The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Prague or Bust!

How to see a 1,136 year old city in under 15 hours!

I'm a little spoiled, you see, the first European city I ever spent time in was Venice -serenissima- the most serine of cities . . . Frankly, every other European town that I've seen since, however old, and however nice, seems like trying to compare a postage stamp with some great work of art on it -to the original . . . cute, but it aint gonna cut it.
That's why the idea of going to Czech -I mean check- out Prague seemed so appealing . . .

Getting ready to go

I set out from Warszawa Zchodnia with my dear friends, Chaim and Zalmen, to my eighth Ghetto (Venice, Vilna, Kovno, Warsaw, Druskininkai, Lublin and Montreal [j/k] being the other seven)
the trick -we could only spend a single day in the grand old city . . . The question was, how could we pack in such a large city, with so much splendor, in such a short time?

The trip went well, the boarder was easy (They didn't make any problems, despite the fact that Poland now has the Bird Flu) and we arrived in Prague seven o'clock in the morning . . .
we were off!
equipped with a map from the nearby Hilton (A note to all tourists: If you need a map, go to any hotel and they'll gladly give you a map with a big "Our Hotel is Here" on it) we made our way from Praha 8 to Praha 1 (don't worry we didn't need to pass through 7,6,5,4, or 3)

We made our way into the old town by following the Vltava River and then turning down the main road, leading to the town square and Josefov -the Jewish Quarter.

the old town hall and the square

At last we came to the Staronova Synogoga, the Alt-neu Shul of the Maharal.
By this time is was already around Eight O'clock, and with out knowing where the Shliach's Minyan was, we were forced to Daven with the 'others' (Prague is faced with the same group of bandits that Vilna is)

When we were done, we began to search for the Shliach's house (the address was on my Palm Pilot [I know, I know -but I still call it a palm pilot]) and who should we meet on the way, other then the Shliach's wife, who took us to the Chabad House. There we ate some breakfast, dropped off our bags, and began our tour of the Jewish Quarter.

Note: I do note condone the wanton usury of Shluchim for my traveling needs -I just happen to do it myself at times.

Notice how the Hebrew clock goes "counter clockwise"
The exterior of the Alt-Neu Shul -notice the rungs leading up to the door on the roof, where the Golem is kept.

an archival shot of the Shul interior

Just a little background information for those of you who were to lazy to click on the link above (Though it most likely that you'll be to lazy to read what I am no writing in any event -instead opting just to look at the pictures . . .) The Alt-Neu Shul is the oldest synagogue extant Europe . . . Built in the 13 century of the Common Era (Though it could also be called the common error -but that's a different subject)
It is built in the Gothic style, and was the Shul of the Maharal of Prague -famed leader of the Jewish people, author of many books both on the exoteric and esoteric facits of the Law, and scion of the Davidic Dynasty (He also made a Golem that everybody seems to make a big deal about . . .)
The Wash Basin and the Paroches (the Maharal's seat was to the right)
We then went to the Maisil Shul . . .
The Spanish synagogue (which turned out to be a rather un-chassidic place . . . it was packed with over 40 Italian students taking pictures of it -and us . . . not to mention it has an Organ and is used as a Reform (r'l) place of worship to this day)
The weather that day was schizophrenic . . . The morning was crisp and clear, the sun casting down its gentle arms, slowly ushering back in the warmth of spring.
We ate breakfast.
Snow began to fall gently in light flurries.
We went inside a synagogue.
The snow had stopped but ominous clouds hung overhead . . .
Went inside the next synagogue -and were greeted by thick snow flakes showering down on the earth, covering everything with a blanket of white.
The Sun came out, again promising the coming of Spring . . .
Franz Kafka in all of his glory . . . make that misery
We continued on our route to the Pinkas Shul -the second oldest in a Prague, and current memorial to the anihilation of Czech Jewery.
The inner walls of the Shul are covered with the 80,000 names of Czech Jews murdered during the war . . .
To think upon seeing such a vast list of names -crawling the walls of this hollowed ground, make the names of only the Czech Jews and of them, only those on record . . .
By the time we entered the cemetery,the air was full with snow . . .
By the Kever of the Maharal, the sun came out, basking us all once more in its warmth.
The Klaus Shul (which basically translates to the synagogue synagogue, being that a Klaus [think Kloiz] is a place of worship)
The Chevra Kadisha, Burial Society
The ubiquitous Golem
Crossing the River
We crossed the Charles Bridge -a large bridge leading from the Old City to the Prague Castle area (Prague Castle is the largest Castle in Europe) . . .

