Prague: 19th of February 2005
I had a lovely long sleep this morning which I guess I wont get again until next weekend now as I have quite an early start for the airport tomorrow morning. Weird to think that I am going already when it feels like I have only just arrived! I did my Literacy Planning and finished off my D&T. Helena checked on the internet for trips to the Jewish Quarter which is what we had scheduled for today. We headed to the clock as that seems to be aminly where all of the guided tours congregate as thier starting point. Threre were a few other couples that were on the tour. It was incredibly cold and it was trying to snow again which wa plesant! The Jewish Quarter is called Josefov which apparently in Czech name equiv of Joseph. It was called a ghetto until it was called Josefov which makes it sound horrendous. Many horrible things happened to the Jews in Prague over the years. They were ‘property of the King’ at one stage. The flodding in the summer of 2002 hit the area quite badly as it is right on the river. I did start to wonder part of the way round why none of the Synagogues were open to the public today and then it dawned on me – its a Saturday which of course is the Sabbath and they dont work on Saturdays and there would be services on. A stupid day to choose really to go and do a walking tour of the area – we really should ahve thought about that and swapped today and yesterday around. There was only one really that I wanted to go into and that was called Pinkasova Synagogue (or Pinkas). It was built in 1535 and was used for servuces right up until 1941. After WWII howeer it was converted into a memorial with the names and birthdates and dates of the diappearance of the 77,297 Bohemian and Moravian (areas of the Czech Republic) Jews that were victims of the Nazis. Thier dates and info ect are inscribed on every possible wall of the synagogue. There is also a collection of drawings in there by children that were held in the Terezin Concentration Camp. It would have been a very moving memorial to have visited. Apparently a Jewish Man in Prague went to visitthe synagogue who was alive during the time of WWII and he found his name on the wall as one of the dead – how strange must that have been??!! Next to the synagogue is the cemetary which of course we could not get into but we were able to look at it through a little window in one of the gates. It was founded in the 15th century and is Europe’s oldest suriving Jewish Cemetry. There are about 12,000 grave stones in there but as the King did not want any more of the urban area taken up for burial of more bodies the graves are layered and there are thought to be 100,000 or so bodies in there – up to about 16 layers. You can actually see around one side where the ground level has risen so much. There are some markings on the graves that are believed to be from about the 17th and 18th centuries which show the occupation of the deceased. The oldest headstone (a replica now stands in is place) dates from 1439 and is believed to be that of Avigdor Karo who was a chief rabbi and the court poet to Wenceslas. Many of the houses are in the French Art Neauvau style as the area was given a face lift so to speak to try and improve the area – I cant quite remember at what time that was though. I learnt about a Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves – it is something that they do at the end of Schindler’s List and it has always baffled me. You put a small stone on a grave that you have brought from somewhere other than the graveyard and you say a wish for someone else and the Jewish Tradition is that these wishes come true. Also you can write the on a thin strip of paper and place it underneath one of the stones on the grave. They put these stones down rather than anything else so that they dont rot or are eaten by animals or parasites. We ended our tour at a statue of Franz Kafka which was rather obscure to put it mildly. It is rather new apparently as I couldn’t find it in my guide book. It has Kafka sitting ontop of a statue with no head and it is HUGE. It is apparently linked to a story that he wrote of a man who worked all of the time and did not do anything enjoyable and so he had no brain. Underneath – but we could not see as there was too much snow on the ground – there were the legs of a cockroach from another of his stories of a man who turned into a giant coackroach and returned home and was then sqished by his family. His stories were weird quite frankly if you ask me! He didnt have any works published until after his death as he thought that they were no good. He asked his best friedn after his death to burn all of his work but his friend didnt and published them all instead. They are all quite sad stories and from the sounds of things quite odd too!
From there we went to do a bit of tourist sopping as I wanted to get a few magnets for people. After wandering into several shops we went into a chain called Blue which had some lovely things. We then went and had a look again in the wooden huts near to the St. Nicholas Church. I got a pair of earrings similar tot he ones that I got back in 1998 when we were last here. We headed over to where we were going to have our supper. It took ages to find and Helena did get quite lost! She wouldn’t do too well as a tour guide on the directions front! We met her friend Veronica on the corner jsut down from Cafe Louvre and she was most bemused that we had got so lost! We had a yummie pizza in there and a drink. I had one called a corny which was blue cheese and sweetcorn – odd to put it mildly but it actually tasted quite nice. The beer was good too!! Veronica is coming back with Helena for a week at Easter for some Christian conference thingcalled SPring Harvest. From there we went to the cinema and met Vicky who is loke the supply teacher there at Riverside, she is incredibly quiet and I did have some problems in hearing what she was saying at times. We went to see The Aviator which is called Letec in Czech. It was quite an interesting film to put it mildly. I am not quite sure what Howard Huges had wrong with him but I think that is must have been something similar to Asbergers as he certainl showed many of the symptoms. I can see why it is up for so many oscars. It is an incredibly long film though – 3 hours we wer in there for. The most shocking thing about the trailers was that they had dubbed Star Wars Episode III!
From here we went to try and find somewhere to have a cocktail but after being looked up and down by the girl on the door in one place we kind of gave up. We found a pizza restaurant on the corner of Wenceslas Square where we had a drink. They were really slow at bringing them though and I was parched! I had an Ameretto. We then headed home onf the metro. Helena said on the way back thats the last of my nights drinking for a while – err hello??!!! Anyway got things ready to pack when got home and quickly wrote the last 3 postcards that I had left before heading to bed.