Sunday Night and More SightseeingLast night was Molly's last night here in Czech Republic. She returned to Spain this morning. She and Jen met my roommates and I outside of our hostel and we went to a fabulous Czech restaurant for dinner called Kolkovna. I suggested that someone at our table get the (real Czech) goulash- I was the only person who had even heard of it before- my mom used to make the American version when I was little (and still ate meat) and I wanted to know if the real thing was as good as I remember my mom's to be. Three people at the table ended up ordering it and they all loved it. Against my better dietary judgement, ordered the fried cheese (a Czech specialty) which came with boiled potatoes & parsley. It was delicious but unfortunately my digestive system didn't like it as much as my taste buds did. After dinner, we went to a bar called El Mojito, down the street from our hostel. We planned to have just one drink, but we ended up closing the bar down.
This morning I woke up early and went to the post office and the local grocery store. After getting lost for the millionth time, I finally found the Jewish Quarter (aka Jewish Ghetto). For 290Kc (about $15 US), your admission gets you into six of the sites in the quarter: The Maisel Synagogue, The Spanish Synagogue, The Pinkas Synagogue, The Old Jewish Cemetery, The Klaus Synagogue and the Ceremonial Hall. During the holocaust, most of Prague's Jews were killed but Hitler ordered the synagogues, town hall and cemetery of Prague to be preserved to make a "museum of an extinct race."
The most moving part of the complex was the cemetery, known in Jewish as "beit hayyim" or "house of life." For a relatively small cemetery (maybe 3000 square feet??) there are believed to be 100,000 Jews buried here- one on top of another, perhaps 6 layers deep. Shocking. The headstones were literally inches apart if not right next to each other and some were leaning over onto each other.
I also enjoyed the Pinkas Synagogue (a kind of Jewish version of the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C.) with names of each person who perished in the holocaust listed on every wall, with their birthday and the last date they were known to be alive. The names are arranged by location, but these were not all of the names...
I walked over the famous Charles Bridge on my way to the Prague Castle, which is really a complex of schmancy buildings. The Cathedral sv Vita is amazing. There is a stained glass window by Alfonse Mucha and all kinds of other stained glass, statues and tombs. The best part was the 287-stair climb to the top of the south bell tower. I can't believe how many photos I took! There were 360 degrees of amazing views of Prague. It was soooo cold though- I had to stop for a hot chocolate at a super over-priced (but warm) cafe next to the cathedral.
Arch detail at a gate near the castle
Since I have been on this trip, I have been struggling with the idea of traveling in peak tourist seasons in order to be in better weather in my travels. I LIKE traveling when there aren't as many tourists- usually everything is cheaper and easier to navigate, but this cold is getting to be too much for me. Norway in December (of 2005) was the first example. I could do (more) sketches in warmer weather!
From the top of the Bell Tower
At Prague Castle