When I was a student, Prague was one of those places I meant to come and see before all us Capitalist Westerners got over there and ruined it with advertising billboards and fast food joints. Well, I can report that we’ve had a good crack at it, but it’s still quite nice. In fact it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen, once you ignore all the slightly unhinged tourists sozzled on cheap beer. We arrived last night and were suitably impressed with the cobbled bridges and gothic squares on our way to a hearty dinner of goulash.
This morning we all piled into our bus for a long drive outside the city to the Gates of Hell. It’s the cheery nickname given to a centuries old castle out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by seemingly endless forest. Unusually there weren’t an awful lot of facts that we could impart to the viewers at home as no one knows much about the place! They don’t even know why it was built. As a castle it appears to serve no practical strategic purpose at all.
The terrifying name comes from the fact that legend has it the castle was built on top of a hole in the hilltop that led directly to Hell, and that in Medieval times a man was lowered into it on a rope and emerged so shocked by what he saw that he had aged over 30 years. Our tour guide Miloslav was dressed in an appropriately crazy costume, with curl toed boots, green and black robes, finished off with a vicious looking sword.
He didn’t look quite so terrifying when I saw him getting into his car at the end of the day in his sportswear though.