Thursday, October 8, 2015

A day in the old town of Prague

I woke up fresh the next day. Guess the antibiotics had kicked in and sleeping early also helped the cause (though I missed the Act 2 of the opera!). But I was happy to be feeling almost like my old self again. Today was reserved for the Old Town. Again, the weather gods were being benevolent and temperature was more reasonable. The walk to the old town square was extremely pleasant. 

As we stepped  into this Square that had started as central marketplace for Prague in 12th century, it felt like a journey back in time. The Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) is one of two main squares in Prague. With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, this is one of the most beautiful historical sights in Europe. The most notable sights on the square are the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock, Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church.

Old Town Hall Tower
Tyn Church
Astronomical Clock
At the center of the Old Town Square is the Jan Hus statue, erected on the 6th July 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformer’s death.
Jan Hus Statue

After spending about an hour in the square we walked to the Jewish museum - basically six Jewish monuments clustered together: the Maisel Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue, the Klaus Synagogue, the Ceremonial Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery . There is also the Old-New Synagogue , which is still used for religious services, and requires a separate ticket or additional fee. We had bought combined ticket online that allowed us entry to all places except the Maisel Synagogue as that was closed. 

We started with the Old Jewish Cemetery. The numbers of grave stones and numbers of people buried here are uncertain, because there are layers of tombs. Jews must not destroy Jewish graves and in particular they are not allowed to remove the tombstone. This meant that when the cemetery ran out of space and purchasing extra land was impossible, more layers of soil were placed on the existing graves, the old tombstones taken out and placed upon the new layer of soil. This explains why the tombstones in the cemetery are placed so closely to each other. This resulted in the cemetery having 12 layers of graves. I didn't feel like clicking pictures, we just walked around the cemetery and came back out in like 15-20  minutes.

We exited the cemetery through a gate between the Klaus Synagogue and the Ceremonial Hall both of which house exhibitions on Jewish forms of worship, family ceremonies and traditions such as birth, circumcision, bar mitzvah and marriage. Since they were adjacent to the cemetry we were able to cover these in next 90 minutes or so. Last monument on our list that was a few minutes walk from this cluster was the Spanish Synagogue. And man was that a treat for the eyes! 

The name of this synagogue has nothing to do with its origins. The architectural style is heavily influenced by the Moorish palaces and mosques built in the southern coastal region of Spain. One could even say that it is a Jewish place of worship with Islamic architecture!!!

The workmanship of the stained glass windows is superb. The simple but beautiful geometric designs and floral patterns are harmoniously blended into this masterpiece of a building. The interior is a fascinating stuccoed arabesque design. This synagogue no longer serves as a house of worship, but instead houses the greatest part of the Praha Jewish museum.
Street Performers in the Square

Now we were hungry so we walked back to the Old Town Square for some lunch. The square was now alive with street performers of all kinds - singers, dancers, musicians and even magicians!!!

After a lovely lunch and some beer, we tried to find the entrance to Tyn Church...we moved in circles (short ones though) for about 10 minutes before we could locate it - only to find it closed!
River view from the bridge

Since afternoon was still pleasant, we decided to walk to the Charles Bridge over the river Vltava. Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is a 14th century stone bridge linking the two sides of Prague. It is the main pedestrian route connecting the Old Town with the Lesser Town / Prague Castle and offers fairy-tale views of Prague. 
The bridge entrance

There was a big crowd walking towards the bridge so we were able to find it very easily. It was late in the afternoon and the bridge was filled with street artists sketching, musicians playing and throngs of visitors soaking in the ambiance. 
People crossing/ just hanging out on the bridge

We walked the entire length of bridge, enjoyed some gelato and slowly walked all the way back to our hotel - happy about the day that was spent in one of the gorgeous parts of Prague but also sad that our Prague stay had come to its end.
View of other side of Prague

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