One of the most interesting places that everyone should take their time seeing in Prague, is Josefov, the old Jewish quarter in the North of the Old Town. While we were there we spent our time immersing ourselves in the Jewish culture, architecture and history. I have to say, when we went on the tour around the area, it was one of the more emotionally draining days that we have had thus far on the trip (along with the day trip to Ledice).
It was heartbreaking to see that not many of the buildings are still standing; I believe only three of the Synagogues are left. Walking around in more recent years, you would have never known that near the old town square was where the Jews used to live. Now in place of all the old buildings that have fallen are luxury brand stores, fancy apartments and hotels lining the streets.
Beginning our walk along some of the streets in the Jewish quarter, our guide pointed out gold cobblestones mixed in with the regular millions of other cobblestones that make up the streets of Prague. She stated that those golden cobblestones are markers that sat directly outside of where the Jewish families houses would be located when they still lived there. Specifically, Jewish families who were kicked out or deported. It’s one of those things where your too busy looking up and admiring the amazing architecture around you, that you forget to sometimes look down. You would be surprised to see maybe even more important things that you would have normally not payed attention too.
During our time at the Jewish quarters we visited the Maisel synagogue, Pinkas synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue (pictured below) as well as the old Jewish cemetery. The Spanish Synagogue was the most impressive historical Jewish monument that I saw that day. The inside was beautiful and more unique than any other synagogue that we went to that day.
The Pinkas Synagogue was especially tough when your going through and looking at almost 80,000 different names that are plastered all over the walls to remember those from Bohemia and Moravia that they have lost. It really does something to a person. If reading the names on the walls doesn’t move you, the children’s drawings upstairs most definitely will. The exhibition of artwork from the children date back to work that the kids made when they were kept at Terezin ghetto during the second world war before they were gassed and killed in Auschwitz. Being Jewish myself, I had an extremely hard time taking everything in while walking through the memorials.
What was even more devastating than the Synagogues was walking through the Old Jewish Cemetery. The landscape is very jagged and misshapen. This happens because there are so many bodies with so little room that there are many layers of bodies underneath and piled on top of each other. The cemetery was founded in the early part of the 15th century and lasted until 1786 which makes it one of the oldest still existing cemeteries in the world. Moreover, a staggering 100,000 people are buried there to this day.
The history and roots here in the Czech Republic, mainly Prague are utterly amazing. I keep learning new things each day and am seeing myself gain even more knowledge wherever we go. Even though this was a tough day for some of us, it’s important to learn about the people who lived here not too many years ago.