Staying Put

Mike and I are home after a lovely week in Belgium. We went to visit Annelies and Yves, who moved into their newly renovated house after a three-year renovation. It’s not completely finished — they are doing most of the work themselves — but it is fabulous.

I didn’t take a bunch of pics of their house to share because there are still a lot of finishing touches needed. I’ll do that on our next visit.

For now, just a few pics. I hope to share more in future posts.

Final Dinner in Belgium
Final Dinner in Belgium (Chinese takeaway!)

The trip was all about visiting with our friends and seeing the new house, so we didn’t do much touristy stuff. And it was actually a really fun visit. We explored the local area a bit, helped do little things around the house, got to meet some of their family, which was awesome, and basically just hung out.

On Saturday morning, I accompanied Annelies to the nearby town of Lokeren, where she had a two-hour band practice followed by a one-hour private music lesson (she plays bass guitar and sings). The music school is on the outskirts of town near a nature preserve called The Molsbroak (Het Moelsbroek on the map), so I roamed around there for a couple of hours and then drove around a bit until she was finished.

molsbroek

I was really surprised to discover a large community of expats from Canada living there.

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Canadian Expats

I saw several Great Blue Herons, too.

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Great Blue Heron

There were other birds, too, but I have to figure out what they were before I can share more pics.

And here’s a picture captured near the center of their town, Dendermonde, on Friday afternoon.

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Dendermonde, Belgium

I’ll share more pics from the trip in future posts. For now, it’s time to get to work.

Really Weird Stuff

I shared a photo on Instagram and Facebook recently, which featured one of the shops here in town making a face. Not really making a face, looking like a face. (Have you ever seen the Faces in Places collection on Flickr?)

A friend of left a comment saying that she thinks I look at the world differently. Maybe that’s true to a degree. But in the case of faces on things, they just kinda jump out at me. I can’t help it. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it, know what I mean?

I do like roadside oddities, some of which can be weird. And I do look for those. But sometimes, weirdness just happens around me. As was the case on that first day in Vienna. When the four of us saw the weirdest thing I think I have ever seen while traveling. Really. And I have seen some pretty unusual stuff.

Actually, I think it was Annelies who spotted it first. We’d been heading north toward the Prater park, but she and I wanted to see the Danube. Just because. We descended some steps beside a waterway, which we thought was the Danube, but was actually just the Danube Canal. Same water, just not nearly as picturesque as we’d hoped the Danube would be.

We walked for a bit then spotted an outdoor bar/restaurant that we couldn’t pass up.

American-style Restaurant in Vienna
American-style Restaurant in Vienna

While sitting there, enjoying some cool beverages, we noticed this boat on the canal.

Badeschiff Wien
Badeschiff Wien

That’s just one part of the very long Bathing Ship Vienna (Badeschiff Wien), which has apparently been on the canal since 2006. It has a restaurant, bar, and bowling alley as well as the swimming pool and soccer cage (above the pool) you can see in the picture. Soon, you’ll be able to enjoy some urban camping on the deck.

Unusual, but not terribly weird, right?

It’s what was going on inside the pool that had us all scratching our heads. And laughing.

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I’m guessing the blonde on the deck was the ringleader.

 

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The three participants.

You can click on the picture for a larger version. In case you cannot clearly see the three people in the pool wearing rubber unicorn masks on their heads.

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Yep, those are definitely unicorn heads.

Three people, dressed as unicorns, engaged in synchronized swimming practice, in a pool, on a boat, docked on a canal in Vienna.

It really was the weirdest thing any of us had ever seen

I have no idea WHY they were doing what they were doing. But I’m pretty sure there is a story behind it.

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Practice makes perfect.

They were clearly practicing for something.

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Fancy Poolwork

Even funnier, they appeared to have done it before.

It was quite entertaining trying to figure out what they were doing and why.

We never did figure it out. I could have asked them, I know. But sometimes it’s more fun leaving things to the imagination.

Day one was pretty eventful. I hope Day Two isn’t too much of a letdown for y’all.

Two Churches in Vienna

There are actually quite a few significant churches in Vienna, but we didn’t have the time or the desire to see all of them. Really, you can only see so many amazing churches in a relatively short span of days before they all start blurring together.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the one I wanted to see most because it’s a landmark of Vienna, and has been for about eight centuries. One of the most-recognized features is its mosaic roof. It has a pretty cool Gothic exterior, too.

St. Stephen’s was actually our first major target of the day. We figured we’d see St. Stephen’s, wander around a bit, and then maybe see the Votive Church, another pretty famous one. Other than that, we figured we’d just walk and gawk. You know, see the city instead of just its most-famous sights.

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There it is! Mid-renovation, unfortunately.

 

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Mosaic Tile Roof

 

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Multiple spires and statues adorn the Gothic exterior.

 

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I just love seeing the statues and ornamental exteriors of these massive structures.

 

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Some of the statues are functional (drains in gargoyle mouths).

 

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Amazing stone-work.

 

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The statues on the exterior can often be quite menacing.

 

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Intricate spires.

 

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The sculptor who created these statues had a sense of humor.

