2018 – A European Grand Tour

When Is a River Cruise Not a River Cruise?

John and Elizabeth Lucas

Except where noted, all text and photographs are copyright 2018 by John A. and Elizabeth B. Lucas. All rights reserved.

  1. A Grand Tour (Introduction)
  2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  3. Kinderdyck, Netherlands
  4. Cologne/Köln, Germany
  5. Koblenz, Germany
  6. The Middle Rhein Valley
  7. Würzburg, Germany
  8. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
  9. Bamberg, Germany
  10. Nuremberg, Germany
  11. Regensburg, Germany
  12. Salzburg, Austria
  13. Melk Abbey, Austria
  14. Wachau Valley, Austria
  15. Vienna, Austria
  16. Budapest, Hungary
  17. Prague, Czech Republic
  18. Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
Please note: We supply many links to articles in Wikipedia and occasionally elsewhere. Follow them for more information than we can provide. Or, do your own web searching! The links point to the "permanent" articles, stable versions of the Wikipedia pages. Although there are seldom major differences between the permanent and current versions of an article, Wikipedia will give you the opportunity to switch to the current version.

A Grand Tour (Introduction)

In 40+ years of friendship with Debbie Heath and Kevin Kelley, we had never taken a vacation together. The Kelleys had taken Viking river cruises in recent years and wanted us to join them for a voyage. We agreed if it would be a substantial one -- in the event, the Viking "Grand Tour" from Amsterdam to Budapest by water with a extension by bus to Prague. We chose a late September sailing to avoid the summer heat. What we didn't take into account was the extremely hot and dry summer that Europe experienced in 2018. Some locations had not had rain since April.

And so, the answer the question posed by the subtitle is -- a river cruise isn't a river cruise when there's not enough water in the rivers to permit the ships to move. Viking and all the other cruise ship operators had ships stuck all over Europe in patches of rivers deep enough to float the ships. The fleets had become something like chains of floating hotels. We did manage to sail up the Rhein and down the Danube, though we had to wait a half day or so for rain in Switzerland to arrive in the Middle Rhein, enough to let us pass the Lorelei with but 3 inches (8 cm) of water under the keel. We knew before we left that we would be using a different ship than the intended one (as it couldn't get to Amsterdam and we never did see it). As it turned out, we had to change ships in mid-voyage as the Rhein-Main-Danube canal was impassable. We also couldn't sail the Danube from Vienna to Budapest so we had to be taken by bus. Of course, none of this was anything that the tour companies could control. Viking did a tremendous job redefining pickup/dropoff times and places for each day's coaches and local guides -- long hours on mobile phones and internet each night for the people responsible for logistics.

The route
Locations in parentheses indicate pass-throughs and neither stops nor tours. We did encounter all of these, but some of the shore excursions had to be canceled because travel delays and the low water.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Wikipedia article
NOTE: This coat of arms and the ones for the subsequent cities are from the respective Wikipedia articles.

We arrived 2 1/2 days before sailing to enjoy Amsterdam on our own. Amsterdam is one of John's favorite cities and has been since 1970 when he first visited the city. The images that come to his mind are:

A very small sample of typical Amsterdam

Yes that brownish building above is tilting!

(Left) Many of the major museums are located in the same area called the Museumplein. The Concertgebouw is also there, one of the great concert houses of the world. We didn't attend a concert there on this trip, but and his father did attend an all Brahms choral concert here in 1970; (Right) The Van Gogh Museum did not exist in 1970. At that time, its collection was housed in the Stedelijk Museum (of modern art) and much of the Van Gogh material was on tour in the US!

The Rijksmuseum focuses on the arts and history. It is the most visited Dutch museum and the largest art museum in the Netherlands. It is most famous for its collection of Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings. Because of the low light levels and the number of visitors (sometimes 10 deep in front of the most famous paintings), we could not make acceptable photographs.

The following four photographs of paintings are from Wikimedia Commons. (See articles on Rembrandt and Vermeer and their respective galleries of photos.) There were too many heads in the way and the light level was low enough that hand-held photography of acceptable quality was impossible.

The Night Watch (1642) by Rembrandt and Syndics of the Drapers' Guild (1662) by Rembrandt. These are large paintings -- The Night Watch is 17 feet long.

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (1663) by Vermeer and The Loveletter (1670) by Vermeer. By contrast, Vermeer paintings are often relatively small, 18 inches or so in the long dimension.

Back to our own work. The Rijksmuseum also has arms and armor, porcelain, metalwork, a library, and and a garden.

