A Walk through Prague’s History

Oh Prague… how we love thee! Prague, Czech Republic has to be one of the most beautiful cities we’ve ever seen. It is definitely included in our top five places in Europe. The city boasts an assortment of remarkable architecture, ranging from Renaissance, Gothic, and baroque, to neoclassical, cubism, and art nouveau. Looking out over the city we noticed that many spires dot the city in what seem to go on forever. All of these magnificent buildings tell the history of Prague throughout the centuries and made an imprint on us as we visited. Of all the places we visited, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, and the Jewish Quarter in Prague topped the list.

Charles Bridge & Old Town Square

We walked our way across Prague’s famous Charles Bridge. It is a very touristy and crowded spot, and from what I’ve heard, it’s like that year round. As we made our way across the bridge, dodging other tourists trying to get their pictures and presents from vendors, we took notice of the different statues that line the unique bridge.

Next, we made our way to the Old Town Square where we saw the 500 year old Astronomical Clock and the rest of the Old Town. Men were playing accordions, and women were singing opera making the streets sound very lively.

The Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic

During our second day in Prague, we spent time in the Jewish Quarter and so we’ve termed it our “Jewish Day.” The Jewish Quarter consists of many historic and preserved Jewish buildings and synagogues. This includes the Prague Jewish Museum, whose collection only exists because the Nazis gathered objects from 153 Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia in order to plan a “museum of an extinct race.”

We weren’t allowed to take pictures in any of the synagogues, except for one. And we saw so many synagogues! We started with the Pinkas Synagogue. This is now a memorial to the Holocaust with the names of 77,297 Czech Jews inscribed on its walls.

Next to this synagogue is the Old Jewish Cemetery, which holds 12,000 visible tombstones with as many as 100,000 people buried there (12 layers deep!) dating back to 1439. The cemetery is full to the brim with tombstones, with some right on top of each other, showing partially erased Hebrew inscriptions.

We ended up seeing so many more synagogues within the Jewish Quarter of Prague. The Old New Synagogue is the oldest still-functioning synagogue in Europe, dating back to 1270. We saw the Klaus Synagogue, which contains many items pertaining to the everyday life and customs of Jews. Similarly, the Maisel Synagogue exhibits old Jewish items. Finally, the Spanish Synagogue, which was built in 1868, is very ornate with old Moorish architecture. We’ve never seen a synagogue with decor quite like this one and spent a lot of time gazing up at the intricacies and detail. 

Old New Synagogue

Our last stop was the Jerusalem Synagogue, built in 1906, and also known as the Jubilee Synagogue. While this isn’t located within the Jewish Quarter, we’re glad that we spent the extra time finding it. Sandwiched between two buildings, the synagogue is very unique with Moorish influences and a variety of patterns and colors.

John Lennon Wall

At this point, we decided to leave our Jewish self-guided tour and head back over the Charles Bridge. Given that we had seen about six synagogues, I think we were done! To end our stay in Prague, we went to the John Lennon wall.

After his murder, Lennon became a pacifist hero for many Czechs. Subsequently, the Czechs painted an image of him on this wall along with Beatles lyrics and political graffiti. Even though the police tried to paint over the wall numerous times, it became a focus for the youth of Prague who weren’t allowed to listen to Western pop music.

Later, after the fall of communism in the country in 1989, visiting tourists began to make their own contributions. It was only a few years ago that the city gave into the inevitable and “allowed” tourists and locals to leave their mark on the wall. Locals state that it never stays the same for long and you should leave your mark while you can. Naturally, we wrote a loving message from us on it.

All in all, we saw and did so much on our trip to Prague, Czech Republic that we found it impossible to put it all in one post. We really managed to pack a lot into four days! My next post will talk about the Prague Castle, cathedral, and gardens.  Stay tuned!