I took this picture before I realized what I was taking. Prague is a wonderful city to walk around and get lost in. There are so many little side streets and alleys that hold surprises all through the city. I had allowed myself to get lost one afternoon when I came upon this fascinating statue. I had to have a picture of it because it really caught my attention. Later I realized that I had walked into the old Jewish quater of Prague with its historical synagogues. With tales of Franc Kafka, the story of the Golem, and the horrendous history during World War II, the Jewish quarter has much to teach and please the casual tourist. Thats when I realized the statue was the one of Moses that I had read about. Going back to look at it once more, the posture and expression of statue then took on all new meaning. Definately one of those great experiences alone and lost in Prague.
On our Grand Walk tour we spent some time in the Jewish Quarter and were told of the early days when the Jews were restricted to this area and had an identification mark on their clothing. We saw the Synagogues which were built many hundreds of years ago, however some do not hold services anymore as the Jewish population pre World war 2 was 120,000 and during the war 80,000 were killed whilst most of the survivors migrated to other parts of the world. There are approximately 8,000 Jews in Prague today but they do not live in this area. We saw the elevated cemetry and other old buildings. This area also has many fine buildings.
The two images provided indicate a map of the Jewish Quarter and a key to the featured locations.
Prague Jewish live has been characterized by repeated persecutions. Periodically, Jewish civil rights were severely and increasingly limited. They were forced to live in a swampy area near the Old Town Square, the first ghetto. In 1389, nearly the entire population of 3000 was killed. The 15th Century Hussite wars brought increasing business restrictions and payments for protection. During the 16th Century Prague Renaissance, certain limited rights were granted by the Hapsburgs as the Jewish population assumed a greater role in business. The population swelled as immigrants from other countries arrived. Twice in this century, the Jews were expelled from Prague but then allowed to return. In the early 18th Century Prague had the largest Jewish population in the world.
The tolerant Josef II issued the Edict of Toleration in 1781. Religious freedoms were granted and Jews were allowed to participate in all forms of business and culture. In gratitude, the Jewish ghetto was named Josefov. Jewish life prospered for a prolonged period. In the late 19th Century the overcrowded ghetto was demolished and new streets and buildings created. The only remaining structures are those synagogues and the cemetary forming the Jewish Museum today.
In March 1939, Germany occupied Czech lands. At least two thirds of the 55000 Prague Jews perished during the Holocaust. Life under the Communist regime was no better, with absence of freedom for all. In 1989, Czech reforms led to the fall of Communism. Today only 1700 Jews live in Prague and there is only one rabbi in the entire country.
Prague is filled with Jewish historical sites under the supervision of the Jewish Museum. Over 140000 documents and artifacts are on display. Many were gathered by the Nazis as part of a plan for a "Museum of an Extinct Race". Included are artifacts from Terezin, including the heartbreaking drawings of the children imprisoned there.
We now will walk down Parizska Street, where we come to the JEWISH QUARTER, in the Josefov Section of Prague, with its Old-New Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, the Jewish Museum, the Spanish Synagogue and statue of the famous Jewish writer Franz Kafka.
Prague's Jewish Community dates back to the 10th century and is the only Central European Jewish Town Quarter that survived the Holocaust.
The accompanying picture is of the beautiful Spanish Synagogue which was built in 1868 in a unique Moorish style and is located on Shiroka Street.
In 1096 the first recorded pogrom (organised massacre) took place which hastened the formation of the "Jewish Town" within Stare Mesto during C12. Much later the Jews were actually herded into a walled ghetto sealed off from the rest of the town & under curfew. The Jews were subject to laws restricting trade & had to wear some form of identification this remained a constant feature of Jewish life until the Enlightenment.
In 1389 during one of the worst progroms, 3000 Jews were massacred over Easter some while sheltering in the Old-New synagogue - this event is commemorated by Yom Kippur.
In 1541 a Jew was tortured into confessing a big arson attack thus enabling Emporer Ferdinand I to expel the Jews from Prague
In Ruldoph II reign (1576-1612) economic prosperity for the Jewish community
Amid the violence of the 30 year war the Jews enjoyed protection from the Emporer
Emperor Joseph II (1780-90) who the distric is named after "Josefov" lifted restrictions on Jews, the downside is he banned the use of Hebrew or Yiddish names in business & only allowed to use 109 permitted Germanic male names & 35 female names
In 1848 the ghetto went into decline & only the poorest Jews & Orthodox families remained. When the Nazi's occupied Prague on March 15, 1939 the Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David. In November 1941 the first lot of Prague Jews were sent to the new ghetto in Terezin.
The Prague ghetto was preserved by Hitler himself as he planned to set up an Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race. By this grotesque twist of fate Jewish artefacts from all over central Europe were gathered here making it the biggest collection of Judacia in Europe
All sights of Josefov covered by a 300kr ticket except the Old New synagogue requires a seperate entry ticket of 200kr.
