Sunday, August 20, 2006

Prague, Day 1.

Ran errands in the morning (i.e. find internet cafes, nearby tearoom and bakery for morning breakfast, find supermarket/post office, etc).

In the afternoon, I headed to Josefov, the nearby Jewish quarter (my hostel is very nicely located only 1 block away from the main center square) where I admired the amazingly beautiful Spanish Synagogue built in moorish style and its insides decorated with golden arabesques. Incredible.

Now, pretty much the whole of Josefov in Prague has been made into a museum, you can buy a combined ticket that lets you in most of the monuments (cementery, a couple of synagogues, exhibits, etc), which is not, by the way, all that cheap. Only one building is excluded on this combo ticket, and it is the Old-New Synagogue, which is the oldest Synagogue in Europe that is still in use.

Now, if you thought it a bit odd that one has to pay to visit a "church" (I've always thought that worship should be a free exercise, and admiring where others worship should be free too, as it is a kind of "worship by proxy", but anyway, I am not here at the moment to talk to you about politics...), imagine what I thought when I discovered that the price to visit this particular one was no less than 200 Czech crowns, which is a little over two thirds of the price of the admissions ticket to all the other Jewish Museum (i.e. Josefov) buildings and exhibits combined (and for you currency conversion weenies let me point out that 200 CZK is almost 10 bucks--nine, to be exact!).

Well, the Old-New Synagogue must then be a jaw-dropping sight then, right? Even if the exterior is deceptively...ascetic?

Nah. The interior is just as barren and featureless as the outside. There is only 1 dilapidated room you can visit, and on the outside, a stone or two ruins of the older parts of the building. My advice to you? Skip it. The ticket price is unabashed unarmed robbery.

Anyway, in the evening I went to listen to the Dvořák Symphony Orchestra play the Prague/NY master's 5th (a.k.a. the 9th, or in other words the sublimely beautiful, "From the New World", probably my favorite symphony, a fitting performance for this wanderer's travels in Prague, you'd agree), which prompted my unvoiced remarks:

" old is the director of the Dvořák Symphony Orchestra? So young, and in so much of a hurry...."

Honestly, this has got to be the worst performance of the 9th I've heard, and that includes the uncoordinated and oft out of tune Guadalajara Symphony. The concert hall provided very good sonority, though (as you could tell by the overwhelming brass and the woodwinds, whose monotone counterpoint easily drowned out all of the strings during what should've been beautiful violin melodic passages and cello fugues). Oh well.

Luckily, for such situations there's always the internet.

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