Oct 24, 2009

Prague: Jewish Quarter

One of our organized tours was the tour of the Jewish Quarter, which was utterly amazing. All throughout my education, I have heard the stories and studied the history. I have always been interested in the Holocaust and I've read as many books as possible on the subject, but there has always been a feeling of detachment since I don't know anyone who lived through it or anything like that. Being here, though, had a huge impact on me.

We started our tour with the Maisel Synagogue, where the Exhibition of the History of the Jews is located. That's basically all there was in that one...

Maisel Synagogue

This was followed by the Spanish Synagogue, which was one of the most ornate buildings I have ever seen. Once inside, there was not a single square inch of this place that wasn't painted or decorated in some crazily ornate way. This is also being used as a museum/exhibition of the history of the Jews.

Spanish Synagogue

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so this is my clandestine shot. Did I lie about the ornateness?

The Pinkas Synagogue has been turned into a memorial of the Jews of Moravia and Bohemia. There are the names, dates of birth, and dates of death of 80,000 ish Jews who were killed during WWII painted on the walls inside. There is a recording of people reading every single name in succession paired with some somber music, and it takes about 7 full days to read them all, then they start back up again. Incredible. As you make your way through the synagogue, you head upstairs to the most depressing exhibition of children's art. The music from downstairs is slightly quieter, but you can still hear it as you look at the drawings the children made in the Terezin Jewish Ghetto. There are depictions of their transport to the ghetto, their everyday life and the conditions of their homes, their dreams of celebrations upon returning home, and their perceptions of the Nazis and other opposing forces. An artist, Mrs. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, started the clandestine class to provide an outlet for the children to express themselves in an otherwise oppressive environment. Before being deported to Auschwitz, she filled two suitcases with the paintings (4500 of them) and hid them in a secret place. Only a few of the kids in that ghetto survived. Most of them were deported to Auschwitz where they were exterminated. Nothing I have ever heard or seen has ever affected me this much. I, along with a good portion of my group, was practically balling uncontrollably by the time we made our way to the exit. So. Powerful.

Pinkas Synagogue

Wide shot of one of the walls

Close up of the names

Some paintings/drawings

The Old-New Synagogue was built in the 13th Century, making it the oldest Synagogue still in use and one of the oldest in the whole world altogether. It has withstood tons of pogroms, fires, and redevelopment over the centuries. It is believed that the synagogue will be dismantled to rebuild King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem one day. It was so cool to be standing in a building that is so old, and yet still fully active. Ka-RAZY PANTS!

Old-New Synagogue

The Old Jewish Cemetery was established in the 15th century, with the oldest tombstone dating 1439. It was used until the 1700s when they established the New Jewish Cemetery (original, right?) across town. There are about 12,000 tombstones that are visible, and an estimated 100,000 burials in all. It looks like a mouthful of crooked teeth up in that place, and it is so cool. The most famous person buried there is Rabbi Leow, who is credited with the creation of the golem (google it).

The tree was growing around this one, if you look close you can see the imprint of the tombstone in the trunk.

Some o' the Group

Our tour guide, Dana, explaining what the symbols on the tombstones stood for. I don't really remember what this one meant, but it stood for their profession. Maybe lion fighter?

This is the message wall. You write a message to a loved one who has passed away, roll it up, and put it in one of the slots. You best buh-lee my dad got a sweet lil' note from me that day :)

Not quite sure what this is... Maybe another view of Pinkas?
A Franz Kafka Memorial outside the Klausen Synagogue

In summation, it was an amazing experience. One that I wouldn't change for anything :) Sorry it's taking me forever to get caught up on my trip that happened, oh I don't know, 4 months ago? Wow. Stay posted!

{harley kat}

Oct 21, 2009

Prague: Wandering the City Alone

One beautiful Sunday morning, I awoke before the rest of the crew, silently got dressed, and headed out the door. I got on the metro at JZP, got off a few stops later and went to the biggest and oldest cemetery in Prague, the Olsany Cemetery. Haha, totally creeper status, I know. And it was totally awesome, but totally freaky! I kept thinking that zombies were just going to come at me from under every broken tombstone covered in ivy. After about an hour of exploring Olsany, I walked down a couple blocks to the New Jewish Cemetery, where Franz Kafka is buried. This cemetery was a lot newer, cleaner, more trimmed, and less scary, but I kept getting looks from the other visitors that said "She's not even Jewish." Awkward.

What happens when nobody is there to deter you from taking awkward pictures of yourself

Entrance to the New Jewish Cemetery

Franz Kafka's Grave

After my weird solo cemetery jaunt, I hopped back on the Metro and headed down to The Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord, the modern church building a block away from my dorm. It was consecrated May 8, 1932, and is still considered one of the most modern buildings in Prague, which has architecture that dates back hundreds of years. Since it was a sunday, I was there during mass, which was a really cool experience, but it was marred slightly by the fact that the doorway smelled like dog doo-doo. I have a video of the music , which was really haunting and fantastic, but this guy inside kept looking at me weird, so I panicked and put the camera away.

Cool Lamppost right in front of the church

Once again, Awkward self-portraits

I then proceeded to go down a couple blocks to the Radio Tower to get some pics during a rare sunny day. I took some pictures outside, then I went inside to find out how much it would be to ride to the top. Turns out it was like 150 crowns, which is the equivalent of about $7, so I turned around to leave, when this random guy from Dublin offered to pay for me! Ha, I was a little creeped out, but I really wanted to go up, so natch I said "Thanks, Man!" The view from the top was absolutely stunning from every angle. I could not have chosen a better day to go, because honestly the entire time I was in Prague, it was primarily overcast and rainy, and this day was perfectly blue and sunny and clear and I loved it! I got tons of pictures, and a video in which I sound like I just swallowed a sock or something, haha.

My Dorm!

I look tense-ish in this pic because the guy from Dublin (Tom) was taking my picture and he kept stepping further and further back. I was having a mild, fleeting panic attack at the thought that he might book it with my camera.

Up-Close of the Babies. I don't know if you can tell but they don't even have faces, just indented strips or something down the middle of their heads. So much weird.

Well folks, that concludes the first of many catch-up blogs to come! Sorry its so long and that it took me forever and a day to get a new one posted! (Like how important and relevant I assume I am?)

Peace and Love,
Harley Kat