As mentioned in my previous post, the Jewish Museum was one of the highlights of my trip and cannot be missed in any trip to the city. The Jewish heritage in this city is so rich and is worth a day’s slot in any itinerary in its own right.
The Free Walking Tour showed us around the area and gave some information about Jewish life in Prague over the course of history, but this is just a starting point. Grab a ticket from one of the ticket offices to really appreciate the rich Jewish heritage in this city.
There are several ticket options with discounts available. We chose the second one where we had access to all but the Old-New Synagogue. There is A LOT to see. What is great is that your ticket is valid for one-entry to all the sites but you can use it over the course of two weeks (check your ticket just in case though). This was great for us as we were able to spread out seeing the sights over two days instead of packing it all into one.
We had access to and visited: Maisel Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, Klausen Synagogue, Ceremonial Hall and Spanish Synagogue. Many of these sites are Shoah memorials and religious buildings, so it is important to be respectful and wear appropriate clothing.
The Spanish Synagogue is by far the most beautiful Synagogue I have visited. The wall and ceiling decorations are remarkable. I overheard a tour guide say ‘this is the most beautiful synagogue in Central Europe’ so it is not just me! In a separate entrance you will find the permanent exhibition on ‘The History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, Part 2.’ It’s special focus is on the Shoah of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia, and the Terezín ghetto.
Pinkas Synagogue was a very solomn space. Much older, built in the 16th century, it is now a memorial to the nearly 80,000 Jewish victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) from Bohemia and Moravia. It is one of the earliest memorials of its kind in Europe, it is the work of two painters, Václav Boštík and Jiří John who painted the names of the victims on its walls. After the Soviet invasion of 1968, the memorial was closed to the public for more than 20 years. It was fully reconstructed and reopened to the public in 1995 after the fall of the Communist regime.
A heart-wrenching exhibition, located on the first floor, gives us a glimpse of the fate of Jewish children who were incarcerated in the Terezín ghetto during the Second World War. It is based on the children’s drawings that were made in the ghetto between 1942 and 1944 under the supervision of the artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. The pictures document the transports to Terezín and daily life that these children faced, as well as their dreams of returning home and of life in the Jewish homeland. For many, these dreams remained just that. Very few survived, as the majority of the children perished in the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Old Jewish Cemetery is among the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the world. It is fascinating to see the old tombstones and see nature take over this place. It was founded in the first half of the 15th century with the earliest tombstone dating all the way back to 1439! There are about 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery. However, as this was the only place where Jews were allowed to be buried for centuries, space was extremely scarce and bodies were buried on top of each other, with graves layered up to 10 deep. Now the cemetery is quite built up from street level.