The Czech Republic‘s second city, Brno, shares the good looks of the capital, Prague. And yet, where Prague has gone mainstream, Brno has taken the quirkier route. On the surface, the city is replete with pretty, red-topped buildings and grandiose architecture, but you needn’t look far to see that things aren’t quite as idyllic as they seem. Here, we bring you Brno’s oddest offerings.
The Old Town Hall
Smack bang in the centre of Brno sits the Old Town Hall, it is an imposing building with a grand Gothic gateway. However, if you look carefully, one of the spires is wonky, leaning precariously to one side. There are two conflicting tales for why this might be: one states that the stonemason in charge, Anton Pilgram, was drunk when creating it, whilst the other claims that Pilgram was mistreated and that it was an act of revenge against the crookedness of his bosses. Either way, it’s an intriguing site and one that is in imbued in history, making you ponder the men who created this masterpiece.
Image © Kirk K
The Church of St James and its Crypt
The Church of St James is Gothic in structure, with grand high ceilings and intricate carvings throughout. This alone makes it a hot spot for tourists who love their architecture. However, back in 2001 a whole other side to this building was discovered. During an archaeological probe in the city centre, a vast ossuary was discovered. The crypts below the church house the bones of around 20,000 people, all of whom are believed to have died during bouts of the plague and cholera or while wars ravaged the city. The crypts are open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, weekly.
The Brno Dragon
First things first, we need to address the elephant in the room – that is very clearly a crocodile and not a dragon hanging from the ceiling of Brno’s Old Town Hall. However, in the past when this ominous looking creature was revealed to the people of Brno they believed that the mythical dragon was in their midst. As such, there are dragon emblems throughout the city.
Image © Nick Grabowski
Travellers from far and wide come to peer at the subterranean grassy banks and lakes that lie at the base of Europe’s largest sinkhole, around 45 minutes from the centre of Brno. It’s more than 138-metres deep, and the extent of it was first explored in 1732 by a monk. Since then, more thorough excavations have taken place revealing a network of caves attached to it. However, as tourists, you are limited to peering down from on high to imagine what lies beneath.
The Mummies of the Capuchin Crypt
Lovers of dark tourism will adore Brno with its many ghoulish sights and attractions. The crypt of the Capuchin monks is home to 24 deceased monks and churchgoers, all of whom are still holding onto the rosaries that they would have prayed with in life. The exterior of the church is somewhat misleading with a simple pale pink facade, and even the main part of the church gives away no clues as to what lies beneath.
Image © Morgan Davis
The Petrov Bells
Every day, the Petrov Bells chime for midday one hour early, confusing visitors endlessly. The story goes that during the siege of Brno in the Thirty Years’ War, the Swedish had promised to retreat if they hadn’t been successful by the strike of noon. The ingenious residents of the city decided that to increase their chances of freedom, they’d move midday forward an hour, ringing the bells at 11 am instead. The plans worked, and the ritual has been continued in commemoration of this day.