13 Sep 2011

Prague Day 2 – Monday, September 12, 2011

Posted by Deborah

(By Deb)
Determined to actually tour the Jewish area, we got up earlier and headed straight to the Pinkus Synagogue after breakfast. We bought a pass that included admission to all six historic synagogues and the Jewish cemetery. I’m pretty sure it was the most expensive “attraction” we paid for this whole trip.

The synagogues seemed small, but Seth pointed out that the fact that there were so many of them in such a small area indicated that the Jewish community was actually quite large. The Pinkus, where we started, had been converted to a memorial to the roughly 80,000 Jews from Prague and surrounding areas who had died in the Holocaust. Their names and birthdays completely covered every wall in the sanctuary and even the balcony above. Also upstairs was an exhibit of drawings from children who had been allowed to study art, writing and science in the Theresienstadt ghetto. Most of them were later sent to concentration camps, where they died.

To exit the Pinkus, we wound through the cemetery, where grave stones were piled on top of each other in seeming disarray. Apparently, because the Jews were not allowed to bury their dead outside the ghetto, they simply added more “layers” to their cemetery. Nobody knows exactly how many bodies are buried there, some estimate as many as 100,000. About 12,000 tombstones are visible. The narrow, one-way path ended at the entrance to another synagogue. All six were within a few blocks of each other and most had displays explaining different periods of the community’s history. My favorite was the Spanish Synagogue, which was decorated with rich blues, reds and purples. Seth’s highlight was reading through the exhibits. When we finished our walking tour of the Jewish quarter, we did the obvious thing and had pastrami and lox sandwiches at the nearby Bohemian Bagel.

By that point, it was already mid-afternoon, so we scooted across the bridge to take a tram up to the Prague Castle. We only had about an hour and a half before the buildings closed, so we started with the reconstructed shops along the “Golden Lane” at the far edge of the massive complex and worked our way back to the central Cathedral. Luckily, the admission was good for 2 days, so we made plans to come back the next day.

We took a tram all the way back to the hotel so that we could have a more scenic view of the city, changed clothes and went right back out for the highlight of the day: a three-hour dinner cruise on the river. The boat was pretty nice – the top deck had picnic-style tables and benches while the main deck had a restaurant area where a trio of musicians played big band jazz. Luckily, we sat near the buffet so we didn’t have a long wait in line for the traditional Czech dinner. For the most part, the food was good, particularly the desserts, and there was more than enough for everyone. The only thing we had to pay out of pocket were the drinks. All in all, it was a lovely, romantic evening.

After the cruise came to an end, we wandered around the Old Town area, stopping to shop at a few places. From there, we took the subway to a cafe called Kava Kava because one of our guidebooks had mentioned their huge carrot cake slices. Of course, it had already closed by the time we got there so we headed back to our hotel carrot cake-less.

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