A Travellerspoint blog

Jewish Easter Sunday

In the morning, I had the hotel breakfast, which I was pleased with, and then took the tram to town. On the tram, I noticed lots of people walking around with Easter baskets. They didn't look to be full of candies, like kids' baskets in the states, but full of bread. One smelled like it had both bread and sausages. When we got to the more tourist areas though, less people had them.I walked an area a little bit south of where I had walked before, and then headed back to the Jewish area ticket office to get a ticket for the full guided tour. The entire area of town was completely mobbed. Maybe people were thinking that because it's Easter Sunday, everything but the Jewish area would be closed. Maybe people who were in town for a while knew that the Jewish sites would be closed for the next 2 days due to Passover. Maybe it was just the weekend rush. I don't know. It was absolutely crazy packed in that entire area of town. I was glad I paid for the guided tour for two reasons. One, she added a lot of context and explanation to what we were seeing. Two, she was able to get us to the front of the lines better and so we were able to beat some of the crowds at some of the places. The first stop on the tour is the Old/New Synagogue. This synagogue is a very old Orthodox synagogue where the women and men have a full stone wall between their sections. The seats for the members line each wall, but one seat is chained off. It was the seat for somebody famous and is now still only for him, although he has been long gone. The next stop on the tour was the Spanish synagogue. It is called that due to the architectural style, not due to the congregation. On the inside, this synagogue looks like it could be a mosque as it is very Moorish. It is incredibly beautiful and detailed. On the top floor, there are several display cases containing mini museum exhibits.After that, we went to the Pinkas Synagogue that is now a memorial to those lost in the Holocaust. The walls are covered with the names of those lost, and it is a very somber site. Next, we saw the graveyard. The cemetery contains 12,000 graves and over 100,000 people who were buried between 1400 and 1700. It does not look nearly big enough for either of those numbers, but the guide explained that the people were buried several deep in many places. She also pointed out the stone of the famous Prague Rabbis who were buried there, the oldest stones, and a few interesting ones.The path through the graveyard winds around and finally leads you to the entrance of the burial society building and then the Maisel Synagogue. The burial society building contains some displays about traditional Jewish death practices. There is a series of paintings that shows what happens to a corpse and several artifacts on display. The Maisel synagogue contains some displays on Jewish holidays and family rituals. It's a great place to get a taste of Jewish cultural practices.Overall, I found the tour quite interesting. It enjoyed seeing the wide variety of synagogue architecture all in one place. It was like a mini-tour of synagogues of the world. I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to eat lunch before going to the Gastronomy museum, so I grabbed a bite at the James Dean Diner. This restaurant was very 1950s-USA-themed with Marilyn Monroe plastered all over the walls, jukebox music playing, and cigarettes on the menu. The food was a bit overpriced, but very typically American food. The Gastronomy Museum is a little hole-in-the-wall museum, but it is very well done. The first section contains a history of food from how the first humans started to use fire to modern chefs. It was full of dioramas, displays, and even had a sample "modern kitchen." They do serve samples in the kitchen, and I can say that the homemade mead is very good. The next museum I went to was also a hole-in-the-wall museum- the Alchemy Museum. It is located more towards the castle, very close to the American Embassy. There are two parts to this museum. The downstairs part mostly has a lot of words (in English) on the walls, and not a whole lot to actually see. The other part is the tower that a famous alchemist, Kelly, used. There are 60 steps to the top, and then you feel like you've entered a Halloween funhouse. They have set it up how he might have had it set up, with jars of odd body parts, a skeleton, and other interesting items he might have had. It was cute, but probably not quite worth whatever I paid for it. Having seen most of what I wanted to see in the main part of the city, I took the tram to Vysehrad, which was off the edge of my map. However, I was still able to find the fort and fort grounds there. The fort grounds were peaceful and provided a good walk. I saw a church, statues, and some park areas. Also, since I had taken the tram to the area atop the hill, I had a nice walk downhill back to the river. I did finally get my river cruise. I went back to where I didn't get one from the other day. I still was just one person, but just as I was about to give up, a group of 3 tourists came up looking for a boat ride. I'm going to admit that while I got lucky and was happy to go on the boat ride, finally, it was not all I expected it to be. It was a nice, calm ride and a good view of the city, but the information was a droning recording that contained about 8 languages we didn't need and started to put me to sleep at some point. I didn't really learn a whole lot about Prague and didn't see a whole lot of new things since the water is pretty accessible by tram and bridge and I had already walked the area a lot. The one thing that did excite me is that they had "egg alcohol" on the menu. Other than eggnog, I had never really heard of egg alcohol. So, I of course had to try it. It wasn't particularly great, but also wasn't bad. Drinkers would probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

