Prague – Day 2

Prague Travel Blog

 › entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
Statue of Kafka outside the Spanish Synagogue

Early to bed, early to rise… helps you beat the rest of the tourists... we were up and out of the hotel by 9 looking for something for breakfast.  On the way to the Powder Gate we walked by a place called the Imperial CafĂ© which reminded me of some of the cafĂ©s in Vienna and looked fantastic, with a unique art deco interior and ceramic art nouveau and cubist decorations and mosaics.  It was really full of people, so we decided to pass on that - at least for today. 


We ended up at a little pastry shop on the lowest level of the Palladium.  I was drawn by the incredibly good buttery smell of freshly baked croissants. I had one with ham and cheese and a cappuccino which really hit the spot! After breakfast we headed for the main square and visited the church of Our Lady before Tyn.

The Spanish Synagogue
  The multiple steeples of the Gothic church are one the most striking features of the square, as is the solid gold Madonna which decorates it (that same gold used to be a golden chalice, symbol of the Hussites, which was what decorated the façade when this was their main church. 


I'm amazed at how many tourists I’m seeing here.  The summer months must be terrible.  After the church we went into a bookstore called The Kafka Bookstore which is right on the square and browsed a little, then we walked across the square and up Parizska Street to the Jewish Quarter. Parizska Street is where all the fancy shops like Gucci, Cartier, and such are. 


We reached the “Old New Synagogue” (Old New because there used to be an even older one…) which was built in 1270 and is the oldest synagogue in Europe.

Art Nouveau detail on building in Jewish Quarter
  Nearby is the old Jewish Cemetery, a Jewish meeting hall, lots of gift shops and on some nearby streets there are some fantastic art nouveau buildings with nice details.  Just about everywhere you turn there’s a fantastic sight to see.  It costs 300 Czech crowns to visit the Cemetery, Meeting hall and a few Cemeteries (not including the “Old New” • you have to pay an additional 200 crowns for that). We decided to buy the tickets and check these places out.  It was raining, and before heading into the synagogues, etc we went to a cafĂ© on the Old Town Square (“Un CaffĂ© per Amico!”) and dried out a little.  Michal had a ham and cheese sandwich which he said was really good… I settled for a coffee. 


Visiting the Jewish Quarter took up the better part of a day.  The first of the Jewish Quarter places we visited was the Spanish Synagogue.

Lots of marionettes on sale in shops throughout the city
I’ll have to look up why “Spanish”.  (Turns out that it's called Spanish due to the architectural style, no other connection). The Spanish Synagogue is beautiful on the inside and there’s a permanent exhibit inside about the history of the Jews of Bohemia.  These people have a serious obsession about people taking pictures in these places.  I didn’t even try, after seeing the serious abuse that picture takers were subjected to in the Synagogue! Every few minutes the quiet was shattered by one of the guards shouting “no photography!”  Why? Of course rules are rules and if that's the condition for visiting then I'll respect it, but these guards were incredibly aggressive. Way over the top.


After the Spanish Synagogue came the Klaus Synagogue (exhibition about rites of passage in Jewish life - and, get this!, an undercover anti-photography guard dressed in a trench coat!  Reminded me of Columbo!!), then we went to the Jewish Ceremonial hall with exhibits about Jewish funerals and death… (the Ceremonial Hall is a beautiful neo Romanesque building by the cemetery - worth just seeing the building)… then on to the Pinkas Synagogue which has the names of all of the known Czechoslovak Holocaust victims.

 There are nearly 80 thousand names inscribed on the wall. 


The next stop was the Jewish Cemetery.  Phantasmagorical… thousands of tombstones, all very close together, stuck in the ground at random angles.  I almost looks staged, but the reason that they’re so close together is because there are up to 12 layers of graves below the surface.  Finally we went to the Maizel Synagogue with an exhibition about the History of Jews in Medieval times.  All of these synagogues and exhibitions kind of blended together for me. They’re all within a very short distance of each other and combined give you a good idea about the history of Jewish life in this part of the world.


