The name of the city I was born in and live in, is Kutna Hora. It is pretty old - the area was colonized back in the ages around year zero and the ages of the first european tribes; in the dark ages, one of the main routes connecting Moravia and Bohemia (Moravia, Silesia and Bohemia are the three main regions of Czech republic) led through the place. The best times of Kutna Hora came in the middle ages - 13th to 15th century - because of the silver mines. These were the largest and richest mines in the central (and maybe in the whole) Europe; the deepest shaft had about 800 meters and at that time, it was the deepest mine shaft in the world (remember, the mining was all done by hand - with hammers and chisels!). Kutna Hora was a rich town, the second capital of the kingdom - the king had a residence in both towns. In the 15th century, most of the mines were depleted and flooded and the fame of Kutna Hora was slowly fading away.

A rich town means a big town with many interesting sights.

(click the pictures to enlarge)

The cathedral of St. Barbora, the patron of the miners. Was built in the rich silver ages; it is the dominant of the town. Every tourist wants to see it, and, frankly, it's impossible to miss it - it's everywhere. The postcards, the posters, the key pendants, the glasses, the guides, just everywhere. But, it really is beautiful and worth the visit.

The Italian Court (it's named "Italian" because of the Italian architects, who built it) - the residence of the king and aldermen and the mint, where the silver coins, the Prague groschen (named after the capital city, but made in Kutna Hora...), were made.

The Prague groschen - the real ones (left) and a copy you can buy in the souvenir shop (right) - in silver or in aluminium (cheaper).

The St. Vaclav (Wenceslas) chapel in the Italian Court. The room and altar are gothic, the rest from the next eras. The paintings on the wall are really beautiful.

The gothic Stone House, with pompous facade decorations, built by a famous architect for a rich townsman. Now it's a museum.

St. Jakub (James) church in winter. I love winter pictures, so I thought you might like this, too :-) The church has a personal spell for me - it's the church we were visiting each Christmas Eve, when I was a little girl. There was a crib with little Jesus and all the saints and angels and the old narrow alleys around the church were so dark, silent and covered with snow... We're not making these visits anymore, but I still like the dark alleys in winter.

The St. Jakub again. This is what you'll see, standing by the wall in the park by the St. Barbora cathedral. The building on the right side of the church is the Italian Court. The tower with the pointy roof near the chimneys belongs to the church of Virgin Mary. The hill you can see behind the St. Jakub is Kank, one of the main mining spots. It's full of interesting minerals and stones you can find right on the ground in the forest :-) On the top of the hill, there is a memorial of miners, executed in the 15th century, in the year of great miner riots, and two chasms - the first is old and on its bottom, there's an entrance to the shafts; the second one is two years old. Sometimes, Kank is a bit dangerous :-). The forest on the right side of the picture is called the King's Walk - it is said the king liked to walk in the woods. Many people of Kutna Hora follow his steps, mostly on Sunday afternoons - there's a path, leading through the forest, along the Vrchlice brook and the rocks, standing there from the times Kutna Hora was under the sea. Naturally, it was some million years ago :-) (But the rocks still look like taken right from under the sea - curvy, with smooth edges. The face you can see through the trees near the right edge of the picture, is a memorial to Jaroslav Vrchlicky, a poet from the 19th century. The houses in the forefront - it is an old district, where the miners were living in the middle ages. Most of the houses are very old and damaged; in the present days, they are inhabited mostly by gypsies. The green place under the St. Jakub church is a beautiful park, belonging to the Italian Court, with terraces and gardens.

The second photo is a view of Kutna Hora in the evening; with the silhouettes of St. Barbora, Jesuit College and St. Jakub church.

The ceiling in the chapel of the Sankturin house. In the Sankturin house, there's a Museum of Alchemy; they say it's the only museum of Alchemy in Europe. I don't know if it's true, but it definitely is something that isn't just everywhere... The museum is new, established in the year 2001, so it's still pretty unknown.

The mines. If you're brave (and slim) enough, you can visit the mines - they're just under the Museum of Mining in the Hradek ("Little Castle"). The tour starts in the museum, continues to the trejv - a structure with machines that were used to pull the ore from the mines - and then right under the ground.

Title page of the Kutna Hora Hymn Book, 15th century. This fascinating picture shows the way of the silver from the ore to the groschen. From the deep mines, through the trejv (the building with the pointy roof on the left) and all the other workers (who were cleaning, melting and preparing the ore), to the coin makers and finally the chiefs of the mint and the town.

If you want to visit Kutna Hora, the best way, I think, is through Prague. Kutna Hora is about 60 kilometers south-east of Prague, that's one hour by car, bus or train. The fast trains (not the EuroCity or InterCity trains), going from Prague to Brno, Breclav or Bratislava through Kolin and Havlickuv Brod all stop in Kutna Hora. And then it's up to you - the train station is on the very edge of the city, about four kilometers from the centre. The local train and city bus comes here about each hour or you can take a taxi (they're waiting before the station). Or, you can go by foot, because the first sights - the Ossuary and the church of Assumption - are near the station. If you don't mind walking, you can start the sightseeing tour right after the arrival :-)
Many tourists are making - as I think - a big mistake. They settle in a hotel in Prague and one day pay a visit to Kutna Hora. But - Prague is big, expensive, with much traffic and too many people. A better idea is to "establish a base" in Kutna Hora - the hotels are less expensive and the city is much more quiet - and, after seeing all the interesting places (which will take some days), pay a visit to Prague, or other cities and castles (Havlickuv Brod, the Karlstejn Castle, Zleby Castle and other). But, it depends on you - if you wanted some nightlife and like the rush, then stay in Prague. If you prefered the calmness of a smaller, yet beautiful historical city, stay in Kutna Hora.

For more info visit the Kutna Hora Web Page.