My plan was to then go up to the Petrin tower, which is called "Prague's Eiffel," eat something there, and then see the observatory that I didn't get to see the other day. I did the first part ok. The daily pass tram ticket also covers the ride on the funicular to the top of the mountain where the tower is. From the funicular, you do need a separate ticket to get into the Petrin Tower, and it costs an additional amount to use the elevator.So, I instead used the stairs. All 299 of them. Fortunately, they have 2 separate stair cases- one for up and one for down, so it is a more comfortable climb. The view from the top is a good view, as would be expected. It's a bit windy, but very nice. Then, I got to climb down all the stairs. Despite being incredibly well marked, there were people climbing up the down stairs, for some reason. It made the descent a bit more of a challenge, but I managed. The next part of the plan was to eat something at the top. Unfortunately, any restaurants they had were closed. The funicular was only running every 20-30 minutes, so I didn't want to get off and see if the restaurant at the middle funicular stop was open, only to find it wasn't and have to wait again. So, I went to the bottom and decided to eat at the first place I could find something at. That turned out to be a tiny restaurant, but it had great tomato soup.

Finally, I went back up to the observatory. Again, bad luck. The credit card machine was broken and she wasn't willing to take Euros, Dollars, Pounds, or anything but Czech koruna. I was about 2 koruna short, which is like being a penny short or something silly. Another couple "rescued" me. I offered them some Euro cents in exchange, but they were nice enough to just pay my penny. The observatory has several interesting displays on astronomy, light, and other scientific topics. Of course, the highlight is the ability to look through 2 of their telescopes. I got to look through both before it started to rain and they had to close the ceiling doors. The docents were very knowledgeable about the telescopes. One was able to explain the difference between a telescope designed to look at the moon and one designed to look at the stars. (One is longer to "zoom in" more and see features, the other is wider to gather more light so the stars are brighter.) The other didn't speak English, but was able to answer my Spanish questions with Italian.While I wish it hadn't started to rain, at least I got to see a little through the telescopes.

The Pyramida was a very short walk from the observatory, but the park wasn't really well enough lit for me to want to walk it in the dark and in the rain, so I took the funicular down the mountain and then took the tram over to the hotel. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay in Prague and fell like it's a place worth going back to for a few more days, although I'd definitely do some of the day trips and not stay in the city the whole time, since I already saw most of what I wanted to see. The only general negative things I can say were about the smoking and the bathrooms. Everybody seems to be smoking thesehorrible cigarettes with smoke that lingers longer like cigar smoke and just has an overwhelmingly bad smell. The other is that all the places have signs on the bathrooms that say they will charge for the bathrooms. Although I can only half-complain about that as nobody every charged me if I was a customer.

Old New Synagogue

Old New Synagogue


Spanish Synagogue

Spanish Synagogue


Kelly's Tower

Kelly's Tower


Fort

Fort


View from fort

View from fort


Petrin Tower

Petrin Tower


View from Petrin

View from Petrin


View from Petrin

View from Petrin


Jewish Cemetery

Jewish Cemetery

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Czech Republic

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint