Saturday, December 25, 2010


It was a clear, almost sunny day in late October; I had a thick, woolen sweater on me, and yet I felt chills all over my body. My brain was busy translating sights into people and happenings, my camera 'behaved' as if it highly resented the idea of taking pictures.
Visiting a place which used to serve as ghetto, prison and concentration camp was not an enjoyable experience .

Terezin (Teresienstadt) , a peaceful little town one hour north of Prague. has been turned by the Nazis into a ghetto for the jews of Czechia and adjacent countries during World War Two.

Things are somehow dispersed here, confusing the first time visitor. There's the main site (the city Ghetto) and a small fortress ( Gestapo political prison) - some twenty minutes walk apart from each other. Both places have museums and exhibitions , cemeteries, yards, barracks, torture cells, bunks, gallows - all testimony to the attrocities that have been comitted here by the Nazis.

'Arbeit Macht Frei ' sign ( upon the inner gate)

inhuman cell

Outside of the small fortress (Mala Pevnost - built in the 18 century on the edge of the town of Terezin) , near the entrance, there's the National Cemetery , dedicated to the victims of Terezin prison and concentration camp. Buried here are people exhumated from the mass graves within the fortress, urns containing ashes from the Crematorium of the Ghetto, and also remains of the dead from the Ghetto. In all, 10,000 victims (jews and other nationalities - and there 's a Cross and a David's Shield on the spot).

entrance to the small fortress

national cemetery

I believe , a visiti to places like Terezin (Czech Republic) , Dachau (Germany), Auschwitz (Poland) gives one a new perspective to the concepts of Life and Death; it teaches a lot about Human Nature , about Evil and Suffering. After visiting places like the above mentioned , one's view of the world ceases to be romantic , and becomes more lucid and realistic.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now You Come?!

I often hear people saying it's not wise to live too close to Nature's major elements; in fact, it's quite dangerous: forests present us with the danger of Fire, waters - danger of Floods, volcanoes - eruption of Lava and so on.
With the global climate becoming crazy (as a result of frequent nuclear experiments performed in various parts of the world), things are going to be worse as far as natural disasters are concerned.

At the beginning of this month, terrible fires broke out in the forests of Mt. Carmel in the north of Israel causing loss of lives, of property, and consumming thousands of acres of forestland. People living on the mountain and its surroundings (among them a cousin of mine and his family) had to evacuate themselves.

Rain would have saved the situation, but there was no sign of it.
It was hot and dry, and the fire was spreading so quickly (helped by a deceiving cool breeze) that the firefighters on the ground were totally helpless. PM Netanyau had to ask for foreign assistance. Firefighting aircraft sent by the other countries did a good job in extinguishing the fire (especially the russian plane capable of holding up to 42,000 liters of water) .

A week or so after the disaster, heavy rains started to fall all over the country. 'Now you come?!' raged the headlines in the newspapers.

Well, the rain and the storm accompanying it caused damage to all sorts of cables , (including my phone cable) leaving people without electricity, TV, internet, etc.. The phone company was supposed to send someone the next day to repair my cable, but the technician appeared after... several days. I was so angry , that all I could say to him when he came in was : Now you come?!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Old and Jewish

The blue sign located above the souvenir stands (see picture below), indicates by the little white arrows , the direction to the synagogues (Maisel, Spanish, Pinkas, Old-New, Klausen), to the Ceremony Hall, and to the Old Jewish Cemetery- the major sites that make up the Old Jewish Quarter of Prague (Josefov). These historic-religious sites are visited every year by thousands of people from all over the world.

souvenirs in the Old Jewish Quarter

The above mentioned sites, display items belonging to the Jewish Museum in Prague: collections of jewish prints, manuscripts, books, silver ornaments, textile, traditions ,customs, and also lots of drawings by children from Terezin concentration camp.

The Pinkas synagogue is a Memorial to the czech victims of the Holocaust ; their names are written on its walls.
The Old-New synagogue ( the Altneushul) is the oldest in Europe, still in use as house of prayer. The Spanish synagogue hosts, besides exhibitions, also various concerts.

It is forbidden to take pictures inside the synagogues ( the interior of the Spanish synagogue with its moorish decorations is , in my opinion, the most beautiful); visitors can buy postcards, books and commemorative coins offered for sale on the spot.

exterior of the Maisel synagogue

The Old-New synagogue (the Altneushul)

the Pinkas synagogue

The Old Jewish Cemetery is somehow peculiar and yet very impressive .

Although small, the cemetery contains thousands of graves from various historical periods; the oldest gravestone is from year 1439, and the last burial took place in 1787 .
It is said that the graves are put one upon another in some 12 layers! Many of the gravestones seem close to each other and inclined , probably because of
lack of space.

hebrew inscriptions on the tombstones

The most prominent figure burried in this cemetery is Rabbi Jehuda Loew ben Bezalel (known as the MaHaRaL) a scholar and educator who has published more than fifty(50) religios and philosophical books. According to the legend, he created the Golem, a monster made of clay , brought to life through magic, who stood by the Jews in bad times, but later became violent and had to be destroyed.

One thing is obvios; no peace and quiet for the dead of this cemetery. It's constantly flooded with tourists taking pictures and wondering about the sights.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Horses, Boats, and a Hug

A ride in a horse-drawn carriage and a cruise on the river , are popular and romantic ways to view a city like Prague. It is not for everyone though. Me, for instance, I'm rather shy, and the ride in a carriage is not for shy people; the glances and turning of heads of the passers-by might be embarassing.

ride in a horse-drawn carriage

As for a cruise, I'm not on very good terms with boats and ships. For some reason, I feel rather unwell on vessels. I've promised myself to 'work on it' , but there always seems to be something more important on my agenda. Pity!

Anyway, a cruise on the Vltava river offering spectacular views of its bridges (Karl bridge the most famous among them) and the landscape around including the Castle complex, The National Theatre, and more , is I suppose, a lifetime experience. I've noticed all kinds of boats there and the possibility of various tours according to duration, price, luxuries.

evening on the Quay; there are also night cruises

On Petrin Hill, they offer assisted rides on horses and ponies. Near the funicular terminal, there's a sculpture (mentioned by me in a previous post) showing an embrace between a man and woman (both naked). Two little ones , brother and sister, were intensely looking at it, giggling and discussing it. I wished I could understand the language. Perhaps I could have learnt something ...'out of the mouths of babes'. Sometimes kids surprise us with their wisdom and their mature understanding .

The father got angry with their interest in the statue, so he put them on a horse to keep them away from it. A horse- ride is not cheap, but then education does cost money.

horse riding on Petrin Hill