Friday, April 10, 2009

Powerful Sights To See

Another travel blog:

Today was a day for a walking tour of the old town (Staré Mésto) of Prague—we headed out the apartment into the old town—only a couple blocks away.  Our first stop was the Old-New Synagogue (Staranová synagóga).  This is the oldest practicing synagogue in Europe (begun 1270) and was very interesting to see—it is fairly plain inside, but there is a lot of history for the Prague Jewish quarter and much of it is reflected here.  There is a very old banner, red, with the Star of David on it that was given to them by one of the past kings.  It is carried by 8 members of the congregation on the occasions of a royal visit to the Jewish Ghetto (no pictures allowed).  They also have a great clock tower that counts time backwards in honor of the fact that Hebrew is read right to left.  We then headed over to the old Jewish Cemetery (Starỳ Židovskỳ Hřbitov).  For a period of a couple hundred (439-1787) years the Jewish inhabitants of the city were not allowed to bury bodies outside of the city and were only allowed to use the small space within—the result is a very small cemetery, say a couple hundred feet on a side that has a couple thousand tombstones and then under each one can be up to 12 bodies—it is believed that there may be as many as 80,000 people who were buried there.  It was fascinating to visit.  Also attached to the cemetery is a converted synagogue (Pinkas Synagogue—Pinkasova synagóga) that lists on the walls the names of all of the Polish Jews killed during WWII.  It is a very humbling thing to see.

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