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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Czech Republic Road Trip - November 2016

The annual long read from our occasional guest writer Tin Dog.


Czech Republic

2016


 Smooth(ish) Departure

This year’s fiasco began well enough. Three out of four of us got stopped at Manchester Airport security.

Frag, Spud and I got stopped, just the three out of four.

The staff diligently checked Frag’s camera lenses and my asthma inhaler for explosives before pronouncing them safe enough to board.

Just knowing I could breathe without exploding gave me a spring in my step. It’s nice to know.

Spud’s coat was a major threat to security until they examined it.

A detachable, fake fur hood lining should be an offence worthy of a thrashing or, at the very least, an index finger up the wrong ‘un. We can all agree on that.

Amazingly, they let him through unprobed.

Tbolt, Frag, newbie Spud and I all flew to Prague together on the same plane. We were all early to the airport. The plane flew on time, arrived as scheduled with no drama and we all collected a full compliment of luggage.

I tend to travel light, using the one bag with as little as I can get away with. The other three bring luggage enough for a touring orchestra. That’s photographers for you. Who else would travel with a selection of tripods?


It Must Be a Skoda

Since this was the Czech Republic, it would be rude to drive any other make of car. Insert you’re own Skoda joke here. We loaded several tons of luggage (and my bag) into the back, primed the sat nav and Tbolt’s credit card car booking put him first at the helm.
The journey into Prague to our first digs would have been impossible without modern technology. We’d still be driving around aimlessly now but for Frag’s surfer dude voiced sat nav. It may be instantly irritating and occasionally demand an irrational u-turn but it made the impossible possible.  

The dual carriageway into the city was easy enough. It was when we hit the narrow, cobbled roads of a very busy city late at night that the fun began.

We drove over the Vltava River on a stately, ornate bridge then under the Vltava River through an arced brick tunnel, down tightly packed and parked mediaeval roads, built when horse power meant just that.

In Central Prague we jousted with trams and tussled with taxis. We spied castles and church spires and grand, illuminated cupolas; drove through stately arches through the middle of buildings, long lefts, tight rights, up a bit, down a bit, round and round a lot before a grimly determined Tbolt delivered us to our first berth for the night, right next to the gothic masterpiece of the Saint Vitus Cathedral.

At the top of a very steep, cobbled street it is an impressive pile of vertiginous spires, bottom lit for added grandeur. Everything in Prague aspires to grandeur, it seems.

We checked into our suitably gothic hotel, admiring the polished wainscoting and the receptionist’s ability to understand a Northern English accent.


First Night Nerves

We found a nearby bar for food and beer and chatter of adventures to come. On entry, in all the excitement and relief of arrival, I didn’t notice the two inch high step between the door and the bar.

Eager to get started I tripped headlong, putting my arms out in front to stop me dashing my head against the bar. I inadvertently almost grabbed a shocked and horrified woman by the chest. Yes, both of them.

At the last split second I withdrew my arms behind me, having very quickly decided that smashing my face into the bar edge was the least worst option. In a classy dismount I ended up with my face an inch from her boyfriend’s crotch.

A soft landing would only lead to a hard beating.

My fellow chumps and the bar staff managed to prevent carnage by catching me, mid fall. No mean feat, considering my hippoportliness. My embarrassed, grovelling apologies were quick and repeated. They continued until the unfortunate woman decided I hadn’t engineered my pratfall to cop a feel of what the Czech Republic had to offer. Her huge boyfriend grinned, realising the only tit there was me.

After the pointing and laughing subsided, we ordered food and sank some of the best beer in the world. The Czech’s are masters in this respect. I have conducted extensive research into beer quality on four continents and, without doubt, Czech Pilsner is of the highest order, a king of beers.


When the Morning Comes

I was early, the first to arrive at the breakfast bar. Even the staff hadn’t arrived to intimidate the sausages and toss the salad. I sat sulking, angrily scribbling notes for this article, owing to a frustrating lack of sleep. I felt like the top of nobody’s morning.

My bed was hard and flat like a mortuary slab. The empty mini bar fridge had, intermittently and loudly, buzzed and whirred and juddered at top volume until 3.21 am. I lost my temper with it and ripped the plug from its socket.

