Sunday, January 27, 2013

An Unofficial Walking Tour of Prague (Read: Scavenger Hunt)

After getting through a few minutes of administrative details, the students from the three CET programs in Prague--Jewish Studies, Central European Studies, and Film Studies--were mixed up into 12 groups and sent out into the city with a map and a scavenger hunt list. The grand total of our walking distance was something between 5-6 miles (though that number is not exact; we did a lot of backtracking because the whole point of the scavenger hunt was to learn where things are, and we didn't necessarily know ahead of time. We also only took the metro one once, and for once stop.) Below are some of the pictures from things I saw today (and one picture not from today:

This is the Estates Theatre, one of the "branches" (?) of the Czech opera house. We went there because we were supposed to collect a leaflet from the Don Giovanni Puppet Opera (also "?"), but apparently we were totally wrong, because they thought we were crazy. We also originally went to the main opera house, which is pretty close to our program's home base, and they told us to go here. Understandably, they heard only the "Don Giovanni" part of our question, and not the "puppet" part. There's an ice skating rink in front of the Estates Theatre, which we contemplated ditching the rest of the scavenger hunt to enjoy. (Instead, we got lunch. Vegetable risotto, in case you're wondering. Not many vegetarian options, though I heard the goulash was wonderful!)

(Not from today). This is the typical length of the escalators leading down into the subway stations. There's only three lines (all very easy to navigate), so I'm not sure whey they have to be so far underground. Also, people are very particular about escalator etiquette here: standers on the right, walkers on the left.

Very Communist deco above some hip soup restaurant.

Door! (I love doors. When I get a chance to do some exploring on my own with the camera that Aunt Emily sent me I'm hoping to find the best doors in Prague!)

The Rudolfinium is the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The statue in front is of Antonin Dvořák. We went here because each group was given a postcard with an unidentified landmark on it, and one of the tasks was to recreate the image on the postcard. The postcard my group got was of the Rudolfinium.
Conveniently, the Rudofinium is right across the street from the old Jewish quarter and the Jewish burial grounds, etc. One of the tasks was to collect a kippah from the synagogue. Though we didn't go into the museum (this picture, I think), I think that's part of the Wednesday tour that the Jewish Studies students are going on, and I plan on going back myself to explore the old Jewish quarter more extensively. 

This funky snow dude was in the back "yard" of the Old New Synagogue.

We thought we were really clever, and for some reason thought that Kafka was buried in the old Jewish cemetery right next to the Jewish Museum complex. (A picture of his grave was another item on the scavenger hunt list). Wrong. He's buried in the new Jewish cemetery. So that's another one for the to-do list. We also didn't get a chance to go into the cemetery because it costs money, but this view is from peeking over the high cement wall on the outside. I also plan on going back to explore the cemetery. I won't have class on Wednesdays after this week, so I'm hoping that will be my exploring day.
Better view of the gravestones, all on top of one another.

Still in the Jewish quarter. Not sure which synagogue this is. (Update: we think this is the Jewish Town Hall. Ricky is accountable if that's incorrect.)

Moving right along, this is in the middle of the Charles Bridge (and another item from our scavenger hunt list). For those among you who are non-Hebrew readers, the inscription above Jesus on the cross translates to "Holy Holy Holy, Lord of Hosts," and is originally from the book of Isaiah. It was apparently added to the top of the crucifixion in 1696 as a result of "improper court proceedings" against Elias Backoffen (according to the accompanying plaque), who was accused of "debasing the holy cross." The inscription was added to humiliate the Jewish community. (Love me some good old anti-Semitism?) 

Pretty view of the buildings right next to the Charles Bridge.

Looking out across the river from the Charles Bridge. Julie tells me this is THE Prague Castle. Guess I have to go explore!

After crossing the bridge, it feels like you're entering another century. The buildings are old, and colorful, and everything feels quaint and cute, although I'm sure it's all a tourist ploy.

We hiked up a long and hilly path, with the lights of the Strahov monastery in the distance as our beacon. It was a nice last trek--it had started to snow lightly, the lighting was perfect, and we had joined up with another group. The monastery was founded in 1149 (!). A brewery was started there in the early 17th-century, and the brewery restaurant is where the entire group was meeting up for dinner. 

Apple strudel for dessert!

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