Prague 2023 (V)

Last day of our beautiful trip to Prague. Really last half day.

March 1st

We get up early to make the most of the day and head for the Jewish quarter.

The first stop is Španělská Synagoga, the Spanish Synagogue. Built in 1868, it is the youngest synagogue in Prague. It was the work of architects Josef Niklas and Jan Bělský.

Its name comes from the spectacular interior decoration inspired by the Alhambra in Granada. It was designed by Antonín Baum and Bedřich Münzberger between 1882 and 1883.

Španělská Synagoga, the Spanish Synagogue

Before going for the entrance to the synagogues, we decided to have a Trdelník for breakfast. Next to the old-new synagogue there was a small place that looked (and smelled) very good. Its name is Trdelník & Coffee and they are kosher. It was a bit more expensive than the previous one but it was much better. It was delicious.

Trdelník & Coffee

Now we went to the Pinkas Synagogue to buy our tickets. You can buy them separately or a voucher for all of them.

Pinkasova Synagoga or Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue in Prague. It was built in 1535 in the late Gothic style. Its author was Aron Mešulam Horovic. It was named after his grandson Rabbi Pinkas Horovic.

In the years 1955-60, the Pinkas Synagogue was transformed into a memorial to almost 80,000 Czech and Moravian Jews who became victims of the Shoah. After the Soviet invasion in 1968, the memorial was closed for more than 20 years. It was completely rebuilt and only became accessible in 1995.

Pinkas Synagogue
Pinkas Synagogue

Next to it is Starý židovský hřbitov, the old Jewish cemetery. Founded in the early 15th century, it is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world. The oldest gravestone dates back to 1439 and the most modern to 1787.

The cemetery was enlarged several times over the centuries, but its area was still insufficient. The deceased were thus buried in the ground in up to ten layers one on top of the other.

Before it gets too late, we head to the Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue.

Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue
Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue

Despite its name, it is the oldest active synagogue in Europe. For 700 years it has been the main synagogue of the Jewish people.

It was built at the end of the 13th century by stonemasons from the royal foundry and was originally called Nová or Velká (New). With the construction of other synagogues at the end of the 16th century it began to be called Old-New.

Legend has it that the foundation stones for its construction were brought by angels from the demolished Temple of Jerusalem. It was on the condition that they would be returned when it was restored.

Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue

According to another legend, the remains of the Golem are kept there. An artificial being created and revived by the great Rabbi Löw to protect the Prague community.

It is one of Prague’s must-sees, pure history of the city and of Judaism. But, frankly, I find it outrageous to pay 220 CZK to enter. Almost 10€, considering that the visit takes very little time.

Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue
Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue

From there we made our way to Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Prague.

In the 1570s, a renowned businessman and ghetto benefactor, Mordechai Maisel, decided to build in the area of today’s Klausen Synagogue. It was then a complex of buildings that included a synagogue and a Talmudic school.

The complex was destroyed after the ghetto fire in 1689. In 1694 a new building was completed in the early Baroque style. Two years later a monumental three-storey aron ha-kodesh and the Ark of the Torah were added. This was thanks to the donation of Samuel Oppenheimer, a wealthy and influential personality of the Austrian monarchy.

Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue
Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue
Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue
Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue

From here we go to see Maiselova synagoga, the Maisel synagogue. It was built between 1590 and 1592 by the mayor of the Jewish aljama of Prague, Mordejay Maisel. It was badly damaged in a fire in 1689 but was quickly rebuilt.

During World War II, the Nazis used it as a storage facility for artefacts from 153 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia. They were to use them to open a museum in Prague.

In fact, the Germans kept Prague’s Jewish quarter intact with the intention of turning it into the Great Museum of the extinct race.

Maiselova synagoga, the Maisel synagogue
Maiselova synagoga, the Maisel synagogue

After the visit to the Jewish quarter. We went for a walk to Letenská pláň, Letna Park. It is a huge park in the upper part of the city. It is used for the organisation of occasional cultural events such as ice rinks or circuses.

It offers spectacular views of the city.