A Jaded Tbolt was next. He’d lain awake all night too, listening to the hysterical screaming and shattering of glass from the street below. There be strange goings on around these parts.

Then a sheepish Frag arrived to cheer us both up. When he’d staggered into his room after midnight, he made straight for the bathroom to relieve himself, mid flow he flicked the light on only to find himself pissing in the bidet.

In the morning, using shower power alone, he’d flooded his room Achilles deep. He recounted his battle to mop it up using the only thing available, a small hand towel not much bigger than an eye patch. Cue the pointing and the laughing.
Finally Spud appeared, to rather unsportingly tell us he’d slept like an infant full of gin. I won’t repeat our replies to this information but will tell you that the words ‘good’ and ‘morning’ were not featured.


A Country Drive

On leaving Prague we entered a gentle, rolling, agricultural landscape. The fields either side were ploughed; variously heavy clay clods and finely tilled black loam, others freshly mown green, glistening with morning dew in a low, blinding autumn sun. Dry maize fields were harvested to blonde stubble.

Hills undulated into the distance, capped by great trees silhouetted in grey morning mist. A to B turned out to be a long drive on the wrong side of the road, wherever we travelled.


To the Ossuary!

On entering the small, pleasant town of Kutná Hora we easily found Sedlec Ossuary. The perimeter wall has carved skull sentinels in intervals along the top.

Through the gate was a relatively modern looking graveyard, with well tended plots, fresh flowers and imposing black granite headstones. All the carved names end in ‘ova’. All of them. The grave yard was nothing special apart from the uniformity of names.

Neither was the old Roman Catholic Church of All Saints, in the centre. The only clues to its World Heritage Site status were the archaeologists working with trowels and brushes to the left of the entrance, uncovering ancient skeletons.

Sedlec Ossuary

This place is home to some forty thousand plus plague victims and the fallen of brutal, mediaeval wars. The bearded brush bearers are still uncovering skeleton after skeleton in a seemingly endless exploration into the area’s past.

On entering the quiet, still church we were confronted by a gothic, phantasmagorical dreamscape. It was spectacular. The most curious and ornate charnel house lay before us. The arrangement and attention to detail were striking and marvellous in their execution and invention. The interior of this non-descript church has the aforementioned thousands of skeletons displayed in myriad configurations.

Sedlec Ossuary

From the gothic, piped ceiling hung a grimly fascinating chandelier made from skulls, jaw bones and clavicles. It was enormous. Skulls and crossed bones were festooned like death’s tinsel from corner to corner of the ceiling. Below this was a centre piece of four, six foot tall pinnacles created from skulls, femurs, fibulas and tibias. Several silver candle holders stood horizontal from each one. All four were topped by cherubic trumpet players.  

On either side within this chapel were pyramids, one each side, of yet more skulls and various bones tightly and ingeniously arranged like mass bereavement Jenga. They were lit from within for ghoulish and outlandish effect.

In stone corners before the piles were cracked, holed, battle beaten skulls arranged neatly on shelves.  These were the victims of the savage and barbarous Hussite wars. These atrocities were committed by the Roman Catholic Church attempting to impose their orthodoxy on followers of a reforming Bohemian priest, Jan Hus, in the 1420’s.

Let’s face it, things weren’t bad enough mid plague epidemic; with the diseased bodies piling up, harsh winters, blighted crops and no access to clean running water save for a frozen stream. The religious zealots had to step in with their arrows, flails, swords and maces just to help the populace out. Well done lads, we’re still digging the bodies up six hundred years later. You were thorough if nothing else and now nobody cares at all.

At the end of the chapel Jesus looked mournfully down from the pieces of wood they allegedly nailed him to, over the marble pulpit and backed theatrically by two gothic arched windows, onto this diorama of death and misery. Not content with God sent, unfathomable disease, man joined in the killing by beating the life out of each other for power and a flimsy ideal.

Nowadays, a single shop directly opposite the church sells ossuary fridge magnets and scented candles. It means that much now. I have nothing to add to that, it says it all.