An organ grinder -he wouldn't let me take his pic

The group

A Fiddler With out a Roof

The Palace

The changing of the guards

After we walked around the courtyard of the Castle -I was planning on checking out the Muesuem inside . . .
But X. Just had to go to Petřínská rozhledna, an observation tower on a nearby mountain. WBecauseuase it was the Eiffel Tower of Prague (everybody knows that -he told me), and not just any Eiffel Tower of Prague . . . This Eiffel Tower of Prague which is nearly a 1:5 copy of the Eiffel Tower (in France!)
We had to go and view the entire town from the top of the tower! It was one of those things that you couldn't say you've been to Prague if you didn't see!!
So we went.

andwee we went

and we went some more . all the way up the large hill, with its slippery snowy stairs . . .

and we kept on going.

Going up the stairs
We got to the top . . .
The tower is only open on Saturdays and Sundays -so it was closed.
With much huffing and puffing we made our way down . . .
I guess I can't say that I went to Prague
Probably the Czech name for Warsaw
We returned to the Chabad house, Davened Mincha, and then went out to eat in the Kosher restaurant . . .
There we met two Israeli couples vacationing Prague . . .
One of them, Motti, told us about his encounters with the Rebbe.
"You see," he told us, "I went to the Rabbi and told him that I wanted to bring down a shliach to Los Vegas. The Rabbi said that we needed to build a Mikvah . . . so I started to build one myself in order to get in some of the winter rains.
Then a Rav came and told me that it needed to be redone. By the time things were finished it was already the beginning of the summer. I went to the Rabbi, and he asked me what was happening with the Mikvah. I told him that we had a mikvah, but no water. The rabbi said,
'If you need water there will be water.'
I returned that day to Los Vegas (it was a sunday) and that night it began to rain!'
He also took our picture for us . . .

Eating Together
To draw our trip in Prague to a close, we went to the statues of the Maharal and the Golem . . . at least that's what they call them.


The dark lord of sith . . *err* -the Golem

We began to stroll through the old town on the way to the bus, only to find, that with ten minutes until the bus was to leave, that we were lost.

Zalmen tried asking a lady selling hot dogs and vodka on a nearby cart where we needed to go.

"But we only eat Kosher!"

"So then buy a shot of Vodka."

She looked like she had had a few herself.
"We'll do it next time . . ."
"So then I'll tell you next time as well."

With only a few minutes to go, we found a taxi and jumped in.
"Take us to the bus station . . . fast!"

A normal Taxi costs 20 Kronar a Kilometer.
For a tourist the driver makes sure that it costs 25 Kronar a Kilometer.
For a late tourist it's 35 Kronar a Kilometer.
If that later tourist is named Mordechai Lightstone, then it costs 50 Kronar a half Kilometer.

But, thankfully, we made it . . .

NOTE: This post is infact the longest post I've ever written . . . not in words, but in the amount of time it took to complete -don't ask . . . so I hope you enjoy it.


murwah the magnificent said...

I really appreciated your blog. Thanks for taking the time. I havent been to Europe yet so I visit it vicariously through others. Thanks again.

Mottel said...

I'm glad that you enjoy what I write . . . europe is a nice place to be, but I wouldn't want to live here (I think . . .)

A Simple Jew said...

Great pictures. I always enjoy your photo series postings.

Mottel said...

Thank you, as do I enjoy yours

A Simple Jew said...

In case you haven't noticed, I added a link to your blog on my site :)

Mottel said...