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Old Town Square, Prague
Bohemian Rhapsody:
Inside Prague's Jewish Quarter
(Dispatch #8)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

Prague Jewish Quarter brochures

y band of normally merry media and I – journalists, social media experts, bloggers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Bohemian Rhapsody itinerary through Prague, Vienna and Budapest – are about to do a complete, out-of-character about-face as we leave the upbeat, festive confines of Praha's Old Town Square and enter the darkest period in the Golden City's recent past as we go inside the Jewish Quarter.

With roots dating all the way back to the 10th century when Jews first arrived in Prague following the First Crusade, the Jewish Quarter was renamed Josefov (Joseph's City) in 1850 in honor of Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor who emancipated the Jews under the Toleration Edict of 1781.

Hebrew signage at Prague's Jewish Quarter

A tiny borough tucked inside and surrounded by Prague's Old Town district, Josefov serves as a grim reminder of man's inhumanity to man – the Nazi occupation of the city during World War II.

inscriptions on the walls of Memorial 77,297

As Jaroslav, Insight's local art-historian guide, explained, "The Nazi's spared the Jewish Quarter, not so its residents, as it envisioned to use the space to showcase its planned museum of an extinct race." He added, "The Third Reich was gathering Jewish artifacts from across Nazi-occupied Europe to eventually be put on display in Josefov."

Once home to more Jewish people than any other place in the world, today's Jewish Quarter consists of only six synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Old Jewish Town Hall. Collectively, they are known as the Jewish Museum of Prague.

Donning a yarmulke, the traditional Jewish skullcap worn by men, I join the rest of my group as we begin our tour of Josefov inside the 500-year-old Pinkas Synagogue and its quiet tribute to Czech Jews who perished during the Holocaust.

Known as Memorial 77,297, the number of Czech Jews who fell victim to Adolf Hitler's mass-scale genocide program, the walls in the main maze and adjoining rooms are inscribed with the names of the deceased.

Arranged by villages and last names, this silent roll call leaves us all speechless as we quietly pass in review.

gravestones at the Old Jewish Cemetery

We take leave of Pinkas Synagogue and enter the small, adjacent Old Jewish Cemetery containing 12,000 gravestones laid down between 1439 and 1787, but tens of thousands more unmarked souls are believed to be resting in peace well below the markers.

interior views of the 13th-century Old-New Synagogue

Of the six synagogues still standing in Josefov, most impressive is the 13th-century Old-New Synagogue. It's the oldest, active Jewish house of worship outside Israel.

Not to be missed is the gilded Spanish Synagogue, so named because of its Moorish Revival style.

We visit both and are impressed by the priceless and precious religious artifacts on display, all reclaimed following Nazi Germany's defeat.

scenes inside the Jewish Quarter, Prague

Despite what you may think, a visit to Prague is not complete until you've spent time in Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. It does much to explain why the Golden City of today is so very much alive.

Insight Vacation's Bohemian Rhapsody brochure

For complete information on Insight Vacations' premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

If you'll join me at 7:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Art Nouveau Palace Hotel, we'll hop back on the motor coach and glide on over to one of Prague's popular landmarks: a 500-year-old brewery with lots of oom-pah-pah. It'll be an all-you-can-guzzle dinner on Insight's euro!

Related Articles:
Bohemian Rhapsody: Prague's Old Town Square; Bohemian Rhapsody: Glassblowing 101; Bohemian Rhapsody: Crossing the Charles Bridge; Bohemian Rhapsody: Storming the Prague Castle; Bohemian Rhapsody: Na Zdraví! (A Brewery and A Wine Cellar); Czeching Out A Bohemian Rhapsody; The Czech Republic – A Little Jewel, Part 2

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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