Saturday, September 20, 2014

Prague - Day 13

Tuesday, September 16
I kissed Ed good-bye at 6 am as he headed for a plane back to Louisville. I repacked for the next leg of my journey and then took a walk.  I wanted to see some of the sights before the herds of tourists showed up.
I left the Marriott and walked to nearby Republic Square where the Municipal House is located. It is a beautiful combination of neo-baroque and Czech Art Nouveau built in 1911.
Unfortunately the tours are sold out for days, because I understand it houses Prague's largest concert hall and is gorgeous. Ed said he visited this building when he was here in 2000.
Then I walked through the Powder Tower next to it.
This is the only surviving bit of the defense wall built in the 1400s.
On to the Old Town Square.  This is the location of the Astronomical Clock (enough from yesterday) but you can see how the square is lined with restaurants.
The square is actually very large and wide open but always full of people. This photo of the Hussite Gothic Tyn Church with buildings in front intrigued me.
You have to walk through a narrow lane to get to the front of the church. Either the building codes weren't enforced or the church forgot to buy the property in front.
And what about the tomato soup can?
Apparently, Andy Warhol was Czech and he has an exhibit there.
At noon I checked out of the hotel and Tauck took me to the Clarion Hotel Old Town, only about 6 blocks away but closer to the river. I headed out for touring again, this time to Josefov or the Jewish section. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Prague had one of the biggest ghettos in Europe with 11,000 Jewish inhabitants.
I bought a combo ticket at the Pinkas Synagogue and paid the extra for photos. Built in 1535, this was the site of Jewish worship for 400 years.  Today it is a memorial to the 77,297 Czech Jews who were sent from here to the gas chambers at the concentration camps. The walls are covered with each of their names, in family groupings, with birth date and last date known alive.
The communists closed the synagogue and whitewashed the walls. But after the end of communism in 1989, the Pinkas was reopened and the names rewritten.
The tour, which had already put me in a sober mood, lead from there to the Old Jewish Cemetery. From 1439 until 1787, this was the only burial ground allowed for the Jews of Prague. Consequently, the tombs were piled on top of one another because of limited space. It is estimated there are 12,000 tombstones with tombs layered 7-8 deep. As the ground settled over time, the tombstones became crooked.
Adjacent to the cemetery is the neo-Romanesque mortuary house, built in 1911 for the purification if the dead. It is now an exhibit hall on Jewish medicine, death and burial traditions. 
Next was the Klaus Synagogue, built in the 1600s, and devoted to artifacts used in religious practices.
Down a block is the Old-New Synagogue, still standing after 700 years and still the central building in Josefov. That's the Jewish Town Hall in the background.
Built in 1270, the Old-New Synagogue is the oldest in Eastern Europe.  It still has hard wooden seats lining the perimeter of the main room with the Shrine of the Ark in front as the focus of worship.
The grand finale is the Spanish Synagogue, so-named because of its  Moorish style.  
Built in the 1800s, it now displays Jewish history through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, with circa 1900 photos of Josefov.
I still had some daylight left so I took Rick Steves' advice and boarded the #22 tram  (32 kc) at Tesco Department store and rode it across the river and back up Castle Hill. (I love those little trams.)  
I only got off after I passed the main sights and then took the opposing car back down. I got off at the bottom of Legi Bridge and caught a great shot of the Charles Bridge with the castle in the background.
The walk back along the river to my new hotel was charming .
Tonight I had dinner at my hotel and then took a  1 hr boat ride for 250 kc ( about $13) on a little boat on the Vltava.
It was a chilly night and it was only about half full. It was fun to see the city lit up at night, especially the bridges.

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