I was told by a friend of mine that I must visit the Old Jewish Quarter in Prague and suggested a tour might be best so I would understand what I was looking at.
I did some research and found a Wittman Tours, which has specialized in Jewish tours in Prague and throughout the Czech Republic since the 1980s. Wittman Tours was kind enough to offer me a complimentary ticket to their group tour last Tuesday. It wasn’t a big group, just nine people, which was not too overwhelming.
The tour guide Matthew was tall and slim in his 30s and seemed very scholarly with his great depth of knowledge of Jewish history. He is only part Jewish but he told us many personal stories about his relatives who were part of the Holocaust.
We visited four of the most important synagogues including the Spanish, Maisel, Pinkas and Klausen plus the Old-New synagogue, the oldest active surviving one in Europe, completed in 1270. Surprisingly the Old-New synagogue was built and designed by Christian architects, resembling Gothic churches of the same era with a double nave with six vaulted bays. It was quite small and the most interesting part was the iron cage in the middle, which I had never seen before in a synagogue.
Although many synagogues and Jewish structures were demolished during the WW II, the buildings in Prague were miraculously saved only because the Nazis wanted make them into a museum to show an extinct race.
The highlight of the tour was the Jewish cemetery close by the Old New Synagogue. Operational from the first half of the 1400s until 1786, the cemetery has laid to rest some key figures in Czech Jewish history including Rabbi Jehuda Live ben Becalel, businessman Mordecai Maisel, historian David Gans and Rabbi David Oppenheim. The serenity of the cemetery was so calming, as Paris has been so tense it recent months with sirens going off all the time and heavy security all over town. The sun poured over the petrified tombstones of the cemetery and underneath the green grass glistened along with that wonderful, unmistakable autumn aroma of dried leaves, moss and dirt.
Wittman Tours http://www.wittmann-tours.com/
On Friday morning I took a one-hour train ride from Prague to Kutna Hora, which is the site of the Sedlec Ossuary. Also known as the bone church, the Sedlec Ossuary or the Cemetery Church of All Saints, it contains approximately 40,000 to 70,000 human skeletons.
The original site was an abbey cemetery where thousands of people were buried from the Black Death in the mid 14th century and the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century. After the 15th century a half blind monk was given the task of arranging the bones and skulls in the church.
I initially thought it would be creepy and uncomfortable to view so many dead remains but I actually found it quite beautiful and pristine in an odd way with the symmetry of the stacks of bones and skulls and the shades of white, cream and beige.
Tips for visiting the Sedlec Ossuary:
1. Don’t buy your ticket online, buy it at the train station in Prague. The website was charging 18€ for the ticket and at the train station it was only 7.50€ round trip.
2. Also, when you reach Kutna Hora, there’s a small train that connects there that goes to the next stop where the church is.
There are many other things to see in Kutna Hora including UNESCO designated churches and buildings plus a silver mine.
Eye Prefer Paris Postcards
I am thrilled to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Postcards, a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription service where the subscriber receives three physical postcards of my iconic Paris photos every month. Each month will have a specific theme, from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens to unique shots of iconic monuments. Each mailing will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, beautifully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder with a custom designed seal.
Each 6” X 4.25” traditional size postcard is printed on thick matte coated card stock, similar to traditional vintage postcard stock that enhances the vibrancy of every image.
Only $30 for a 3-month subscription plus shipping or
Only $60 for a 6 month subscription (plus shipping)or
$110 for a 12-month subscription (plus shipping)
Click here to order a 3-month subscription from my Etsy store
Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more. In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.
Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.