Brno Parking

Arriving in the stately Moravian city of Brno we attempted to park up in the centre on market day. Always full of bright ideas we ended up driving, again, around tightly packed, cobbled streets, through the pedestrianised market square, twice, before executing a u-turn at the foot of the impressive Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. This was prompted by security guards eyeing us, puzzled and surly at our clueless explorations.

Having taken a wrong turn we arrived at a ‘hi-tech parking solution’ called Pinky Parking. We drove into a roller shuttered garage onto an enormous, circular steel plate and piled out of the car. The roller shutters clattered down and our car disappeared vertically, up into the faceless building above. We enjoyed this like all small boys enjoy large mechanical machinery, chuckling in amazed excitement.


Capuchin Crypt

We made our way back up the hill towards the old centre of Brno. The streets were packed with a cosmopolitan crowd speaking numerous languages and Australian.

Tbolt had a grisly surprise for us, just before it was time for tea.

The Capuchin Monastery stands just below the architectural splendour of the cathedral. A relatively modest building with light, rose pink walls, it didn’t impress me much but Tbolt insisted we visit. Wandering around a musty monastery was not on my immediate ‘to do’ list. I was more interested in a piss then a pizza. Tbolt was having none of it.

We walked down a narrow alley towards the rear of the monastery and found a room with two women behind glass, like exhibits. We gave them a few Czech crowns and stepped through a dusty, brown curtain into a very weird place indeed. It was a crypt.

It turns out that the Capuchins are so pious, so divested of earthly comforts that they maintain this austere approach even in death rituals.

First we found a woman in a glass walled coffin. Twisted into a wrenched pose and covered in smooth, painted, expertly carved wooden shell, she had been buried alive by mistake. In their grief and sorrow at this catastrophic cock up, they were now displaying her to visitors. Then it got really strange.

There were a series of rooms with age blackened, mummified bodies in similar glass walled coffins. These were celebrated monks. One had a collapsed jaw, giving his face the aspect of screaming in terror, so much for a lifetime of prayer and service to The Lord.

These gruesome rooms led to the final resting place of the really pious and devout. Two rows of mummified bodies stretched out on the bare stone floor, black hollows for eyes, rictus grins laughing at us. Their skeletal navels covered in rough brown cloth, the ultra devout clutched at large wooden crosses. It was extraordinary and bemusing and ghastly.

On walking back into the land of the living, this atheist had a brief conversation with Spud. A fine chap and ex-altar boy, who even in youth wasn’t good looking enough to get molested, tried to explain the concept of faith to me. He was extremely patient and I remained mystified.


Amusing Confusion

We arrived at a less salubrious end of Brno and parked five minutes away from our digs. The buildings here were less gothic, less cared for; Soviet blocks of flats and miscellaneous closed shops, corner stores with faded displays, graffiti tagged on every wall and littered streets in a foggy grid system, stretching out of the city.

This is where working people live, unlike the stylish fashionista corps in the old town. We abandoned the car, joking about finding it missing in the morning. We needn’t have worried.

The hotel was entered through a single room bar whose single beer tap did not work. Two Czech women attempted to check us in, with no English. We found the Czech language to be impenetrable. Three of us wanted to pay in cash, one on a card. This only added to the befuddlement of our hosts.

The fee for the four of us was written on a scrap of paper. We ripped the paper into four to attempt to explain we’d be paying individually and wrote single occupancy rates on all four. The women furrowed their brows and Frag waived his card at them, whilst the rest of us produced cash. By this point all six of us were grinning at the language chasm and its confusing consequences.  

Spud used his smart phone language translator to further bamboozle negotiations. A phone call was made and the phone was handed to Frag. What followed was two minutes of comedy gold, all of us gurning in merriment, except a perplexed Frag.


“English. Only English.”
Phone murmurings.
“No Czech. Ne Czech.
Phone murmurings.
“No Russian. Nyet Russki.”
Extended phone murmurings.
“No Italian. No Italiano. English. Only English.”
          Phone murmurings.
“No Czech. Ne Czech.
          Phone murmurings.