Opening times April-Oct Mon-Sun (excl Sat) 9am-6pm
Nov-March Mon-Sun (excl Sat) 9am-4.30am
Remember you are NOT allowed to take photographs inside the synagogue, no mobile phones or stereos & cover shoulders as a sign of respect
This wide boulevard lined by beautiful buildings runs from the Old Town Square to the Vltava River through the Jewish Quarter. By the late 19th Century, the Quarter had become somewhat of a slum and in the period of emancipation the entire ghetto was torn down and reconstructed with Paris as a model, hence the name Parizska. It is lined by exquisite buildings, extreme upscale stores, and fancy restaurants including Pravda in my restaurant section.
Just wandering around the Jewish quarter is interesting without having to visit all the museums there (to avoid tour groups visit these around lunch time). The rebuilding of the ghetto area at the beginning of the 20th century gave scope for new designs concepts. Amonst all the art deco flowering dsigns and decorative motifs you will also see simple cubist buildings - thankfully these did not catch on, they are rather bland in my opinion. However I did like the cubist style atlantes framing windows such as the ones seen in Elisky Krasnohorske St.
The Jewish Quarter or Josefov is a popular tourist destination in Prague due to its central location and unique history. Though much of the original town was redeveloped from 1893-1913, the key sites remain including 6 synagogues, the cemetery and the town hall. The Jewish Museum maintains the following sites: Maisel Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, Spanish Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and the Ceremonial Hall. The confusingly named Old-New Synagogue is open to the public, but is run by the local Jewish community. The 6th Synagogue, called the High Synagogue, is an active synagogue, closed to the public.
The Old-New Synagogue was built in the 1200s and is the oldest preserved synagogue in central Europe. It is still in use today.
The Pinkas Synagogue was completed in 1535 next to the Jewish cemetery. This synagogue contains the names of some 80,000 Jews who were killed by the Nazis.
The Maisal Synagogue was built from 1590 to 1592. It was virtually destroyed by fire in 1689 but was rebuilt in its current style from 1893 to 1905.
The Klausen Synagogue was built in 1604 and houses an exhibition on Jewish customs and traditions.
The Spanish Synagogue was constructed in 1868 in a Moorish style and contains Islamic motifs throughout the interior. It was built by Spanish Jews who settled the area.
The High Synagogue was originally built in 1568 but was rebuilt in 1883 after being destroyed by fire. It is not open to the public.
Ceremonial Hall was completed in 1912 and was once the mortuary for the Jewish Cemetery.
The Jewish Cemetery contains the graves of about 100,000 people buried in as many as 12 layers!
The Jewish Town Hall was built in 1765 and is the center of Prague's Jewish community today.
During my visit I wanted to view the temples, but the exorbitant entrance fees turned me away. To visit all the areas of the Jewish Museum cost 300 CZK per person (13 USD) and the Old-New Synagogue attempts to charge 200 CZK per person (9 USD).
The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague used to be one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. The history of the area dates back to the 11th century. It contains many interesting buildings, synagoges and one of Europe's oldest Jewish cemeteries (1478).
Prague's first Jewish ghetto began in the 10th century. They hung on through the centuries, despite vicious persecution. In the late 18th century, the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II restored the Jewish Quarter and allowed the people to live in peace. So this area was named the Josefov, in his honor. The Jews were finally granted full civil rights in 1848.
The Nazis murdered about 90 percent of the Jews in Prague. They intended to turn the ghetto into an open-air museum. So despite everything that happened, the buildings survived. Today, the Josefov has been re-opened to visitors.
Its most outstanding feature is the historic Jewish Town Hall, an impressive Renaissance building from the late 16th century. Be sure to visit the Old Jewish cemetery, with its roughly 20,000 grave stones packed into a tiny space. The synagogues also remain intact.
To be able to explore this part of Prague's history you need to by the tickets. You can find them in Pikas Synagogue. There are a few types of tickets but one that includes everything is about 20 euros per person.
After turning in my bicycle at Praha Bikes at the end of the tour, I walked back to the nearby Jewish District for another look.
Since I had recently re-learned the words telemon/atlas/atlant (with the help of VT member german_eagle while I was writing one of my Bruchsal tips), I wanted to get a photo of two of these stone men supporting part of the façade of the corner building at Široká 64/12, which also houses the Franz Kafka Café.
I didn't go into the Franz Kafka Café, so I can't say if it is as bad as most reviewers make it out to be. The website Literary Traveler describes the Franz Kafka Café as "a pub that merely appropriates his name".
Like most buildings in Prague, this one has two numbers. The number 64 is left over from an old system of lot numbering and for most purposes can safely be ignored. The number 12 is the one you can use to find the building when you are walking along Široká Street.
Second photo: A wider view of the building at Široká 64/12.
Third photo: Franz Kafka Café at Široká 64/12.