 

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This one is my favorite. She kind of looks like Miss Piggy.

 

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These guys don’t look scary at all.

There were hundreds of statues like that scattered about the church’s exterior. Impressive, right? Wait until you see the inside.

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Coolest painted roof I have seen to date.

The lighting made photography a bit difficult. These pictures won’t win any quality awards, but they will give you an idea as to the church interior’s incredible level of detail.

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Isn’t that stunning? Imagine the time and effort involved!

 

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Huge, intricate wall murals.

 

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Beautiful painted statues.

 

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The stone-work is impressive by itself, but look at all of the painted details.

 

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The main altar.

 

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Close-up of the altar’s “roof.” (The proper name probably isn’t roof.)

 

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The ceiling detail really amazed me.

 

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Even the floors were very detailed.

Seriously, I could roam around in there for hours. And then spend another couple of hours looking at all of the statues on the outside of the church. But we had more things/places to see. If you’d like the read the very interesting history of this particular church, which was built to thank God for saving Emperor Franz Joseph’s life in 1853, CLICK HERE.

Annelies is a map person like me. Between the two of us, we usually do a pretty good job finding our way around strange cities. But, try as we might, we could not figure out how to get from St. Stephen’s to the Votive Church. We found St. Stephen’s on the map, figured out where we were standing in relation to the massive building, but could NOT locate any of the streets labeled on the map. We even asked the waiter who had served us lunch before entering the church. He was confused, too.

Finally, we gave up and just ambled around for hours. That’s when I took many of the pictures shared in yesterday’s post. We walked around the city’s business and shopping district for hours, stopping occasionally to rest, and maybe buy some refreshments.

We were all pretty exhausted and ready to make our way to the next area of the city we wanted to see, getting dinner on the way, when we rounded a corner and saw this…

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St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The actual St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

THAT is the famous exterior we’d been looking for.

Earlier, we’d mistakenly found our way to the Votive Church. Which is why we were having such a hard time finding our way from St. Stephen’s to the Votive Church. We were already at the Votive Church.

Oh well. Just another funny travel story we’ll be re-telling for years.

Unfortunately, we were all so tired, we did little more than step inside for a quick minute or two. It was very crowded.

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The unusual light is due to the stained glass windows.

 

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I have no idea why Donald Trump’s picture was on the wall.

 

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It was pretty, of course. But I’d liked the Votive Church better.

 

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On the cathedral’s exterior… this building is obviously more than 160+ years old.

 

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That mosaic roof is pretty impressive.

I’m glad we stumbled upon St. Stephen’s. I really would have felt stupid if we’d missed it entirely. Even if we did like the one we thought was St. Stephen’s — the Votive Church — better.

In my next post, I’ll share the weirdest thing we saw that day. In all honesty, it’s probably the weirdest thing I have ever seen while traveling. Really. And I have seen some pretty odd stuff in my time.

More from Day One in Vienna

Vienna is a fairly big city, spread out over a large area. There was lots of interesting stuff to see. In addition to the fun/quirky stuff I shared in my previous post, we saw two really pretty churches (or cathedrals), and a bunch of other architectural interestingness, too.

I’ll save the church pics for the next post. Here are some of the other cool buildings we saw in Vienna on day one.

The first couple of pictures were taken in the neighborhood near our apartment. The closer we got to the center of the city, the more ornate the buildings became.

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Those designs are etched into the plaster.

 

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We suspect that is a TV tower.

 

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Fancy residence?

 

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A small section of the parliament building.

 

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Statue in front of the parliament building.

 

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Another small section of the parliament building.

 

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Hotel housed in a building dating back to 1900/1901.

That building isn’t very old (in the big scheme of things), but it has history. The hotel’s website says…

The Neuer Markt, also called Mehlmarkt (translated: Flour market) is one of the oldest places in Vienna. It’s first mentioned under the name of “Novum Forum” in 1234. Next to it is one of the most popular shopping miles in town, the Kärntner Straße. In its former times, the Neuer Markt was used as a grain market. Until the 19th century grain, flour and legumes have been sold here. In 1739 the beautiful Donnerbrunnen became the centre of the place and attracts many people now. The buildings around this place have the character of prestigious middle-class houses.

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Rathaus (town hall)

 

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Cool Sky

 

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Random Fountain

 

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Just some random buildings.

 

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Statue on Building Corner

 

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Pretty building.

 

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Motorbike Parking Spot

 

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Another random pretty building.

 

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Fountain

 

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Cool statue on corner of building.

 

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Side street in shopping district.

 

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Building facade in shopping district.

 

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Ornate statue.

 

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Modern building amidst the older ones.

 

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Cool Reflection

 

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Pretty Fountain

 

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Pretty building facade.

 

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Cool building.

 

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Another cool building.

It really is a pretty city. The pictures don’t do it justice. The churches or cathedrals we entered were amazing, and we only entered two. There’s so much more we didn’t see, but we thoroughly enjoyed the things we did see.  Wait ’til you see the churches. 

Those pictures are in the next post.

