Wild Vampire Chase

VampiresThe plan started off simple enough: Go to the town of Čelákovice, find the 11th century vampire burial site, try out a good pub apparently right across the road, come back to Prague.



The first glitch in our plan becomes evident when we walk out of the train station: we don’t know where to go. There are no signs, but now I don’t know what I was really expecting. Did I expect a sign with vampires on it and an arrow?

We walk a bit aimlessly through the quaint city center. There’s a park, a fountain, a statue of soldiers, and a lot of old official buildings. No vampires. The city center quickly becomes a residential back road. We are soon scanning the buildings around us, realizing that we have no map. Six minutes after stepping off of the train in a tiny town, we are lost.

We blame Gerald.

There are three of us, myself, Collin, and Gerald. Gerald has been interested in this historical site for a year, and on this state holiday day off, we decided finally to take the 30 minute train ride to see it. He is why we are here and not in a warm pub in Prague. Moreover, he Gerald is wearing a silk scarf, a thing which has drawn no little attention from the locals.

We implement GPS and after getting lost a number of times, eventually find the church. No vampires there. Of course, we deduce that vampires wouldn’t be buried in a church yard. We keep searching. Despite the fact that we are lost, we do not give up hope. We really want to see vampires.

About 50 years ago, a man clearing land to build an extension on his house stumbled upon a skeleton. After investigation they found ten more, and learned that they were 1,000 years old. What was interesting was the way they had been buried: their heads had been cut off, their hands bound or nailed together, and they were weighed down with massive rocks. It was clear that these people were believed to be a threat, and the archaeologists deduced that they were thought to be vampires.

And we want to see them.

Čelákovice is a perfect example of small town Czech Republic. The normal cast and characters wander around, but for the most part it’s deadly quiet. The people we do see seem to know each other and everyone stares at us blatantly. Not in an aggressive way, but in the way you only understand if you have been to small town Czech Republic. The western world’s influence is evident in two small men in gang garb shuffling down the road in a tribute to intimidation they can’t pull off.

But there is nothing in the town of Čelákovice which suggests the word “vampire” has ever been uttered there. I ask a woman with a grocery store where the vampire graveyard is and she looks at me as though gophers are making love in my hair. I wake my water and back out of the store sheepishly. We have been lost more than is reasonable for three sober men in a tiny town. We do what we have learned to do when we are lost and cold: go to the pub.

The pub is warm and inviting. The daily specials are mouth-watering. We have a beer and food and ask the waitress where the vampire graveyard is. She says that she will send her boss. He sends us to the town’s museum. We break away from the warm embraces of the pub and once again brave the streets.

It occurs to us that we are on a wild vampire chase. This seems appropriate since anyone in the history of the world who has ever been looking for a vampire has been on a wild vampire chase. The sky has been gray all day, which lends it an appropriate air of medieval investigation. One can surely imagine the dark nights here in the 11th or 12th century, the dark surrounding forests and the Elba River nurturing the supernatural fears most people had. Though we are lost (with GPS), from our extreme perch of comfort in 2015, imagining life then is still freaky.

We are greeted at the museum by a woman and a very vocal cat. They let us in and we look through relics of Čelákovice’s past. There are coats-of-arms, weapons, musical instruments, and lots of rings, thimbles, and hairbrushes. In the corner we spot our vampires. We gather round and read the placard and look at the pictures.

And that’s all there is. Pictures. Pictures of a burial site. We ask the woman where the site itself is and she tells us that it’s been built over. (Nothing will stop a Czech from renovating). And with that, we head back to the train station. We have spent the day laughing and getting barked at from dogs who didn’t like Gerald’s scarf. We saw a few interesting sites and a picture of a vampire burial site. And we found cheap pumpkins.

I would have spent the day on my couch reading, rather than enjoying a quirky small town and laughing until my stomach hurt. Still, I blame Gerald.

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