I turned to the tour guide, “How many people are buried in Kutná Hora?”
“Not including the Bone Church? Hmm…Probably 70,000.”
“And how many live here?” I ask, already dreading the answer.
“A little over 20,000…if you count the outlying towns.”
It was time to go home.
Autumn leaves had only just begun to turn to fiery reds and oranges across the mountainside. A brisk wind blew, surrounding the massive church in front of the tour group. Not one sound came from the street to compete with the wind, except for the occasional rustle of leaves brought by the breeze.
A vineyard, still green from summer, stretched down the hill and each house seemed to be created from a Disney movie. No litter on the ground, no offensive construction sounds or sewer smells to be detected, in short Kutná Hora, Czech Republic was perfect. I have never been so terrified of a town in my entire life.
At some point during the hour and a half drive to Kutná Hora, someone in the back of the travel van joked that we were the only car on the road for miles around. The comment was met with laughter, but after another thirty minutes of driving and no change, I had to admit something seemed a little strange.
When we finally arrived at our destination a sweet, twenty-something blonde girl welcomed us and described the day’s itinerary. For anyone to do a short trip while visiting Prague, Kutná Hora is, supposedly, a popular spot. I say, supposedly, because the only visitors besides our group of about fifteen people were a group of four German tourists and an elderly couple.
The city is best known for the Bone Church, and no, that is not a cute name that locals have given for legendary flair. It is in fact a church made out of human remains. Our tour guide, who seemed downright chipper, announced this fact to us. She also told us that the church, built in 1511, was constructed and decorated with the bones of up to 40,000 people. Legend has it that the interior design was left up to an insane, sadistic monk who enjoyed “inventing” new uses for the bones of deceased church parishioners. Charming, isn’t it?
Entering the church proved to be more disturbing than imagined as a giant skull chandelier loomed above us, the perfect accompaniment to the crucifixes formed from rib bones that adorned the walls.
After leaving the church and making a mental note to purchase some holy water, the group passed through the town in order to go explore the cemetery. That’s right; there were much more than 40,000 dead bodies to be found in Kutná Hora. Apparently in the Middle Ages so many people had perished in this city that they had in fact run out of space to bury them in the graveyard, and thus the Bone Church was born.
The streets remained as silent as they had when we first arrived. No one outside of our group roamed the streets and with the exception of five shopkeepers who peered at us through tinted windows, even the open businesses seemed abandoned. It was sickeningly perfect and palpably creepy, like a Stepford experiment gone very wrong.
While we made our way to the cemetery we passed by the basic town staples. A school, post office, town hall, and what seemed to be more than twenty churches, though I’m sure the number became exaggerated in my mind. During this time we encountered only five people.
I’ve never been more relieved than when I heard children playing what seemed to be near by, finally some sign of life! That joy was quickly crushed when I looked around not to find happy kids, but instead, I kid you not, an empty swing set with the swings moving back and forth. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know how this was going to end.