We had a very late lunch at a place in the Jewish Quarter called “Restaurant U Golema” which had nice atmosphere and dĂ©cor revolving on a legendary character called “Golem” which was a clay figure brought to life by a Rabbi with the help of a piece of parchment with magical words written upon it.

  Golem was brought to life each week to serve the rabbi around his home, fetching water, cleaning and such.  Before every Sabbath, the rabbi would remove the parchment, putting Golem to sleep, so that it wouldn’t work on the day of rest.  Finally, one Sabbath the Rabbi forgets to put Golem to sleep and it wreaks havoc, destroying the house and killing people until he finally puts it to sleep, never to wake it again.  The moral of the story was to not work (or make your servants work) on the Sabbath.  


We had a nice lunch there and then headed to another nearby part of Prague called “New Town” where we saw the "New" City Hall from the fourteenth century with a Gothic tower which was added in the fifteenth century.  From there I saw the steeple of St.

Stephen’s church, so we walked over to take a look. It was closed, so we just walked around outside and I noticed that right next door is the Spanish Instituto Cervantes and the Commercial Office of Spain is also nearby. 


I’ve been seeing a lot of stores displaying Absinthe.  We went inside one of those stores, not far from St. Stephen’s Church and I bought a bottle.  The Czech Republic, like Spain, is one of the few European countries where Absinthe was never illegalized. 


Eventually we made our way to a very wide avenue called Vaklavske nam with some nice Art Nouveau buildings and the National Museum at the upper end of the street.

Tombstones in the Cemetery with the ceremonial house (mortuary) in the background.
  There was a nice atmosphere on this street which was bustling with people.


As it got dark we headed back to the Old Town and decided to check out the cafĂ© at the municipal house "Kavarna Obecni DĂşm".  This is definitely a popular spot for tourists, with a flamboyant art nouveau interior.  There were musicians performing inside and it kind of reminded me of cafĂ©s in Vienna, but a little rougher around the edges. 


The rest of the late afternoon wasn’t too eventful, more looking around, exploring some shops (nice that they’re open on Sunday afternoon) and then back to the hotel.

  All the walking makes me sleepy. But we managed to go out at midnight to 24h McDonalds for a snack J


boxinbcn says:
Same here... I expected something more exciting! It was entertaining however. I've read up on it a little and it turns out that there are big differences between the brands sold. I have another bottle at home that I haven't opened yet.. ;-)
Posted on: Jun 09, 2009
JoePink says:
Hey how was he Absinthe?... I tried some in Spain nothing happened :(
Posted on: Jun 08, 2009
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Statue of Kafka outside the Spanis…
Statue of Kafka outside the Spani…
The Spanish Synagogue
The Spanish Synagogue
Art Nouveau detail on building in …
Art Nouveau detail on building in…
Lots of marionettes on sale in sho…
Lots of marionettes on sale in sh…
Tombstones in the Cemetery with th…
Tombstones in the Cemetery with t…
New Town Hall
New Town Hall
The Old New Synagogue
The "Old New Synagogue"
Funny urinal in the Segafredo cafĂ…
Funny urinal in the Segafredo caf…
Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery.  Little pieces of…
Jewish Cemetery. Little pieces o…
New Town
New Town
Commercial office of Spain
Commercial office of Spain
Interesting building behind St. St…
Interesting building behind St. S…
St. Stephens church
St. Stephen's church
National Museum in the background
National Museum in the background
National Museum
National Museum
Coffee at the Café Imperial
Coffee at the Café Imperial
I processed this photo through one…
I processed this photo through on…
Prague Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Convenient place for breakfast or a snack...
It was raining steadily so we ducked into the Palladium Center on our way to Old Town. We decided to have breakfast at Au Gourmand drawn by the fanta… read entire review
Prague Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Restaurant in Prague's Jewish Quarter
This restaurant is right in the midst of Prague’s Jewish Quarter and offers a variety of both Czech and international dishes. The theme of the rest… read entire review
Prague Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Art Nouveau Café in Prague
This fantastic Art Nouveau cafĂ© at the municipal house has a beautiful interior and seems to be a very popular spot, mostly with tourists, although t… read entire review
photo by: vulindlela