Saturday, 21 March 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - 1 Day, 1 Church, 1 Cathedral (Part 1)

After a late breakfast we took a walk over to Sedlec, just on the outskirts of Kutna Hora. On the way over we passed a few charity shops advertising "English Fashions" on sale. I assume that these are the clothes that are collected when the bags that are placed through our letterbox are filled.
The reason for our walk can be put down to watching Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman in The Long Way Round. These travellers showed a little piece of film about the All Saints Church.

From the outside it looks like any other church, however it does have an interesting history.

In 1278 King Otakar 2nd of Bohemia sent Henry, the abbot of Sedlec, on a diplomatic mission to the Holy Land. When leaving Jerusalem Henry took with him a handful of earth from Golgotha which he sprinkled over the cemetery of Sedlec monastery, consequently the cemetery became famous, not only in Bohemia but also throughout Central Europe and many wealthy people desired to be buried here. The burial ground was enlarged during the the plagues, for example in 1318 about 30,000 people were buried here.
After 1400 one of the abbots had a church of All-Saints erected in Gothic style in the middle of the cemetery and under it a chapel destined for the deposition of bones from abolished graves, a task which was begun by a half blind Cistercian monk after 1511.

The present arrangement of the bones dates from 1870 and is the work of a Czech wood carver, Frantisek Rint. His name is spelt with more bones on the right hand wall of one of the pyramids built by the monk.

The most interesting creations by Rint are the chandelier in the centre of the nave, containing all the different bones from the human body.

There is also the coat of arms for the Schwarzenberg family.

Walking into the ossuary there are two large sculptures like giant wine glasses, one on either side at the top of the stairs.

The skull and crossbones theme is evident throughout the ossuary, often associated with the Jolly Roger flag on pirate ships but the history of this symbol goes back further as some crucifixes feature it beneath the corpus (the depiction of Jesus' body), in reference to a legend that the place of the crucifixion was also the burial place of Adam or, more likely, in reference to the New Testament statement that the place of his crucifixion was called "Golgotha" ("the Place of a Skull"), which brings us back to the the abbot from Sedlec, on his mission to the Holy Land and the handful of earth.
The final sculpture is hidden away and is quite difficult to get a photo of but is interesting in its design.

We stayed in the ossuary for sometime, having periods of peace between coach tours. It was sad to watch the tour parties come in for fifteen minutes at a time and see some of the people just standing and posing in front of various locations for their holiday snapshots. It is a place that needs to be savoured and with us staying just down the road we had that opportunity.
Morbid? Possibly. Eerie? Certainly. I can almost see it as a Hammer Film set with Christopher Lee or Vincent Price in shot. A place certainly worth seeking out. Thank you Charlie and Ewan.

Here is a link to the website for the church and ossuary, while below is my very first attempt at using a camcorder. The film is a little shaky, might be down to the subject, but let me know what you think of it.

Anyway must sign off now as we have received notification of this year's landmarks for the Round Britain Rally and I have some research to do for it.

Monday, 16 March 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Where Are We?

We have settled in our room at the Hotel Zlata Stoupa where we will be staying for the next few nights as we explore the town, Kutna Hora, catch a train to Prague and visit somewhere else that I will post about soon.

Kutna Hora was once a very important place due to some silver mines in the locality, but they were abandoned at the end of the 18th century. The town also suffered from a fire in 1770 and suffered from the effects of the plague on several occasions. A monument is located in the old town centre, made by Frantisek Baugut, erected between 1713-1716. In all, more than 6000 citizens lost their lives in the plague.

In 1995, Kutna Hora was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and while we were visiting, work was still in progress.

The majority of cars that we saw were Skodas but still in favour were

Some time back we learnt that there were many things to see, provided that we kept our eyes looking up. Many buildings around the town had a small statue, like the one below, for example, just below the roof.

This deer looks uninteresting

Until you walk away from the building, which is situated on a corner plot.

Here are a few photos of one building, showing the artistic skill and effort going into the renovation of the frontage.

Within the old town many of the roads are still cobbled, giving an air of times past. These make for interesting riding.

Kutna Hora is on the tourist trail with day trips coming in on coaches. This means that by late afternoon the place is almost deserted. The photo below was taken at 17.00 with only one tourist in the frame.

Tomorrow we go to church.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Competition Results

A big thank you to all who entered my little competition, but as is often said, there can only be one winner. One entry was very close to the correct mileage, just over 200 miles adrift. Another entry had to be disqualified - well if I cannot enter her giveaways then there is no way Guzzisue can enter mine!!!

Claire, correct, 3476 is an easy number for me to type, but that would mean we only travel on average 230 miles per annum. Somewhat low I'm afraid.

Affer, Lynn and Vicky all went for higher mileages, Baron went for a slightly lower guess.

The correct mileage shown on the speedo is

It's coming up.


Exciting isn't it.

Without further ado.

Here is the mileage

Making the winner Baron's Life.

