Jared in Prague

Hello world, come on, get happy.

I have been in Prague for the last few days….what a city! I had no idea it was such a gem of a European capitol! I mean, compared to Sofia, Bulgaria, this place is a paradise. But by any standards, the architecture of this city is so profoundly beautiful that I was quite shocked. Around each and every turn, there are myriads of enormous buildings with ornate facades, towers and castles, beautiful bridges, statues, plazas, and squares full of markets, bustling tourists and locals, restaurants, and Bohemian culture (we are really in Bohemia by the way…). I don’t know what to take a picture of, because there are just so many things that are worthy of a picture.

We arrived by train in the early evening and went to the accomodations office in the train station to see about getting a place to stay. Stupid me, I had torn out all the information from my Let’s Go Europe book on the Czech Republic, because I didn’t plan to come over this far…but when I met Elyse in Bern, she said she wanted to come here, and I always wanted to anyway, but just thought it was too far of a trek. So, we had no information upon arrival.

The office set us up with an amazing Pension, but it was a bit of a hike from the center of town. We took a cab and got ripped off, but when we arrived, we found a very clean, new hotel with a beautiful room and a gracious host who helped carry our bags…which is always welcome…believe me, I am so sick of these bags, I am often tempted to toss them over a bridge (and I have crossed many). The hardest part about arriving in a new city is finding a place to stay, and until you do, you feel laden and disoriented, worried about what will happen…and it never gets easier. But once you get a place, it’s like you have a home base from which to explore, and you can store your bags and feel free to roam. So, once again, we set out in a new place to explore.

We bought a guide book that gave some information on the standard sights in Prague. There is just so much history here, and I can’t really get into it (mostly because I don’t know) but it was a major cultural capitol in Europe for a very long time, especially for Jewish life (OH NO, he’s gonna rant about the Jewish stuff again…oy…)….well, what can I say? It’s important to me.

We crossed the Charles Bridge, the main bridge crossing the river from the Old Town portion of Prague to the other side, called the Lesser Town. The view of the city from the bridge is spectacular….rows and rows of beautiful facades lining the river, with many spectacular examples of Eastern European architecture. The bridge is lined with many statues and carvings, and is itself an interesting site – old and made of cobble stone.

There was one interesting statue on the bridge of a crucifix with Hebrew writing surrounding it…not something I have ever seen before. There are many street musicians everywhere, as well as vendors selling the local trinkets. Another thing, there are TONS of chamber music concerts all over. We bought tickets for an early evening performance of a violin quartet, to take place in a medieval church….exciting.

We crossed the bridge and walked around the Lesser town a bit, where I dropped off some rolls of film to be developed (and thankfully they came out ok…pictures of Venice and Dachau. I was really worried that they would not come out, because my camera is a piece of crap and I have lost some pictures because of that). As we walked around, I got the sense that I was in a truly Medieval town with buildings that were so old, and original, that I felt like I was back in time. Of course, that is ruined by the zillions of tourists and the modern trappings, but it’s still incredible. This city rivals Rome in architectural beauty. We walked up the hill of the lesser town to the Prague Castle and had some stunning views and pizza….

The chamber orchestra concert was quite impressive. I had never really heard live music like this before…and even though I am a musician myself, I was quite blown away. Classical music is in a completely different league, and I can’t even begin to understand it. The violinists were so right on, and their performance of the classics was perfect, in a beautiful little medieval church in the center of old town Prague. We spent the evening admiring the views of the lit up old town from the bridge…it looks like Disney World, but it’s for real.

Next day, we were thrown out on our asses, because we could only get the room for two nights. Apparently, everything in Prague was booked…hard to believe. This is a very touristy town. I think there was some holiday in Germany that was drawing all kinds of excursionists. We had to drag our stuff all the way back to the train station and go through the same booking speel we went through when we first arrived…but by the time we found a place, checked in, and rested from the exhausting shlep, it was about 2:00pm and half the day was lost….but we set out again.

This time, we wanted to see the Jewish Quarter of Prague. This city was the center for Jewish life in Europe for a long time, and there is a rich Jewish history here and many old synagogues. We spent the afternoon wandering through them and around the old ghetto area and into the cemetery. That was interesting, the cemetery…fields of grave stones with Hebrew writing looking very ancient…

If anyone has ever heard of the Legend of the Golum, Prague is where that story began. Back in the middle ages, so the story goes, a Rabbi fashioned a human body out of clay and brought it to life using some secrets from the Kabala (sort of like a Jewish Frankenstein) and the Golum lived and served the Rabbi. But one day got peaved about something and started wrecking all kinds of things..so the Rabbi had to put the Golum out of its misery. Bottom line – There’s all kinds of Golum figurines being sold, and I felt it appropriate to buy one. Ahhh, a souvenier.

Tonight, we attend services in the most ancient synagogue of Prague, the “Old-New” synagogue….should be fascinating. Don’t worry anyone, I am not becoming religious, just tasting the history and culture as much as I can.

OK, that’s it…see ya next time…

Jared