Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A few autumn days in Praha (Prague)....


"The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century--or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreams, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs or uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks.   . . . Marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theatre with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet."                 --Laini Taylor

A view from a park, looking into the Old Town of Prague. Towers and red roofs dot the landscape, an endless expanse of gargoyles, spires, and watchtowers. Praha, known as the "Golden City."
In the Czech language, Praha (Prague is the German pronunciation) means "threshold." Truly, it is an entrance into a majestic world. In fact, Hitler banned bombing Praha with its array of diverse architecture. You can meander down a street and see Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The oldest astronomical clock in the world chimes hourly in Old Time Square.  Old cathedrals abound everywhere, with spires and towers that have defied destruction with army invasions for over a thousand years. Despite wars, such as the Thirty Year's War and 20th century upheavals, Praha still proudly stands--a medieval city that has been remarkably, blessedly preserved. It is a place of heroes, saints, revolutions--seeing both sorrow and joys. The entire city is a walking tour of the ages....

Joseph showing off his talent of making bubbles for some onlookers. He had plenty of practice for our kids' birthday parties. Many people came to the Central Square in Prague that morning to watch his talent.
Here we are up in a clock tower, looking over all the spires and steeples.



Prague Castle, an endlessly fascinating place, filled with museums, little towns within the city walls.

The Charles Bridge, the most famous bridge, among the main bridges ( some say up to three hundred). It is one of the most beautiful bridges I have ever seen with the Vitava River flowing by. People have been walking from one side of Prague to the other for over 500 years on it. I would even say it is worth going all the way to Prague to walk back and forth a few times. There are musicians, clowns, food stalls. The views are stunning--seeing the many bridges built up and down the river. Catholic saints are placed all along the sides, for people to remember them.
If you ever go to Prague, you must visit the Jewish Quarters. It was a cramped ghetto where thousands of Jews lived in a space of seven or so blocks squared, for almost six centuries--gated and walled from the rest of the city. Today there are six synagogues to visit, thankfully that were not bulldozed or destroyed during WW2 or during the time of Communism. To walk the cobbled streets, that now are lined with the most expensive stores in Prague, belie the harsh poverty and injustice that once existed there. Blog post about Children's Art during the Holocaust in the Pinkas Museum

Almost 80,000 names are handwritten in the Pinkas Synagogue and Museum in the Jewish Quarters, all of them being from Morovian and Bohemia descent. It is a place of great soberness and reflection.

In the Jewish Quarters, there is a Jewish cemetery--one of the oldest in the world. The first grave stone is dated in the first half of the 15th century, and the last burial stone placed was 1787. The space was very tight in the Jewish Quarters, so the graves were dug ten deep. Several scholars, poets, and leaders are buried here, among them  Rabbi Jehuda LIva Ben Becalel who created the tradition of Golem. Golem was a anthropomorphic clay figure that he said would protect the Jews from pogroms.   The Pinkas Cemetery


Marionettes are everywhere in the markets and stalls. They were begun to be made in the 18th century here, and Czechs revere puppet making as a real art. You can find witches, kings, princesses, Mozarts, Don Giovannis--to just name a few.


One wonderful memory was going to a marionette show of Don Giovanni at the National Marionette Theatre. Some Mozart marionettes in the distance. Mozart debuted Don Giovanni in Prague in 1787. Praguers are proud that they recognized the genius of Mozart before the rest of the world. When others were skeptical of his music during his lifetime, Praguers only sang his praises.

Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute marionette shows are favorites among the Czechs. Music and opera are integral parts of their lives--even among children.

On the Charles Bridge, there were several musicians, and this one caught my eye since he was blind. My father-in-law was a blind musician. I sat and listened to his Czech folksongs for a long time, while the boats floated by.


First warming our hands in the coals, while the dough is made into a ice creams cone
Waiting in the line was worth it to try a "trdelnik"--called a donut cone or a chimney cake. 
A Czech ice cream cone, with the pastry dough wrapped around the ice cream, with some nutella. A strike of genius.
Music, music everywhere--on almost every corner. Most cathedrals had classical concerts nightly for tourists. We went to a Vivaldi and Beethoven concert. Czechs love their music--folk, opera, classical, modern.

Vivaldi concert in Prague music hall
Wherever I go, my favorite food to try in any country is their soup. Perhaps it is because I believe soup is created with pure love and devotion. My husband talked about this bowl of sauerkraut soup for several days. I even made it when I got home, and I will continue to crave the tang of this soup. Sauerkraut Soup Recipe I promise you won't be disappointed if you make it.


A bakery, with traditional gingerbread cookies.
At every cafe and restaurant that was outside, a fleece blanket was provided on the chair to warm their cold patrons. 
Some friends we met who shared with us their stories of escape and rescues.
At one of the harvest markets. I loved the decorative pictures made with vegetables that were displayed around the market.