KOSTNICE

by angeliska on September 7, 2003

Our last day in Prague..
I journeyed to Kutna Hora on a bumpy road by bus
that bruised me coccyx and careened past golden fields
of dying sunflowers, rows upon rows of nodding black heads.
The lazy bees cruise past apple trees, heavy with fruit
harvest time here and the sun cascades down
over my shoulders and warms me as I enter the ossuary,
the bone church at the monastery of Sedlec..
Inside the air is cold and dead,
the smell of dust and plague permeates, and all is calm..
Florettes made of jawbones, a grisly chandelier
strung with garlands of skulls, decorated with hundreds
of femurs, tibias, vertebrae..
40,000 victims of plague and the Hussite wars are interred here.
Six enormous cairns, pyramids of bones lay stacked,
by a half-blind monk in 1500..
Later, mad Frantisek Rint and his family
bleached the bones with lye and constructed
these fantastical sculptures with them.
It is a wonder to behold.
Tiny votive candles glow and the skinheads buy Kostnice keychains..
The cathredral of Saint Barbara and the Royal Mint
were both decorated by another Frantisek,
an unknown genius of Art Nouveau.
He and his wife Maria painted the King’s Chapel
with flowers that would put William Morris to shame..
His stained glass windows with their delicate colours
brought tears to my eyes and my hand to my heart.
A last dinner at the Kavarna Imperial Cafe,
Wintertraum tea and Forest Nymph ice cream sundae..
Comfortably ensconced within its byzantine recesses,
listening to crackly records of Josephine Baker,
it is easy to imagine this majestic tea-room in 1923.
Framed stills from Czech films of that era adorn the walls,
and every other surface is completely covered in tiles and mosaics.
You get a free donut with every cup of coffee,
and on the counter rests Saturnin’s bowl.
For a steep fee, one can purchase this bowl
filled day old powdered goo-filled doughnuts
and hurl them at the other customers.
The staff treads lightly in fear
that one might decide to enact Saturnin’s doughnut revenge,
the chaos that ensues, and incredible mess to clean up later..
As I still must pack later, I thought it best to demure.
This morning in the breakfast room, I invoked stares and titters
from my Princess of Moravia costume..
I sat and sipped my chocolate and peered
at the beautiful and ancient Mrs. Hana Pravda,
who later came up to me and uttered,
in her heavily accented English,
“You look vunderfull..”
Tomorrow we take the train to Vienna,
and what wonders will we encounter there?

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