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Published: June 13th 2009
The Jewish Quarter
So today I went to the Jewish Quarter with a group of people from my program. First we searched for lunch, and I do mean searched
, even with a map Prague is somewhat difficult to navigate on foot and its easy to get disoriented as the streets are normally very curvy, I really need to sit down with a map and enjoy some kava mleche (coffee with milk in Czech. We finally found Bohemian Bagel, this little place our tour guide had recommended for cheap quality food. There was an English menu, which my classmates loved, and the food was pretty good to, a definite recommendation especially if your looking for something quick and easy that isn't McDonalds (McDonalds are EVERYWHERE, but surprisingly McDonalds here are much nicer and have more options than in America, like wraps and McCafe, a viable option if you got to be at a tour by a certain time and don't have time for a sit down).
Before WW2 Prague had a vibrant Jewish community. Most of the Czech jews unfortanately died in concentratios camps or have since left the country. Nevertheless, the historic Jewish quarter is well preserved and
a definite site to be seen. Unfortunately, its not free, I got there around 4:30 so I opted for the $10 option which covered the Pinkas synagogues, the graveyard, and a couple other small synagogues. To be able to see everhything I le think it runs around $20.You can rent an audiotour, but one of the girls in our group was Jewish so she was able to add insite to the exhibitions.
The Pinkas synagogue is basically a memorial to the Czech jews that died during the Holocaust. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling with the thousands of names of the people that died, and it really is jaw dropping considering there are about 5 large rooms and the main open areas. Upstairs we saw the drawings of the children of Terezine, a concentration camp about an hour away from Prague that was marketed during WW2 as the "paradise" camp, though it was all a facade. The Nazis even went so far to maintain the illusion as to force the inhabitants ("citizens" they were called) to perform a play for the Red Cross when they visited (once they had sent the overflow "citizens" to the gas chambers at Auschwitz). The children's drawings took on a new meaning in the context of where and when they were drawn. My favorite was a drawing of a child with wings and arms outstretched toward the Torah.
My favorite part of the Jewish Quarter was the graveyard. The graveyard is very old, with supposedly 5 levels of burials and the oldest tombstone dating back to 1347. It's deceptively larger than you think when you first enter with incredible
depth of field The tombstones are randomly arranged all all around the graveyard, different sizes, shapes, and colors, with every possible angle a tombstone could stand and not be perfectly horizontal to the ground represented. They are nestled among green grass and shade trees, and I loved to watch the shadows from the softly blowing trees dance on the gravestones. It was so peaceful. I placed a stone on one of the tombstones (a sign of respect, stones are used instead of flowers as they "last longer" than flowers). Just the feel of the cool, ancient stone beneath my fingers transported me in a temporary time warp, as if I was one the funeral guests at the ceremony of a 14th century rabai. I unfortunately ran out of film, so I was unable to take pictures, but I will be back.
Another site that is supposed to be stunning in the Jewish Quarter is the Old New Synagogue, the oldest synagoague in central Europe. I'll likely try to go there within the next week.
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