Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Jewish Museum

Between my allergies and the fact that my drapes don't close, I woke up far too early this morning (5 am). I tried falling asleep for an hour and then just got up. After showering, dressing, and futzing with the computer for 15 minutes, I decided to start walking.

I followed the tram tracks to Malostranska station, where I bought a day pass for myself and one for Annie and Cherie. Then I headed to the Rudolfinum across the river to get some information on tonight's show and the hours of the box office. Finally I ended up in Wenceslas Square, where I found a (temporarily) free internet in the basement of a large bookstore.

Around 8:30, I headed back to the pension to meet Annie and later Cherie for breakfast and find out what we were going to today. We decided to go to Josefov and tour the various synagogues there. We left at 10:30 am and started with the Pinkas, which records the names of over 77,000 Czech Jews murdered in the Holocaust. As we were walking through, I suddenly heard the prayer "El Ma'aleh Rachamim" faintly echoing through the sanctuary and I got very choked up. I'm not sure why it affected me so strongly, as this is the third time I've been in this synagogue. I don't remember hearing the music before, so perhaps it was the combination that pushed me over the edge.

After looking at the children's drawings from Teresienstadt, we walked through the old cemetery to the Hevrah Kadisha building. I love the set of paintings depicted the society's activities, from visiting the sick, to washing and burying the dead, to their annual banquet, but none of the pictures is available in reproduction. Very frustrating.

After a quick visit to the Klausen my blood sugar levels were starting to fall. It was already 12:30, but I was the only one really hungry. We went to a pizza/italian place on Siroka St., near Pariska. I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese and it was surprisingly good (just a tad too salty) and a latte machiatto.

We went back to the Alt-Neu Schul and Annie and I checked out the times of the various services on shabbat whil Cherie browsed the tchochke stands. The Alt-Neu Schul is the oldest continually used synagogue in Europe, dating back to 1270. The women's gallery is perpetually off limits to men: it's closed to tourists and only open for prayer services, but at those times, only women can go back to it. It's behind a very thick barrier and with thin, slanted windows.

The Spanish synagogue seemed more subdued to me than in the past, but I think that's because I've seen it in late afternoon, when the sun's rays turn it golden. Our final stop was the Maisels Synagogue, in order to see the Solomon Molcho relics. By that point it was close to 2:30 and we needed a place to sit and relax. I hoped to find a nice cafe in Ungelt, behind the Lady Before Tyn church, but we didn't see anything we liked and decided to return to Malastrana.

Before hand, though, we stopped at the Rudolfinum, supposedly the nicest-looking concert hall in Europe, to buy tickets to tonight's 7:30 pm performance of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, doing highlights from three operas by Offenbach. Our tickets were only 600 Czk each, the most expensive tickets in the house (6th row, seats 2,3, and 4 on the side), but that's under $30 per person. A similar seat in Disney Hall would sell for many times more.

With our tickets in hand, we returned to Malastrana. Cherie went back to nap, then Annie and I stopped at nearby cafe (something like Cukrakalimonada). She had a wonderful salad with mushrooms and nuts, while I had an elderberry drink with carbonated water and mint leaves and a plum pie. Both were excellent. We could hear music students from a nearby conservatory practicing the piano and horn, and both battled the loud jazz from the cafe. We both decided to come back againt later in the trip.

Just before we got to the hotel we saw that the gates to Kampa Park were open. Lots of shady benches, flowering star jasmine, people sleeping on the lawns, and dogs running about everywhere. After Annie went to rest, I walked through the park, finding the Kampa Museum (one of my favorites) and the Charles Bridge were only five minutes from our pension. It really is a lovely area of Prague.

One last thing: we have been amazingly fortunate in our weather here. Today was clear, sunny, and by late in the day, warm. Also, the tourist quotient has been lower than in my past visits (though I suppose it will inevitably rise as the weekedn, and the concommitant stag party tourist groups arrive.

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