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IMAGES: GETTY; MAREK MUSIL


NEIGHBOURHOOD


Josefov’s Spanish Synagogue, so-called for its distinctive Moorish architecture LEFT: Vineyards above Vinohrady at Havlíček Gardens


Josefov The Spanish Synagogue doesn’t look much like a synagogue — the Moorish arches and keyhole windows feel like they belong to an Andalusian mosque. It’s completely out of place — but that’s in keeping with what the city does best. “Prague is an encyclopaedia of European architectural styles, even through to the 1970s brutalist hotels,” says Bonita Rhoads, co-owner of the Insight Cities tour company, “and this district proves this.” To the untrained eye, the neighbourhood


of Josefov seamlessly blends into the Old Town. There are no longer walls hiving off the former Jewish ghetto. They were removed in the mid-19th century as the area’s dishevelled laneways were replaced by wider, prouder city streets, and Prague’s Jews were integrated into city life. But the historic Jewish burial hall,


cemetery and several synagogues remain, and for bleak reasons. While systematically wiping out the Jewish population, the Nazis decided to keep Josefov as a museum to an extinct race. In doing so, they brought in Judaica from across Europe. Much of it — more than 100,000 books, silver treasures, embossed Torah mantles and other artefacts — is still there. Today there’s a


museum covering several key buildings — a monument to the horror of the atrocity and the lives of the victims. A small Jewish community lives in Prague


today and the hugely atmospheric, 13th- century Old-New Synagogue is still the main religious centre. Other places of worship in the area have been repurposed. Of these, the Pinkas Synagogue provides a thoroughly haunting gut-punch. Its walls are covered with the names of the 77, 297 Czech Jews killed in the Holocaust, all listed with date of birth and the last known date they were alive. Upstairs, a room is covered in pictures drawn by children while inside the Terezin concentration camp and ghetto. But despite the glut of souvenir


stalls, kosher restaurants and clutch of monuments, the big surprise of Josefov is how little it feels defined by its previous ghetto status. It provides an impressive concentration of Prague art nouveau wonders, with the grand five-storey apartment blocks covered in ever more elaborate statues, swirling plant motifs and orientalist fantasies. Visitors come to Josefov for a simple, dark and well-known narrative, but discover the story is full of complicated tangents.


MORE INFO


Přístav 18600. 18600.cz Forum Karlín. forumkarlin.cz Kasárna Karlín. kasarnakarlin.cz Mikrofarma. mikrofarma.cz Vinohrady Theatre. divadlonavinohradech.com Dolcemente. dolcemente-vinohrady.cz Insight Cities. insightcities.com Prague Jewish Museum. jewishmuseum.cz Prague Post, an English-language newspaper. praguepost.com Living Prague, a city guide blog. livingprague.com Taste of Prague, a food blog. tasteofprague.com The Rough Guide to Prague (2018), by Marc Di Duca. RRP: £13.99. Prague City Tourism. prague.eu Czech Tourism. czechtourism.com


EasyJet flies to Prague from several


UK airports, including Bristol, Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh. The quirkily decorated Hotel Amadeus offers affordable rooms in a handy location roughly half way between Karlín and Vinohrady. Rates start at £32, room only. easyjet.com amadeushotel.cz


May/Jun 2020 47


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