Friday, March 03, 2006

Katherine came to vist!!!

Kat, whom I met last year when she was on a Fulbright exchange in Los Angeles, flew down from the UK for a very welcome visit to CZ. It was her first time here, and I think we really made the most of the time we had!

The day after Kat arrived, we spent the day in Zatec, where she visited the school I work in. It is one of my long days when I have seven lessons from 8am 'til 4 pm. She tried to make conversation with the students and give them more practice conversing with a native speaker of English.

Then, that night, we ran off to Prague for a day and a half. Although I find it to be a different experience every time I go to Prague, it was reeeally nice to show the place off to someone else--especially a newbie. It makes ME appreciate the city in a new way and rediscover its beauty myself.

Old Town Square ...

We found a groovy restaurant on Wenceslas Square--and I do mean GROOVY. It was like something out of Austin Powers, only a lot more tasteful. And the food was gorgeous! I haven't seen such nice presentation for some time.

Lamb (Yum-my--I have already been back to try this again!)

Thai curry chicken. Love the bowl!

We spent most of the next day being very Jewish. We visited all the synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery. It was so fascinating. None of the synagogues were functioning synagogues, which really surprised me, for some reason. I don't know what I was expecting though. And the cemetery was, I believe, really just a collection of tombstones, not an actual cemetery. Well, it sits next to the Ceremonial Hall, in which bodies were prepared for burial (which suggests that it once WAS and actual cemetery), but the arrangement of the tombstones suggests that bodies were not buried to match the stones as they are arranged now. Somewhere on our self-guided tour, we read that Hitler had planned to create, in Prague, some kind of "museum of an extinct race." Maybe this was part of that warped idea. I say "planned" because the idea failed since he had killed all the people who could have been experts on any kind of successful JEWISH exhibits (not that any self-respecting Jew would have done such a thing anyway).

Jewish Ceremonial Hall

Old Jewish Cemetery...

I took so many pictures here. There was something about the place--and the stones-- that was just beautiful to me. Some of them are SOOOOO Old!! Some date back to the 1600's and even the 1200's I think.

The doors to Pinkas Synagogue--within the Old Jewish Cemetery grounds.

Inside the Pinkas Synagogue. I wasn't supposed to take this picture, but I realized it too late. It is an interesting altar though. It has the names of all the concentration camps around it. This synagogue pays tribute to the Czech Jews (mostly from Prague, if I remember correctly) who were killed in the camps. On the walls are far too many names to read. It still boggles the mind.

Also inside this synagogue is an exhibit of artwork done by the Jewish children from Prague who were detained in Terezin, a concentration camp that was here in CZ. I think this was my favorite, most moving, part of the day. The emotions conveyed in the artwork were so visceral.

Apparently Terezin was one of the nicer camps (if one can say such things about a concentration camp) because it was used as a PR site for the Nazis to "show the world" that the camps were NOT death camps, that the people held there were NOT being mistreated. So there were all kinds of social programs and art and theater programs. Many things to keep the prisoners busy and entertained. Maybe even more decent food. Of course, they were often sent from Terezin to some of the camps we have all heard about, like Auschwitz and Treblinka, where they were soon to perish. One step away from Hell is still to close. And prison is prison no matter how many flowers (or paintings) are put on the bars.

Old-New Synagogue

Hebrew clock: the hands run counterclockwise. =)

Kafka Cafe, outside.

Kafka Cafe, inside.

Praguers are very proud of Kafka today--even if he was made to feel like an outsider here all his life because he wasn't "Czech." That's what I read, anyway, and those are the themes (alienation, feeling like an outsider) that often crop up in his literature. He seems to have had a pretty good (and WILD!) life, relatively speaking, and since he died in 1924 (before the Nazis took over CZ), he was spared the fate of his sisters--of being herded, deported, and dying in death camps. Lucky him. He was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Prague, but I don't think it was the Old one.

Appropriately, the Kafka Cafe sits in the Jewish section of town, which made it a very convenient stop for us on our synagogue day.

Kafka Tea--I had to try the house specialty. It is black tea with orange juice, some other kind of juice, vodka and cinnamon sprinkles. Tasty! Like nothing I had EVER had before. =)

Spanish Synagogue--the most ornate of the synagogues. Apparently, many of the Jews here had come from Spain, and this building reminded me of some of the Muslim-influenced architecture of Spain that I saw last year in Granada and Cordoba.

Charles Bridge--it is a must see for a first-time visitor, perhaps even a 10th time visitor. =)


Dancing Building--I was told it was built to represent Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is cool-looking anyway. And I can picture Fred and Ginger here, sure. =)

At Don Pedro, a Columbian restaurant. Very near to the dancing building is this restaurant. It has large windows at street level (many places do not have street-level seating) that face the river, and the view is more than tolerable. We sat there for a long time, avoiding the cold.


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