The Weekend in Photos
The Weekend Part I: Home Alone
My weekends technically start Thursday evenings, since I don’t have any classes on Fridays. That said, I didn’t really do much weekend-y stuff on Friday. I woke up early like normal and came to school to get a letter I had written to Babi edited.
Then I went home to spend the afternoon playing in the flat with Jachym.
In early evening, Anna left for a weekend trip with her friends to a mountain town, and Filip took the kids to Anna’s village, leaving me home alone for the weekend. I went to Anděl to meet some friends for dinner, and then they came over for some svařák and krtek. Svařák is just the Czech name for mulled wine, which is known elsewhere in Europe as gluhwein, glogg, and typically as “hot wine.” Krtek is the adorable mole shown below; the star of Zdeněk Miler’s cartoon goes on adventures with his animal friends all over the world. I’m pretty sure Krtek is the most popular cartoon character in not only the Czech Republic, but also all of Europe. He is truly a classic, and the combination of mulled wine, curling up on the couch with friends, and an absolutely adorable cartoon (even if he is aimed at small children) made for a great Friday night.
I had great plans for Saturday. I was going to do homework and laundry and go to bed early. Or not…
Included in my plans was to meet Alyssa at the second annual Prague Burger Fest, which was as awesome as we hoped it would be. We started off by getting two beers to share, then we got in line for some burgers.
I had a lamb burger with goat cheese and plum chutney, and then a Hawaiin style burger, which meant it had grilled pineapple on it. Both burgers were fantastic and totally worth the long lines.
Not included in my original plans for the day was everything else we did. We started with a trip to a chocolate and nuts store, where we got ourselves a chocolate and yogurt covered afternoon snack, and then wandered around for a while. We then met some other friends at a tea room for afternoon tea, followed by a game of laser tag. Then we grabbed some dinner off the street – the first burrito I’ve had since I left California. No photo here, because it wasn’t all that great. (It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. But I’m from California, and I have some incredibly high burrito standards.)
Anyway, we wandered around the city for a bit and I took a bunch of night photos before we ended up at an amazing jazz bar with amazing life music and some pretty kick-ass mixed drinks.
When the music ended at midnight (4 hours of amazing live music for a mere 50 crowns!), we moved on to Martina’s favorite spot, which was a tiny little pub that I literally would’ve walked by without a second glance had she not ducked in. From the outside its just another building and another black door, but inside was lit by candles, filled with only locals, and full of cheap beer and lots of fun.
By the time I got home (3 am!) I was more than a little bit exhausted, and not at all ready to wake up at 6:30 for another long day.
The Weekend Part II: Trip to Trebič
Nonetheless, wake up early is exactly what I did. And had an amazing day learning about the Jewish history of Trebič, which is a relatively small town about 2 hours south of Prague. Interestingly, Trebič is also about 20 kilometers from Anna’s family’s village, which meant that I was less than a half hour from my host family all day long. When we arrived in Trebič, the day was cloudy and cold, but that wasn’t about to stop me from taking photos of the old buildings in the Jewish quarter.
This was, ultimately, an educational trip, so I will do my best to impart unto you some of the stuff I learned. Architecturally, our professor talked a lot about the different things the Jews had to do to deal with their limited space. The Jewish quarter in Trebič is about two square blocks, and at times each building had 15-20 people living in it. The Jews used really ingenious techniques to make their houses larger than the true square footage they had by building up. Obviously, they couldn’t block the streets because people and carts needed to move around, so they used arches and clever designs to make the second and higher floors of houses larger than the first floors. The arches supporting the second floor that come into the street are commonly found in houses that were built in the Jewish ghettos. They allowed the second floor an extra four to five feet while preserving the street space for carts and shops. Similarly, they used arches between two buildings to allow the buildings on either side of a pathway be higher.
Another thing I saw that was really interesting were the muzuzahs. Jews in the Czech Republic cut space into the plaster of each doorway for the Torah portion, where they were covered in decorative plates, which is apparently different than the Jews in other countries.
In many Jewish ghettos around Europe, they’ve been taken down, destroyed, or ignored. The ghettos themselves have often been destroyed or repurposed to the point where they are unidentifiable. In Trebič, however, the citizens banded together after WWII, when only a dozen Jews out of 300 returned, in order to preserve the history. Trebič is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site that is entirely Jewish, and its entirely because the non-Jews in the town worked to preserve the reality of their past. We visited one of the two synagogues in the Jewish quarter, where our tour guide was not Jewish, because no one left in Trebič is.
Neither synagogue is used today for worship, but the only reason they survived is because the local order of Benedictine monks took it over, converting the synagogue to a church and using it as a place of Christian worship so that the communists couldn’t destroy it.
After our trip to the synagogue and through the Jewish quarter, we stopped by the St. Procopius Basilica. I think the difference between the synagogue and the basilica was the most interesting part of the trip for me. While the synagogue, though large, was mostly spartan, the basilica was huge and predictably filled with stained glass and fancy statues. Don’t get me wrong, both were beautiful, but I couldn’t help but feel like the two houses of worship mirror in a lot of ways the history of the two communities.
The last spot we visited in Trebič was the Jewish cemetery. Perhaps the most heartwrenching thing I’ve seen this trip were the graves with space for generations left empty because the family died off during the Holocaust. Similarly interesting, and almost frightening, were headstones with words scratched off because they were in German (German was the primary language of the Jews in Central Europe). The difficulty of the repercussions of the Holocaust is something that I almost can’t comprehend.
Last, but certainly not least, the day transitioned from cloudy and sad to absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t resist taking dozens of pictures of the beautiful trees (and really, the beautiful city), and now I can’t resist posting some of them now. Think of it as a feast for your eyes for the fact that you’ve made it through this entire post.