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Day Four: Josefov and Nové Mĕsto

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I spent the morning in Josefov (Jewish Town). There are very few Jews living in Prague today, but until World War II, the city was considered one of the great Jewish cities of Europe. Josefov was the center of activity for the Jewish community.
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There are several synagogues in the area including the Maisel Synagogue
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and the Pinkas Synagogue.
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Another interesting site was the Old Jewish Cemetery. I hadn’t paid to go in, so I just got a peek through a window.
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It’s a very crowded cemetery. During the 15th century, the government wouldn’t allow Jews to bury their dead anywhere but on this small plot of land, so they were forced to bury people twelve deep. The tombstones were placed one in front of another.

The Old-New Synagogue is Europe’s oldest remaining Jewish house of worship and has been used for more than 700 years.
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After I left Josefov, I went to St. Wenceslas Square, which is not really a square, but a street. It is in the Nové Mĕsto (New Town) part of Prague, not that it’s “new” in American terms.
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At the end of Wenceslas Square is the National Museum. It’s an imposing building. It was actually damaged in 1968 when Soviet soldiers mistook it for a government building and shot at it.
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In front of the museum is a statue of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia.
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A little further into Nové Mĕsto is the home where the composer Antonín Dvořák lived. It is now a museum dedicated to him and his music.
Inside, I saw his writing desk, his Cambridge graduation robe, his viola and some other personal effects.
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There were also some displays about his music.
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After I finished at the museum, it was still early in the afternoon and I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of my day. I decided to take the metro back to my hotel for a little break and to think about what to do next. So, I consulted with my handy travel guide and decided to make a visit to the St. Agnes Convent. I’m so glad I did, because it was one of the highlights of the trip. It is a beautiful building that now houses a museum of medieval art. The reason I liked it so much was that it was off the beaten path a bit. I had become a little weary of the tourists, so this was a nice break from the crowds.
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Instead of taking the metro back to the hotel, I decided to take a long walk back to Old Town along the Vltava River. I really enjoyed the peaceful walk. There are several beautiful bridges including the Čechův Most and the Mánesův Most. And, of course there is the Charles Bridge.
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As I was walking, I came across a little square where I saw a statue of Antonín Dvořák. I didn’t know it was there, so it was funny that I came across it on the day I visited his museum.
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For dinner, I went to a restaurant near the Charles Bridge at the Hotel U Zlatého Stromu and had some goulash in their sidewalk dining area. It was fun to sit and look through the pictures I had taken during the day and watch all the tourists on their way to the Charles Bridge.

Posted by kehromada 15:23 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (0)

Day Five: Tábor

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On Friday morning, I boarded the train for a short ride to the Czech town of Tábor. There wasn’t much to see from the train, but I took a few pictures of the countryside.
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The reason I decided to visit Tábor is that it is the town where my great-grandfather, Josef Hromada, was born in 1871. He later lived in Vienna and then immigrated to the U.S. in 1893. Although I don’t know exactly where he lived in Tábor, it was fun to sort of walk in his shoes for a day.

My first stop was to check in at the beautiful Hotel Nautilus on the town square, Žižkovo Square.
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I only spent one night in town, so I splurged a little bit on the hotel. It was really nice and I had a great view of the square from my window.
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The town of Tábor was founded in 1420 by a man named Jan Žižka. Žižka, for whom Žižkovo Square is named, was a follower of Jan Hus (remember him from the Bethlehem Chapel?). There is a statue of Žižka in the middle of the square.
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Here are some other views of Žižkovo Square:
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As it turns out, Tábor, even though it is rather small, has a few tourist attractions, most of which are right on the square. I started at the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. It was closed for renovations, but they had a back door open, so I was able to get a peek inside.
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They also allow visitors to climb the stairs up the bell tower. The stairs could more accurately be described as ladders. I didn’t like that very much, so I didn’t quite make it to the top. But, I did get a nice view from this window.
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The Museum of the Hussite Movement, which is in the old Town Hall, was next. The museum had a lot of information about the Hussites who started the town of Tábor.
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Unfortunately, most of the displays were in Czech, so I didn’t learn all that much. After I went through the museum, I took a guided tour through the underground tunnels that are under the town square. The tour was also entirely in Czech, but I did learn that the tunnels had been built in the 15th century as an escape route for residents in case the city was attacked. Families also used them as shelters if their homes burned, which was common at that time. I can’t imagine living in such a cold, dark place, but I guess they did what they had to do.
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The other big attraction is Kotnov Castle. The castle was built in the 14th century and holds a museum about the Middle Ages.
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The outside is under renovations, but I still got some nice views of the town from the tower.
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The castle was built as part of the city wall, parts of which you can still see.
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After having lunch at a restaurant on the square, I spent most of the afternoon just wandering around. The narrow streets wind around in every direction. The town was built that way on purpose to confuse any would-be attackers. I didn’t try to figure out where I was; it was fun to just walk around and look at the houses.
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As I was walking, I found Husi Square. Here I saw the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary
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and a small photography museum called the Šechtl & Voseček Museum of Photography.
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The museum was a collection of photos taken in Tábor at the end of the 1800s. Some of them were taken when my great-grandfather probably would have been living there, so it was neat to see the city the way he saw it. There was one picture of the town square packed with people for the unveiling of the new statue of Jan Žižka. I wonder if he could have been in that picture. It’s fun to think about being in the same places he was.

I had dinner at another restaurant on the square called Budvarka U Zlateho and then sat on a bench in the square for a while.100_2114.jpg
It’s a very quiet town square, especially compared to the Old Town Square in Prague.
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Posted by kehromada 15:38 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (0)

Day Six: Arrival in Vienna

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On Saturday, I got on the train again and went to Vienna. This trip was a little longer and I had to make a tight connection in Linz, Austria, but everything went smoothly.

When I got into Vienna, I checked into the Hotel Karntnerhof. This is also a nice hotel with a great location. It was just a couple blocks from St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which is one of the city’s major landmarks, but it was on a quiet street. It even has a roof terrace.
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Also near my hotel was the Mozarthaus, one of the buildings in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived, which has now been turned into a great museum dedicated to the composer. Mozart and his family lived in the building from 1784 to 1787, and during that time period he wrote the opera The Marriage of Figaro.
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There are three levels in the museum: one focuses on the life of Mozart, one on his music and one is arranged as his apartment would have been. It was all very well done and interesting.

After the museum, I walked to Stadtpark, a really nice park with monuments for several famous people including composers Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss. The Strauss statue was under renovation, so this is just a replica.
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Then, I had just enough time to take the metro to another park, The Prater, before dark. The Prater is a huge park that includes carnival games, roller coasters and the famous Ferris wheel, the Riesensrad. The Riesensrad is made up of several enclosed carriages that hold about 20-30 people. It was built in 1897 as a temporary exhibition for an event honoring the anniversary Franz Joseph’s coronation, but it has been so popular that it is still going today.
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The park was packed with people and the line to get on the Riesensrad was long, so it was starting to get dark by the time I got on. I was still able to get some great views of the city from 232 feet in the air.
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After the Riesensrad, I went back to my hotel and had dinner at the restaurant that is next door. I have no idea how to pronounce this one: Palatschinkenpfandl.

Posted by kehromada 17:13 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (0)

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