The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Christian Chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The ossuary contains approximately 40,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.
The cemetery was a burial site for those killed in the Black Death in the 14th century. In around 1511 the task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel was, according to legend, given to a half-blind monk of the order. In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order.
The macabre results of his effort speak for themselves. Four enormous bell-shaped mounds occupy the corners of the chapel. A hugechandelier of bones, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body, hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vaults. Other works include piers and monstrances flanking the altar, a large Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms, and the signature of Master Rint, also executed in bone, on the wall near the entrance.
Paragliding over the gorgeous Himalayan mountain range in India, from 3,400 metres, is a truly magnificent experience – and it cost next to nothing when I visited in 2003 (see the India page).
The fantastic affordability was partly due to us choosing to do a jump with some near ‘cowboys’ who seemed to be slightly intoxicated and/or had a death wish. The video, above, is worth watching for the comedy value of my mid-air conversation with ‘Aman’, with whom I shared a worryingly shoddy harness. The flight lasted around 20 minutes.
Every two years, tens of thousands of Ugandans come together in celebration for a mass adult circumcision festival. The Bugisu tribe in the east of the country gather around Mbale and up to 20,000 young boys – usually around 18 years old – get the snip. There is no anaesthetic or sterilisation and often blunt butter knives are used, as shown in the video above. After the cutting, the boys must bear the pain to prove themselves. Most young men are proud to be part of the ceremony as it marks their entry into manhood.
Advocates have tried to promote the practice as a Christian tradition, citing passages from the Old Testament. However, the New Testament makes it clear that circumcision is unnecessary.
My travel buddy Dave and I were lucky enough to get a great view of the tribal spectacle by climbing on top of a Pepsi truck. Just as we thought the craziness was over, and were headed home to Budaka, I was surrounded by an impromptu ceremony in the Mbale’s town centre. In exchange for a few thousand shillings I was allowed to continue filming – however, the procedure went wrong and you can see that, rather than the tip being removed, the entire shaft was skinned. We never found out if the guy survived, but discovered that some procedures lead to lasting injury or death as hospitals are not easily accessible.
On July 2nd, 2000 at Hinton Skydiving Centre, I joined two friends to complete a solo skydive for Cancer Research UK. Amy Reid, Kirsty Harris and I raised over £1,200 for the charity. Despite landing on the runway, and managing to get ‘twists’ in the lines of my multicoloured parachute, things otherwise went smoothly and I did another jump in October that year.