This went round and around several times to no effect or conclusion. Helpfully, the rest of us pointed and laughed, including the two women.

Finally, one by one we stepped up to the bar and placed the original single occupancy cash there, whilst pointing at our own chests. Then Frag did the same with his card.

A flash of understanding lit up behind the bar. “Aaaah!”

The women began laughing at the four of us and took the money. One woman wrote down the figures in a column and everyone nodded and grinned. They were honest and friendly and I’d stay there again.

Then we discovered, just by watching, that the women were searching the smallest of change, pennies, to find the correct change owed.

We didn’t need the change and they hadn’t enough.

It was pennies and not worth the hassle. We held our hands up.
“No, no, let’s not start all that again. Ne, ne, keep it, please, just keep it.”


Things That Go Bump In the Morning

A nervous Frag drove us out of Brno at morning rush hour, to begin a long, misty morning drive. Hours of motoring along well maintained roads stretched out in front of us through a fantastic harvest landscape and Spud had all the answers in his hand held sat nav. What could go wrong?

We made good time on empty roads through autumnal forests of skeletal silver beech trees and towering poplars. At this time of year it was a confusion of colours, a panoply of reds, coppers, russet browns and gentle yellows, quite stunning in the sallow sun. Immaculate, white leaved bushes punctuated the roadside slopes.

We ascended into a heavy mist on narrowing roads through lofty hills covered in fog blurred forests. Occasionally, logging lorry’s loomed out of the mist, appearing to be making directly for us, only to squeeze passed at high speed with only inches to spare. Frag’s knuckles were white.

We pootled through small villages and tiny hamlets; all prepared for the onslaught of a Central European winter, huge piles of firewood covered in tarpaulin stacked in regular piles against the houses. These places with unpronounceable names were well kept to the point of prim. They were chocolate box quaint and highly picturesque and reminded me of old horror movies featuring vampires and werewolves. There were no signs of life and they were utterly silent, no inhabitants with pitch forks and burning torches to be seen at all.

We skimmed larger towns with their bright, salmon pink painted, imperial mansions and many whitewashed gothic church spires. Many, many gothic church spires. They are ubiquitous and ideally, highly conspicuous in an almost competing manner, each town more thoroughly observing than its neighbour.

Then, in the town of Vitkov, suddenly and violently, the car struck something solid, lurched jarringly and came to an abrupt halt.

Colourful expletives were ejaculated and we all clambered out. We, no, Frag had hit a high curb at the edge of a small, town square.

This will be used in many a friendly banter session for months, nay, years to come. Later in the trip we were merciless in taking the royal piss, occasionally for hours at a time. It’s what friends are for, the laughing and the pointing.

We surveyed the damage, circling the car.

We could see no real consequences and elected to continue. Frag’s head hung low, Tbolt’s bottom lip protruded – it was on his insurance we toured.

Spud and I helpfully sniggered, very quietly indeed.

As we descended into the gorge and took a hair pin bend near a quarry, our navigator, Spud, announced, “There’s something very wrong on this side.”

Frag pulled up on gravel and we again got out to ascertain what the problem was. It didn’t take long. The offside tyre was completely flat. We were on a blind bend near a quarry where giant trucks ferried huge amounts of stone around. Not a place to hang around for long.

We all pitched in.

We unloaded the orchestra’s luggage (and my bag) to unload the spare tyre in double quick time. Tbolt, quietly seething, took off the flat tyre to the sound of booming explosions echoing from hill to hill from the quarry. The spare was secured drama free.

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We felt bad for Frag. No, really, we did. It could have happened to any of us but it happened to him.

It could have been any one amongst us on unfamiliar, uncertain roads. To show good will and trust we insisted he finish the drive to our destination, the abandoned spa complex called Janske Koupele.  

Dilapidated Splendour

We came to a halt on a long gentle curve beside the road on the valley floor; opposite the Moravice River that rushes excitedly over a weir, near a café that only serves the ghosts of debaucheries long past.

A hundred feet of free standing brick chimney leaned over the car, like an arthritically curved finger attempting to point skyward. The Janske Baths complex squatted and smelled of damp wood and decaying autumn forests.