Watch out for another giveaway later on. Meanwhile I will carry on with the Long NOT Winding Road trip. Posts may be slow in coming as I'm busy editing some videotape I took on this journey to compliment the writing and photos.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Early Start

The 2006 adventure for Ian, Guzzisue and myself encompassed several firsts. Guzzisue had bought herself a digital camera for the first time, Ian had purchased himself a camcorder (but I kept on running off with it) and we would visit a country that none of us had visited before.
Having seen an article in a magazine, it was decided that we should visit this place, but how best to do it? I'm not going to mention exactly where this is until I do a complete post on it, so I will keep you in suspence.
To start with we were looking at hotels in Prague, from where we could use public transport to get to this destination, but found they were too expensive for us. The solution was simple in that we found a hotel in the town and booked it over the internet, thus enabling us to use the public transport system for a day trip to Prague. This was also done for our second hotel, another first as we usually do not prebook incase we get held up on our journey.
Due to the mileage we would be travalling we decided to travel down to Dover and stay in the Premier Lodge on the A2, at the top of the hill, about 1 mile from the port. Easy.
Ian finished work oat Friday lunch so the Guzzi was packed for when Guzzisue arrived home. On the road before 17.00 we arrived at our hotel four hours later having bought some sandwiches for an indoor picnic before retiring for the evening.
We awoke at 06.00, packed the Guzzi and fired her up - and then disaster, she died. Ian took off the side panels and seat, checked all the fuses and relays, to no avail.
Ian stayed surprisingly calm during this period and decided the best thing to do was to wait until 09.00 when Italia in Lincoln would be open to see if they had any ideas. As we had time to kill, breakfast was eaten in the inn adjacent to the Lodge, with alternative ideas being thrown into the pot. One of these was to get the Guzzi relayed back to Lincoln and then take the car to Scotland.
Ian is on the phone to Phil at Italia just after 09.00 and explains the situation and what he has tried. Phil suggests the side stand switch, this had been removed several years ago, then the wires to the battery. The next picture gives the game away. Sometimes it pays to think simple! Thanks Phil.
09.15 and Ian is on the phone to the roadside recovery service telling them that all he needs is a length of wire and some connectors. He was advised that it would be just over an hour before someone would get to him. While waiting we walked across to the nearby service station. Why is it you can buy anything from newspapers to flowers, to toys, cds and books, but no basic items for small breakdowns?
The recovery service phoned back at 10.15 to say they would be another 30-45 minutes. Ian was still calm on the outside but the cracks were showing on the inside. Ian rang the recovery people again at 11.00 to find that the message had only just been passed to the patrolman! To say he was disatissfied with this would be an understatement. It may come as no surprise to say that we are no longer with this group, Ian having been a member for 17 years, this was the 2nd altercation this year.
Just as one of the girls from the Lodge was about to give Ian a lift down to a local motorcycle shop the patrolman appeared. He was looking for an MZ with charging problems! He also took one look at the Guzzi and shied away saying he didn't know enough about motorcycle electrics. Ian explained what was needed and the job was completed in 10 minutes.
On our way at last we head down to the port and have to pay an extra £15 to alter our ticket and board the 13.00 ferry to Calais, a mere three hours late. So much for the early start!
The crossing was speeded up by talking to a couple of bikers from Leicester on their way down to the Nurenburg Ring for a few days.
Arriving in France at 15.30 and called in at the Campinille Hotel in Bethune, where we normally have our last night on the continent, and they kindly rang ahead to their sister hotel in Reims and reserved a room for us. This enabled us to claw back some of the lost mileage today.
As with many Campinille hotels the restaurant food was well prepared and after a good meal we went for a stroll round the area, watching the local rabbits and bats, before heading for an early sleep.
The theory of getting plenty of rest came to an abrupt halt with people returning from a wedding reception at 03.00. The guests upstairs were so noisey that we gave up trying to sleep and switched on the tv and watched a programme about pollution in Loch Lomond.
Sunday saw us eating the miles as we were on the road before 08.00, covering 120 miles before stopping for some breakfast. This was followed by another 200 miles after which we had a small lunch break.
During the afternoon Prague started to appear on the roadsigns and at our last stop for the day there was a pair of Czech Goldwings with a 1100 GS BMW for company in a service station.
We decided to stop at a motel on the autobahn not far from Nuernberg. This was a little difficult to arrive at as we had to pull off the autobahn, go through what appeared to be a building site before passing underneath the road, to finally find direction signs pointing us in the right direction.
The motel itself was good value for the money, a large room with plenty of storage space and the usual tv. If money is tight for the passing traveller there is an option of a guest house with communial bathroom. Any noise from the autobahn is muted by a large row of trees, giving us a good nights sleep. With a good selection of meals available from the service station this is a place we will think about using again if needs be.
With over another 200 miles to ride today, we again have an early start on reasonably quiet autobahns. As we neared the Czech boarder the motorway between Czech and Germany had not been completed, so back to single carriageway for a few miles. At the boarder we had to show our passports and Ian had to remove his sunglasses! Once it was necessary for motorcycles to have a motorway pass and to be very limited to a special speed limit. Now this law has changed and no motorway pass is required as we found out when Guzzisue approached a payment booth just after the boarder crossing. The speed limit for motorcycles is now in line with that for cars.
The motorway had very little traffic on it and we made good progress. Stopping at a service station proved to us hao cheap things were, good sized baggettes in the region of £1 and a bottle of water worked out at 20p.
We knew that Ian would somehow manage to take the wrong turning in Prague-and he did! Trying to follow the "1" which denoted a ring road, we ended up on the "101", which looking at our small map also seemed to be a ring road, from there it was onto the "4", going in completely the wrong direction. About turn. Retracing our path on the "101" and keeping Prague to our left we picked up the "2" for our destination, only to be diverted through a small village and back 50 years in time. There was cobbled roads that were badly repaired with large ruts in the road. The Guzzi's rear shocks that had a little squeak when we first set off were now were screaming.
Eventually we reach the town of our destination. We had a map showing where the hotel was but it did not take the one way system into consideration, or the dead ends. Having gone by rows of garages, down a kerb and round in ever decreasing circles Ian stopped so we could once again look at the map, to see he had stopped right outside the front door of our hotel.
Round the back of the hotel there was secure parking with CCTV and the hotel's restaurant is recommended in many local guide books, but why are we always on the top floor?

Don't forget to place your guess in my competition here. Time is running out!!!