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Charles Bridge,Prague All photos by Kathy Taylor -Hallick


Castle


John Lennon Peace Wall


Astronomical Clock


Church of St. Nicholas


Spanish synagogue


Old new synagogue


Terezin


Terezin




Prague Opera House

 
Kathy Taylor-Hallick: Follow Me as we Travel to Prague “a city of a hundred towers” and a treasure trove of Jewish history

December 2, 2015

by Kathy Taylor-Hallick, Manager Luxury Corporate Cruises, Tel: 204 771 7434, Toll Free: 877 338 3310 or by email at [email protected]com

 

[Editor's note: The following is the third in a series of three articles by Travel Agent Kathy Taylor-Hallick, the Manager of Luxury Corporate Cruises, about a Jewish Heritage trip she led to Budapest, Vienna and Prague on a cruise on the Danube River. To read her first article about Budapest and its Jewish history, click here. To read her second article about Vienna, click here.]

 

Experiencing the beautiful city of Prague, the "city of a hundred towers” and one of Europe’s great destinations, was like stepping back in time. The city, which contains many architectural marvels, such as the Castle complex, the magnificent Charles Bridge, and the magical Old City, has a treasure trove of rich Jewish history.

 

We arrived at the luxurious Hilton Hotel in Prague, and had a quiet evening as we prepared for three days of non-stop touring of this amazing city. After a healthy and tasty European breakfast we set off on our sightseeing tour.

 

We began with marvelous the Prague Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest castle in the world with an area of 70.000 square meters. It is a large combination of palaces and buildings of differing architectural styles from Roman to Gothic, with beautiful sculptures and stained glass artwork throughout. Next, we saw the Baroque Garden of Vratha Palace, the domed interior of the Church of St. Nicholas, and then the historic houses along the streets below the castle. We visited many shops, selling puppets and marionettes typical of Czech culture, and reached the lively town center with its many pubs, coffee shops, restaurants and outdoor market gardens. We viewed the famous 600 year old astronomical clock, located at the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. A trumpet player announces every hour and the 12 apostles pass by the window above the astronomical dial with symbolic sculptures moving aside. Many people watch for the hourly movement all day as they sit in the outdoor cafes and pubs below, while others energetically climb the winding steps of the tower to get an up close view of the apostles passing by the windows above the astronomical dial.

 

Next we walked across the world famous Charles Bridge built in 1357, which hosts many artists and is a great place to shop for unique gifts for friends and family. We then saw the John Lennon Peace Wall, a memorial to John Lennon, which serves as a monument to free speech and commemorates the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the former communist regime. The site is owned by the Knights of the Maltese Cross, who allowed graffiti to continue after many attempts were made to against by the communist police who tried to clean the graffiti off the wall.

 

By afternoon we began our walking tour of the Jewish Quarter of Prague which contains the best selection of Jewish Historic monuments in the world.  A Jewish community in Prague had been fully established by the 11th century and in the 16th century, Prague's Jewish ghetto became a center of Jewish mysticism. In the early 18th century, more Jews lived in Prague than anywhere else in world (In 1708, Jews accounted for one-quarter of Prague’s population). More than a quarter of a million Czechoslovak Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and over 60 synagogues destroyed. Only 15,000 Czech Jews remained after the Holocaust, and by 1950, half of them immigrated to Israel.

 

There are six synagogues remaining in the Jewish Quarter, the most stunning of which is the Spanish Synagogue which houses an exhibition devoted to the history of Czech and Moravian Jews from the 18th century to today. Built in 1867 to 1868, with the Spanish Moorish style its interior is filled with amazing Moorish and Islamic designs and art. During the Holocaust, it was used to store Torah curtains, and during Communist it was closed. The Spanish Synagogue reopened on its 130th anniversary and today houses the headquarters for the entire Jewish Museum system. The synagogue is now often the site of concerts of classical and sacred music. On our Friday night Shabbat in Prague, we had the privilege of attending a delightful concert “The Best of Gershwin.”

 

We also toured the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in all of Europe, the main synagogue of the Prague Jewish community for more than 700 years. It is a testament to the important status of the then flourishing Jewish community of Prague. The Klausen Synagogue, located at the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery, was the largest synagogue in the Jewish ghetto and the seat of the Prague Burial Society. It is keeper of a permanent exhibition entitled “Jewish Customs and Traditions.”

 

We also saw the Old Jewish Cemetery, founded in the first half of the 15th century, which is considered to be the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. From the 15th century to the late 18th century, about 200,000 residents of the ghetto in Prague were buried here. Since the cemetery could only hold about 10 percent of that amount, the tombs are layered on top of each other, at one section reaching 12 layers. Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1525-1609), who created the Golem, an artificial man made of clay that was brought to life through magic and acted as a guardian over the Jews, was buried here.

 

After our evening concert “The Best of Gershwin” and an authentic Czech dinner at a restaurant across the street from the Spanish Synagogue we headed on foot back to our hotel, experiencing the hustle and bustle of Prague at night time.

 

The next morning was an emotionally arduous day as we visited the Terezin concentration camp, located 90 miles north of Prague, where more than 30,000 Jewish adults and children died. Terezin was supposed to be a "model" Nazi concentration camp which was shown to the outside world, and the museum at Terezin shows letters and drawings from Czech Jewish adults. There were special days when the Red Cross came to visit, and various locations in the camp were set aside and upgraded just for these visits

 
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