Dilapidated, half timbered buildings surrounded an imposing, grey stone mansion beneath rapidly rising slopes into the forest.

This abandoned complex was never silent - the breeze hissed through the trees, light bursts of birdsong drifted and the sinister cawing of distant crows sounded at random. There was no human sound or activity. The spa was dead.


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My colleagues unpacked their orchestra cases, checked their bumper pack of tripods (each selecting ‘the one’ like a golf caddy) and fanned out across the site, shutters clicking like a hundred soldiers’ heels on inspection.

The springs that dribble and spurt from the hillsides have been used and storied since the mediaeval period and, no doubt, before that. They have been named, utilized and mythologized back into unrecorded history. Their health giving and restoring properties have been claimed by different holders for centuries.

This place used to be magnificent, a haven of health and relaxation for the nobility and their higher morality. Unencumbered by the lower orders, they frolicked, waltzed, gorged and purged and gave each other only the finest of diseases in the most refined of circumstances.

Ladies with ribboned bonnets, whale boned corsets, hooped underskirts and ruinously expensive silken gowns, promenaded and gossiped about the Duchess and the Head Groom, whilst they searched for a dashing gentleman with muscular calves to deny knowing anything of.

Not to be outdone, taking in the unpolluted mountain air, gentleman with impossibly self aggrandising moustaches and titles and a taste for exotic, far flung pleasures unheard of at home, playfully abused each other in the steam rooms after hunting. Piety is for the poor - ‘twas ever thus.

The resort’s popularity ebbed and waned as history smeared along.

Shortly after they built a splendid band stand, the Nazis arrived. The blond uber kinder of the Hitler Youth used this spa during the war. Nazi Officers used it as a summer camp, in between jack booting around and murdering the locals.

I wandered away from the buildings into the forest’s edge, only to catch something moving from the corner of my eye. It appeared and disappeared as it fed and poked around in the undergrowth. Being a confirmed townie, my brain kicked into a mild panic. It looked like a black tail. Wolves! My lily-livered heart began to pound. Any pet pooch larger than a football un-nerves me.

I was about to flee in fear when the head appeared. A fine black stag with black velvet antlers raised itself to listen. I held my breath in wonderment and was entranced.

Frag appeared, huffing his way up the track, breaking the moment. By the time he reached me the beast had silently disappeared into the trees.

“There is somebody coming.” We had no idea as to the legality of our moochings and hot footed for the main mansion.

Jánské Koupele

Making down the main corridor of the building, past the swimming pool and the ballroom, I glimpsed a shabby red car pulling up, through a rotting door. Tbolt, Frag and I convened in the main hall with the polished wooden ceiling, safety in numbers.

Spud appeared with two unlikely characters. A guy with piercing blue eyes and his companion, an old man with the voice of a gravel path, neither spoke English and both were clearly mystified as to what we were doing. The boys waved their cameras and I my note pad.

They signed to us that the building was collapsing and left. The roof had caved in here and there, staircases had collapsed. They were stating the bloody obvious. We wondered what the Hell they were doing there.

It was time to leave.

Swearing Back to Brno

I elected myself as driver and, overconfidently, motored back through the woods, Spud guiding us with his magic box of lights. I looked forward to a pleasant three hour drive through the Czech Republic.

I was enjoying myself when, way too late to do anything about it, I sailed through a crossroads. Tbolt fumed and uttered what I believe the youngsters of today abbreviate as FFS.

Chastened, I began to concentrate. We wound our way back through the silent villages and rolling fields. The enormous, blinding, orange sun dipped and painted fantastically long shadows across the landscape. A poetic red sky stretched towards us. As night fell we entered the satellite towns of Brno and the driving became a harsh game of don’t kill or be killed.

Pedestrians stepped out into the road mid roundabout. Cars pulled across our lane to turn at the last second, giving us no warning. Chicanes hid crossings and an articulated lorry bore down behind us only inches from our bumper. I began to use up all my best swearing in concentration.

We hit Brno and it seemed as if everything on the road wanted to hit us. It was exciting and hair-raising and Tbolt’s credit card began to throb in his wallet as he ground his teeth in anticipation of the worst re-occurring. I was relieved and slightly traumatised when we pulled into a multi story car park.


