Prague's dark side.
Prague Travel Blog› entry 210 of 251 › view all entries
August 26th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
Pragueâ€™s Jewish Quarter was once home to about 35,000 Jews, but under Nazi occupation most of its residents were deported to concentration camps. Only about 1,200 returned to Prague after the war. Dark times. Today, the Jewish Quarter is home to synagogues that have been turned into museums, a small Jewish community, and a hell of a lot of tourists.
My main interest in this neighborhood was its old Jewish Cemetery. It was a fairly short walk from our apartment, and after pushing our way through the large tour groups that blocked the narrow streets (arg!), Steve and I stood in a long line in order to buy a ticket. The tickets were $20 each and allowed us into several synagogues as well as the cemetery.
This place was an amazing jumble of tombstones tilting in crazy angles. The small cemetery was used from the 15th to 18th centuries, and lack of space required that coffins be piled on top of each other and tombstones to be crowded together. The inscriptions were in Hebrew and therefore incomprehensible to me, but my book says they date back to 1439. A path runs around the perimeter of the cemetery for the tourists to follow, a system seems to prevent contemplation and reverence. We really couldnâ€™t spend much time in one area, lest we hold up the people behind us. I didnâ€™t like this set-up, but I suppose itâ€™s the only way it could work since the areas between the stones are impassable. I sure would have liked more moody lighting for my photos (and perhaps a fog bank could have rolled in?), but overall I liked this place quite a lot.
Next we went to Klausen Synagogue, which houses a rather morbid collection of Jewish funeral paraphernalia. It was too crowded so we didnâ€™t stay long. Then we went to the Pinkus Synagogue,which has a touching and shocking exhibit. All of the walls are painted with the names of the Bohemian and Moravian Jews killed in WWII. There are 80,000 names in all and it seems to go on and on forever, one room after another. Itâ€™s just unbelievable. In another room are paintings and drawings that were done by Jewish children who were being held at Terezin Camp. The paintings hinted at darkness and sadness, but also of happiness and even optimism. A little placard accompanied each drawing, telling the artistâ€™s name, birth date, and date of his or her death. All the children whose drawings were on display had perished. It was sad beyond words.
Later that night, we left our apartment to explore Prague by night. We roamed the busy streets and went to Charles Bridge to admire the beautiful lights of Prague Castle. I took lots of photos and some of them turned out nicely. I think I may have mentioned before â€¦ this is a truly stunning city. Even in the dark, Prague impresses.
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