In a nearby square, Rembrandt's The Night Watch has been sculpted and cast in bronze.

We also visited the Museum Van Loon, the home of a prominent family of government service and mercantile interests.

On the third day, we boarded Viking Lif to begin our cruise. Viking Aegir was supposed to be our ship and tours took place under that name though we never saw the ship. Viking Embla was our ship on the Danube River.

When we were cruising on the rivers (and there weren't low bridges and/or locks), we parked ourselves on the deck chairs, front and center, on the top deck -- elbows on the rail and cameras ready to shoot. Viking has more than 60 of these ships in its fleet, each holding about 190 passengers plus the crew.

Kinderdyck, Netherlands

Wikipedia article
The ship left Amsterdam in the late afternoon of September 28th and we awoke on the 29th already docked at Kinderdyck, a group of still-active windmills. As with many of the sites visited on our tour, Kinderdyck has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  1. Windmills pump water from large areas (polders, shown in green at upper right) -- these may be miles in extent and are devoted to agriculture. The purpose of the windmills is to pump as much water as needed to prevent flooding and rotting the crops, but not so much as to dry out the underlying beds of peat (which would cause land subsidence).
  2. Windmills pump from the polders to holding areas (waards, shown in shades of tan) -- these are non-crop wetlands to hold the water from the polders until the river conditions are favorable.
  3. Diesel pumping stations pump from the waards to the river. The river may be in flood and is also tidal. So it's not always possible to pump the water in this final stage.

With the exceptionally dry summer in 2018, there wasn't any excess water to remove so all the windmills were inactive at this time.

And this is what Kinderdyck looks like in early morning.

This is perhaps the quintessential windmill picture. Two of the windmills are open to visitors.

Although there are several floors, the living spaces are cramped. It's hard to imagine how families of 10 or 12 managed to live inside the windmills.

Cologne/Köln, Germany

Wikipedia article
Cologne is on both sides of the Rhein River with a population of more than a million inhabitants. It was founded in the 1st Century AD by the Romans. IT was almost completely destroyed by British and US bombers during WW2.

Cologne Cathedral has several distinctions:

During the Second World War, the cathedral was bombed but survived (chiefly because it served as a landmark for flattening the rest of the city).

The picture on the right shows a copy of the finials atop each spire to relate to human scale.
The choir has a height to width ration of 3.6:1, claimed to be largest in a medieval church.

Until the 19th century, the church only existed from the nave to the transept and its buttresses (right half of the picture). The 1842-1880 work extended the nave by four additional buttresses and added the front facade.

(Left) The Rathaus or city hall was largely destroyed. Most of the tower and the front facade survived. The rest was completed in post-war modern style; (Right) A market square adjacent to the city hall shows the post-war construction of most of the city.
Before we left Cologne, we had an excursion to sample Kölsch, a local style of beer. We visited three brauhouses to taste their products. The boat was late picking us up, so the local guide said, "Come on, there's a local pub around the corner." So we sampled a fourth brand!

Koblenz, Germany

Wikipedia article
Koblenz is situated on both banks of the Rhein at the confluence with the Moselle River . Like Cologne, it was founded by the Romans and almost completely destroyed during WW2.
We docked at Koblenz after cruise during the night from Cologne and past Bonn, the former capital of West Germany. While we waited for the buses for our morning excursion, we strolled to the nearby park at the confluence of the rivers.

Even the Moselle showed some signs of the drought. There was a statue of Emperor William I (1797-1888), a member of the Prussian Hohenzollern dynasty and the first head of state of a unified Germany. Until that time, the region was highly fragmented by small principalities, duchies and the like, leftovers of the Holy Roman Empire. With the reunification of Germany in this century, William I has gotten more recognition. He was the grandfather of "Kaiser Bill" of World War One.

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress sits on the east bank of the Rhein across from the Rhein-Moselle confluence. It was built by Prussia 1817-1828 after its predecessor had been destroyed in the Napoleonic Wars. Many of the fortifications face away from the river, guarding a much easier approach. It was never attacked.

We didn't tour this although our friends did. Note that the river has receded from the vegetation which normally would be at water's edge.

Ehrenbreitstein marks the northernmost point of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Upper Midddle Rhein which is the subject of the next section.

