Prague and London: Part 3

Christmas day!

What a glorious thing to experience in other countries. Prague was hopping on Christmas day. People were on the streets (at least in Old Town) and many more shops and restaurants were open than I was expecting.

Our first stop was the Jewish quarter of Prague since we knew that it would be open. (It was Sunday). We’ve been on every trip but it feels like a necessary part of any trip to Prague. There’s several tours that you can do of the area with one ticket. We opted for the medium sized tour that first took us through the Pinkas Synagogue. The walls of the synagogue list over 77,000 names of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia sent to die in the concentration camp. It is a moving and powerful memorial to intolerance and hate. There’s a wall with many of the concentration camp names on it. We really have to work on making this all a thing of the history. Never again. I hope.

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Upstairs there is a room with drawings by children living in the ghetto during the 1930s. The adults tried to continue classes to give their children a normal life as possible. Some look like drawings that any child could draw, happy, and bright. Others show the repercussions of living in the ghetto amongst so much hate. As a child, I remember breaking down when I saw this room because it really brought home what happened here. Many of the children were my age or younger and they did not survive the camps.

The next part of the tour is the Old Jewish Cemetery. It’s not very big but it is supposed to have 100,000 bodies buried there! The earliest grave is from the 1400s as well! You can only walk the perimeter of it since it is covered in gravestones. Various graves have little stone markers, a sign that someone was there to remember. Just outside the cemetery was the Klausen Synagogue, which houses exhibits on Jewish religious objects.

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Then we caught a cab to take us to Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious to see the Infant of Prague. Unfortunately, our friendly cab driver tried to charge us 20 euros for a 4 dollar cab ride. Alas.

Outside, there was a pen holding goats and sheep again. We saw these all over the place. We caught the tail end of Christmas mass that was lovely with a choir. The altarpieces throughout this church was magnificent, covered in silver and wood. The Infant was resplendent in white robes on Christmas day. The Infant has created miracles. According to the church website, “During one invasion, all the children of the city were taken to the Church for protection—praying to the Infant, they were all saved.” (https://www.infantprague.org/about-the-infant-jesus-of-prague/)

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We had lunch at a lovely little pub where people wrote messages on coasters that were displayed throughout. It was a nice break from being outside. Prague is a bit damp and cold. It’s not quite like CHicago (or Krakow so we’ve learned) but I did not bring warm enough boots.

After lunch, we found ourselves at one of the towers flanking the Charles Bridge. We are fans of towers. Naturally, we had to go up.  We had a wonderful view of the city and the bridge itself. We then crossed the bridge to find the Museum of Communism!

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On our very first day, I saw a poster for the Museum of Communism that advertised that it was above a McDonald’s. I was intrigued especially since I’m a Cold War junkie. I also learned it would be open Christmas day (though closed on the 24th).

And so we went. It was definitely upstairs of a McDonald’s and on the same floor as a casino. THe museum told the story of Communism in Czech Republic. It became very apparent that they were very anti-communist. Outside there was a damning exhibition on North Korea. It’s not the most sophisticated of museums. Lots of text, a few mannequins. But it was worth the trip. They also had some video of protests over 30-40 years that were very sobering. Police beating people up, ripping banners, people running for their lives.

Afterwards, we discovered the most outrageous postcards in the gift shop. One postcard had a photo from a famous poster of smiling women that was celebrating good workers. The postcard said, “It was a Happy Shiny time. The shiniest were the ones who worked in the Uranium mines.”

Then we topped the night off with a concert at the Spanish Synagogue. In various European cities, churches and other religious venues host concerts on a seemingly regular basis. Usually it’s Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I think it’s a great idea to open up these beautiful spaces to wonderful music. This concert was magnificent. It had  Carl Orff’s O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, which was magnificent. The setlist was a little eclectic; there were tangos, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina and Porgy and Bess. But the singer and ensemble were amazing. The space is astonishing.

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On our way to dinner, we passed through Old Town Square again and there was a truck covered in bells of all sizes. A person was playing the bells like a piano. We got here Carol of the Bells on Bells!

That’s all for now!

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