Sticks & Stones

Prague on a sunny day


Monday 19th January 2009

We woke up to an extremely sunny day in Prague, it was such a shame that it was our last day.

At least we didn't have to "check-out" today until it was time for our transfer to the airport at 2pm. With this in mind we had another gloriously lazy morning.

I followed the same routine popping my head out of the roof light to see what kind of day we had in store.

The sky was blue for the first time which made everything look even more beautiful.

The view across to Prague castle was crystal clear and today more than anyother day I could clearly see the sheer scale of St. Vitus cathedral towering above the royal palaces.

We had time to visit the Jewish Cemetary this morning so once we packed our suitcase we headed out into the sunny Prague day.

We walked through to the Old Town Square marvelling once again at the incredible spires of the Church of Our Before Tyn and the mesmerising Town Hall clock.

It's amazing what a difference a little sunshine makes. Everything looked a lot brighter, the colours were more vivid, the statues more defined.

The Jan Hus monument looked stunning against the beautiful backdrop of the Kinsky Palace.

We didn't loiter long in the Old Town Square as we left the Starometske Namesti past the Church of St. Nicholas and up along Parizska.

We turned left towards the Old New Synagogue (Staronova Synagoga) which seemed a contradiction, how can something be both old and new?!

Apparently when it was built it was given the name of the New Synagogue but it now the oldest surviving synagogue in Europe.

So it is the old new synagogue.

Next to Staronova Synagoga was the Jewish Town Hall with its interesting clock complete with Hebrew numbers and hands that turned anti-clockwise.

From here we walked down towards the main entrance and bought our entrance tickets.

We almost fell over in shock at the price of 300 Kr each. Whilst it was a combined ticket that gave us access to several other attrations, four synagogues and a ceremonial hall, we only wanted to walk around the cemetary.

We made our way towards the entrance gate to find a 'no entrance' sign. Apparently we were trying to get in through the exit. A faded sign directed us to the proper entrance which was all the way around the other side at the Pinkas Synagogue.

We shuffled around the perimeter wall and eventually got to the main entrance. We could have and indeed should have firstly gone inside the Pinkas Synagogue. It housed a collection of children's drawings from Terezin concentration camp and a haunting memorial to the seventy seven thousand Czech Jews who never returned after the holocaust.

We entered the 500 year old cemetary.

The remarkable sight of thousands of ancient tombstones was quite thought-provoking. This tiny space was the only permitted burial ground for Jews in medieval Prague. Persecution wasn't just a 20th century phenomenon.

As they could not expand the boundaries outwards they did so upwards instead. We had notice that the site was many feet above street level as much as twelve layers deep have been buried one on top of each other.

Twelve thousand gravestones in such close proximity was quite difficult to take all in but then the estimated hundred thousand people thought to have been buried below us was beyond belief.

Most stones were now so old that no inscriptions were visible. Some had kept their decortive motifs which were symbols of the deceased family or profession. We saw many with a pair of hands which represented the Cohen family.

gravestone of Mordechai Maisel, Jewish Cemetary, Prague

A few gravestones stood out amongst the crowd. The status of their patron affording them grander memorials. The 16th century mayor of Prague's Jewish town, Mordechai Maisel, was one.

Another was Rabbi Low, a legendary figure in Prague's Jewish folklore. It was said that he possessed magical powers and he moulded from clay a creature which he brought to life by placing a holy tablet in its mouth. He called his creation Golem.

The story goes that Golem went bezerk and ran amok forcing the Rabbi to bring it to an end by removing the tablet that gave it life. He then hid it's remains in the rafters of the Old New Synagogue.

We followed the path that snaked through the cemetary. Near the end of the walk was arguably the most decorative tombstone of the lot; that of Hendela Bassevi, the wife of a prominent 17th century Jewish nobleman.

We left the cemetary behind and went in search of Golem in the Old New Synagogue.

Unfortunately our super ticket didn't include entrance to this particular synagogue. Instead of reaching into our pockets to pay some more korunas we turned around and walked back out again.

"I can't believe that wasn't part of the price!" I moaned.

gravestone of Hendela Bassevi, Jewish Cemetary, Prague

We didn't want to be too far away from our apartment so we decided to just walked back towards the Old Town Square.

We did a spot of menu reading as we needed some lunch before heading to the airport. Down Maiselova street I had to get my camera out to take a picture of a menu.

Sadly the name of the restaurant escapes me now but their menu had reduced Julie and I into uncontrolable fits of laughter when saw that they were serving Flatulence with your beer!!!!!!

We decided against a bowlful of Flatulence and continued into the Old Town Square to find a small cafe to sit down and watch the world go by.

I was feeling the bitter cold sitting outside so we moved to a table with a heated lamp above our heads and with a blanket over my knee I was quite cosy.

The warming hot chocolate and coffee were nice enough but the bill of over 400Kr was expensive. I know there's a price to pay for sitting outside with a wonderful view of the astronomical Orloj Town Hall clock with a warm blanket on your knee and a heated lamp above your head but at about £6.50 for an espresso that was just shocking!

We left the over-priced cafe behind and went in search of bargains in a flea market set up down Havelska. We past an intersting plaque on the whole to honour Jan Marek Marci a Prague scientist.

He strangely had the gate tower of Charles Bridge indented on his forehead.

Or did it just look that way?

Anyway, we walked down Havelska market looking for something to take home.

There was all sorts of touristy tat down here, T-shirts, mugs, you name it they had it with I luv Prague emblazoned across it. We did however buy a watercolour of the gothic Prague skyline which was a little more tasteful.

We searched out a veggie cafe from our guide book which was right on Melantrichova, a stones throw away from our apartment. It was called Country Life and was amazing.

The concept was straightforward. You pick up a tray with a plate and proceed to help yourself to what ever was available over the counter. They then weigh your plate and its miraculously piled high content and then you pay the dinner lady so many crowns per grams.

It was very reasonably priced, at 380Kr it was even cheaper than our hot chocolate and coffee earlier! Better still it was very tasty. The soup was gorgeous as was the salad bowl and the huge portion pumpkin veggie moussaka that I served myself was lovely.

If it wasn't for the fact that I wasn't wearing a pair of expandable waistline trousers I would have gone back for second helpings.

We checked the time and we still had another hour to waste. We couldn't stay here. It was very busy to the point where people were wandering around with their trays full of food and nowhere for them to sit.

As soon as we finished eating we left.

With time on our hands we walked around in circles before finding a little cafe called Dum Vina U Zavoje tucked away literally steps away from our apartment.

We sat down for another coffee and despite my fullness I gave in to temptation and had pancakes.

"There's always room for pudding"

They arrived looking like a Miro painting, a feast for the eyes as well as being delicious.

2pm finally arrived and we met Lujpco at the apartment.

He briefly mentioned the washing machine incident but didn't make us feel at all guilty about it.

Our taxi transfer was wating for us downstairs and off we drove through Prague suburbia to Ruzyne airport.

Our visit had been short and sweet and we had certainly enjoyed every single moment of it. We were sorry we were leaving. If only we were on a permanent vacation!

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