The Middle Rhein Valley (The Rhein Gorge)

Credit: By Lencer - Own work, used: Generic Mapping Tools and SRTM3 V2-files for relief, small map created with Karte_Bundesrepublik_Deutschland.svg OpenStreetMap Google Earth, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8638995

Wikipedia article

South (upstream) of Koblenz and Ehrenbreitstein, the river runs through a gorge with towns, two railroads and networks of highways as well as dense river traffic . On the heights every mile or two is a castle or palace. Most were constructed 1100-1300 and served two purposes for the local nobility:

Castles may be ruins, private homes or hotels (burghotels).

While we were still docked in Koblenz, we took an excursion to the Marksburg Castle, about 10 kilometers upstream on the eastern side of the river. The castle was built c. 1117 and was never destroyed, although heavily damaged in World War Two. It is the headquarters of the German Castle Association.

The parking lot is at the ridgeline at the left. Touring the castle includes ascending 100 feet or so by stairs or a lane and then confronting difficult walking conditions in the lower parts of the castle. But the effort is well worth it.

Arms and armor; medieval string and wind instruments

We returned to the ship to begin our southward transit of the Rhein Gorge. This meant we would pass by the Marksburg at water level. It had been raining, but had begun to clear. We were stationed at the front railing, cameras in hand, as the light changed minute by minute. The shutter clicks sounded like a press conference!

Of course, as the map shows, there are castles at practically every turn of the river. Here is a selection, all taken within two or three hours.

(Left) Stolzenfels, finished in 1259, restored and opened to the public in 2011, state owned; (Right) Rhens, Germany (population 3000)
(Left) Stahleck, above Bacharach, 12th century, now a youth hostel, in 2012 B&B 20 Euro, full board 30 Euro; (Right) Fürstenberg, built 1219, a ruin

(Left) Reichenstein, built 1100, a burghotel, rooms from 99 Euro/night (see also https://www.burg-reichenstein.com/?lang=en); (Right) Rheinstein, built 1316/7, a museum and restaurant (see also http://www.burg-rheinstein.de/)

(Left) Ehrenfels, built 1212, a ruin; (Right) Grape Harvesting next to Ehrenfels (The Ehrenfelser grape is named after the castle)

(Left) Mouse Tower, a tower supporting Ehrenfels Castle to collect customs and tolls, built 1296 (normally on a small island); (Right) Bingerbrück, Germany at the southern end of gorge. Note the low water level. It was reported that as we passed the Lorelei, there were but three inches (8 cm) of water under the keel!

Würzburg, Germany

Wikipedia article
At Mainz, we turned away from the Rhein and began to ascend the Main River past Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main. Although we were able to make good time between locks, the time it takes to go through a lock drastically lowers the average speed. There are a lot of locks, but they helped to keep the water level close to peak levels on the Main.

At Würzburg, we did not have a city tour, but did visit the Würzburg Residence, a palace built 1720-1744 for the Prince-Bishops. We could not take pictures inside so to view the opulent-to-excess interior, including the world's largest fresco, see the link for the residence in this paragraph.

Front facade:

Rear facade and gardens:

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Wikipedia article
The city has about 11,000 inhabitants (2000 in the old town) and is one of the best preserved medieval towns. It was founded in 1170 , and besieged in the 30 Years’ War, 1631.

Several films have used Rothenburg: parts of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2. It is said to be the inspiration for village in Pinocchio. It was a must-see feature of our trip.

Klingentorturm and town wall

Central market square and an obvious spiral staircase

Fountain showing St. George and the dragon; town gate and road leading down to the river

Panoramic view along the town walls; the view down to the Tauber River and the medieval bridge

Bamberg, Germany

Wikipedia article
Bamberg is situated on the Regnitz River , and like many cities, it controlled the trade on the river (the principal highway at the time). It was first mentioned 902 AD.
(Left) The neighborhood on the right bank was called Little Venice, as it was the home of fishermen and watermen. An 20th century entrepreneur acquired a Venetian gondola to capture tourist euros.

The old town hall (in the river with bridges on either side); the pipe organ in Bamberg Cathedral

(Left) One of the four spires of Bamberg Cathedral and the Old Residence

(Left) The rose garden near the Residence; (Right) the view from the rose garden over the city of Bamberg

Nuremberg/Nürnberg, Germany

Wikipedia article

At this point we had to transfer to another ship in the Danube River basin as the Rhein-Main-Danube Canal was impassable. So packed our bags (which went by truck to Passau, Germany) and left the Viking Lif, having a city tour of Nuremberg and lunch before continuing on to Passau and boarding the Viking Embla.