 Bunker B and B

Frag had kindly arranged a treat for all of us, a night in a formerly secret nuclear bunker.

Bunker 10Z was built by Jewish slaves, prisoners using explosives.

Situated in the hill under Spilberk Castle, its tunnels were meant to protect the awful bastards in charge from allied bombardments during the war. Brno was a major centre for weapons production and a likely target.

When the war was over, an enterprising Jewish businessman realised that its constant, ambient temperature was ideal as a wine cellar. A thriving business was built up, supplying the great and the good with fine wines. Revenge, however small, is revenge never the less.

When the Communist funster’s took over and The Cold War kicked in, it was confiscated. Six hundred soldiers were stationed there and it must have stunk to the heavens, a thoroughly miserable existence. It can’t have been so secret, just follow your nose.

They were manning a telephone exchange and a radio station and it was used to encrypt and send the secret messages beloved by the Cold War warriors on both sides.

The bunker was to be used by the suits, to command whatever was left after The Bomb.

We checked in and were shown around the facility, such as it is. It comprises of a series of low, half lit, whitewashed tunnels, leading to various sized rooms. All of them contained clutter; gas masks, army surplus coats, NBC suits and furniture. Our young guide proudly announced, “Adolf Hitler sat at this table.”

The sound of attack dogs snarling and barking and tearing and howling echoed from speakers throughout.

We were shown a huge, original, seventy year old Skoda engine fitted to very large pipes that ran around the tunnels at head height. The spares to this littered the room. It must be fired up twice a day for two hours a time and creates an absolute racket.

Without this ancient machinery ventilating this bleak facility its occupants (us) would suffocate within four hours. Sleep well. I couldn’t get this out my head.

One night in this cold war nightmare was going to be enough for me. Conversely, Tbolt had perked right up. “This is ace. I could live here!” He’d be on his own. I began to doubt his sanity.


To Bed and Back Again

After an evening of curry and beer we returned to our intimidating digs. There were only six guests daft enough to stop there that night and we were four of them. Curry makes a chap dreadfully thirsty and we persuaded the only member of staff to open the bar.

This meant traipsing along deserted tunnels to a small, grubby kitchen containing the alcohol. Ever helpful, I followed him down there. We loaded up on excellent Czech Pilsner and before returning to the chaps he introduced me to the Czech national drink called becherovka. Made from various herbs to a secret recipe, it is a cheeky 38% proof and just the thing to warm a fellow up.

We returned to the bunker’s entrance with the drinks and Frag retired for the evening.

Half an hour later Frag reappeared looking disturbed.
“It’s bloody creepy in there!”
Ever sympathetic we grinned.
“He’s fricked!” (Lancashire dialect for frightened) gloated Tbolt.
“No I’m not, I’m just saying.”

Bunker 10-Z

This was met with chuckles. He didn’t return until we all did.

An Uneasy Night

My room smelled musty with age and damp. An old wooden radio the size of a coffin held a TV from the early eighties and a grey Bakelite phone.



In the corner a small table contained Lenin’s manifesto, some Czech pulp fiction and two seventies 7” singles by artists unheard of in The West.

The wall above two iron framed beds contained two Soviet era prints. The first was of a dam under construction, the second was a coal works.

This was topped off by a sheet metal cupboard in which two gas masks hung in a sinister fashion. The whole room was un-nerving.


Bunker 10-Z


I bedded down but didn’t sleep much. It felt like a gaol cell. I had to repeatedly remind myself that I had the key. I thought of the ventilation system and hoped it was efficient. I thought that a siren may go off at any second and men in hazmat suits would burst in shouting about evacuation. It was not a restful night.

At about four in the morning I considered giving up and going to sit outside the bunker’s entrance. Then I thought of the laughing and the pointing and stayed put.

In the morning I showered in what can only be described as a concrete cell. Chains hung from the ceiling and had to be pulled for water. The first blast was freezing, the second scalding.

Over a vile breakfast of chocolate mousse and gritty bread I asked the others about their night.

