Night Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Song of the Day: I dreamed a dream - Glee Cast
Mumisode of the Day: After dinner tonight, Mum got talking, as she is known to do, to the waiter. She was so long that the rest of us hid around the corner and gave her a bit of a thrill when she thought that she might have to get home by herself.
Today started very early. The people in the apartment next door were quite rowdy and were either moving house, having a big fight or redecorating. Gemma woke up and thought it was Mum moving the dining table so that she could hang out some of her beloved washing. Mum was up at 5:30 this morning to turn on the washing machine. The house is now covered with washing that is drying happily.
We set off after breakfast for the old Jewish Quarter. Everything is in walking distance in Prague. We are staying on Wenceslas Square or Fifth Avenue according to our host, and it is a short stroll to the Old Quarter and the river. The Jewish Quarter has several synagogues and was used during WWII as a ghetto to restrict Jewish movement before they were ultimately moved into concentration camps. These have now been turned into museums or monuments to the Jewish people who lost their lives during this time.
The oldest synagogue is the Old-New Synagogue built in 1290. It is quite small and is the oldest synagogue in Europe that is functioning. Amber was not impressed with the women's section. It is a stone annex on the outside that has holes into the main area so that women can listen to the service but cannot see anything that is going on.
We moved on into another synagogue that has not been used since WWII and has been turned into a monument. Inside, it is completely empty; the walls are painted white and are covered in tiny writing. The writing is made up of the names - in alphabetical order and categorised by family - of the Jewish people that lost their lives from this area. It is quite overwhelming to see the huge number of names on the walls. Every spare vertical surface is covered. The surnames are printed in capital red letters while the other words with birth and death dates are in black.
Upstairs is even more moving. The women's gallery houses some of the artwork done by children while they were housed in the ghetto. A great effort was made here to keep the children's lives as normal as possible. They performed plays, had school, played sport and created artworks that are now on display. Many of the pieces have the name of the child that created it, together once again with the birth and death date. It was pretty sad.
We had lunch in a vegan restaurant. Everyone but Amber was fairly lucky here. Amber somehow managed to end up with smoked tofu through most of her plate and she hates all things smoked. The rest of us were quite happy to return; Amber kept silent at this comment. Given the early start with the furniture removalists next door, everyone stopped for a coffee.
Tonight we have been out to listen to Smetana. It is Independence Day in Prague here and it marks the anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia which was created on this day in 1918 after WWI. As such it was very fitting that we were at a performance of 'Ma Vlast' or 'My Country' which was written by Smetana, a famous Czech composer known for his patriotic music. It was performed in the Municipal Building, a magnificent Art Noveau building with gold, mirrors and gilt windows which includes the Smetana Hall. It was a superb performance and we agree that it was better by far than our recording at home. Our favourite was the tympanist who was mouthing along with the tune, bopping his head and smiling his way through. The conductor was also awesome. He was only 34, and has won mulitple conducting awards. Somehow he managed to connect with every one of the performers on stage.
We returned to the restaurant in the Municipal Building for the third time so far. As you can tell it is one of our favourites. Once again it is decorated in the Art Noveau style. The reason it has become so popular with us is due to the man with his cake trolley. He wheels around the restaurant with these incredible and delicious cakes that just beg you to eat them. Very clever marketing strategy. Don't worry about going to look at the cake window; the cakes come to you! The restaurant also has its own live jazz band that is brilliant.
Tomorrow we are going exploring Prague Castle and Cathedral.