Although notorious for the pre-WW2 Nazi rallies and post-war war crime trials, Nuremberg has a long political and cultural history. It was a major medieval trade center. Most of city was destroyed by Allied bombing during WW2 (including the castle) but has been rebuilt and reconstructed where there were sufficient plans of what had stood.

The bus tour of the city did not stop anywhere until we reached the castle, but we saw parts of the city including the surviving Nazi structures. The picture below is the inside wall of the Congress Hall, a semicircular domed structure that was never finished nor even roofed. We also saw the Zeppelin Field where the massive rallies took place, but the bus didn't stop to allow pictures.

Nuremberg Castle had its origins about 1000 AD and went through several periods of construction over the next 300 years. It was ruined in the Second World War and took 30 years to reconstruct. The photo on the right shows the view from the castle over the city. Almost everything in the view has been (re)constructed since WW2.

(Left) Left to right, the Heathen Tower, Imperial Chapel, and the Deep Well (the half-timbered structure beyond the silhouetted man). The Heathen Tower at one time housed Roman-style sculptures and paintings; (Right) Another view of the Heathen Tower.
We walked down from the castle. We can't imagine what it would be like trying to get down this cobbled way when it was raining. The steep incline was enough to urge caution to even sure-footed people.

During lunch in Nuremberg, we sat with some west-bound people en route from Viking Embla to Viking Lif, so we compared notes on exchanging our two ships.

Regensburg, Germany

Wikipedia article

Regensburg dates from Roman times. Unlike many Germans cities, it was largely untouched by World War Two. For about 150 years, Regensburg served as an unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire as the Imperial Diet met there in the town hall.

The Stone Bridge is Regensberg's most famous feature. It was built 1135-1146, a thousand feet long in 16 arches or spans. The bridge served as a model for other contemporaneous bridges in London, Dresden, Prague, and Avignon. The Second Crusade used the bridge just after it was built.
(Left) Crossing the Stone Bridge to the town. The building next to the clock tower is the salt store -- a medieval warehouse serving the salt trade comidown the rivers. Partly seen to its left is the tiny Regensburg Sausage Kitchen; (Right) A closeup of the Regensburg Sausage Kitchen, perhaps the oldest continuously open restaurant in the world. (This photo is by Manuel Strehl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=804637) When we were there you couldn't see the building for the hordes of people, tourists and townspeople alike. So I had to borrow a photo to show you.

(Left) A surviving fragment of the 179 AD Roman wall; (Right) The Regensburg Town Hall. The Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire met in this building.

Another street scene in Regensburg. Note the wall painting of David and Goliath on the left.

Salzburg, Austria

Wikipedia article

While ship was anchored at Passau, Germany, we took an all day bus trip to Salzburg, Austria. (Other passengers chose the Oktoberfest in Munich.) Salzburg was part of the Roman Empire in 15 BC. Today, it's famous as the location of the story of Sound of Music (hundreds of thousands of tourists come each year just to visit the film's outdoor locations). But Salzburg was also the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart, Christian Doppler (Doppler effect), and Josef Mohr (Silent Night, first performed 200 years ago this Christmas Eve in nearby Oberndorf)

Mirabell Palace was built about 1606 for the Prince-Archbishop and his mistress (!) until he was deposed in 1612. The gardens were the film location for the song Do-Re-Mi. Our local guide told us that when she first started doing tours, she attempted to sing and dance around the fountain as Julie Andrews had in the film. Unfortunately, she fell in! She apologized for not giving us a performance. (Right) The gray building on the left is the Mozarteum University Salzburg (a world famous music conservatory). In the distance is the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

(Left) Salzburg has a "lock bridge" like Paris and some other European cities. A newly engaged couple places a lock on the bridge and throws the key into the river symbolizing their love. Many of the locks are heart-shaped or have initials painted on them (like carving initials in a tree). Our guide said she would trust a fiance who used a combination lock! (Right) The building in which Mozart was born; during his teenage years, the family lived at another location (also a museum) before eventually settling in Vienna for the rest of his short life.

(Left) We looked in the Petersfriedhof or St. Peter's Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Salzburg. John was looking for the graves of Nannerl Mozart (his elder sister), Michael Haydn (younger brother of Joseph), and Heinrich Biber. Unfortunately, we did not have the locations of the crypts or graves for any of them. (Right) The Petersfriedhof lies directly below the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
We ate lunch in an historic inn while four students from the Mozarteum performed excerpts from The Sound of Music. They were good as expected, but John at least would have preferred Salzburger musik (Ländler, waltzes, mazurkas, polkas) rather than American Broadway.

A final view of the Salzach River, the town and the fortress.

