A Memorable Second Day

Trip Start May 22, 2014
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5
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Trip End Jun 02, 2014

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Friday, May 23, 2014

We all slept so well we were up at 6 AM ready to start our day!

We had a wonderful breakfast buffet in the hotel. There was fruit, cold cuts, eggs, sausage, cereal, granola, yogurt, croissants, and more. (With the jam and other spreads there was something called a "turkey spread". I was afraid to try it.) Grandpa has threatened to go back there tomorrow morning for breakfast, even though we're staying at a different hotel tonight! During breakfast we chatted with a couple and their 18 month old son who are Americans living in Italy. They are Jewish and the wife converted so we bonded over that. Their son was adorable and charming; he spoke Spanish and English and would mix up both languages in his phrases. We actually ran into them again during lunch in the Jewish Quarter.

After breakfast we took a cab with all of our luggage to a new hotel only a mile away. This is the hotel that the river cruise line Amawaterways booked for us. It is the Hotel Intercontinental and it is in the Jewish Quarter. Soon after checking in there we met our private guide in the lobby for a 2.5 hour tour of the Jewish Quarter.

During WWII the Czech Republic was taken quickly by the Germans so it managed to avoid getting bombed. Hitler used Prague's Jewish Quarter to store various Jewish artifacts from around Europe with the intention of creating a "museum of an extinct race". For this reason, many of Prague's Jewish sites remained in tact so we can see them today.

Our private guide, Gabriela, was not Jewish, but she knew so much about Judaism and the history in Prague you would never guess she wasn't. She took us first to a memorial to the 78,000 Czech Jews who died in the Holocaust. The memorial was an old synagogue that had been converted into a museum. The museum was empty except the walls were covered with the names of every last Jew who died. It was stunning to walk into the museum and take in the overwhelming quantity of names written from top to bottom in multiple rooms. It was difficult to not get a tear in your eye seeing such a visual representation of the senseless disregard for human life.

Adjacent to this memorial was the Old Jewish cemetery where Jews had been buried since 1380. There were so many Jews buried here they are stacked up to 8 high in one plot, with their headstones a jumbled mass on the surface. Most of the inscriptions on the headstones are worn away with time.

Next we visited the Klausen Synagogue which has also been turned into a museum. This museum held various artifacts categorized by the holidays they symbolize. For example in the Rosh Hashanah section we saw old Shofars and in the Purim section we saw Groggers. This was my favorite museum because I love how Jews all over the world celebrate holidays the same way. So many things about Prague are strange to me, but at least the Jews still use Groggers to blot out Haman's name while reading the Megillah.

Finally we visited the Spanish synagogue which is the only Sephardic (and reform) synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. This was the only one we saw that didn't have a separate women's gallery. It was also the only one that is still a working synagogue today.

After lunch we took a short rest, and then took a bus to Namesti Republiky where the Powder Tower and Municipal House Hall are located. Municipal House Hall is a beautiful Art Nouveau concert and performance hall built in 1912 by the city of Prague. We took an interesting tour and learned about the history of the building. We learned that it still functions as a concert venue today and anyone can rent it out (if you can afford it). I told Mom maybe I will hold my wedding reception here one day...

During our tour it began to rain outside. The wind was blowing really hard and there was some thunder. But by the time our tour ended it was just sprinkling. We walked a short distance under grey skies after the tour to dinner at the Café Imperial.

The restaurant was beautiful and the food was fantastic. Grandma had a lamb shank with creamed spinach. Mom had a goat cheese salad. Grandpa had eggs and ham (he ordered off the breakfast menu), and I had duck ravioli with fois gras. Mom and Grandma each also had mulled wine with dinner- a perfect compliment to the blustery weather outside.

After dinner we were ready to call it a day. We headed back home to the Intercontinental to relax before bed. (On our way home I was approached by a few people trying to find the Chabad House to attend Shabbat services. Since we had just toured the Jewish Quarter that day, I was able to help them find it. I found out they're from Israel and I told them I hope to visit Israel next year with Taglit birthright. They recognized the organization and got very excited. They told me in Hebrew they hope to see me "next year in Israel".)

Tomorrow morning we will finally have our first tour with Amawaterways and our fellow cruise passengers. We are anxious to meet them and to finally see Old Town Square and Prague Castle! We must be the only tourists who have ever visited Prague and waited until the third day to see the castle and Old Town Square!
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Comments

Rachel on

Mom looks so stylish with her leopard print umbrella! Grandpa is so boring ordering ham and eggs- although in the picture, they look very different than ham and eggs in the US. Are you walking a lot? I think one of the best parts of exploring Europe is wandering the streets.

Shirley on

Reading your blog and seeing the pictures is like watching a beautiful movie, except that I really know the "stars"!! Nicole, when you're tired of playing with numbers, you could make this a second career. I think it definitely suits you!!

Gail on

Sounds like you're all having a great time. Stay well and safe. Love you all!

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