! Our final trip together as a study abroad team. The Czech Republic is split into three regions: Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Our hometown of Olomouc is in Moravia, and the only other place we have really explored in the Czech is Prague. We were all ready to experience more of our home country.
It took Faviola and I until the last field trip to figure out to bring our dorm room pillow on the bus for optimum nap quality. Our first stop was at a little town named Litomysl for a tour of a very unique baroque church. The Holy Trinity Catholic Church had a rough history. It had endured everything from being burned down several times, to being vandalized, to hosting circus acts. Its history was only part of its charm. We also had the chance to climb (a steep spiral staircase- I was sea sick by the top) to the choir rafters where we got a better view of the church and the storybook town of Litomysl.
We toured the castle next (duh, storybook towns aren’t complete without a castle). It did not disappoint. The theatre was my favorite part. The sets change on the sides by a series of levers under the stage. The castle was a huge cube with an open courtyard in the center.
We took a brief detour to see the remains of a tiny village named Lezaky. On June 24, 1942 it was completely wiped off of the map. It was destroyed to punish those in the town who were integral in helping paratroopers make it safely to Prague to fight the advancing enemy. Each headstone with a cross is where a house stood. It was decided that the village would not be rebuilt. The little river valley was eerily quiet.
Our road trip continued to Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. Here we toured another church, but this one was truly like none we had seen before. It is appropriately knick-named “The Bone Church” and here is why:
It is more than 60,000 people’s final resting place. Most of the remains are from people who died due to epidemics in the 14thcentury and others who were murdered by Hussite troops when they occupied the city. Their remains are displayed to remind visitors of what happened to the town. I read a plaque that read “Memento Mori” meaning “remember the death.” They are still finding remains in mass graves around the church and are working to display and excavate them. It was very cool for the first ten minutes, then I was ready to get out of there.
Saint Barbara’s Cathedral was next on the docket to learn about. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of miners. The construction of this church was not funded by the king, rather the local families. This is partially why the church was never finished. The families who contributed to the construction have their family crests painted on the roof. A lot of the frescos on the walls have been intentionally white washed and destroyed throughout the years, but some have been restored. This one is an image of Saint Christopher.
Next, we took a tour of a silver mine. To be honest, I was not all that excited for this. I had been in a salt mine before, how different could they be? I obviously had no idea what we were in for. Lucy, our tour guide, lead her little Nebraskan ducklings to a rack with white mining overcoats and hardhats. At this point I realize I don’t think this is a rinky-dink little tour of a pretty silver mine that we are just going to breeze through. I start getting a little nervous when she is telling people with claustrophobia to rethink going down into the mine because some of the trails are only 200 cm tall and 50 centimeters wide. *Does conversion in my head* I’m sorry, WHAT. I was about to hand in my hardhat and say no thanks! However, I had already been briefed on the safety protocol and my group was off to work they go. I guess I was in. Lucy wasn’t the best at comforting pep talks. When we were at the bottom of the stairs in the mine she was telling us an overwhelming amount of things to remember. I retained two things: watch your head, and she will tell us when to stop and listen. We were like little lab mice in a labyrinth of small trails and dripping stalactites. I loved it down there! The walls were slippery and had all sorts of different textures. I had a hardhat on, so when I rammed my head into things one, it didn’t hurt and two, it was dark so no one saw. She wasn’t kidding, there were some tight squeezes to maneuver! Never the less, it was one of the coolest things I have done.
That was our limit on educational tours for 48 hours and Doug and Martin let us loose in Kutna Hora to have some fun and explore on our own. It is a sleepy little town for the most part, but we definitely woke it up for a few nights.
We were back to the bus, it was Cesky Krumlov time! We took another educational tour on the way, a brewery tour of the Budweiser-Budvar Brewery! This was the kind of tour our group was ready for. I can’t tell who had more fun on the tour, us, or our advisor (he deserves a beer for dealing with us, let me tell you).
I wasn’t aware May was monsoon season in Cesky Krumlov. To say “there is a slight chance of it raining on us” was the understatement of the trip. Jan was our fearless leader to the hostel that was a ten-minute walk away from the bus. Okay, Karma. You’re funny. This is what we get for joking that we are Jan, Martin, and Doug’s “ducklings” all the time. Ha. Ha. We left a river in the lobby of the hostel that I’m sure almost flooded the place. We were all laughing about it once we dried off a little. Spoiler alert: for the remainder of the trip, none of our clothes were dry again.
* Sad sigh * This is it. Our last full day together. It was a general rule to interrupt anyone who started saying anything to remind us with a stern “We aren’t talking about it!”
Cesky Krumlov was another town right out of a fairy tale. It even had a mote (okay it happened to be a river) around the city! And, of course, a castle. Our tour guide was my second favorite of the entire trip. He was such a goober and totally got into a character on tour. He showed us rooms and lolcal myths that went with them. My favorite room was the masquerade room. It was a huge ballroom with over 150 characters painted on the walls, all in different costumes. I wish I could have attended an event here back in its day. It looked so fun!
After our tour, we were all antsy with excitement. It was time to go rafting! We got changed and headed to the rafts! Keep in mind it is about 65 degrees, we are wearing sweatshirts and leggings, but nothing could bring us down. We had been waiting weeks for this! It was entirely too much fun. Our raft took the lead on the second half of the trek and we must have missed the detail about where to exit the river, because Martin had to come fish us out when we overshot it! I’m sure that happens all the time, right? Martin said we were the first ones he has ever seen do it. Awesome. Like I said folks, ALWAYS an adventure. With Martin the guardian angel and the guy from the rafting company, we loaded our boat onto the roof of the van and piled in to rejoin our class back in town. We were driving along the road talking about where we wanted to visit the next time we visit Europe when we saw the other van with our classmates inside. Our driver sped up to catch them. We waved and they were laughing at us because we were the ones who had to be rescued. All of a sudden we pulled over. Confused, we looked at our driver. All he said before hopping out of the van on the side of the road was “our boat wanted to fly.” You’re joking. At this point, I thought we had lost the boat somewhere on the freeway. No worries, it was still on the roof, just hanging on by one rope. We asked him what happened and he said that when they sent him to retrieve us he took the van with only one rope to secure the boat. The rest have at least three. Say it with me, everyone! ALWAYS AN ADVENTURE! Martin wasn’t as amused. His hands were on his shaking head. He loves us and he knows it!
The bus ride back to Olomouc was long and quiet. Partially because we knew what was going to happen when we got back, partially because we were all too sore to move. We piled out of the bus and the goodbyes started. We were strangers 12 weeks ago and now I was crying saying goodbye to them. We had all been through a lot together. We all have such adventurous spirits and I know they will all see amazing things. I can’t wait to follow their travels and see what they accomplish in their remaining time at Kearney and so much more after that.
We are all off to see the world.