Melk Abbey, Austria

Coat of arms of the town not the abbey.

Wikipedia article
Melk Abbey is a Benedictine monastery, founded in 1089. The monastery and school are still active. The abbey sits on a high bluff overlooking the Danube River and the town of Melk (5257 inhabitants, first mentioned in 831).

Interior photography is not permitted, so please do follow the link to the Wikipedia article for a gallery of photographs.

(Left) Melk Abbey from river level; (Right) the entranceway to Melk Abbey. We took the bus up to the abbey, but walked back down to the ship.
(Left) The Prelate's Courtyard; (Right) Melk Abbey gardens, the orangery or conservatory
(Left) The view back toward the abbey from the orangery; (Right) One of several groups of decorative ravens (?)

A view in the town of Melk. Note the abbey above and behind the cafes.

Wachau Valley, Austria

Wikipedia article

As the pictures of Melk Abbey show, the day dawned dark and gray, but by the time we walked back to the ship, it had cleared nicely. The afternoon was devoted to cruising the 25 mile gorge of the Danube between Melk and Krems -- it was a glorious afternoon: clear, slanting golden later afternoon sun, warm (for October), and only a light following wind. Absolutely perfect photography conditions!

The Wachau Valley is not as precipitous as the Rhein Gorge, but like the Rhein, the Danube does have castles (intact and in ruins), picturesque towns, and vineyards.

(Left) Schloss Schönbühel (c.1125, privately owned?); Aggstein Castle (c.1125, ruin)

(Left) Schwallenbach; (Right) Hinterhaus (near the town of Spitz)

(Left) Wösendorf; (Right) Weißenkirchen (German language)

Two views of Dürnstein. In the photograph on the right, Dürnstein Castle (ruin) is seen above the town. This was one of the castles where King Richard I of England (Lion-Hearted) was held for ransom by Duke Leopold V of Austria after the Third Crusade.

Benedictine Abbey of Göttweig in the distance (perhaps 12 miles, 20 km) behind Hundsheim. We think we could just see the abbey from Vienna, perhaps 25 miles (40km) away and on the horizon.

Vienna, Austria

Wikipedia article

2.6 million people in the metro area, almost a third of all Austrians. It was part of the Roman Empire, from 15 BC. It was heavily damaged in WW2 around railway station and bridges. Vienna is judged to be one of the most livable and prosperous cities in the world.

The Hofburg is the former winter residence of the Habsburg dynasty and the present home and office of the president of Austria. See the article for the floor plan and description of the various wings and buildings. (Left) Hofburg, Imperial Chancellery Wing; (Right) Hofburg, St. Michael's Wing

(Left) A few of the 68 Lipizzan stallions. The Spanish Riding School (an organization) uses the Winter Riding School (a place in the Hofburg) for performances in Vienna. There is also a summer used in July and August. We did not see a performance, but these horses were being moved from their stables (pictured) to the Winter Riding School.

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna dominates the skyline of the center city.
This, believe it or not, is not a church -- it's the city hall of Vienna. The Roncalli Circus was occupying the square in front of it.

The "summer place" of the Habsburgs was the Schönbrunn Palace, a mere 1441 rooms. As for many of the other buildings, see the corresponding Wikipedia articles for the interior photographs. (Left) Schönbrunn Palace, front facade; (Right) Schönbrunn Palace, rear facade

Scenes from the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace. The Gloriette (left photo) is just an ornamental structure, akin to the idea of a "folly" in a British garden.


We had hoped to take an excursion paddling with a naturalist guide through the wetlands of Vienna. As you can probably guess, the excursion was canceled because the wetlands weren't wet enough (:^(

Budapest, Hungary

Wikipedia article

As with Vienna to Austria, so Budapest is to Hungary -- the capital and home to a third of the country's population. We were supposed to cruise from Vienna to Budapest, but the Danube was closed on that stretch because of the water level. So we traveled by bus, throwing the schedule out of kilter again, and this time, Viking had no ships in Budapest so we had to be put up in a five-star hotel, the New York Palace Budapest. As in Vienna, one of our excursions was canceled -- this time because of the bus travel. We did have a city tour which did stop in several places.

Budapest started as Buda (a town mostly atop the bluffs overlooking the Danube) and Pest (a town across the Danube facing Buda and mostly flat). The two were finally united in 1873.

Buda Castle was first completed in 1265 but the present structure dates from the middle of the 18th century. It now houses the national gallery and history museum.

