Prague: Jewish Museum, Lobkowicz Palace, Randomness
Prague’s Jewish Museum
After breakfast, I started my day by using my mapping app to navigate to the Jewish Museum of Prague. Despite it being marked on the map, it doesn’t exist as such. At least, not as a single building. Prague’s Jewish Museum is a collection of five old synagogues, a cemetery, a ceremonial hall, and an art gallery spread over a few blocks of the Jewish Quarter of Prague.
What my mapping app marked as the Jewish Museum was the ticket office, located beside the Spanish Synagogue.
In addition to putting themselves on display, the shuls exhibited artifacts, along with panels of text and the occasional headphone providing descriptive and interpretive commentary on Prague’s Jewish community’s history culture and religious practices.
By the way, the Jewish Quarter wasn’t what I was expecting. I imagine it was much different back in the day, but today there are almost no Jewish stores or restaurants to be found there. At least, not that I saw. The exceptions were the occasional souvenir shop offering cheap Judaica near a couple of the sites.
The shops in the district sported many international brands, some high end, some not. The streets looked generally like the photo to the right.
The Pinkas Synagogue is now largely a memorial to the Shoah. Panels on many of its walls inscribe in dense script the names, dates of birth, and dates of death of Czechs and Moravians murdered in the holocaust. Not surprisingly, the dates of death of the exceptionally small sample of names I looked at were all in the early 1940s.
The synagogue also provided a computer kiosk that people could use to search the names in a database.
Old Jewish Cemetery
The exhibits in the ceremonial hall all related to the burial society. I didn’t see any text saying so, but I assume that means that was the function of the hall.
Don’t ask me why there was a statue memorializing Franz Kafka immediately beside the Spanish Synagogue other than he was Jewish and from Prague. A reader more fervent than I am may want to try to find a connection specifically to the Spanish Synagogue, if indeed there is one. Or not.
There must be a legend associated with Kafka’s shoes, or the statue’s shoes. Many tourists rubbed them. I didn’t. That omission will likely doom me. Or not.
Roberta Guttmann Gallery
The Roberta Guttman Gallery is a small, one-room art gallery. I believe it mounts only temporary shows. When I was there it held a show of drawings, paintings and sculptures of Jaroslav Róna.
Don’t ask me about the “New” in the name of the Old-New Synagogue. It’s old. Period.
The pamphlet handed out there said is the oldest landmark in Prague’s Jewish Quarter and one of the oldest surviving synagogues in Europe. It was built in the latter quarter of the 13th century. But the pamphlet said nothing about “New.”
Note: The continuous rain that the weather forecast had long threatened for today held off until well after I finished touring the buildings of the Jewish Museum. In fact, it never amounted to more than a few, brief intermittent light showers. Because I’m a devout atheist, I read nothing into the long-predicted steady rain not arriving on the day I visited five shuls. But, in case I’m wrong, thanks Hashem.
The Lobkowicz Palace, which is just below Prague Castle and inside its security cordon, houses the private collection of a formerly noble, formerly very rich Czech family, the Lobkowiczes, that traces its heritage back centuries. The collection includes family portraits dating to medieval and Renaissance times, other paintings, old ceramic place settings, weapons and armour, musical instruments, and an original Beethoven musical score (Eroica symphony).
Look at that cannon in one of the pictures below. Now compare it to the electrical outlet near the top, right of centre of the picture. What was that cannon used for? Munchkin wars?
All of that was just on the second floor of the Lobkowicz Palace. I can’t tell you what the first floor contained because that floor, along with the café that allegedly offers gorgeous panoramic views, was closed this afternoon for a private function.
The person at the ticket office assured me that all of the good stuff is on the second floor. I bet she says that to everyone who makes the trek on a day when the first floor is closed for a private function.
Here are some random streetscapes, buildings and river views from my strolls. About that photo of the musicians, I unexpectedly stumbled on a small festival going on down by the Vltava River. Those musicians were playing as part of the festival.