Frag admitted to sleeping with the light on.

Spud said it was very different and that an incessant beeping kept him awake all night.

Tbolt reiterated that he thought it fantastic and he wanted to live there.

I’d always thought he was normal.

Czech Farewell

In an act of blasé bravery we allowed Frag to drive us back to Prague. Once again he wowed us with his driving skills, repeatedly using the rumble strips to keep us all alert. Tbolt and I mercilessly ribbed him all the way back to Prague, three hours away.

Spud showed commendable common sense, having opted to give the driving a miss.

In the evening we went in search of beer and finally, to my delight, pizza. The first stop looked promising. An entirely wood furnished bar, the sort that sells real ales in England. We thought we’d found gold. Then we entered.

We stood at the bar waiting to be served for five minutes. The goateed bar staff ignored us, preferring to clean glasses in a ridiculous contraption with a spinning brush.

They delivered the odd beer to their friends at the tables. Their friends were playing the fifties board game Risk and chess. In a bar.

Nobody was laughing,

They were similarly goateed. Some had added a handlebar moustache. They were in their twenties and thirties. Black roll neck jumpers were all the rage, as was frowning in pseudo serious conversations.

It looked like a parody but they were very serious. Smiling was forbidden. To call this whole charade pretentious is an understatement. It was beyond satire.

We were sorry we’d ordered beer. They’d ignored their own excellent beer traditions and were serving a selection of ales brewed by amateurs in a bucket, left in a dirty garage. It was absolutely laughable but not funny.

Frag pronounced it undrinkable, like toilet cleaner. He was right.
We left to find a little light mirth and some of the fine Czech beer.

It was a fiercely cold night. Winter was arriving and it was time to go home.

Tin Dog    9.01.2017


Monday, 13 February 2017

Loxley Brickworks, Sheffield - January 2017

Tucked away in Loxley Valley, just outside Sheffield is what was Loxley Brickworks. The height of industry in the 1800s, closure of the factory occured around 1999, but builder Bovis have had the site sitting in development hell since 2006.

Visited with Tbolt and Snapt in search of some illusive artwork by Rocket.

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It was bitterly cold, we went home as it started to snow.


3/10 not the best of explores, trust me it looks better that it is.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Footprint Tools, Sheffield - January 2017

Sheffield, now slowly being cleansed of its industrial past, is still worth a visit and so we did. Tbolt, Snapt and myself.

Footprint Tools, in the course on demolition we visited at some stupid time early one Sunday morning. I can tell you this in the safe knowledge that the building is now nothing more that a pile of bricks.

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A rather enjoyable potter, despite the strange lack of quality artwork one has come to expect in Sheffield.

6/10 from me, an unexpected find by Tbolt and Snapt

Monday, 21 November 2016

Jánské Koupele, Czech Republic - November 2016

This former spa sits on the outskirts of the small town of Vitkov, Czech Republic now lies abandoned following a mixed history of spa resort, training camp for the Hilter Youth, prison camp and sanatorium.

Visited with Tbolt, Zer081 and Tindog.

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Nothing much to add really, a rather secluded spot, wild deer with monster antlers. Pretty ripe for scenes of terror, in a 'Severance' kind of way.

7/10 - A long, long drive from Prague or even Brno for that matter.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic - October 2016

Halloween and according to my daughter, this chapel is in the official top ten of the most spookiest places on the planet. Hmmmm.

All I would say is make the effort, jump in a car and drive around the wonderful country that is the Czech Republic, however make sure you arrive early morning at Sedlec Ossuary to avoid the tourist buses as it is not the biggest of places.

Sedlec Ossuary

This Roman Catholic chapel dates back to around the 15th century and contains the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people.

Sedlec Ossuary


In 1870, Frantisek Rint, a woodcarver by trade, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the heaps of bones into order and his work remains to this day.


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


Sedlec Ossuary


As current work to repair the chapel continues yet more skeletal remains are slowly being discovered and are being fully documented.

Sedlec Ossuary


All in all excellent, but sadly my daughter's list of spookiest places disappoints on spookiness yet again, although I wouldn't fancy being locked in over night. 9/10