Day One in Vienna, Austria

The other day I realized I’d never finished sharing pics from our European road trip. A trip that was six months ago! At this rate, if I don’t catch up, my next vacation will overlap that one, and then things will REALLY get confusing.

I have lots of images to share. Vienna was a very interesting place. I’ll try to keep the explanations brief.

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Very Large Sign (Czech bottled water ad)

 

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Entering the Republic of Austria

 

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View from our apartment balcony, on the outskirts of Vienna.

 

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Happy-looking Bus

We didn’t ride the tourist bus, we made our way around via foot and public transit.

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Signage for Priority Seating on public tram/streetcar.

 

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Brazilian Embassy (captured from bus)

 

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Colorful Truck

 

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Ornate streetlamp base.

 

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Just another scooter commuter.

 

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Ducks!

 

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Creative Bread

 

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Viennese Sausage Cart

 

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Cute pair of scooters.

 

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The Pokemon game took hold in Europe, too.

 

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There is a surprising amount of graffiti in the cities.

 

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More Graffiti

 

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Very interesting ATM at the Prater.

There’s a very large public park in Vienna called the Prater. That’s where the Wurstelprater — the world’s oldest amusement park — is located. It’s kinda cool that you can ride public transport to a full-blown amusement park right at the city’s edge, no?

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Tired Feet

We did walk a lot that day. And it was hot.

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Group Selfie at Lunch

 

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Wurstelprater

 

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Fun pic of Annelies and Yves with a giant snake.

 

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A Wild Mouse rollercoaster!

 

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Happy Austrians at a beer garden.

 

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Wiener Water! Actually it’s Viennese Water.

 

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Prater

 

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Me and Annelies (I forget who the men are)

 

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Dinner at the apartment.

We were all exhausted after a very long day, so we decided to have a lite dinner at the apartment consisting of various meats, cheeses, and other goodies that we had on hand. There was a supermarket on the opposite end of the same block that housed our apartment building. Very convenient (I planned it that way).

There are a lot more pics from that day. I couldn’t put them all into this one post. We saw lots of interesting architecture and two amazing churches or cathedrals that day, too. Those pics will be included in the next two posts.

Why Kutna Hora?

If I remember correctly, Annelies chose Kutna Hora because of its location and its attractions. But it could just be the attractions. There are a couple of important cathedrals, one of which isn’t actually a cathedral, and a very unique bone church.

The first church we visited was the Church of Saint Barbara. It sure looks like a cathedral, but it’s actually just a church that’s built like a cathedral. I say “just” a church, but in an area known for its gothic cathedrals, this particular church is actually a standout.

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Church of Saint Barbara

It’s sure big for a church, right?

The ornamentation inside these large religious structures always amazes me. The structures themselves are incredible, but then there are all the murals and statues, stained glass and carved wood, and painted ceilings. Very, very high ceilings at that.

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Painted Walls

 

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Painted Ceilings

 

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Stained Glass

 

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Carvings

 

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“That’s wood!” said Mike. Who knew?

Yep, it really was wood. This was the first large church/cathedral we’d seen with pieces like that made of wood instead of stone.

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Wooden Figure Close-up

If you look closely, you can tell it’s wood.

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Amazing stuff.

 

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It always takes us forever to wander around these things.

 

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Kind of hard not to be impressed.

 

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Best Candle-holder Ever

 

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“Simple” Wall Decor

It always takes longer than expected for us to see these huge religious buildings.

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Storm Drain

 

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Exterior Ornamentation

I have no idea what these things are called, the little statues sticking out that serve as outlets for water downspouts, but I was delighted to see the next one…

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Frog!

I’d seen some that sorta looked like a frog before, but none that were so clearly a frog.

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This chapel dates back to the 1300s, I think.

There’s a nice view of the town from just outside of the church.

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Overlooking Kutna Hora

From there, we headed to the outskirts of Kutna Hora to see a VERY different kind of church, The Ossuary (bone church) at Sedlec. There IS a cathedral near the ossuary, but we had a long day on the road ahead of us, so we skipped it.

According to one CR tourism website

Kutná Hora is known for the curious “Bone Church” or Ossuary (in Czech, Kostnice). It is located in the suburb of Sedlec. The Ossuary is in the undergroud chapel of the Church of All Saints. It contains the bones of about 40,000 people who died of the plague in 1318 and during the Hussite wars in the 15th century. They were originaly buried at the church cemetery. When the cemetery was closed at the end of the 15th century, the exhumed bones were transferred to the chapel and compiled into pyramids. In 1870, František Rint of Česká Skalice arranged the bones and skulls into creative decorations that include bells, the Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms, and a chandelier.

It was cool to see, but creepy. I mean, those are real bones of people.

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Inside the Ossuary

 

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Artsy arrangement of skulls.

 

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More artsy skull arrangements.

 

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More skull art.

 

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Creepy, but cool.

It was an interesting place for sure!

On a lighter note…

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Fun Sign

Here’s a site with some history of the place for those of you who want the story.

And for those who want to see more pics, the Flickr slideshow is embedded below.

Kutna Hora Cathedral & Ossuary