Monday, September 03, 2007

Prague

My summer of tourism is almost over. It is supposed to be capped by a trip to Amsterdam this weekend, but, while train tickets were cheap, hotel rooms have been impossible to find at any reasonable price. Prague is a pretty good way to end a series of trips, though. Unfortunately, I'm too scattered these days to do Prague justice (in blog form), so you'll have to make do with a bunch of photos and some random notes.

The Old Town Square has this astronomical clock


in the tower of the Old Town Hall:


Before each hour, a giant crowd grows:





They're here to catch a glimpse of this (figures of the apostles pass the windows and wave -- it's not that exciting):


The other buildings in the square are pretty cool. Like this one


and this one, where Tycho Brahe is buried (sadly, when we wanted to go, it was closed).


From the top of the Old Town Hall, there's a nice view:


You can also see across the river to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.


We spent one afternoon up there at Prague Castle, looking at all the pretty buildings, a few museums and the gardens on the other side of the castle (and on the other side of a moat). Two neat things I learned here. 1.) Even after the introduction of Christianity, burial rituals were more informed by pagan beliefs and people were buried with limbs bound or dislocated and covered by rocks to ensure they'd stay put in the grave. 2.) You can stand in the room where the Defenestration of Prague which touched off the Thirty Years' War (the Czechs seem to be the inventors of defenestration; this was the second Defenestration of Prague) occurred. But those guys survived the defenestration unharmed! They landed in a pile of manure.

The house where Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler lived is up by the castle. It's now a restaurant (Sean and I stopped for a beer), but with nary a mention of Brahe or Kepler. (By the way, it's possible to get 0.5 L of beer for the equivalent of 1 euro in Prague.)

To get to the other side of the river, you can cross on the Charles Bridge


Here's the view from the bridge at sunset.


There's a crucifix on the bridge of with golden text in Hebrew reading 'holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.' The Lonely Planet guidebook explains that the text was funded by the fine imposed on a Jewish man who had been convicted of debasing the Holy Cross. At one of the old synagogues in the Jewish quarter (now a museum), it explains that his offense was in a coded letter to a friend, which was never deciphered.

Several blocks from the river is the Powder Tower (there's no particular reason I threw this in there; it's just cool looking):


We spent another afternoon going to many of the synagogues in the Jewish quarter. This is the Old-New Synagogue, built in the 13th century (and inside it really feels like it, if that makes any sense). It's still in use.


There are more than 12,000 graves in the Old Jewish Cemetary, dating from 1478 until 1786. The tombstones pile onto of each other and the ground slopes up from the path as they added more dirt to put in more graves.


The most famous person buried here is probably Jehuda Liwa ben Becalel, Rabbi Löw. Here's his tombstone and some of the people praying at it (I didn't see people praying at any other tombstones). He's probably best known for the story of his creation of a golem to protect the Jewish ghetto. According to legend, the golem's remains are hidden in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue.

3 comments:

Tim said...

yay golem!

Jackie said...

Sean and I were ridiculously into the golem stuff (Sean got a mug. You think it'll write some code if he leaves next to his keyboard at night?)

Eugene said...

That picture of the cemetary is pretty cool.

(and yay golem!)