Letenská pláň, Letna Park

To get to the park, we cross the Moldova River on the beautiful Čechův most, the Čech Bridge. Built between 1905 and 1908.

Čechův most, the Čech Bridge
Čechův most, the Čech Bridge

We climbed up the million steps to the park, although there are also ramps, but they are much longer than the stairs.

At the bottom is Pražský metronom, Prague’s metronome. A giant metronome that was installed in 1991 on the site of a monument to Joseph Stalin.

Pražský metronom, Prague's metronome
Pražský metronom, Prague’s metronome

Nearby is the Hanavský Pavilon. It is one of the most impressive eclectic buildings in Prague. It was built as a pavilion representing the Komárovský Blast Furnaces for the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891.

Today it houses a restaurant with a fantastic view of the city.

Hanavský Pavilon
Hanavský Pavilon

While we were here, two curious things happened to us. We decided to have a coffee while admiring the view. When it was time to pay with a 200 CZK note (the last one we had left) the girl wouldn’t accept it. She told us that it was an old note that stopped working on 31 December 2022. If we wanted to change it, it had to be in a Czech bank.

The banknote was “placed” in a grocery shop on the corner of Letenská Street and U Lužického semináře. It’s a good way to get rid of black money… to give it to tourists.

While we were sipping our coffee, thinking about how to change the ticket, a message began to sound over the loudspeaker throughout the city. A few minutes after it stopped, the bomb siren started to sound. Fortunately they were only testing it.

Anti-bomb siren

We finished our coffee and thought about where to change our banknotes. Then we remembered that there was a change machine in the castle baths. So that’s where we headed for a brisk walk.

Right next to the park is Chotkovy sady, the Chotek gardens. Founded in 1832, it was the first public park in Prague, under the Summer Palace of Queen Anne.

It is a wooded park with more than 55 species of plants. Inside is a monument to the poet Julius Zeyer. It is a cave in which there are sculptures representing characters from his works.

Chotkovy sady, the Chotek gardens
Chotkovy sady, the Chotek gardens

The gardens belong to Letohrádek královny Anny, the Summer Palace of Queen Anne. It is a Renaissance building in the Royal Garden of Prague Castle. It was built between 1538 and 1560 at the eastern end of the Royal Garden. It was a gift from Ferdinand I to his wife Anna Jagiellonian.

Letohrádek královny Anny, the Summer Palace of Queen Anne
Letohrádek královny Anny, the Summer Palace of Queen Anne

The chateau gardens are beautiful and have several remarkable features. These include the Fontána se sochou Herkula or Míčovna v Královské zahradě, the ballroom.

The hall building was built between 1567 and 1569 as a place for ball games. Later it was used as stables and during the reign of Joseph II as a military storehouse.

Today it is mainly used for art exhibitions, concerts and important social events.

Míčovna v Královské zahradě

In front of the building there was a couple having a wedding photo session. Nice place.

Now we are on our way to the change machine.

We arrived, went into the toilet and… BINGO! accepts the 200 CZK note and gives us change in… 10 COINS! It was like a slot machine.

It was time to leave the city. But first we had to eat. We picked up our things from the hotel and headed for the pub where we had eaten so well the day we went to Kutná Hora.

But on the way we had a stop: Jeruzalemmská synagoga, the Jerusalem synagogue. Unfortunately it was closed. But the outside of the building was beautiful.

Jeruzalemmská synagoga, the Jerusalem synagogue
Jeruzalemmská synagoga, the Jerusalem synagogue

We arrived at the pub. The waiters were different from the previous day. We sit down, I take the menu of the day. The waiter arrives, takes it out of my hands and tears it up saying: “menu finish”.

I get up, give him an expletive in Spanish (I’m sure he more or less understands me) and we leave. Twice you don’t laugh in my face.

We end up eating at a chain hamburger joint in the station.

At 2 pm we take the bus to the airport. The ticket is 100 CZK (4.20€). Guess how we paid… right, we loosened the 200 CZK in 10 coins…

At 17.20 the return flight took off on time…

What to do in Prague

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