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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 50.0878, 14.4205
Today started with breakfast at 8:00, which was the typical European spread we have enjoyed thus far. A few nice additions were self-serve all-you-can-drink coffee, scrambled eggs, frankfurters (yes!), and a wide selection of breads/pastries. During breakfast, the skies opened up, so we took our sweet time.
With undampened spirits, we charged forth in the tsunami to the old Jewish Quarter and bought tickets that would give us entrance to several synagogues/museums and the old Jewish Cemetery. At the first site, which had been converted into a holocaust memorial to the 80,000 victims from Prague, Rich and Jake had to wear yarmalkes (sp?) out of reverence to the location. The old synagogue had all of these names written out on several different walls and levels. It is hard to explain the feeling seeing the names of real people and families whose lives were taken short by the holocaust. Many were children and young people. One exhibit featured children's artwork that had been preserved from the Terezin camp that was an intermediary camp outside of Prague. Most everyone who was placed there was eventually relocated to an extermination camp during 1942 or 1943. It was hard to witness the ways the
children processed what was happening to them and around them. Later, we learned about how Czech Jews were treated before and after WWII. The Jewish quarter had already been decimated during a 1906 redesign that tore down most of the original area. In the early part of the 20th century, there was a brief movement toward Jewish assimilation, which meant Jews attended universities and learned the German and Czech languages. Some reform congregation even adopted these languages for religious purposes. After WWII, few Jewish communities were able to regather in a still intolerant country under the leadership of the USSR. Something like 2,000 survivors receive modest pension payments today from the German government; the rest have passed away or relocated to Israel.
We also visited the old Jewish Cemetery, which was used between the 15th and 18th centuries. Because space was tight, in most cases graves were laid on top of one another. It was clear that the height of the cemetery was close to that of surrounding buildings due to the addition of extra dirt. The tombstones were almost interlocked (see pictures). Several of the tombstones had small stones and pebbles placed on top of them which was kind of
touching. Another wall had small prayers written on pieces of paper and stuck in notches. Somehow, sitting there in the rain, this seemed appropriate in a place where not much seems like the right thing to say or do.
From here we walked out into a new climate.. sunny and humid. The trek began to Prague Castle, which is located across the river and quite a bit higher than Old Town. After winding through the medieval cobblestone streets and ascending many, many feet, we finally arrived exhausted and sweaty. St. Vitus's Cathedral was a very impressive sight and central to the castle complex. The stained glass, including a beautiful rose window as well as new works from the 1940s, literally outshone other windows we have seen in other cathedrals. We toured St. Vitus's as well as several other areas of the grounds including Golden Lane. This narrow street almost seemed like a fantasy out of Disney, but it was the real thing. Also, we visited the palace and St. George's basilica. We also saw people doing archaeological digs around the cathedral... what a tedious process. This entire complex was once the headquarters of the Holy Roman Empire.
Post castle, it was all
downhill. The humidity burned off, the streets were dry, and the temperature was tolerable once again. We found a hidden-away spot to eat in the rear garden of a restaurant on the way down from the castle. The ladies ate pork roast, cabbage (sauerkraut), and two types of Czech dumplings. The men added roast beef, ham, duck, and sausage on what was called "The Old Prague Plate."
Jeannette then tried to get some money at a Czech Bank. There was a communication barrier. Western Union finally advanced her some money and she jumped for joy. So did the rest of us.
Now we are hanging out in the restaurant at our hotel and about to head out to wrap up our second evening in Prague. See you tomorrow!
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