Also on the bluffs near Buda Castle is the Matthias Church (Our Lady of Buda)

The Hungarian Parliament Building is probably the most famous site in Budapest. It is claimed that the building is

This view is from the Buda side near the Matthias Church

Another famous Budapest site is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (built 1840-1849, blown up by the Nazis in 1945, and reopened in 1949).
Looking upstream of the Danube River (blue for once), the Margaret Bridge and some of Pest.

Prague, Czech Republic

Wikipedia article

The Kelleys and we were among the 10 people from our ship (and another 10 from another Viking ship) who chose to extend their trips to include Prague. This was always scheduled to be an all-day (at least 500 km) bus journey and not a river cruise.

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, part of the former Czechoslovakia, and earlier the Kingdom of Bohemia. Prague is a very popular tourist destination, 8.5 million international tourists in a country of 10 million residents. It seemed like they were all in Prague the week we were there.

Like the Hofburg in Vienna and the president of Austria, so Prague Castle is the office and residence of the president of the Czech Republic. We followed the inevitable red lollipop as we toured the courtyards within the castle but none of the interiors.
(Left) A well cover in one of the castle's courtyards; (Right) A statue of St. George and the Dragon

Within Prague Castle is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, built 1344-1929 (with interruptions)

The Charles Bridge has special significance in our family -- our son Alex proposed to our daughter-in-law Renee on this bridge. If he had tried it while we were there, he'd have been trampled by the hordes of people. It is a pedestrian bridge, built 1357-1402, with 16 arches (like Regensburg). (Left) The Charles Bridge and the Vltava (Moldau) River looking toward the Old Town; (Right) Charles Bridge, four of the 30 statues, Malá Strana Bridge Tower, and the St. Vitus Cathedral on the bluff behind the tree.
(Left) Status of Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378), after whom the bridge is named; (Right) The Old Town Bridge Tower (Old Town end of the Charles Bridge)
(Left) The Old Town Square with the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Old Town City Hall (partly on the left) and Prague Astronomical Clock; (Right)
Detail of the Prague Astronomical Clock, the oldest (1410) astronomical clock still operating. See the article for a detailed explanation of the clock. The crowds in Old Town Square were waiting for the hourly display, with the skeleton tolling the bell. The clock was under reconstruction during 2018 and only resumed operation two weeks before we arrived.

Kutná Hora and Sedlec, Czech Republic

Note the heraldic beasts holding miner's tools with their feet! 

Wikipedia article

These towns are about 50 miles east of Prague, more or less in the center of what is now the Czech Republic. Sedlec is a town on the plain surrounding the Sedlec Abbey (built 1142, burned 1421 by the Hussites, dissolved 1783, restored 1854-1857). Sedlec also contains (Left) the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist, in its present form completed in 1706 in a unique style called Baroque Gothic; (Right) The Sedlec Ossuary, Catholic chapel housing the bones between 40,000 and 70,000 people.
Ossuaries aren't unusual; there are catacombs under many older cities including Rome and Paris to name just two. What is bizarre, macabre is what has been done to the remains. What was supposedly a project to "put the bone heaps into order," turned into this, a chandelier made from at least one of every bone in the human body (John wonders about the middle ear and the hyoid bone). Other "furniture" and decorations as well, including the "artist's" signature! We found this mildly upsetting, not for the bones themselves but the "playing" with them in a commissioned project!

Kutna Hora lies on a ridge perhaps two miles from Sedlec. It was founded more or less at the same time as Sedlec Monastery, 1142. Within a century, silver was being mined under Kutna Hora. For 300 hundred years or so, silver was extracted, making this blue collar town a rival for Prague in wealth and political power. The boom times came to end by 1546 when the richest mine flooded. Other catastrophes were Thirty 30 Years' War, repeated epidemics of plague, and finally in 1770, fire.

Nonetheless, Kutna Hora is unusual because it is a medieval town built in stone. Elsewhere, on the very rich could afford to build in stone. (Left) the Church of St. Barbara and Jesuit College (and an ancient vineyard on the side of the hill); (Right) A figure from inside the Church of St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners. The church is unusual that the statues and wall paintings often portray the common people at work and not just religious themes.
The Jesuit College

The Church of St. James

We ate our final lunch on this European tour at the Restaurant Dačický, the last of many historic restaurants we visited.

That evening back in Prague, we had a dinner with performances of traditional Czech music (violin, bass and cimbalom plus singers and dancers). (No pictures taken)

And so we flew home with more than 3000 photographs taken in three weeks, about the weekly average for our major trips.