And before we knew it, there was only one day left in Prague. We decided to spend the last day visiting the three main things that we had previously missed, the Vikyre Play Skylights, the Jewish Quarter, and St. Agnes’ National Art Museum.
We started the day visiting, what we had affectionally termed the “tactile museum”, Vikyre Play Skylights Museum. It puts music into the hands of the visitors, letting him or her explore how changes in length, thickness affects the musical sound produced.
These are our attempts at playing the harp, which registered the vibrations of the different notes on the back of the seat.
If you rubbed your wet hands, alternatively on the handles of this Chinese Bowl, you could create enough vibrations to make the water ripple or even jump. Andrew was the most skilled of the three of us in this endeavor. In the third photo you can see the water jumping!!
Afterwards, we explored a large drum that had sand placed on top, as you moved the sand the vibrations resonated within the cylinder creating different sounds. Part of the fun was just drawing images in the sand.
Dad played the drums and was even kind enough to pose for us!
Then there was the musical chair. The boys both started pedaling and all we heard were farting noises. Although funny, not what was advertised as beautiful music. To me the bag appeared more like a bagpipe and so the problem was that they were peddling too slowly. I figured that with faster pedaling we could keep constant air flow and thus have some music. And the rest is history, Dad and I became a music making team!!!
Truthfully, I am still not sure what this cocoon was supposed to teach us. We tried to make it swing, but that was not possible because it weighted far too much! (I also think it’s constructed against people like us.)
Additionally, there is a small studio where you can record your own musical creations. We decided that it would have been fun to have visited with someone who plays music. That’s not to say we did not enjoy putzing around with the different instruments, we just would have liked to see someone put them to good use.
After visiting the “tactile museum” we headed to the Jewish Quarter, also known as Josefov. There are more than six different museums/synagogues to visit, the Old Cemetery and the Old Jewish Town Hall. Knowing the city was occupied, it seems strange that the Nazi forces did not demolish this ghetto; however, according to plans, Hitler wanted to preserve the site in order to create an “exotic museum” of the extinct race. Fortunately, it now serves as a chance to exalt the religion, instead of his sinister plan.
We commenced our visit at the Pinkas Synagogue, which now serves as a museum displaying the names of all the victims in the greater Prague area to the Nazi Regime. In the upper register is an exhibit of art produced by young children who were sent to Terezin, the camp from where 80% of the inhabitants were sent to death camps such as Auschwitz. The art spoke of faith and hope and for me was the most moving part of the tour.
We also visited the Klausen Synagogue, which served to display the ritual practices of the community before arriving at the Old Cemetery. The Old Cemetery has been in use since the early 15th century. The oldest tombstone recorded is from 1439. The tombstones are placed in layers making it difficult to determine how many are buried here; however, most estimates place the figure near 100,000.
According to tradition, it is forbidden to remove graves and their markers meaning that when space was sparse and they could not buy more land, they added soil on top of the existing graves. The end result is this graveyard filled with tombs of the Josefov district.
From here we visited the Maisel Synagogue which houses a museum dedicated to displaying the ceremonial rites of burying the dead. Below is a photo of the exterior of the museum.
Since everything is tightly contained within the Josefov quarter, it is easy to move from one place to another. Before heading to lunch, we visited the Old New Synagogue. It is one of the Oldest active synagogues. Its name is derived from the fact that when it was constructed it was considered to be the New synagogue of the city. However, this older synagogue no longer stands, causing it to be the Old New Synagogue.
Before visiting the last synagogue on our tour, we stopped for lunch at Kolkovna. Fueled by good food, we set off to see the Spanish Synagogue which was right around the corner.
You are not supposed to take photos, but since it was so crowded and a few visitors around me were taking them, I decided to add some to my collection. They are not well centered, but they should give an idea of the ornate mudejar decoration of this synagogue.
Upon finishing our tour of the Josefov, Jewish Quarter, we split ways. Dad and I went to visit the Medieval Art Collection at St. Agnes, while Mom and Andrew walked around (to be honest I am not exactly sure how they occupied their time).
The museum houses a phenomenal display of Medieval art, exhibited in a way that makes it easy for comparisons between the different styles and artists. I was constantly reminded of our lessons by Shirin Fozzi on the different techniques used to produce these works of art. After what the others claimed was a long while, we reunited and headed off to pick up souvenirs for friends and family before heading back to the apartment to ensure everything was packed and ready to go. My parents had an early early early flight the next morning and we wanted to enjoy our last dinner instead of being worried about packing up suitcases.
With everything ready to go, we headed off to Romantik. Remember how I previously mentioned that we wanted to have dinner in a cave that we could not find. While they were packing I did a little hunting and learned that the restaurant still existed, but had changed names. Since we had originally wanted to visit it, we decided we would spend our last meal together in a cave. It was delicious food and the perfect end to our adventure together.
I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to visit Prague with my family. I know that it is a trip we will all fondly remember for the rest of our lives. A part of the world and history came alive for me during our week in Prague. Books do not do it justice and being able to speak with people, hear their stories and walk through the streets are invaluable memories and experiences for me.