Tuesday--Wednesday, May 1-2
Left Ed and Kris's house way earlier than we needed to because Bob noticed that the airlines had gotten my name wrong on the ticket, adding "jr" after my name. Big warnings: ticket name must match name on passport. NO changes allowed." So we headed off to Miami way early to see what could be done. Got there to find no one expected at check-in until 5:00. When they opened, the nice young woman said, "Oh, no problem. I can fix that for you." And she did. Max hassle for absolutely nothing.
Mostly uneventful trip in steerage. Better than average food. Nice service. Not too long a layover Istanbul. Beautiful spring evening when we arrived. Lovely, perfect weather the whole time. Our apartment is in the old town, just a block from the river and on the edge of the Old Jewish Quarter. Our building is late 19th C, high ceilings, 5th floor with a lift. Nothing fancy but clean, tidy, and very convenient. We haven't used the kitchen at all, even for coffee. We have cafes on our block and all around us.
The city is so beautiful, with the architecture, brick streets, and very, very old. Luckily (well, because of German occupation--not so lucky), it missed the destruction of WWII. So the feel is very much that of a medieval city, sort of Bruges but bigger and busier, more cosmopolitan. On our first full day here, we had a personal guide through the old Jewish quarter, visiting several old synagogues, now used as museums, and the two still active congregations, all within just a few square blocks.
Our guide was very good, Czech not Jewish, with wide knowledge of the history and several languages. Born in 1975 whil Czechoslovakia was still under soviet control, he left to study in Rome at age 15 as soon as the communist government fell. Interesting man, still quite bitter about the Russian control. Interesting bit: VE Day is May 8, and on May 9th, 1945, Russian tanks rolled into Prague. Very hard to imagine so many decades, from one restrictive government to another.
Dinner that night, however, was at a Georgian (Russian) restaurant directly across the street from our flat. While advertised as Georgian, the walls are decorated with Cossack uniforms and hats, pictures--nothing from Georgia as far as we could tell. We speculated that it's kept here by the oligarchs as a familiar place to eat while doing business in Prague. Good food, the best borscht I've ever had.
So yesterday we toured the other side of the river, Prague Castle, St. Vitus church-- set on a hill with wonderful views of the city. Beautiful gothic cathedrals all over, and old squares connecting the various parts of the city. I think I have my days mixed up, but I know that Friday night we went Shabbat eve services at the Spanish Synagogue. It was built in 1868 as a reform synagogue to replace a traditional one built in the 12th C. Built, I believe, to honor the Jews expelled by Spain in 1492, the design is Moorish influenced by the Alhambra in Spain, with such intricate detail. Here' s one website www.Jewishmuseum.cz.
There are concerts going on all over the city with many of them just outside our door. Last night we attended a concert at Tyn Church, a huge cathedral on the Old Town Square, built in 1385, immense and ornate. The program, the Royal Czech Orchestra, included Vivaldi's Four Seaons, Sping and Summer, and I'm going to stop here and continue because the website is acting up