We’re going on holiday. So why have you got an array of board games under your arm? What’s the point in going somewhere else, If you’re only going to do exactly what you would be doing at home?
Last night I went along with Justin to dinner at this Beer Garden place a few tram stops away. I met a few more of his ex-pat mates who were cool people, the beer was good as always and the pork neck, potatoes and bacon that I had for dinner was amazingly tasty. I ended up cleaning my plate and eating Juz’s leftovers. The best part of the place though was the location. It is on top of a hill (as most buildings are in Prague…it is a very up and down landscape like the best rollercoasters) which meant walking up to get there but the view was gorgeous, the setting among the trees just added to experience. It was the kind of place where the location was so good the beer could be Bud Light and the food inedible and you would still go…but the food and drink were great as well :D After stopping off in a few more bars to see a bit more of Prague life, eventually I was off to bed.
I had thought of going on a day trip to the “bone church town” as Justin was busy with work stuff all day/night but when I woke up I didn’t feel like I could be bothered to deal with the organisation of such a mini adventure today. I decided to things around Prague then and high on my list of things to do was to do the Jewish Museum. As a whole I don’t know much about Judaism, with what I know picked up from pop culture references like the Nanny and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I have a few jewish friends but they are the kind of jews who drive a car to maccas on the sabbath to get a bacon burger. Not the most orthodox jews. I went to school in Caulfield, yet it was an Anglican school. You get the picture, so it sounded interesting to go the Jewish Museum which consists of about 6 different sites around the Old Jewish Quarter of Prague. One ticket (which costs 200 Kc) gets you entry to all the different places.
Firstly I went Pinkas Synagogue which has been converted in to the Holocaust Memorial in Prague. The reason I went there first? Well it is because I had no map, didn’t check where all the things were before I left and I just bumped in to it first. Inside the old synagogue has has the names of the 80,000 Czech Jews who died in the Holocaust written in inch high writing all over the walls. It covers each and every wall an the sheer mass of names is overwhelming. It was the similar experience to seeing the Boston Holocaust Memorial which is big glass rectangular prisms that are covered with the ID numbers of the victims of the Holocaust…the numbers are written tiny and the the prisms are massive. Both are very moving. In the upper level there are displays of children’s art that was done in the nearest concentration camp. I can’t explain how moving it is to see those pictures, particularly as you get way to used to seeing the artist’s name followed by a birthdate and death date and the deathdates are all in the same few years. I always find it hard to explain a “good” holocaust memorial to people as it is that situation where it is remembering such horrific events that it isn’t a fun experience, it is torture to go around them, but you have to go to them. Once again it is a case of we can’t forget the horrors of the past.
Next door to the Holocaust Memorial is the old Jewish Cemetery. It was the only cemetery that Jews could use when they were confined to live in the Jewish Quarter and so is packed with tombstones and different people’s remains. It is actually elevated off the ground as they had to bury people on top of old graves eventually. Leaving the sadness of the holocaust and walking in to a cemetery is an interesting experience I must say. What I did notice though is that throughout the museum, memorial and cemetery that tourists seemed to lack a level of respect you generally find in these places. People were taking photos despite MANY signs saying no pictures or being told so by attendants. People were running around, chatting loudly, laughing. Maybe I am just a bit weird but I couldn’t let myself act like that in these kind of places. It just seems disrespectful…incredibly disrespectful. It is also strange that I rarely see such behaviour in Christian places of worship…
The rest of the museum buildings consisted of converted old synagogues that were dedicated to displays on different parts of jewish life and history. Covered things were the Jewish ways of life from birth through to death, how jews deal with death and funerals and the history of Jews in the Czech Region. As a layman when it comes to jews it was all pretty interesting finding out about how all the holidays and rituals work was interesting. A lot of the displays even explained how this traditions came about, some didn’t though and that disappointed me a little. I would love to know why the food rules are so strict, I assuming it is interpreting passages of the holy text but it wasn’t explained. I did learn a lot that I never thought I would learn and the things I learnt through pop culture were put in to context.
To continue the religious theme for the day I stopped in to look around the Church of Our Lady before Tyn which is just off the old town square and it was another amazing building. The Spanish Synagogue which has a very mosque-like vibe as a result of being built by jews with that architectural style was the most jaw dropping building of the day though. The exterior may not be brilliant but the level of detail all over the walls and roof inside was amazing. All the other synagogues weren’t as strongly decorated but the Spanish Synagogue may be close to my favourite building in Prague so far…
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