People can see esoteric treasures plus meet like-minded people
Prague, and much of Bohemia, is just filled with mystical and curious places. Finding them on your own and separating the fact from fiction can be a difficult task. There are a number of ghost tours but most just give a brief overview, and sometimes contain a lot of misinformation.
Baba Studio organises a week-long Magic Prague Tour, and the next one takes place April 19 to 26, 2017, with the 2018 tour planned for similar dates (more details here). Karen and Alex, founders of Baba Studio, are there throughout so that participants can draw from their considerable knowledge of the esoteric and magical aspects of Prague.
The daily walking tours are led by licensed and knowledgeable tour guides. Licensing for tour guides is no longer mandatory, but it ensures that guides have a high level of historical knowledge. Through the week, people will see the main parts of Prague — the Castle, Old Town, Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge and Malá Strana — but with an emphasis on sites related to magical, occult and esoteric themes.
The Magic Prague Tour usually uses three or four different guides. The one who will cover the Jewish Quarter, for example, has access to some normally close places. “The attic in the Jewish Town Hall is a special place normally not accessible by tourists. She also will teach the tour members how to make the secret formula to make the Golem come to life. We try to find things that could be special and unique for the group,” Karen said. She will also bring in experts with special interests in alchemy and spiritual energy during the week.
Plus there will be some excursions outside of the city. The famed Bone Church (Sedlec Ossuary) in Kutná Hora is decorated with bones from the adjacent cemetery. It has been featured in several films and documentaries. A restaurant nearby offers an alchemist menu.
New this year is a trip to the Ghost Church in the village of Lukova, near the German border. The church has fallen into ruins. “It is a fascinating place. After World War II the village became like a ghost town. Still, less than half of the village is lived in. The Church of St George was not maintained and the roof collapsed in 1968. The locals would like to restore the church but don’t have money. So a young artist created ghosts from plaster of Paris. Around the church there is a cemetery that has partly fallen into disrepair. It has a very nice ambiance,” Alex said. “We will do a photo shoot in the church so everyone has a nice souvenir.” The renewed interest in the church due to the ghost sculptures has raised a lot of money toward restoration. The group will stop for a late lunch at a brewery by a chateau and be at the Ghost Church at twilight.
The tour last year coincided with the publication of a new edition of The Tarot of Prague by Baba Studio. The third edition of the deck has metalic overlays cold stamped on the cards, and the deck is still available. The cards all use details of real places in Prague and people on the tour last year enjoyed finding the real elements, such as statues and facades, and holding the cards up next to them for a photograph.
The Magic Prague Tour has two groups based on how much walking people want to do, and people can switch back and forth between the groups. Tour members will be mostly be staying at the same small hotel, House at the Big Boot (dům U Velké boty), which is also highly rated on travel sites and in guide books.
Past tour members impressed
People who took the first edition of the tour gave it high marks. Alexey Dodsworth, a writer and PhD researcher at Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice, Italy, said he was not not exactly into group tours. “I tend to be a lone wolf who prefers to make my own routes. However, I really enjoyed the experience,” he said, adding he was currently was more interested in history and local legends than astrology and tarot. “The tour suited my interests a lot. I am a writer focused on fantasy for a long time, and Prague gave me lots of inspiring elements that I am going to consider in my next books,” he said. “Everything was a continuous marvelous surprise.”
He said the whole tour was magnificent. “Prague looks like a fairy tale. It’s really hard to choose my favorite part [but] the trip to Kutná Hora is unforgettable. That Bone Church is splendorous!” he said.
Kate Sinnett, Ph.D, an intuitive tarot reader, artist, and world traveler, in particular liked the Golden Lane at Prague Castle. It is filled with small houses that were used long ago by castle staff and is said to have housed some alchemists. “I loved how detailed the historical recreations were in each house. I could have spent a whole day there exploring,” she said.
Kate was impressed with the organization of the tour as well. “The tours were smoothly organized and the knowledge of the tour guides was truly impressive — a great combination of history, legend and ghost stories,” she said. “The House at the Big Boot really felt like a home away from home,” she said, adding that the staff at the House as the Big Boot saw to it that everyone on the tour was well-taken care of and the breakfasts were quite generous.
Alexey agreed: “Everything totally perfect. They impressed me a lot! The hotel and restaurants are charming, the food is amazing and the guides are awesome. As a food lover, I highlight the dinners were so amazing that I am seriously thinking in coming back to Prague just because of the restaurants,” he said.
Kate was also excited to meet Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov of Baba Studio, the design studio that organises the tour and which is also known for the tarot cards it designs and produces. “My main interest is in tarot, although history and alchemy are also interests of mine. I am a professional tarot reader. I regularly use the Baba Studio decks and have found them to be an excellent tool in creating empowering readings for my clients,” she said. “Meeting Karen and Alex after being a fan of their work was really a gift. I use their cards regularly in my work as an intuitive tarot reader and it was such a pleasure to get to know them in person—they are so genuine and friendly.”
Both also said they have made friends through the tour. Kate said some of the tour members have stayed in regular contact through social media, and she is even going to visit two people soon. “I am also talking to a new friend in New York City about a visit sometime next year. … A new phrase I love has entered my conversation: my new friend I met in Prague,” she said.
Alexey also made new friends due to the Prague Tour. “To be honest it wasn’t so unexpected since people tend to have interests in common in a program like that. I am currently keeping in touch with some of them,” he said, adding that he was also going to meet a friend from the tour again.
Rooms with a view
House at the Big Boot is an unusual hotel, and more like a big private house. It still does not have an outside sign, but that may soon finally change as the family that owns it has finally agreed on a logo and boot design. The name House at the Big Boot has a long history, but the original image of a boot that marked the house has long been lost. Almost all houses in the area had a special sign near the door, which gave each house a unique name.
Jakub Rippl, the son of the owners, says that the tour will take up the entire hotel for a week, and all the hotel will be at the disposal of the tour members.
The rooms are all different shapes and sizes, and furnished with restored period pieces. One even has a green tile standing radiator still, and another has a rare type of oven. They are no longer used, but serve as historical mementos. The owners did not put TVs in the rooms, as they don’t match the style, but there is WiFi. The bathrooms are modern with clean white tiles and glass-enclosed showers. The hotel serves a large breakfast and for the tour will supply some buffet-style evening meals when other meals aren’t scheduled.
Most of the rooms have good views as well, either of the buildings around Prague Castle and even the top of the cathedral or in the other direction of the German Embassy, a palace once owned by the Lobkowicz family. A pavilion that is part of the US Embassy can also be seen.
The oldest parts of the house include a vaulted basement, where the tour group will have a welcome gathering and also tarot readings and ghost stories. The house was expanded and renovated several times, and original ceiling beams and other details can be seen so there is a great atmosphere, particularly in the evening, when candles are lit. There are also some tables on the ground floor to sit and relax with other tour members, and coffee and other beverages are available every day.