Lucky us, our apartment was pretty close by the Jewish quarter of Prague, one of the highly recommended neighborhoods. Initially I wanted to visit only the old cemetery, but this is not possible. There’s one type of tickets called Jewish museum and it will cover the entry in 5 synagogues and the cemetery, except the Old-New Synagogue which is the oldest active synagogue from Europe. If you want to take pictures you have to pay a fee.
The tickets can be bought from each site of the museum, we stayed at a small queue at the cemetery, since everyone was asking to visit only the cemetery and the woman working at the desk had to explain to each one that this is not possible. First we’ve visited Pinkas Synagogue, which had the interior walls covered with names of the jewish killed during WW2. A thrill will pass through your entire body seeing the small names in order to “accommodate” thousands of names. In the backyard old gravestones are awaiting for a fresh breath of humanity: grey or green, small, big, ruined stones lay one on each other since XV century. Walking around them, I couldn’t not observe the small stones arranged on the graves. It seems that in the old religion it is not allowed to have flowers in the cemetery and the stones are the memorial object used in Judaism, as symbol of keeping the dead inside his “permanent house” (grave in Hebrew).
The exit from the cemetery is between the Ceremonial Hall and Klausen Synagogue. The Ceremonial Hall contains objects and facts about preparing the recently deceased person for the “next level of life”. Sounds morbid, right? Maybe it is, but the place was quite crowded with people reading each explanatory note from the objects. One story I remember is that it was mandatory to wash your hands after a funeral – which is maybe the base of the saying “you washed your hands” (when something burdensome was solved or passed to another person). The Klausen Synagogue is somehow small and explains mainly about ceremonies in the Jewish life, Sabbath, marriage and even divorce. It seems that the widow without children is obliged to marry with the deceased’s brother, in case he wants that; and only at his wishes this arrangement can be canceled. Who am I to judge a religion and traditions, but we live in a new world and I, personally, don’t like religions or cultures which underestimate women. Anyway… on the street leading to the Old New Synagogue there are multiple stalls with all kind of things, most of them centered on Jewish culture, especially the Golem story.
Left on the itinerary are Maisel Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue. Unfortunately, we hadn’t visited the spanish one because it was already too much information to digest. It seems that the tickets are available for 7 days since the first use so we should have gone in another day, but we didn’t had this information at that time. And now to Maisel Synagogue, which was my favorite due to the multiple stories, especially the ones about Kabbala and mysticism – a subject I like. What I didn’t knew before was, that in the area Jews weren’t allowed to have some professions (working in agriculture for example) imposed by the rulers – and this in XVIII century. The entire social status of the community is told in this synagogue, from century to century.
For me this part of the day was interesting, especially because my favorite Romanian writer was Jewish (during WW2) and when I was 15 I was thinking to convert to Judaism – which, of course, was impossible! In case you want to learn more and more about WW2 massacre by visiting, you can have a day trip to Terezin concentration camp. I decided not to visit it, because it is a sensitive subject for me… I think I will remember my entire life the monument from my hometown’s Jewish cemetery on which was written “Here lay the soaps made from Romanian Jews living in the city during WW2″…